Amatera isn’t the only one going through an identity crisis. I, too, have become disenfranchised with World of Warcraft recently, a love of mine for almost seven straight years. I share his concerns with the direction of the title, especially the lore, which I’ve written about previously. The main reason I’ve taken a break is a mental block. You see, Kieron, the ferret I recently lost, will always be linked to WoW for me. The rugrat joined my life when WoW did, and she was a constant companion when I played. She even became known in my guild for her excited messages – running across the keyboard – and hitting my ‘2’ key, aka Ferret DPS. Since her death, I’ve been unable to login for more than a few moments.
Readers are aware that I’ve been dabbling in Rift, a title that’s largely the same. Its sameness has lead me to rethink why I play MMORPGs. What’s the hook, the features I require to remain loyal to a digital world? What is it about them that makes them a blackhole for my time? Why do I keep returning, sequestering myself in just a handful of worlds for dozens of hours a month when there’s an infinite amount of content outside these walls?
It came down to three simple, interconnected features (ranked in order of most to least important). Aspects of MMOG titles far and wide that together make for truly memorable experiences.
Lore: I love stories. I love telling them, I love reading them, I love interacting with them and I love hearing how they were crafted. I’m not much of a creative storyteller myself (more of a bard that recites what he’s heard or experienced) so I have a voracious appetite (respect) for stories (those that are). In gaming, I want to be a part of the lore. Being told the tale isn’t enough. I want to interact, to move it a long in some way. I want to be the cause of character progression.
Dungeons: Small-scale dungeons tend to offer the perfect combination of story, impact and content. They’re relatively quick, they test a player’s skill in a stressful setting and the player has always ventured into their depths with a lore-linked purpose. We may be simply cleaning out the sewer or we may be decimating an ancient foe, whatever the reason, there is a purpose, and it’s not bogged down by player logistics. Naturally, new dungeons, aka content, is needed on a regular basis.
Loot: What can I say? I love new shinies as much as the next guy. Collecting character-enhancing items is what keeps dungeons exciting after the lore has run its course and it has been reduced to memorization.
That’s it designers. That’s the three most important aspects of the medium for me. Pick any MMOG on my timeline that I abandoned and you can probably write them off for failing to stand with one of those pillars.
You’ll notice that I left out any sort of social aspect. No mention of guilds, long-term friendships or achievements. That’s because I don’t care about them. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the friendships I’ve made. The rub is that it is not the game that fosters them. The game simply made the connection. Friendships are easily transportable, Steam, AIM, (heaven forbid) Facebook, yada yada. I don’t need Battle.net, Rift or Global Agenda chat to keep the connections alive. The shared experiences from the properties won’t be forgotten, but they can and will be duplicated in other media.
Have you ever thought hard to figure out what draws you and why? Have they changed over time?