My original rant from Episode 13

The version of the verbal rant I presented for the episode 13 show was a much watered down version of what I had written.  The problem in presenting it for the podcast was that I suck at reading out loud, even when it’s my own writing.  Basically I just start reading faster and faster until I eventually run out of breath and collapse on the floor, going unconscious and inevitably soiling myself.  So, to avoid subjecting my co-hosts to this phenomenon, I ended up just kind of abbreviating the whole thing and trying to pluck the good parts from my not so great memory.

It’s pretty silly but hey, it’s my first attempt at a rant.  

Here’s it is:

Rant – Episode 13 – MMO’s should be more like sandwiches

It may shock you to discover that MMOs are not like sandwiches.  In a sandwich the beginning and end, or top and bottom, are bread and the middle is where all the delicious nutritious and oh so good for you stuff is.  With a sandwich each bite presents you with a little bit of all of the experiences and delights that the sandwich has to offer.  With a sandwich there are no surprises, unless it’s a crappy sandwich.  You don’t get halfway through a sandwich and run into a spot that is missing the spicy mustard, mayo, meat and/or cheese.  You get a pretty good experience all around and only the sandwich edge or crust is a little dicey. 

Following this line of reason, or lack thereof, you could say that the newbie experience would be the bottom piece of bread, slathered with some kind of delicacy like Helman’s mayo or Grey Poupon.  The mid game would be the meat, cheese, tomatoes, onions, whatever and finally we come to the end game.  The end game is the top piece of bread, seasoned with something to contrast starkly with the beginning game but nonetheless tasty and inspiring to the sandwich…er game; a nice finish to add to all the other key ingredients.  This formula for the basic sandwich is perfect and has remained a gastronomical wonder since the Earl of something or other first invented it while no doubt high on green absinthe. 

But MMOs are nothing like this.  First off you can’t eat them but let me really tell you what annoys me about them.  You start playing an MMO and you’re amazed at the potential of this wonderful new character you’ve painstakingly created.  You play through the beginning game content very fast and you gain powers and levels relatively quickly.  The developers have put a TON of time into making this introduction to the game so compelling and gripping that you don’t ever want to play anything else.  You move along at a reckless pace, learning how to cast your spells and wield you weapons.  You’re killing a vast array of mobs - some even more scary than snakes, rabbits, and wolves.  The quests have a good story line running as an undertone and you feel like you’re really making a name for yourself.  Everything is great!

Queue screeching record coming to a halt.  You have just “progressed” to the mid game.  All of a sudden the world doesn’t seem so new and exciting.  A lot of the same mobs are trying to kill you but they now have different names like “insatiable, evil, dark maroon, ogre princess” but they still look, move, and attack you just like the “complacent, quasi-evil, pink, ogre princesses” you were killing three levels ago in the land that looked like this new place but which was slightly more green in tint.  Now instead of a fireball you are weiding the full firepower of a “fireball 2″ and your armor is now a “tarnished bronze bracer” instead of a “rusted tin bracer”. 

Don’t you hate it when this happens?  And then you realize that it’s going to be another 40 levels before you get to the high level content of the game where you can finally fight more mobs that look just like their younger weaker cousins but which have much more powerful sounding names.  In 40 more levels you can even finally have armor which doesn’t sound like you bought it from the medieval Salvation Army.  In 40 more freakin’ levels you can get mount that actually moves faster than you can run!  And finally, in 40 more levels you can finally go to the forbidden zones that no one but those 40 levels ahead of you call home.  And these zones will no doubt just be darker/lighter/redder/greener/bluer/or otherwise more menacing approximations of those zones you called home in your newbie phase.  And in 40 more levels your quests will still be more of the same but will just sound much more important.  Instead of “fetch me that broomstick” you’ll be doing “fetch me The Eye of the Sardonic Wind Lord Arthritis IV” or some such nonsense.

And finally when you do achieve the end game and can start running those dungeons in all those places you’ve heard the “l33t” discussing in guild chat you will realize that it’s pretty much finally a return to the high level of quality that you experienced when you started the game.  Yeah, levels 1-20 are typically a hand crafted, finely wrought game experience.  And the final game experience is much the same.  The middle is just the crap they continue to regurgitate for you as a vehicle to get from point a to point b.  It’s not at all like a wonderful sandwich.  There’s no provolone or salami here.  If an MMO was a sandwitch it would be a sandwich made out of lard at it’s center, wrapped in bacon.  Yeah, it’s like a lard fillet Mignon of sorts.  While the bacon is good and owes it’s great taste in part to the lard, the majority of it is just more of the same fatty crap.

What really sucks is that while everyone get’s to enjoy the great quality of the beginning game, hardly anyone get’s to enjoy the end game.  Only those who are able to survive the many months of the “lard diet” can eventually find their wonderful bacon at the end of the rainbow.  And I’m sure it is wonderful but no one ever sees it.  In WOW only 0.16% of all players on the American and EU servers have killed Illidan.  That’s why I wanted to play the Burning Crusade.  That’s bullshit!  That’s the guy the expansion is all about and no one’s ever seeing him.  Game developers need to pull their heads out of their orifices and either put more time into make the mid game something other than a lardy chore, or they need to just let you fast track to the good stuff.  In the end people wouldn’t play these games if they didn’t like them but I’ve got to believe that if someone figures out my sandwich model for MMO design…well there will be a lot of people eating at that magical wonderful Deli for a long long time…

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