Earlier this week I installed a free-trial version of World of Warcraft, mainly just to see what all the fuss was about.
I started up the game and built a character (or three), went on a few quests, chatted to a few people, declined to fight any duels, explored as much of the map as I could, and then uninstalled the program. I moved on to a different, free, MMORPG, called A Tale In the Desert II, which I installed, played the basic missions, ran around the map, chatted to a few people, and then uninstalled. Finally, earlier today, I returned back to my first immersive online environment, Second Life, and walked around, chatted to a few people, and then…logged out.
So, what I liked about WoW: The character creation was very simple and clear, with enough variety to make things interesting but without having to read through a thousand pages of notes or be an expert level RPG player. The quests and missions were also fairly clear, although some required a little bit of help, at least in the beginning.
What I did not like about WoW: The constant challenges to duel by player characters far above my own level and the constant repetition of, well, everything. Run, fight, kill something, loot the corpse, repeat. Basically, I got bored. It seemed the only communication I had was from people who wanted to fight or else I was ignored when I requested help or for members to join my group for some of the more difficult tasks. To add to the boredom was that so many of the missions were repetitive. Go here, kill X number of this creature, come back here, acquire new mission, repeat. And, of course, to do these missions you must run from one locale to the next. I am not opposed to running as the main means of travel in a game, however, when it takes up the majority of playing time, I find it to be a waste.
What I would do differently: I think WoW could be a lot of fun if I were starting with a group of friends; if several of my friends and I could work together and level up together, well, I can see the appeal.
And then, what I liked aobut A Tale in the Desert II: ATitD is a cooperative game, as opposed to the competition of WoW, which I enjoyed much more. You can trade with other players for goods and the basic idea is to learn new skills and make new stuff to trade with other people. Cool. Lots of help for newbies from other players and most people willing to chat.
What I did not like: After a few hours it became even more boring and repetitive than WoW. Run over here, gather this, wait, repeat, repeat, repeat, now make this item. Then start gathering / making that material. Fun in principal, but in reality, it just went on a bit too long.
What I would change: Not too much. This is a good game, and if I had more free time, I might continue on with it. I would like the resources needed to complete items to be lowered a bit, if only to speed up the game.
Last, what I like about Second Life: Not very much. It is slow, causes my computer to come close to overheating, does not have any central game or objective, and can take too much money if you really want to dress up your avatar.
What I do like: Simply – all the cool stuff that keeps debuting in SL. Authors host readings, bands premiere new songs, movies are shown, new software / technology is created. All that stuff is fun, all that kind of stuff is why I keep checking back in.
In short, I can understand why people enjoy the MMORPGs and online environments like SL so much, but they are not really for me. I wish they were. I wish SL ran faster and the various sights rezzed in faster. I wish I had the time to devote to ATitD and the patience to form friends and alliances within WoW, but I do not. I think these are interesting technologies and a clear indication of where online social networking is going and I will probably be right there to try them out (albeit at my own slow, leisurely pace) because I think the potential is there.
For now, however, I think I will leave them to their fans and wait for the next iteration.
As a quick p.s., a friend asked what sf or fantast worlds / universes I would be willing to spend a lot of time, if it were made into an online RPG. I think I would be willing to play, endlessly, a game based on Looney Toons, Oz, or Xanth. Especially if, in the case of Looney Toons, cartoon physics were used as in-game physics.