Editorial: A War with no meaning…
I think I’ve finally figured out what it is about most Massively Multiplayer Online games that irks me so. The lack of evolution – true player impact and evolution. What brings this topic up you ask? Well reader let me show you.
Not to single it out but last year Star Wars Galaxies brought the Civil War back to the game in a big way – with a massive Rebellion vs. Empire fight to the death on a small rather insignificant planet whose architecture is reminiscent on the Naboo capital of Theed. The concept is simple – the Empire and the Rebellion engage in far far away’s version of urban warfighting. Rebel terrorists face off against the fine forces of the Galactic military and the civilians and residents of the galactic burg will be the losers.
One of the questions I asked when I discussed this event a year ago with the lead producer on the title at E3 after my eyes lit up with possibility was – Is the outcome predetermined? The answer – yes. The Rebellion will lose no matter what and the city will be destroyed. Well my next statement wasn’t nearly as nice but I won’t repeat it here. Now I’m someone who has a great idea of the amount of work needed to maintain these static game worlds, and sure the concept of diverging servers – some where the Rebellion wins, some where the Empire wins would create a rift in the game and present a huge technical and manpower issue for SOE to maintain but damn it why even bother to have events like this is there is no chance of altering the outcome? Rebel players – face it you will throw your lives into the pyre of galactic civil war for no net gain. Your death will have no impact on the world and while the event may offer unique armor or skills for participants I just find it frustrating.
Not to pick on Star Wars alone, the most popular MMO game in the world right now – World of Warcraft suffers from the same issue – the Opening of the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj and the most recent Scourge Invasion smack of the same logic. No matter when each server opened the gates or how many people acted to stop the invasion there is no long term difference. This is a world event that already has a predetermined outcome. Players are insignificant. I know, as a player who returned to the game after the gates opened, it had absolutely no impact on my play. I couldn’t participate in the actual battle (just as my mid level character really couldn’t play in the Scourge Invasion endgame raid) and how the battle on my server went made no difference on anything because the status quo still exists just like it did before the events began.
Following on with the results of the Star Wars battle – the city was abandoned, and players will not be rebuilding it. GMs and plots will maybe eventually lead to its resurrection. The rallying cry of “Remember those who fought at Restuss!” will be there to motivate but has no bite. The people of the world will have no rallying post-9/11 effort to rebuild their lost homes. They will simply move on. Now I don’t know what SOE had in store for the post Restuss event – this was meant to reintroduce the Galactic Civil War into a game that had become mostly about commerce and the standard MMO level grind – it’s just too bad the tiger has no teeth. It’s too bad no one will mourn the loss even a year after the destruction of Restuss.
This my friends is the problem with MMORPGs. The shared world, the illusionary freedom of choice. You will never matter… you will never be the hero of the Scourge invasion or whatever event transpires in your game of choice. No statues to your sacrifice will ever be erected and no value associated with the hard fought battles or great loss. You will never ‘own’ the results of the acts. You just get some trinkets and maybe a personal memory of being part of the battle if you’re lucky. Unless you consider what Guild Wars is promising with GW2 and the Hall of Monuments.