Ask the Kliq #14
Every once in a while, you will think about video games and then ask yourself a question that has no rhyme or reason, but that just happened to pop in your head at that exact moment. In some rare instances, not even Google or Wikipedia can provide the answer you need. Sometimes you wouldn’t even need an answer to that question.
This is where we come in.
Our panel of experts is here to take on all of your video games-related questions, no matter how serious or silly they may be. With each new edition, we will submit a question to this elite committee, which will in turn try to provide you, our beloved readers, with the most accurate answer they can come up with.
Do you have a question for us? Shoot us an e-mail at kapoutman AT hotmail.com with the subject line “Ask the Kliq”, or leave a comment below. The best questions will be featured in an upcoming column.
This Week’s Question
This week’s question comes to us from Scot, a friendly reader from Alberta, Canada. No mention of Calgary though, which would have been worth extra points, especially if emphasis was placed on the city while saying the whole thing in a deliberate, slow pace. He asks:
“Here’s a good one for you guys: Do any of you play MMORPG? If so, which one, and if not, what’s missing from the genre to get you to try it?”
So this week, a reader actually wants to know more about the fine writers who put their talent to DHGF’s service. We love to talk about ourselves as much as we love to talk about video games, so it is with a lot of pleasure that we will answer this question.
Alex Lucard: I’ve tried a few but they’ve never been my thing. Phantasy Star Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online have been the only two I actually liked and played for any substantial amount of time.
My problems with MMORPG’s are threefold
1) PVP inspires people to be assholes to each other and I’m not down with that
2) I am strongly against paying a monthly fee for a video game
3) I need my RPG’s to be equal parts story and gameplay and well, MMORPG’s are generally REALLY lacking in story.
Both DDO and PSO lacked two of those three issues (Not #2), although DDO has recently set up a free version of itself and if I didn’t have a backlog of about twenty games, I’d consider playing it again. I played a cleric so there was always a group of people who wanted me on board for an adventure or two.
I have enjoyed MMORPG spin-offs like Ragnarok DS and Champions of Norrath. I just haven’t found any of them fun, be it Conan, Warhammer, Megaten Online, World of Warcraft or Everquest. It’s a hack and slash without the story.
That being said I WILL be getting the DC Universe MMORPG as fans of Diehard GameFAN and myself will be making Cobra: The Enemy from G.I. Joe in the game for amusement value and fun. We’ll all be playing on the PS3 version so you’re more than welcome to join our ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world.
Aaron Sirois: I once tried the free trial for WoW, but quickly discovered that my inclinations were right. The game merely wasn’t meant for me, no matter how much I loved Warcraft.
I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I do not like to grind. Nor do I relish the idea of standing around waiting for a healer or something of the sort to join my group so we can finally start a raid.
It mostly has to do with my lack of appreciation for delayed gratification. I’m a man of action in video games. If there isn’t some sort of progression going on, I’m not happy. It means there are several genres I just don’t get into, mostly games with some sort of Role Playing action. I can play the pen and paper games because they keep me engaged, but wandering around hoping for a random drop to give me an item I need to progress is not my cup of tea.
That being said, if they ever made a Pokemon MMO, I’d have to try it for the sake of curiosity.
Oh yeah, and I hate the idea of buying a game and then paying extra for the right to play it. Subscription services won’t get a dime from me if I can help it.
Ashe Collins: Currently I’m playing Star Trek Online, Guild Wars and all its expansions, and my favorite of the three: Dungeons and Dragons Online Eberron Unlimited.
Star Trek Online I’m playing for the starships. I’ve yet to truly get involved with a social guild. My guess is that pure Star Trek nerds (I’m way into Star Trek but people don’t terrify me) aren’t social butterflies so it’s hard to make connections there. So basically I’m playing it as a starship simulator and occasionally hook up with other captains on quests. To be honest I haven’t played it in almost two weeks. There’s less of a grind with this but there is a frequent repeat of the quest story-lines. Variety is lacking.
