I posted this on a pantheon forum located here on a thread about PvP in the game.
Sure, a PvE focus is good, but don’t for a second undervalue the relevance of PvP.
I was shocked when I saw PVP as a stretch goal and not a feature. Not only a stretch goal, but a mid-way stretch goal behind even a mobile app for the game… Really, PvP is less important than a mobile app? Surely you’ve made a mistake, valuing something to satisfy away from computer cravings over something that actually influences game play. The only thing that surprised me more was the private servers, but I addressed that in another post.
I am not a PvPer. I never participated in WoW PvP leagues, though I did occasionally battlegrounds. In Star Wars: The Old Republic, I admit I actually liked huttball (Especially as a Jedi Guardian). Also, unlike many of you, I never played Everquest 1 of 2. I did play Vanguard at beta and launch, and I found its PvP system flawed. Players were able (at that time) to kill each other without consequence. I could be murdered right in front of a guard and he would walk on by, but god forbid I hit a chicken and be sentenced to death by that same guard. I don’t know if it ever changed, but that was certainly wrong.
Me, my veteran days of playing MMOs came from Lineage 2. In Lineage 2, we had no choice of PvP or PvE servers, we simply had PvEvP. We roamed the lands, exploring, fighting, laughing, and killing. The sign of a red player (A PKer who kills someone who doesn’t defend themselves) sent chills of excitement and fear down your spine. If you managed to kill them, they had a high chance to drop various parts of their gear (including equipped armors and weapons), but if you failed, you would lie on the ground, dead, losing 2-8% XP for the level, and having to run all the way back there or call out for a rez.
But that’s not fun some of you might say. I just want to do PvE content you may say. PKing is for WoW kiddies you may say. PvP has no right to be among the tenants of this MMORPGs goals, you may say. You are wrong.
This game is about teamwork, cooperation, and player interactions many of you have so elegantly pointed out. The features of this game drive home how important player interactions are, and how player’s actions need to have meaning. Well I ask you, what has more meaning than murder? A player has decided to take the life of another. Ok, ok, let us just pretend it was a senseless murder. A child who now dances on your corpse screaming “I killed you, you foolish noob.” Tell me, in a game about teamwork, cooperation, and player interactions, what is going to happen to this player who just murdered you? Why were you traveling alone? Did the developers not mentioned traveling was to be dangerous and rewarding? Why should we be protected by this unrealistic veil, or computer programs controlling the minds of our avatars stating the law “thou shall not kill another human”? Will you not have a group of friends you are ready to call upon to your aid? Is this not required to begin with to even play the game? Are you telling me players will not randomly unite against a common foe and show the true strength of what human comradery is all about, in dazzling portrayals of selflessness and heroism that define what it is to be a caring, thoughtful human being with agency?
The opposite can also happen. Some of us enjoy role-playing the villain and find like minded individuals to aid us. Some of us are just simply evil. Some of us just can’t stand it when someone keeps hogging the quest mobs you need and drive you into a blind rage that results in a dead mob, and a dead player. What good is it, playing the role of the hero, if there are no “true” villains to face? If fighting off hordes of evil demons is so much fun, than why is it not equally entertaining to fight off a horde of evil players? Are you afraid of a challenge?
Going back to more examples of my old tales of Lineage 2, the fact that PKs could happen at anytime (or legitimate guild warfare) was made all the more fantastical due to the fact that all raid bosses and “dungeons” were open world. Not only did you have to constantly worry about your progress with the raid boss or dungeon, but you constantly had to watch your rear, as crafty players/guilds would come from behind and take you out and steal the raid boss. So, rear guards had to be appointed. It wasn’t a hassle, it was a necessity for survival. Thwarting an enemy players while also handling your position showed your might, your defeat left you to learn from your errors and to plan your revenge. It added depth, and created meaningfulplayer interactions.
Many of you are right, open FFA is chaotic, and can lead to quite some issues. I expressed my frustration over being valued less than a chicken to the town guards in Vanguard. Lineage 2 has the best system I have seen to date, and it was the Karma system. If you attacked a player, you would become “flagged” and your name would display as purple. This meant you had engaged in combat, and were free game to be attacked by anyone without consequence. Anyone who struck you would also become “flagged” and wield a purple name. After about 10 seconds of not striking any player, you would return to normal and become “un-flagged”. If you attacked a player who refused to defend themselves, their name would remain white and “un-flagged”. If you killed them (a white named player), you would accrue Karma, and your name would become red, so everyone could identify you as a player killer. To make your name return to white, you had two options. Defeat mobs to reduce your Karma, or die (dying more greatly reduces your Karma). The more PKs you had attained, the more Karma you would earn per kill, and the harder it would be to burn it off. My PK character had well over 1000 player kills (Though I was not a barbarian, I had rules; Never kill a player more than once unless they attack me, Never attack a player engage in combat unless they were stronger than me, Never kill players significantly lower than my level).
Lineage 2, though a PvEvP game, did have a lot of PvP elements it revolved around, especially given the fact that clan wars and castle sieges played a major role, however the fact that you had no choice in server only served to strengthen the meaning of player interactions, the intensity of battle, and the options available to players. This all served to create a more immersive, in-depth, and evolving world as power shifted and players made names for themselves. Often times a player killed as a result of a PK would revive in town and quickly announce “PKer at x territory!” And bands of players would venture forth to slay the villainous foe and attempt to procure some loot in the process. PK characters that dawned their actual gear instead of “throw away” gear were seen to be serious, and ballsy to risk such treasures. And a party completely outfitted in top level equipment charging through a leveling area was seen as an impressive display of power that often resulted in dozens if not hundreds arriving to test their mettle.
