RotMG: The Godlands

…And I’m right smack in the middle of playing Realm of the Mad God.

Realm of the Mad God is one of those games that defies conventional classification. It’s sorta kinda an MMO (in that there’s lots of people playing it at one time), and it’s also a Flash game (which follows the pattern of quick bouts of gameplay snuck in whenever you want), and it’s definitely in the bullet hell arcade shooter genre (plenty of projectiles flying about, but not too extreme.) It has Roguelike permadeath. But you know, it has classes and levels and grinding over and over for better stats and gear in order to get buff enough to kill bigger bads, and that’s gotta make it an MMO, right?

I really like the game. Steam says I’ve got 44 hours logged in it, and before that, I was playing it a fair bit on Kongregate.

I also probably suck at it. Because I’m nowhere near to being “expert,” “pro” or “hardcore” at this game, going by the level of all the leetspeaking folk on the game’s forums who seem to wander around casually in maxed out stats and amazingly good gear. But you know what? I don’t really care. I like playing the game and learning it on my own time.

What is definite is that I’ve moved on from the newbie stage. The newbie stage, imo, is when getting from level 1 to 20 is an adventure in itself, wandering the roads and rivers encountering all the various monsters is a big surprise, and picking up lower tier equipment is an exercise in glee because you sure don’t own anything better yet.

I’ll call myself in the “learning” stage. After you play for a bit and start regularly killing the Gods (monsters) in the Godlands, you start to accumulate a decent amount of T7-T8 gear. To the pros, this is probably still trash to be thrown into the chipper, but it’s enough for my new characters to walk around fairly unmolested and do slightly more twinked out damage, speeding up the process of getting to the max level of 20.

After having wandered the world sufficiently, one also starts to recognize the various areas and various monsters expected to be found in the various terrains. My favorite spot to level really fast is to meander off solo and walk around in the desert until one encounters the huge morass of Giant Crabs and Sandsman Kings that always seems to over-spawn in there. Some people join XP trains, but it seems slower to me – it’s a preference, I hate waiting around for other people before getting moving, I feel more constructive just regularly killing stuff.

So I’m at the stage where I can field level 20s regularly. The next stage is “potting up” or stat-grinding. By killing Gods in the Godlands, there is the rare chance that they’ll drop a potion with which to raise one stat by one point. (Some other event or boss mobs in dungeons also drop potions, but I still find them fairly rough going.)

Some really skilled guy made this video series where he records himself “potting up” a wizard from scratch. Me, I am nowhere near that confident of my skills dodging bullets. I think I went through 4+ wizards and a couple necromancers by taking silly risks in dungeons trying to learn boss fights, getting accidentally shotgunned by Oryx in the end-of-realm fights, and just lagging or being careless a couple seconds too much.

Having sated most of my curiosity (as I’ve ventured into most dungeons, only to Nexus out screaming from most of them when I find myself low on health, and seen most event mob fights), I’m determined to properly pot up a character.

I’m fondest of the wizard class, it’s the simplest to play (hence why everyone starts with it first), long ranged (giving more time to dodge and react), straight firing (easier to aim) and does a fair bit of dps (enough to qualify for soulbound drops on Gods, aka a good farmer!)

Now, general advice is that you earn pots for one character with another farmer – because hey, characters in active play can have shitty things happen to them – accidentally kicking the bucket and losing all your gear is already bad enough, losing all your stat potion progress would be even more irritating. Ideally, in order to get a truly badass wizard, I’d have another wizard on the side farming the pots for him.

Alas, my altholism also has me nurturing a lvl 20 rogue and lvl 20 archer on the side, and I’m unwilling to kill them off at present, nor buy any more character slots. So I’ve decided to try potting up the archer. He has higher defence than wizards, but slightly shorter range and a wider spread of fire. It’s not my best playstyle, but I get by. I also think his performance might get better if his stats improve, so I’m determined to give it a shot.

