Author Archives: Hampooj
Now you always say
That you want to be free
But you’ll come running
You’ll come running back to me
Some games change over time and evolve, for better or worse.
Some games never change and still remain true and enjoyable.
And some games try and fail, no matter how hard they struggle to succeed.
This is just about some of the changes that have happened in games over the years:
My god, aesthetics in games have changed. Graphics and appearance is more important to some games than anything else (Aion, I’m looking at you, you pretty-boy son of a bitch.) Looking good is great, but everyone and their grandmother, gamer or not, knows that appearances are only skin deep and what’s on the outside isn’t nearly as important as what is on the inside.
From the days of horribly smeared textures, low polygon count, clumsy models, and animations that looked nothing like what they were supposed to represent, in such games as Ultima, Dark Ages of Camelot, Everquest, and SWG (to name a few), to the current days of games such as Rift, Everquest 2, and Age of Conan. You can run newer games on new computers with full settings and have them look breathtaking and spectacular. Eating up every ounce of power from your video card and making you glad you have a top of the line machine. But those games are also (usually) friendly enough to play on lower systems too, just by tuning down the settings. Things have certainly changed.
Everquest, for example, incorporated an entirely new game engine with the third expansion The Shadows of Luclin. It improved the graphics and character models and animations dramatically. The expansion itself added a lot of features, but the most obvious and notable one was probably the new overall look of the game. It went from looking like it belonged in the 90’s, to looking like it belonged in the new millennium. It was an excellent idea. I personally love roguelike games, which use either ASCII or sprite tilesets, so I don’t really care what the graphics of a game are like in order to enjoy it or play it. However, I believe having games look new and pretty is good to attract new players. With the modernization that Luclin brought to EQ it opened up the game to a lot of people who might not have had interest in it before or have even heard of it, and that is always a good thing.
It did come at a price though. A lot of original players, and older players of Everquest felt that Luclin was the beginning of the end for the game as a whole. That it lost its charm with that expansion, and that Ruins of Kunark and Scars of Velious were the best expansions (and they were according to popular opinion, no expansions have had the kind of reception from the playerbase since). SoL was also the first expansion released after Sony had acquired Verant Interactive, so players were skeptical. All in all I think it turned out well and started a great change for Everquest as a whole to become more modern and open to new people.
Gameplay / Content:
Most mmo’s have relatively similar game mechanics. You target something, hit a button to auto attack, and you mash some keys to cast spells or use abilities. Then you harvest a corpse for loot or supplies, craft some stuff or sell it, and repeat. That’s the bare bone basics at least, not including quests.
Again I’ll reference Everquest, since that is the oldest game I have the most experience with myself. In the old days, questing in EQ was simple. You kill something, loot something, hand in something. Period. The game didn’t have tasks, or a way to track quests you were on, or what step you were on etc. You had to keep notes yourself, and everyone had a pad of paper or a notebook by their desk absolutely full of scribbles of what piece of what gems they needed for the crafted armor quests in South Karana, or the myriad of class quests in the Temple of Solusek Ro. The quests were all the same, though: hand in items you buy or loot. And that didn’t change much over the years with Everquest until Planes of Power introduced the flag mechanic, so your character has a permanent mark to indicate an accomplishment you’ve done, and you can keep track of what you still need to unlock certain things. Then Lost Dungeons of Norrath was released and the adventure window came around, and there were leaderboards, then expeditions and tasks and it kind of got out of hand.
My original point, though, is that the way questing and doing the every-day tasks of menial grinding and chores in the game got much more varied and different over the years. It’s a staple in games now to start off with a brand new character and have your very first quests, in any game you play, be “kill x amount of y”. Just remember, EQ never had any quests like that in its humble beginnings.
And as for content? There is so many different things to do in games now that there wasn’t before. There was always crafting and tradeskills, but not always harvesting skills. The closest Everquest has to harvesting anything is a basic fishing system that works much like Warcraft but a lot more boring, and a foraging skill that just gives you a random chance at a few different bits of whatever is on that specific zone forage list. No mining, no harvesting lumber or any kind of node for anything. Just slaughter everything and loot tradeskill bits to combine.
Flying mounts are becoming a staple in games too. Everquest 2 incorporated personal flying mounts in their latest expansion Destiny of Velious. Warcraft and Vanguard have had them for quite a while. Everquest, while it doesn’t really have the capability to put flying mounts in the game, did make a very cute attempt. There are a few mounts you can get in Everquest currently that have a levitate effect on them, so you are supposed to be flying while riding them. It’s mostly just cosmetic though, as levitate doesn’t really do much in Everquest anymore.
Appearance armor and weapons have also started to become mainstream and expected now. Everquest originally had plate armor you could have crafted and then dyed a few specific colours. Then with Legacy of Ykesha they released the armor-dye system and it kicked ass. Everyone loved it then and still plays around with it now to make their character look a little more customized in a game that doesn’t allow for appearance slots. It was a good compromise though. EQ2 and Rift, Vanguard, Aion, Lord of the Rings Online – tons of games now have appearance gear specifically for roleplaying, or just looking stylish. I do wish Warcraft would implement it, though. I think their armor and weapons are the most unique looking of any game I’ve ever seen, and it’s a shame there isn’t a practical way to show off any of it.
