Hamster Wheel of Fortune

I figure that either nobody is reading this blog, or you’re all in awe of my opinions, so I may as well get this out there:

I hate MMOGs. Yes, Massively Miltuiplayer Online games, I hate them. Not for want of trying, either, as I played City of Heroes for a year, and several other games for varying lengths of time.

Why do I hate them? It’s fairly simple: They’re hamster wheels. If you’re not familiar with the term, it infers a hamster running in a toy wheel- He runs and runs and runs, but no matter how fast he runs, he never gets anywhere.

No game sums this up better than World of Warcraft: There is literally nothing of merit to do in the game. Oh sure, every so often they up the level cap and throw in a new tier of gear, but that’s not so much content as it is power drift. While I’m sure that there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had in piecing together the story, or in exploring the (admittedly) lush environments, but that’s not what the game is marketed on. That’s not what it’s intended for. No, you are supposed to grind levels and equipment until you drop, and maybe until you get something you want a Figure Print of. (Or not.)

Of course, my first real MMO also kind of burned me out on them: City of Heroes. That game had a lot of things to like. The main draw, and I am not kidding, is the character customization. City of Heroes has the single best costume system in existence. You picked what they looked like, and you had tons of freedom. Okay, so they had to be humanoid and have a standard human anatomy, but beyond that, you could do just about anything. And most people made Wolverine and Son Goku knockoffs, but never mind that!

Actually, this lead in to something else I really loved: The Enhancement system. See, in most MMOs, as with most console RPGs, your power is determined by your “gear,” but in City of Heroes, you chose what you were wearing. Instead of putting on vaguely matching pieces of equipment, you could devote “slots” to your powers, and these slots would hold Enhancements, which had varying effects. If the power did damage, you could increase its damage, or its recharge time, or what have you. Same goes for healing, for debuffs, and so on. It all but eliminated camping, griefing (for equipment, anyway) and perhaps most thankfully, it eliminated accidental Rainbow Pimp Gear. It still allowed for people to dress like an asshole on purpose, and more power to anyone who did. Several of my costumes were deliberately hideous, including the bright pink cowgirl outfit I had for my Empath, Cowgirl Maddy (Yes, I got tired of being asked why she wasn’t a cowgirl, when she was… Just not the kind people were thinking of…)

So you might be asking, what went wrong? Well, besides the constant meddling by developers into how powers worked, into the challenge of the game (If it was an error in the player’s favor, they acted almost at once, but if it was in the enemy’s favor? “We’re looking at it.” Yeah. Sure you are.), and so on, and the fact that they ignored the very real lack of high-level content, while showing lower levels with plenty of things to do, the fact remains that… There just wasn’t anything interesting to do. The city zones started to look the same after a while, the Danger Zones weren’t much better (and there was rarely a reason to go to them, honestly), and while they introduced supergroup bases and such, in order to outfit them, you needed to do a lot of grinding. Yes, grinding, something the game had more or less eliminated previously, and was now starting to implement.

Then we have Dungeon Fighter Online. Oh god. My fault for trying something run by Nexon. I lasted some three months. While the game DID have unique game play mechanics and was overall a very strong, almost (but not quite) arcade-styled experience, the problem is that the only way its programmers could think to extend the game was to make each boss exponentially stronger than the one before it, to the point where some bosses in the Asian versions of the game have upwards of 50 life bars (to most US bosses 10 or so). It’s a problem, because I was indeed enjoying the game, and it was something I could play by myself OR in a group, but then grouping more or less became mandatory, and then it got to the point where only being decked out would even BEGIN to help you.

As for why I prefer tabletop games? I can actually set the pace, there. I can decide what elements to use and what to discard. If I want to dress my players in garish equipment, I’ll do it, if I want more monsters, I can.

But on the flip side… In most online games, your only option is to kill, whereas, at least in my group, many fights end peacefully… Now and then with the would-be encounter being turned into a potential ally.

I don’t care how big your game is, that kind of freedom just isn’t possible in most online games, in most games, period. I may poke around with console games, but they’ll never replace tabletops for me, and I think everyone should try them at least once. Who knows? You might find something you like.


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