March 09, 2006

Game Shorts

by psu

We're going to Toronto for a long weekend, so this is the perfect time to flush out the state of my game playing and mix it up with small nuggets of confusion. In other words, a "clip" article.


Recall that the "M" and the "M" in MMORPG stand for "Massively" and "Multiplayer." With this context, consider the following complaint that I have read in multiple gaming forums and web sites: World of Warcraft sucks! There aren't any solo missions.

So, let me get this straight. You want to pay for the network connection, the subscription fee, the price of the game and the PC to play the game on so you can play a single player campaign mode? In a Massively Multiplayer game? Can someone explain this to me? Or is this in the same bucket in which rationales for savepoints are stored?

Zombies: Conquered

Once again the zombie hordes have been vanquished. I even finished the extra PS2 side mission. The main game would have been cooler playing as Ada I think. The zipline gun is fun. Next, there is Professional mode, and maybe a handgun-only speed run.

XBox 360, Still Meh

The Xbox 360 is so lame that a major shiny military shooter with a strong online component can be released... and I still can't get interested. I think the DS-Lite looks cooler. It seems to me that the PS2 can actually complete pretty effectively with the 360 for at least another year. This is because the core market force behind people adopting a console is not so much features, graphics, performance, online marketplaces, or media convergence abilities. All that really matters is what all your friends own, and no one I know has a 360 (well, except sprang).


The new Shadow Hearts hit today. To get in the mood, I also got Dragon Quest VIII. I think with these in hand along with Shin Megami Foobar and my small collection of retro PS1 releases for later, I'll have enough to keep my busy until the Xbox 360 isn't completely pathetic.

I've played a bit of DQ, and I predict I will get tired of the savepoint studpidity. But the fights and the cartoon art style are fun.

I fired up Shadow Hearts: From the New World just to go through the first area. Gay merchant couple: CHECK. In the first ten minutes of the game there are three obvious references to the previous game. This is going to be fun.

Guitar Zero

I don't think I will get past the end of the medium song list in Guitar Hero. They need to make a special edition for old guys with retarded hands. Still, I can get a lot of mileage from the quest to get a perfect score on Smoke on the Water. I think another year of practice will get me there.

Posted by psu at March 9, 2006 10:09 PM | Bookmark This

See, I've always thought that World of Warcraft looks like it would be a whole lot of fun if it were a single player game. But I have no interest at all in the "MMO" prefix for RPGs, so have avoided it. If I want to spend hours running around jealous of everybody else who has better weapons and more talented skills than me, all while being taunted by 13-year olds, that's what real life is for. Give me an RPG where I'm not just a face in the crowd and can't even kill a rat because xXxELFBABE64xXx gutted them all first, please.

Posted by Adam Rixey at March 9, 2006 10:31 PM

I can understand wanting a single player game in the style of WoW. I can't understand signing up for the MMO subscription fee and then whining that the game you get is not that single player game.

Posted by psu at March 9, 2006 11:05 PM

Everything in WoW has to be done as part of a group. You can't go on a quest, and meet people along the way, communicate with them, then move on while basically remaining on your own. You have to form a guild, or a party. How would LOTR had been if Frodo hadn't been able to join the Fellowship of the Ring because he was already in the Guild of Pipeweed Smokers? Or if they hadn't been able to fight the siege of Helm's Deep because they only had thirty-eight people in their raid, and they needed forty. Rubbish.

I'd want to play a MMORPG to meet people along the way, but still basically just be me. Not to feel obliged to form some kind of arbitrary relationship with a designated set of people, purely because it's the only way there is of doing anything.

Posted by Andy P at March 10, 2006 08:00 AM

Can't get past medium on GH?!?

Posted by bforsyth at March 10, 2006 02:10 PM

(Posted not because Psu cares, but because I like to inflict this stuff on him. And mock people. Really, it's win/win.)

