Friday, September 30, 2005
Ultima Online Pre-Trammel
6 years after the event people on different MMORPG message boards are still talking about how great Ultima Online was before the introduction of the PvP-free half of Trammel. And for 6 years I had problems understanding this. I only joined UO after Trammel was introduced, and it was blindingly obvious that over 90% of the players were staying in Trammel, with less than 10% staying on Felucca, the PvP side. Today finally somebody on my guild boards explained me what was so great about pre-Trammel UO in words that I could understand: pre-Trammel UO was great, because to protect yourself from player killers, you were forced to band together in guilds. He was talking about him being protected by fear, beat me up and I'll hunt you down with my 100 buddies.
Basically that is the same idea as the Everquest "vision": Introduce harsh and unpleasant aspects in the game, so people band together to overcome them. The joy of playing together makes people love the game. You get far stronger emotions for the game when the consequences of your actions, both good and bad, are stronger. And these stronger emotions are able to overcome the reluctance of people to form friendships with strangers.
This is the reason why EVE Online is steadily growing, albeit from a small base. You can get shot down anytime, and lose a lot of money for your ship and cargo, even with insurance. And you might even be "podded", killed in your escape pod, thereby losing days or weeks of skill development. And the only thing that protects you (besides dumb luck of not running into pirates) is belonging to a powerful corporation which has the ability to punish the pirates. Your game actions, your PvP combat can have big consequences, both positive and negative. There was a lot of buzz recently when some people got hired as virtual assassins, infiltrated a major guild, and managed to kill the guild leader and steal most of the corporations wealth.
If you like things like that, the relative safety of games like World of Warcraft can sure seem boring in comparison. Abalieno calls it a "fake war", and connects the fact that people are exploiting the honor system with the fact that honor rewards are the only consequence of WoW PvP.
Nevertheless I have to observe that boring safety, games in which you can't be griefed, are much more popular in the west than the hardcore games in which you can. It is well known that Trammel was a direct consequence of dwindling subscription numbers of UO, and only the addition of the "safe" version of the game enabled it to survive. Safe WoW is the biggest game in the US MMORPG market, while griefing-enabled Lineage 1 and 2 never took off. But at least I understand the Koreans, and the tiny minority of western players playing by the same principles, better now. There is some positive, community-building consequence to griefing. Not everybody who likes this sort of games is a griefer.
Anyway, I keep opting for boredom. Heart-racing emotions due to colossal consequences of my game actions are not exactly what I am looking for. I'm playing in the evenings after work, and on weekends, to relax, not to pump myself up with more adrenaline. It is good that there are games for both kinds of players.