I know this isn’t Lineage 2. I don’t know how Everquest I and II works. I don’t know how Vanguard evolved behind its launch. But I do know that Lineage 2 has offered me my most meaningful player interactions I have ever experienced in an MMO. Every MMO I have played (Runescape, Lineage 2, Vanguard, World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, Aion, Rift, Guild Wars, Final Fantasy XI, Guild Wars 2, TERA, Final Fantasy XIV (and ARR), Star Wars: The Old Republic, and more) I have experienced both on PvE and PvP servers (assuming both existed). Yes, I have been mauled by senseless Alliance children, but my anger has been at my lack of power to do something about it (I blame WoW’s two faction only+no communication with factions “features”), not the act of murder itself. Yes, sometimes we are simply overpowered, so we go and do something else.
We cannot accept a world that revolves around choice, exploration, teamwork, and player interactions, yet denies us the chance to experience these to their fullest by forcing all players “to be friends”. I urge you, those who dislike PvP and prefer PvE, reconsider your standpoint. Allow PvP to become a part of your world (with proper/logical restrictions and consequences, such as town Guards being hostile towards PKers, and NPCs reluctant to speak with/aid PKers), and I promise you, even with the few inevitable hiccups of “childish players”, you will find yourself more immersed than you ever have previously been in an MMO before.
A couple days ago I was writing my articles recalling my experiences in World of Warcraft. My former guild leader took note of the articles and got in contact with me. We began to talk of how wonderful the old days were, and how MMO gaming has fallen to a sad state. We agreed that the most disappointing facet of MMOs now-a-days was the lack of players actually having to cooperate and interact with one another to obtain experiences and loot of unimaginable proportions. Dungeon and Raid finders made it so players could access all the content in MMOs with barely having to speak a word to another living soul. They have become a race to max level, where then the game is supposedly meant to “begin”. 40, 50, 60, 70, or even 80 levels of content meant to be ignored just so you can experience 1 or 2 raids over and over again until you had the top level gear that makes you match everyone else. What was the point of an MMO if we all just ran around thinking only of ourselves and blocking out the rest of the world?
Saddened by our discussion, we said our farewells, and I stared at my list of “promising” upcoming MMOs, and then returned to writing my articles for World of Warcraft, filling them with my disappointment it has left with me and how it has haunted many MMOs since its “success”. And then an article popped up on my facebook feed… Something about some MMO beginning with the letter P, I was sure I had seen it mentioned before, and anxious to accumulate info on more upcoming MMOs to address for my research, I decided to click on it. Whoops, this wasn’t some MMO I had heard of before, it was something new.
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, a new MMORPG being developed by Visionary Realms under the direction of Brad McQuaid. Among its list of planned features, several caught my eye is they related to the conversation I was JUST having with my former guild leader-
A classic take on epic MMO adventure
An MMO developed by gamers who aren’t afraid to target an audience of like-minded gamers.
An open world in which you explore to obtain not only more powerful items but also new spells and abilities.
Group-focused social gameplay using a class based system to encourage teamwork.
Combat will be challenging and involved — your decisions will matter and directly affect the battle’s outcome.
Travel the world and profit from selling exotic items collected from distant realms. Different cities and outposts may have local Bazaars.
Limited and class based teleportation may get you close, but in order to reach many destinations you will have to traverse the planar scarred lands of Terminus through the use of your own two feet or on the back of your mighty steed.
Earning experience is only part of what it takes to level up. Exploring the world you will gain knowledge and power allowing you to overcome more powerful enemies.
There were many more, but they were along the lines of what every MMO promises. Reading through the material it became clear that this team is focused on creating an MMO more akin to the likings of classic MMO players, where adventuring and progression takes actual effort, dedication, and is greatly rewarded. Players actually needing to interact and support one another. Interactions like this lead to meaningful social relationships, and create a truly immersive environment. The Team Brad has assembled has experience from Everquest, Everquest 2, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Defiance, Star Wars Galaxies, and more! A very promising pool of knowledge.
The game will basically revolve around worlds that have all collided together on a new plane, thus gods, races, and creatures from all sorts of worlds now find themselves with access to each other. Some gods remain in their celestial plane, while others rule as god kings. This gives the developers a very wide-open range of lore and influences to be able to draw from an implement.
Along with their play style, experience, and story line, they have also taken the steps to achieve funding from the crowd that will determine their success, the gamers. They launched a kick starter campaign which can be accessed here, which explains many of the things I have already briefly mentioned, as always as updates, their goals, and stretch goals which contain many juicy tidbits I hope we will see this fundraiser campaign achieve. They have already announced that the fundraising will continue on beyond the kickstarter campaign, and it seems they are on target to hit their $800,000 goal already.
I myself opted to contribute $250, a price I normally would never do (especially when the product is being promised for 2017), however today they introduced a new tier of donation that allows players to be early testers, and I hope to take advantage of this to see how the inner workings of game testing works, the development community, and the evolution of an MMO as a whole (all while being under a strict NDA of course).
I encourage you to visit the kickstarter campaign (or their website if the campaign is over at the time of your reading this) and to pledge what you can spare. This game seeks to return to our MMO roots, and it is up to us to do everything in our power to make sure this happens, or else we have only ourselves to blame for the current state of MMOs.
Shortly after I had quit World of Warcraft, many of my friends had done so as well. Later Blizzard had released a patch adding content that allowed you to actually combat the Lich King in a raid, however I quit before then and still have yet to complete it (one nagging regret I still have). They also released an entire expansion during the course of my absence from World of Warcraft. This was the “Cataclysm” expansion pack, which featured a resurfacing of large portions of the lands of Azeroth by the hands of Death Wing. Blizzard use this storyline to enable introducing the ability to fly anywhere in Azeroth for its players. This expansion pack also introduced two new playable races, Worgens and Goblins.
