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For no reason whatsoever, I fired up Dragon Age: Awakening and restarted an unfinished campaign in it. I’ve really been loving Far Cry 3, and I hate myself, so it makes sense that I’d stop playing it.
Anyway, as I was reveling in how much I love the combat in the original (PC) version of Dragon Age, something felt … off. Like, the experience just seemed so … isolated. And then it dawned on me.
I think I’m primarily an MMO player now. WHEN THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN?!
Terrified, I continued my quest through Dragon Age, shutting out the isolation I felt in the still-awesome experience, but the next day, I actually began to give some thought to this.
I think what’s happened is that MMOs like Guild Wars 1&2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and The Secret World have really embraced that concept of having a strong narrative in an MMO, as well as making ‘soloing’ feasible. There’s really something about being social during an epic quest and being able to call out, ‘hey, I’m stuck here, can someone help?’ Hell, I love casually shooting the shit with other players while tromping around Hoth. We had an amazing evening in which we ran lines from the film, ‘Airplane.’ There I was, taking down a wompa while asking Bobby if he’d seen a grown man naked. It was awesome.
It’s interesting to see MMOs slowly transform in this way. Before the original Guild Wars, I’d played a bit of Star Wars: Galaxies, but never embraced the ‘MMO thing.’ They were big, scary, expensive sandboxes, and their gameplay was not something that I could comprehend. They were RPGs, but I couldn’t hit spacebar to pause combat. WEIRD.
As MMOs and I both grew, though, I think we started to recognize that there was something worthwhile about each other, and so when I relaxed a bit, and she put on her KotOR outfit, well … shit started to get real. Combat began to make sense. The concept of a living, breathing in-game economy was really appealing. The fact that the end of the game is actually just the beginning was the steepest learning curve for me, but one that’s been immensely gratifying.
And let’s not forget the Guild Wars games, or the fact that The Secret World is now aping the Guild Wars pricing model, much to my delight. The original Guild Wars played like a single-player RPG that had some MMO aspects. GW2 took it a step further, and is now the game that bothers me the most that I don’t really play. The Guild Wars games are highly accessible without being even slightly dumbed-down. I adore them, as one might adore a cute puppy that can weave an intricate tale of love and deception.
And that brings me to another point. MMOs are cheaper now than they were in the monetary sense, but they are still enormously expensive in terms of time. Playing one with any regularity is a bit of a commitment, while playing two … forget it. Three? Now you’re an unemployed bachelor. And I bet you smell terrible. And you’re not supposed to refill those two-liter bottles with … that.
At the same time, we’re seeing online components creep into single-player RPGs more and more, as well. Dragon Age ties into the Bioware Social site. Mass Effect 3 has Horde Mode play that is required in order to see the best ending of the game even though we’re lied to and told that’s not true. Disgaea and Dark Souls feature online in-game components.
It’s interesting to look at this kind of convergence and wonder if this points to a fusion between single-player and multi-player RPGs. Both Guild Wars games and Star Wars: The Old Republic can be played single-player (by soloing the game online), but benefit greatly from the shared experience. I suspect The Secret World is the same way (I played it for the first time last night and really liked it). Honestly, I’d love to see both forms pull from each other. I’d like to see Bioware and other devs continue what Bioware started with the companions in SWTOR, but make them even stronger personalities, and be able to have more companions at once, as well as some real-life friends. Have the option of mixing and matching a group of four or more. Even have dynamic conversations strike up, a la KotOR. It would be cool to see my companion approach my real-life friend about something and see how that conversation goes, especially when I jump in and tell my buddy to stop trying to conversation-wheel-fuck my NPC.
While none of these three MMOs has been met with universal acclaim, and many media types have worked very hard to even label some of them as failures, I think history will reflect well on their overall contributions to bringing story into MMOs, which I’ve really enjoyed. Give one of them a shot and see what you think. I think, if you enjoy western RPGs, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in SWTOR, Guild Wars 2, and The Secret World.
Personally, I’d love to see a game with the strength of the KotOR story, presentation, and combat, plus the skill trees of Guild Wars 2, and the constant rolling out of content that we see with the more aggressive MMOs. Make the leveling part of the game a bad-ass story experience, then the end-game a combination of sandbox and Guild vs Guild and epic raids, along with a constant stream of new story content. It’s the constant delivery of new content that’s been the issue for a lot of my favorite games.
Anyway, I just found it really disturbing that I’m primarily an MMO player lately. When I used to work at a games retailer back at the turn of the century, they were my favorite customers to mock. NOW I’M ONE OF THEM.
