Monday, May 10, 2010

MMOs - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly pt.1

Welcome to part one of our introduction to MMOs (Massive Multiplayer Online games) series. A lot of people who have never played an MMO tend to have a lot of misconceptions about what they are and why people go so insane over them. In this three part series I'm going to attempt to shed some light on the subject. Without further ado...

The Good

The first thing most people notice when they start playing their very first MMO is the sense of scale. You really feel like you are just an insignificant part of this massive living, breathing world. Sure games like Oblivion or Fallout 3 have huge worlds, but being the only player character, it sort of feels like those worlds revolve around you. Because, well they do.

As you walk around any town in an MMO you'll see any number of crazy things. Some guy riding by on a flying tiger? Sure. Another newbie being chased by rats, people trading, dueling, playing with pets. There is constantly something different happening and sometimes it's amazing to just sit and watch.

When you finally decide to venture out in the world, it feels like the landscape could go on forever. You feel like any monster out there could come along and eat your balls at any moment, yet you're still driven to explore and find out what's over the next hill. Exploring the world and discovering new monsters and loot is a huge part of what makes MMOs so engrossing.

But what fun is it exploring all by yourself? Even if you don't have any friends playing when you start, it's usually not too difficult to find a guild or group who is willing to help a newbie out. This isn't like playing on xbox live. There are assholes playing, for sure. But social interaction is a HUGE part of the MMO equation.

Making new friends and rivals from around the world, then fighting beside them against huge monsters is an incredible rush. Melee fighters swinging their weapons, mages backing them up with healing spells, rangers firing from the back lines. It's an amazing feeling when everyone is playing their part to bring down a colossal dragon. I've never experienced anything like it in any other game.

But fighting and gaining exp is only one thing to do. Lots of MMOs feature player run economies centered around trading, crafting, fishing, farming etc. There is literally ALWAYS something to do. You think "I've got five minutes before work, I'll check my plants and put some gems up for sale." or "Hmm I got an hour to kill before dinner, I'll try to get to level 15 so I can wear my new helmet." You can invest as little or as much time as you want and still accomplish something.

One thing people love to bitch about when it comes to MMOs is the monthly fee. Anyone who actually plays one will tell you that for the amount of entertainment they get out of it, the fee is very reasonable. Unlike other games, most MMOs actually grow and evolve over time. New quests, areas, items and monsters are added periodically. Things get changed, balanced, sometimes for the better or worse. But it's always exciting to see what the next update will bring with it.

Stay tuned for part 2!

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