Given the choice, I am always going to pick a game with stylized graphics over realistic ones. This is for many reasons; it’s partly because “realistic” so frequently means “bland and filtered over with brown” and partly because a game with realistic graphics is much more likely to look bad in a decade than one with stylized models. But first and foremost, it’s just because I like to be able to look at a screenshot and say that it came from a very specific game, that it couldn’t be mixed up with any other title.
There are a lot of games that wind up looking… well, pretty close to one another. But these games all have a style that’s distinctly their own, a sense of composition and design that keeps even the most generic shots from these games from looking interchangeable. And it doesn’t hurt that all of them are drop-dead gorgeous, to boot.
Not everyone is into creating alternate characters — alts — in MMORPGs. This is understandable: Some people don’t have time to play more than one character, some games encourage the use of a single main, and some gamers like to concentrate on making a character the best it can be without diluting MMO sessions by focusing elsewhere.
Then there are those of us who can’t help it. Even if we don’t have the extra time, we find ourselves returning to the character creation screen every so often to whip up a new hero and send them off on a grand (yet familiar) adventure. Every so often you bump into “altoholics” who have dozens and dozens of characters across multiple servers, making you wonder whether some sort of specialized intervention is needed (it is not — these people are simply awesome).
I’ve always liked creating alts in my games, even if I have a dedicated character at the max level with powerful gear and unlimited possibilities. There’s something wonderful about starting fresh that can revitalize your interest in a game you only thought you knew. Today, let’s talk about 10 ways that you can enjoy the alt lifestyle in MMORPGs.
Fellow players of Overwatch, I am sorry. I don’t know your names because I tried very hard to forget them, but I am still very sorry about the matches that you had with me when I was first learning how to play the game. But I feel that it’s important to understand my position.
See, everyone knows that in order to get good at something, you have to start out being bad at something. That’s normal. I feel no shame about the fact that I started out not being very good at Overwatch. My theory – really, my hope – was that if I concentrated all of my bad play into a contained space like the first few matches, I could become super great quickly. And I think it worked, I like to think I’m getting pretty good with D. Va now. There’s something wonderful about a cheery Korean teenager blowing Reaper out of the sky that just feels right.
Still, I figure it’s only fair to apologize for… well, those first few matches.
Maybe the hype and anticipation of an upcoming MMORPG leaves you feeling burned out and turned off these days. Considering that some titles can be in development for up to a half a decade, it’s crazy to think that a high level of personal excitement can be sustained. I’ve always loved the build-up to MMOs, although I go through cycles of paying attention and getting really jazzed, followed by taking some time off while the title cooks more in the oven.
There’s just something special to me about the pre-launch hype. Communities are forming, devs are talking constantly, and fans are contemplating their future adventures. For me, the only thing similar is the advent season and counting down to Christmas morning.
Yes, many times the hype wasn’t justified by the gameplay delivered, but I usually enjoy both all the same. I was casting my mind back lately over memories from pre-launch hype eras of MMOs, thinking about those certain moments that got me incredibly eager to dive in and play the game in the making. It’s happened many times over the years, so here are 10 of those highlights to share with you!
Every MMO has character classes. Every single one. You might rail against this by pointing out that there are several games out there with open skill systems, and this is undeniably true, but it’s the rare MMORPG that allows you to really mix and match from totally opposite ends of the skill spectrum. You might have plenty of freedom in building your character, but in most MMOs, you’re not wielding Ranged Spell of Doom alongside the Great Armor and Smashy Hammer of Destiny.
Unless you’re playing Darkfall, at least, and then everyone is playing “teleporting death wizard” anyhow, so who cares?
The point is that there are certain character types that show up again and again in almost every game, no matter how far off the beaten path its advancement system might be. Skill-based, class-based, whatever – if you’ve got combat, you’ve got some familiar character types. And you probably have some types that you play over and over again, which says something about you, in the same way that always ordering the same thing at Starbucks but debating over it for half an hour every time says something about you.
“This is how the world ends,” T S Eliot wrote in his famous poem, “not with a bang, but with a whimper.”
That might well describe the concluding moment of any number of MMORPGs that were closed down over the years. From the death of an exceedingly popular title to the demise of a ghost town, those last seconds are pretty much all the same: “Connection to server lost” followed by silence forever.
But what happens before that fatal conclusion is of interest to us today, for it is in the final minutes of MMOs that the community rages, dances, mourns, and celebrates in various ways. Today we’re going to take a trip back in time to the end of 10 MMOs — and what it looked like to the players who were there.
Today, City of Heroes turns 12 years old. Except it doesn’t; the game shut down three years ago, it never lived until it reached twelve, and any and all adventures in the game were cut short. Like the ending of Bruce Sterling’s short story Dori Bangs, anything we write about the game is just a paper dream to cover the holes that are left. No more adventures will be had in Paragon City.
You don’t need me to tell you about it, though. I wrote about it when it happened. That was then and this is now, and amidst everything else it’s sometimes easy to forget that CoH was a game.
