An Elusive Hero in 2013 (Recap)

As 2013 ends tomorrow, I’d like to wrap up the year with a short review of my posts this year.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who has followed and read my posts since I started writing on “An Elusive Hero” in March. The feedback and support I’ve received has been invaluable for me to improve. Wednesday will look forward to the plans for 2014. But until then, let’s recap some of the most interesting posts from this year.

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The Joy of Role-playing in MMORPGs

 

 

 

The last post in my four-part series about MMORPG touches on a topic not only applicable to the genre, but to any game played: Roleplaying or the art of immersion.
I mentioned in my post last week that I wish for a world geared more towards player creation and less towards the tedious repetition of tedious tasks to progress a character. The character of Laurenar in “An Elusive Hero” is partly based on my experiences roleplaying in MMORPGs.

When playing MMORPGs, I always play on RP servers. This allows me to immerse myself much more into the world the developers have created. While this kind of servers are supposed to be reserved for role-players, reality shows that they are still a tiny minority even on the most dedicated servers. Nonetheless, they do exist and I believe many players could enhance their experience by joining in on player created plots. Why?

The most important reason is immersion. When I play a game, I want to be involved in an epic story and to immerse myself in a world far away from reality. Roleplaying a character adds a new wrinkle to just hitting wild animals with a sword or magic spell. It allows players to craft a unique character and to be much more involved with the game. Unfortunately, many players I know always belittle role-players, not seeing the extra dimension it adds to a game. As an example, I remember playing a character disguised as a tailor. I had a lot fun talking to other players who were unsuspecting of my secret identity as a spy for group of alchemists and warlocks. With this specific character, I didn’t even feel the need for many elaborate plots to have a bit of fun using the game engine and our imagination.

Many players just think role-players talk in a weird way and waste their time in game by not following the endless grind for better gear or domination. But for me, it is a wonderful way of taking what a game engine makes available and making the most out of it. At the moment I’m participating in an event, which spans over weeks with players creating different experiences from day to day. On some evenings players gather around campfires to talk about our characters backstory and motives, while on the next day a meet up with a rival guild is staged fight on a battleground. The third event in the series might be a spy mission with other players trying to stop us from getting to their base. All of this is often done in parts of the world which haven’t been visited in a while and which add to the fascination of roleplaying. It isn’t bound by level restrictions. You can participate with a brand new or with a maxed-out character.

Getting into roleplaying a character is easy. Like with writing, think of a suitable back-story and some grand motivation for the character. Try not to make your character a queen or an unbeatable warrior, but make them interesting. How about a warrior, who acts as a diplomat? Or a mage starting out his journey on becoming the next Harry Potter? Or maybe you’d like to play your rogue similar to James Bond with a smooth charm? After you’ve thought about how you want to play your characters, go seek out other role-players and see on what kind of journey you can embark!

These are my thoughts about roleplaying. Have you role-played a character before? If not, why not? Would you give it a try? Let me know in the comments!

As always, please like, share and subscribe for my eternal gratitude!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

 

My Wishlist for Future MMORPGs

This week I continue my series looking at my favorite genre of games. MMORPGs. The first part looked at the games I’ve played (and still play) and last week’s second instalment was a commentary about the most recent developments in the genre. Today, I want to talk about what kind of MMORPG would be able to get a long-term commitment from me:
A fantasy sandbox game with a strong IP behind it.

What do I mean by sandbox game? I’m looking for a world that gives players a sense of progression without having to fight if one does not feel like it. As far as single-player games go, the Elder Scrolls and GTA series have shown what virtual worlds can look like. Skyrim offered a fantastic, open world with tons of content to discover and the ability to be modified by fans all over the world. GTA V, which releases on September 17, has awed players with a realistic and beautiful recreation of Southern California and will allow players to do whatever they feel like in its virtual world. The space MMO EVE Online is famous for letting players do battles and trades while creating their own story lines. A few weeks ago, two of the largest alliances fought one of the largest battles in history, which was covered by mainstream websites such as The Verge.

Nowadays MMORPGs seem so focused on letting players just get new gear and beat bigger, badder bosses. It has become somewhat like the rat race in the real world with gear and better stats being the only worthwhile goals. I’d really relish a game which awards crafting and exploring. A game which would allow guilds to build alliances and enemies, with ways of getting NPCs as support.

I prefer the fantasy setting over the sci-fi setting. After all, there are so many dystopian novels out there about humans leaving the real world for the perfection of an online utopia (Ready Player One as a prime example). With a fantasy world, that wouldn’t happen. After all, who would want leave behind electricity and modern sanitation devices?
But a world with a healthy emphasis on story by developers and players alike, with innovative methods of progression, would be a step in the right direction. Players often need an incentive to do things. But how about giving guilds the ability to recruit NPCs for them, which in turn offer quests to either fight an enemy, craft a weapon or explore a ruin, depending on your play style? Or all three options for completionists? I’m sure that if players are given the option to create or choose a way, they will cherish it.

