Let’s talk about MMOs… sigh…

I know what you’re thinking. I really do. You think that I’m going to talk about WoW, and SWTOR, and climb on top of my level 90 soapbox to deliver some self-righetous speech about how all MMOs are money-grubbing scumbuckets who utterly destroy your life as collateral damage. You think I’m going to villify Blizzard and BioWare and every one of the 50-some-odd million people who play (or have ever played) MMORPG games. You think I’m going to whine a little bit about PvP, and say that EVE isn’t as good as everyone thinks it is.
Well, my friends, you’re wrong.

Actually, you’re a little bit right, but not as right as you could be. I’m not going to talk about any of the major MMORPGs, because I (for the most part) find them rather entertaining, and I think they serve a pretty cool purpose and symbolize something interesting (but neither good nor bad) that has happened in the history of video games. However… I am irked. I am so irked, that I’m not even actively seeking achievements on Kongregate every moment of every day. Unbelievable, right?

Well, also, achievement adding on Kongregate has slowed to a crawl, and I find myself seeking other avenues of entertainment outside of flash games. I never thought that’d happen, but I’m hoping they’ll pull me back in somehow. I have time to waste!

Now, what MMOs am I talking about?

Dream World. More like Soulless Nightmare World. Which, incidentally, sounds like a pretty cool name for a game.

Ooh, her name’s Leana and she’s a hottie! And by “hottie,” I mean “probably drawn by one of the creator’s high school friends who had no idea that her pixellated pride would be used in one of the worst games in existence.”

Ugh. Dream World.

So, let’s look at some things about the game. Wow, what a nice background. It’s not like I’ll be staring at it for many, many hours of my life while I complete pointless quests that make World of Warcraft’s starter path look like a dream come true (pun intended). It’s not like there’s absolutely no animation at all to make this background even remotely interesting. It’s not like that super-cool-windmill-lighthouse thing isn’t an actual place that you can’t even go to. Nope. None of that is true at all.

No animations, buttons that look like doctored up versions of something I made on PrintMaster in the 90’s, and an extremely well-worded plea to go kill a Lake Monster. How sweet.

Now, this horribly evil, evilly horrible game falls into one of two categories I’m going to be talking about today: THE ENERGY GAMES. Farmville users know what I’m talking about. They provide you with a delightful supply of energy that you spend doing everything, pretty much, and that regenerates over time. Your capacity for energy grows slowly as you level up, but so does the required energy it takes to level up. What does this mean for gameplay?

It means that gameplay is horrifically boring. It means that menial, boring tasks require tons of energy, and instead of wasting time PLAYING this game, I find myself wasting time WAITING for the time that I can spend playing this game. Or, of course, I can buy energy. Naturally. I’ve already ranted about it in my Zynga post. Don’t get me started.

At least Zynga games have music. At least they have addictive little unlockables. At least they have ANIMATIONS. Dream World is as if the creator’s lust for money and his utter lack of creativity had an unholy love child, who spit up and created this drivel.  I hope you notice that this is one of the first times I haven’t given you a link to play a game. I don’t want you to play it. I don’t want it to exist.

Now, on to the other type: THE BUILDER GAMES. (By the way, I don’t type those in caps because I intend for them to be louder. I type them that way because I speak them with the utmost loathing and hatred. When I type them, I imagine the way Morgan Freeman would sound if he was saying the name of the person who abducted his only child. It should make the creators want to curl up and get a job as an accountant instead of making crap games).

This one’s called “Time World.” What the heck is wrong with these worlds? I think I’d rather play “Real World,” thanks.

Time World features a delightful little MMO method that has been beaten repeatedly to death since I’ve been in elementary school: the building system. This means that you have a bunch of buildings (seen in this delightful little anime-girl-endowed screencap), which you must build things, research things, mine things, or upgrade. Now, of course, these things take time! How much time, you ask? How much time do you have? The answer is, unfortunately, enough to make it an arguable alternative to watching grass dry or paint grow. You wait for your ore mine (seen at lower left, but slightly right of the cartoon girl’s neckline) to produce ore and crystal and probably some other resource. Now, you can upgrade it, but it goes offline for a while, meaning you lose production, but it comes back online and gives you more. The thing is, you have to save up tons of ore and such to upgrade other buildings, and build ships.

You know how you do that? You wait. Yep.

There’s another way, actually, that makes this game special. You can attack NPCs to get resources from them, or you can complete quests to get rewards. But, those actions expend action points, which you only have 10 of (and I spent two doing the tutorial).

You know how you get those? Guess.

And, naturally, there’s premium content that halves the construction time of buildings, gives your ships boosts, allows you to buy instant research, or simply more resources.

The great thing about this game? I haven’t played it. I spent 2 minutes going through the tutorial, just clicking the little stock-art button that was highlighted in green at various lengths of time, not reading a single thing. So, how could I know so much about a game? Because it’s been done. To. Death. Over and over and over and over, more times than I’d ever like to admit. And, occasionally, I’d play them for a bit, because the stock art or the music was better for this one. Always ended up disappointing me. And why shouldn’t it? The only reason these games exist is to force the users to pay money for something they don’t really want.