About 2 years later, they also released another expansion pack. This one was named “Mists of Pandaria” and featured a new race, Pandarians, modeled after pandas with a heavy Asian cultural influence. At first, I thought it was something like an April fool’s joke. Years ago they had announced a new unit for their Warcraft III: Reigns of Chaos title, and it was modeled after a panda. Has Blizzard had exhibited a sense of humor, I thought this was perhaps a joke and never paid close attention. Like many, after accepting it was in fact true, I found the thought absurd. It seemed Blizzard was grabbing at straws and blatantly stealing from the “Kung Fu Panda” movies. There was interesting concept introduced alongside the Pandarian race however. Unlike all of the other races in World of Warcraft, the Pandarians were not attached to the Alliance or the Horde. After completing the introduction quests for the Pandarian starter area, and being introduced to both the Alliance and the Horde (who have arrived on their mobile continent via shipwreck and immediately resumed their war), the player must choose which side to align with. Therefore, both races feature Pandarians. These facet did peak my curiosity. One of my greatest complaints with World of Warcraft had been the fact that it forced you to be on one side or the other all dependent on the race you chose, and you could not even communicate with the other faction (they speak a different race). Despite the Warcraft 1, 2, and 3 titles storylines showing characters actively making choices who to help and when based on enemies, and even being a part of some of the story lines in World of Warcraft, the game restricted players form making the choice. Also, even though the idea was that the races can’t talk to each other because of “languages”, it made little sense that players could not invest in learning the languages of the other faction (since they already speak multiple languages, why not another?). This expansion finally afforded players an actual choice in how they played the game. Finally!
Here is the trailer for the Pandarian expansion that gets the point across rather well (I especially like the part where the two enemies unite due to both being unfamiliar with the unknown third party). It is important to note that this is CG, and not a representation of the games graphical interface or engine.
Given this feature, and my yearning to attempt some good old raid fun (World of Warcraft had still featured the best dungeons and raids out of all the MMO’s I had tried since leaving World of Warcraft, though I did still dislike the “instanced” aspect of them versus Lineage 2’s “open world” dungeons). I reunited with my former Guild leader and we began rebuilding our guild. I quickly powered through the Cataclysm content (which I found absolutely dreadful, the worst content/leveling experience I have ever had in an MMO, though this is highly just because of the route I took (the underwater realm)). To give you an idea of how World of Warcraft manages releasing new content and making it so players can access it, it took me a mere three days to get through all of that expansions content. The game is designed so players are able to get to the newest content as quickly and easily as possible. This point is further illustrated by starting the new expansion content, where the intro quest rewards end up replacing the rare gear that you just obtained from dungeons of the previous expansion (another aspect I greatly dislike about WoW).
The content and story for the Mists of Pandaria content was actually very well done. I found it just as captivating and interesting as the Wrath of the Lich King content, and despite it still resembling “Kung Fu Panda”, I found it fresh and interesting. It was also building the tension between the Alliance and Horde and good versus evil themes (while an overarching theme for the entire series, it is often down played as there is usually always a common powerful foe stepping in). In fact, it was an absolutely wonderful experience all together, that is, until we hit the raiding content, the main reason we had decided to return to World of Warcraft.
World of Warcraft had long since introduced “dungeon finder”. This is a feature that allows a player to open a menu and select a dungeon they wish to play, and pick the role they wish to play (healer, tank, damage dealer). After confirming, the system then finds four other players that also wish to play that dungeon and then puts them all together (ensuring there is 1 tank, 1 healer, and 3 dps). It then teleports all players to the dungeon, and gives them extra rewards if they complete it together, and then teleports players back to where the y came from. This feature became very popular and has since been adapted to just about every MMO that has been released since. I say this now, this is the absolute WORST addition to MMOs in the history of MMOs. Prior to this, players had to organize parties on their own, communicate, interact, and then journey to the dungeon. Now, players just had to check a mark in a box and all the leg work was done for them. You didn’t even have to communicate with those people it put you in a group with. Simply do your duty and nothing more was expected of you. And you are REWARDED for this behavior. This is also the most efficient way to level up, which also makes it so players can avoid 90% of the content in the game and merely stick do dungeons to level up. Imagine that, going through an entire MMO, just to be placed in groups with strangers and never talking to them, all on your journey to the max level. But then it must surely become fun as you need to be in guilds and attempt raids together, right? Wrong.
World of Warcraft took it a step further and introduced “raid finder”. Now all the horrors that dungeon finder had given us could be used to “complete” the entire game! Sure, the loot you received from these “Raid finder” dungeons were 1 step down, but only that, 1 mere step down. The raids were also dumbed down to account for 10 or 25 strangers being thrown together at random in order to compensate for the potential lack of familiarity and communication with each other. There were limits on entering these raids (and these limits applied to dungeons as well) requiring you to have a certain item level in order to participate. The game rates you gear and tells you if you are wearing good enough to compete in these areas, so now you had the game telling you were you could and couldn’t play, and requiring you to focus exclusively on your gear, and not your performance. This drives players to focus only on upgrading their gear, and caring little for other players, as it only impedes one’s own progress. This is a reoccurring theme I have seen in almost all MMOs that use this system (which… is all of them just about; Final Fantasy XIV, TERA, and Guild Wars 2, while having this system, also had players still actively forming parties the old way, though I can’t exactly remember why it was relevant, I will attempt to find this out; In Star Wars: The Old Republic, it was the worst of all and really destroyed gameplay).
