Tuesday 20 November 2012

A Second Life

Syncaine is quite right when he says that the first rule of MMORPGs is that they're for the long term. If you don't keep playing, if you aren't forming connections with your fellow adventurers, then you aren't getting the best out of the game, and perhaps MMORPGs aren't for you.

However there is a second leg that Syncaine is missing, even in the title of his piece: RPG. An MMORPG is not just a team game where as a team you work to achieve a particular goal. It's also a simulation of a world. If you are not immersed in that simulation, then again you aren't getting the best out of the game, and perhaps MMORPGs aren't for you. If the game to you only involves learning the right sequence of keys to press in response to changes in graphics on your computer screen - if you aren't inhabiting that world - then perhaps you'd be better off playing Tetris.

As Nils says (in an article on randomness), "As long as the player is immersed in the simulation part of the game, everything's fine". At some level, you've got to believe you are a mage or a starship captain or a pirate or whatever. Once you start to bring into the foreground of your mind that you're just sitting in a small room pressing buttons, not casting spells or launching missiles, nothing's fine.

And one of the biggest breakers of immersion, for me, is other players (which might help explain to Tobold why some people prefer to adventure in quiet zones) .

RP means playing a role. It doesn't  mean you should start talking stiltedly as if you were in a bad play about Henry VIII, but it does mean you should assume the role of the character you are playing. This is something that sRPGs are very good at: in Skyrim it's easy to stay in character, because every other character you meet treats you as a character in that world. In MMORPGs, the biggest strength - the many players - can also be the biggest weakness, as other players constantly jolt you out of immersion.

Of course, the best of both worlds is to find a guild that you are comfortable with, whose members have a similar world view to you. I love that on many servers, alliance guilds outraged at the bombing of Theramore took it upon themselves to go to Orgrimmar and bring Garrosh to justice. If only we could make a permanent change to the world.


  1. Perhaps this is another reason why so far no one has made the successful nonpvp sandbox some say the market wants. In a pvp-heavy sandbox, it's harder for people to jolt you out of immersion--if other people are immature idiots that you would really like to kill--that doesn't necessarily jolt you out of immersion, it just motivates you to choose those options ingame that will allow you to kill their character. Without pvp everywhere, you can't stay in character in your response to them.

  2. Agree.

    I never liked the term 'MMO', either. 'Massively Multiplayer Online' means nothing on its own.

    Call me an old fart if you want, but things went 'wrong' when people stopped using the term 'virtual world' to describe the genre.

  3. You may well be right, Rammstein. When being attacked in a PvP game, it's great to be able to respond "physically". I.e. in character.

    Netherlands, I too prefer the term "virtual world". I'll start using it again, I think!