And last but not least; player housing. This is also slowly becoming a staple in games, and I am very glad. Vanguard, Free Realms, EQ2 and EQ have player housing currently (that I can think of off the top of my head). More games need it. It’s always fun to have a place to call home and decorate it as you want. EQ2 is probably the greatest example of how to do it right. There are some absolutely amazing houses that people have made, with some really creative and wild designs. It may seem dumb to some, but to me it adds a lot of depth to what you can do in the game. When you’re sick of grinding monsters or questing, what else are you going to do? Even the manliest man can easily lose a few hours by just decorating.
This article is getting long enough, so I won’t touch on achievements other than to say that they are also becoming a common, mainstream aspect of gaming that never used to exist. For better or worse, they are here and they aren’t going away any time soon.
What does an MMO mean to you?
If you’re reading this, you know what an MMO is. You’re a current, ex, or prospective gamer of some sort. Everyone knows what an MMO is. The question I pose to you, dear reader, is: what does an MMO mean to you?
There are dozens upon dozens of MMO’s of various genres which have had varying successes and failures on the market. The market is extremely competitive and undeniably ruthless. One mistake and the company can be unfairly branded a failure with a terrible product, and regardless whether they fix it or not, the damage is done. Launch is probably the biggest test of any product for a company. Vanguard being the prime example in this case: An amazing game that had a terrible launch and was branded a buggy, unfinished piece of trash.
Vanguard never managed to recover from the damage reviewers and gamers did to its reputation. I remember I was playing EQ1 rather heavily at the time of Vanguards release, and having not really cared to keep up with other MMO news I didn’t know much about it. My friends and guild mates had an ongoing joke, however, whenever one of our raids or groups wiped and we were trying to recover or make a second attempt. ‘This could turn it around for Vanguard!’ we’d say, in mock enthusiasm. MMO humor is always dumb, but it was just in fun. Only later on, when I actually played Vanguard and learned a lot more about it myself did I fully understand what the sarcasm was all about. I personally fell in love with the game the first time I tried it and thought it was a huge tragedy that Vanguard got shit on so harshly at launch as to never recover.
It may seem like I got sidetracked from my original question, but I assure you in my jumbled mess of a mind it all makes sense – I’m trying to make sense of what an MMO means to me. Yes, if you want to be clinical and sterile an MMO is nothing more than a game. Yes, it’s a fact that it’s a game, and games shouldn’t be taken seriously as they’re just a means to enjoy oneself and/or the company of others. However, MMO’s aren’t just a game. They are a means of communication and expression for millions of people, and since the birth of the internet they have drastically changed the way the online world and business model works and have had a profound effect on the younger generation they cater to.
For some people an MMO is a means to escape reality and live out their fantasies of role-playing whatever they want in whatever genre and setting they find attractive. For others MMO’s have become an unhealthy addiction that has ruined lives, arguably caused murders and suicides and countless relationship woes and divorces. Some do in fact just play them casually and they are nothing more than a means to have fun and relax after a stressful day. Others still find solace in the anonymous, yet meaningful bonding that can take place online when put in situations forcing strangers to work together cooperatively or competitively. People have made lifelong friends they otherwise would have never known existed thanks to MMO’s. Marriages and relationships have blossomed and flourished, families brought together and people connect on a deeply personal level.
Now when I talk about MMO’s I’m not specifically talking about the RPG variety, as the type doesn’t really matter. There are hundreds of MMO’s of different types and styles (RTS, FPS, RPG, etc.) and they all strive to do the same thing. Massive Multi-player means exactly that. Put dozens, hundreds, thousands, possibly millions of people from all over the planet, all in the same environment with a set of rules (strict or loose) and boundaries to obey, and people seem to thrive. Even given little guidance or no obvious goal, people still manage to thrive. Eve is a good example of this, as is Second Life.
My entire point being that I believe MMO’s have had a dramatic affect on the world since their creation, and they mean something different and possibly very meaningful to everyone. Some people may very truly be able to state the best times of their life have been in an MMO playing with their friends, and I think that’s perfectly fine. If you’re one so inclined to believe gaming is a waste of time and a waste of life, I’d ask you to consider professional sports, or recreational fishing, or virtually any hobby anyone can possibly think of. By definition a hobby is just something you do in your spare time and generally isn’t for profit.
Many people say the best times of their life were their youth, hunting or fishing or working on projects with their friends, in bands, doing drugs and partying. I’m not going to judge what people do for enjoyment, but that’s also my point; what makes it better to do any of those things than to stay at home gaming with your friends, when you honestly get just as much satisfaction out of it?
You have no life!
You have no real friends!
I disagree. I think people can have the best, most trusted friends they’ve ever known without ever meeting them in person. And I believe everyone is entitled to live their life as they see fit as long as it does no harm to others. So who’s to tell me that I have no life? I believe that people can have the best experiences of their life while gaming. And I don’t think that’s pathetic, as others might be so inclined to think. I believe that’s just the way the world works now, and having grown up in it, I for one am used to the idea.
