Well, the first week of my March Gaming has gone by, and boy, did I have fun getting back into The Secret World. Even though I know Kingsmouth like the back of my hand by now, it still has its own kind of allure. The mist in the streets, the sun breaking through the fog in the morning, the smell of daffodils and rotting corpse, creating a unique boquet when the wind blows west…alright, considering the zombies and draugr, Kingsmouth is not such a nice place to be, but TSW is such a nice game to play!
Ladies and gentlemen, let us take a moment to ponder a rather philosophical topic, namely the one of free choice. I’m sure that many great minds have already written about this subject, and that since the dawn of mankind, humanity has asked itself: are my choices made by my free, unchained spirit, or is every road I take predestined by my experiences in this world, thus making me nothing more than the product of my environment? Well, I can’t provide you with an answer to this larger-than-life question, but I can tell you this: when it comes to games, choice is just an illusion.
As I ventured forth into the continent of Pandaria, curious to see what this new land had to hold for my warrior, I noticed that Blizzard decided to change the way quest achievements were tracked. Instead of rewarding you with some e-peen points after finishing a certain number of quests in a zone, you work off a list of quest “storylines”, and are notified as soon as you finish one. Once you have rounded up every storyline in the zone, you get a nice achievement, showing everyone that you helped all those in need in a part of Pandaria. It’s a nice change from the old way, but next to giving you an easier way to tracking your quest process, it also shows how even the behemoth company of Blizzard has laid their focus on storytelling in their flagship title.
Of course, this way of tracking quest achievements is just a minor part of their new focus on the story of Pandaria. The use of many cutscenes and spoken dialogue helps to immerse the player into the setting, making him a part of the story. I’m a big fan of this focus on the plot that many contemporary MMORPG’s show. Considering the roots of role-playing games, story is a big part of the role-playing experience, but for years, it was taking the backseat in most online titles.
A cynic might claim that this is nothing but a simple reaction to the demands of the market. While struggling with many other issues, the storylines of Star Wars: The Old Republic are considered the best in any MMORPG, and Guild Wars 2 also puts the personal story of your character into the center of the game. My favourite The Secret World almost drowns the player in symbolic and enigmatic storytelling, and looking at the positive reactions all these games get for their attempts at being more than just a grindfest, it seems like the people simply demand a good story.
I mean, who can blame them? Years of simply hacking away at monsters with but a notion of lore and motivation have dulled us, and we want to know why our digital alter egos venture forth to be heroes. We want to the stories we know from offline games online, to share them with our friends. We want to form our own band of daring knights and sorcerers, and fight against evil out of a strong, personal motivation. In the end, we want to know why we had to kill those ten rats, and how that helped achieving our character’s goals. This focus on story and the narrative aspects gives us the means to do just that, and I hope that it will be a part of MMORPG’s that will receive lots of love in the future.
Humans are bizarre creatures. Through the ages, we have established a set of rules regarding “good” and “bad”. No matter how abstractthose ideas are, we have done our best to come to an agreement of what is okay, and what just doesn’t fly. Love is great, but loving someone so much that you follow them everywhere they go is considered rather creepy. Being ambitious is also something our society considers good, but once you go over corpses it’s a completely different story. We do our best to enforce these ideas on every member of our society, and yet the people from fiction who defy these ideas are the ones that fascinate us the most.
Take exhibit A, Heath Ledger’s potrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight Rises. Actually, just take any portrayal of the Joker. One of Batman’s most famous enemies is everything we as a society despise: he is chaos incarnate, and a sociopath to boot. He blows up hospitals just because he wants to lure out a single caped crusader, and burns mountains of money just to “send a message”. He even treats his greatest fan like shit, caring nothing for her emotions. The Joker does steps and spits on our moral and ethic codes, and then sets them on fire. And still, we deem him to be one of the greatest fictional characters ever.
While the teenagers from my neighbourhood are busy blowing everything up with fireworks, I sit inside my apartment and ponder about what a great year 2012 was. I achieved my bachelor’s degree, immediately found a job and met a totally fantastic girl. I’m physically healthier than ever before, and more confident than I was ever in my life. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but 2012 was pretty much my year.
Personal achievements were not the only thing that made 2012 glorious. From a gaming point of view, the past year has been freaking fantastic as well. In this post, I want to honour digital and tabletop titles that made my year.