I had a bad accident with a lvl 20 huntress just a few days ago, which lost me T9 Roc Leather Armor that was from Oryx, a T4 Demonhunter trap that I had been hoarding up for some time and a free T10 Bow of Fey Magic that a nice random player gave me after seeing me plink away at Gods with a measly T5 Fire Bow. Ah well, easy come, easy go. That’s Roguelikes and permadeath for you.

The silver lining to the accident was that it freed up a slot for a dedicated wizard potion farmer, which I resolved to make, and keep re-making when it eventually bites the dust from another accident.

So… enter episode 1: In Which My Wizard Farmer Goes to the Godlands Again and Shoots up Gods in the Hope of Potions Dropping

Well, no, I lied. A couple careless deaths will teach one the value of proper preparation. I’ve made it a habit to always carry health potions before going to any risky areas. This gives me some reaction buffer time in case my health drops too low in a hurry, and lets me stay around longer before I’m forced to Nexus and leave the server and the fight. Oddly enough, the higher tier mobs seem to drop health potions rarely at best, and most of them are a pain in the ass to fight because they’ve got quite a hail of bullets.

So I wander around for a few minutes one-shotting mobs meant for level 1s. Conveniently, they still drop health potions. Sumos are a good source of health and mana potions when you find them. Well stocked, I teleport over to a group of lvl 20s in the Godlands. (This is always just a little bit risky because they could be in the middle of flaming bullet death, but you know, the 1% risk of inevitable death beats walking over.)

One thing I immediately found out is that it is really hard to get any viable screenshots from this game. It’s an arcade shooter with bullet hell wannabe pretensions. Stuff moves FAST. You must dodge FAST.

My left hand is on WASD. My right hand is aiming the cursor and my firing arc with the mouse. There is an auto-fire toggle key in this game, your own bullets can shoot helluva fast, especially once you increase your dex stat. Taking the hand off the mouse long enough to hit Print Screen is an exercise in significant risk. To make matters more interesting, my wizard farmer has pretty decent dps, so Gods evaporate in a couple seconds of being hit square on by my stream of bullets. Many times, I ended up taking pictures of Gods that weren’t there anymore.

Still, it’s interesting to note how far I’ve come. When I first started the game and got to the Godlands, I found it a very confusing, scary place with all kinds of unrecognizable monsters shooting all many of chaotic colors. I ended up huddling with the big pack of players that like to shoot up Gods together – most of them are looking for free XP, I suspect, though it is actually faster to kill stuff at one’s level range. It’s a big risk to go too low leveled into the Godlands because your speed stats are slower, so you dodge slower, you have less defence, and that means when you accidentally eat a faceful of bullets, you earn yourself a happy death announcement notice to the server – like that guy in the screenshot killed by a Djinn at lvl 5.

Between reading the wiki and just plain old experience, I can now tell apart the various Gods, and recognize all their firing patterns and colors.

Medusas are fairly nasty in that they have a red AoE attack they like to throw in front of them. The green stuff they fire starts close together, but spreads out, so keeping at range and dodging a couple milimetres works. White Demons are very easy, with the three ball pattern.

Treants shoot an orange shotgun spread too, they do it fairly fast and are a bit annoying.

Yes, there’s Gods in the snow fields as well. White on white, very tricky when you first encounter it, but really, it’s about knowing their patterns when you saw them on the grey rock already. Djinns used to confuse me with their flower like bullets, I couldn’t quite figure out where to dodge them at first. It’s still hard to describe in words now, but there’s a little gap between the fourth and fifth bullets that I usually just strafe left and right a little between, and one can maintain firing on the Djinn pretty much constantly. Djinn also release a circular ring of bullets when they die, so when you see that, you know they’re dead, even if you’ve dodged off-screen from them. Ghost Gods are nothing special, a spread of bullets as in the picture above, just stay in the gaps.

Stuff gets more confusing when there is more than one God at a time. It’s still about anticipating the patterns and knowing where to dodge. There’s a Flying Brain behind the Treant, they like to shoot very fast pink bolts. I’m not terribly good at dodging them but I try. Two Beholders shooting their star shaped pattern. Some of the Gods also shoot those asterisks, which all tend to be nasty debuffs like blinds and slows. I try not to get hit by any of them, period.

