Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Blood Drinker, Heart Seeker, Swift Killer, Defender

After my daughter asked for "WoW: Cataclysm" for Christmas (which precipitated the purchase of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King as well, since I had never upgraded from vanilla WoW) I got to thinking about the MMO experience.  Way, way back in the day my coworkers and I played Asheron's Call.  AC was contemporary with Everquest and Ultima Online, so definitely in the trailblazing era of MMO's.  The thing about AC that strikes me now is that it was big.  Really big.  To get anywhere you had to make a fairly harrowing and time-consuming run that would likely use several of the portals that existed throughout the world.  This was not an "on rails" experience, by any means.  Even getting from the starter town to a somewhat larger town required a dangerous run on a road through territory with monsters that could easily kill you.  And death in AC wasn't as forgiving as death in WoW.

In retrospect I can see why AC hovered around the 100k subscriber level while WoW has more people than the nation of Portugal.  WoW streamlined the fun parts and did away with the tedious parts.  AC embraced the tedious parts, and the "buff cycle" was a big part of it.  Going out into the big, wide world in a somewhat non-suicidal way required a series of protection and enhancement spells.  Since most fighting types could not cast those spells at any respectable level, a decent mage would be required.  To a great extent this required a lot of player cooperation; you did not solo this game very effectively.  You would get protection from piercing, blade, bludgeoning, acid, fire, lightning and cold.  You would get enhancements to your strength, coordination, endurance, quickness, willpower or focus depending on your role requirements.  You'd get a boost to your run skill, mace mastery, sword mastery, healing, etc.  Often the buff cycle would start with the mage casting a series of self-buffs so that he could successfully cast the high level buffs.  It was, to say the least, complex.  Oh, and there were spell components you had to carry that would sometimes get consumed when you cast the spells.  Out of hyssop?  Sorry, you can't cast anything that requires hyssop now.  (This was significantly simplified in the few years we played, being reduced to just a few different components.)  The title of this post refers to the four buffs that every melee character's weapon would get (yes, the mage would target the weapon and cast the spells.)  Blood Drinker increases the damage of the weapon.  Heart Seeker increases the accuracy.  Swift Killer improves the speed of the weapon.  Defender improves the melee defense modifier of a given weapon.  Yes, carrying a weapon often gave you increased your ability to defend yourself against others wielding melee weapons.  The game was definitely thorough.

Maybe I'm nostalgic for AC simply because it was the first MMO I played.  Maybe just because that was a more game-filled time in my life.  In light of my recent playing of WoW (as a Cataclysm Goblin) I see that AC gave much more freedom to the player than WoW does.  It meant there were tons of places to go but not always a sense of why you wanted to go there.  A lot of the play was emergent from playing with friends.  WoW gently guides new (or new-ish) players to the next area through the quest chains.  I suppose much later in the game you would have more options... I've never gotten past about level 40 in WoW, and I will say that getting there in WoW was quite a bit more interesting than grinding the Lugian Citadel and then the Olthoi Hive Nest was.

There was less to do in AC, but you were more free to do it.  Wait, what?  Okay, never mind.

2 comments:

  1. Heh, you should have played UO instead- that game rocked. I feel the same way about it as you seem to about AC- and I've never found an MMO I liked better, even WoW.

    Now I just play tabletop minis. What games do you play? I saw your tourney report on your Menoth. I play Circle/Cryx for Warmachine and lots of different armies for 40k.

    Anyways, cool blog. Hope your WoW experience doesn't take away from your Miniatures adventures :)

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  2. The only MMO I play is EVE online, which sounds more like AC, large, open, with not a huge variety of 'premade' things, and no central heroic or evil goal - it's all about the players, who form massive alliances of thousands of pilots, and vie for control of massive aeas of space - and even if you don't go for that, you can join small corporations or just fly with friends to look for trouble. You can choose to solo, but that is slow and not that entertaining - teaming up makes things simply better in every way. It's very huge and very open, but the game is probably a lot les focussed than WoW. Also, the game runs off a single server, there aren't different 'shards' or realms, which is how the entire playerbase interacts so much.

    Eve also has a unique training mechanic in that you gain skills by setting them to train and then waiting. Good Side : No grinding to gain skills. Bad Side : No way to speed it up by actually PLAYING the game. Where I am now, I'm considering trying to train for an advanced support cruiser - and although I don't have to spend my time killing weak npcs to fill up an xp bar, I instead have to wait. For a month. I can still play the game for that month, and still have fun, but nothing I do in or out of game can really reduce the wait.

    It is not a 'simple' or 'easy' game, but it is a wide open, quite enjoyable, and player-driven game. Also, huge spaceships blowing each other to shreds.

    Never played WoW, it never really looked like it was my kind of game, visually or gameplay-wise. D:

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