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Where's the agency in MMOGs?


Not the upcoming unreleased title from Sony Online Entertainment, but agency in the sense of making choices to effect change. As MMOG players, do we technically have any agency at all, or is that taken out of our hands, limiting us simply to selecting which ways we allow the game to push us around?

As players, of course, we get to choose our quests and missions from those that are made available to us, but of course there's no change effected. No sooner do we rescue the frightened hobbit, Lalia, from her folly in the Barrow Downs in Lord of the Rings Online, than she is wandering lost on the hillside once more, ready to be rescued again and again. And indeed, with a group, you can help to rescue her over and over and over. Until you get thoroughly tired of it.

Raids are only slightly more complex constructs. Blackwing Lair is always ready for you, and Nefarian is always waiting to be taken down, not unlike a particularly angry and ornery vending machine that kicks ass. Ditto for Filikul and Nornuan in Moria.

Admittedly, raids are not easy. They require a team, well-equipped (and often correctly equipped), who are effective with their class and skill choices, ready to work together, and coordinate towards a common goal. But whether or not it is hard, or requires all manner of metagame skills and talents, the raid remains essentially a game within a game.

Is a raid, therefore, little more than mini-game (albeit usually quite a difficult and demanding one), where the MMOG 'world' is reduced to essentially a matchmaking service for organizing a group to raid with? Couldn't the same be said for the MMOG as a whole – with quests as individual mini-games, and the world in which they exist acting as an extended lobby to select games or team-mates.

Certain popular MMOGs like Puzzle Pirates, and Free Realms appear to discard the thematic conceits and bare their casual mini-game souls without shame.

Is balancing DPS, buffs, incoming damage debuffs, threat, cooldowns and heals really all that qualitatively different as a set of mechanics to identifying and matching shapes, or is the difference just in the way we feel about it?

When raid groups have their balances of classes, gear, strategies, timing, positions all meticulously worked out beforehand (or simply borrowed from someone's Wiki page), isn't it all down to essentially playing and solving a puzzle game with friends, and doing so over and over? Where, exactly, is the agency in that?
 
Категория: MMOG articles | Добавил: Khazad (28.07.2009) | Автор: by Tateru Nino Jul 22nd 2009
Просмотров: 793 | Теги: free-realms, raiding, lord-of-the-rings-online, game-mechanics, barrow-downs, blackwing-lair, nefarian, nornuan, lalia | Рейтинг: 0.0/0 |
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