On the Road Again
So, I’m headed to the in-laws again, which is always interesting for me. I’m a bit of a technophile, and as you may have heard, I play some games, so when I’m compelled to temporarily house myself in a shelter in which very little in the way of modern technological resources is provided, it can be … well, it can be a bit maddening. They live in a very, very remote area, in which any kind of signal may or may not be there at any point, so it’s a bit like being back in the 80s, but without the terrible music or terrible hair or terrible politics or great cinema, and it’s pig farms in all directions, so it smells really fucking terrible. While offline gaming shouldn’t be a problem for me, given that I grew up in the aforementioned 80s, it just seems weird now. I dunno. I guess it makes sense when one considers that SWTOR has been my favorite game for the last year or so, but I’ve still got Dishonored to finish, as well as XCOM, and Far Cry 3, so I’ll be good. That, and I wanna take another stab at Divine Divinity.
I do have the mobile WiFi in my Windows Phone 8, but I’m on AT&T now, so we’ll see how well that goes in the pig farm community.
I do like testing out my mobile gaming setup whenever I get the chance, though. There’s nothing like playing Mass Effect 3 in the car, or even just having that as an option. I’m sometimes mocked for what I spend on my gaming rigs, both desktop and laptop, but then I point to shit like that. I can play the latest AAA title at a better resolution than you, with better textures, and with a more precise control scheme, and I can do it while in a fucking Subaru on some random highway, and as long as I’m not near a pig farm, I can tell you all about it via Raptr.
In truth, I see myself holed up in a Panera for a day while I’m there. Probably the same one from which I did the first SWTOR beta when that ended up on the same weekend as a trip to my in-laws. Oddly, that kind of situation happens to me quite a bit. The trophy wife and I are traveling, and I realize that I’ve been selected for some beta test or a game is hitting Steam RIGHT NOW, so she goes shopping while I outlast the employees at Panera or some lesser bagel shop. Weird. It’s kinda cool that I have different gaming memories tied to different coffee/bagel shops from around the country.
Holiday Gaming Memories
That last bit got me thinking about all the memories I’ve built up over the years that pertain to holidays and gaming.
It seems that I have two sets of ‘holiday gaming’ memories. One set pertains to my youth, when it was NES jam time with my cousins and all the games we all got. I remember one Christmas was filled with Tecmo Bowl and Ninja Gaiden. I remember beating Ninja Gaiden within a few days, but didn’t realize that was actually a feat until quite a while later. I actually sucked at most games, but for some reason, the Ninja Gaiden games (the real ones on NES) have always come naturally to me. Anyway, yeah, every Christmas, my cousins and I would just go nuts with NES, and that was where I learned that the best way to play console games is ‘pass the stick.’ Great times.
Fast-forward about twenty years, and most of my holiday gaming memories have to do with trolling in MMOs while hanging out with either my in-laws or my parents, as well my wife, son, and any extended family that may be there.
Anyway, every year in Guild Wars (and GW2 now), they do ‘Wintersday,’ and barf a bunch of snow all over everything everywhere, and have in-game events that are celebratory and whatever. Anyway, for some reason, these events always bring out the dudes that have like fifteen alts that they’ll load up and PAINSTAKINGLY line up to dance in some synchronized fashion. What I like to do is hunt one of these creatures down, then lurk nearby and try to ‘help.’ I’ll tell them shit like, ‘no, I’m telling you, the dancer on the left is actually a bit off. It looks right to you because you’re laggy. For real, man. Tell ya what, you reset it, and I’ll tell you when it’s right.’ Then, he’ll do it, and then I’ll him that, actually, I was patching in the background, totally forgot, my bad, and it was me that was laggy, and he needs to reset those three dancers I just helped him with.
I also have a knack for finding ways to combine any emote you’re doing with another emote that I can do and make it look like something out of the Kama Sutra. I dunno. We all have our talents. Back to the ‘synchronized emote dancers,’ I’ll lurk nearby again, then wait until everything is perfect, then right when the dude’s ready to reveal his 90 minutes of work, I’ll rush in and start face-fucking his main star. It’s wonderful, really.
So, yeah, I’ll be hanging out with family from all over the country while getting my salad tossed by some basement dweller’s sex toon in Guild Wars. As long as I’m not near a pig farm. I love Christmas.
Have a great (inoffensive holiday experience). I’m taking a couple weeks off, so I’ll be back on January 9th with a look back at what I enjoyed most in 2012.
Leave your favorite Christmas gaming moments below, especially if they involve trolling!
Thanks for reading!
The Filthy Writer: Self-Indulgence Manifested (personal blog)
Untitled Gaming (gaming blog)