The Next Big MMO

April 10th, 2012

No, that acronym doesn’t make too much sense, does it? Massively multiplayer online what, you might wonder. Massive multiplayer online skeet shooting, perhaps? Really, MMORPG is just such a mouthful. At one point I just called them ‘morps’ but that doesn’t seem to have caught on. So MMO it’ll have to be.

And what is the next biggie? Guild Wars 2 is the likeliest candidate at this point, according to the hype mill. Pre-purchases of the game just became available today, but apparently a lot of stores started selling them yesterday and are already sold out. I’m not sure if this is necessarily a sign of enormous fan fervor, or if the pre-purchases are strategically very limited in number. To stem the tide of people making their way into beta, perhaps?

Either way, I don’t really care all that much myself. I used to be incredibly hyped for this thing, but a bit of realism has sunk in since then. I’m sure it’ll be a good game, but it’s no revolutionary online eden. I’ll probably even buy it fairly soon after release, but I still think the people spending $150 on the collector’s edition for something that’s still 3-6 months away are a little insane. Although to be fair, if there’s beta access involved, then it’s a bit more understandable. More ‘eccentric’ than ‘deranged loon,’ I would say.

TotalBiscuit’s GW2 videos have given me a pretty grounded view of GW2. Sure, there’s lots of innovation in it, but it’s still using a lot of the same old tracks. Yes, the public quests and organic quest chains look like a great change of pace from static quest hubs. And yes, it does seem like there’s a lot of freedom without strictly level-coded questing zones. So, the facade isn’t quite as thin and tacky as it’s been before. There’s still plenty of cracks showing up though. Some of the public quest battles look little different from a sparkly game of whack-a-mole, with mobs constantly popping out of the ground and dropping from the sky in front of your face.

Actually I’m feeling pretty suspicious about the entire ‘content scaling’ that’s been paraded as one of the key features. Strangely, I can’t remember seeing any negative reactions to that system, so maybe they’ve figured out some way to make it work. I just have trouble imagining such a quest and level scaling mechanic that still maintains a sense of consistency. So, stuff gets harder depending on how many people participate. Sounds like a great idea, right? So let’s say I’m having some trouble with a camp of five bandits, and call four friends over to help out. Then what? Twenty extra bandits magically pop out of the ground? Or the original bandits suddenly have five times more hit points? Might be it’s a bit more subtle than that. Maybe they only get double HP and a couple extra allies that pop in one at a time. Still silly and terribly transparent.

Admittedly, I’m sketchy on the details but I have to wonder: what exactly is the end result of this scaling? Does it really mean that the game can never be really easy or incredibly hard? Must the challenge always be just ‘right’. If I want to explore the Hellmouth of Doom and Dragonfire at level 1, will I scale up accordingly so I can whoop some dragons? Or if I’m an all-conquering, level 80 warlord might I get crushed by a pack of bunnies at the local potato farmer’s field? What do levels even mean if my power is always adjusted according to the content?

– Peace and happy leveling



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