An Interview with DrainingSouls.net on MMORPGs

February 21st, 2008

mmorpg interview header

Its not often that I cover PC games let alone MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) in this blog so I thought that it was about high time I did. But I have no idea where to start, I’ve never even played a MMORPG before. So to fix this I’ve enlisted the help of DrainingSouls.net’s Adrenis whom I recently interviewed to clear up some misconceptions and possibly help start me off on my own MMORPG experience.

Daniel Primed: Thanks for being part of the article Adrenis, can you introduce yourself to the readers so that we have an idea of who you are?

Adrenis: My real name is John Pickett, and I’m a 27 year old guy living in the southeastern US. I’m married and have a one and a half year old son. I was introduced to MMOs when I picked up WoW (DP: thats World of Warcraft) a little over two years ago, and basically haven’t played any other video games since then.

I’m slowly turning my entire household into WoW fanatics – I’ve already convinced my wife to play with me on occasion, and I’m sure that my son will be an avid player as soon as he can sit at a computer and not try to eat the keyboard.

DP: Now as you know I’m not into MMORPGs myself, its just a genre which has never interested me. So what do you think is the appeal of MMORPGs to so many gamers?

Adrenis: I think there are a number of things that attract people to MMOs. First is their social nature. It’s nearly always more fun to play games with other people. The last video game I was really into before WoW was Halo
2. I logged around 40 to 50 hours in the Campaign (singleplayer) mode and then got pretty tired of it. On the other hand, I spent hundreds of hours online playing multiplayer on Xbox Live before I got tired of that. Most games are more fun and engaging when you can play them with other people.

On top of that is the go anywhere, do anything factor in MMOs. If you want to quest, then go right ahead. If you want to go exploring, you can do that to. If you want to just hang out in a city and talk to people in chat, that’s an option too. I think people enjoy not being forced to do stuff like in a typical video game.
wow back
DP: Awesome, now I can think of 3 or 4 reasons why I don’t play MMORPGs but deep down I can’t help but think that they are preconceived notions or stereotypes that I’ve formed from my outsider view of the genre. So I want to run each of these past you so that I can get a better perspective on the games.

Adrenis: Ok, shoot.

DP: Firstly; it takes a lot of time and dedication to play a MMORPG and I don’t have the extensive free time to play it so therefore its not worth me playing.

Adrenis: That is a misconception that I bet a lot of people have. It is entirely possible to devote your entire life to WoW. It’s addictive enough that you can enjoy playing it for 8 to 10 hours straight and there’s enough to do that you don’t get bored easily. However, having vast quantities of time to spend in it isn’t required in any sense. It is totally possible to spend more normal amounts of time in WoW (say, an hour or two a day) and still enjoy it.

It really all depends on what you want to accomplish in the game. If you want to be a top level raider in a leading guild or a world famous PvPer (DP: PvP = Player Vs Player), then that will require a good bit of time and dedication. But if you just want to play the game to have fun, it wouldn’t require more time than any other video game you play.

DP: Secondly; I literally can’t stand fantasy-esque (ie. Lord of the Rings, Magic the Gathering etc.) themes. So therefore I’m not going to like playing games like World of WarCraft.

Adrenis: I can understand the fantasy theme of WoW not being everyone’s cup of tea. I personally enjoy it a lot, but not everyone is going too. The good news is that there are MMOs out there that are not fantasy based. Tabula Rasa and Eve Online are both sci-fi themed, and Pirates of the Burning Sea puts you in the shoes of an 18th century sea captain.

The even better news for you is that, as MMOs become more and more popular (and I think they will), more game developers will throw their hat in the MMO ring. This will lead to an even greater and more diverse selection of MMOs to choose from.

tabula rasa

DP: I’ve heard about Tabula Rasa and some of the other different MMORPGs. Lastly; everyone knows MMORPGs are grind fest and are light on solid gameplay. Do you think that is true?

Adrenis: Let’s talk about grinding for a minute. What is it exactly? The easiest way to define grinding is “any action, or series of actions, that you are forced to repeat indefinitely to achieve some sort of goal.” That seems like a pretty good definition to me, but it’s kinda broad.

Take Halo, for instance. The point of Halo, to put it simply, is to kill aliens. You kill them in lots of different ways – by yourself, with Marines, with a gun, with a grenade, with a Warthog, you can sneak up behind them and hit them – but essentially your goal is to kill more aliens.