Now let’s talk about the MMO aspect of these games. Do you know what MMO stands for? Well, if you do, that gives you a leg up on these hapless game designers. Is stands for MASSIVELY MULTIPLAYER ONLINE. That means… well, that it’s online, and that there’s a lot of people on it, and that you can somehow interact with these people. The problem with these games is that they’re not multiplayer. They’re just MO’s (which, incidentally, is something the police wouldn’t have to look very hard to find if these gamedevs were to somehow suddenly disappear). Literally, there is one thing you can do to other players: attack them. This doesn’t mean you cleverly plan out strategy and execute maneuvers in an awesome game that the other player has anything to do with. Nope. You select their names from a list, and then send all your ships/soldiers/whatever to their base and either win or lose. Most of the time there’s not even animations. That means that you randomly beat up some guy who’s probably off at college, waiting to come home and play his little game, and you stole all his resources.

What does that mean? It means that you play by yourself and are constantly annoyed by other people who see you as nothing more than a line of text. This means that as soon as you attack someone, their main objective is to build up enough forces to completely rape and pillage every village that you own, just out of spite. And that just fits exactly in with the wonderful idea of Multiplayer games. Even WoW lets you work WITH other people. That way, you can discern between the total jerkwads and the normal people who play the game. In these scumbag sewer-water depths-of-the-slimy-abyss games, everyone looks like the enemy, and in fact… they are.

What really bakes my cookie on this particular subject is Kongregate. Normally I really like them. They produce badges, they singlehandedly host tons of games and allow me to have a central place where I can find a way to waste my time, anytime. But they (in the interest of promoting their OWN growth) decided that it’d be fabulous to give every single fricking one of these crappy games (I won’t even call them MMO’s anymore) a front-page, heavily achievement-oriented spot smack-dab in the middle of where I look for entertainment. This means that I have to gloss over pages of achievements simply because they cost money to achieve, and honestly, even outside of the pocketbook, require no merit to achieve, only time. Lots and lots and lots of time. Kongregate (like any successful business, I suppose) looks out for itself way more than the people that use it, because altruism doesn’t turn good quarterly profits. It just makes me sad. I might be leaving Kongregate soon. We’ll see.

Now, I’ve ranted and raved and hopefully brought up some good points, and expressed my opinion on something that has been going on in the internet world as long as there’s BEEN an internet! (Okay, maybe not quite that long, but almost. I’m sure there was some Netscape MMO that came out in the 90’s, though.) But the thing is, you’d probably say, that MMOs just cost too much to produce to be free. These are crappy because they don’t have a budget, but they’re the best it’ll ever get. It’s impossible to make a successful free MMORPG!

KOL! That’s not just a misspelled hint that I’m laughing at you (although it could be). Kingdom Of Loathing is a fantastic text-based MMORPG that is snarky and awesome. It is absolutely free, you can play for a rather extreme amount of time per day (and longer, if I remember correctly), and it’s much more intelligently produced that money-grubbing eye candy. You may think that you won’t get sucked in, but until you become a Pastamancer (or a Sauceror), you’ll never know. By the way, there’s puns.

There’s another game called “Improbable Island,” that is also really quite good. It’s a little less multiplayer, but there’s a lot of chatting and RPing that goes on, as well as guilds and things. While the character interaction isn’t so great, the player interaction is pretty neat. Also, you get their “special cash” by joining the World Community Grid, an internet-based supercomputer that uses the free processing speed of your computer to run experiments and solve equations that further the research on cancer. What an idea, am I right?

Also, LOL! I’m still not laughing at you. League of Legends is free and awesome and by every sense of the word an MMORPG. If you haven’t heard of it, look it up. It’s challenging, pits you against other players and puts you on teams with yet others. You can play as much as you want, and it’s just an enjoyable experience for pretty much anyone with a competitive spirit. Also, it’s quite shiny. Something shiny AND free is something I’m definitely interested in.

So there you have it, folks. The short, monotonous history of the free MMORPG. It’s brutal and tragic, but perhaps (if more snarky people like the creators of Improbable Island and Kingdom of Loathing get into the business) it will see brighter days in our future. Till next week!

Happy Gaming,

~Another Gamer

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About Isaac Smith

I write about music, technology, video games, and probably many other subjects that don't bear mentioning here. Either way, most of it's worth reading, and you may even enjoy yourself!

Posted on October 19, 2012, in Miscellaneous and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Sam’s utterly addicted to League. And he’s gotten quite good at it.

  2. You know that if I had a video game company take off that I would make a game that would reach high standards of gaming as well as be free to play. Was working towards that goal, but you know how life just… well, happens!

    And isn’t the saying “grass grow” and “paint dry?”

    • Just a joke, Frank. Good news is, that when I get back, I’m going to be better than ever. Don’t give up! In the mean time, play a lot of video games. You don’t know how important it is 🙂

      The reason I listen to so much music is because it both inspires me and challenges me to understand how it was created, so I can get ideas and figure out how to use them in a piece I want to create.

      The same’s true of video games! The more you know, the more ideas you’ll have to create a truly great game.

  3. KINGDOM OF LOATHING IS THE BEST THING EVER. Oh man! I’m so glad you mentioned it. It’s witty and pretty much just amuses me so. 😀 Yay for recognition!

  1. Pingback: Fighting the Addiction | Last Token Gaming

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