Finding Peace With Massively Single Player Games
In the wake of last week’s beta there has been a lot of interesting criticism being produced about Guild Wars 2. Milady wrote about her concerns that the event system in GW2 is cooporative, but not particularly social. Azuriel published a piece arguing that Guild Wars 2 in fact encompasses many of the elements that fans usually attribute to the death of the MMO genre, such as overly easy world travel and a lack of guild security. And finally, Kadomi over at Live Like a Nerd compares the actual Guild Wars 2 product with Arenanet’s design manifesto and finds it unsurprisingly overhyped.
I thought about each of these posts for a while, and it seems to me that they’re all absolutely correct. The exciting new paradigm of PvE that Arenanet said they were bringing us is not only not that new (events = rifts that you can more easily ignore), but it seems like they’ve taken the next step and made a massively single player game. Certainly one could make an effort above and beyond the normal to meet people while rolling around the world, but otherwise your fellow players may as well not even have names, much like opponents in the World vs. World area.
Yes, more and more I have come to believe that PvE in Guild Wars 2 is just the next step in the arcade MMO, but I am left with a question: do I care?
I used to care. I suspect GW2 is going to do very well, and it’s just going to encourage other companies to push out more in this “new generation” of MMOs where no one ever groups or interacts. That’s not a direction I want for my PvE, so it’s kind of a bummer. I’m partially insulated from this by the fact that I plan to buy Guild Wars 2 entirely for the World vs. World, which provides the inconvenience and impetus for organization and communication that I like in a game.
More importantly, though, as this great post over at Levelcapped reminded me, I’m burnt out on fighting against fun. It’s not for me, but I can understand why (I think) millions of people are going to play PvE in Guild Wars 2. You work all week, you don’t wanna spend your leisure time engaging in social engineering, and you don’t have much time anyway. You just wanna log on and save a farm from some bandits for 30 minutes and feel like part of a larger world, even if the bandits will be back in 10 minutes for the next wave of nameless defenders. I don’t like it, but I get it, and once I accepted that WoW was a fluke and we are unlikely to ever have that kind of MMO singularity again.. aw hell, who am I to say that massively single player games are wrong? Go save your bandits.
I’ve been thinking about this post for a few days, and initially I wrote it with kind of a bittersweet ending. Liore gives up on worrying about MMOs, tired of hype and trying to stop the tide of adults who just want to play an online game and don’t give a crap about socializing or persistent worlds or special effort. I’ll learn to like it and stop fussing.
And then last night I installed Everquest II for a segment for the Cat Context podcast. Five hours later, I was still playing it. Everquest II is hardly perfect, but it is most certainly old school, and it reminded me of all the things I truly love about MMOs. The grinding, the huge worlds with crappy travel options. Houses and complicated crafting and insanely deep alternative advancement systems and open world bosses. Last night I was hanging around hittin’ stuff in the newbie area and some elite owl flew up behind me and killed me dead and it was REALLY GOOD.
I know that the big MMO money and possibly the large majority of players are moving towards a PvE model that is more arcade-like in nature than previous AAA titles. But at least now I know that while I am likely part of a small market, it IS a market, at least there IS a market. Guild Wars 2 might not have turned out to be the revolutionary PvE that I was hoping for, but I think it will be very successful and for now I feel like giving up worrying about it in favor of just having fun. Even if it’s in EQII.