My post last week about MMO designers using class flexibility as a way to keep the Holy Trinity on life support rather than find alternative solutions drew a lot of great feedback, fantastic comments and interesting discussions. I always love it when readers know more about a subject than I do and aren’t afraid to get stuck into a debate about it, however it did raise a lot of good questions about my motivations for writing the article in the first place. To be clear, I don’t hate the Holy Trinity (in fact, I’m rather fond of it), it’s just that I don’t think it works in today’s MMORPG.
Archive for 2011
Let’s face it, the holy trinity mechanic for MMOs isn’t going anywhere. No matter how restrictive it is, no matter how much it impedes gameplay, no matter how much it puts the whole silly concept of raiding at odds with the leveling game (I just despise the idea of a single ‘main tank’), its here to stay for a long, long time. Regardless of how much we might want the holy trinity to accidentally asphyxiate itself during a sordid little sex game with its dirty sandbox cousin, it’s never going to die, especially not when developers have found a way to keep the darn thing on permanent life support. Y’know what I’m talking about – the concept of hybrid classes and versatility.
No doubt you’ve all heard the news about WoW’s next expansion and some of other big changes Blizzard plan on introducing. Not only does this prove that I’m psychic to a scary degree of accuracy but it’s also got me rather flippin’ excited. About the playable Pandas? No, I honestly couldn’t give a crap about them (I reserve the right to completely backtrack on that statement as expansion fever kicks in later on next year). What’s really got my boat floating and my fancy tickled though is the promise of new character models, animations and a complete overhaul of the talent system. Now that’s hot stuff.
No, my wife isn’t pregnant. Yet. But it’s definitely on the cards – turns out the biological clock of a woman is an insane force to be reckoned with. Last time I likened it to a nuclear time bomb but I was wrong, it’s more like the most dangerous ninja on the planet, ready and waiting to attack. And attack she did. A couple of weeks ago I was awakened from a deep slumber in the middle of the night by the woman pouncing on me in a burst of animalistic sexual desire. It wasn’t until the deed had been done and she rolled off me with a smirk on her face that I realised just what had happened and a wave of utter terror flooded over me.
Today, I’m not going to talk about how easy or hard WoW is, about whether or not it’s dumbing down the MMO genre, or even what impact it’s having on the way we socialise in game. These may all be valid (and interesting) topics but right now, right at this moment, all I want to discuss is something that I believe WoW does better than any other game out there: it stimulates and cultivates our imagination.
I’ve commented before on the psychological way WoW (and every other MMO out there) exploits us and tries to addict us by leveraging the human need to collect and complete but that’s not what keeps me coming back to the game (thankfully). What keeps me returning time and time again is the way it manages to kindle that fledgling spark of excitement in my brain about playing a certain race or a particular class. Call it roleplaying, call it escapism, call it immersion, call it whatever the heck you want but when I load up WoW and roll a new alt, I really feel it.
I can’t play characters that don’t have good names. I don’t know why but it’s just wrong somehow. To me, the name of my avatar embodies his personality, his spirit, his role. Call it roleplaying on a low level nature. I don’t walk around spouting “hail, kind sir” or what-not but I absolutely have to a name that suits my character. Very occasionally comedic, often always serious, the name has to be right because without one, I simply won’t make the character or, worse yet, find myself deleting them after a few hours of play.
So many times I’ve had an itch to try a new class but have put it off for weeks because I just couldn’t come up with a name that felt right. Other times I’ve sat staring at the character creation screen for what felt likes hours on end just trying to come up with a name I liked and wasn’t taken. It’s not as easy as one might think. Thinking up with a suitable name that fits the race, class and my imaginary background for my proposed character can be rather tricky.
I believe in an effect called critical mass, particularly in social dynamics, especially when applied online. The more momentum something gains, the more likely is it to succeed and the more likely it is to generate it’s own self-momentum and perpetual growth. There comes a special point though, a moment in time when a certain number or percentage or stage is reached when this snow ball effect actually kicks in and the appropriate critical mass required has been achieved.
Usually the expression critical mass is expressed in a positive way (except of course when you’re talking about meteors plummeting towards the Earth and what not) and it can applied to a whole variety of situations. Web sites, for instance, have a critical mass and when a certain number of visitors have taken notice of a particular site, it becomes somewhat easier for that site to get noticed. It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, one that makes perfect logical sense – the more people tweeting, liking, +1′ing, commenting and generally discussing something, the more people will sit up and take a peak. It’s exponential growth.