In this weekly column, Beau Hindman covers anything and everything his geek heart desires about the world of MMOs, from what he's playing to maybe what you should be playing.
I was a huge fan of The Chronicles of Spellborn, an ill-fated (and ahead-of-its-time) MMORPG that semi-tragically disappeared a few years ago. I enjoyed its unique setting, art style and combat mechanics, but I also knew that it was never to be smooth sailing for the game. After all, it featured not only a grind and a challenge but could be hard to run on anything less than gaming machines (at the time) and characters had to hoof it from place to place.
I’ve been playing some Wildstar lately and it’s been really nice. I have always absolutely loved its art style and get such a kick of its animations and character creation (although some of the female characters need way more options) that I find myself playing it just to look around or take screenshots. I was playing this weekend with my Gamer Hangout co-host Eboni, and she commented at one point that leveling “takes a long time.”
I think I have always been a happy MMO fan. I have even been accused of being sappy or of wearing rose-colored glasses when covering MMOs because I tend to, well, enjoy them. I will give it to those who make such a suggestion: playing an MMO primarily through its systems (meaning grinding) is one way to find happiness, but I didn’t think that my distaste for the grind should disqualify my particular joy.
Native American culture is often imitated in MMORPGs. I can name several MMOs that feature races or cultures that are obviously inspired by Native cultures. Unfortunately, this often means that players are met only with tepees, totem poles and other classic Hollywood imagery inside these games, and never does any MMO get down to the realities of native life.
In preparation for an upcoming livestream with the developers of Wakfu, I logged into the game in the hopes of touching up on my skills. Wakfu can be challenging for casual players, with abilities and systems that often need to be played with a lot in order to understand them. One of the coolest aspects of the game – other than its original setting, artwork, systems and animations -- is its turn-based combat.
Character models are possibly the most important aspect of a graphical MMO. After all, the avatars that we create and play through are us in many ways, so they need to look and feel like extensions of us, into the game world. For some players, that means the avatar should look heroic, or beautiful, or needs to offer a ton of customization. Whatever the particular player wants in an avatar, the good news is that there is probably an MMO out there that offers just for what they are looking.
I don’t want to rehash the same arguments about free-to-play that I have had since 2007, but it’s safe to say that even though most MMOs and many other games are now free at some level, players still feel a strange need to apologize for supporting gaming. I have worked in community as well, and the same attitude seems to apply to players who feel that developers are somehow the enemy or, at least, not to be trusted.
Last week I had a good time explaining my extreme dislike for esports. Granted, I do not dislike those who enjoy esports just like I do not dislike the guy up the street who worships – almost literally – at the church of football. But, the organization and big money that esports really is doesn’t toot my horn. With enough money and push you could make professional nose picking a sport and people would probably dig it, so I just don’t see the value.
You might have heard this week that Sony bought OnLive, the streaming service for games and desktop tools, only to announce that the service will be shut down around April 30th. OK, so maybe many of you expected such a thing, and I am sure that anyone who had tried the service thought it might not last very long.
I like nothing more than finding some weird or unknown MMO and presenting it like a baby to the world. That’s how it happens in my head, at least, but the truth is that all of the MMOs I find and think “I discovered this!” were already discovered by someone else, or else they wouldn’t have existed for me to find them! Still, it’s important to show off indie or lesser-known MMOs to anyone I can.
Recently I have been taking a look at Triad Wars, a new “asynchronous MMO” from Square Enix. I won’t get into every aspect of the game and how it is in no way a “real” MMO – I’ll let William Murphy cover that in his video – but I would like to use Triad Wars as an example to ask: “Can a multiplayer game survive on such a limited set of mechanics?”
I spent my weekend with the wonderful community team from Kingsisle Entertainment (they work on Wizard101 and Pirate101) as they slowly walked up and down the aisles of the SXSW Gaming Expo. It is a free event (a good offset to the astronomical ticket prices that SXSW can often ask) and allows indie or smaller games to hook up with potential players. It also shows off new technologies, trends and even hosted video game museums with hands-on consoles. It was a blast, to say the least.
Ah, Second Life. It’s still the angsty teenager of the MMO world, even though it’s been around for more than a decade. My account is almost as old as the game – May of 2004 – but I definitely do not play in the world as much as I have in the past. Second Life really deserves full attention, or at least it can demand it, just like a teenager. It’s also full of energy and hormones and bursting with creative ideas… just like a teenager.
Normally I just find a way to blame players for the problems in the market, wait for the accusations of being “a dev kiss-ass” or “biased” (if that word is ever used correctly, I wouldn’t know) or “a troll” and then move on to the next piece. The freelancer is just a handyman with words; we have to keep moving on to the next one and the next one so a little hate doesn’t hurt us. This process is nothing new.
How do I explain my ongoing affair with MUDs? Sure, we only meet a few times per year, and yes we have been off more than we have been on, but MUDs are something special to me. They fill a need that is often left unsatisfied by conventional MMOs. They just do.