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AM I ASKING TOO MUCH? [Author: Eldin]

As a player on AC Darktide, there is no greater evil for me in game than leveling. (Well, except maybe for the rampant exploitation and bug abuse, but that\’e2\’80\’99s a different story for a different day.) If I have to spend one more day in the Dungeon of Corpses draining drudges, I just might go on a murderous spree in the nearest Quaketide Town (Holtburg sounds good right about now). As an Anti, that\’e2\’80\’99s not an option for me. So I trudge onward, loathing every moment I spend hearing that high-pitched shriek that is the drudge death cry.

While online games do havearcing storylines,there are large portions of the games where such features are entirely absent. As a level 36 archmage in AC, I\’e2\’80\’99m not sure I\’e2\’80\’99ve ever partaken in anything even remotely involving a storyline. That\’e2\’80\’99s not to say I have no interest in such things. I\’e2\’80\’99m merely saying the storyline is not terribly obvious unless a player devotes a large amount of time traveling the world or reading websites. Even then, I have to be lucky enough to have the devs install dynamic content appropriate for my level.

I\’e2\’80\’99d like a hollow
weapon
. I\’e2\’80\’99d like an atlan atlan
weapon
. I\’e2\’80\’99d like some shadow armor. I\’e2\’80\’99d like to explore Aerlinthe. At level 36, these things are far out of my reach without some major support from higher-level melees. So, I am left to discover the less popular aspects of the game. And they are lesser. So much so, in fact, that I cannot find a single link to a website with anything interesting in the game that my character might be able to do. To be sure, there must be some content in the game. I simply haven\’e2\’80\’99t found it.

In my opinion, a game should not require endless days of leveling before the \’e2\’80\’9cfun\’e2\’80\’9d parts are reached. This is simply poor craftsmanship on the part of developers. As players and consumers, we deserve better. We should demand better.

With a firm background in pencil and paper AD&D, I come to online games expecting similar aspects to be incorporated in the games. I like to see different peoples, cultures, religions, histories, etc. (Which I will refer to as static content). What does UO have in way of culture or variety? Nothing. The NPCs and towns remain trapped in medieval England. Even with the variety of creatures in Britannia, none seem to have much in way of religion, and no aspects of the game reflect the type of culture the sentient beings may have adopted over time. These aspects of the game seem to encompass creating a new monster, sticking it in a fortress, then lining the hallways with skulls, spider webs, and blood.

In Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call, there are three different races modeled after Europeans, Africans, and Asians. Imaginative, eh? With magic permeating the land, one would think the people of Dereth would be dripping with all kinds of philosophies, beliefs, customs, etc. Yet, they are not. With magic in the very blood of the people, one would think there might have been a fascinating evolutionary change. Alas, no. We are reduced to three races, each with cultures (what little there is) and architecture mimicking that of the real world.

It appears Shadowbane is making an attempt at this type of content. Anarchy
Online
is introducing character variety (even if it is a huge Star Wars clone). Neverwinter
Nights
will definitely have it.

Dynamic content is only as good as the static content that creates the foundation. With no static content, the dynamic content of a game can only encompass creating a new uber-dungeon with a new uber-weapon guarded by new uber-monsters for some obscure, super-dooper uber-reason (if we\’e2\’80\’99re lucky enough to get a reason at all). While some static content may be added to the quests, it is merely filler for monster bashing and magic item accumulation. Surely there is more that can be done with online games. Newbie Magic can only take players so far. After that, there must be some meat to the game.

In the world of ORPGs, many players will do nothing if not prodded into doing so by the game. Why not require quests based on a character\’e2\’80\’99s religion? Why not make the character classes malleable and dynamic? In Final Fantasy II, Cecil had to climb a mountain and fight himself in order to change his character class from fighter to paladin. Why not encourage players to shape their characters via quests? Let decisions made during a quest have real and quasi-permanent advantages/consequences? Perhaps a paladin character must undertake a quest to earn the laying of hands ability. Perhaps a mage must take a test a la the Tower of High Sorcery in Dragonlance in order to be able to increase in skills. Perhaps a thief must use his skills to steal the Blue Opal of Nespar in order to become a master thief with more skills. Yet, obtaining the opal only leads to the possibility of more quests to test these new skills.

Seers and quest engines can only go so far and help so many players. There has to be some hard, static content in a game in addition to the dungeons, magic items, and quests. We don\’e2\’80\’99t need linear quests. We need quest branches. At the end of Quest A, the character has Options 1, 2, 3. Option 1 will take him to Quest B, Option 2 will take him to Quest C, etc. During Quest C, give more options.

Make quests require knowledge of the World\’e2\’80\’99s history and culture. Make the players think about the world they live in. Make the players recognize the totality of the reality their characters inhabit.

Make the games interesting.

With the possibilities inherent in different races, religions, philosophies, and cultures, I have to wonder why this sort of content never makes it into the games. Are the writers lazy? Are the designers and devs more set on pretty new images, uber-loot, and landscapes than the actual meat of their game? Are they rushing their product to market, thus neglecting these things? Are they simply unwilling to hire the required people to code these things?

Combat systems, magic systems, skill trees, and character classes are great things required in any game. However, without a reason for these things, there\’e2\’80\’99s no reason for a player to stay interested in a game.

I\’e2\’80\’99m a 36 archmage, and I\’e2\’80\’99m chronically disinterested in the game I play. The devs have nothing to keep me interested. Until then, I suppose I\’e2\’80\’99ll continue draining those drudges.

Who knows. Maybe one day, I\’e2\’80\’99ll be really excited about the world where my archmage dwells.