Dark or Light

Laws of MMO Gaming

Isabelle Parsley Posted:
Columns Player Perspectives 0

Over the years, I’ve noticed that most MMOs have a number of things in common, and I’m going to share my wisdom with you today; old hands may recognize a number of these – and might even be able to add to them – and new players will, at last, be enlightened as to why that last foozle is never there to kill when you need it.

Rule 1: If you don’t need them, they’re everywhere; when you do, they’re extinct.

This applies to all mobs in all MMOs, but is especially true of starting areas, and it doesn’t take long to notice. When you’re just trying to get from A to B with your backside relatively intact, the world is full of wolves, bears, spiders, rats and murlocs, all frothing to get a piece of you as you stumble past. But when you finally get a quest to kill the little buggers, they’ve vanished as if by magic. A corollary to this rule is that the last of anything is always impossible to find. The rule also applies to harvesting nodes.

Creature-killing deeds in LOTRO are a perfect example of this rule, where creature availability seems to be in direct proportion to the time you have.

Rule 2: The second you’ve got the skill or mats to craft something, you’ve outgrown it.

As a dedicated crafter in MMOs, I’ve observed this one countless times. Though my altoholism is probably genetic, this rule has contributed significantly to my ailment. I want to craft and, dammit, I will craft – and if I don’t need the items by the time I can make them, I’ll make an alt who can use it. Said alt then picks their own crafting profession, leading to more items and (you guessed it) more alts. It’s a vicious circle.

EQ2 was especially awful for this because of the profusion of crafting professions, as was LOTRO. Come to think of it, Fallen Earth did this to me too. And Vanguard. And WoW. Curse you, crafting!

Rule 3: NPCs are daft.

Prime example: being sent ten feet to talk to another NPC. Did those two have a fight? Are they not on speaking terms? Does NPC1 have a really bad cold and can’t raise his or her voice? That or they’re all inveterate cowards, for all their potency and levels, such as when they send you round the back of the house to kill ten of those pesky rats.

The corollary to this rule is that PCs are daft. Because, every single time, we tug our forelocks and do it, even when all we get is a pair of someone’s hand-me-down, smelly leather boots. Makes me wonder who’s having the last laugh. Makes me wish that once, just once, I could turn to the NPC and say “You know what? I can buy some new, non-smelly boots. Got anything that’s actually worth my while? Because if not, I’ll come back when I’m level 30 and kick your smirking ass into next week.”

Rule 4: Silence is golden, especially on chat channels.

We’ve all met the trolls, or the (presumed) adolescents who can’t help showing off their new swear words because, OMG, they’re cool and rebellious and gosh, nobody’s ever heard that before. Talking to them only makes it worse. Besides, like precious flowers, MMO ass-hats survive purely on attention. Deprive them of it and they’ll wither away like they never existed.

Of course, that’s more easily said than done.

Rule 5: There’s always someone scamming the Auction House.

A lousy pair of smelly, pre-used leather boots for eleventy-million gold? Are you kidding me? AH scammers are like sharks, circling patiently as they post their ludicrous prices, waiting for the one sucker they need. Corollary: there’s an AH sucker born every minute.

Some scammers seem to think there’s nothing people won’t pay, so they post stuff for as much gold as the input box will allow. I’ve always wondered – does anyone actually fall for that? I’m hoping we’re mostly smarter than that. In any case, the ones that really bother me are the slightly less ludicrous scams – usually perpetrated by the same players who bitch and moan endlessly about having to pay anything for, say, the raw materials with which they craft the goods they then sell for sky-high prices.

Ah, raw materials prices. Don’t get me started, or I’ll start having those SWG holo-grind flashbacks again.

Rule 6: Screwing up a character is easy…

…but fixing one, not so much. I remember my very first days of MMO gaming, in Asheron’s Call, where I oh so carefully made a character whose stats were (or so I thought) perfectly balanced to allow me to sample anything I might want to do. I soon discovered there was a word for that: gimp. Most MMOs are designed for heavy specialization, not for being mostly-okay across the board.

Poor Eloise was gimped for years, until the developers made it possible to shunt your stats around. You couldn’t do it all in one go so the process took months; and by then she was firmly fixed in my mind as a gimp, no matter how un-gimped she may have become.

So yeah, screwing up a character is easily done. Fixing them (when it’s possible without a reroll) usually takes all the gold you’re going to make over the next three weeks plus hours and hours of internet research. Or a reroll; but if you’re anything like me, there comes a point where that’s not an option. The character has taken on a life of their own, and rerolling them is like sending them to the soylent vat and hauling out a pale imitation. It’s just not right.

Rule 7: Gaming stories are like holiday snaps.

Seriously – unless they’re really good and/or really, really funny, nobody cares if they weren’t there. It’s like that one time at band camp: start your story and you’ll notice (although it can be hard to tell except maybe on Vent) how people start yawning or glancing at their hour-glasses. This rule partly accounts for why it can be so difficult to integrate into a tight-knit guild: they all have their memories, and you don’t, and they’re not really all that interesting if you weren’t there… but you can’t visibly yawn or said tight-knit group will assume you’re not a team player. Catch 22. On the bright side, soon enough you’ll have some shared experiences of your own and can bore the next recruit to tears.

It’s sort of like sharing your rules of MMO gaming. Fortunately, you’re a captive audience. And since most of us have probably experienced at least a few of these rules, feel free to add some of your own!


Isabelle Parsley