I’m not going to tell you that it’s the best game ever, but I am going to tell you that the game had some damned brilliant systems that have not been picked up by the world yet for no good reason whatsoever. So in the wake of the anniversary, let’s talk about the stuff from Paragon City that should be in every metaphorical living room across the MMO sphere.
Dungeons and Dragons Online
was a very strange game at first glance.
Ten years ago, I ventured into Stormreach with no more motivation than a longstanding desire to play D&D and an idle curiosity to see what an MMO version of this famous pen-and-paper RPG would be like. DDO was so very unlike World of Warcraft and its ilk that it took a large mental readjustment to get into the spirit of the game.
But adjust I did, and off and on I spent the next five years enjoying what this title had to offer. It was one of the first games that I helped to cover on Massively-that-was (yes, DDO had its own weekly column back in the day), and I looked forward to my weekly runs with a team of friends and colleagues. It’s bizarre to look back and realize that DDO is now a decade old and still gamely forging on, and in the spirit of this anniversary I wanted to offer up some of my favorite aspects of this unique title.
Without further ado, here are 10 things that I really loved about Dungeons and Dragons Online.
After talking with Mark Jacobs the other week about the difficulty of balancing Camelot Unchained’s 30 classes, it got my mind thinking of MMOs that don’t merely stop with a half-dozen or so classes in their roster. It seems like having a wide array of class choices used to be in vogue early on in the industry but has since been abandoned for a smaller field of archetypes that are easier to manage.
Me? I love choices, particularly with classes. My interest in a game gets a shot in the arm if I have a lot of prospects for alts — the more, the better. So I started drawing up a list of MMOs with large class rosters and decided to make it into a full-blown column.
For the purpose of today’s list, I’m not counting skill-based MMOs (which could be considered as hosting infinite classes). Also, for games that allow a measure of mix-and-matching between classes, I’m counting only the actual classes or powersets available, not the total number of permutations that could be created by their merging. So which MMO has enough classes to satisfy your appetite?
It used to be that hunting for a console MMORPG was one of the most fruitless endeavors known to gamers. The PC was where it was at, dating all the way back to the birth of MUDs back in the 1980s. For decades, console gamers could only look on in envy as their PC comrades enjoyed persistent worlds, massive multiplayer, and online events.
The scene, of course, has radically changed, particularly over the past five years. Now studios are downright eager to tap into the console market with their online titles, and in some cases these MMOs have proven to be much more successful on those platforms than their PC version counterparts.
While a full list of every console MMO to date would far exceed a top 10 list, I thought it was worthy of drawing out the most notable titles that have existed to date on video game consoles. Some of these are long extinguished, some are famous disappintments, while others are flourishing even today. What would you pick for this list? Let us know in the comments!
Last Friday’s WildStar news made me sad. I’m sad because there are two games at war within that title. One of them is a charmingly flexible sandpark; the other one is what I think our dear editor is thinking of when she calls the game World of Warcraft But They’re In Space, since it launched with all of the worst parts of WoW‘s endgame from its original launch without much to improve upon the formula. I really like the former part of the game.
Whenever we wind up with a title in that state, of course, people ask a simple question: Why doesn’t the studio just do a reboot? It worked really well for Final Fantasy XIV, which went from an industry punchline to a success story that’s still building momentum. So why don’t more studios just reboot MMOs that aren’t working?
The answer is that it’s not that easy. And it can conveniently be broken down into several bullet points for this particular column. So let’s get to it.
In real life, we can’t (usually) pick our race; we kind of get assigned one at birth, thanks to our parents, and we go on from there. So there’s a special kind appeal to the character creation screen in MMOs that grants us the ability to do what we never could for ourselves: choose a racial background.
Some MMOs narrow racial picks down to a whopping one while others seem to add new races every time a developer sneezes all over a lead artist’s drawing board and says, “There, make that happen… call it a Sluggie or something.” I’m always fascinated by the options available and why people choose what they do. I think it says a lot about who we are and what we’re trying to present to the larger game community.
The next time you pause during that character creation screen to contemplate your pick, consider what that choice will say about you. Gross generalizations: They’re fun! Check out my theories below.
Class-based systems are one of those holdovers from tabletop RPGs that work surprisingly well in MMOs. I basically put up with class systems in exactly one tabletop game simply because Dungeons & Dragons is likely to abandon classes around the same time that the Earth crashes into the sun and Fifth Edition is pretty good, and the debate over whether MMOs work better with classes and levels or freeform character development systems will still be raging even then.
Even though I’m wholly on board with classes, a surprising number of games wind up trotting out the same basic groups time and again. Here’s the warrior with a two-hander and a big weapon, here’s the caster flinging fireballs, there’s the stealthy guy with paired weapons who stabs things. A lot of those can be really fun to play, too. But my affection always goes toward the odd, the unusual, the classes that you can’t find in many games. Like these classes, basically.