Leaving Behind Your Buddies
One of the toughest things about the MMORPG genre is that it’s not always possible to take your friends with you when you change game. People tend to find a MMO they enjoy and play it over long periods of time (months, if not years) and that’s great for forming strong bonds and friendships but it does mean that if you want to try something new, you can often find yourself standing on a fresh new world, knowing no one, whilst all of your old buddies are still playing your previous game. And that sucks.
Maybe it says a lot about the transient nature of our online friendships (and that actually these friendships aren’t as real as we think they are) but I’m not sure I buy into that. I think the relationships we form online are real, it’s just that they’re subject to harsher circumstances and conditions. Much like if one of your real life friends moves to another country, we can all still keep in contact with our online friends via guild forums, MSN Messenger, Facebook and Twitter but it’s never the same as actually playing the same MMORPG with them.
I’ve faced this experience quite a lot over the past 12 months when I found that the MMORPG interests of myself and my friends from Everquest 2 started to diverge. Most of us got burnt out with EQ2 and decided to try Age of Conan when it was released. After discovering we didn’t like it, some of us moved onto Warhammer Online (although some stayed in AoC) and then, after discovering we didn’t like that, we all kinda just split up. Some went back to EQ2, some (like myself) tried World of Warcraft and some took a break from MMORPGs all together. It’s a shame that we find ourselves in the situation were we can’t all find the perfect game to play together but, I suppose, that’s life.
Something which would be a somewhat remedy to this situation (and something I’d really love to see) is a ubiqituos chat client throughout all MMORPGs. Sure, you might not be able to group together but at least you could still maintain a cross-game friends list, chat ability and perhaps even a cross-MMORPG guild. I think there’s potential here to standardise some of these features and help close the divide between games and players.
The concept may sound a little radical but it’s not as far fetched as it first might seem. After all, SoE implement cross server and game chat and enabled players of EQ, EQ2 and SW:G to chat between each other and join public chat channels. It was a very clever idea because it allowed people to play other games in their catalogue without worrying about loosing contact with their current friends and guild.
Of course, I’m now facing this exact same dilemma again as I feel the desire to start up a Horde character in WoW. Swapping sides from Alliance means loosing contact with all of my friends and guild and that really irks me. Well, maybe it’s just time to invest in my own VoIP server.