With all of the content and high end gear being obtainable in this manner, player guilds were much less popular/needed. Guilds were the best way to be able to unite with other players and have sufficient numbers to enter these raids, however raid finder made it so you never had to know a sole in order to participate in this content. Therefore, my guild leader and I had very difficult time recruiting enough players to reach the 25-man raids, and even in our 10-man raids, players were often getting discouraged quicker and would rather do the raid finders which were easier and provided nearly just as good gear. Our game play revolved around doing daily quests to receive tokens that allowed you to roll for gear in these raid finder raid’s, which wouldn’t always grant items, doing the raids themselves, and always focusing on our gear. As raid-finder was more efficient then guild activity, guild chat seemed to revolve around “so did ya find better gear yet” instead of the guild worrying about helping each other progress as a unit. In essence, the game was robbed of all that made it a virtual world where player interactions between each other actually mattered. Another big factor played into it. Raids were more and more streamlined and simplified, not only in the difficulty and ability required to do it, but the tricks and thought necessary to complete the raids. Even our beloved Naxx has become dumbed down and more easier to conquer as mechanics were simplified (the DDR dance now require you stand in a single spot, rather than have to be constantly moving/running). Along with that, World of Warcraft was well known for players being able to use add-ons and modifications that help keep track of game play (I mentioned the damage dealt meter before). Raids became more about “playing the interface”, rather than the game. Players simply stared at screens and icons, more focused about the right millisecond to press a button rather than enjoy the amazing spells and graphics happening on screen. These “features” completely destroyed immersion, yet were required to be competitive with other players (this was a problem mainly only for me, many find them an asset). Needless to say, we quit, disappointed.
Why were these systems added then? Accessibility. These systems made it so all players could enjoy the game in its entirety without any limits. Players who found themselves pressed for time or with other obligations could now hop in for limited time periods, and still be able to level up, experience the dungeons/raids, and make their way through the game. Blizzards focus has always tended to rely more on focusing on accessibility over all else, and it has been identified as a trend that the game has become easier and easier. Sadly, as World of Warcraft is the most popular MMORPG that has existed, this has proven itself as the most demanded model, and most profitable, which has led to most other developers copying it. This has led to a sour taste in core gamers player’s mouths for years. Many of us have been jumping from MMO to MMO, looking for something… something missing from the old days… something that made these virtual worlds more than just games.
World of Warcraft has another expansion releasing titled Warlords of Draenai, and it features such things as a form of player housing (finally… way to be super late to the party WoW), an overhaul of the graphics system, as well as introduction of “mythic” difficulty level 20-man raids. This is being seen as an attempt of World of Warcraft to be more like its “vanilla” (original, pre-expansion state), when the game was more like traditional MMOs, however with every expansion since Burning Crusade I have heard players speak such prayers, and there really has been no deliverance unto these prayers. It has just been used as something to pull us along, expansion to expansion. Personally, I’m overjoyed that WoW’s subscription numbers are dropping, and I hope they continue to plummet. When this expansion launches, I am sure we will give it another go, but it really has become a matter of doing it more for the sake of saying “Yes I tried it” rather than “I am really excited and enjoy it!”.
World of Warcraft was a MMORPG launched in 2004 by Blizzard Entertainment. It was based on the Warcraft universe that was developed by Blizzard’s earlier Warcraft Games titled Warcraft: Orc & Humans, Warcraft II, and Warcraft III. These games progressed a storyline that involved Humans and Orcs raging War against each other, and eventually forming alliances with other tribes. The Humans led the faction called the “Alliance”, and the orcs led the faction called the “Horde”. These games were what is known as RTS (Real-Time Strategy) and revolved around gathering resources to produce troops and meet objectives to proceed through the games story. Players would play through the story and as both factions and see how the story plays out from both perspectives. The game played very similar to Blizzard’s Starcraft, which had a sci-fi theme instead of Warcraft’s fantasy theme, however followed the same idea of resource gathering, creating troops, and eliminating enemies to accomplish goals. Warcraft III differed from the previous Blizzard RTS titles by allowing the players to also control Hero units that were capable of leveling up and earning abilities.
World of Warcraft picked up where the expansion of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne left off story wise. Unlike its predecessors, it was not and RTS, and players were able to for the first time create Avatars and freely explore the world in which Warcraft took place, Azeoroth. There were 8 races that players could choose from when the game launched. Like the previous games, these races were split into their respective factions to which they owed their alliance. The Alliance consisted of the Humans, Dwarves, Night Elves, and Gnomes. The Horde featured the Orcs, The Forsaken (The Undead, former humans who broke free of control), Tauren (cow-like humanoids), and Trolls. The existence of an established fan-base for the series helped fuel its popularity, alongside the reputation of Blizzard for developing great games. Unlike previous MMO launches that focused on utilizing the most advanced graphics and time demanding player progression, Blizzard instead promoted the ideas of accessibility and reaching a wider audience than gearing themselves towards hard-core gamers. This method has defined their model ever since, has been further employed and developed through further game updates and expansions, and achieved such a level of success that it has heavy influenced the development of other MMO’s that seek to either reproduce the success that World of Warcraft generated, or at least grab a piece of the action. World of Warcraft holds the record for largest paid-subscription player base at 12 million concurrent subscribers, which it achieved in 20101. It currently has around 7 million concurrent subscribers2.
World of Warcraft featured a great storyline to compel players to explore all of the content the interactions regarding dungeons and raids in the game was a strong reason the game was so popular. Players could travel to a large variety of dungeons located throughout the world with their friends or strangers they met by finding each other at the entrances of the dungeons or forming the parties within major cities and heading out from there. This required communication and interaction between players in order to find the proper levels, classes, and desired dungeons to attempt, and then players had the fun of traveling through the lands to arrive at the dungeons. Players could also be “summoned” to the dungeons if at least two of the party members were at the entrance. At the very least, two players had to make the journey through the land. There was also quests available at every town to aid the players in leveling up, and some even divulged more of the story (many were “kill 10 rats, because rats are bad” and serve no value to the purpose… unless they added the line “and pose a threat to the alliance!” of course). Players were promptly rewarded with experience, currency, and loot for their ventures out into the wild and for servicing the NPCs in the various towns. Unlike Lineage 2 which mainly revolved around killing creatures for experience to level up, World of Warcraft relied on its quest system. Being given a reason and additional reward for killing 100 orcs was an appealing idea at the time, the alternative in Lineage 2 being just to wander into the woods and do it for no other reason than that they are there.
