For Your Consideration

I have held, and will always hold, that it is the little things that matter most.  You can have two items, two stories, that are in large strokes exactly the same, but it is the little details that end up endearing one to a generation while the other winds up mostly forgotten, completely independent of its success.  The endearing tale could be one that hardly makes anyone any money but it a cult favorite for decades, and the “forgotten” one could make millions in the short-term and in a few years people barely remember that it existed.

Almost every MMO these days uses some form of the color con system.  Red often means that it is going to be hard or impossible to beat, some form of grey or green often indicates an easy kill, with shades of blue, yellow and more in between to let you know your chances if you decide to fight it.  And yet, beyond the color or number or whatever other indicator they use, there is nothing more. We are, at this point, expected to know what that means.

A giant diseased rat scowls at you, ready to attack. What would you like your tombstone to say?

Sometimes, however, I think we’ve lost something by moving entirely to numbers and UI indicators.  EverQuest added flavor to the consideration system by spelling it our for you, giving you your faction relationship and a difficulty assessment all in one quick message.  But the most important part of it was that while some information might be readily available in your targeting window, you had to actually /con the target to get the message.  It lent just a little push toward the RP in MMORPG, that your character, that you, had to stop and look the target over, reading his demeanor and body language, that your character was a hero who kept abreast of clan markings and signs of madness, that the hero you controlled, that you embodied, would be able to look at a monster and say, “Not only does that thing probably hate my guts, I’m pretty sure he’ll beat the crap out of me too.”

To me, it’s the words that made that happen, and it is the lack of words, the purely UI based blinkies and numbers that make my brain flip immediately to math and calculations and I wind up saying, “The level disparity will reduce my effectiveness to the point that I don’t believe my DPS is enough to bring his hit points to zero before he does to mine.”

It’s just one more things that brings me again to my conclusion that I seem to be out of sorts with so many MMOs because they’ve reduced themselves to being just games instead of being more than games.


    1. By most people, probably not. I would use the hell out of it though, especially if the developers threw in lots of different sayings for different types of cons.

      Most people are looking to play more simple games. Red means stop, green means go, yellow means proceed with caution. The only role many people want to play is a guy sitting at his computer hitting buttons and getting loot.

  1. You might appreciate this recent article; the money quote for me was ” Isn’t the point of an RPG — MMO or otherwise — to let me roleplay what I choose?”

    I’m with you; I think that players need to do more than be passively entertained, and /con systems with great flavor are a great touch. I just think that they can’t be *required* in the present market, for better or worse. …at least, not in a DIKU sort of game. Maybe in a RPG that’s not about the levels and the loot, but about actually playing a role. *shrug*

    1. I’ve always loved the excuse that they weren’t delivering the Star Wars or Luke experience and instead had the Uncle Owen simulator, because it allows me to trot out gems like “Without Uncle Owen you don’t get Luke Skywalker.” The thing I love about the idea of a really well developed sandbox is that so many people can play in so many ways that the games they are playing within the sandbox don’t resembled each other. I want to play in a world where I can be a merchant while my friend is a dungeon spelunking hero, he plays it by bashing things on the head and I’m playing it by crafting and manning a store and working in the player run city and so on, and not because I make it up and create it myself out of nothing, but because the game supports both play styles.

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