Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Random Shots: MM-Offline-RPGs

  • Purely by serendipity, I ran across a post by Tipa of West Karana from 2007 about turning Everquest into a single player game. The reason this struck me as funny was due to the games I've been playing lately, Phantasy Star Portable and Pangya: Fantasy Golf. Each started life as either a subscription or microtransaction based online game that has been re-released in single player form. Even more funny to me, while I've played both the online and offline versions of these games, I prefer the offline in both cases.

  • Contrary to what you might believe, I actually do like playing with other people. At worst, I have to put someone annoying on my ignore list or I have to avoid a global chat channel. I'm also not against group content in MMOs. Rewarding people for playing together with specialized content is a laudable goal. These aren't the reasons I'm arguing for single player MMO options.

  • What these games have shown is that they were originally developed to waste my time. Greed brings out the worst in people, doubly so for corporations. It is the same with game companies. Subscription games count on players paying from month to month, so there is an incentive to reward payers just enough to keep playing without ever letting them win the game. Microtransaction games need players to have a reason to spend money in their cash shops. Therefore they must make the game just difficult enough that the cash shop feels like a preferred alternative to make the game play better. These games have been purposefully broken in order to extract money from their players.

  • This is why these offline MMOs feel right to me. They feel more... humane.

  • In Phantasy Star Universe, rare items appear randomly and experience points accumulate slowly. The only way to earn both is to keep playing and repeating missions. You have to keep paying your subscription for the chance to get drops and advance your character. They give you just enough to keep you from unsubscribing in frustration. In Pangya, you earn in-game currency to buy upgraded equipment and improve your golfer, but at a slow rate. If you want to avoid that, you can go to the cash shop, spend real money, and get the gear immediately. Even worse, it's a better quality that what you could earn in the first place. Sure you can do it the hard way, but why when you can skip to the fun stuff?

  • This all sounds like par for the MMO course, I understand. I might not have noticed either if I hadn't played the offline versions of these games. The rare items and experience in Phantasy Star Portable are earned regularly since there is no incentive to hold them back. Pangya: Fantasy Golf doesn't have a cash shop so in-game currency is much more plentiful. They also took the statistic bonuses off the clothing since they can't earn any more money from you. It feels nice to play a game without someone rummaging through my wallet for spare change.

  • Like Tipa did two years ago, I've reached a point where I would like to see older MMOs refashioned for a single player experience. Can you imagine a World of Warcraft where every instance only needs to be completed once by a single player or with player controlled NPCs? Gear could be granted by quests instead of random drops to ensure proper distribution. You could still have crafting, but with much less of a grind to allow of different gear options. I would buy that game in an instant. And I would buy the expansions packs they would launch too.

  • The funny thing is, by going to a single player game, they could make Azeroth or any game world as vibrant as it was when their games first launched.

© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Bullet Points, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

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