Editorial: A War with no meaning…

select.jpgI 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.

skeleton01.jpgNot 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.

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3 Comments on Editorial: A War with no meaning…

Justen

On July 30, 2007 at 4:26 pm

I absolutely agree with you on the importance of a dynamic game, but I feel you left out some things.
Firstly, WoW’s system of of opposing races and city raids, rather than a big happy family of orcs and elves (of course, not a new idea, but very well implemented) does offer a very real feeling of an ongoing war; logging into Orgrimmar under a full force Allied-raid really makes that point.
Secondly, you didn’t mention Planetside at all, and the whole MMOFPS is built around a nonstop, dynamic battle for land control. Honestly it wasn’t really…fun, but Planetside is closest to the concept of a dynamic world.
As far as being an individual, it’s a lot more fun in an MMO if the game doesn’t treat you like a special person. As a spy in Star Wars: Galaxies, it was ridculous to think that not only was Han Solo flying in and rescuing *every single player* at the opening, but somehow I had magical powers far better than the resident NPC spy. It’s nice when the NPCs talk about how great I am, but the fifty other players turning in the same quest with me all didn’t just save the planet.
Almost Done. Unless servers hold less than a thousand players, it’s pretty hard to get game-famous. Past that, anything cool one guy did had alreayd been done a dozen times over.
Finally, if the world is truly dynamic, then a steady stream of new content would be needed and it’s infeasible to think coders could keep up with players.
Thanks for posting your article, you brought up a very serious MMO issue.

Wee-Ooh

On July 30, 2007 at 5:03 pm

Thank you! I agree completely! That’s one of the reasons I don’t play MMOs very much because it wouldn’t matter if I played anyway. :???: I might as well play a single player game…

Anonymous

On April 29, 2008 at 8:56 pm

So this is the mindset of all those who refuse to act in response to their governments and their government’s masters. Well, I hope you enjoy your damned circuses.

No disrespect to the author of this fine article nor it’s commentors, but I cannot help but view the terrifying tragedies of the world put fourth through this article.

I mean, a war carefully crafted so as not to exceed it’s creators’ limits, and of which its outcome is predetermined? a war that takes place in a distant land and of which the real losers are the people?

“The shared world, the illusionary freedom of choice.” – Seems like we live in a losing world, whether or not it be real and virtual.