Following on from one of my many, many rants on this blog (hey, I’m just passionate about some things, ok?), I’m rather impressed that one MMORPG at least seems to be going the sort of way I’d like - namely Dungeons and Dragons Online : Stormreach. What makes this one different from other alternatives like WoW?
Well, firstly, there’s only 10 levels to be had, and progression is likely to be relatively slow, at least for those normal people who don’t consider it their sacred duty to be the first player to hit the level cap on a server in the tragically sad hope that it will bring them some kind of real world respect. That means that - wait for it - play isn’t about levelling. Instead, the designers have made a conscious effort to concentrate on quests being the central theme of the game, and since that’s the case, it’s also important that groups of players don’t have said quests snatched away from them by marauding bands of I-have-no-real-life players, which leads to the inevitable decision that all significant play areas (non-communal areas) are ‘instanced’. Instancing means that once a group enters an area / dungeon / whatever, a copy of that area is made private to them so that no-one else can interfere. Some people deride instancing as a way to solve the technical challenges of managing an enormous world full of players - I like to think of it as a damn fine gameplay design feature. PvP (player killing another player) is also not allowed, which is a good thing.
After all, if there’s anything that spoils the online play experience, it’s other people. 😀Online play can be a lot of fun, but my experience with it over the last 10 years is that it’s highly variable due to the cast-iron fact that the world is populated by a surprisingly large number of wankers. And, many people who would not normally be wankers in normal life, miraculously start to act that way the moment the anonymity of the Internet washes over them. Lets face it - playing with other people can be fun, but it’s an awful lot more fun if you actually know and like these people too. So, being able to choose who I interact with during the main part of a game sounds like a very good idea to me. The ‘MM’ part of online games doesn’t really interest me very much - it would be far more fun to be able to recreate the heady days of LAN gaming, just without having to lug lots of machines around, not have it use up an entire day, and not having to sit in a stuffy room that smells of old pizza.
So, it DDO:S looks kind of interesting, the sort of thing I’d like to try with a few friends on occasion. If it does pan out the way it sounds, I might just give it a try.