Warning: non-gaming readers will have difficulty making it very far into this post.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve started playing World of Warcraft. It’s mostly Brian‘s fault, but I’ll admit I’ve had my eye on playing a MMORPG (means “Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game,” pronounced “More Pig”).
If you’re unfamiliar with how these things work, let me give you the briefest of rundowns. If you are familiar with how these things work, get a life and go outside every so often. Loser.
See, I can make that joke because I turtled* the whole weekend and played more WoW than a person ought to have. In my defense, I was also watching movies and episodes of ALF at the same time, so at least my time wasn’t completely wasted.
Anyway, the rundown. You start the game by choosing your race (Night Elf, Human, Dwarf, Undead, Gnome, something like that) and your class (Hunter, Warrior, Priest, etc.) . I am a Night Elf Hunter named “Mupmadellan” (accent on the “dell” part), and I have a pet tiger and a pet raptor that fight alongside me (one at a time). The tiger’s name is “RoarMonger” and the raptor is new enough that he hasn’t been named yet. If he turns out to be loyal and nice, he’ll get a name soon enough.
From there you seek out NPCs (Non Player Characters, or, characters in the game that aren’t controlled by other human players) that have exclamation points floating over their heads. The exclamation points indicate that the NPC has a quest for you, usually in the form of “These creatures in this one area are giving me grief. Go kill a certain number of them and bring me back some sort of proof.”
Anything you kill in the game gives you some amount of experience points, or XP. Every quest you finish also awards you XP. Earning certain amounts of XP causes you to “level up,” which basically means your character gets stronger, smarter, faster, and more beautiful. Well, maybe not more beautiful, but all the rest. The higher the level, the more XP you need to advance to the next level. The higher your level, the bigger beasts and bad guys you can take on. I’m currently at Level 27.
That’s pretty much it.
I should mention, though, that their are several other things you can learn and level up in. You can choose two professions from a big list: skinning, mining, leatherworking, alchemy, tailoring, and, uh, frosting. The more you do them, the better you get and the better things you can produce. There are also three things that everyone can do in addition: first aid, fishing, and cooking. I can fish okay, I can’t cook hardly at all, and I am a master first aid person. I can whip up Silk Bandages with the best of them.
So there’s your rundown on MMORPGs. Even though I’ve only described this particular one, pretty much any MMORPG follows the same patterns to a lesser or greater degree.
While many people play these games because they want to reach the highest level possible (that’d be Level 60 in WoW), a big draw for these types of games is the “MM” part – at the same time you’re playing, literally thousands of other real life people are playing the same game. You see them walking around, their names floating above their heads. They also display what guild they belong to and you can tell if they’re an enemy or a friend by what’s displayed. You can team up with other people to accomplish a quest that you can’t beat on your own. You can team up with people you don’t know or wait until your friends are online and team up with them. Some people are really nice about letting you team up with them, and other people are jerks.
For the most part, I don’t like to team up with people. I like to go solo, or as solo as a person can be with a tiger or a raptor by his side. I like taking on beasts that are my level or a little below and beating them (and then skinning them so I can make armor out of their hides – it’s not as gross as it sounds, really) and finding what kinds of treasures they drop. I don’t know exactly how a giant spider is carrying around a large, undamaged Claymore sword, but they sometimes are.
Oh, I have teamed up on a few occasions. Brian had a friend of his take me around the whole map gathering weapons training and learning gryphon flight paths (so I could fly there later) when I first started, and I’ve also teamed up with a stranger or two along the way. There’ve been times when I just couldn’t do the quest alone, and I sought help. Afterwards, I tend to go on walkabout for a while, just taking in the scenery (and killing a few beasts) and being on my own. I just like being alone, even in a virtual world.
See, there’s a lack of trust going on. The other day, I’m on a walkabout and I’m standing at a crossroads, looking up the road at a big group enemies that I was far to under-leveled to even be looking at, when a Level 55 dwarf comes up and says, “Hey, you want to go kill those guys?” I tell him I can’t and he says, “No, no – I can get them on my own. You can just come along for the ride.” Sure, why not? It’ll get me some XP, and that’s cool. So we went after them. It was fun…for about 15 minutes. That was when he said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve got to go” and he left. Gone. Leaving me by myself, which normally I wouldn’t mind – but normally I’m not surrounded by a bunch of angry trolls. I was killed shortly thereafter. When you’re killed, your ghost reappears at a distant place and you travel as a ghost back to your body where you’re reunited and respawned, but with only half your life bar…right smack dab in the middle of wherever you were, angry trolls and all.
Grrr. I was eventually able to get out by running as fast as I could once respawned until I was killed again. After about three deaths, I was far enough away to respawn without getting killed.
That’s the danger with teaming up with strangers: you don’t know how much you can count on them. When it’s just you, yeah, you can’t take everything on, but you know you can’t and you know your weaknesses. You see a level 30 Elder Bear coming at you and you know you need to skedaddle. With a stranger there, you might be able to beat it, but he also might bail in the middle of things, whether by choice or by accident of equipment. Chancy. Safer, I think, to try things on your own. Safer to wait for a trusted friend to come online. Safer to stick to the familiar. Safer to stick to the paths so you’re not surprised by an unseen foe.
Funny, isn’t it, how a person’s real-life strategies carry over into virtual worlds?
*tur·tled (ter’tld) – v. – To remain in one’s house, leaving only occasionally in search of food.