I’m Obsessed with an MMO And You’ll Never Guess Which
If I were presented with a list of all the many sub-genres that could fall under the umbrella of MMO games and was asked to order them from the most interesting to least interesting, I think I’d have the typical mainstream reaction. Orcs, elves and magic and anything of that nature will always interest me from a fiction standpoint, so it seems like I’d be naturally drawn to World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online. While I do currently play WoW, and have stints where I’ll forego sleep and food to play it late into the night, it’s a casual game for me. I might go days without playing. LotRO was my fantasy game; an open-world game set in the universe of The Lord of the Rings was honestly my one definitive dream game for many years.
So it’s now surprising, to say the least, to look back on the past several weeks at what game has occupied more of my time than anything else during that span. Goal Line Blitz is played through your browser and is almost entirely text-based; it’s basically an American football MMO. It’s still in beta and has many shortcomings. The concept is one of those things you say, “Oh, that sounds neat” about and never pay another second of thought to.
Instead, GLB is occupying my mind all the time and it’s got me glued to my computer seat.
My friend Brendon introduced me to the game, explaining it as a football MMO where you can create a character and level him up as he plays on a team with other real people. The catch is, of course, that you don’t actually play the football games themselves. You simply manage your player’s tactics and training (both of which are nothing more than a few drop down menus). I started out with a wide receiver; Brendon, a linebacker. If you gather enough Flex Points through referrals or by purchasing them with real world money, you can then create more characters, level up your current set of characters (up to three levels per season, with seasons lasting a few weeks), or buy a team. Naturally, the goal for us was to convince all of our friends to sign up with Brendon’s referral link so that within a few weeks, we could buy a team.
What started off as something I literally described as “something I’ll play with for two or three minutes a day” has turned into a $30 investment and more than a dozen hours since the start of the month. And I’m not alone; Brendon felt passionate enough to write about the game, too, and I’m pretty sure he’s bought some Flex Points, too.
Buying Flex Points struck me as silly at first. If our friends simply made players at all the different positions, we could surely fill up our future team’s roster, maybe with the help of a few random players looking for a team or even computer-controlled players. But then, I thought, why not make a kicker? I had enough points remaining, as the different positions cost a different amount to create (with the more glamorous positions like wide receiver and quarterback costing 300 to a kicker’s 100). Brendon kept saving his points which were steadily increasing from referrals, but after a few days I couldn’t help it. I wanted more characters. How about a linebacker? Then I’ll have someone on offense, defense and special teams I thought and but no. I ran out of Flex Points, and faced with the seemingly grim fate of having only three characters, I decided to plunk down $20 for enough points to buy a team right away and to create a few additional characters.
I’m currently out of points after making a second purchase of Flex Points, although I do own a team and nine players. As I kept coming up with names to reference things (mainly The X-Files or South Park), it made it difficult to resist making just one more. My current stable includes Chris Pereira (naturally), Jim Dangle (of Reno 911 fame), the X-Files crew of TheSmoking Man, Alex Krycek, Mr X (yes, I know it’s just ‘X’ but what are you going to do when you need a first and last name?), Deep Throat and Knowle Rohrer, and the South Park referencing Crab People and Rita Poon. It was such an innocent thing, to think up names for players, but when you have a gem like Rita Poon, how can you resist making the investment of actually creating that player?
For the average person who plays the game, chances are they’ll never own a team unless they really save up or are enough of a sucker to buy Flex Points. With nothing more than a player(s), your interaction with the game is really nothing more than altering your training (select an attribute and intensity) and tactics (things like wrap-up tackling versus trying to force fumbles, taking the risk to go for the INT or not, etc.). That’s it. You’re free to chat with your teammates in your team forum, and of course you can check the box scores and watch a very simplistic replay with an overhead view of the a green field with small circles representing the players. Sure, it’s just a circle, but it’s hard not to get excited when you see your player make a great play.
But the real fun comes in owning a team, or at least being assigned as a GM. While a lot of functionality is MIA, as the owner/GM you can set depth charts (which leads to plenty of arguing and whining among the players), manage salaries and contracts, trade and sign players, build up your stadium, set prices on things like beer and jerseys, set tactics for your upcoming game (percentage of rushes versus passes, percentage of balls thrown to your WR/TE/HB/FB, etc.), and other things of that nature.
It’s a tremendous feeling when your gameplan works out, and you shut down the opposing team’s leading rusher or manage to attack their defense’s weakpoint. But it takes a collaborative effort and you need to properly adjust the aforementioned tactics, and your players need to listen when you assign them certain assignments, like focusing on run blocking or pass rushing.
Being browser based might seem like a drawback and after all, how much fun can you have in a browser game? (Although that’s an entirely different discussion that there’s no room for here.) But, in fact, this game being something you can load in a tab in your browser makes it much more accessible and addictive. If you’re on the computer, there’s a good chance you’ve got Firefox or some other browser open, so what’s to stop you from cycling through your tabs as you read Gaming Today and poke your friends on Facebook? It’s really a guilty pleasure to have GLB open in a tab while doing work and I’m doing just that as I type this.
When all of the different aspects of a team come together and you win a game, it’s really like you’re playing on a professional sports team. Most people will never have the opportunity to be involved with professional sports, even though it’s a dream for so many people growing up. For every disconnect the game has as a text-based game, you also can get an amazing amount of satisfaction out of doing your job properly that Warcraft and company simply can’t provide through rare drops and completed instances.
And to think, this is only a beta.