Sunday, July 04, 2010

This is what happens when you have 10 hours to think.

Today is the 4th of July, i.e. Independence Day for those in the U.S. Though if you want to be historically accurate, it should be the 2nd of July, but let's not get into semantics. I got to spend my holiday at work. Today is not Independence Day in this building. Instead, tomorrow is to ensure that all employees get a fair chance at holiday paid time off. -_- Logic train away!

Seeing that most of the U.S. consumer market is out and about on the official holiday today, it gave me a lot of time to reflect on my constant churning through MMO's.

The only stable MMO I have had in my life has been Final Fantasy XI. It's practically a member of my family. No, I don't have any serious emotional/mental issues. At least that I'm aware of. >.> I have been playing this game for well over 5 years. That's long enough for me to marry the game, have a child, and divorce it (go America marriage rates!) The second longest MMO was Star Wars Galaxies. Back when it was good. And that was only a year. Before the spaceships expansion and the rise of the Wookies. When it took nearly a year to earn the respect to begin Jedi training, and I could send out legions of Stormtroopers on Mos Eisley and laugh at the Rebel's as they die en-mass. It was fun to be a bad guy back then. And I left at a good time. I remember my brother raising all hell when they patched the game and took that one year-learn to be a Jedi time and squished it down to a month. They completely changed the interface, dummed down the graphics, threw out the crafting system, and made all of those non-Jedi jobs obsolete.

I have played a number of other MMO's, both pay to play and free, in-between SW and FFXI. I still try out new ones every now and then, though my soul has been sold to SquareEnix. But they never last for more then 2 months before I quit. Usually long enough to enjoy the first 30 days for free, and then I'm out.

World of Warcraft I lasted for roughly 3 months, mostly because I had my boyfriend to keep me entertained through all of the xp grinding. If he were not around, I wouldn't have lasted as long.

City of Heroes/Villains? Barely a month. I had ninja minions and that made me giggle. That was about it.

Guild Wars. My brother played for quite a while. I only borrowed it for a project to film some areas. Great to have an online community that doesn't have a monthly fee, but you end up paying in other areas, such as lack of service, long downtimes, and the like.

Champions Online. I couldn't get past the character creation screen without it crashing constantly. New computer. At the recommended specifications for running the game. From what I have heard from friends, it's City of Heroes with more costume customizations. I think I'll pass.

There are others in there from major publishers, but not worth mention. But there are free/browser MMO's that I have attempted before.

The longest so far is Evony, which is more of a strategy MMO, less of an RPG. That lasted about 3 months on and off, until people that I played with got dispersed to other guilds and we couldn't chat with each other. But it's not a bad game. A great time waster when you're bored at work. Start a building, go work for 20 minutes. Then build a wall. Work for an hour. Maybe attack someone. Work for another 6 hours. It really is a strategy game that's super slow. But hey. It works. What I also liked is that there was a daily reward system, aka the wheel of fortune. For those that didn't pay to get more money, or extra in-game items, you could attempt to win them on a daily spin of the wheel. Sometimes you would get good, or iron, but other times you would get the in-game currency to allow you to purchase those extra items that people were spending real money (aka, dollars) on. It was kind of nice to play a free game that gave you a chance to be on the same footing as those spending real money.

I've tried out Maple Story, Adventure Quest RPG, Pirates of the Caribbean, Twin Skies, Free Realms, Gaia Online, but they all ran into the same issue. Free games are only free for so long. Enough to get the bare minimum of quests and items. Unless you pony up real money (more then what you would pay for a month subscription for an online game) the free games give you what you pay for, nothing.

Recently I have tested All Points Bulletin. While it's not a bad game, there is a great lack of substance that will prevent me from purchasing said game. And if you have read my review, it shouldn't be a surprise.

The more I look back at all of the MMO's I have played, the more I realize that I should stop trying. Not because I don't want to (for the sake of being a female gamer I must expand my knowledge!) rather, it's a giant waste of time. I have only stuck with 2 games out of the dozens that I have played. And I have come to the conclusion it is because of one major point: a coherent, overarching, cohesive story.

WoW, City of Heroes, Maple Story, Evony, APB. All of these games have one thing in common. You make your own story. If you are not into the full role playing experience, it's nothing but a level grind. There is a very generic layout. Typically you pick a side of good or evil and fight against the opposing players for your team. NPC's are there simply to give you fetch and kill quests. You don't have a story arc that you need to complete.

