Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Speak Out With Your Geek Out – Day 3

Guess what, folks? I’m still not going to talk about RPGs today. Ok, that’s not strictly true. I’m not going to talk about tabletop RPGs. Rather, I’m going to talk about Massive Multi-player Online games, aka MMOs. Now, while I have some pretty good experience with them, I’m by far no expert. So, take what I have to say about them with a grain of salt, and know that this is based solely on my own personal experiences, and a little bit of research.

What is referred to as an MMO today has its roots in the games played on the old Bulletin Boards of the Internet’s early days (usually called MUDs, Multi User Dungeons). In fact, the BB game has kind of split into several variations, with the Forum-based RP threads being closest to the original. Now, take a quick step to the right, and think back to the old SSI video games based on D&D. They were first person games (meaning what you saw on screen was what your character was supposed to see with their own eyes). The graphics were primitive, and the game-play clunky, but the stories were excellent, and like the old “choose your own adventure” books, you could have multiple variations on the same adventure, based on your choices.

Well, sometime in the late 90’s, someone had the idea of combining the MUD with the graphic-based RPG game. There were many types and variations of this, like Ultima Online (an extension of the old text-based adventure game). But the field really changed with EverQuest in 1999. From there, MMOs of all genres, some based on established IPs, others wholly original, have sprung up. Though the most popular ones are pay-to-play, there are actually scads of free-to-play games out there. And even some of the P2P ones are developing F2P variations (like City of Heroes).

Dynamo-Man (me) and
Masked Revenger (Chris Blanchard).
I made this based on a picture of
Power-Man and Iron Fist.
Personally, I have played in four MMOs with any regularity. I started with City of Heroes, an original superhero MMO. I still play it today, and am somewhat active in the forum community (funny story, I met my wife on that forum…yep, she plays too). I have also played World of Warcraft quite extensively, and for a long time I would split my time by playing CoH for a few months and then playing WoW for a few months. Both are P2P, so I could never justify paying a fee for both games at the same time. Generally, the P2P games run about $15/month, plus the cost of the initial game and, as in the case of WoW, expansions.

I’ve also played Warhammer Online, though it feels like a graphically superior, yet content-inferior version of WoW. Similarly, I recently spent a lot of time playing Sony’s DC Universe Online. But, like WHO to WoW, DCU felt like a graphically superior yet content-inferior version of CoH, but with the added bonus of including iconic DC superheroes like Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman.

One thing that separates MMOs from computer/console based video games is the social factor. During play you can chat with other players, as if you were right there with them. This gives you a very immersive experience when teaming up. Traditionally, this has all been type-written interaction, with voice interaction being an option as well. Although it is sometimes harder to type while playing, especially in the middle of a combat, typing gives you more freedom to Role Play your character. For instance, if I am playing a female superhero, typing what she says is more believable than hearing me say such things. This is actually the biggest weakness of DCU. That game was developed with the PC and PS3 in mind, so it is geared towards voice-chat, which makes it more of a tactical game like Gears of War, but with superheroes.

All-in-all, MMOs are a wonderful distraction. But, make no mistake, they ARE a distraction. If you have a busy schedule already, adding an MMO can be dangerous. However, if you are into role-playing and exploring fantastic worlds first-hand, then they are amazing experiences.


Paul R. McNamee said...

As you say - time & money.

I'd like to try one someday.

Charles Gramlich said...

For a long time I wanted to get involved in such a thing but I've resisted because of the time I know I'd spend at it. I know how deeply pulled into these kinds of things I can get.