As players progressed in levels, they were able to buy new skills and abilities with the currency they acquired, and also to level up “occupations” or “jobs” such as blacksmithing, alchemy, tailoring, and others that served as means to producing rare materials or items for players that they could then use on themselves, or sell on the market to bring in additional money. Some things players could buy from NPCs that were quite useful were “Mounts”, which allowed players to ride animals through World of Warcraft and travel at much higher speeds than if on foot. These mounts cost money, and the abilities to use them also cost money. It was/is also possible to acquire them through other means, such as quests or rare events.
As World of Warcraft relied on the “holy trinity” (groups requiring a class to handle creatures aggression *Tank*, classes to cause high damage *Damage Dealers* (they were called Damage Dealers, or DD for short in Lineage 2; in other MMORPGS, including WoW, they are called *Damage Per Second classes*, or DPS for short), and a class to be the *Healer* and heal the members in the party; Only by working together could they achieve this goal). Lineage 2 was quite strict in this sense, as Tank classes dealt very little damage, however could manage a large amount of foes. Because of this, leveling alone was very difficult. It was also difficult for buff classes (Classes that cast spells to enhance players abilities) and healing classes, as these classes were designed to strengthen other players and not necessarily themselves, so they too relied on others. Damage Dealer classes could solo, but by having buffers to strengthen them or tanks to handle the aggression, they could be much more efficient. World of Warcraft on the other hand made it so the classes could be viable in most areas and completely capable of leveling on their own. Healers not only healed, but had offensive and defensive spells too. The healers often served as the buffers as well, though each class of healer had slightly different abilities. World of Warcraft had 8 classes, Lineage 2 had over 40. In raid type settings, you often needed several tanks and healers, where-as normal parties only required one of each to complete the “holy trinity”.
I did not play raids in the original version of WoW, but I was informed that they used to consist of 40 people. This system was later revamped, and raids now consist of 10-man and 25-man variations, the 25-man variations being more difficult, thus requiring more people, and offering greater rewards. A standard party could consist of 5 people, and dungeons are usually attempted with 5 people unless they are of a higher level than the dungeon is designed for. These dungeons and raids were areas players could go and face more difficult creatures for additional rewards, and it often required memorizing paths, boss fights, and when to use certain abilities. Where in normal content, forgetting to use an ability was often a mistake that required an additional second or two to correct, in dungeons and raids these could easily result in the deaths of everyone involved.
(I don’t want to make it a habit of posting game videos, but these could not be done justice with just screenshots)
World of Warcraft 40-man raid
Lineage 2 Raid (way more than 40 people)
Players were able to sell their items to one another using the auction house. Each major city had NPC’s which players could go to to either sell their goods or purchase others. They could purchase or sell nearly everything that wasn’t “bind on acquire”. “Bind on acquire” gear was often high end gear that players could not trade once they picked it up. Some gear was labeled “bind on equip”, and once you put it on your avatar, you could no longer sell or trade it. This was very different from Lineage 2, in which any gear you picked up and used you could later resell. This meant that any gear you invested money into was not a complete waste, as you could later resell the gear and recoup your money, or even turn a profit. Another aspect of Lineage 2 that was different was there were no auction houses, all sales were conducted either by discussing it live, or by setting up a “shop” in which your avatar sat on the ground, displayed a message in purple that you could customize, and players could right click on you and see items you had selected in your inventory to be sold, for the prices you had set them to be sold out. The opposite could be done in order to buy needed items as well.
I have given a general outline on how features of World of Warcraft, and how it compares to other examples I am intimately familiar with (so, Lineage 2). In part 2, I go on to talk of my personal experiences in my fonder days of World of Warcraft, and in part 3 I will discuss my brief return to World of Warcraft, and my opinion on its declining state, and the state of MMORPGs as a whole.
Oh… World of Warcraft. The bringer of much joy and misery. I shall get to that in a bit though, for now…
My experiences with the Warcraft franchise are as follows. I have played Warcraft II and Warcraft III. As mentioned in another article revolving around Blizzard’s games, I was a fan of Blizzard’s work and the opportunities their games afforded for online play (I played Warcraft III and Starcraft online). However, when World of Warcraft was announced, I had little interest. I was heavily involved with Lineage, and the cartoonish graphics of World of Warcraft were not to my liking, I much preferred Lineage 2’s more graphical intense and realistic style. I had tried it once, but (quite shallowly) found all the races for avatars to be rather ugly, and left it at that.
A couple years later I met someone at the tech support call center I worked at and he was an avid World of Warcraft player. He talked me into trying it, and upon realizing there was a new aesthetically pleasing race available in the expansion that had launched in 2007 (The Burning Crusade), I gave it a go. The expansion introduced two new races to World of Warcraft, the Blood Elves, and the Draenei. I liked the way the Blood Elves were graphically represented, and furthermore they were voiced by the same voice actor who does the voice for Liquid Snake, the villain in one of my favorite video game series Metal Gear Solid. I decided to create a hunter because my friend suggested it would be good for our group. He was an undead Warrior, his girlfriend opted to be a blood elf priest, and my girlfriend at the time decided to be a rogue (it was deemed the easiest class to play, and hence best for a “newb”). We played together for about a month and reached about level 40, however I ran into issues with that girlfriend and ceased to play for quite some time.
A week before the next expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, was due to launch my friend approached me again and suggested I play again. Several other of our friends had taken up playing, and he was leading a rather successful guild. At this point my ex was long out of the picture and also no longer played the game, so I decided why not. The prospect of the new expansion also interested me as it picked up the story of the Lich King again, a prominent character in both Warcraft III and it’s expansion. Within that week I managed to reach the max level available (70), and my friend had planned a Lich King launch party at his house. Four of us got together and waited in line at the nearest Gamestop awaiting the midnight launch of the expansion pack. Three of us stayed behind as one of us wasn’t quite level 70 yet and they needed to get as close as possible to ensure they could join us in the new content in the game. Upon obtaining the game, we quickly rushed back to our PCs that were set up in the basement of my friend’s house. We quickly installed the game, updated our clients, and jumped into the World of Warcraft together. We all gathered onto the blimp, and traveled to Northrend together.