Guild Wars was really my first MMO that I played the hell out of. I liked it because it lacked a monthly fee and only cost me the price of the game itself. Guild Wars has PvP in it but there are a ton of areas that aren’t which is more my style. I liked that this game was flexible. You had a limited skill bar but you could change out your entire skill set in the nearest town and set yourself up for what you had to fight in a new area giving you a unique flexibility. But Guild Wars was still lacking. You could only play one race, and some other staples from other MMOs were missing, but the game was fast paced and the only grind was when you were looking for a particular item or crafting drop as the level cap was 20 and it was very easy to get to it long before you beat the game which put most everyone on the same footing when it came to PvP and how you planned out your PvE missions.
The one I’m currently playing and haven’t waned from is Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited. The initial cost makes it easy to get into, IT’S FREE. By simply playing the game on different servers with different characters you can literally unlock everything that another player who has paid for the content can. It is a grind that way but if you don’t want to shell out money out of pocket you never have to. For me though, it made sense to put in enough cash to buy the packs and a few other account perks, and now you wouldn’t be able to tell my account from a VIP (monthly fee players) except for a few minor perks. The game plays a lot like a table-top version of D&D, or at least captures the feel for me. Unlike the other two games above, the game has in-mic chat so you don’t have to have a server on the side for voice, the game is fairly balanced towards a balanced party and less on hitters except for two or three areas late in the game, but goes back to a more balanced party for the last set of quests at level 20, the current cap. That and people actually converse in this game. It’s far more social than either of the two above and because of that, a lot more fun for me.
I’m looking forward to Bioware’s delve into the genre. Bring on the Old Republic.
Guy Desmarais: I never tried an MMORPG. The closest I have come to playing that kind of game is Call of Duty 4 and other shooters where you level up by playing online. However, I wouldn’t call it an RPG at all, and the concept of levelling up in these games is so vague and unrewarding that I don’t think it could even classify in the same category. There’s also the fact that the multiplayer mode lacks any kind of coherent story, instead simply offering the game’s engine as a way to snipe people and never move, like a jerk, or to stab people in the back like an annoying prick.
The reason why I don’t play MMORPG is because I lack the patience to play a single character, care about him and build him up for a long while before it becomes even remotely effective. It doesn’t mean that I am only after instant gratification, but I do like being able to play a game and being relatively competitive from the start. This is why I can tolerate online shooters. Maybe my weapons aren’t as flashy as those from higher levels, and maybe my armor is less effective, but I can still kill other people if I can shoot right. On the other hand, just watching my friend grinding his way to different levels day in and day out on World of Warcraft is painful, and I’m not even the one playing. I can tolerate class management and other stuff associated to RPGs if it’s offline, because I can take days off if I feel like it. In fact, most RPGs I start never get finished, because a lot of them are guilty of requiring level grinding in order to proceed. I have a hard time tolerating that, even offline. I’m a patient man, but I need to feel like what I am doing has a purpose.
With that said, I am intrigued by the upcoming Lego Universe MMORPG. However, that comes more from my love of building things from Lego than my love of MMORPG, which is non-existent. I have no idea how the game will actually work, but if it’s anything like playing real Lego was when I was young, which is to say collect pieces and build bad-ass spaceships to destroy my brother’s less bad-ass spaceships, then I will be all over that game.
Christopher Bowen: Like Aaron, I also tried the free trial for WOW. I lasted a grand total of… three hours? Maybe? However long it took me, it didn’t take long before I realized I hated the game, and by extension, all I have multiple reasons why I hate MMOs, some of which have been addressed by Alex and Aaron, but all of them are relevant:
* Monthly fees. This wouldn’t bother me so much if the games themselves were free, like Maplestory. But World of Warcraft was something like $40 when it first came out just to play it. Aion was $50, Final Fantasy XI was premium priced, and others were premium charge as well. That’s just to take the game home. AFTER that, there’s the monthly fee. Before you get four months into the game, you’re $100 in the hole, and still paying. If you stop playing, your character is unusable. It’s a constant money drain, which then turns it into a mandatory…
* Time drain. If you’re paying $16/mo. for the right to play a game you’ve already spent money on just to bring home, you feel obligated to spend as much time on it as possible. Furthermore, just to be able to keep up with other players that play with you, you have to keep playing; if you take a week off to go on vacation, get some work done, or pay some attention to a significant other, you’re all of a sudden many levels behind your normal mates. You’ve officially become useless to them, and have to find others to play with, since most bosses in MMOs take military precision and numbers necessary to take third world countries. All that time I would normally spend grinding in a game like WoW is time I’m spending not playing any of the literally thousands of other games that I own and don’t cost me a monthly fee.