More freedom to choose and the choice having an actual long-term impact would be great. Guild Wars 2 had the right idea with their origin stories. But how about being able to choose to be a noble human with your mate choosing to be a low-born soldier. Now, you as a noble get the opportunity in quests and story to work together with your friend. In the end you can secure him the knighthood he has long coveted. On the other hand, maybe another friend is playing a noble with a totally different agenda working against your plans and plotting your downfall.

I also feel that a game like this should have a strong or unique IP behind it. This would attract other fans and make it easier for new players to see where the source material has come from. For instance, I think an MMO set in Westeros about the various houses of Game of Thrones could be a massive success if done correctly. Existing IPs also have the benefit that they often engage players on a different level, since players have always aspired to be like Luke Skywalker or Aragorn (Darth Vader or Loki if you’re looking to play the Dark Side).

As you can see, I have a few ideas about future MMOs, but without a background in-game development, I don’t know how feasible they are. But one can dream.

What are your wishes for future games? What would you envision? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

Please also like, share and subscribe!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

MMORPGs: My experience with the genre

As I’ve written here, MMORPGs are among my favorite genres of gaming. Today is a good moment to talk about the four MMORPGs I’ve played in the last one-and-a-half years and which elements I’d take from each. Next week I’ll follow-up with a second part featuring what I think has changed the genre since I began playing the games in 2005.

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What I’ve learned from Video Games

Over the last weeks I’ve noticed how video games have become a vital part of daily life and culture in general. The kids on the bus are busy playing on their cellphones, conversations in bars are about the newest gameplay video for GTA V and hangouts are dedicating to battling each other in FIFA. For this generation, playing games on a console, computer or cellphone is totally normal, like watching a movie or reading a book. I’ve looked at how books, movies and videos are intertwined in this post, so today will be dedicated to the benefits and perks of (video) gaming.

I’ve played games on a Gameboy or on PC for years (my gaming history). My favorite genres are roleplaying games (RPGs), which allow me to immerse myself in fantastic adventures.  They take me to faraway worlds based on the medieval age or the distant, dystopian future. These games can be compared to “choose-your-adventure” books, as the developers often tell an elaborate story, while allowing you to pick the path your hero will wander down. Many of the them are set in an expansive universe, with in-game books and codices with stories and background information waiting to be discovered. Playing them, I’ve learned to not be afraid to explore your surroundings, but instead to check out every corner and nook for a hidden item or easter egg. Good RPGs award the curious.

The next genre I’m fond of are Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs), which take roleplaying games to the next level by adding other players to the equation. They’re similar to RPGs in wanting to tell a great story, but they include various elements of teamwork and competition. Throughout the game, you’ll encounter challenges that can’t be overcome alone and you’ll need to seek out help from others. This encourages teamwork and makes gaming a very social affair. I’ve met a lot of interesting people just by asking them if they would help me out fight virtual monsters. Unfortunately recent MMORPGs have made a lot of their content easier so they can also be completed alone. This has lead to the decline of one of the most interesting aspects of the genre: actually playing with others.

Another element in MMORPGs are Player-vs-Player (PVP) environments which allow you to test your skills against others. This can be compared to most modern-day team sports. Most PVP battles also involve a great amount of teamwork and strategy. Putting players in the right spot, preparing a plan for a battle or surprising the opponent with a well-timed attack is a great way to learn the value of great leadership and teamwork. It is important that every player tries to improve their own skill as much as possible and then plays their position as the team needs them to do. This is no different to football. Of course, sports has various health benefits, but studies have also shown that gaming can improve your reflexes and visual skills.

Last, but not least, I’d also like to talk about strategy games. If the game is properly balanced, this genre can be compared to the centuries-old board game chess, where every move from an opponent can and should be adequately countered. The name of the genre already says it all, playing these games has shown me that choosing the right strategy is everything. Knowing when to fight and how to pick the right spots for a confrontation have helped me in confrontations. And of course, they’ve taught me that access to advanced technology often leads to victory.

People used to look at video games as an inferior form of entertainment, asking why a person would waste his or her time playing them. On the other hand, you rarely see someone asking a person reading why they are wasting their time reading. I haven’t heard many question people who like movies. Of course, this also depends on the quality of the books and movies in question. Games are no different. Some games are definitely not worth the time, but many modern-day classics should be experienced and savored.  Even if they do not teach you anything, they will hopefully succeed in telling a fantastic story or make you appreciate the art they’ve created. As you can see, the time I spent in virtual worlds has inspired me and taught me a fair deal of things institutional education never achieved.

On Friday, “An elusive hero”, the story, returns after a two-week hiatus. I hope you’re looking forward to it! Thank you for reading and please like, share and subscribe.

Sincerely yours,

Albert