Massive Multi Player Online Role Playing Games

Can you imagine playing a game with thousands of people? This would have been unimaginable before the internet evolution. But internet has facilitated the emergence of what are known as Massive Multi Player Role Playing games (MMORPG). These are games where thousands of players join in from every corner of the world. If you look at it, conventional books, TV serials and movies are stories where you have no control and just live a pre decided life of a protagonist as he navigates through a world. Then you have game books where you as readers get limited choice on the progress of the story. Then you move on to Story Telling games where you have complete choice and you have a dungeon master controlling a complete world and five to six other characters reacting to your every move, jointly creating a story. MMORPG is the complete other end of the spectrum where the static aspects of the world have been created by the game makers and it is almost there as a real world populated by lots of real people to create your own stories.

The simplest MMORPG available is Farmville. In some ways, it is more an independent game with some social interaction there just to promote the game. There is hardly any serious interaction between the players nor is there any kind of competition. Then we have games like Sims or Second Life which are virtual representations of the real world – maybe a simpler representation. You do all things similar to what people do in real life but you can choose to be someone else. You can take up some other profession, live a different lifestyle, and have different set of friends and a different spouse. In some ways it is basically all the interesting emotional highs of life without the drudgery. You go to work but don’t need to actually do any work, you manage a home but actually don’t need to do any real household chores nor worry about consequences as whatever happens to you as nothing is permanent and you can start all over again. Maybe that is why people find it so addictive – I read a news article about a Korean couple who were so addicted to taking care of a baby in a game that they ignored their real baby and let it die.

My interest in this type of games is again from the perspective of science fiction and fantasy stories. Many of the games such as War Craft and Travian are set in historic, fantasy or science fiction worlds. So you get to experience a life in a complete different world along with thousands of other people. Isn’t that one of the reasons we like to read fiction, especially in the science fiction, fantasy and historic genres?

The one game I have played in this genre is Travian. The objective of this game is to build an empire. The game is essentially a map and each player is a war lord trying to establish his fiefdom by capturing portions of the map. Every tile on the map has resources and serves as a place to establish a city. The player has to gather various resources – wood, metal and gold and use them to build his cities and armies. Once there are armies you can attack other players’ towns to seize their resources. You have to spend resources on building defenses to prevent other players from attacking your towns. And as the game progresses, you need to form alliances with other players to pool resources and grow together. The game has feature to make these alliances formal kingdoms with hierarchies. So the game evolves into a team game where different kingdoms vie for world dominations. Different kingdoms negotiate alliances, sign treaties and wage wars. Individual players try to fit into the hierarchy of their kingdoms or leave and join a rival kingdom or found one of their own. So finally the game boils down to leadership abilities, team player skills, negotiation skills and strategy. This game proceeds for almost a year at the end of which one kingdom emerges as the winner and then a new game starts.

War Craft apparently is a more complex game where one can have a richer experience with more individual involvement in the game and more fantasy elements. In Travian, only clan leaders have lot of decision making – the rest mostly end up being drones who follow orders in the later part of the game. But from what I have heard of War Craft it is more an individual adventure – so it is more likely to be a more rewarding experience for the individual. I have already covered the single player War Craft which I have played in my post on War Strategy Games. Also from what I have heard, it may have some elements of what I have mentioned in my post on Role Playing Games. I have not tried it out due to the paucity of time – these things can get addictive and wreak havoc on your life. But I sure will give it a try someday when I am sure I have nothing important going on in my life for the next foreseeable year or so.

So overall, I would say this is an interesting medium for people to virtually live out their fantasies. These games are also interesting places to try out social experiments to see how people interact in groups. Many companies actually use these games for research purposes. And from a writer’s perspective, they are another medium to try out one’s world building skills. Also in more complex games, a writer can look to be a dungeon master for thousands of players and manage a dynamic world for them. The possibilities are endless.

Coming up next week - Board Games

Picture Credit: http://fc02.deviantart.net/fs19/f/2007/309/1/f/World_of_Warcraft___Wallpaper_by_RobertDeNitro.jpg

Comments

  1. I can see the lure and the danger of addiction in these games. Which child has not had a dream life of being Superman or whatever? These games seem to offer you the option of escaping the drudgery of your daily life and lead a 'life' that attracts you more. Problem, though, is the possibility that your real life appears more and more humdrum in comparison and you tend to escape more often into the game world. Escapism is always a dangerous horse to ride :)

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    1. Yeah, Suresh - you have hit the nail on the head. That is the problem.

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  2. I agree with Suresh. It kind of shows you a world which is more fun and you actually start hating the time you are out of it. Koreans occupy a high ranking among those addicted I think. Have seen a documentary about that

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    1. True, Jaish. I know having been personally affected.

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  3. Your posts on games that keep evolving into stories are getting encyclopedic. It's like falling down a time warp in a parallel universe. As a onetime avid gamer, I am enjoying the series thoroughly.

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    1. Thanks a lot for your kind words, Umashankar. Glad my series could bring back those nostalgic memories.

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