Hey, speaking of grinding!
* Fetch Quests. My time in WoW was cut short by the tasks I was given to do. After creating my dwarf-like thing, I got my first quest: gather five of something that I had to kill enemies for. Ok, no problem. Then, I got another quest: gather eight of something else. Alright, whatever. By my fifth quest, I was literally being told to go somewhere and kill enough enemies to gather SEVENTEEN of some stupid item – with a mediocre drop rate – to finish the quest. If I took a paying job that told me to do nothing but gather things for my boss, I would find another job as soon as humanly possible. I see no reason to play games that incorporate jobs meant for low paying interns, especially when I’m paying for the privilege.
* I hate people. This isn’t exclusive to MMOs; ask anyone that knows me, and they will tell you that the #1 thing I hate about being a videogame reviewer is that it’s necessary for me to play online to test out a game that has online elements. They usually know when I’m doing it because I turn into a miserable bastard. My #1 rule of playing videogames is that I try never to play with someone who I can’t punch in the face, because having that ability would remove any desire for the morons you see online – either in an MMO, on XBox Live or wherever – to be the pieces of shit usually are. I’ve been called a faggot more times in the past two years then in the previous 28 combined, usually by a child who hasn’t hit puberty yet. What can I do about it? They’re online, behind an anonymous veiner, and I can’t punch them in the face like I would someone in my living room who talked to me like that. I can either tolerate this kind of shit, or remember that I’m thirty years old and move onto something more constructive.
MMOs not only feature online play, it makes it a requirement. I find this counterproductive, especially if I’m on a company-owned server whose ideas of moderation are either to do nothing or burn everything with a holy fire. When some zit-faced teenager on a power trip can singlehandedly end my experience with a game, that’s not a game that I have any inclination to keep playing.
* I need results, fast. If there’s anything I play a lot of, it’s sports games. I put a lot of time into them, but at least there’s a goal. I can pick up a sports game, play one game of a season, and put it down. I didn’t win? OK, next year’s coming. Furthermore, I don’t have to go through spring training or training camp to grind for power against left handed hitters. (Games that require that in some way or another quickly find themselves relegated to the scrap heap).
* No guarantee your investment will be worth it. I addressed the MMO graveyard last year, but people that bought Age of Conan new have a right to feel like they got fucked in the deal; all of their investment is essentially worthless.
In short, I don’t like MMOs by nature, even the free ones like Maplestory. However, I like the handheld versions of Phantasy Star Online and Maplestory, so it has less to do with the games than it does with the fact that I just really hate playing with people I don’t know and can’t hit.
Sean Madson: I have sort of a love/hate relationship with MMO’s. On the one hand, if you have a group of friends that play one, especially if you don’t all live in the same location anymore, it’s a great way to stay in touch and game with them. On the other hand, they cost a monthly fee and if you aren’t playing them religiously, you feel like you’re falling behind everyone else and throwing money away all at the same time. I can identify with both sides of the coin, as I’m a recovering MMO addict.
I played World of Warcraft consistently for about four years. Before that, I dabbled in Ultima Online, Phantasy Star Online, and Final Fantasy XI. If there’s one thing these titles have in common, it’s that I knew people who played them before signing up myself. And when those friends played less or quit altogether, I did as well. To do otherwise is pointless, in my opinion. Sure, I’ve met a lot of cool people in MMO’s, some of which I still stay in touch with today. But for the most part, strangers in online games generally rub me the wrong way. The same is true in other types of games that are played online. The biggest reason is accountability. Like Chris put it, if you are not in range to knock someone flat on their ass, there’s nothing to prevent them from being a total prick to you, which is often the case. I would rather LAN games under the same roof, or even better, play some split screen couch co-op.
