Meet the people you'll soon be playing with.
MMORPGs (or "more pigs!" as I like to shout into a cell phone in public, pretending to be a power player in the lucrative livestock market) have been coming out faster than male cheerleaders at Thanksgiving dinner lately. Luckily I'm here to hold your hand and guide you through the genre, and also to point out that your hand is kind of sweaty. In case you didn't know, Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games are video games which give you the opportunity to play with thousands of morons online in a humongous virtual world, banding together to achieve the ultimate goal of paying $15 per month. Think of it as a cross between Morrowind and the GameFAQs forums.
In order to keep gamers playing (and paying) for as long as possible, developers typically forego adding lots of actual content and instead rely on extending the amount of time it takes for a character to become as strong as possible in their chosen profession. The resulting grind that a player must go through is often referred to as a levelling treadmill, which is odd because a real treadmill would cost less and using it might make some of the slobs who play MMORPGs nonstop slightly less susceptible to heart attacks brought on by steady diets of Mountain Dew and sausages. It may sound as though I resent monthly fees, but I actually understand their necessity. After all, game companies have to pay to keep their servers running, add new content, and hire customer service reps to deal with a neverending stream of inbred shitmonkeys who cannot grasp the most obvious and simple concepts in the world. I've seen what goes on in these games when a Customer Service Rep (CSR) is called in to help a player, and it's typically something like this:
BOUNTYHUNTER BOUNTYHUNTER: how do i use a gun lol
CSR: Oh, is that seriously all you needed? You have to equip a gun before you can use it. Then select your target and attack.
BOUNTYHUNTER BOUNTYHUNTER: oic. equip my shoes? i got soem shoes but i dont think i can wear them lol cuz i dont have Walkingg 4 - Advanced Footware yet
CSR: No, equip the gun.
BOUNTYHUNTER BOUNTYHUNTER: i dont have one can u giev me a gun and r u a chick irl
CSR: No I can't, and yes, I am a woman.
BOUNTYHUNTER BOUNTYHUNTER: lol oic. becuz you know, im a guy...
CSR: (grabs a package of thumbtacks from her drawer and swallows them all in her third unsuccessful attempt this month to escape this horrible existence)
CSRs (and other players) also have to deal with the constant blathering of the eternal complainers, gamers whose motto is "nice job, devs, way to fuck me over again". No game is flawless by any means, but these people see every minute change as a game-destroying mistake that the developers put in because they are either inept or want to make players' lives a living hell. Every time something goes their way it's overlooked and not commented on (except perhaps with a grudging "Those morons finally got something right by blind luck."), but everything else is a spark to set them off. Was the armor rating of an overpowered Coif of Chaffing changed by a fraction of a percent? End of the world. Was an exploit removed that allowed players to ride houses as though they were vehicles? Obviously, the game is going to fail and the devs hate you personally. These people are powder kegs of angst and bitchiness, and I think they play MMORPGs as some sort of therapy, only without a couch. Unless they play computer games on their couch somehow.
Don't let these people scare you though, because there are more than just morons and complainers to be found. There are also spammers, just like everywhere else you go on the internet. Spammers set themselves up in a heavily trafficked area and make macros which shout inane bullshit that no one cares about every .05 seconds. Thank you, Darknight Lionheartblade, for repeatedly screaming "AFK FOR A FEW HOURS SO PLEASE DONT TALK TO ME ^______________^" while I'm trying to run through town. You and the other thirty people doing the same thing make the game run slower than William Taft after he's escaped from his bathtub and been shot with several dozen tranquilizer darts. You can still manage to have a great time, however, if you avoid these people as much as possible and join up with a group of semi-literate players. No group personifies "semi-literate" as much as Something Awful's very own goons, who you can find in our games forum. Playing with a good group of those guys can turn a somewhat enjoyable game into a game that's still only somewhat enjoyable, but much more funny.
Now that we've covered the basics of the genre and the horrible people who inhabit it, I'm sure you're just itching to get started. Which game will you devote a ridiculously unhealthy chunk of your life to? Can't you choose your own game, you damned slob? Well, I guess I could round up of some of the current major titles for you.
