And by MMORPGs, I’m referring to the F2P (free to play) ones. The pay-to-play ones are awesome, like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV (that being said, I’ve never even played any one of those titles because I don’t know how to pay the monthly fee).
Back in the days of Ragnarok Online, MMORPGs were awesome. I had a very late start on Ragnarok Online, only managing to create a low-leveled Swordsman when my mom told me to focus on my studies. When I got into junior high, my brother introduced me to the world of SEAL Online (and DOTA). This was pretty much the game that defined my junior high days. But again, good broadband was an expensive thing in Indonesia back in 2005, so I couldn’t play to my heart’s content. In high school, I was indulged in the world of Emil Chronicle Online (ECO). This was the MMORPG I played for a year and a half. I got my Assassin to level 86, bought 50 bucks worth of costumes and double exp at the item shop, and spent 5 hours every weekend to play my girly Assassin. I even managed to create 4 other characters: a level 75 Blacksmith, level 60 Cabalist, a failed level 40 Knight, and a level 65 Priest. ECO was the best MMORPG I’ve ever played… at least until exams came and I lost interest because the community was dwindling. Now, I’ve been going through MMOs faster than Taylor Swift goes through boyfriends. I tried Eden Eternal and managed to get to level 40… then I got bored because it was just grinding. Then I tried Divina Online, which was a complete mess. I’ve tried Phantasy Star Online 2, but the Japanese text and server lag was killing me. I did like the characters though, and the graphics were absolutely charming. Most recently, I’ve tried Ragnarok Online 2 because I was hoping for the great time I experienced back in Ragnarok Online. I only got disappointed because RO2 sucked big time.
I remember the good old days of MMORPGs like Ragnarok. Back when we were clueless of the world around us, and the only way to know was to explore by ourselves. Through our own discoveries, we learn first-hand about the deep and complex lore of the world, The same applies to ECO and SEAL. I recalled dying multiple times just because I hit a monster that I thought I could kill, turned out to be 10 levels above me. I also remember getting lost in dungeons and the even in the city! There were also times when I spent hours figuring out the quests. But in today’s MMOs, all of those have changed.
The thrill of exploration and adventure in today’s MMOs are now gone, replaced by an auto-direct system and a detailed mini-map. We can easily figure out where everyone is and what quests they have. We don’t need to explore and interact with NPCs to learn about the deep lore of the world; there’s a convenient manual for that. We no longer have to figure out how to do quests; they’re just “kill a number of these monsters”, “go here and do this and come back”, and “collect a number of these items” and there’s a convenient quest log to boot. You don’t need to explore. You just need to grind levels. There’s a mini-map, you just go here and there to fetch quests and monotonously kill whatever monsters you meet to get cash and exp. The main storyline unravels itself as you progress through the quests; it’s like having the story told to you.
But, perhaps the most annoying thing of the new MMORPGs are the “pay to win” schemes. They also teach gambling, because all of the good items are in a “box”. You buy a “box” with real money, click it, and hope for the best. Most of the time you get crap. Only the extremely rich and lucky can get the “Legendary” items and pwn everyone’s asses with it.
Perhaps it’s just me. I used to play MMOs because I loved the notion of exploring and adventuring. I loved learning the lore in the game and being fascinated by the intricate history of the fantasy world that the developers made. I liked that accomplished feeling of growing up because I did something, not just whiz through a dozen quests that sometimes don’t make sense. I felt that epic feeling when you’re up against a boss with only a shield, a sword, and the other 4 party members behind your back.
Where did the fun go? Where did the thrill of exploration go? It got lost behind the blinds of capitalism in the “free”-to-play gaming industry.