This isn’t to say I’ll never play another MMO again. On the contrary, I would like to try Final Fantasy XIV when that comes out. But when I look back at all the time I’ve dwelled in World of Warcraft, aside from some incredibly fun raids with my friends, all that time spent farming random crap could’ve been put to better use doing other things. Even if it is just playing another game.
A.J. Hess: I’ve been a tabletop gamer for a long time. That is what I’ve been looking for whenever I dangle my feet into the world of the MMORPG. I keep getting sucked in and then running back out. I tried Anarchy Online first, and then didn’t do much of anything for a while. AO had some interesting ideas, but the early days of those games were pretty hard to play if you didn’t have God’s own internet connection and a super computer. So I ignored the genre until, of course, World of Warcraft.
Oddly enough, my little sister got me to start playing. I fell in love with the world of Azeroth almost instantly. Of course, having played the hell out of the Warcraft trilogy didn’t hurt. Here I was, running around the world that I’d been controlling from the top down for so long. I played the game like a second job for about six months, and my real job had me working second shift. My routine became get up at 8:00am, play WoW till 1:30pm, go to work from 2:00pm to 11:00pm, and come home and fall in bed. Being hunched over various computer monitors for fifteen+ hours a day takes a toll on a person. In the end, I gave up WoW. Not only for the physical stupidity I was inflicting upon myself, but also-as others will probably point out-the inherent issues in the system. Grinding quests, spending more time finding a group than playing with the group, and endless fetch-quests don’t help anyone, but they are still bedrock for MMORPGs.
All that said, I still have fond memories of guiding my Blood Elf Paladin throughout the world of Azeroth, and I’m very tempted to reactivate my account when the next expansion hits. I realize now that I fell in love with the world, not the game. Blizzard created a wonderful place to play in, but a terrible way to play. Most MMORPG games, when you get right down to it, are designed to waste time. Look at that ability cool-down bar the next time you are playing, and divide the time it takes to cast Frost Nova by the amount of time left in the month. Or how long it takes to go from city to city. That type of time-sink, as much as anything else, keeps me from going back in.
Ian Gorrie: I, too, had deep roots in tabletop gaming. Much of those friends made Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights dates where everyone would get on the internet at the same time and use Teamspeak or Ventrilo. I really couldn’t make the time commitment.
I’ve always dabbled a bit in MMOs. I played Ultima Online about a hundred years ago when it was new. I believe our relationship was deep and meaningful for about three months. These were the glory days of PKs. The monsters were hard and were completely random. You could be walking through the forest killing deer and bunnies and such one moment. The next you might be running from spell casting vampires and elder demons. Thankfully, the hide skill was completely abusable and nothing could find you if you used it. Unless there was a PK around casting area effect spells until you died, and then they would loot your corpse.
There were a lot of aspects from MUDs present in it which made an easy transition from those that enjoyed the never ending grindfest of text based games. Persistant and ownable houses and castles where you could drop loot on the floor and give friends the ability to open your front door were fun. Fun until that day that someone you pissed off hides next to your front door and waits for someone to open it and then runs inside and quits to come back later and loot your house and perhaps memorize a point in your house to teleport or gate in some more friends later on.
It really was a golden age for abuse.
After the romance was over, and it didn’t take long, I quit MMOs until Ragnarok Online‘s international release. This was a freemium game but was cutsey and highly attractive. The whole prettiness of the game is what kept me playing. That, and I didn’t have to spend any money to maintain a character.
As before, I eventually got tired of grinding away at it and posted a thread on a fandom board describing the rare loot I had and that whoever had the best reason could have my account. I ended up giving it to a younger brother that wouldn’t otherwise be able to catch up with his older brother’s level so that they could play together. They might still be playing for all I know.