It took our guild leader three days to reach level 80, the new max level. It took me four days. Many of our guildmates also reached the max level within the week. This was portion of my WoW experience was my favorite. We rose not only as a guild, but as real life friends as well. Almost all my friends held officer positions in the guild, though I did not for I had very little WoW experience comparatively. Many of them had played since the beginning. We would get together in game and do dungeons together and get better and better gear. We quickly earned the ability to fly in Northrend and access the raid Naxxramas (To this day we still often remark to each other “Let’s raid Naxx” as a commemoration to our cooperative efforts, teamwork, and fond memories).
Naxx was a raid that had been taken from the classic content and revamped for the newest expansion (I have never played its classic variation). It consisted of 18 (if memory serves correctly) bosses, four each divided into the four separate wings within Naxx. After defeating these 16 bosses, there was then two more to face. We worked hard in 10-man groups and then moved onto 25 man groups tackling this raid. This was the highlight of playing World of Warcraft. No other game had quite so elegantly mastered the art of having players work cooperatively in large groups to take down and progress through boss laden dungeons. Lineage 2 has its own version of exciting raids, however those largely relied on huge masses of players (ranging up to a couple hundred) generally throwing everything they had at a boss while also being on the lookout for enemy players that may show up and attack them while they attacked the boss. In World of Warcraft, this wasn’t possible as every dungeon and raid was “instanced” (when players enter a raid or dungeon, they are removed to their very own portion of the world and no other players can interfere with them). This made it so those 10 or 25 players could focus on the task at hand, and allowed the boss fights to be more dramatic with special timers and events that occurred, and every player had to be alert and ready. One of our favorites from Naxx was the boss fight which we called “DDR”, as we had to move off of highlighted areas and “dance” around the field of battle as the boss unleashed a special attack.
As much as World of Warcraft contributed to a comradery among my real-life friends, it also created a bit of tension (admittedly, mostly on my end). Far from an MMO noob, I was committed to show my real life friends (who held all of the guilds leadership roles) that I was indeed a great player too. This often led me to perform at my peak, and I would become disgruntled as the Hunter officer would commonly slack while still receiving praise and maintaining his rank. Our performance one raid was subpar, and our guild leader announced that everyone who showed up to the next raid with unsocketed gear would be kicked from the raid and not allowed to participate. I immediately went out and spent my entire fortune on procuring the highest grade possible for gems to upgrade my armor. Curious to see what my class (hunter) leader had utilize for his own upgrades to boost his performance (after all, they held these roles to be role models for everyone in the guild that shared a class with them), I was quite upset to see that he was equipped with some of the cheapest and worst gems possible. When I asked him why he had shown up in such pitiful gems, he said he was saving his money for the faster flying speed upgrade (which carried a very hefty price). I on the other hand had passed on saving for such a luxury to ensure my avatar was good as it possibly could be to ensure the success of the group. Our guild leader was indifferent, stating that the hunter officer had in fact followed his commands and there was nothing to be concerned about. I was upset with my commanders, my real-life friends.
Another instance had been occurring periodically, however it was a difficult one to point out. Hunters had an ability called “feign death”, and were able to fall to the ground and *usually* avoid having mobs attacking them. This was meant as a means to control built up aggro, but had the added benefit of allowing hunters to survive in situations where death was certain. By using this ability, mobs had a very high chance to treat the hunter as a dead player and ignore them. This was especially useful in raids when a “wipe” (a situation in which all players in the raid die) was imminent, and the hunter wanted to avoid running back or paying repair costs. Our hunter officer was quite a fan of this ability. When the battles began to look fishy, I would often notice him flop to the ground and go limp as the creatures tore through our friends and allies one after another. Granted, many times there was nothing we could do for them and I would plop right down next to him, but there were many occasions in which he was a bit premature in his judgment of certain doom. One night I had the guild leader and his girlfriend over at my house, and we were all playing in my living room, my 47” television acting as my monitor. We were mid raid when we made a mistake and attracted the attention of too many creatures. As we fought valiantly, some of our ranks began to falter, and a certain hunter plopped to the ground. I jumped up from my seat, “See! See! Look at Jim on the ground feigning death! I told you he does it!” as I held the line and continued the fight. Given we were on team speak, our leader promptly gave out the command “Jim, get the fuck up”. Jim replied “Ok.” And resumed battle. While many of us died in the fight, we ended up surviving the battle and were able to quickly resurrect everyone and continue onward instead of having to journey all the way back.
These interactions provide an excellent example how these interactions in virtual worlds have real life effects and consequences. An interaction in a virtual world is no different from a telephone call (an example I borrow from Boellstorff1). You cannot dismiss interactions in a virtual world as “not real”, yet accept the validity of a telephone call. Both means of interactions create a separate space, a virtual space, in which interactions and communication takes place, and upon hanging up the telephone, or logging out of the virtual world, we leave these spaces and return to the “real” world with the experiences and knowledge we just had/gained in these virtual spaces.
This leads me to a rather sour note in my World of Warcraft and real-life experiences, but one I shouldn’t leave out for the sake of being honest and complete in cataloging my experiences. One night (*sigh*, I’m blaming you again Jim, don’t hate me), we found ourselves in a bored mood and antsy about our raid schedule. Due to real life events, it hadn’t taken place as scheduled the previous night, and there was no announcement if we were going to complete or raid for the week before it reset (you were only allowed to participate in one version of each raid per week). We took notice that two of our guild officers (Jim being one of them) had joined a raid for a different boss and completed it without the guild (meaning they could not participate/help the guild complete its version now). When we inquired as to why they would do such a thing, they stated it was unlikely we were going to do it as a guild that week anyway. Given this information, five of us decided to go and do Naxx with another guild (A rival guild at that, we found the irony in it amusing). The guild officers of course were quite upset, and didn’t by the reasoning “we were just doing what you did”. Our guild leader got on shortly after we had begun and started to ask what was going on. The discussion quickly became heated as the leader sided with our officers and many of the members who had gone on this rival raid became belligerent. While I avoided using the language and tactics that the other members were using in the “discussion”, I none-the-less sided with them. The guild leader’s girlfriend who had joined us in our little escapade remained silent, and therefore also became the target of the member’s frustration. Kicks and guild quits quickly followed as four of our members left for good. Being a friend of the guild leader, he expressed his disappointment in me and demoted me to the rank of “in the dog house”. Insulted by this label, I shouted out something probably not so mature, and left the guild.
