NOTES FROM CUBICLE 4104 [Author: wirehead]

I came to the sudden realization this weekend that ORPGs were becoming utterly boring nightmares.

Well, it wasn’t really sudden, more of a creeping realization. It came to me while playing Everquest. An experience, that no doubt, many of you share.

I didn’t want much. I just wanted a character that didn’t totally suck. So I went through the following:

– My 15th level shaman, who is just high enough level to totally suck at melee, yet low enough level to not have any spells worth a flip. Tank mage my ass. The only thing he is really good at is being a coin-operated SoW machine. You shamen out there know what I mean. Walk into a zone and hear 8 people, none of whom you know, /tell you with “Gimme SoW”. Actually now they’ve gotten more ambitious and now ask for “Gimme SoW and buffs”.

– My 8th level wizard. Everywhere he goes he is reviled as a killstealer. Never mind that I personally have never stolen anyone’s kills (except for the one guy who was being beaten into goo by 5 orc centurions. He was very cross with me over trying to knock out a couple.) Wizards kill steal, I was a wizard, therefore I was a killstealer. Most of these imprecations were delivered to me with the backdrop of the spellbook, since of course that is all a wizard ever sees. I wonder if there is a danger of the spellbook image burning into your screen.

– My 9th level ranger. After much powergaming until my eyes bled, I finally got him to 9th level where he can, after 12 fizzles, cast a spell to heal 10 points of damage, and then promptly sit down and regenerate. This is quite a relief since up until this point he could only sit down and regenerate.

– My 3rd level troll shadowknight. If I could pick one character I actually enjoyed roleplaying, it would be him, because let’s face it, deep down we all want to be this big green thing that swings a huge sword and casts arcane spells to suck away your life. Verant realizes this and jacked up the experience point tables so that it takes approximately 12 million slain snakes and rats and other such harmless yard animals to advance a level.

The common denominator among all these is that the experience of actually playing them sucks.

Well, that’s Everquest. I guess we could try Ultima Online. I hear that’s somewhat less tedious now. Hey. Quit throwing things. I made a new character and wandered around looking for random roleplaying opportunities. From this I discovered that many putatively female characters (I say this because we all know all female characters in UO are played by men. Except for the female PKs.) like to giggle. Also that there is some plot going on. I really couldn’t tell you what it was, except to say that those involved take it very seriously. I think it involves dreams.

But those are old and tired, you say. Come to Asheron’s Call where… um, everything blew up. Hey, it looked cool!

However, I think that just tearing into the dev teams of these games for no apparent reason is just wrong. No, we should reserve that sort of free-floating bile for the volunteer programs. Instead, let’s try to figure out what these games need that would make them somewhat interesting to actual human beings. Let’s think positive!

While you’re thinking positive, let me remind you that on NPR today, the topic of “Talk of the Nation” is ensuring that the mentally ill vote. I am not making this up.