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A Casual, Cornered: Three Ways to Recapture the MMO Magic

By Beau Hindman on April 14, 2015 | Columns | Comments

Three Ways to Recapture the MMO Magic

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.

This week I wanted to reinvigorate my readers. I wanted them to get their own shot of rapturous joy for their own religion: MMORPGs. Real MMOPRGs with real interesting mechanics built in.

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I thought about some of the things I do in MMOs that are near-perfect representations of what makes MMOs special. Some of you might be looking for raiding run details or an article on number-crunching, but in my opinion those activities are almost as anti-MMO as the esportification of MOBAs and action games.

MMORPGs are meant for exploration, for discovery, for adventure!

So, here are three basic tasks that will – I hope, if you do them – illustrate the lovely immersion you’ll only find in MMORPGs.

Sign up and play Gemstone IV

Gemstone IV is a MUD, or a multi-user-dungeon. Basically, MUDs are text-based multiplayer games. Some of them have been around for 20 or more years and boasts hundreds or thousands of players. When you play a good MUD, it’s sort of like playing a book, if that makes sense.

Gemstone IV is one of the highest-quality MUDs out there. It has been around for a long, long time but it’s normally a subscription-based game. The developers recently launched a free sub for new players, so now is the best time to check it out. Just remember that if you like it, be sure to donate!

Requirements: a MUD can be played on almost anything. Preferably, grab a PC and download the StormFront program, here. Just imagine that this program is an instant messenger, and the MUD is the series of instant messages.

When you sign in to play, you can pick StormFront from a list. You will then download a small file. Double click that file and it will launch the client. You can customize this client easier than most… just go to settings and then to highlights. You can make it look like a book (black text, light backgrounds) like my client, pictured above. If you want, skip all of this and just use the built-in browser client. It’s pretty good, but by default setup features ugly white text on black backgrounds.

Your assignment is to sign up and make a new character. Normally, the character creation in this one is enough to make a player smile. It’s so… old school? Open? Fun? I don’t know how to describe the feeling of reading your character’s description, really. Next, play the tutorial. It’s really nicely done and introduces you to the game world and to the greater world of MUDs. After you finish the tutorial, feel free to roleplay with others (usually in the town square if you are just starting out.) In fact, roleplay is enforced in many MUDs, this one included.

What this shows: These activities in Gemstone IV perfectly illustrate the immersion of virtual worlds, even ones without graphics!

Sign up, download and play Planetside 2 for an hour

Planetside 2 is an open-world MMOFPS. Even if you’re not “good” at shooters, you should try this one. You will battle alongside hundreds of other players in real time.

Requirements: A gaming PC or (soon) PlayStation 4.

You need to run through the basic tutorial when you log into the world, but after that you will see the notice to go into “instant action”. What this means is that you will be cast into an open area of active combat. It will be loud and a bit overwhelming at first, but the reason instant action is important is that it gives you someone to follow into battle until you learn about goals and strategies. You can even voice chat with others if you need to, and can jump into vehicles as well!

What this shows: Planetside 2 – and Defiance as well – both show how awesome it is when you do not have to wait around for a quest or to be the correct level to join up with others. Games like Planetside 2 work under the idea that all players start out at the base line needed for all access. That means no one is penalized for being new. Players grow in skill and ability, yes, but a brand new player can do a lot of damage, especially if that player is familiar with FPSers. Planetside 2 cuts out the silly level gap issue, and it’s a great thing to experience.

Get lost in Wurm Online

Sign up, download and get lost in the massive, sometimes very scary wilderness that is Wurm Online. You will be released into a world of real-time construction, terraforming, PvP (in certain areas or servers) and really immersive gameplay.

Requirements: A decent gaming rig and being OK with Java.

You should take your time in Wurm Online normally, but in this case I want you to try and get lost. It can be harder to become lost on different servers because some of them are built up and “civilized” more than others, but the fact that you’re new will help you lose your bearings. Ideally, you’ll want to stick around until the darkness falls, then try and build a fire to light your way. As soon as you finish the tutorial, run off into the woods and do not turn back until you are utterly lost. Now try and find someone else!

What this shows: Wurm Online is one of those MMOs that people can vanish into. I have taken hours-long boat trips across servers, survived long enough to build up an entire small town on an island full of nasty critters, drowned, died and lost everything… you know, the good stuff. The darkness in Wurm Online is supreme. I remember when I first started, years ago, the darkness enveloped you. I even remember when my friend Sam figured out how to build a fire for the first time! We were so excited! We want to get lost in our MMOs, don’t we? Wurm Online allows us that privilege, literally.


Before I finished this article I had many other examples of activities that illustrate the glory of MMOdom. Luckily, I chopped it down to what you read now. I might share the others in the future. The great thing about today’s market is that you can try a lot of different games for very cheap or even no money at all! Jumping in and out of different MMOs is a great way to continue that feeling of being immersed in a virtual world.

Isn’t that the whole point?

Beau Hindman / Beau is a writer, artist, PR/CM, game designer and pro moderator, and he's been blogging since 2002. He lives it up in Austin, Texas with his community manager wife. He's also the author of Anna the Powerful, a sci-fi book about the world's only superhero. Buy it here: http://my.bookbaby.com/book/anna-the-powerful