Back again I am! But this time, I won't just be ranting and raving. Time for some serious stuffs!
I have given a lot of thought on why I dislike so many MMORPGs, and in doing so I have finally found the one MMORPG that I truly and absolutely love! So this here letter will first include my really well thought out opinion on the current MMO market, and will end with something of a review for that one MMORPG I do like! Mind you, I have no experience in reviewing games, so it may not be up to a good standard.
Oh dear. This is one doozy of a letter. I've got my chips just in case I need a snack on this journey. Maybe I should get a sandwich, too.
I Êsaid it before, but I really hate how so many people really donÕt ÒroleplayÓ their characters. For me personally, that is a real turnoff. If I enter a fairytale world of knights and wizards, I reallyÉ. REALLY donÕt want to run Sephiroth666, King Sausage and Emperor Egghead, whoÕs only comments are ÒDeath Sword, 400 GC ONLY!! FTW!! NO NOOBZ!!!Ó and things like that.
Really, if you think about it, they shouldnÕt even call these games MMORPGs. TheyÕre more like adventure games anyway. MMOAG would be a better term for it. There is no motivation to go on quests other than the experience points and the stronger equipment, so you can eventually bash other playerÕs characters, and of course the fun you can have questing with your friends or guild buddies, which is fine, if you like that sort of thing, but it is not role playing. It is merely creating an avatar, giving it a nickname, and fight alongside or against other playerÕs avatars. It doesnÕt matter if you play a Human Paladin or a Tauren Fighter in terms of how you interact with other people. You can be a Paladin and get away with throwing around rude, or at least crude, comments. You can also be a very polite Tauren Warrior. It doesnÕt matter, because that is not the main focal point of the game.
ItÕs like calling Grand Theft Auto a racing game, just because you can drive cars in it. And now I am using the characters from World of Warcraft as an example, but it goes for most MMORPGs. The main point of these games is to have fun with other players in an environment that resembles a fairytale land, but doesnÕt really require your character to be a real part of that environment or act as if he is in such a land. It doesn't require you to play a part.
MMOAGs just doesn't have the extremely wordy ring to it that MMORPG does, though. There's something to be said for that. Besides, what part of a turn-based RPG requires actual playing of roles? Mostly, it's watching scenes and playing the role of tactician in battle.
Like I said, all this is fine with me. Apparently a lot of people like playing that way. ItÕs more light-hearted fun, and less about a serious story. Thankfully Blizzard even capitalizes on that concept, since they have a fantasy rock band that even sings a song about one of their not so serious players Leeroy Jenkins, and they have this silly cartoon about some of their main antagonists. I really shouldnÕt complain about WOW. ItÕs just not my cup of tea. On the other hand, another big MMO, Guild Wars, does try to be serious, and even there I find players who play the game in a way that kind of ruins it for me. Again, I really shouldnÕt complain and just not play the game. I have given away my account to someone who can appreciate this way of playing.
I guess what I am saying is; DonÕt call your game an MMORPG if there is no role playing involved. Zelda or even Super Mario arenÕt called RPGs. In the end they kind of run on the same concept. If you controlling the actions of a character is an RPG, we can call ALL games RPGs. It is trying to really be a character that defines whether a game should be called an RPG or something else, in my opinion.
You have good points all around, but this is an issue that is bigger than the both of us. It's been debated back and forth by many people. I contend that RPGs began with the pens and papers, but the only thing that transitioned to video games were the complicated rules and plotlines. Therefore, "RPG" is more a style or motif than a genre. Again, this is an issue I can't nail down because there are way too many approaches to this arguement.
Which finally brings me to that mysterious MMO I was hinting at in my introduction. I was really bored the other day and so decided to download a couple of free MMOs. I first came upon a game called Rappelz, which I had seen numerous banners of, but within 5 minutes I learned that it was basically a Guild Wars/World of Warcraft rip-off with all the same issues I dislike so much in those games. I went to a website with a list of every MMO available, and came upon a little game called Planeshift. It appealed to me as the description read there was a heavy emphasis on role playing. The game has been in Beta testing for the past 7 years, so that wasnÕt a very good sign, but I was intrigued by some of the things the game stated to have.
I think I've heard the odd word about Planeshift, though not much. The seven year development cycle that doesn't have an end in sight is a definite turn off.
