Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Innocence

I recently got accepted into the League of Legends closed beta. It has a pretty strict NDA, and I may only disclose "that the beta exists and that I am participating in it". Let me tell you--I am having a blast. Guinsoo (and all the excellent people at Riot Games) has done it again. DotA++

I'm not really playing any MMOs at the moment, and I'm having tons of fun with Team Fortress and LoL so I'm not thinking about MMOs either. I also don't want to just rehash other bloggers' topics--a phenomenon evizaer likes to call blog inbreeding. But Keen and Graev have had a series of posts which made me a little nostalgic.

Which reminds me of comment I made to evizaer in an IM the other day, "I really want my MMO innocence back." My MMO history is fairly young; my first MMO was FFXI. It also isn't that extensive. I typically play a single game (any multiplayer game) for months or years at a time, get completely infatuated with it, and learn its deepest and darkest secrets before moving on. But there is something about that first MMORPG which completely overwhelms you, and you find yourself willing to do the most outrageous tasks for the game (long travel times, forced grouping, harsh death penalties, grinding mobs for money).

Some players will argue that these chores "build character", help stratify the players, or are actually fun (see Keen). The first time. My first run* to Jeuno in FFXI took probably close to 45 minutes. I did it with personal friend. We had a map, but it wasn't terribly useful at describing where the zone exits were nor where they led. I remember describing land features to my guildmates, hoping that they'd know where we were and could guide us. It was a fearful journey; I leveled down in one of the zones, and we had to duo some tough mobs to get me back to level 20. But I think the most remarkable feature of the whole trip was that I remembered it all. It was a lot of fun, akin to all my ventures into the exotic lands of Vana'diel. You just don't see this anymore.

* I originally had a typo here which said "my first fun". The human brain is fascinating.

Is that sense of adventure during travel gone because new MMORPGs make travel less of an issue or because that first time was really exceptional and we've lost our innocence? I'd like to think the former, lest I end up a fiend injecting raw source code into my veins to get my fix.

Games like Guild Wars and Global Agenda (which I am excited to try) are removing that large world feel. Instanced, instant action. It's what the masses want. And I would be lying if I said these games don't make huge improvements to the MMO genre at large.

After experiencing a long line of tired or mediocre gameplay (WoW, EQ2, AoC, GW, Darkfall) I'm wishing that I wasn't an experienced MMORPG player, that I could pick up any one of those games and be enamored by the wonder that makes MMOs what they are instead of nitpicking every single feature. I wish I could see past all the faulty mechanics and immerse myself again in the world and the community. I wish they were new.


Tesh said...

Try being a special effects/animation CG artist and watching movies or *shudder* TV. When you find yourself seriously studying things, it's very difficult to step back into the shoes of innocence. It's a valuable critiquing tool if you can manage to see through those rosy eyes once in a while.

Crimson Starfire said...

"I wish I could see past all the faulty mechanics and immerse myself again in the world and the community. I wish they were new."

That would be so nice. I get agitated easily now when I play a new MMO and find a bunch of flaws. I find that I need to force myself to see past the flaws in order to enjoy the game. I don't think I could ever truly sink into an immersive state again, which is sad. These days its all about the action and skill challenge, which is why TF2 is top of my list.

Melf_Himself said...

Yeah - Keen has been going on about that stuff quite a lot. I don't think it's the games that are becoming less immersive though, it's us as players.

For example, you cited Guild Wars as feeling un-immersive. Guild Wars was my first MMO and, back in my "PvE n00b" days (I am a stone-cold teabagging killer now of course), I actually found it plenty immersive. I have similar stories to Keen's involving epic journeys - for example attempting (and failing after several hours) to take a shortcut and battle from Beacon's Perch to Droknar's Forge when I was only level 15, to try and obtain max level armor. For me instancing makes the game feel more realistic / personal than open-world games, specifically because the instanced game doesn't feature a bunch of tards bunny hopping around spamming the chat channel.

If you want to prolong that feeling of innocence, I think you can do it by just not reading the forums. I have a tendency to want to powergame every new game I play these days, and that really breaks that immersion feeling because there are no surprises, which is what that Bartle-esque 'Exploration' is probably all about.

On a side note, I am surprised to see you lump the gameplay from Guild Wars in with the other MMO's. Granted, in PvE the encounters are just as silly as in other games - but PvP games are a whole different kettle of fish (did you every try PvP in Guild Wars?).

motstandet said...

I played GW when it first came out, no doubt long before any meaningful or good PvP was happening. My focus was on PvE content with which I was wholly unimpressed. GW's PvP is often cited as being very good, but I have a feeling that while it might be good in relation to MMORPGs, it probably doesn't match up to any true player versus player game.

Melf_Himself said...

Yeah, its PvE is pretty lame, a fact often lamented by the PvP players (who scorn the PvE players at every opportunity, but I digress).

I'm not sure what you mean by "true" PvP game, as there are lots of 1v1 games around but not so many team-based games other than MMO's. Most of the "true" PvP games, like say StarCraft or Quake or Street Fighter, are 1v1.

Off the top of my head the only *good* competitive team-based, non-MMO PvP games that I know are CS, TF2, DotA and Guild Wars (DotA only because I've heard so much positive word of mouth). Guild Wars is definitely right up there with the other team-based games for me.

It's not the same as it was in the glory days in the first year after release (before they added too many classes and imo spoiled the balance), but you're going to be missing out on the next big competitive team-based game if you don't get into GW2 my friend.

motstandet said...

Perhaps I err in my categorical denounciation of MMORPG PvP. I've had so many subpar experiences with it that I just assumed all MMORPG PvP would never provide the same excitement as games whose sole focus was team PvP. The ones you cite are excellent examples, and I am also a fan of lesser-known titles such as Natural Selection, Dystopia, & Source Forts (they are all HL1 and HL2 mods, coinsidentally).

I was investigate GW2 on your recommendation.

I think MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena; like DotA) are going to be the next huge genre. I can still count the number of MOBAs on one hand (Enfos, DotA, Demigod, Heroes of Newerth, LoL), but I wouldn't be surprised if we see an explosion of released titles in the next few years. I also wouldn't be surprised if we see a MMOBA (Massively MOBA) for which my "DotA MMO" lays the groundwork.