Your MMO Is In My Console

By Alexandra Geraets in Serious Infotainment
Monday, May 7, 2012 at 2:00 pm

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The influence of MMOs on the console system might not seem apparent at first. We seem to be two different breeds of gamers, MMO and console people, as MMOs seem best suited to PCs, and the occasional Mac that won't explode if you try to feed it a video game, and console gamers seem more focused on single-player experiences.

Every gamer has their comfortable gaming niche, the happy place where they can do as they wish to do within the confines of a console or a PC. For some, it's the first person shooter genre. For others, it's multiplayer. A few people I know really love MMORPGs.

Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, words that send me into a state of shuddering denial. I admit that I am not a fan of them. I have attempted World of Warcraft, and I've been told that that was my first mistake. My experience with that particular game taught me that only creeps tend to play MMORPGs, and that it is in my best interest as a gamer to stay away from them. Stick to the console; it is less likely to attempt to engage in conversation of the unnecessary variety.

Warcraft is one of those games that could probably be described as a gateway drug. It gets you hooked into the flow and structure of MMOs and off you go, ready to explore the next one, and the one after it. Star Wars: The Old Republic owes a lot to Warcraft, and, from my understanding, The Old Republic features one of the best stories to be found in video games. Warcraft seemed to have some good story elements, but I never explored far enough to know if the whole story was good.

Long after I played World of Warcraft, I sat down and played Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. While it is one of my favorite games of the year, Amalur has one thing that keeps poking its little head up, every time I enter a new city, or a new area: that one person who wants me to find ten of a particular herb that only grows in weird little thickets out in the middle of troll country, but I can have fifty gold if I'm just willing to go out into troll country. In spite of, you know, the trolls.


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Reluctantly, my character and I agree, and we traipse into troll country. Fifty hours into the game, I realized that, no matter how much I was enjoying it, I was, ultimately, playing single-player Warcraft.

It was a bit of a jarring revelation, and, despite my enjoyment, I kept a skeptical eye on everyone in-game who asked me to go to the one dangerous location to find the thing that did stuff to make the one water wheel go faster. Inevitably, these quests end with the delivery of said objects to a semi-reasonably enthused NPC, who then sets the player character on another quest to find more stuff to fix the water wheel, or shod the horse, or something. Essentially, waste time, build XP, and be grateful that now you've opened up more of the map quests.

 

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The recent announcement of an MMORPG based on The Elder Scrolls game gave me an odd assessment of Skyrim, as I make my way through it (yes, even months later; it's quite addicting in that fashion). I found myself in an old abandoned area, as one does, and discovered an odd little herb. I picked up the herb and triggered a go-find-X-number-of-thing-Y quest.

So, after two hours of hunting around for that special item, a new point triggered, sending me to a person who could make use of the herbs. Hooray, I thought, this was clearly not a waste of time as I was granted some good skill bonuses and a few nifty items for my trouble. "Oh," says the NPC, "since you did this, would you mind going out and finding X-number of thing-Z for me?"

Twitching slightly, I agreed, because, hey, skill improvement and more of the map will open up. So here I go, ready to gather X-number of thing-Z, because I'm amenable like that. Imagine it, then, while I hunt these items down, as at least three more quests like this emerge from randomly picked up items, or talking to one person for a bit too long.

Well, I thought, there you go. The Elder Scrolls clearly doesn't need an MMORPG with the usual bells and whistles. It's already got one in console form.

I suppose the one element of an Elder Scrolls MMORPG that would interest me enough to investigate it is the character design and racial structure of the world. While Warcraft offers this already, The Elder Scrolls universe has established a complex cultural and political structure from its massive single-player experiences. As far as MMOs go, Elder Scrolls might be a step in the right direction, injecting a critical shot of New And Interesting to the world of online multiplayer games.

As it stands, though, it's a long way off for such things, and I've still got hours and hours of Skyrim to get through. One can only imagine the daunting task of a potentially 300 hours single-player RPG transformed into an even bigger MMO. Is the world ready for 700 hour Elder Scrolls? How about 1000?

Now I wonder how long one could potentially stretch Skyrim out to. Investigation awaits me. Along with fetching X-number of thing-ABC.

 

 

Serious Infotainment runs on Mondays.

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