I'm not going to comment on the bombing itself or speculate on who the perpetrators were --not that I haven't been doing it on my own time as it is-- but because this isn't the forum for it. But while I had been turning over things related to the bombing, I sat down at the computer and played around on some MMOs to clear my mind a bit.
For a change, I found them vaguely unsatisfying.
At first I wasn't sure why, but the more I played the more certain I became that the source of my discontent had more to do with the nature of MMOs and PvE content.
When you play an MMO, you're following a specific storyline. Or you're performing a set of tasks. While the story itself might be new to you, it is the same story for everyone. The Wrathgate still unfolds the same way. The Desolator story in TOR will follow the same pattern. Sure, small things change in the TOR questlines --after all, that's what Bioware does-- but the big pattern stays the same.
The theme park MMO, for all of its popularity, is not oriented toward spontaneity. Random bolts out of the blue simply have no place in the game. If there is something random that pops up, just wait a bit and you'll see that it comes back after a set amount of time. The truly random elements in a game like WoW or TOR or the others are what the players make for themselves.
While it does sound like that is how things ought to be, the problem with the concept of the players making their own spontaneity are twofold: there are far more NPCs on an average MMO server than there are actual players, and you have to have buy-in from other players to make such spontaneous actions occur.
In case you haven't noticed, the Fruit Vendor in Shattrath City doesn't talk back to you beyond a few basic set phrases. While the recycled interplay between the Fruit Vendor and her grumpy neighbors is amusing, you never get a chance to insert yourself into the conversation. Likewise, there have been times when I've been tempted to chat up the Cheese Vendor and her "woe is me" routine in Falconwing Square, but I can't. The most a toon can do is buy something from her, or if you're the opposite faction, kill her.
Not exactly a lot of interaction there.
Even when there is an "event", such as the All Hallow's Eve Headless Horseman event, did you notice that the vendor (or other) NPCs just kind of stand around and do nothing? No interaction with the world at all.
In TOR, about half of the background characters in an area aren't clickable at all; they're there just to fill up the scene.
While you can make a successful argument that world interaction would be more effectively done on an RP server, what about the person going questing in Felwood? If a region is empty, about the best you can do is strike up one sided conversations with various NPCs.
While I was bored in Arathi one day, waiting for the BG queue to pop, I did just that. It lasted about two or three sentences until somebody landed at the Alliance flightpoint, saw the bubble still hanging in the air, and said "L2P noob; they don't talk back!" He then took off on a twilight drake.
I kind of just rolled my eyes and waited for the BG in silence.
At the very least, something like the old Eliza program* would be nice to give you the impression that you're conversing with an NPC.
Okay, NPCs aside, when was the last time something completely unexpected and unplanned --and not connected to a quest either-- happened in an MMO that came out of the PvE environment?
The only thing I can think of the past year or so was the Rakghoul event on Tatooine in TOR. WoW draws a complete blank, because even the pre-launch events (of which there were none for Pandaria) are completely scripted. Hell, they're often completely analyzed and dissected online prior to the event actually happening. And the other MMOs I play... Well, they take their cues from WoW. 'Nuff said.
In a sense, I get the feeling that a totally random event would not be welcome by a certain portion of the MMO populace. After all, look at how people approach the game: analyzing gear, where to get it, what instances to run, what dailies to do, what mats to farm, and analyzing all of the boss fights, all in the pursuit of being completely ready for anything.
|Hey everybody! I'm raid ready!|
If you think people like the unexpected, try saying "So, what's this raid about? Are there any interesting boss mechanics?" in LFR.
On the flip side, I remember reading about the reactions when the Rakghoul event dropped: completely and totally unexpected by the general populace, and there was no advance warning in the blogosphere. Just "BLAM!" and it was there.
Zombies. In Star Wars.
The Walking Dead Goes to Tatooine. Deal with it, toons!
Why can't that sort of thing happen more often in MMOs?
Is it the fear of widespread apathy from the gamer populace? The dreaded "Oh, this thing only drops iL483 gear" dismissal? Or is it a "we play to our strengths, and plotting the unexpected doesn't fit into that?"
Whatever the reason, breaking out of the same-old same-old can provide memorable moments in MMOs that prefer the tried and true.
*Surely I can't be the only person who remembers ELIZA, can I? (And don't you DARE call me Shirley!)