Believe it or not, there are people who still play Everquest. These troubled souls typically fall into two categories; desperate males who have created hot blue elf chick characters and will not quit the game until they have cybered with another blue elf chick (being played by another man), and people who have not actually logged out of the game once in the past 4 years and thereby missed the fact that other games have, in fact, come out. These categories are in no way mutually exclusive.
Star Wars Galaxies
Galaxies is my game of choice right now, and I've been having a great time with it for the past few months. It may appear to simply be Everquest in space, but it's not. You can't actually go into space. Beyond that, the game is very ambitious, with a fully realized and dynamic economy which is completely player-driven and an impressive list of unique features. The developers continually add new and exciting stuff to the game, then move on to create even more before the stuff they just added fully works.
One recent addition to the game was a set of armor for Wookiees, who were previously unable to wear protection of any sort aside from Ewok-skin condoms. When the concept art for the new armor was unveiled, most players were not impressed. The armor, it seemed, was composed entirely of shit Wookies found laying around on the ground, and players deemed it to be too "gay hobo samurai" for their tastes. I have a suggestion for Sony Online: why stop there? Let's take the Wookies' hobo look one step further, and while we're at it we can throw in some new armor for everyone's favorite walking fish, the Mon Calamari. Here is my vision for the future of Star Wars Galaxies, a piece of concept art I call "Fish In 1920's Diver Suit vs Wookie Wearing a Garbage Can and Cooking Pot Whilst Weilding A Wooden Spoon".
Sony, please remember to give me credit when you use this in the game. (click for the full sized version)
Final Fantasy Online
In Final Fantasy Online, you'll enter an exciting and wonderous world with ten thousand people who use slight variations of "Sepiroth" as their names. I don't know much more about the game, other than the fact that you'll get to lug around a sword so ridiculously large that you'll need a seperate video card and monitor just to view it properly.
City of Heroes
By playing the upcoming City of Heroes you will finally get to act out your lifelong fantasy of running around a city in spandex and getting friendly with other bulky men in spandex, since this upcoming superhero game currently has no player versus player combat. It also has no capes, for reasons I don't entirely understand. The developers are hoping to lure in comic book fans with the promising concept of creating your own hero and valiantly fighting evil. Without wearing a cape. You'll group up with other heroes, combine forces to bring order to your city, and be just like every comic book hero you've ever loved. Without wearing a cape.
World of Warcraft
Currently in development by Blizzard studios, World Of Warcraft is the title that most gamers are clamoring over. Although it's yet another fantasy game in a genre already dominated by them, Blizzard has a proven track record of taking existing concepts and polishing them into gaming gems. Unfortunately WoW is just like every other MMORPG after all, because I can't get into the god damn beta test.
After the infamous Cow Levels from Blizzard's Diablo 1 and 2, this game will definitely contain cows or no cows.
After weighing all the available options, any gamer should be able to make the only obvious choice about how to best use their gaming dollar: keep it. Go outside, and let me live vicariously through you while I sit here in the dark and fight space butterflies and craft useless droids.
Usually the guys at State Og come up with some really great ideas (like the Chainsaw-On-A-Timer), but sometimes they fail miserably (like the Rock-On-A-Timer). I think that's part of the excitement inherent in reading State Og, trying to guess whether a product will enhance our lives or end them in an peculiarly lemony-tasting manner.
At the Maestro Memorial Skate and Dinosaur Park, we've combined the urban, slacker joys of traditional skate parks with the nature-meddling inevitable comeuppance of dinosaur parks! Never before have the terms, "shred," "thrash" and "gaping claw wound" had such wonderful dual meanings! All the local "dudes" can come down to the Park and get "gnarly," possibly distracting them from their usual passtime of "vandalism" and "drugs." Even better, while the kids turn tricks and practice their skateboarding, they can see the wonders of prehistoric Earth, restored to life in living color thanks to our cloning department.
Check out this week's State Og!