My Life in MMOlandia

While MMO’s have existed for some time now my first real enjoyable MMO started with Final Fantasy Online which at its release had subscriptions peak above previous MMO’s such as Ultima Online and Everquest. The game was fun, for a time, though ultimately the game wore on me as eventually much of my time was spent in chat looking for groups, coordinating goals for said groups then rearranging the group members and goals based on responses received. Often times this process could take an hour before it was finished, the result would be a party was formed and off our group of six would go to slay one creature at a time for several hours, praying we didn’t die so we could gain more experience than we lost. Eventually this process became a time investment that I lost appeal for and moved on to other games and real life things. This probably would have ended my MMO playing here had the industry not evolved.

I don’t mind coordinating goals with friends in games, but often with strangers I find only extremes. In my experience Pick-Up-Groups (PUGs) go either very well or very disastrous and when disaster strikes it’s not just the failure of the game challenge that gets me down, but a feeling that I just wasted an hour, or more, of my time when I could have been doing something fun.

In 2004 World of Warcraft popped up and while I hadn’t played any of the Warcraft games my friends were excited about it and as a result I started my adventures with them on day one. World of Warcraft received its success because it targeted a demographic no other MMO had ever thought to consider, the casual player. For the first time in an MMO you could solo your way through quest after quest, level after level, achieve max level and still have things to do. It was great. I didn’t have to rely on five other people who didn’t want to do what I did and each had an agenda, but I could choose when I wanted to interact with others I got along with.

For those looking for more of an end-game challenge, forty-person raids were available. Groups participating in these raids, such as the original Blackrock Spires and Molten Core were tough for my Warlock to get into. It took a lot of convincing, I had to install Teamspeak and Ventrilo, purchase a headset and learn to coordinate with others who often had very different goals than me. These goals mostly focused on loot dispersal issues and the complaints from others as well as myself on progression versus favoritism versus DKP (Dragon Killing Points). The game eventually lost its fun factor for me at this time and I canceled my subscription.

However, Blizzard did some studying and found that only a very small percentage of their players were participating in this epic raid content. This caused them to consider the logistics and time consumption that went into organizing a forty-person raid and by the release of Burning Crusade raid content was reduced to ten and twenty-five person instances which still allowed challenges for players, but with much less hassle. I came back to WoW at this point, said goodbye to my Undead Warlock and began a new as a Blood Elf Paladin. This was also the first time our guild of friends began to successfully run our own raids, with no outsiders, and eventually things became farm status for us and I was in love with the game.

Due to work and moving states I took another break, but returned in Wrath of the Lich King. At this point many had started to become burned out on WoW and as a result I began taking part in my first PUGs. For me this was a bit rough as once again I had to spend time organizing others with different goals to cooperate together. Fortunately Blizzard introduced a thing called the Looking for Group tool, which evolved into the current Dungeon Finder Tool that by Cataclysm was perfected into a great way to skip the often time consuming logistics of organizing a group, go to specific dungeons and ultimately keep me playing the game rather than trying to micromanage other players. The other element of this tool meant that if my PUG experience was anything less than favorable I had the option of leaving and joining another group quickly. I was hooked to WoW.

At some point, and I’m not entirely sure when, I gave City of Heroes and later on City of Villains a try. A fun game with a great character generator, but it didn’t feel like a finished game and I never subscribed to it after my initial free play period.

Shortly after Cataclysm I decided to try out other MMOs. It seemed as if a plethora of MMO titles were coming out and while I loved the game of WoW, the world and lore have never interested me. I can honestly tell you after seven years of playing WoW I don’t know or care to understand the relationship between the Horde and Alliance, I’m not sure who Arthas is other than I killed him sort of, Sylvanas is this sexy chick who I think may be undead and the last thing I did in the game was essentially a genocide of many Egyptian looking creatures which I’m not sure why other than their names were red and someone wanted them dead.

