Friday, August 22, 2008

The Hero of 10,000 faces

I've been following the "discussion" shall we say over at Virgin Worlds.

To sum it up for those who have not been following. Brent didn't like Warhammer. That's his right. He has admitted not being drawn in by the Warhammer world whereas he has been by AoC and so continues to dabble there, despite the fact that the blogosphere at large looks at that game like you would a car crash. An interesting event, but horrible and painful.

I am interested in the push however. The idea that WAR, despite what it is, should have for some reason been something more and thus has offended the sensibilities (or perhaps dashed the hopes) of some by not being revolutionary enough. It doesn't do this, it doesn't do that, I still have to kill 10 rats.

I mentioned previously that it is the failing of an MMO world to accurately depict what our button mashing and stats mean. You're supposed to kill those ten rats to save the towns food supply, or to supply a rat corpse fetishist with some toys, or whatever reason. They cannot yet depict (or do not, I don't know. I'm not a developer) the effect of leaving the rats be. In City of Heroes there is the tongue in cheek NPC text that points out that however much that Hellion struggles, he's never getting that purse off the lady. You, however, at level 1 are easy pickings and he's going to whomp you. Walk back by at level 10 and the struggle continues, and always will unless you choose to intervene.

The MMO worlds we inhabit at the moment are stages set. They're musicals waiting to happen. If myself and some friends go to do a raid, it'll be the same as every other raid of its type before or since. Sure someone may flubb their lines, or maybe the lead singer is sick that week so the audience gets a sub par experience. It is however entertainment bottled. Repeatable. Enjoyable. Staged.
RPG worlds are the same stage, but you are the hero. You can change the world, topple tyrants, save the damsel and interact in a story where you personally are impacting this world, your way.
You just have to remember little Timmy next door bought the same game, is playing the same story, and getting (hopefully) the same enjoyment. But because he's in his world and you yours, you're both the hero.
Thousands upon thousands of people have saved the world from the Covenant in Halo, they all have been the Master Chief. They all have single handedly changed that world. A Halo MMO? Everyone has to try and find the same sense of achievement, but if little Timmy can spend 10 more hours a day and "finish" the world, save the girl and be the hero, what happens then? The world is done, but millions of other players may have been sleeping or working and thus their shot at the story is stolen.

A revolutionary world, quite apart from a revolutionary way to interact with it, has the flaw in that it has people in it. Right now if you get up from your computer and take up a cause, you could possibly change the world. You may very well be shouted down, or possibly die without ever seeing your mark made upon the world. People are everywhere and everyone has their own story. When it's your own world, you can be anyone and do anything. When you have to share, not everyone can be the best. Not everyone gets their name in lights.
That's the entire reason I have never nor ever will play FFXI. It isn't the Fantasy for me. I personally and single handedly will never change the world. The world has to cater to all the heroes, not just me.

When the eureka moment comes and Web 2.0 or 3.0 or z.0mg delivers the revolutionary MMO people claim they want, hopefully it will be like Warhammers Public quests and open groups. Hopefully everyone will exclaim "Oh hey, why didn't we think of that?" rather than deciding this new game is too alien, or too imposing or too... unfun to bother with.

When the new ways of interacting virtually come about, hopefully they will be what Bartle, Brent and everyone besides has sought. A world apart from Earth. A world they can impact, and importantly have the impact matter and be realised on the screen for them. I rather rudely suggested people want Second life with swords when I am beginning to realise, the current call for a revolutionary MMO is more akin to feeling like you aren't the hero here on Earth. People want to push the planet and have it matter, but haven't yet been able to do it virtually, just as how the majority will never push the Earth by ourselves.

A virtual world isn't a world unless populated. A virtual community isn't "fair" unless we can all have the chance to make the impact the box promises. The biggest hurdle for revolutionary game play isn't the technology or the ideas, it is ourselves. We can't all be the hero. We can have a hero with 10,000 faces and 10,000 worlds or a single world where we can all try and be heroic, but equal in our status. When they crack the code to let everyone achieve spectacles and each one still have value, that will be their revolution.

My revolution? I'm going to take the public quests and living cities. It is a step up from what has gone before. And even if it isnt a particularly big step, I unlike some of you, may not have played every single game that preceeded this. This is my big step, my foray into a virgin world and my chance to make ever so small a mark.
Even if I have to kill 10 rats to do it.


Anonymous said...

... well said. Well said, indeed.

arbitrary said...

I kind of like rats, but always willing to bop a boar!