While all of this was occurring we were still actively participating not only in the rival guilds raid, but their voice chat channel as well (all our guild arguments were being carried out via guild chat (typed)). The other members were complaining about the events that had just transpired, and then one of the rival guilds members noted “Hey wait, Trieze is unguilded now too, weren’t those his real life friends?” I replied with a simple “yes”, and then they began to talk about how “rough” and “harsh” that was. Being a player dedicated to the task at hand, I had simply obliterated the DPS charts on our current boss (I scored really really high and a program measured this and stated this to the entire guild) and a rare and powerful bow dropped that was meant for my class. Normally in a guild you either randomly distribute such an item to those that can use it, or officers decide who needs or deserves it the most and awards it to them. However, because this group was not completely composed of their guild, it wasn’t so simple. The general rule of thumb for a mixed group is to simply type /roll, which generates a random number between 1 and 100 and is in essence simulating a dice roll. The player who rolls the highest is awarded the item. Very excited about this rare item, I waited anxiously in fear that this rival guild may simply award it to one of their hunters (two were present) instead of allowing the chance of it going to a rival. Fortunately someone spoke up on my behalf “Well “so-and-so” and “other guy” performed like shit, we should probably just give it to Trieze”. It was true, while I had placed first on the damage meters, they were near last. Given the fact that hunters mainly served the purpose of generating damage and nothing else, they were considered not doing their jobs if they could not place high on the damage meters. After a brief discussion, it was decided and they simply handed the item over to me. They were a guild known for being loud mouths, constantly joking, harassing each other, and never afraid to point out each other’s faults. They also demonstrated that they reward those we excel. After receiving the bow I said “hey, send me a guild invite”, and joined their guild.
This occurrence of course created a problem. My ex-guild leader, my friend, messaged me stating that things don’t have to be this way and all would be overlooked if I rejoined the guild. I stated that I didn’t want to be in more incidents that generated more real-life consequences, and that this new guild had already awarded me a bow for my effort. My friend pointed out that it was probably just a ploy to get me to join them. He was probably right, but regardless, it was ideal at the time. It didn’t majorly change our relationships in the real life. I would still visit them, hang out, and have conversations on any topic (that wasn’t WoW related). In game our communications were limited if we had them at all, and even when I tried to help out with tips for raids, I was often ignored and seen to be trying to interfere. My WoW experience with the new rival guild went along just fine. I continued to perform as their top hunter, and in return I received good loot and was never ridiculed or treated the fool by them. My “power” as a player (not to be confused with any “political” power in the guild) afforded me the luxury of not having to be involved in their nonsense. After a few short weeks with the guild, I began to lose interest in the game as I had attained the best gear possible and WoW had little to offer me. Also, the second in command of that guild ended up stealing the entire guilds warehouse (where guild valuables are saved) and transferring to a different server. That guild ended up breaking up, and I ended up quitting.
Despite all of these events, I still remember this as the Golden era of my WoW days, and we fondly talk about the days in which we played together, all the fun we had leveling up together, our launch party, and how enjoyable running through Naxx was as a powerful guild largely composed of real life friends. These interactions in the game only served to enhance our real life interactions, even though not all of the interactions were positive. These types of occurrences are a testament to the effect and value of interactions in virtual worlds and how they can supplement our real life experiences. Ever since our time in World of Warcraft, we have attempted to find another MMORPG in which we could all unite and attempt to play together. Many of us attempted Age of Conan, Aion, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2, and even returned to WoW for a brief stint. All of these games I tackled alongside my WoW guild leader and friend.
In part 3 of my World of Warcraft article, I will discuss our return to World of Warcraft in the Mists of Pandaria expansion, and why it was such a brief stint and our disappointment with not only World of Warcraft, but the genre as a whole. In other articles I will also address all the other games I mentioned us attempting.
As I became dissatisfied with the available private Lineage 2 servers, I still shied away from Official Lineage 2 servers, as the amount of time required for leveling was much more than I was willing to commit. I was actively involved in a certain forum group that had been following the development of Lineage 2 private servers from the beginning, and I had my own ideas for how to make Lineage 2 a fresh and fascinating experience. While there were many attempts on my part to create Lineage 2 servers (one of them revolving around a custom story line and player controlled role-play events), my biggest move in this field was purchasing a machine capable of hosting the official server files (not the emulated files). Having set this machine up and demonstrating running the server, I was invited to host the official server for this forum group.
I was able to recoup some of my expenses by offering rewards in exchange for donations. As I have described in other articles, players would donate a certain amount of real life cash to receive in-game items in exchange. Despite being on a popular MMO server file site, Lineage 2 was declining in popularity at the time and I rarely had over 50 players logged on at a time on my server. After a couple months, I took it down.
A couple months later a developer of Lineage 2 server files using java came about and took up the job of hosting the forums Lineage 2 server. He asked for my assistance (most likely a courtesy), and I became a part of his GM (Game Master) team. His server had originated prior to it being hosted on the server, and since the owner developed his own server files pack, he also attracted players through that. His head GM was a female named Madison. Unfortunately, she and I conflicted on our ideas of how to best serve the player community. Whereas I preferred interacting with the players and coming up with creative events, she preferred dishing out punishment and carrying out her will over the other players. She often conflicted with me on the most basic of subjects, and this led to me stepping down as a GM and merely being a player.
