Spinks posted an interesting article about guessing the next Old God in World of Warcraft (apparently they’re all named after gods in the H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu mythos – had no idea). This got me thinking about how deities are used in MMORPGs and what I’d like to see done with them.
My first exposure to gods in MMOs was with the deities in Everquest. They were pretty hard to ignore and appeared everywhere in the lore and were mentioned a lot in game. In fact, choosing a deity to worship was also part of your character creation process, something I have never seen in any other MMORPG since. Although whatever god you picked had very little impact on your gaming experience, I really enjoyed the idea of using another attribute to define the character of my avatar.
Everquest 2 expanded upon Everquest’s god system when it introduced worshipable deities with the Echoes of Faydwer expansion. The mechanic works by allowing you to pick a god to worship by simply finding the appropriate quest giver and completing a level 20 quest. For your efforts, you receive a shrine you can place in your home and use to sacrifice items to in return for favour which you can use to purchase spell abilities. From there on, you can complete a series of quests, one every ten levels, to unlock access to more abilities and more items. It’s a very cool and engaging system.
Age of Conan has no deity system whatsoever and it was a huge disappointment to me. The whole Conan world is so massively ingrained with the idea of worshiping gods, everyone from Crom to Set, and I was really hoping it play a large role in the game. Although you can pick classes like Tempest of Set or Priest of Mitra, it didn’t seem to have much impact on anything you did or what could do. Perhaps a deity system would’ve added some much needed depth to the game.
World of Warcraft doesn’t seem to really focus on gods much at all. I know there are a few kicking around and obviously they exist and you can raid against some of them but that’s pretty much all I know about it. Kinda strange now that I think about it considering I’ve been playing the game for over eight months and I’ve done a fair bit of reading about the backstory. Is it just me or are gods in WoW not so prominiently featured in the story?
Overall, I think gods can add a huge amount of depth to a MMO either through game mechanics or simply by helping to define your character. Although the concept of allowing your character to worship a deity may seem a little superficial or redundant, it’s actually a part of the whole ‘RPG’ experience of MMORPGs that appeals to me. I enjoy anything that I can use to help distinguish and set apart my character from other players.
Ultimately I’d love a fully fledged deity mechanic in a fantasy based MMO, in which your choice of actions effects who you can worship and your choice of deity actually has an impact of how you are perceived in game.