The Leviathan is one of the harder Gods. It appears to have higher hp than most, and it has a really complex bolt pattern it fires. Up close, it’s a horrible shotgun that can wipe out a careless character, so I just stay the hell away from the bullet spread and plink it from afar until it dies.

Eventually, you can even tell what Gods are beyond your visual sight range just by looking at the bullet patterns. In this case, at least 2-3 Treants, and a Flying Brain.

Interestingly, I find it easier soloing Gods because you pull them away one at a time or in manageable numbers, and you’re always backing away into a previously cleared safe zone, so blasts are more predictable.

My initial urge to huddle in a big group was actually counterproductive in more ways than one. For one thing, other people can do more damage to the God than you, killing it too fast for you to do sufficient damage to qualify for a soulbound loot drop. For another, various people are attracting more Gods and they are backing toward the big huddle from various directions, causing overlapping fire from different angles, and there’s all these people running about and shooting producing even more visual chaos.

I didn’t expect there to be much more to the story. I killed a lot of Gods. Had a meditative flow experience slightly broken up by the panic of trying to capture screenshots. Alt-tabbing to keep pasting Print Screens into a paint program is more than a little scary when you’re afraid some random guy will drag a horde of Gods into you while you’re not able to react and dodge in time. A few of them dropped stat potions – two defences that I recall. Yeah, miserable drop rates. Brought them back to my bank Vault to give to the proper character. Went back and fought the Gods some more.

Then serendipity happened:

I teleported into a group of lvl 20s who were attempting to break the Mysterious Crystal in the Godlands. Do enough damage, and it releases a special boss. I joined in. The crystal eventually gave way.

The Crystal Prisoner boss was released. I joined in, not really expecting much because I tend to get very hurt and have to back away and lose my damage on the boss or else bite the dust. Turned out there were sufficient priests in the mix that were shooting off heals, and I managed to actually get by and dodge properly. And to my immense surprise, when the prisoner boss died, a white soulbound bag (the rarest kind of soulbound bag, I am given to understand) dropped for me.

Jumping on it in glee, I pulled out my greatest haul yet. A Crystal Wand and an dexterity stat potion.

That’s the RNG for you. Into the bank vault it goes, until I have an open slot for a priest. (Which would, of course, mean me losing the current wizard to permadeath.)

Heavy Rain: Scenes of Emotional Resonance

I’m currently in the middle of my second playthrough of Heavy Rain.

This game was the driving force behind my decision to get a PS3, ever since the day they announced it was going to be a PS3 exclusive only.

(Annoyingly, Sony tends to stick to its guns about exclusivity. The console comes in handy for playing other PS3 exclusive games, though I’m primarily a PC game player.)

Spoilers follow, so look away if you don’t want to be spoiled at all.

Why the insane fanaticism? Mainly because the game’s developer David Cage is aiming his company Quantic Dream at a path very few other game companies bother to walk. His games aim to explore more mature adult themes (no, not THAT kind of adult) and evoke some sort of emotional reaction.

I have to plug his latest tech video Kara here, because of its sheer awesome. The Casting is the older tech demo for Heavy Rain, but still worth a watch if you haven’t seen it – more than a little uncanny valley on the model these days, but the emotion is still there.

Granted, he aims for ‘mature’ and he tends to miss, especially in terms of how sensible the plot of his games turn out, but nitpicking aside, at least he’s trying.

The precursor game to Heavy Rain was Indigo Prophecy or Fahrenheit, depending on which part of the world you come from. Steam had it on sale a while back, but for some reason, it’s mysteriously disappeared from the store and never returned. Thankfully, it’s still in my games list when I bought it at the time it’s available, or me and Steam Support would be having -words-.

Indigo Prophecy was generally roundly thrashed for the later half of its plotline, which devolves into wildly fantastical wishful thinking and Matrix-ripping off. It was panned in some quarters for not having much “gameplay” since it mostly consisted of button-pushing Quick Time Events (QTEs).