While I'm all for a game that allows the user to explore their creativity, I'm not paying the $49.99 price to purchase the game and then $15.99 a month to come up with my own story. I can do that for free. It's called an imagination. There's this great program called RPG Maker 2000 that allows me to make my own game and create my story for free with my imagination. If I'm buying a game, I want to get the full experience, story included. Running around on WoW as an undead Warlock was fun for a few days. And then it became boring really quick. Why? Because I didn't have a story to push me from Point A to Point B. The only reason to leave the starting town is so you didn't have to be clobbered by Level 70 Alliance members looking for an easy kill. That's not a reason to go forward. Rather, it's not a viable reason to move forward in terms of wanting to continue to play the game.

Galaxies and FFXI offers something that few MMO's do. Well, Galaxies use to. Not anymore. Back in the golden days. They offer a story and a mythos to keep the player interested. Yes there are the stupid fetch quests, but you also have to fight to save the world/galaxy spanning a mired of detailed plots, unique NPC's that you actually start to give a damn about, and learn to become more in-tune with your fellow man. FFXI requires you to be in groups in order to finish certain plot points. Which is probably why I still play. You have to be a human and learn to interact with other humans. Not a bad thing people. Galaxies, you could get away with doing a lot of the story points by going solo, but sometimes you couldn't, no matter how powerful your Stormtrooper army was. The games that I gave up on were all single-player experiences. You don't need a group to get to level 70 in WoW. You don't need a group to save an innocent citizen in CoH. Sure it made gaining xp easier, but it was unnecessary. Which became boring because you didn't have a soul to interact with. Hmm...I think I jumped the gun too early on this point.

Anyway, it really comes down to the story. I know that FFXI doesn't have the best graphics. The game has been out for 8 years and with it still being supported on the PS2, they can only do so much within their constraints. Really, the graphics aren't bad for being an 8 year old game. If you have a decent enough computer, some areas are really pretty. For all of the time and effort I have put into this game, I still enjoy playing it. I want to finish up the most recent expansion Wings of the Goddess (if I can get my friends to help out, hint hint). I still like partying with random people that I have never met and knowing a little bit more about the real world through their eyes.

To all of those naysayers, I'm not saying WoW or CoH or MapleStory are bad games. But they're not for me. I can understand how such titles are easy to get into for those who want something simple that you don't need to invest a lot of time in. I managed to get 2 characters to level 40 in WoW in less than 3 weeks with no effort. Seriously. I farmed that whole time while my pet attacked anything that was standing behind me. I have never made so much money in one game before. No I didn't sell off my gold. I used it to buy better gear and gave it all away to random people just before I left. In case anyone was wondering.

I guess what brought this up was surfing the interwebs today and stumbled upon an AdventureQuest ad. I figured, why not. I haven't played in a while; maybe they loosened up on the freebe restrictions. And I was completely wrong. Freebe games are less then free. Not even a taste of free exists. I wasn't able to go past level 2. No way to upgrade or get new weapons or buy new armor or even chat with another player until I paid their fees. What happened to the free online games? I'm better off going back to infecting the world and turning them into zombies or shooting at castles with flimsy objects via Armor Games. That's free fun. And good free fun.

So many of the formerly free online games have turned into money machines. Farmville is a perfect example of this. One hell of a money making machine that game is. People have spent billions of dollars to buy stuff for that games. Billions! For a simple online web browser game. Clearly I picked the wrong business. But for all of these games that are based on simple premises, no story required, they pack on all of these extra fees that make the free game not so free. Rather, $30 dollars a month will make you look better then everyone else in the game who is trying to get by on the freebe rules. I really don't see the point to it. If I see you advertise the game for free, I expect free to apply to everything. MapleStory use to do that before their cash store system came into play. Then it turned. At least with standard PC games that I can purchase, for a monthly fee I know that I'm getting the same treatment as everyone else playing the game. I don't have to worry about the economy of the game (sometimes...), or the horrible lag, or easy hacking. I know that I'm going to get a better product. And by better, I'd like a story.

I guess this is one endless musing of realizing that I should stop playing so many random MMO's when I know full well that I'm only going to stick to ones that give me a story. And that free MMO's have turned into useless entertainment that is not even worth the 5 minutes of creating an account. It's not really free if you have to pay for it. Now if I can follow my ramblings, that’s a different matter. *Stupidly forgets about APB review and buys it anyway.* Damnit!


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