Ever the optimist, says I…. Bring on the Andromeda Galaxy?
Recently John, the Ancient Gaming Noob wrote this post, in it stating quite scientifically and logically that the current market is not quite “ready” for a fully Sci-Fi MMO mass market title. However, he forgot one, teensy, tiny detail: MMO gamers by and large are not logical, nor scientific in their love/hate relationship with online games. Terms and phrases like “rabid”, “fanboy”, and “foaming at the mouth, impatiently waiting to play”, often come to mind when hearing or reading the diatribes, slobbery love pieces and general inanity that is web media reporting. Obviously this is not the ENTIRE market, or I wouldn’t be sitting here, trying to put some reason behind their ravings… nor would John have put his arguments down as eloquently as he did, and which I will more than likely fail to match. But I’ll try, anyways.
I think one of the reasons these “fans” aren’t willing to get behind a Sci-Fi MMO comes down to the fact that so many people are used to the WoW style of questing. Step One: run around, grab every guy with “!” over their head, and don’t bother reading the text, because you know every quest is asking you to do the exact same thing. On average expect to accept 10-15 quests every time you do this from a “quest hub”. Step Two: settle down and spend 2-3 minutes figuring out where you need to go to bang them out in the fastest time possible. Step Three: Complete quests in sequence, run back to quest hub, collect xp, ding!. Step Four: rinse, lather, repeat until max level or desired goal is achieved. Bleck. Now it could just be that I’m an old fart and was raised on the concept of gaming from my tabletop experiences, so the concept of a “storyline” and “plot” are not these foreign words hanging out there in the ether, but real, tangible concepts that I can understand and reason why I’m going to help these poor farmers who have a nasty undead infestation. Sadly that’s lost on our current gaming crop… they play the game because it’s something to do, not because of the storyline behind it. Reading quest text is dumb and takes too much time… who cares about knowing why the fuck you’re doing something, just let me kill shit fast. Now we’ve all been guilty of it from time to time, but for the most part I stop and read every quest, if for no reason than some of them are simply brilliant writing. I mentioned in my Hellgate London post the quest chain with the crazy old man, and his near-unitelligible gibberish, yet it was some of the smartest writing I’ve read in a long time. The sad fact is, a Sci-Fi game is almost all ABOUT the storyline, and good plot.
Fantasy has it easy…
“Oh, it’s got dwarves and hot elves, and orcs and chainmail bikinis… I’ll play!”
“Okaaaayyy… so I’m off on this distant world, being looked at as the scum of the universe by our new, not-so-friendly neighbors, and looking like a walking pot of E-Z-Mac to all the local flora and fauna… I’m doing this because….. why?”
For a Sci-Fi series to really grab one’s attention, it has to have storyline. David Weber’s Honor Harrington Series, Peter Hamilton’s Reality Dysfunction Series, Chris Bunch’s “Sten” Series… I can go on and on… but the reason you get wrapped up is BECAUSE of the storyline; you want to know what happens to each character, you grow to love certain characters, you follow them on adventures, and you may end up watching them be sacrificed to the insatiable Plot Monster, helpless to do anything but read on. A Sci-Fi based MMO needs to have a storyline that goddamn good to keep people playing, with less focus on hundreds of short, meaningless quests, and more focus on deep, involved storylines that get people wanting to make an impact on the game world. It takes dedicated writers to do that… ones who won’t give people the option to fast forward through text; hell, make reading it part of the next part of the chain. Fast forward and don’t pay attention, why should the game help you along? Yes, you’re not going to appeal to those people who either have no attention span or are too lazy to actually USE their imaginations. Oh well, I for one will consider that a net gain! Barring that, we’re still going to be hacking away with imaginary swords until our rotator cuffs finally breakdown from overuse. I think mine’s pretty much worn through, but I hear that soon they’ll have a robotic replacement, provided I read the instruction manual. Time to go get a cup of sim kafe and start reading.