First Person

First Person
I'm Still Waiting for My MMO

Dennis C. Scimeca | 13 Jul 2012 17:00
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I'm having a good time with The Secret World. The augmented reality quests are a nice touch and the real-world setting gives the game a Hellboy or Sandman vibe, but it still didn't take very long for me to think of The Secret World as "just another MMO," as uncharitable as that may sound. I'm really hard on MMOs because I still remember what it felt like to play EverQuest for the first time in 1999.

I had been that kid who read the Dungeons and Dragons sourcebooks but never had a group to play with, so EverQuest was a dream come true for me. I'd always wanted to play a ranger in a role playing game, and there I was. The land of Norrath was a whole new world to explore, and an entirely different way to play videogames. It was a revelation. It was magical. And when I saw there was a Star Wars MMO also, I had no choice but to sign up.

I've been jumping in and out of MMOs ever since looking for the sense of wonder I felt when I first stepped foot into EQ. World of Warcraft held me for a little while because Blizzard's attention to detail and art aesthetics are brilliant, so WoW actually did feel like a new world. Then I hit the level grind and tuned out. No MMO has held my long term attention since, and sometimes I wonder if I'm doing it wrong.

MMOs are designed for long-term play. To get the most out of them you have to get stuck in and learn their intricacies and explore all their different areas and dungeons. For the hardcore MMO fan, the genre's recurring language of play is probably enough to rope them in and hold them. I feel the same way about first person shooters. I love the genre so much and am so fluent in its language that complaints about the inherent sameness of FPS games roll right off my shoulders. While I want to see the genre evolve, particularly in the arenas of persistence and consequence like what's being attempted by Heroes and Generals and Planetside 2, I'm happy just playing a generic FPS because I can pick it right up and be good at it.

I loved EQ and Galaxies just as much as I love my FPS games, but I have no similar tolerance for sameness in MMOs. World of Warcraft crystallized the language of the MMO and developers have been iterating on those mechanics ever since. Character classes have become more fluid and hybridized, and some active combat has supplemented the standard click target and press number-keys setup, but by my reckoning the basic, core design of the MMO has not changed very much at all since EverQuest. Whenever I jump into a new MMO it usually takes a month or so for the veneer to wear off and then I get bored and jump out.

I have tolerance for sameness in first person shooters because as much as I love them, I don't think the genre has a terribly high ceiling for creativity; and before you bring up Portal or the upcoming Antichamber those aren't first person shooters. They're first person puzzle games. Games like Half-Life 2 and BioShock pushed the FPS boundaries mechanically and narratively but the core of both games was the same. You see things from a first person perspective and run around shooting. There may be some puzzles to solve and a story to watch but those can be removed from the equation and the game still works. A first person shooter doesn't work if you get rid of the shooting. It either becomes a different kind of game altogether or is just a shitty game.

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