Does that make Halo a grind fest? Well, according to our earlier definition of grinding, it does. But how can that be? Halo was an awesome, incredible, ground-breaking force of a game. So let’s change the definition a bit and say grinding is “any action, or series of actions, that you are forced to repeat to the point of boredom to achieve some sort of goal.”
Under that definition, Halo was not a grind fest at all, because I never once got bored playing it. I look at WoW the same way. There are elements of the game that might be seen as repetitive, but when I’m playing I’m having too much fun to care.

DP: Yeah I can see what you mean about grinding because some people seem to love it and others loathe it. Depends on what you are playing really.

So how easy is it for newbies (like me ^_^) to join the MMORPG scene? Do experienced players often take new players under their wing or do they take advantage of them? And what is the community like overall?

Adrenis: I’d say it’s fairly easy for newbies to come into the MMO scene. I was a total MMO newbie when I picked WoW up and, while there was a lot to learn, I had a great time learning it. There are tons of resources out there that newbies can use to improve their gameplay and learn more about MMOs.

Most of the experienced players are generally happy to help out new players. It’s really all in how you ask – if you’re an annoying pest, constantly asking for money and for people to run you through dungeons, you will not get a warm reception. On the other hand, if you’re friendly, polite and respectful of other people, then you’ll find lots of nice people willing to help you out.

The community overall is really quite stellar. It’s easy to focus on the bad experiences that you have, but 90 to 95% of the people out there are just looking to have a good time too. I’ve met lots of great people through WoW that I would thoroughly enjoy hanging with in real life.

DP: MMORPGs particularly World of Warcraft are extremely popular in multiple countries around the world. I think I read the other day that something like 50% of China’s population plays MMORPG games (which is huge, I hope I read it correctly!). How does the game adapt for multiple languages?

Adrenis: I’m not totally certain on this, but I believe that Blizzard, or their parent company, Vivendi, contracts with foreign gaming companies to develop the different foreign versions of the game. I’ve only played the US version of WoW, but I believe that the game remains 99% the same in the foreign versions, just with different names.

DP: I don’t want to flog a dead horse here but do you play with only Americans? Or do they combine Australians, Europeans and Americans (ie westerners) together? So for example I could buy WoW in a store, go home and then play that with you online. Also if I bought a Chinese copy of WoW then do you think that I could play Chinese Wow in Australia or is do you think it is based on IP?

Adrenis: I don’t know if Blizzard has ever said exactly how they divide people and countries up for the servers, but I do know that players from different countries can and do play together. In my current Horde guild, there are several Canadians and at least one guy from Australia. My old Alliance guild had an American guy living in and playing from Germany. So while I’m not totally certain about this, it seems that most of the English speaking world plays on the same servers, and then maybe European countries are given the choice of a server in their language or an English one. China, I believe, has their own unique servers and no one else is allowed to play on them.

So if you got a copy of WoW, you could play with me no problem, but you’d have to move to China to play with them.

DP: Coolies, I find this stuff interesting because I study Chinese and linguistics.

Now I have to ask. I have a friend who plays a lot of Warcraft, last month he supposively played 212 hours of WoW which equates to 7hrs a day. Is this as terrible as it sounds? How much do you play and where do you draw the line?

Adrenis: When I first started playing WoW, I played around 40 to 50 hours a week, but right now I probably play 10 to 20. I think it’s just like any other hobby – if it gets to the point where WoW is dominating your life and you are starting to neglect real life things that need to get done, then it’s time to cut back a bit. If your friend is consistently playing 7 hours a day, then it’s probably time to take a little break.

DP: Yeah I’d say so. Theres been a bit of talk lately about Second Life and all of the sex, racism and all of those nasties in the game world. What do you think about Second Life?

Adrenis: I’ve never gotten into Second Life, and I freely admit that I don’t completely understand it, but I don’t really see the point of it. It seems to me that it’s essentially a huge Internet chat room where you can buy and sell virtual stuff.
As far as sex, racism and all that, any time you get lots of people together, and give them anonymity, and the ability to speak freely, some knuckleheads are going to spout off simply because it amuses them.

second life

DP: Yeah I have seen reports on Second Life and think that it looks like pretty lame. In fact it is one of those games that do often pop up in the media. Largely due to the explicit content as well as the money making schemes in the game. So do you think MMORPGs are fairly represented in the media?

Adrenis: Is anything represented fairly in the media? The media is going to report on the shocking and titillating things that happen in the MMO world, because that’s what keeps people entertained. So you’re going to hear about the guy that plays WoW for 36 hours straight and then falls over dead. You’re going to hear about the guy that plays WoW so much his wife leaves him and he loses his job.

