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The MMO effect
Posted on Tuesday, March 4 2008 @ 13:30:52 PST

Since when did all of PC gaming revolve around World of Warcraft? I mean, looking at it's unprecedented dominance in the PC market for the past couple of years is impressive yes, but is it really that big of a deal? So 9 billion waste time online doing level grinding and monster hunting, or looking for that one item that will make them kick more ass then another guy.

While there is nothing wrong with MMORPG's, the influx of them the past decade is staggering. Beginning with Everquest nearly ten years ago now, we have had dozens of MMORPG's on the market. Some, like City of Heroes and the aforementioned WOW, are really good. Others, like the poor Star Wars Galaxies, fail to meet any expectations that were given. But what about these games does it attract people? What element in the gameplay let's people be a pink dancing wookie, or a gnome druid who looks like Danny Devito?

I guess first and foremost is choice and customization. Let's face it, we like choices, and customization. That was actually one reason why I bought City of Heroes, and later City of Villians. The choice of making villians and heroes with clever costume designs is a fun passtime. I would spend hours crafting costumes, just for the hell of it, and clever names along with the costumes. That was part of the fun of City of Heroes.

Another reason is choice, do I want to be a shaman or a warlock? That would affect my role in the game, be it a healer or a tank, things that craft a degree of strategy that is not seen often in regular RPG's where you have a specific character for that role, or your character can be adept in everything, like in Oblivion.

But besides the addicting customization and leveling up, the gameplay is actually, well, shallow. You go to X npc to do task Y for reward Z. Thats it, in a nutshell. Your quests are almost all fetch quests, looking for 10 boar hides or clearing a building with evil minions. It never changes. Oh sure, some areas you need a group to do them, but even with that, the game comes to a halt when it drags onward with these type of quests and level zones.

And what is worse, this type of gameplay is starting to translate into single player PC games as well. Recent games like The Witcher are essentially MMORPG's that are for single players; you do the same amount of quests for items and eventually you move onto a harder level zone. It is, in all honesty, a chore.

Yet people are playing the MMO's religiously, getting to the level cap so they can partake in wide-scale battles with other players online. This is a neat idea, but at the same time it's also kind of pointless in the end. Sure you can have a match and it will never be the same match as far as you go, but the problem is that it takes so damn long to GET to that stage of the game, and once your there you are likely outclassed by everyone who is involved with capture the flag games or sport arena gladiator combat.

So in the end, MMORPG's live and die by the dedicated diehards, but a lot of people out there are not interested into putting up the work for it. I don't blame them, because a lot of people find pleasure in other things, be it games, movies, TV, friends, or sex.  It is not necessarily a bad thing, that MMO's are the king of PC games, but I think we should look through the hundreds of titles online, as well as the single player PC MMO's and think about this critically. Why is it so addictive? Is it just the degree of choice, or is it truely the work thats involved to attain a level of Nirvana in the game itself? Whatever the case may be, one thing is clear. MMORPG's are the in thing right now, and along with that, they also contain a dedicated fanbase that will ensure it's survival, even from the naysayers or the non-hardcore crowds.

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