Tenfold Hate

The Savage Keyboard of Conan
November 15, 2007, 11:51 am
Filed under: Age of Conan, Fantasy, Gaming, MMORPGs

Funcom production director Jorgen Tharaldsen was interviewed at QJ.NET this week where he chatted about the much-anticipated MMORPG Age of Conan. One of the elements of AoC that has caused quite a stir is that the gameplay will be single player before introducing you to the “massive multiplayer” side of Hyboria at level twenty.

Personally, I’d prefer to have access to other players from the get go. For me, it makes the world that much more alive and massive. However, there may be something to letting players test out their training wheels and become comfortable in their pixelated skins before unleashing them on the general populace. According to Tharaldsen:

“We have changed a bit on the concept of the single-player aspect through our beta, as many MMO gamers gave us feedback that they wanted access to other players sooner. So now you will play alone all the way to the first city, but there you can meet other players for the first time and do ‘limited’ multiplayer group gameplay with them.”

Tharaldsen goes on to say that AoC players have the ability to solo to max level. Though I prefer the social, teambuilding aspects of grouping, the ability to flexibly enjoy a game according to your personal play style is not even a subject open for much debate at this point in time. Sometimes we simply don’t have the time to group.

There’s no reason players should not have the ability to PvP or dungeon crawl with a party for hours on end if they want to–and also be able to hop on casually in between real life responsibilities and still have some sense of accomplishment. After all, MMORPGs are about options, right? So why should this exclude the possibility of solo–or even single player content? As long as reward is relative to risk and investment, and there is a convincing transition from the single player to the multiplayer “chapter” of the game I don’t see too much harm in Funcom’s approach.

The benefits of grouping in a game so focused on player-built cities and siege PvP are pretty apparent. Plenty of games offer good, clean, soloable PvE, but I think it will be the group-oriented aspects of AoC, if they are executed successfully, that separate this title from the pack. Some argue that games that are too solo friendly breed a sort of anti-community that tend to be unacccustomed to group dynamics and lack social etiquette when they’re finally spit out at max level looking towards the raiding and/or PvP aspects of endgame–both of which are very socially focused, group-reliant activities.

Heck, Funcom is even introducing a mercenary option in PvP so guilds can “hire” other players to help them square off against their adversaries. Providing an outlet for the greedy, the antisocial, and those just in it for the blood and money is a great twist to incorporate into gameplay–actually adding to immersion if pulled off correctly.

But a mature gamer is a mature gamer, whether they’re playing Whac-A-Mole or Civilization, a Gameboy or Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Generally, the depth a game offers dictates the type of gamer it attracts, each with their own preferences, biases, and playstyles. In-game culture in effect is created by the players behind the keyboards, not molded by the play style of the game.

Players’ maturity levels, communication skills, and ability to cooperate with others are shaped before the first mouse click; they are not spawned when they boot up their comp, whether the game they’re fiddling with is single player or multiplayer.

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