Despite the criticism, I would still recommend anyone to give it a try because its opening sequence and beginning scenes are some of the best emotionally riveting, atmospheric experiences to be found in any game. The soundtrack, the cinematic cuts, the split-screen dual perspectives that ratchet up the tension as the protagonist, ie. you, try to hide any evidence away and get out as quickly as you can, while subsequently playing another protagonist, also you, who revisits the same setting and tries to find any place where you screwed up previously in order to obtain clues.

Heavy Rain continues along in this vein, with slightly better plotting. Not completely good plotting, because I just paused the game in disgust to try and figure out how Madison Paige (the token girl protagonist) knew where Ethan Mars (the main protagonist) had run off for his third trial challenge. A wiki reference says it’s never explained. Gah. But enough nitpicking about the plot holes, plenty of other people have bitched about them already.

I’m bringing up Heavy Rain to point out its strengths. The individual scenes. (Don’t try too hard to figure out how all the scenes stick together, it’s like David Cage came up with a big list of scenarios and conflict situations he wanted to put into this game to make a point, and then tried to conjure up a story to fit it all in.) But the scenes themselves, wow.

Holly Lisle said it best. Scenes, individual story units, are about change. Something moves. Something happens. Something goes from point A to point B.

Heavy Rain’s better scenes are full of this emotional movement. The very first scene in the game is a prolonged mundane day-in-the-life-of-a-family-man that takes an ominous turn when the kid’s bird dies. (Little nitpick: Don’t ask why the bird just upped and died then though. It would have been stronger if the kid or Ethan had inadvertently killed the bird in some fashion.)

The next is the one that transitions Ethan from bright ordinary life to grey depression when a tragic accident shatters his idyll.

Other memorable scenes? Scott Shelby’s confrontation with a store robber. Norman Jayden’s encounter with Nathaniel – to shoot or not to shoot. Ethan Mar’s third trial – can he sacrifice a part of himself to save his son? (fairly high squick factor the first time I encountered it). Ethan Mar’s fourth trial – can he kill another human being to save his son?

The really good scenes like above have no “right” answers. It’s hard emotional choices made within short spans of time. They define the character’s personality as you play through them, and also subtly reflect back what you value (if you aren’t roleplaying and react instead from gut instinct.)

(Of course, some of the effect is lost when one realizes that the eventual final storyline may still be the same regardless of what you did, but the game does have enough ‘critical’ points of no return, where you’re never really sure if this QTE is the one that’ll send the story somewhere you didn’t really intend.)

So what does Heavy Rain have to do with MMOs?

On the surface of it, not much. Cutscene-like QTEs are always better off as single player games. I don’t want to watch someone else talk for me in a cutscene, I want the story to centre around me and my choices, thank you, other people would just get in the way and knock me right out of the suspension of disbelief.

On the other hand, we have a City of Heroes forum thread right here that discusses plot vs storytelling.

Heavy Rain, like some of City of Heroes’ Signature Story Arcs, occasionally suffer from a surfeit of too much ham-fisted plotting. Someone has a PLAN that requires such-and-such characters to be here and there at these places at these times. Now think up some ways to get them there, I don’t care how awkward you have to twist their personalities or their arms, kthxbai. The characters become little cardboard props to be moved around as required for the grand plan to function. They’re interchangeable.

Then there’s times where you get stories (though I’m not sure that’s the right word) – meaningful scenes that have a firm foundation because a Character anchors them. Capitalization intended.

O Wretched Man – one of the generally acclaimed story arcs in City of Heroes – is firmly anchored by Ghost Widow, Wretch, Pia Marino and their backstories. The arc would not exist without the characters, and their motivations, for doing what they do because they’re them. There is emotional resonance every time the arc shifts.

All of Ethan Mars’ scenes in Heavy Rain are rooted by his feelings for his son(s). Emotional resonance again.

These stories stick with me, even when I’m done playing the game. But I can barely remember the plots of most MMO quests. Mostly I just remember how irritating the grind was.

In contrast, I can remember Guild Wars: Nightfall’s storyline, thanks to the heroes and certain NPCs who give it some character (pun intended.) I can absolutely remember Vekk and his relationship with Gadd through GW:EN, and of course, there is no way to forget the eponymous Gwen.

