Too much pipeweed

Too much pipeweed

The next few paragraphs talk about a fun experience I had last night, skip over them if you want the core point =)

Last night, I had more fun in an MMO than I’ve had in a long time. The funny thing was, I was doing something that I usually don’t do: roleplay. I’ve dabbled in it a little n the past but it’s something I’d generally do in passing tiny bits at a time. Nothing in-depth or consistent, at all. So, when I got invited to an RP gathering on LotRO last night, I put it off for about 45 minutes to “finish a couple of quests”.

That was true, I was questing, but part of me was hesitant to put off leveling to take part in something that I’d possibly not enjoy or even find a little awkward. Still, the person asking me to join them (I figured there’d be about five people, give or take. It was a small guild gathering, after all) was very outgoing and I didn’t want to be stand-offish. After all, one of my resolutions with LotRO was to enjoy the journey as much as my destination.

When I got to my friend’s kin house (guild house), I was surprised to see several guilds represented by over twenty people in the room. Tables abounded with food and a keg stood on the far wall. A couple of people were playing a duet on a harp and lute in the middle of the room while several others danced. There was a lot of idle in-character conversation and, like a real party, it wasn’t all about the troubles of the world. It was less “the shadow looms in the East, doom is at our door” and more “It’s been a long time, welcome to the party! Can I offer you some ale or some food?” In the back, a lone person stood smoking by the fire; another browsed through the kin’s bookshelves.

I wound up staying for almost an hour. It was genuinely fun because the players made it so. Game mechanics helped (music, ale that makes you “merry”, various pipeweed) but more than anything, I think it was because the people were into it. Even as a mostly dormant roleplayer, I was drawn in. I found myself wanting to explain my shabby leather armor (I’m a tank but can’t wear heavy armor yet) and still bulging midsection. It was contagious.

The whole thing got me thinking about what it is that keeps so many people into the genre. Even though many claim that games like WoW and LotRO are Massively-Single-Player RPGs, I think that misses the point a bit. Whether or not you’re soloing, you have the opportunity, at almost every turn, to interact with other players. We get to see good people and bad, as they come into and out of our gaming lives. Be it direct or not, they have an impact upon us and our impressions of the game. I know, a game may perhaps be more fairly judged on its own merit but an undeniable part of any MMO is the community. They’re a part of the world, like in real life, whether we all would care to separate them from it or not.

But, I think that’s great. In any large community, you’ll get people that are morons but you’re also going to get a lot of genuinely good people as well. I have a lot of fond memories of PuGing through instances on WoW. I met many people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Together, with faces always changing, we shared laughs and overcame many challenges of the game.

I tend to believe that as players we make our own fun. If you’re with like-minded people, even things that seem boring can be brought to life. How many small events with your guild have you had turn out to be more fun than you expected? Was running across the map naked that much fun or was it because of the people you did it with? On that same token, how many instance runs/raids have been a blast because you clicked with the people you were there with?

That’s one of the reasons a strong community is important. I read Beau’s blog pretty frequently (it’s pretty good, you should check it out) and I heard him mention once that he likes the lesser played games because the community is smaller and more well knit. For all of the reasons a big game might succeed, sometimes the closeness of the players gets lost in translation. That’s one of the reasons why players railed against cross server scenarios in WAR. Community is important.

And on that same token, so is community enhancement. And encouragement. Players should be encouraged to come together and interact without forcing them to do so in order to progress. Since we can create our own fun, I think it’d help the new offering of games to maintain that MMO feel some people think is missing without impeding those who would prefer to solo. WAR could benefit most from this, I think. They have a great universe flush with possibility. But right now, there’s not much incentive to be around other players outside of the pursuit of RvR. Luckily, RvR brings about interaction and fun all its own.

So, to sum up my thoughts, last night showed me again that we can find fun in the creativity and humor of other players. Bringing that interaction to life through game elements, dungeons, and the like, is what MMOs are all about. In the end, I don’t think it’s the gear that drives the player who get the most enjoyment out of gaming. I think it’s doing something fun made funner by doing it with other people. Massively Single Player? Maybe in Counter-Strike but not in any MMO I’ve ever played.