Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Friday, October 7, 2011

What Kind of MMO Player Am I?

I do entirely too much soapboxing on this blog and not enough storytelling. But like most people, I have an opinion; and this is my personal venue for expressing it. A lot is being said in the gaming Twitterverse and Blogosphere with regards to community. Scarybooster has made several posts lately about the quality of the community in various games. Something inspired MMOGC to post about honorable PvP. And Syp, just yesterday, made a post about dealing with Anti-hype. I should have read his advice before getting into a squabble myself on Twitter yesterday. Haters will keep hatin'. Fanbois will keep . . . uh . . . fanning?

The world has a label for those people play certain games: Gamers. Athletic-game players are usually not included in this term. The net nanny at my office blocks gaming news sites, but not ESPN and the like. Reminds me of the way Dex Jettster referred to the Kaminoan "Cloners" in hushed tones in "Attack of the Clones." Much like the terms "Muslim" or "Christian" actually encompass hugely diverse groups of people of differing opinions and philosophies, this broad term, "Gamer," encompasses many different styles of gameplay, from tabletop role-playing and war games, to video-game console first person shooters, RPGs, and massively multiplayer online games. Within MMOGs, you have gamers who prefer player vs. player combat, and others who are so-called end-game raiders. You have casual as opposed to hardcore, long-time veterans and newcomers. Also like the religious terms, the groups encompassed by the term "Gamer" are often at each other's throats over what is the one true way to play the game. Sometimes a player's choice not only of gameplay but their game choice, itself, is derided by other gamers. Frankly, I am sick of it.

I quoted Robert E. Howard in a post in early September:
"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing."
This is more true today in the Internet age than it ever has been in the history of the world. I read in either the book Collapse or Guns, Germs and Steel, both by Jared Diamond, that the people of New Guinea are both smarter than the average American and far more polite. This is because they are more likely to die in a homicide than any any American or European could dream of. Of course, we're not talking about dying in your sleep with a knife in your back. As Captain Malcolm Reynolds once told Doctor Simon Tam in the TV show Firefly:
Diamond said that strangers who meet in the New Guinean jungle complete a ritual wherein they recite their ancestry until they determine whether or not they are distantly related. If they are not related in some way, one or the other is probably not walking away from the scene. If forum users ran the risk of death by their comments--myself included--Internet dialogue would likely be far more civil in tone.

Why are we so quick to disparage someone's intellect or character because of their preference for one game over another? So I don't like Lord of the Rings online and you do. Do I have any right to call into question your mental acuity or parentage? So I prefer PvE leveling and questing to PvP or end-game raiding. And I somehow less of a gamer--less of a person--as a result?

Wolfshead, in a rant about the deficiencies of Rift on Syp's BioBreak, closed with the following:
"There is nothing ahead that has me excited about virtual worlds. I’m tired of the hype. The caliber of the “community” that is dominated by selfish spoiled kids, teens and adult slackers is at an all time low, the game design predictable and stale. The typical virtual world of today feels like a MacDonald’s playground. When I started playing MMOs 12 years ago I couldn’t wait to get home from work to log on. I haven’t had the feeling for years."

I thought for a second he was going to yell at all of us to get off his lawn. The number of people playing MMORPGs today has skyrocketed, thanks much to World of Warcraft, but also other games based on popular Intellectual Properties like Conan the Barbarian and Star Trek. I personally communicate with several people who never played an MMO before Star Trek Online launched. Star Wars: The Old Republic will be the same. These people have differing expectations and outlook than the relatively very few who played the first MMOs. Thousands of people who have never played an MMO will buy it and play and love the game. I plan to play; and though it won't be the wondrous experience I had when I first logged into WoW, I look forward to the fully voiced dialogue and various storylines I will experience.

Many have derided the emphasis on single-player questing in SWTOR and other MMOs. "What happened to the grouping we did in early WoW and other true MMOs?" they say. I have rarely been on the same level as players in guilds I have been part of until I reached max level. If someone has needed or asked for help in an area of the world I was playing in, I helped. I was sociable, but few of them turned out to be lifelong friends. I currently play Rift with my lovely bride; and we occasionally play WoW with a few friends I know in real life. We are doing our own thing and being peripherally sociable with the Rift guild. Why force me to group up if I don't want or need to? Because of the time that I started in WoW, mid-2006, there were not many players around to help me when I needed to complete group-oriented quests, and they sat in my questlog until I could finally complete them on my own, or I just dropped them. I've done end-game raids and enjoyed them. However, the endless repetition for meager reward got to me, and I ended up dropping out of that style of play. I prefer to learn the stories of the areas I am in. Raiding is all too often a matter of learning when to stand where to avoid damage while maximizing our own. Some call this skill, and I suppose it is, but not in the same sense as actually learning to fence, or play the piano, or build a house.

There was a Google+ discussion yesterday about the merits of gentle "grinding" in the new game Glitch, and how it can be therapeutic. Many players, who PvP or otherwise want an intense game to give them an adrenalin rush, cannot fathom this preference, even if it is occasional on the part of "casual" players. I understand it, even though I rarely feel the need to indulge in it. Again, I am in it for the story and for the visuals. I rarely watch television any more, because I prefer my virtual worlds and their interactivity, even if they are themeparks. Do I think some go too far "on-the-rails"? Yes, but that is a matter of degree, and my opinion differs from many others.

Tobold Stoutfoot has opinions I don't always agree with, but in two recent posts, I think he hit several nails right on the head. The long term veteran players are probably not the target audience for modern MMOs. I can be considered mid-term myself. I am just about done with World of Warcraft after 5+ years, but I still enjoy the basic gameplay style. I have long thought that the vast majority of people playing WoW and other MMOs are not reading or posting in the forums, nor are they reading or writing blogs about the games. As Tobold said, listening to the extrememly vocal minority in the forums broke WoW, perhaps irrevocably.
"Nobody ever listened to the needs of the silent majority, who actually liked leveling, and would have liked the expansions to lengthen their leveling fun, and make it more challenging."
I can remember the first time on my priest (Rowanblaze) that I defeated several wolves my own level in combat while soloing in the eastern Hinterlands. This and a thousand other awesome memories have I of WoW, both soloing and playing with others, even raiding and PvP. Despite what some people say, I find Rift to have similar challenges, even though I am almost always playing in a duo with my bride. I have learned to tank and enjoy it, though I am by no means an expert. I doubt I'll have much interest in the large Raids at endgame. But the recent addition of duo instances sounds fun and perfect for this spousal leveling team. I am hoping--and there good signs--that our playstyle will be accomodated in SWTOR, as well. Rift's unified storyline decreases its replayability. I enjoyed learning about the different races and factions in WoW with unique starting areas for every race. SWTOR's unique starting areas and branching storylines for each class promises a similar experience.

So to answer the question in my post title: I am a mostly solo--or small-group--PvE quester, who enjoys the support roles more than pure DPS. I am a carebear, not a cutthroat. I value a good story above heart-pumping gameplay. I play MMORPGs to relax, not to get excited. I am an altoholic. I like roleplay and can become attached to my characters. I want a challenge, not an impossibility. I like WoW, Rift, STO, and anticipate playing both SWTOR and Guild Wars 2. If you think I'm dumb for any or all of that, I honestly have no time for you.

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