I was chatting with a friend of mine the other day about what we were playing and he dropped a line that resonated with me. He said, “MMOs are an easy way I can play online with my friends, but I don’t prefer them as games.” As any true fanboy would, I mentally started to rise to the challenge, ready to defend my preferred genre with a discussion of how deep, complex and hard to design the typical MMO is, but I stopped myself and instead went over my own current playlist. Here’s what I am playing right now:
King’s Bounty: The Legend – A fun, tactical wargame/rpg in the vein of Heroes of Might and Magic and of course, the original King’s Bounty. A simple, but fun battle game with the RPG elements of quests and leveling your hero.
Borderlands – If Diablo and Call of Duty had a baby in a stylish, cel-shaded hospital staffed by Fallout 3, you would get Borderlands. An awesome, co-op shooter with the RPG elements of quests, leveling and loot. Heck, there are even pick-up groups for when I feel the need to have someone steal rare loot from me because “his buddy’s other character might be able to use it.” What is more MMO than that?!
Fort Zombie – A clunky, buggy RPG about surivival after a zombie apocolypse… but a great game nonetheless. Rescue survivors, scavenge for supplies and prepare your fort for the coming darkness. If I were writing a Zombie MMO, I would start here for inspiration.
Elona – A roguelike that looks like an old-style JRPG, but has neat features like customizable housing, randomized side-quests and investing in shops.
King Arthur The Role-Playing Wargame — A cross between Total War and Master of Magic set in the myths of King Arthur? Sign me up!
Oh yeah and I am still messing around with Champions Online… on the side!? Heck, last night I was seriously considering reinstalling my old copy of Dungeon Lords for something “new”… which is the computer game equivalent to slitting one’s wrists while listening to Gordon Lightfoot. So, for the moment at least, like my friend, it seems I don’t prefer MMOs as games either.
This isn’t all bad (though from a standpoint of blogging about MMOs, it sucks) and probably not unexpected either. Part of it is a light case of burnout. (I think most MMO-fans have suffered from burnout at one time or another.) Another part of it is a bit of disappointment in the latest crop of games. I still think MMOs are the most complex and hardest games to design, but it seems that for all of that complexity, we are stuck in a rut of shallow, repetitive, themepark games that are all scrambling for scraps in WOW’s very long shadow. I still love MMOs for the character building and the persistent worlds. Unfortunately, most single-player RPGs offer even more character build options and most MMO designers have scrapped persistent worlds for linear hack-fests and fetch quests.
So… what does all of this mean? Well, I think it means I need a new MMO. Something different and fresh that can shock me out of my funk a bit. That is where I need your help. I need suggestions. What games are you playing and enjoying? Do you have any games that you feel are substantially different from the normal MMO fare? Do you have a game you are just plain dying to hear about?
Fire off a comment and help me find a new game… please… before I press install on Dungeon Lords…