MMOholics Anonymous Level 1

Hi, my name is Lee, and I’m an MMOholic. I’ve been hooked on them for about 4 years now. Some of you have probably read me before, but I’ll give a little brief rundown on myself in general. I’ve written for the site in its past incarnations (411 Games, Inside Pulse, and now Diehard Gamefan), and I’ve always been an RPG fan in general, but in the past several years, my emphasis has shifted from traditional RPGs to the next big thing, Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG).

This column is all about those time sinks, and will cover big news on all titles, and a lot of commentary and editorializing. I will try to be as non-specific as I can. Being as this is an introductory piece, I’ll cover mainly my beginnings with the genre, and how I got to this point.

It started with a little known title called Horizons: Empire of Istaria (and was recently lamely renamed to Istaria: Chronicles of the Gifted. I previously had never played one, and honestly thought the concept of paying $50 for a PC game and then having to pay money every month to continue playing to be foolish. But some of my buddies were playing it, so I figured I would give it a shot.

What hooked me was the crafting system. I thought it was so much fun to be able to level up a character (which is not unlike standard RPGs) and be able to make my own armor. I’d spend hours playing the game only for the crafting aspect, but advanced to a point where my crafting was much higher than my level, and I had to increase said level to be able to farm for better materials. The problem was the combat was pretty boring.

It just so happens this was about the time I was accepted into the Beta of a little game called World of Warcraft. I was hooked instantly. The story was incredible, the graphics were beautiful, and most importantly, it was so much fun.

I’ve played WoW on and off ever since. I have quit playing several times, either due to burnout or in-game drama or real life drama, but I always keep coming back. I used to deny the fact that I was addicted. I would buy console titles and put off playing them, saying “I’ll take a week off from WoW and play that game” but it rarely happens.

I’ve tried pretty much every other MMO under the sun. On my many breaks from WoW I’ve tried as many different titles. I typically avoid buying them sight unseen, simply because I know what I like, and it’s hard to top that. I have had mixed success with titles I have paid for. I bought The Matrix Online, and boy was that a mistake. It was right around launch, so in addition to the ever present bugs, it simply was not fun. The combat was somewhat unique, but didn’t flow well, and even though I had a really good computer at the time, the game just ran like crap. Another game I bought was City of Heroes/Villains. It was moderately fun. The character creation is still the best ever, but the gameplay itself gets rather old. Having the different powers is nice, but just going “ok, NOW what” all the time gets old. Too many of the missions are the same exact thing. And the storyline just isn’t that great to me. Lastly, I bought Star Wars Galaxies. I actually tried the trial and thought it was pretty fun, but after getting the game itself, I lost interest quickly. The worlds are massive, and have nice little communities, but the game allowed for too much automation, which made things very annoying when going to a spaceport and seeing people spam all around you. The game had a lot of potential, but just wasn’t near as good as it could be. I haven’t played since they screwed over all the people who DID like it and revamped the game completely. It may be better now, but I don’t know.

No, I decided that trying games first is a more intelligent decision, so that’s what I’ve been doing since. I’ve tried a lot of the Asian Free MMO titles, but almost every single one of those boil down to cutesy or really nice graphics, awful translation, terrible gameplay, and way too much grinding, which I define as having to kill enemy after enemy for experience. Usually there are few quests to give you incentive to do so, and you have to kill many thousands of enemies simply to get to that next level. And then you have to do it again. Some of the best titles in this vein are from gPotato. I’m not saying these games are really that bad, but they definitely are not of my taste. They just never seem as polished as their American Counterparts. But many people love them.

Hell, people like Runescape, which is about as bad as it gets graphically. And people still play Ultima Online, which I actually was in the beta for, but couldn’t play it because my computer was out of date.

The one game I really enjoyed (and come to think of it, I bought it too), other than WoW, was Lord of the Rings Online. It is set in the beloved Middle Earth and has great quests and combat. They pretty much took everything good that WoW did, and made it their own. Then again, WoW did the same thing with what was done before. The difference is WoW did it will more passion, and LOTRO just seems more generic. Still, from what I’ve played, LOTRO is about the best out there to compete with WoW.

Of course, Age of Conan just came out, and it’s supposed to be fun, but I will wait for a trial before putting money down. Warhammer Online looks to be by far the best potential competition, so I have it preordered and I actually WANT it to succeed. The scheduled release date is actually next month, but since they haven’t opened the beta up like they promised to pre-order customers, which means they will be working up until the deadline, and the game will ship in an incomplete state. That is never good.

But, I have the best of hope for the future. I WANT a game to be as good as WoW, but it will take a lot of hard work. I hope that someone out there is up to the challenge.

Well, if you made it this far, I hope you return next time, where it will be more normal. I’ll talk about whatever I want, so hopefully it’ll be good. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, give me a shout at lbaxley@diehardgamefan.com.

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