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January 31, 2014 at 9:36 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

The Best MMO Ever!

By E.M. Wollof from SLN More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Spawn Point Blog Series

MMO’s have always been a bit of a mystery to me. I come into the games with relatively high hopes, having either seen an excellent gameplay trailer or having done an exorbitant amount of research into classes and weaponry. As the games progress through the tutorials and into the lower levels, I always find myself with an abnormal amount of excitement and anticipation about the many hours I plan on dumping into my character’s progression, the wealth of inevitable loot I will plunder, or the well populated world I will lord over. These feelings carry me well into hour 15 of gameplay, usually accomplished within a 24 hour period full of excellent eating habits and equally excellent hygiene. For those hours, I am flying high on the game, attempting to perfect my skills and master anything that the game has to offer. Overall, I am having a great time.

Something goes terribly wrong at, or around, this time. The grind begins to seep under my skin. When this first happens, I usually shrug it off and quit for the night, thinking that a solid 24 hours in between sessions will reignite the flame for me. So, I sit back down to play and now find that all the attributes I once thought exciting are now wearing heavily upon my enjoyment. The enemies have all started to look the same, the loot has become stale, and the very thought of dueling another noob irks my bones.

I like to call this my MMO fatigue zone. Because I am a gamer who hates dropping a game before at least the 30 hour mark, I will spend far too much time in my MMO fatigue zone. Inevitably, this time spent in said zone leads me to an inescapable hatred of everything the game represents. Is this an absolutely ridiculous policy? Of course it is. That being said, the men and women who developed the game poured exponentially more time into it, and I feel like I owe them more than just a cursory glance. Again, a stupid policy this may be, but it helps me sleep at night.

Recently, upon purchasing my PS4, I took a chance and downloaded DC Universe Online. This game has re-instilled my faith in the MMO model, which is great as upcoming games for the next-gen consoles seem to be heading in the MMO direction (Destiny, The Division, Elder Scrolls); effectively blurring the line between owning a PC and being a console gamer. I was hesitant about this transition at first, but DCUO has assuaged my anxiety greatly.

Customize Your Face Off!

Holy customization depth, Batman! The idea of a superhero MMO caught my attention initially, but the ability to craft your own hero or villain was what truly reeled me into the game. I have been reading comics for 25 years, so the opportunity to craft my own army of super-heroes and super-villains was just far too enticing to pass up.

When I first jumped into DCUO, I played through the Braniac ship tutorial more times than I care to admit. OK, I played through it enough to try out every weapon coupled with every power. Needless to say, with the incredible amount of weaponry and power on offer, I spent waaaaayyyyy too much time on choosing my ideal build. In the end, I found that the Staff combined with a little Green Lantern’s Light (or Hard Light for the fussy purists out there) was my perfect Hero combination. I went Shield and Rage for my alternate character. I know, I know, not much power diversity, but GL is my favorite DC character and I dig the lore.

I would love to see the level of customization in DCUO be available in upcoming games like Destiny and The Division. I don’t think it is enough to just change the shade of my armor and weaponry anymore. If game developers want to truly drive immersive fiction into the next generation of gaming, they need to cater to the very human propensity for interior though whilst involved in story.

Much like the lost art of reading a novel, the vast amount of description provided for a character helps the active participant see through said character's virtual lens. Games like Dragon Age 2 removed that immersion and left everything a bit more hollow for it. Sure, there are many games that survive on strong lead characters divorced from player theatrical control, but I spent 300+ hours in Skyrim for a reason.

Fluid Combat Mechanics

Many of the MMO’s I spent time with before DCUO used turn-based combat. There are many instances where this type of combat works. Knights of the Old Republic (all games) comes to mind as a series that has done this justice.

I understand the idea behind turn-based combat. I understand the dice roll that goes on digitally behind the curtain. I most certainly understand the purist influence on the combat type as a whole. That being said, I hate it. Games like Kingdoms of Amalur (R.I.P.) and DCUO blend massive worlds, excellent customization, and fluid combat mechanics to create a fictional world that is a joy to play in. Turn-based combat tends to remove me from that immersion.

Lore

Story is a given. It has to be there, or I am not going to give the game a fair shake. This means I need to have a vested interest in the fate of my character.

We have already established that an increase in customization allows the player further immersion, and a solid main plot line will do this to an even greater degree, but lore is where true immersion lies in wait.

Not only do I need an excellent storyline, I need loads upon loads of background information on the characters and events involved in said story. This isn’t arcade land anymore, where flashy neon lights and quick combat are enough to slate my thirst. I am a reader. I need character development for both protagonist and antagonist.

DCUO does an incredible job implementing lore in the gameplay. Hidden throughout the world, and within mission design, are brief expositions dealing directly with the world in which you are currently living. I love this! The implementation is unobtrusive and I can pursue the whole story at my leisure. The Elder Scrolls games did an excellent job with this as well, in the form of books to be found around the world.

I know many of the Dew-fueled masses aren’t looking for this in their games, but I would love to see more of it.

In the end, the advent of a new generation of gaming should mean experimentation in all forms. I am afraid that our consumer driven nature has dulled the creative capacity for many stalwart studios. I fear this, but I hope that my fear is unfounded.

Fear or not, I am excited to live the future of gaming.

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