As a player I once again led my own clan, Chaos Legion, and attempted to compete with the other clans. The server was heavily dominated by a single alliance of the strongest players, and anyone who stood in opposition were deemed enemies and killed on site. They were an elitist organization, which clashed with my ideology of providing a gaming environment in which everyone was welcomed and appreciated. Being the strongest alliance, they were able to secure all of the Castles in Lineage 2 for themselves.
It is every clan’s dream to own a castle, but they were intent on owning them all, and would even show up to sieges to kill all the other players just for fun to prevent them from obtaining any castles. I ended up buying an account off of one of the members of this alliance who was quitting. I used his top level character and created a clan called “Ace” (meant to represent ace up the sleeve). On siege day, my clan Chaos Legion assaulted Giran Castle (one of the most profitable), and relentlessly flung ourselves into certain death for 110 minutes. At this point I commanded my squad to hang on just a little longer, and logged onto the other character, who was already inside the other that that alliance controlled. As the siege time was nearly over, and Giran had attracted the attention of their entire alliance, I was able to capture the castle and they were unable to get back to it in time to prevent me. Granted, this accomplishment was only managed due to the fact that these private server files had a bug and did not automatically remove all players who log in to a siege zone to the nearest town like official files do. We had managed to create our own alliance and take one of their castles. They were of course quite displeased and sieged it two weeks later, however many of us had quit at this time since we had accomplished the best we could on this server.
That is it for my stories, thoughts, and actions regarding Lineage 2. It was quite pleasant and truly one of the most enjoyable MMO’s I have ever played. It went free to play in 2012, however the game had since become heavily influenced by other MMO’s such as WoW, making the game dramatically easier to level up, however still requiring a heavy late game grind. Other changes were made to ensure players get better gear faster, and making large parts of the world useless. This is a problem that has affected many MMO’s as of late, and you will see it as a theme in my other articles. I hope you enjoyed my coverage of Lineage 2, and there will be a bit more to come later on as I am currently developing ideas for a project!
Over New Years I visited with some friends of mine and they introduced me to an anime called Sword Art Online. Like the anime .hack// I had mentioned previously, it involves a player becoming stuck in a virtual world, him and 9,999 other people. The developer of the game introduces himself and tells them they are all stuck in the virtual world until they can beat it. They are stuck because they all put on virtual reality head-gear that links into their nervous system. I haven’t finished the series as of yet, but I am quite fascinated by it, and it leaves me yearning for the times when MMO’s gave you the sense of accomplishment and life style as presented in this anime.
As you know by now (I hope) my major MMO experiences come from Lineage 2 (good) and World of Warcraft (meh). As I’ve mentioned in Lineage (and somethings I haven’t), the players deeply interacted with one another. At any moment players could come across each other (as the world was all instance-free), and they could communicate, form a party, or even kill each other if they so desired. There was no dungeon finders or raid finders (as these zones weren’t instanced off, I don’t know how they would work anyway). Players often gathered parties in town and set out from there. They had to actually communicate and establish goals and strategies. You couldn’t just hit a button and have it find a group for you and instantly transport you to the area. Much of my criticism for World of Warcraft has been how damaging it has been to the MMO genre as a whole. Sure it’s attracted millions to MMO’s, but at what cost? I would go on to express my view point on it, but it’s better summed up in this article from a WoW dev “Have MMO’s become too Easy?” Yes, they have.
Like mentioned in the article, this constant hand holding and stream of quests drives players form 1 area to the next, without requiring them to think or appreciate the are around them. Every action they do is meaningless since the only objective is to reach the end-game. This leaves the quests to be stream-lined as possible, and the majority of these virtual worlds going unnoticed as the players don’t spend long enough in them to care.
In Lineage, every level was an accomplishment, for it could take days or weeks to gain a single level. Obtaining a rare sword was a matter of pride, and you wore it in town to stand out. World of Warcraft has made the norm so that no one really cares about other players or even interacting, it’s all about personal development and that almighty “Raid-Finder” button that gives players access to what the need without any effort or socializing. In Lineage 2, people would recognize your name when they saw you, and it was quite frequent to have people messaging you commenting on how great your gear looked and asking you how to get it.
But World of Warcraft’s massive success has caused everyone to pay attention and begin to adapt their games to be more like WoW. This has led to what is seen as a “WoWification” of games, as they adopt this “cookie-cutter” model. Even Lineage has fallen victim to this, and I hope to soon experience just how much when I hopefully play it a bit later this year again. This recent inflinux of gamers, though looking great on the outside as stereotypes and stigma’s fade away as more and more people from all backgrounds begin to associate themselves with gamers, has led to several damaging implementations in the gaming world. While this is a topic in and of itself, I will identify a few trends that 10 years ago would have never been thought viable: Charging for Online play (Xbox Live), Charging for Game features/maps (Most games today), Buying items from GM shop (“pay 2 win” MMO’s). Alas, this new wave of gamers seems just fine shelling out cash for these features, and demanding games be made more accessible to accommodate busy life styles. This leaves us core gamers feeling unsatisfied as the games are tailored more for these “spur of the moment” contributors, instead of loyal fan bases.
All hope is not lost though. South Korea still publishes a great amount of MMO’s, and many new ones are coming out with new features: Archeage, Black Desert in particular. These offer us “sandbox” worlds instead of “themepark”, and stand to change the way we view and play MMO’s as they are laregly based upon player creation and interaction rather than hand-holding questing. Here in the states we also have Everquest Next to look forward too, which also offers a sandbox world, and features such as having to complete quests out in the world to acquire new classes, something perhaps akin to Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn’s system of class changing (Which also appeared to be a promising MMO at the time of writing this). It’s games like these that have encouraged me to look to studying how gamers will transition and interact in these “sandbox” worlds that are fast approaching, and I hope they bring us back to the old style of Virtual worlds where players actually meant something.