New MMOs are like a big city…full of people, no one talks to each other and it’s sterile.

Whoa that’s a mouthful of title.

I was reading some things today concerning memories of our favorite MMOs. Now, this is going to sound strange for all you uber loot ganker types, but every “good” memory I have includes other players. It wasn’t the loot, or the fancy clothes or the name of whatever critter that we killed and no one remembers it’s name. I remember the situations under which things evolved, but it was the humans that made the memories stand out. I figure, I’ll include a memory of my own as an example:

When I first starting playing Dark Age of Camelot, I knew absolutely no one. I picked up the game about 6 months after release and said “hmm, I’m sick of the game I’m currently playing and this surely looks interesting. Oh look 30 day trial too!” SHINY is good. I loaded up the game and while downloading the updates I attempted (unsuccessfully I might add) to import friends from the other game to join me (the ones I liked anyways). With no progress on getting others to join me, I simply logged in and picked a realm and I was suddenly in game trying to figure stuff out.

It wasn’t easy at first, there was a myriad of controls that were the opposite of the game I was used to playing. There wasn’t a starter guild, there wasn’t an official starter town, there were many official starter towns depending on your race. I did my thang, all alone in this huge world. I met many people and I probably even tried to talk to an NPC or two without realizing they weren’t real players. (Yeah, that’s kind of embarassing.) Anyways, I gained a few levels, heard talk from other people about this “RvR” and how awesome it was. I didn’t understand and I was surely disappointed when I was on the little portal pad waiting to be transported to other lands when I found out I needed a medallion which I couldn’t afford and a couple higher level big ass ugly trolls laughed at me and said I was too young to help in the fight. Hurumph.

This was not working out so well and I kept thinking to myself, “When this 30 day trial is up, I’m sooooo out of here.” While the game itself was pretty and interesting to play, there was no attachment to it for me in those first couple of days. Then something happened. I had a random encounter! Woo!

So I found myself on a quest. To this day I have no idea how I managed to find the right area for this quest (maps were not all the fashion back then), but I found where I was supposed to go. The problem was all the much higher level critters in my way. I did my best to be sneaky and pressed myself up against the walls of the mountains, but that didn’t workout so good and in a twist of cruel evil fate I died. To add insult to injury, it was said throughout the region of my untimely demise. So I released and meandered back to try again. I was not one to be beaten. Well, I tried to live but after my third death I lied face down and contemplated logging off forever. Even I have my limits.

I received a private message from a stranger who asked if I needed a rez. Fumbling for my little card that told me what button I need to reply, I finally answered that I would gladly accept that offer. They had to explain to me how to find out my location and before the timer of my death consumed me, I had someone bringing me back to life. I mumbled my thanks and about 60 seconds after we parted ways, my death was yet again shouted to the region. Quickly they rezzed me and asked if I needed help. Then we laughed about the IF part. I certainly needed help and no manual was going to save me. My new friends took pity on me and offered me a gold. When I said that I can’t seem to kill anything, I was asked if I visited a healer and I replied no, well they escorted me to one and assisted with the gold it took to cure my aching death ridden body.

I had someone to ask questions to, someone to make fun of me and suddenly a reason to want to enjoy this new dynamic. I wanted to play, because if I could find one nice person (by the way, we stayed friends for many, many years until life intervened and we lost contact) then there would be more. I could laugh, I could cry, I could shout HUZZAH and find others to help as well as be helped. I was thirsty for more and oh so addicted.

The addiction has left me these days. That whole life thing again, but I still play. I love that silly game.

However back to my long title post. I’m worried for MMOs, I’m worried that they are becoming sterile and cold. Everyone already has their “group/guild”, because of the magic of the internet, walkthroughs are out the day the game comes out, so you don’t need to ask anyone their advice on an encounter. Where is the magic? Where is that good samaritan that understands you might be a n00b and willing to go the extra mile to become your friend or just help you out?

Without the interaction and socialization, why would I want to play a MMO? There are surely other games out there that are so much better because they are one player and do not cater to trying to get others to work with each other or kill each other.

I want to see the “life” come back to MMOs. If the game is too easy or caters to one person encounters, it is far too easy and boredom surely follows. If the game is too hard or requires too many cats to herd (herding cats IS difficult) then it also becomes boring because relying on others for everything makes everything an ordeal.

Where is the balance between the two?

I’m going to blame gold sellers, they are a good place to start.

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