So after all that meandering, what’s the common thread in making game stories memorable? For me, it appears to be character.

It’s probably asking too much to expect every quest to hit it out of the park like Wretched Man did, but it would help to have, not plots that are a lame excuse for me to kill ten wilderness critters, but stories, anchored by unique characters, motivated by some kind of need for changes to happen.

(There’s one more topic with which I can link Heavy Rain and MMOs together, and that’s choices and consequences. We’ll save that for another post. Maybe when I get over my plot hole allergic reaction and finish my second playthrough.)

Runescape: Quest For Bread

Recently, Runescape lit up my radar in a big way.

I always had the vague intention of giving it a try but never found the time till now. It was probably for the best, as I am given to understand they recently did a graphical update in the last two years (I was never really impressed with Runescape pics previously, but now they have a very decent cartoony polygonal cuteness to them) and just in February 2012, redid their new player experience.

Well, it worked. After a bloodstirring soundtrack while the client updated (absolutely classic, reminded me of Guild Wars 2 and Skyrim gets you into the mood for adventure), my new character was given a 14-day free “members” trial, then thrown into a town under siege by rock-like trolls, and some conversation and story later, introduced to the basics of combat, and step by step walked through the process of how to level most of the skills in a helpful twin town setting of Bunthorpe and Taverley. One nice touch, the storekeepers had freebie samples which were more than sufficient for a new player to learn the ropes, but not enough to go crazy grinding with.

Take note, this is how to sell a game. Give the player a taste of the good stuff, explain clearly what is for members and what is not, show ’em all the nice skills members have, get them used to having them, let them have a good time, and then show them EVEN MORE loyalty rewards you could stand to accrue if you continued with a membership, and then OFFER them a ludicrous 75% off your first month subscription then and there.

Whoever Runescape has for a marketing director, he is an evil genius. The barrier for entry was so low it eroded away any resistance I could put up. So I put down the equivalent of a buck ninety five in USD and am now subscribed for a month to Runescape.

One of the most common critiques I hear about this game is that it is an awful grind to “skill up.” I can see the potential for it to become such if getting to the end of the progress bar was all a person cared about, because it involves considerable repetitive clicking action.

But then again, through a browse of the Runescape wiki, I see the game as more of a long-term sandbox. Yes, I said sandbox. There seem to be a million and one different minigames and activities that you could be doing in Runescape. Choose what you want to do, develop laterally as you do that activity, and swap activities when you’re bored, seem to be way to play Runescape, similar to how one might attempt Guild Wars or A Tale in the Desert. Certain crafting activities are meant to take time and involve repetitive action, because in that way, lazy people can pay crafters to do it, and voila, you have an economy.

One of the things that attracts me most to Runescape is the quest content. It is oldschool. As in, slightly more Everquest or MUD inspired than the WoW sort. You talk to the NPC, you have a conversation that doesn’t comprise of two summary sentences, there is some humorous banter back and forth, and horror of horrors, you may even need to check a map to plan your path because there’s no automatic waypoint arrow. 🙂 That said, the new tutorial DID have waypoint arrows, and was very helpful in explaining to a Runescape newbie that other quests may not be so simple.

And did I mention the humorous banter? It reminds me of Quest For Glory and its ilk. I found a Thieves’ Guild in the older tutorial town of Lumbridge, and had many flashbacks to the old Sierra game while I helped the Guildmaster “procure” a treasure chalice. Afterward, I was laughing with great amusement as my character ribbed the Guildmaster, “Are you sure you have a buyer for the chalice?” “Sure, why wouldn’t I have?” “Well, the chalice wasn’t where you said it would be, and wasn’t with who you said had it, so maybe you don’t have a buyer either.” So far, many of the conversations with the NPCs go like that, fairly lighthearted, not taking themselves very seriously and occasionally gently poking at the fourth wall. It’s good fun.

