I recently encountered a Reddit thread in /r/Games (which is like /r/Gaming, but not terrible) that really made me wax nostalgic. The titular question was this: Have you ever had a personal rivalry in an MMO or otherwise? What was it like? Hopefully you’ll pardon me if I share a bit before getting to the point.
A long time ago… 2007, to be specific
Meet Trucks. Trucks is a Night Elf warrior, which, back in the Burning Crusade, told you a lot all on its own. Trucks was the leader of a large zerg guild called <Made in China>, and was a prolific poster on the realm forums. Trucks was not a brilliant communicator, which exacerbated the fact that his posts, fraught with grammatical, spelling, and structural errors, were usually filled with quite a bit of nerd rage. Add on top of this that he was not much better at playing than he was communicating, and what you had was a golden ticket for pure entertainment.
For the sake of disclosure, it’s worth noting that in this point in my MMO career, I really wasn’t that great either.
I was playing on Vashj at the time, which, while not the most accomplished server, had an amazingly tight-knit community. A huge proportion of the players actually frequented the realm forums, which lead to the sort of small town feel you get where everybody really knows everybody. So naturally, we all did our best to kill each other – even going so far as to create and administrate elaborate, points-based forum games dedicated to doing so. Vashj loved its world PvP, and I honestly believe we did it better than any other server during that time.
Most of my time during this period was spent hunting Trucks, who always presented a challenge due to his reluctance to do dailies in anything smaller than a full group. We responded in kind, banding together with an alternate-faction account to determine what zone targets were in, my hunter friend for Track Humanoids (and the fact that he was our best PvPer), and various others as we set out as a party to find our targets. While this may sound extreme, bear in mind that this was almost entirely a consensual activity, as those we hunted would generally be doing the exact same thing on their end.
Trucks and his guild were public enemy number one, as his public reactions were always priceless. Some of my best times in gaming, hands down, come from fighting him, regardless of whether or not I won or lost on that particular day. As time went on, I became “frenemies” with people around Trucks, including a selected few guildmates, and his wife Foxyz. I remember hearing a story about a time I had seen some <Made in China> lowbies heading for a dungeon, and had camped their members at the entrance, while allowing their out-of-guild party members to live – even indicating to my ally with /no and /stop to let them be. I later learned that one such frenemy had been there on an unguilded alt that day, and had found the entire situation hilarious.
Trucks was the fiercest rival I’ve ever had in a game, and I love him for it. He provided me with so many truly great times – so much so that, even eight years later, I can still remember the names and guilds of everyone involved right off the top of my head.
The part where I get to the point
As soon as I found that Reddit thread, stories like the above jumped into my mind. Trucks wasn’t even the only rival I had during this time, as the wealth of community-driven open-world PvP found on old-school Vashj fostered a mountain of similar situations that have stood the test of time. However, the thing that really hit me is how I don’t have any similar experiences since then – and not for a lack of trying; I remember more about my two years on Vashj than from the nearly seven years that followed it.
Browsing the thread revealed that I may not be alone in this. The great majority of the responses cited games over 10 years old, and often the posts citing newer games were just plain weird. Is there something about the way new MMOs are being developed that prevents them from fostering the same great, memorable experiences that they once did? Although the anecdotal correlation could be nothing, I think there is something to it.
The Massive Identify Crisis
It’s no secret that I think the modern MMO has strayed far from what made the genre great, with new games barely utilizing the persistent worlds and communities unique to the genre. I’ve written about this extensively in the past, so I won’t continue to beat the dead horse by rewriting an old article as a part of this one – just check it out here if you’re interested.
So why has the genre moved away from these features? Because they’re extremely risky. A game like EVE is entirely dependent on its users to continue creating fun, enjoyable gameplay experiences for its survival. While the tools CCP provides its players play a critical role in this happening, it’s an undeniable truth that the company assumes a lot of risk by transferring so much power over the game’s success to its player-base – something game executives are well aware of. The more a game focuses on player-driven content, the more it depends on them for its success.
In the same way, the more open a game is to players determining their own gameplay, the more risky it is that they’ll screw it up somehow. This is why I chose early World of Warcraft as an example – WoW was never a game that encouraged that to happen, it simply allowed its players the freedom to make it happen – a freedom rarely found in newer big budget MMOs.
Unfortunately, that freedom is what the greatest fun, the real community-driven magic that hooked me on MMOs to begin with, needs to survive. I don’t have cherished memories from 10 years ago about killing a raid boss using the same strat as millions of other people, or from fighting opponents in a sterile battleground, and if you do, I bet you remember your interactions with your team mates more than anything about the content design. It’s the community driven experiences that truly stand the test of time.
A new hope
And it was as I reached this conclusion that Crowfall‘s Kickstarter exploded across the internet, touting exactly the type of old-school, player driven experiences for which I waxed nostalgic.
Now, I do have to admit that I’m highly dubious of crowdfunding an MMO. For one, MMOs rarely ever turn out that well – so why would I pay for one that hasn’t even been made yet? There is so much that could change and go wrong between now and launch; why take the risk?
I took the risk because crowdfunding may well be the only way these games are going to be made. Games that put a heavy emphasis on community-driven content are just too risky for the palates of AAA MMO studios, so if we want them to be made, we have to stand behind the developers who share our vision and for whom developing an MMO is a passion-project, and not just a product to be optimized for the widest marketability.
If you want to bring back the experiences we had back in the day, look to crowdfunded projects like the following. From where I’m standing, they hold the best promise for the future.
ArtCraft Entertainment – Crowfall
Cloud Imperium – Star Citizen
City State Entertainment – Camelot Unchained
#MMO #Crowfall #Crowdfunding