Tobold has a great series of posts up called “Why Do We Play?” (that link goes to the summary, which links to the earlier parts because Tobold didn’t go back and put links in his introduction post) wherein he examines several aspects of gaming and how those aspect are realized. Of course, its mostly great if you aren’t a big gaming blog reader. Nothing in there is revolutionary, and most of it has been talked before in many places, but its not a bad read. Here is my rebuttal, of sorts…
I’m there for the social. I want to play with other people, and if I’m not going to play with other people, then I want a strong narrative which I am unlikely to find in an MMO and will more easily find in a single player game. One of the things I loved about EverQuest, and I’ve talked about it before, is that the game wasn’t quest driven. Yes, there were quests, and yes, I’ve said before that there was not a single day of playing EQ where I was not working on a quest of some sort. However, quests are personal. It is in their design to be so. A quest is started by you, it is on your quest tracker, and you will complete it. Someone can help you kill raptors and collect hides, but in the end, even if you both have the quest, you both need your own hides (whether the item is shared or not) and you will both talk to the NPC separately to complete the quest. The reason EverQuest worked so much better as a social game than WoW or other modern games is that while a player could always be questing, the bulk of the game was in fighting monsters, and fighting monsters is something you actually do together. When the monster dies, it may drop an item that is lootable by all group members, but still each of them loots the item for their own quest, they don’t complete the quest together, but they do kill the monster as a team. Especially in games like WoW, when you’ve collected all your items, you are best off running back to the NPC and doing the turn in as soon as possible because the next quest he gives may very well be in the same area you are already fighting in to kill monsters you are already killing but are getting no credit for since you don’t yet have the quest. And quests reward the player better than the killing.
To that end, I was very excited about Warhammer Online’s public quest system, where a quest wasn’t assigned to you but just happened in a specific area and to be a part of it you only needed to be there. Of course, that game also had a ton of traditional quests and the heavy PvE and quest focus of the game, plus it being level based like most every other MMO, lead pretty quickly to people not socializing, racing through content on the traditional quests. The saving grace of the game was supposed to be the PvP aspects, but with so much focus on PvE, and trying a bunch of PvP elements to PvE sieges, it didn’t really work too well. Honestly, I hope they keep plugging away at the game and don’t close it down any time soon. If they just accept that they are not going to defeat WoW at the PvE game and work on making the PvP game fun and rewarding, they might manage to carve themselves out a very nice niche, and I might go back to the game.
Despite my distaste for the gameplay of EVE Online, I am repeatedly drawn to the game because the social aspects of the game carry so much weight. And by “social” I don’t just mean hanging around chatting with people, though I do mean that too, but in how the player economy involves interaction with other players, even when done through an auction/buy/sell interface there are still other players on the other side of those transactions. Similarly, its why I am drawn toward Fallen Earth and why I’m so disappointed that I experience so much lag in towns. Hopefully they’ll resolve that, or I’ll be able to buy a super PC (when I win the lottery), and I can join in.
But that’s it in a nutshell. Of all the reasons to play an MMO, the reason I’m there is for the social interactions, and not just between me and my friends from previous games talking on our private chat server while playing in guild groups, but for the random happenstance of playing with and around other people, whoever they may be.