Also impressive are the crafting options in Runescape. They are pretty deep. A piece of bronze armor involves mining copper and tin, finding a forge to smelt it into bars, finding an anvil to hammer it into shape. So far, not too dissimilar from regular MMOs. But then while mining copper and tin, lapis lazuli ore pops out, and you can craft and cut it into a polished gem. And then you need to chop down trees, which may yield a knot of wood, which then gets worked into a brooch setting, which you can pop the polished gem into. And speaking of those trees you cut down, the logs can be lit on fire, which you can then cook with, or turned into wooden materials to craft with further, including arrow shafts… which then need to be fitted with bronze arrowheads (see mining and smithing) and feathers (enter hunting for swifts by laying traps and chicken slaughtering). And those dead chickens? Well you can cook them. And those bones that all mobs drop? Buryable for piety skill increases.

Two main differences I can detect from most normal MMOs. One, you can do it all. Yes, no artificial “choose two professions, now make more alts to get the other crafting professions.” It’s just going to take you a really long time to grind up to very good in all of the skills if you really choose to do it all, I guess.

And two, I really like the “Use X on Y” ability command. This is an adventure game thing. The sense of immersion goes way up if you can opt to creatively combine or use verbs on various items.

Here’s me attempting to make bread:

Step 1 – Open gate to wheat field. Pick wheat. Each stalk is an interactable object.

Step 2 – Proceed to flour mill. One of the nice things about having less taxing graphics is that we can have buildings that cutaway to reveal interiors without needing to zone to a new instance.

Step 3 – In the ground floor of the mill, there is the receptacle the flour will eventually end up, a convenient empty pot for picking up the flour with, and an optional miller NPC you can talk to and exchange pleasantries as well as ask how to grind flour. Yes, you can find things out from NPCs, not just a third-party wiki!

Step 4 – Climb the ladder and head two stories up. Use wheat on hopper. (Did I mention I love that “Use X on Y” command?) Operate hopper lever controls. *grind grind*

Climb back down ladder.

Step 5 – Take empty pot. Use empty pot on flour bin. Hooray, you have obtained FLOUR!

Here’s another nice thing about Runescape and their introductory experience. There’s a ding practically every step. There are seemingly a thousand and one simple tasks, that you can either follow and do via the task list, or even just wander the world talking to people and doing random stuff, and voila, a Task Complete pops up to surprise you and give you that warm fuzzy feeling of virtual achievement.

Every tiny increase in skill is made a big deal of by treating it as separate levels and giving it the whole level fireworks shebang. This is such a contrast to say, something like Wurm Online, where you are told in no uncertain terms that your skill is something like 6.7% and you’re going to fail repeatedly at making misshapen lumpy objects while you increment it to 7% and then 8%. You’re left feeling inadequate, and wondering if it’s worth the time, especially since each attempt takes up several boring tens of seconds watching an identical progress bar move.

In Runescape, let’s face it. Going from level 1 to level 99 is mathematically still the same thing as trying to get from 1% skill to 99% skill. But the semantics is different, and the way it’s dealt with is different. Most actions you attempt will succeed. If you fail, you either automatically keep attempting it, or you can repeat the action. Each successful action gives you a visible XP popup, indicating your gradual progress. And when you cross from midway through level 6 to level 7, wow, does the game celebrate your teeny tiny achievement. Hurrah, you are one level higher! It does make a difference.

Ok, back to bread. After flour, one goes looking for a source of water like a well to wet the flour and turn it into bread dough. I got lost, couldn’t find a well, eventually stumbled into a spooky little town called Draynor Village which was all shadowy and looked way too high level for me, found a water pump, successfully got bread dough, couldn’t find a working oven range to bake said bread dough into bread, wussed out and teleported back to the newb village of Lumbridge, where I couldn’t find a working oven range either because the cook at the castle had me traipsing off on another half-completed quest, and got totally distracted with the Thieves’ Guild questline instead.

I ended up wandering through a swamp where I decided to kill not ten, but a few, evil-looking giant rats for the fun of it, picked some nettles from outside a hermit’s cottage (swiping his leather gloves in order not to get stung by the nettles), and lighting fires outside the poor man’s hut in order to distract him, pickpocket the key he was carrying, in order to get at the treasure the Thieves’ Guild wanted.