So tell me, dear reader, after all that: what does an MMO mean to you?
What’s a Roguelike?
Look it up on Wikipedia if you want a great explanation – keep reading if you want my mediocre one. Essentially, a Roguelike is a genre of game that has a few basic qualities that separate and make it unique: (1) randomization, (2) permanent death, (3) turn based combat, and (4) a crap load of crazy dungeon crawling in ASCII form (or a tileset if you prefer, depending on the game).
Rogue started it all, and is the reason this genre of game is called a Roguelike. Basically, they all mimic aspects of Rogue in being dungeon crawling, random generating, addicting little deathfests. Rogue itself was created in 1980, which makes it around 30 years old, and over time one could argue its influence has been enormous. Roguelike games are extremely popular, and they don’t all have to be in ASCII or use a tileset for graphics. Games like Torchlight, Fate 1 and 2, Diablo 1, 2 (and 3 when it comes out), Titan Quest, and even several online games, such as Dungeon Runners and Hellgate can be tagged under a Roguelike genre due to their randomization of items and maps, their ability for permanent death, and bundles of craziness that can ensue as a result of the former.
Albeit Hellgate and Dungeon Runners might not be the best of examples, as both games died due to not being profitable enough. However, I personally loved Hellgate with a fiery passion and wished it had not kicked the bucket. Borderlands, while similar and fun in its own right, just isn’t the same as Hellgate was to me. But I digress, this is to talk about Roguelikes, not lament over games of yesteryear.
There are dozens of Roguelikes, many of which also have tilesets which are a blessing for those who can’t stand ASCII graphics but still love the games, such as myself. Chances are you might’ve already heard of some of the most popular ones. NetHack, IVAN, and Angband are just a few. They can be extremely complex and extremely unforgiving. That’s what appeals to me personally, though. I love a challenge. Most Roguelikes start off with a brutal beginning (where most characters die on the first few levels and people may get frustrated and quit or conversely get addicted and thrive), a relatively easy mid-game (which can turn bad fast when you think you can breeze through the rest of the game), and then an insane end-game.
There is very little plot to most of the traditional Roguelike games, but that is never the main focus. These games don’t need a story line. Most of them follow the exact same plot: proceeding down the dungeon until you find item X and get your ass back alive with it in your possession. The real fun is in the strategy.
They all may have similar traits, but they also all differ extremely in complexity. NetHack, for example, has an absurd amount of ways to do all kinds of different things. You can be turned to stone if you touch a cockatrice (dead or alive), or if it touches you. If you eat a cockatrice egg or have an egg thrown at you you’re toast. However, if you’re wearing a pair of gloves you can pick up a dead one and wield it as a weapon to turn enemies to stone, or throw the egg at enemies to do the same. But beware; even if wearing a pair of gloves, if you’re holding a dead cockatrice and trip while going down a flight of stairs you fall on the corpse, turning you to stone. If you kick the corpse without wearing boots you turn to stone. If you hit a golem with it, it turns into a stone golem to punch your face in.
There are countless ways to play all the different games. Each one has a multitude of classes and races to choose from, most differing greatly in how they play and the strategies you can use to survive and fight. Do you want to be a troll wizard, a complete idiot with very little casting ability but immense strength and regeneration? Sure, why not! Do you want to be a vampire necromancer with an army of giant skeletons, hydra zombies, and abominations? Go for it. How about a dwarf summoner with the ability to create rats, dogs, elementals and butterflies to fight or distract your enemies? Or maybe a mummy monk? With the ability to burn to dust really easily because it’s a goddamn mummy! But you don’t ever have to eat or drink anything. There are deities to follow too; gods which grant special spells and abilities, and even gift you with items or followers to help you fight every now and then.
The point is you can play a Roguelike a thousand different ways, a thousand different times, and still have a new experience. Personally, I’ve played hundreds of characters in the Roguelike that I play regularly and never actually survived long enough to win a game. I’ve gotten quite far with different characters, but never actually beat it. I don’t care. I love it. I’ve invested hours in my farthest characters, getting so deep in the dungeon that I was paranoid every corner would surprise me with my death, and then I died. Stupidly. Always stupidly in hindsight.
But the fact is I just wasted hours and now my little hero was dead and there is nothing I can do to bring him back. I should be pissed and annoyed, but I’m not. So I just created a new one and start from scratch. Maybe this one will last 45 seconds before dying, or maybe this one will be the hero who finally retrieves the item and survives the dungeon. It amazes me how I just don’t mind dying. It doesn’t even frustrate me. I don’t play these games to win. I play them for the sheer enjoyment and challenge of them. It’s all about strategy.
Sometimes you are quite literally going to die no matter what happens, and there is nothing you can do. Those moments do suck, where its’ just a random number generator deciding your fate. But I don’t mind them that much either, because they are few and far between. There is almost always a way out of any fight, be it victory or retreat.