The folks claiming there is no solo game in WoW are hopped up on the crazy pills. There absolutely is a solo game, and that's at the heart of the cruel dichotomy the game presents us with. See, from level 1 to level 60, you can happily solo the entire way. You can bop from quest giver to quest giver, killing X of Foo, collecting Y of Bar, and delivering packages from Bert to Ernie. As long as you don't pick a PVP server, the most you'll have to deal with anyone is to /ignore the people who won't take a hint from your callow indifference, and to /angry your tiny fist at the farmer who has decided he or she is also interested in killing the Felbaz which you have been tasked to harvest for the glory of the Alliance. Or Horde.

Now, you can play this fine single player game with folks, and it's a lot of fun to do so. And, if you choose to do so, you may find yourself locked into a leveling deathtrap where you attempt to keep up with the metaphorical Joneses. And -- here's the kicker -- you will, from time to time see hints of the NON-solo game which awaits you at 60.

What's that game, you ask?

Well, every so often you'll see quests in your quest log that are marked with (Elite), (Dungeon), or (Raid). Many people attempt to map this distinctions with "how hard would it be to solo this," which is at the core of the misconception. Ultimately, these markers are a clear indicator of how many friends you need to have to accomplish something:

No Tag -- You can solo it. No problem. Screw people. They're just sucking up your XP and slowing down your kill rate.
(Elite) -- Bring One Friend. Maybe Two. One Elite monster is designed for two people to have to kill. If you find yourself saying "Ahhh... but if I attack elites that are low enough level... I'll get AWESOME XP!" Trust me -- you can, and you're totally wasting your time.
(Dungeon) -- Bring Four Friends. You're not going in here alone. You'll just get frustrated.
(Raid) -- Bring 9-39 12 year olds who can't stop calling each other "FAG" and jumping. But don't worry. They're totally l33t, because they've converted Time into Phat Lewt.

Up until 60, pretty much every quest you have will be soloable or "(Elite)". When you do get "(Dungeon)" quests -- you can skip them. It's ok. You miss out on some nicer shinguards of epeenery, but to be honest, you don't need that stuff to play the solo game. You'll have a Fine Time, and a lot of fun. I know lots of people who play this way, and they hang out in guild chat because it lets them complain or make jokes.

Now, once you hit 60, you have a couple of options. You can quit. Because once you've invested 500 hours making a level 60 for the first time, you'll have no emotional investment, and you'll find walking away a total breeze. You can complain bitterly about how the endgame is a BIG LIE and NOTHING AT ALL like the one to two person came you just spent 500 hours on. You will -- I promise you -- have no sense of ironic awareness about how you've just gotten 50 normal games worth of time out of your purchase, because there is no cutscene telling you you've won. You can roll a new character and do it again. This is surprisingly compelling, because each class plays sufficiently differently that it's like a whole new game. And hey -- the second try only takes 300 hours. The time practically flies by.

For my part, I've found I *do* enjoy the grouping aspects, but I've also managed to find a niche where if I need obsessive solitary button mashing, I can do that, and if I need to team up with 19 of Azeroth's grandest 12 year olds to Defeat The Ultimate Evil, I can do that too. There is, in all seriousness, a tremendous variety of gameplay in here, and that's what keeps me coming back. But dismissing 500 hours (you think I'm exaggerating, don't you?) of mostly solo play because after that point you're moving on to an indefinite number of hours of non-solo play -- well, that's kind of stupid.

Posted by Eric Tilton at March 10, 2006 04:24 PM

A fundamental problem with all MMORPG's (which makes the solo game a valuable part of the game experience) is the overhead of getting into a group on quests that you want to do.

When I still played WoW, I would often spend from 15 minutes to an hour gathering together with members of my guild to do a quest or hanging around a dungeon trolling for party members. That's a lot of overhead when you only have 2 hours to play that evening. Thus, the time suckage continues, and worse, the time suckage THAT IS NOT FUN continues.

The final nail in the coffin for my lvl 50 hunter was finally getting a cool rare drop that I couldn't use, selling it on the auction for 150 gold, and waiting 2 weeks for a good bow to show up on the auction that I could afford. Not a single good bow showed up, so I quit. I probably would have been better off just equipping the bind on equip item and enjoying it rather than selling it at the auction for gold that I couldn't use.

Posted by David Rugge at March 13, 2006 08:35 AM

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