Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fun with MMOs: The Reviews' Guiding Principles

If I'm going to actually review some new(ish) MMOs*, I'm going to provide some parameters for both the effort itself and what I'm evaluating. What I don't want to do is just play for a few minutes and give the game an evaluation, because that's not so much an evaluation as taking a look at a trailer for the game.

That said, what I will review will be different than what other people review. Some reviewers focus on gameplay, sound, graphics, story, endgame, and polish, but I don't want to be constrained to that. I want to focus on the sense of immersion and whether there are things in the game that break it.

Here's a short example of breaking immersion from a non-video game aspect: the story in the film National Treasure. Yes, I'm aware National Treasure is a fun action movie --and it plays out like an RPG campaign, to be honest-- but I'm also a history buff.** When I first watched that movie I was glad I was at home, because I could then get up and go into the kitchen and silently rage at all of the misrepresentations of history before rejoining my wife. Fun movie, yes, but boy did it break my sense of immersion.

You got that right, Sean. Fun fact: Sean Bean's character
doesn't die in National Treasure, which is a pretty rare thing.
From quickmeme.

How do I intend to do all of this? Well, here's my process:

  • Create a toon for each faction represented in the MMO.
  • If there's only one faction, I'll still create two toons, one male and one female.
  • During the creation process, I'll take a look at all of the options to see where the limiting factors are. I'm thinking in terms of agency here, as I want people to not be restricted to playing a very specific type of player. I'm not using this as an excuse to push any sort of prudishness or moral/political viewpoint, I just want there to be options for people to play the way they want to play.
  • To properly evaluate gameplay and story, I'll play through the intro zone and the first low level zone to get a good feel for the game. Preferably, if the game has one or more capital cities, I want to at least reach that city before I end my evaluation, but I want to avoid the issue of Age of Conan where the intro zone --Tortage-- was fantastic but the low level zone (right after arriving at the capital city) was just so-so. My initial review of AoC was that it was a really good game, until it became a huge grind once you got past Tortage.
  • How other players interact, how global chat operates, and how other players present themselves will factor into my evaluation of immersion. I'm not going to get on a RP server if I can help it, but I will definitely stick to PvE as much as I can. I'm no longer a world PvPer, and I don't want that to factor into my evaluation.
  • I'll also keep an eye on how NPC's behave, look, and interact with the players. Clues as to what sort of game the developers want to present can be found in those details, as what developers present in game may be different than when they talk about the game.
Curse you, Steam, for making it too easy to find all of these games!
I realize that not everybody is going to find these reviews valuable, particularly given that some of these MMOs have been around for several years. Chasing the new hotness is pretty much always in vogue, and I'm definitely not doing that nor examining the most popular aspects of MMOs. My viewpoint is decidedly non-raid and non-world PvP, which puts me at odds with a significant portion of the MMO community; people who want to see those aspects in an MMO aren't going to get much of anything out of my reviews.

But that's fine with me. I'm not trying to keep up with the latest MMO out there, so when I get to it, I get to it. And I'm not likely to be the only person who comes into an MMO late, so taking a gander at an MMO that has had time to mature isn't a bad thing at all. And really, people who read this blog are well aware of my lack of time/desire to go raiding, so there's no real surprises.

So let's do this. First up, an MMO that I examined six years ago and found a lot to like, but I didn't want to leave the confines of WoW to explore something new.

*For my purposes if not for anybody else's. As the youngest mini-Red pointed out to me, her sister is quite capable of making the decision of whether or not to play on her own. "True," I said, "but if someone asks me for my opinion, I want to give an informed one, not one driven by the internet." She was fine with that response.

**I minored in History in college. No, it didn't have anything to do with my major (Physics), but I enjoyed the subject enough that I took a lot of my electives in History (and Philosophy) just because.


  1. Sounds interesting - looking forward to your observations!

    1. I sure hope they turn out interesting. There will be a lot of graphics, as I took plenty of screenshots.