Last, I was able to acquire an invite to the closed beta of the highly anticipated World of Warcraft. It was full of bugs and the idea was that you would /bug [details here] to report them so that people could fix them. It was fun to help out but the game was really empty since it was only people who knew a Blizzard employee who were able to play at that point.
Following my past track record when I became busy enough where I knew I wasn’t going to play anymore, I gave my account to a friend that was working in some kind of computer cafe environment for him to play (what was left of) his brains out. I assume that he stopped playing when WoW launched, but I’m not sure.
I’m not sure if my lifestyle will support getting into another MMORPG. I might try the next Final Fantasy MMO or perhaps another freemium game. I really depends on the fee structure and if it is any fun to play with the people the hardcores who spend every waking hour reaching the level cap in a month. Hopefully the trend of putting in healthy break periods in MMOs where XP is given as only a fraction of regular until you quit for a while and go outside will continue to discourage addiction and complete loss of self.
Mark B.: So after thinking about this question a bit I realized, “Jesus Christ, I’ve played a whole lot of MMO’s.” I’m not sure I wanted to know that about myself, but it’s out in the world so I guess we might as well go with it.
I started out with Ultima Online, which I played for about a month, back when there weren’t dedicated PVP/Non-PVP servers. Back in those days, going out into the woods to chop lumber was entirely likely to get you killed by other players because there was no law, and no one was particularly interested in being the internet janitor. Needless to say, I was unimpressed and gave up.
Next was Everquest, which also kept me interested for about a month. At that point, I was on dial-up internet and between the slow transfer rate and my piece of shit computer, the game ran poorly and loading took forever. I also wasn’t impressed with the need to retrieve your dead body from whatever location it ended up being in, and I think I managed to make it to Level 20 before I said “No, thanks” and gave up.
I kind of avoided MMO’s after that until my roommate introduced me to Earth and Beyond, which I actually kind of enjoyed for several months. I played as a Jenquai Defender, if that makes sense to someone out there, and I actually managed to make some great progress in the game. I liked the ability to simply tell the game “warp me here” and avoid most all of the agro from point A to point B, as well as the ability to make trade runs between sectors for money and experience points, as both made the game a good bit more interesting and simpler than most other games in the genre, but I couldn’t commit interest to the game after a couple months and I kind of just stopped caring.
The next game to attract my interest was Ragnarok Online, and I, along with Mr. J. Rose and Shawn PC, started our very own guild on there, dubbed “We Speak English”. Because most of the players didn’t, you see. Ragnarok was one of the first games I devoted any sort of real time to, mostly because I had friends playing the game and hung out with them more than anything else, but the game was also astonishingly simple and very fun when you were in a zone where no one was bothering you. Alas, the game went to a “pay to play” model and we had reached a point where making further progress seemed nearly impossible, so we simply gave up on playing the game at about that point, but the game stands as the only one where I leveled a character to what one would deem “high level”.
And then came Final Fantasy XI. Oddly enough, I hadn’t expected to spend much time with the game at all, but I expected to play it somewhat since it was going to come with the PS2 hard drive, and I wanted the hard drive for what I assumed would be a large amount of games that would be compatible with it. This is because I’m a moron, you see. Regardless, once again Mr. J. Rose and Shawn PC jumped into the game with me, only this time we joined an actual existing guild, or Linkshell as the game called it, and started making progress. From soloing outside of Bastok to partying in the Valkrum Dunes, to walking through heavy agro zones to party out on the isle of Quifim, to getting my Airship Pass to go to Khazam so I could spend six levels in the jungle ALL SO I COULD EARN THE RIGHT TO BE A PALADIN, my game experience was… less than stellar, as one might say. That said, the fact that I could walk around as Grimreaver the Paladin was a pretty great accomplishment for me, and…
Yes, I named my Paladin Grimreaver, okay? Shut up.
