OK. So if you know me, you know what I think of most MMO games. In short, I despise all the ones I have played, except Puzzle Pirates and Achaea. But, I have not discounted the idea that a video game, played online, with tons of players cannot be good. Instead I have searched far and wide for the idea of the perfect MMO. Ladies and Gentlemen, I may have found it. But, before I tell it to you, we must start at the beginning of the story. If you do not understand why I believe that almost every MMO sucks you will not understand why my new idea is so great. And you will not appreciate the work of art that it will become. In the very best scenario I will have investors who will fund me to make this game and you will see it on the market. At the worst it will be my lifes work and I will finish it in many moons. Somewhere in-between someone steals my idea and I sue them. Yay, Creative Commons license. But you wont hear my idea until Part 3, so ha!
So MMOs suck. Everquest, World of Warcraft, Asheron’s call, Ultima Online, Final Fantasy 7, Planetside and more all suck ass. The first reason, as been explored in detail by other people. Basically, most MMO games, at least those with monthly fees, are designed to addict you and keep you paying. They are not designed to be the best games they can be. Something like Zelda is designed to be the best game it can be. And that’s why the series has only faltered once. Yet something like Everquest is not designed for maximum fun and entertainment. It is designed to take a long time to achieve goals regardless of skill. It is designed to be neverending so that players will keep playing just to reach the next point, one more level, but there’s always one more. They have a goal which can never be achieved. And this is because it makes you keep playing.
The second thing about MMOs that suck is that skill in the game doesn’t really come into play that much. Sure, there’s some skill in the combat system. And it shows more in games like Planetside. But overall its usually the people who have been playing for longer amounts of time are more powerful. Especially in treadmill RPG types. Some amount of skill might allow you to get levels faster, but that’s usually because this is a new character and you’ve been here before. It’s not a game of skill like chess or checkers, or even Super Mario. Where how good you are at playing the game determines if you will achieve the goal. Its simply a matter of once you know how to play, you have to sit there until the goal is achieved. Usuallyb e repeating monotonous uninteresting tasks.
MMOs are basically glorified chat rooms in which you have a 3d avatar and a 3d world to explore. That in itself is not so bad if all you’re looking for is IRC with graphics slapped on some VRML. There’s a reason they don’t use VRML much anymore. But if you are looking for a game. A diversion of the nature of a contest, played according to rules, and displaying in the result the superiority either in skill, strength, or good fortune of the winner or winners. Then most MMOs that is not.
I could go on and on all day, but let me finish by saying why Puzzle Pirates is so far the only game that means anything as far as MMOs go. First, Puzzle Pirates is not perfect. It has many of the problems the other games have. For example, not only does it have no achivable goal, it has no goal to begin with! Once you learn how to do everything in the game, you’re only real goal can be to get more money to get more stuff to get more money. And all you can realy get with money is shops ( which require a lot of real work on your behalf, and only serve to accumulate money for you ), boats, clothing and swords. Once you have the best sword, the nicest clothes and all the boats you can ask for there’s not much more to it.
But puzzle pirates overcomes most other MMOs because of two things. The first thing is skill required. In fact, skill is most of what matters in puzzle pirates. Every person in the game does work to move the economy via playing Tetris-like puzzle games. Different tasks all have different puzzles. Sailing puzzle, carpentry puzzle, my new favorite apothecary puzzle and more. How well you do at these puzzles determines how much you contribute to what the puzzle does. A better job of sailing makes the boat move better. There is a direct correlation between your skill at a puzzle game and the effect of it on the game world. And usually, skill is all that matters. So theoretically a complete newbie (a greenie) can walk into the game and defeat the wealthiest pirate in the ocean in a sword duel. It can happen. The other thing that puzzle pirates does right is politics. There is no political system coded into puzzle pirates. The vast majority of the actual game is all economics. A highly dynamic and managed capitalist pirate society where players strive to get themselves a nice treasure. The politics occur entirely via players. Just about the only thing you can do is form a crew and combine crews to form a flag. That’s it. Everything else happens in the official game forums and chat in game. And through these freeform communications mediums players ally, quabble, make underhanded deals, make friends, make enemies, trade goods and more. This is where the game is at. Freeform social interaction is what drives the game forward. And not only is it existing, but involvement in this interaction and skillfully engaging in the politics is the only way to really get ahead. Not a line of code is written for dealing with it, but due to the excellent form of the game itself it happens and works.
People always tell me that in their MMO people role-play and that’s what its about. Sure, people role-play. But in Everquest, role-playing isn’t necessary to get ahead. It’s a MUD with grpahics. I used to play MUDS and the way to get ahead was kill monsters and find treasure. It’s the same thing in most MMORPGs. Nothing new to see here. All that role playing can get you is some friends to group with. That’s as far as it goes. In puzzle pirates if you don’t role play you have no friends. You have no friends you have no crew. You have no flag. You don’t rise up in the ranks, you have no reputation, nobody knows you. Without a large number of other physical real players working with you, you can achieve little more than amassing wealth and boats. You can’t get an island. You can’t get a fleet of ships. You can’t manage many shops without significant real world time investment. You cant move the amount of commodities you need to move to maintain your holdings. You need friends to survive in Puzzle Pirates, unless you want to have very little.
So most MMOs suck. And these are just the basic reasons. Next time I will talk about how MMO games are actually a magnification of western society. And then in part 3 I will reveal my plan for the ultimate RPG. But that will wait until me and my friends flesh the idea out as far as our minds go.