What you’re not going to hear about are the vast majority of MMO players who just play to have a good time. You won’t hear about the people who play WoW a normal amount. You won’t hear about the friendships that are formed online. You won’t hear about the good times that are had. Because that stuff is all boring :).

DP: Yeah I think that this probably applies to all games in general actually. Also the media is quite different in Australia. Our broadcast media etc is much smaller and although it is around there tends to be less of that over the top, hyped up, scare tactics that is seen (or at least what we see) in the states.
fury boxart
On the topic of Australia, late last year one of Australia’s largest game developers; Auran closed down and right before Christmas terminated the employment of their employees (read more). Their last game, an MMORPG named Fury was their last hope (despite everyone outside the company being none the wiser). I just want to ask as an American MMORPG player have you heard of this game at all? I figured that I’d just throw that one out there.

Adrenis: I have heard of Fury but I don’t know much about it at all. I think I remember reading recently that it switched from a subscription plan (similar to WoW) to a free-to-play plan, probably coinciding with the demise of the developer.

DP: Yeah they have moved additional development over to China so it is probably all related, I suspect. Any last words on MMORPGs that might help out the readers?

Adrenis: If you want to learn more about MMOs before you plunk down some cash to buy one, blogs are a great place to read more about them. LagORama is great, as well as Tobold’s MMO Blog and Random Battle. You can always check mine out as well – I love to hear from players new to WoW and to MMOs.

DP: Awesome, thanks for taking the time out to enlighten me (and I’m sure some of my readers) about the MMORPG genre. Good luck with your blog DrainingSouls, it was great hearing your ideas.

For additional MMORPG information then be sure to check out Adrenis’ blog @ DrainingSouls.net

  • Pingback: Interviewed At DP()

  • I’m having a bit of trouble grasping
    Adrenis’ definition of grind, and comparing it with Halo, or any other action game.

    Here’s the definition: “Any action, or series of actions, that you are forced to repeat to the point of boredom to achieve some sort of goal.”

    There was another definition he mentioned, the only difference is that the phrase “to the point of boredom” wasn’t included.

    This is when the discussion becomes subjective. Boredom is a relative term. Some people find a certain activity as boring, others don’t.

    However, I think it would be safe to assume that boredom sets in earlier when the activities involved are fewer. Would you agree? After all, if there are more things to do, we won’t get bored as easily, correct?

    I’d like to describe the typical MMO gameplay some more.

    In MMOs (like WoW), you approach an opponent, then proceed to click different attacks lined up in the middle of your HUD. Or you can just press the corresponding number and the attack will execute.

    Other classes may have a different approach (like “casting” spells from afar or shooting arrows), but the combat boils down to clicking the UI or pressing a number. The number crunching takes over, and a pre-determined effect is shown.

    If your character doesn’t suffer damage, it’s not because YOU dodged the attack or YOU took cover behind a rock. It was the stat crunching that determined it.

    That sounds pretty limited to me. You sit back and hardly do anything. Would it be safe to assume that doing this over and over could be described as repetitive?

    In Halo, or any other action game made in the history of gaming, your success or failure is determined by YOU, the player, not some number crunching that happens in the background. Even Tabula Rasa’s supposedly action-oriented gameplay is dependent on the number crunching.

    You do the tactics, you do the attacks, you do the dodging, you do the twisting or blocking. If you survive, it’s not because of number crunching. It’s by your skill, it’s by your actions. The outcome can go either way. If you don’t dodge, you get hit. If you don’t shoot the rocket coming at you, you get hit. If you don’t run, you’ll get killed. There are a whole lot of choices on what you have to do, and you have to react in real time, not in rounds.

    If you keep playing an action game, you will get bored eventually. But the fact remains that there are more things to do, so boredom doesn’t set in as easily.

    In addition to the rather limited combat options in MMOs, there are more repetitive tasks to do: You keep on fighting (doing the limited routine on your keyboard), you then level up eventually, earn enough money to buy better equipment, and fight more powerful monsters. Rinse and repeat. That sums up what you do in pretty much all MMORPGs like WoW.

    Sure, you may craft items and weapons to keep you occupied. In fact, many players resort to this because they’ve already maxed their characters out, and there’s nothing much to do. However, I doubt this would keep you occupied long enough.

    Bottom line, the MMO subgenre has a reputation for having that grind, and for good reason. Action games like Halo may have the potential for grind when engaged in long periods. However, it’s unfortunate that MMOs need to resort to rationalizing to make it look like it’s not as tedious as it is perceived.

