Oh jeez it’s like LMSD is all I do these days! I guess that’s why I started it, though — to get some cool words and ideas out even without some force demanding at my brain that I do so! Our topic today is persistence in MMORPGs and I’m not just talking about persistent characters or persistent worlds… well, you’ll see.
MMORPGs have done persistent worlds, and persistent characters. It seems like all you need these days to be considered ‘massively multiplayer’ is to have persistent characters, storing stats and items and whatever; like I talked about in my previous MMORPG-themed LMSD, this feels like it’s moving in the wrong direction: why even bother going through the trouble of making it massive if you’re going to work it like a single-player experience?
What I’d really like to talk about today is not just persistent worlds and persistent characters, but rather persistent worlds AND persistent characters working together. A world is nothing without its inhabitants, and characters are nothing without their environment — why is this relationship so blatantly mocked? Maybe it’s just because it’s easy.
Explaining myself: Players are not bound to the world; they exist on this separate plane, raised up and apart, where they can only interact with it indirectly and are removed from it whenever they log out. Sure, this is fine and all, but even with persistent world and persistent character, there’s something missing when the world feels half-baked and untouchable (you can interact with NPCs by doing dumb quests for them and sometimes by buying things from them. nothing you do can affect them in any way.), and the characters are blinking in and out of existence endlessly.
YOU MAY SAY I’M A DREAMER, BUT I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE
There are games that have done exactly what I desire. There is one game in particular that has a massive world that you can feel the massiveness of, and I love the heck out of it for one week out of every year and then swear off it for the other 51 because I can’t have fun playing a game that makes the chores of a second life (no the game is not Second Life) feel so fulfilling. With ‘learning points’ you can purchase the ability to freely attack and kill other players (of course they can fight back), meaning anyone could possibly attack you — but for the most part don’t, because the ability is expensive and they would still be treading on questionable moral grounds. Still, it’s amazing when you have a world filled with player-made settlements (there are no NPCs at all, only wild animals and players), rare but rather frightening murderers, and farming, and trading, and my god I’m making myself want to play it again.
So like I was saying, it’s not impossible for games to have a real persistent link between character and world. In H&H, which I just linked, a sleeping character appears in the world. Plants grow in real-time, and other players build things. They build everything. If there is something that is built, it was built by a player. It’s amazing just walking away from large settlements, seeing the roads and what has been built, and finally running into a smattering of trees when before all of them had been chopped down (too close to the settlement! people use lots of wood!).
Other games like Urban Dead (yes I mention this again) leave you there while offline, whether you’re a zombie or a survivor. You fade away after a few days, but it’s still a good example. Players who are offline are a very important part of the game.
Let’s stop with examples. Players and the world can be held at arm’s length, or they can be woven together with intricate detail.
What is an “offline player”? I’m tired of this “vanish into nothingness” crap!
Let me change the world, damn it!
This post has descended into meaningless rage! I’d like to say “maybe I just don’t like MMORPGs”, but that isn’t true at all — I just think every MMORPG that follows ‘the formula’ is crap! Don’t even start about them not following the formula because it’s been forever since I’ve seen an MMO that isn’t about logging on, using very little real skill to go around killing a bunch of shit to level up (and get some more meaningless crap for your pockets), and logging out again. All of the ones that seemed like they had a possibility of an interesting combat system turned out to be falsely MM — that is, persistent character but server-based multiplayer.
When someone says MMORPG, most people probably think of one kind and don’t even consider that it is a very limited scope. There is a very limited scope of massive that is currently being touched by (I don’t really like to say it I swear I’m not just a screamin’ indie) the mainstream.
There are some games that hold firm to their rare MMO ideals despite the server load and being absolutely completely free.
I HOPE SOMEDAY YOU’LL JOIN US, AND THE WORLD WILL BE AS ONE
… I think that next time I think about writing an MMORPG LMSD, I just… I’ll just remember how insane it makes me and I just won’t. Yeah. That sounds good.