So I left and began a journey through what I call MMOlandia. As someone who ran pen and paper role playing games in high school, and eventually created their own D20 based game, I was very excited to try DDO, Dungeons and Dragons Online. While I fortunately missed its subscription based release it’s Free-to-Play incarnation was entertaining for about a month. I quickly found myself stuck in a city with everyone else who after finishing the quests then did the same quests but with more difficulty, then again with higher difficulty, then again and again. My Cleric could only kill so many Rats and Gnolls on difficult before I just got tired of the repetition.

A friend of mine then talked me into LOTRO, Lord of the Rings Online. I had been a fan of the books as well as the movies so what wasn’t too like? While I admit my Hobbit Minstrel was an interesting class to play, the game made me think of WoW rather than Lord of the Rings, though a game not as polished as WoW.

Then Rift came along and everything changed for me. The class diversity, the auto-grouping, outdoor raid system, and multiple paths for loot progression – I was in love. I felt like all my favorite things from WoW had been improved and put into this game. It was fantastic. Unfortunately I couldn’t convince any of my friends and guild mates to make the jump to Rift. To them it wasn’t that the game wasn’t better, it was simply that so much time had been invested in WoW that to leave or even try another fantasy based MMO just didn’t make sense to them. To a guild of friends who had spent seven years of their life together online, WoW was essentially our own version of Facebook where we could chat and catch up regardless of where our real lives had taken us.

So with Rift out of the way I decided to check out space. Star Trek Online came out and as a fan of the Original Series and Next Generation, and with a two hundred dollar lifetime subscription offer, I gave it a shot. It reminded me of City of Heroes. I liked it, but there wasn’t enough going on in the game to get me to keep playing. Two years later it’s a much more polished game, but it’s still lacking content to the point where I’m glad it’s going Free-to-Play and I’ll be getting an allowance to buy fluff things in the game and not have to spend real money.

EVE was my next adventure into space and a game I really wanted to like. The ships are beautiful, space feels very much like how I imagine space and ship logistics feel very plausible. While I’ve always played WoW on a PVP server and enjoy Battlegrounds in games that have them, I’m not a hardcore competitive gamer. EVE has some PVE elements to it, but the game quickly lets you know it’s all about PVP. Never trust anyone, fire first and don’t fly anything you can’t afford to lose. It’s a well made game, but not a game I could support or get any of my friends to support. These days I much prefer the likes of LoL, League of Legends, for my competitive game play as it’s quick and fast and doesn’t cost me a subscription.

Things then went in an entirely different direction for me and I began to try numerous F2P games from Perfect World. Jade Dynasty was very pretty and I like the feeling of playing in a world that reminds me of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but the game also had a lot of elements that just didn’t provide me with any fun factor after a while. Monsters never attacking me, quests that just focused on me killing ten, then ten more, then yet another ten more of whatever creature was in the zone got boring fast. I jumped to Forsaken World and found myself loving the look of my huge tits anime chick as she punched creatures in the face with a cross in her skimpy armor. However, like much of my feelings with many anime it’s only entertaining the first couple panty shots then I want to watch something else. Rusty Hearts was installed on my system and then deleted.

Finally, this winter Star Wars came out and as I’ve already written on I find it to be a great game. It’s missing a few key pieces, such as a Dungeon Finder, or should I say Flashpoint Finder tool, but based on the developer blog posts they’ll be patching in many new goodies over the next few months. But the real reason for my excitement with this game is that our WoW guild has taken interest and we have many of our key players setting aside their Fireland epics to pick up blasters and lightsabers.

So what will come with the rest of 2012 and beyond? I don’t know.

What I can tell you is that while I, and probably many of you out there are feeling burned out on the MMO genre in general, I don’t know if we MMO addicts will ever really stop playing the MMO’s we like. I can honestly say I’ll probably pick up my WOW subscription for a little while when I can kill Panda players. I don’t really want to, but I will, log into EVE for the next two months to train skills because I paid forty dollars for a six month subscription that doesn’t end until March. I will probably log into Star Trek Online every few months to see what ship costumes I can buy. While I should probably support great game design companies like Trion Worlds, I probably won’t go back to Rift except for free weekends and instead I’ll continue to play Star Wars the Old Republic as long as my guild mates are playing.

Want to know more about my explorations in these worlds? Check out my reviews and articles on MMOSite and Examiner.

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