After downloading and installing, which was very quick, I came upon the character creation screen. Already I was having more fun than I ever had with Guild Wars, which I have played somewhat extensively. You could choose from 12 races, if I recall correctly. Unfortunately, even after 7 years of development, only about half are playable, but hey, the Dwarfs were present, so I picked a Dwarf. I gave him a name, and already the game asked me if my name was appropriate for the setting in which this game takes place. I guess to many people that is a turnoff, but to me it is absolute joy. This game takes its setting very seriously!
The joy didnÕt end there! I was asked the name of my characterÕs parents, their jobs, and our religion. They asked me with how many siblings my character grew up, and what my characterÕs favourite pastime was when he was younger. I could choose a date of birth and even if something special happened during my birth. I could choose in what kind of village or city my character grew up. I was asked if my character had done anything special in his past, like work for a bank, witness a drowning or move house often. All of these things had an effect on my starting stats, but also how I should play this character, as I would later be told.
After all these fun little options to explore, I went to the tutorial area. The first character I met explained to me how to walk around, pick up stuff and talk to others. One would expect the second character to tackle combat, but this was not the case. The second character was a kind Dwarf lady explaining to me how to use a furnace! Apparently this game wants its characters to do something productive! Fun stuff, fun stuff!
The next character would explain combat to me, but lo and behold, I could actually skip this part! Okay, so it was because apparently there are still some bugs in this area, but hey, I can skip the combat tutorial! I guess the focus isnÕt on combat! After that there was a quick tutorial on magic, but I am a Dwarf, IÕm not into that kind of stuff.
The final character in the tutorial explained to me the basics of role playing. There was some emphasis on the fact that we, the players, may know things our characters donÕt yet know. Things such as other characterÕs names, displayed above their heads, will not be visible to our characters, and indeed, when you ÒinspectÓ another character, it will say that you do not yet know his or her name. You will have to ask them their names, and only once they reply will your character know the name. Inspecting another character will then indeed reveal the other characterÕs name. I guess my point is starting to become crystal clear now. The game wants you to role play first, and combat second.
As I went into the actual gaming world, I noticed there werenÕt a lot of people. After some searching I found the local tavern, with about 6 players in or near it. The first person I speak to replies completely in character. I canÕt remember exactly, but the conversation went a little like this;
Sabeth Balorkin (ThatÕs my character) greets everyone.
Me: Good day sir!
Him: A fine day indeed.
Me: May I be so bold as to ask you your name?
Him: You may. My name is É..(sorry, canÕt remember his name)
Me: Ah, my name be Sabeth Balorkin.
Him: Greetings Sabeth Balorkin.
Me: Mind if we enter the tavern?
Him: Well, I am on an errand, but we could go into the tavern for a short while.
Well, I guess you can see my point. This game has a small community, but the community is very serious about how they role play. Out of character players will find out they are not appreciated by the community, if they havenÕt already deleted their game out of boredom. ItÕs definitely not as action packed as the major MMORPGs. The funny thing is, I have only really played this game for 15 minutes and already I am deeply and madly in love with it. ThatÕs how great an impact this style of play has on me!
Graphically, this game isnÕt stunning, but for me it is appealing enough. I guess it comes close to the graphics of Neverwinter Nights 1, though with standard camera settings also found in Guild Wars and World of Warcraft. The biggest downside is that a lot of the different races donÕt have 3D models yet, so they use existing ones from the other races. A bummer, but nothing more.
The controls arenÕt great, but they are far from nightmarish. They take a little getting used to. But hey, for a free, semi-open source MMO, IÕm not complaining.
Well, to wrap things up... Just as World of Warcraft isnÕt my cup of tea, I can totally understand this game to be completely boring for people who do enjoy WOW. But in my opinion, Planeshift really is one of the few, if not the only true Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. All the others really should be labelled Adventure Games.
Thanks for listening!
Greetings and salutations,
All right. I admit that I didn't entirely see where you were going with this one, Daniel. I see that you have, indeed, chosen a game that could be called an MMORPG. However, if I play an MMOAG, then I've got to poke a little fair fun at you and say you play a 6MORPG. That's "6 Person Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game."
All jokes aside, I'm glad you've found something you like as a role-player. Most RP servers I've been on merely have denizens that are nicer and well-spoken, not necessarily in character. Any RPers out there should check this out as they like.