Method Gamers

Method Gamers
The Contrarian: Masks in the Woods

John Scott Tynes | 31 Jan 2006 11:01
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This backfired. Well after the Order was established, Blizzard changed the game design to revamp Paladins, making them much less effective against the Forsaken. Conventional wisdom soon coalesced that having more than one Paladin in your party was "inefficient" - that great tyranny of MMOGs - and although the guild did their best, they were stuck with a class whose focus had changed in an unexpected way. As Endsong says, "Blizzard took away our principle advantage and role in PvP and gave us nothing else, so it became frustrating for many of our members ... we were an RP-PvP guild without much of the PvP."

Eventually, Blizzard created a server that was both PvP and RP. The guild took a vote and chose to move to that server. But, faced with starting new characters from scratch, Endsong and the guild devised a plan. They would split the guild into good and evil schisms, essentially PvPing against themselves to ensure thematically appropriate opposition and better RP. New lore was devised and they made their new characters.

From the outset, though, the new incarnation was doomed. Few players stuck with the original Order, most preferring to switch to the Legion, since playing on the Horde side was still a novelty. Endsong got too busy with life and work to stick with the guild and drifted away. Kalis and other guild leaders finally took control without him. "I'm not disappointed," he says of this period. "I always told them any guild that has to rely on one person to succeed doesn't deserve to succeed." But Endsong's absence left the guild rudderless too long, and members wandered off to do their own thing. By the time Kalis was in charge, the Order of Mithril Twilight was gone. Only the Legion remained, but it too was weakened. When another guild, the Shatter Scar Clan, came knocking, the few remaining members voted to move over. Indeed, as Kalis wrote, "all that was Mithril is dead."

There is no golden age here. There's just another group of players who tried to tell some stories and couldn't bend the tools to their will. The tools even made things harder in some cases - as in the contentious area of IC vs. OOC chat.

Endsong says the guild started with local chat being in character. But more and more members switched to using voice communication via TeamSpeak. If you thought roleplaying online via text messages was a challenge, try it with a headset. In theory, sure; your voice is a much better medium for expressing emotion. Yet, how many players really feel comfortable trying to summon up dialogue like, "By the Black Sword of Thundril, I shall smite these Alliance scum!" An afternoon on Xbox Live! will make it clear that voice chat in online games mostly means you can use profanity without getting banned.

The guild tried limiting voice communication only to combat, so as to encourage incidental roleplaying in chat. But that didn't work. Guild members soon argued with guild members over the importance and methods of RP, and ultimately nobody was overjoyed with the situation.

I say there is no golden age here. But there was, or so Endsong believes:

"I think the closest game that had satisfying RPing in it was Ultima Online in its early years. There was so much of the game that was a blank slate for the player. Empires were created, wars were initiated and personal drama was common. Unfortunately, UO decided to take away its most unique aspect and irrevocably changed it."

You hear this refrain a lot from long-time players who pine for the early days of Ultima Online. But these are the cards the game-makers have dealt us: level grinds, TeamSpeak and no tools for storytelling. It's like the old line about a falling tree. If a player feels an emotion in a game but can't express it to anyone else, did he really feel anything at all?

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