There will be other days for breadmaking. Adventure calls!

You know, if only more people would try stuff outside their comfort zone (and click to walk with no WASD movement is probably Runescape’s biggest hurdle to regular MMO players), they’d find that sandboxes are already out there.

Are We There Yet?

Sun and clouds - RL

One of the things that hit me recently in the lull between waiting for the next big MMO (aka Guild Wars 2) to wind its way round the hype machine.

Have we hit THE point that we (or at least I) have been waiting for? Have MMOs come to maturity?

Seven or so years ago, practically the only MMO people talked about was World of Warcraft. That was pretty much all that had come to public consciousness.

(Sure, before that, there was Everquest, and there was Ultima Online, and there was MUDs and so on, but they were all in their little separate communities.)

When WoW came along, nearly every blog you read, you could trip over a reference to WoW. The bright-eyed optimism and naiviete that most bloggers were displaying was a bit of a sour taste in my craw at the time, since I’d just come off being very jaded with the whole raid/loot grind/progression mechanic – which I had the (mis)fortune to experience a lot earlier in more primitive form in a MUD.

Cassandra-like, I predicted a good number of people waking up to the whole affair of being enslaved to game “obligations” about four or five years down the road – about the same time it took for me to progress through all the stages of burnout in that old MUD.

Sure enough, a number of people did start realizing that setting alarm clocks to tend to a game and brushing off significant others in real life because twenty four other real people are waiting behind a digital screen might not be the healthiest way to continue forward with gaming.

To my initial surprise, many of these people stopped gaming entirely in response. Some permanently, and others just hung around waiting for the next big MMO.

The blogosphere followed Lord of the Rings when it launched, really went full swing into Warhammer Online and subsequently fell out of love just as unitedly, trooped into Age of Conan (some stragglers fell away), marched right into Aion (more stragglers fell right off) and then went…


All over, it seems like. Everyone is playing different things now.

Some have found a purpose and impactful consequences in Eve Online. Some have gone back to old stalwarts like Everquest 2, Vanguard, Lord of the Rings, and yes, even World of Warcraft.

Many people dabble with all kinds of MMOs now – the range of MMOs has expanded beyond fantasy to superheroes (three of ’em now), science fiction (several big space themed elephants in the room and some FPS hybrids), real world (cars, tanks, aeroplanes, you name it), FFA PvP sandboxes (they’re niche, but they exist – Darkfall, Mortal Online), classless/crafting/skill-based (Wurm, Runescape) and other weird unclassifiable hybrids or niches (Glitch, Puzzle Pirates, A Tale in the Desert, Spiral Knights, Realm of the Mad God, the list continues…)

Subscriptions are not seen as the only way to pay for an MMO now. Various games have been experimenting with various options to varying degrees of success. It’s not so important now to commit for years to a single MMO titan unless you really wanted to.

So are the days of “one MMO to rule them all” finally over? Have we come to a point where there is a surfeit of MMOs for us to pick and choose from, each to their own tastes and desires?

And are there enough MMO players or enough spare hours to satisfy the supply that MMO companies are now throwing at us?

Beginning in the Middle

Otherworld - Aion

This is an odd time to begin a blog. I’m in the middle of games. Nope, not “in between” games, but right smack in the middle of many of ’em.

Normally, one would expect people to start blogs when all bright eyed and shiny and enthusiastic about an upcoming game. It’s easy to then launch from there into a description of the game in question, give a first impression, write some opinions or review it, add some notes about one’s first forays through the game, and voila, the journey and the blog begins.

But where do I start when I’m kinda past all that? Do I just jump into the deep end and hope readers can follow? Or do I spend time writing introductory pieces – which take up valuable gaming time, mind you – while mourning fickle memory regarding the tutorial and early stages and the lack of any screenshots (well, how was I supposed to know I would need them now?)

I suppose I will be starting with short pieces with regards to where I am in all these games, and see if that situates people enough to keep going.