Anyway, for reasons that to this day elude me I continued playing for a while, leveling back up to a respectable level forty-something before realizing I’d never be able to organize enough people to help me achieve my Limit Break quests, let alone earn me my Artifact Armor, and it was about then that I said “nah” and gave up, some two years later. Yes, TWO YEARS. I made slow progress, I don’t know what to tell you.
Since then I’ve dabbled in other MMO’s here and there, but none have managed to catch my interest. City of Heroes was neat, but the game felt like a grind-a-thon and I didn’t like the lack of cool gear as you level up. World of Warcraft seemed to be well structured, but I didn’t like the combat system or the constant zone chat notifications that Paladins were a horrible class every twenty minutes. Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine was interesting in design, but felt too much like older MMO’s to be exciting, and frankly, I lack the time any more to commit to it. The only MMO on the horizon I’ve looked at more than once was Final Fantasy XIV, mostly because IT LOOKS LIKE FINAL FANTASY XI and that’s hilarious.
Besides, I can play Monster Hunter Tri online for free and it simulates the same experience, so why bother?
Aileen Coe: I used to play a few MMORPGs, among them being Phantasy Star Online, Conquer Online, and Ragnarok (and a very brief stint with Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine). Nowadays, I don’t really play them, partly due to a lack of systems to play them on and partly because they don’t appeal to me so much anymore.
I’m generally OK with some grinding (key word being some), and I do like building up characters into killing machines. But I tend to be a more introverted gamer and like being able to do some things on my own without having to depend on other people (though, yes, with the right people playing in a group is fun). Naturally, this sort of temperament doesn’t jive terribly well with an MMO. While my brushes with any of the civility challenged are fairly tame in comparison, I’ve been hit on in various sleazy ways a few times and called a lesbian (yeah, I don’t know either). When I was just starting out in Conquer Online, I encountered one high levelled guy who took pleasure in chasing after me, repeatedly killing me, and looting my stuff (joke’s on him: I had nothing of worth to steal, and the NPC guard nailed him when I retreated into town). With stuff like this I can roll my eyes, laugh it off, and move it, but still, such experiences aren’t very conductive to me being more of a people person online.
That’s not to say I had all negative experiences, though. I joined a guild in Phantasy Star Online and generally had positive experiences there. My brother also played, though he was a much higher level than me because he started playing sooner, so I basically served as a walking backpack while he took on the bosses so I could catch up in levels faster. In Conquer Online and Ragnarok, I bumped into a couple of people who saw I was new, showed me the ropes, and helped me level up a bit. What little I tried of Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine failed to convince me to continue to invest any more time in the game, as it felt rather slow and like an SMT game in name only, but I at least didn’t have any run-ins with jerks there.
But then, I like the satisfaction of beating a game, which you can’t really get with an MMO. I’m also not fond of having to constantly pay to play a game I bought to be able to actually play it. Considering there’s times when I won’t be able to sit down to play a game or feel like playing something else, the investment would be of dubious worth. Plus, the fact that I could lose all my progress if the company decides to wipe or shut down their servers doesn’t sit well with me.
That’s not to say I’m swearing off any and all MMO games. Like Chris, I do enjoy the handheld Phantasy Star Online games, and I’m hoping to be able to get my Wii online to play Monster Hunter Tri. So the nature of the game is fine, it just mainly depends on the people I’m playing with.
As you can see, we do have some MMORPG players, but most of the staff doesn’t seem to have been bitten by that bug. However, I will agree with the suggestion that a Pokémon MMORPG would be quite appealing, as the entire game seems to be based on that concept. Just replace the computer-controlled trainers by humans, and there you go, you have a Pokémon MMORPG, ready to make millions. I would probably even participate myself! Anything that can get me to mercilessly sic a Blastoise on a victim is a winner in my book.
Now it’s up to you, our beloved readers, to discuss your favourite MMORPG’s in the comments section. If you would prefer to leave us a question to answer in a future edition, you’re more than welcome to do so. You can also send an e-mail to kapoutman AT hotmail.com with the subject line “Ask the Kliq”. We’ll put our team right on it.