What’s Missing Is…

…that old sense of fear.

 I think I’ve pinpointed what’s different about the MMO I first fell in love with (Final Fantasy XI) and the genre as it stands today. If you ever played FFXI, you can probably recall your first journey to Jeuno at level 20. It was an extremely long walk – you didn’t have your chocobo license yet – and it was fraught with danger. There were Orcs in the forest, and Tigers in the desert, and a range of critters in between just waiting to eat your face off. And if they did? You lost XP. Oh, and you went back to your “home point”. Brutal.

 I can hear you now, “Oh, Lord, here we go again – another old gaming fogey arguing for the merits of harsher death penalties”. And you know what? You’re right. I am. And I HATED death penalties in FFXI when I played it. But you know what else? Looking back, I realize it made me a better player. I didn’t just rush headlong into battle and assume I’d come out victorious. I used strategy. I avoided combat if it was unnecessary or risky.

 What is everyone bitching about in WoW if not for the lack of challenge in leveling? I seem to recall bouts of “AoE Heroics are a joke” (and of course now we hear complaints about “Heroics being too hard”, but I digress).  We created this monster ourselves. We complained and whined to developers that death penalties weren’t fun. And we were right.

Do what?

No, they aren’t fun, but they’re the only thing that gets the point across anymore. Dude – you DIED. This is not an action that was ever meant to be handled lightly in an RPG. Fallen Earth – a game with a theoretically harsher death penalty than most (-XP buff for a set amount of time, plus gear damage; chips aren’t quite as easy to come by as WoW gold) – at least has a conceptually sound reason behind why you can be “reborn” multiple times – you are a clone, after all. But in most games today, there isn’t a fundamentally good reason why you’re immortal.  

It’s like trying to discipline a child. If you take away something he doesn’t care about, he won’t change his behavior. But if he’s a TV lover and you take away his privileges for the night, it will impact his decisions in the future.

I’m not saying it always has to be XP; but it has to be MEANINGFUL. During the leveling process, XP is probably the right answer. At max, though? Well, there’s the rub. And thoughts for another day, perhaps.

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~ by Drew on February 8, 2011.

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