I’ve a deep longing, a gnarling ache, that I just can’t seem to soothe, no matter how much I toil and spend.
It’s an odd need.
It wants to be immersed.
In a world of deep believable fantasy.
In a world of progression that takes effort and has meaning, but doesn’t rely on pure grind for the sake of it.
A land I can explore and become familiar with at a measured pace.
A class that requires gentle handling and slow moulding into a viable combatant.
A character with a backstory that fits into the lore, and can be tailored with a personality of my choosing.
Where I can join others and take on heroic storied tasks, involving interesting narratives with unexpected outcomes that shape and inflate the party experience.
Where the loot is always useful, and fuels both progression and resource needs to craft progressive equipment.
Where the action is engaging and fits together between the classes like an interlocking puzzle, with many solutions and colourful moving parts.
Where the flood of skills and equipment isn’t to float you along through the free to play phase only to pay wall you flat at an artificial stopping point, where you can be bled for consumables, unlocks, equipment, or content.
Where danger and comraderie wrestle with each other constantly and with skillful co-operative play the balance can be tipped.
Where a whole meta community can grow and nurture friendships and tales of epic journeys.
Where I can escape to, and feel I belong, amongst friends.
From the dawn of the MMORPG’s, the likes of EverQuest, Asherons Call, Dark Age of Camelot, Anarchy Online, leading up to World of Warcraft. These lands were living worlds of wonder. Where you could go and be a digital pioneer. Since the refinement of the mechanics and the interest of the free-to-play money leechers, where the mechanics become the source of income, we have lost something. Something treasured.
No matter how many single player RPG’s you push through (Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, Dragon Age, Mass Effect). No matter how many co-operative action games (Dragon Age Inquistion Multiplayer, Helldivers, Dying Light, Destiny etc.), that give you a streamlined facsimilie of a fantastical world, nothing seems to satiate this searing, aching need of mine.
Over the years you wean yourself off MMO’s, they’re simply too time consuming, with monthly fees and committment issues for organised raiding and such like.
Gaming has moved on, the technology and willingness is there, but somehow the magic is lost.
Proper full blown western MMO’s take too much money to develop, need too much in terms of infrastructure to support, and compete with the easier, cheaper fast buck rakers, where squeezing your players for every potion or custom shoulderpad, or Daredevil costume, is what pulls the money in.
Today, I installed Anarchy Online. It’s Shadowrun Chronicles fault. I wanted a cyberpunk online experience, and the flakey 2 player turn-based co-op of the streamlined and rebadged Shadowrun Online just doesn’t cut the mustard.
But it has got the pot boiling again.
The graphics in AO are absolutely ancient (it was released in 2001 afterall). The music is still hauntingly brilliant. Whisking me back to times gone by, many years ago. But the community is gone, the game, now free to play, seems hollow, and a relic of the past. A Ghostworld. Where the echos of adventure can barely be heard on the irradiated wind.
They’re not making the kind of games I’m hankering after anymore. The pioneers.
I guess this ache will be with me forever more. And my halcyon days of youth are long gone.
To guild up, to write backstories, to gather and adventure for the adventure, and not the loot, that’s where my aspirations lie.
Ravenous and Parched. Just like my old mans beard.