I don’t know about you, but I’m getting annoyed that MMORPGs are increasingly turning into RPGs that just happen to have other people running around in them and which want a monthly fee of US$15.
Timely example: Age of Conan. You play the first 20 levels, set on the island of Tortage, pretty much by your lonesome. This is partly due to the fact that there’s a whole quest series set during nighttime which you can only do as a solo character, and partly because the levelling’s pretty quick on the island, so it’s unlikely that any of your mates are hanging around to do all the quests again with you, anyway.
Once you get off the island however… nothing changes. Age of Conan is an MMORPG where you can pretty much make it to Level 80 without ever grouping. Now, pardon me for this next outlandish thought… but isn’t grouping one of the key reasons we wanted to play MMORPGs instead of RPGs in the first place? I thought it was!
Now, don’t get me wrong. A game doesn’t have to go to the extremes of, say, Dungeons & Dragons Online – where you pretty much needed to form a party just to pick your nose – but an element of needing to group with people for a decent portion of the content would be nice. Currently, I think Lord of the Rings Online probably has the best mix of solo-ing and grouping that I’ve seen. A very good mix, indeed.
You might think that’s where today’s rant might end… but you’d be wrong! You know what else is annoying about this new breed of MMORPGs that have forgotten the MMO part of their name? It’s that the players out there are condoning this! More and more I’m seeing people suggest that this is perfectly normal. They want their MMORPGs to be, essentially, an RPG… but with people hanging around on the /occ and /guild channels – presumably so they can link to their lastest lame piece of loot and get kudos from other people.
It’s really sad, actually, that the promise of MMORPGs (which, to my mind, is the promise of living in a virtual world moreso than it is about hitting a level cap, raiding or PvP), is getting pissed up against the wall as consumers increasingly vote with their feet to play games that aren’t very different to the RPGs they could get just as much amusement from, without the US$15/month pricetag to boot!
Have MMORPGs been dumbed down that badly? Or has the environment been invaded by gamers who don’t really understand what MMORPGs are supposed to be and, in turn, are happy for them to be glorified single-player outings that they have to pay for, simply because they don’t know any better? Is there any hope for the industry? Are there developers out there, right now, who realise that the current path MMORPGs are on is, essentially, the wrong path?
PS: Morninglark has some interesting thoughts in a similar vein:
We have seen the worlds become more linear. You are born here. You do X number of newbie quests, then are ‘encouraged by NPC’s’ to go to the next area that is level appropriate for you. In this way, the designers are herding us like cattle through the gaming environment.
I totally agree, Morninglark – and MMORPGs are the worse for it.