Friday, September 25, 2009

My Life With MMOs

As anyone who pays attention to online gaming should know, World of Warcraft is the big MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) on the market, with something like 11 million subscribers last I checked - of which I am one. I signed up for WoW the day after launch, because I was and am a big fan of the Warcraft series of games. Hell, I'm a fan of all Blizzard's games. I love the story behind the game, and for the most part, I really enjoy playing, though I'm in something of a slump now. There's a good community if you look for it, and if you get lucky, you can find some really great guilds.

I was initially a big fan of the Horde/Alliance separation; I find it cool that players on opposing sides can't communicate with each other, especially since miscommunication is the reason for many historical problems. It has been getting a little bland though lately, what with Blizzard trying to seemingly normalize all races and classes; while I approve of the idea of balance between the races and classes, I think they've been going too far towards making everything the same. I think the continuing quest on Blizzard's part to balance classes and such for both Player vs. Enemy- style play and Player vs. Player-style has gone a long way towards making this a problem, because what balances one playstyle may not balance the other. So things have become increasingly bland. I'm still a big follower of Blizzard, though, so I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

In contrast, less than a month ago, an MMORPG called Champions Online was released. It is based on a popular (well, popular in the gaming community) superhero RPG, and uses the setting and some of the characters from the RPG to give a framework of places to go and things to do. I find that lately I have a lot more interest in this than I do in WoW, and this is likely for a number of reasons.

First, Champions Online (or CO) is new, and that's always a draw. Secondly, the ability to customize a character is great; I have yet to see two characters who look relatively similar in CO, whereas at the endgame of WoW, most characters or a similar class and skill level will have almost identical equpment. In CO, equipment is not shown on a character; you design your own costume or look in the character creator (an offline version can be found at IgN's website), and eventually you have 4 costume slots on your character - for when you want to switch things up and have your character look like a werewolf or whatnot.

The big draw for me, though, is the flexibility of the CO powers. Each power belongs to a power set, and these are divided up into categories like Energy Control (Force, Fire, Electricity, Ice), Gadgets (Archery, Munitions, Gadgeteering, Power Armor), Martial Arts (Unarmed, Single or Dual Blade, or Claws), Might, Mind (Telekinesis or Telepathy), and Sorcery (Sorcery, darkness, Supernatural). Every character starts out with two powers from one set, but as you gain powers, you can choose them from any powerset. While you are doing this, you also get choices on how to upgrade your powers, so even if two characters manage to take virtually the same powers, they may not upgrade them in the same ways. A character could use virtually all of his powers in a single powerset, or have powers from many sets, and so far, it seems that each is viable.

There are certainly other differences, obviously, but I won't go into those; anyone interested can look them up fairly easily. Don't think I'm done with WoW, either; CO is still very early in its release, and has potential to be much better or much worse.

Personally, I'm waiting for Bioware to relase Star Wars: The Old Republic. Mmm, bounty hunters...

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