Or do I just want to play Ultima forever? What's a cranky gamer to do?
I have a confession to make: I have very little experience with Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. Given that Role Playing Games are my favorite genre, and I write for a blog about video games, and MMORPGs are like, the biggest thing to happen to video games in a decade - I think this represents a pretty substantial hole in my game playing experience and perspective.
Now granted, I did play FF XI to about level 20 or so, and gained dual class. And I've watched 5 seasons of 'The Guild.' Also - I once lived in a house where three of my roommates split their rooms up so that they all slept in one room, and then the other room was dedicated to WoW. During that time, I picked some of the MMO experience through osmosis. So I'm not utterly without knowledge of MMOs. But I do realize that the MMO experience goes deep, and I just float above the surface, making observations.
But maybe i'm like a pelican or a kingfisher, maybe I can float above the surface, but dive in and grab a fish every so often. The metaphorical fish being some sort of intellectual point that I want to make, somewhere, somehow. Anyway, this topic came up because I was writing some thoughts about a game called Ultima: Exodus and going on and on and on-- as I am wont to do-- when I came to a point where I wanted to make a comparison to MMOs, and then make a series of claims about MMOs. At this point, I felt I should break this subject off to its own post, and focus in on MMO vs Ultima: Exodus.
It isn't unusual to talk about the Ultima series in context with MMORPGs. Ultima Online is widely credited as the first successful MMO. In addition, there's this great article about the Ultima series, humbly making the claim that it is the most important game series ever. And giving the series credit for a lot of what became genre tropes for MMORPGs. For example, open world gaming and multiple choice conversation mechanics.
In addition, outside of said article, I have made my own observations from playing Exodus. One is the sort of 'guild' element: the option to have up to 20 custom made characters with which to build a party. This element served my household well, as there was enough space for me, my two sisters and my Dad to all have four seperate characters. In practice, this led to a lead party, the original party that we delved into the game with. This one would have the highest levels, the strongest gear, and progress the furthest. Then there were the splinter groups: characters we would make just because making characters was fun. They might not progress very far, or gain much gear. But if we liked a particular character or party, we could boost them up with some grinding, into a legitimate party option for the lead team. This actually turned out to be a pretty good idea, as there are certain class differences that can become primarily important in the game. For example, I think the Mystic Sword may only be able to be equipped by a Fighter or Barbarian. I remember getting to a point and realizing that I couldn't equip it to anyone in my party. In addition, you may find that your party just needs a bit more brute strength or a bit more magic to accomplish a given goal. So it is really helpful to have additional characters leveled up.
All of this contributed greatly to a 'team effort.' The younger kids might not be up to the task of raiding the tougher dungeons, but we were a match for the goal of grinding away and raising characters to decent level. This allowed our family team to, in effect, accomplish multiple goals at once. Similar, I think, to MMORPGs of today. Though, of course, Exodus was neither massively multiplayer or online. But it was Multiplayer on a small scale, it just required taking turns rather than simultaneous play. And why not?
So this brings me to confront my ignorance about MMORPGs. Like, do any MMOs have similar elements to what I described above? The only example that pops into my head is "Realm of the Mad God." Which does a lot of things right. I like the 8-bit graphics. I like the team play. I'm not wild about the shmup style action. I know it sounds strange, but I kind of wish for a turn-based MMO, even if that seems counter-intuitive. Also, Mad God doesn't do much for customization, as far as I can tell.
Alright, at this point, I should mention that I am feeling very rigid. Like, what I really want is just for Ultima: Exodus, NES version, to be online so I can play it with my friends in exactly the same way I played with my family. I realize this is not going to happen and it borders on delusional. But I still want it. I mean, what are video games if not escapism? What's more escapist than a deluded fantasy about reliving my own childhood- today? Anyway, maybe there's something deeper in there, but if you'll excuse me, I've got to go to work.
P.S. Big Congrats to Jaconian and Conklederp for being awesome!