  • A note on the servers – the server you end up on is related to where he copy of the game you purchase is from. So if you buy a European copy of the game (which includes the whole of the EU, including English-speaking) you are stuck on EU servers. Some of these are one-language only, but most of them are English-speaking.

    The US/Canada/Australia are another block group of servers. The American playing in Germany would have bought his copy in America, and be stuck with an American server. Equally, my copy, which I bought in England is stuck on an EU server. This is actually something that bugs me a lot, as the majority of people I know who play are on US servers. But you can’t transfer 🙁 I would have to buy an American copy of the game, and set up an American account.

  • Mike, you don’t sound like an MMO fan to me. That’s fine – I’m not here to try and sell you on the genre or a particular game – but I do want to respond to some of your comments because I don’t think you fully understand MMOs.

    I don’t deny that the gameplay in most FPSs is more varied than that of MMOs. That’s kinda the point of FPSs – they’re action games, and if the action doesn’t draw you in or isn’t fun, then there is no game.

    In MMOs, on the other hand, the action/gameplay/killing of baddies is only one part of the game. You noted that the more things we have to do in a game, the longer it will take us to get bored. Well, in an MMO, if you get tired of one aspect of the game, then there are tons more things waiting for you to do. If I get tired of solo PvE content, then I can group up with friends, do some PvP, improve my crafting skills, work the Auction House to make some gold, create an alt, or just hang out in a city and talk to people.

    That’s really the heart of what MMORPGs are about. It’s a role playing game – you’ve created a character in this world and you decide what they are going to do and what kind of person they will be.

    If all you’re looking for is action, then MMOs (and RPGs) are probably not for you. You might get bored easily and start thinking that everything is a grind. But if you enjoy the vast go-anywhere-do-anything world, then you’ll probably enjoy MMOs.

  • Mike runs B5Media’s FPS Rantings blog. So he is firmly an action-orientated guy. ^_^

    I think that this whole idea that MMORPGs are “grind fests” comes from a misconception or misunderstanding between the action and MMORPG parties.

    For action gamers, the action, that is the combat is the crux of their experience. So when they see how gameplay lite a MMORPG (or any RPG for that matter is) they label it as somewhat weaker because of this more statistics driven gameplay. Yet in reality it is not the statistic driven gameplay which attracts MMORPG players . For these guys the crux of their experience is the open world, social elements. Much like what Adrenis answered for the second question.

    So realy it is all a misunderstanding as to what makes each genre appealing to the player.

    I think that a game like GTA: San Andreas is an interesting middle man because in essence it contains the best of both worlds. There is the sandbox world which allows you to do whatever you feel like but there is also the skill based, action elements. I think that this is what made the game so appealing because it is a game that could appeal to both parties.

  • I’m a huge RPG fan, Adrenis. I actually started playing RPGs via pen and paper. The MMORPG genre however, is nothing like the real RPG. The root word for the term is “role-play” and disappointingly, there are only a few servers in each MMORPG that support this practice.

    Everyone else not into real role-play are relegated to using a strange version of English that’s mostly gibberish. 😛

    About the MMORPG gameplay… MMORPGs are similar to RPGs in some elements, but I think they’re two very different beasts. You get to socialize with thousands of people in MMORPGs, but the gameplay is basically stretched.

    The developers have created the grind gameplay because they want to keep you playing and coughing up the cash. Once you experience everything they’ve created, the devs need to put in a new chapter to keep you playing.

    Unlike real RPGs, there is no end-game in MMORPGs. I disagree that RPGs and MMORPGs are the same. They may have similar elements, but they’re apples and oranges.

    I think PvP and PvE are pretty much the same. The main difference is that another person is controlling that avatar you’re facing-off with. It all boils down to whose stats or stuff are better.

    I’ve played my fair share of MMORPGs (even WoW). I really tried to like the subgenre, but its supposedly numerous stuff to do feels like a smokescreen because when I look beneath it, there’s really not a lot of gameplay there.

    I’m not saying that all MMORPGs would be like that. I just think the genre could be improved to include more gameplay (which would not be hugely stat dependent). After all, there have been moves to incorporate action and MMOs in games.

    I guess that says I’m not a huge stat fan, even if I’m into RPG. When there’s a lot of emphasis on the stats, the focus seems to have been lost. Let’s not forget that the root word is “role-play” and not “OMG l33t l00t r0xx0rz!”

  • Pingback: DP’s Gamer Blog:: Mighty Pirate! » Play Impressions (8/4/08)()

  • whew quite a long read. It remained interesting throughout though. I especially like the definitions of grinding and the Halo comparison.