Picking out Steerpike’s sentiments of freedom within a videogame, it took me back to when I first started playing online video games. Ultima Online was my first, and a game which at the time gave the impression of unparalleled freedom…
There are several moments playing Ultima Online that I’ll never forget, and which made me realise the possibilities of online games. The first was walking into my nearest city to see the hustle and bustle of people busily trading and chatting, then to witness one particular individual walk past me with an enormous, tamed white dragon. Appearing like a crazed fan, this poor man had to suffer my questions about it for the next twenty minutes (though, if you’re going to walk around with a tamed diamond white dragon the size of a house, you should expect some interest.) The second event which I remember in Ultima Online was, when out adventuring, I came across a house in the middle of the forest. Deciding I would nose about, I let myself in and attempted to rummage through the chests and draws to find something of value. It was only halfway through my fledgling thievery that the owner returned. After he mockingly locked me inside the house before I could make a swift getaway, I ran around wildly trying to find an exit, only for the owner to catch me. Without an opportunity to even justify my actions, he had incinerated me with some sort of spell. It served me right for being so nosy.
There were also the groups of player killers who would congregate outside cities, corpse camping poor unsuspecting travelers without fear of NPC or Grand Master reprisal. The ability as a Thief to wear disguises after successful skulduggery, the abundance of trade skills and the enjoyment of just exploring. MMOGs (don’t you just hate that acronym?) since the days of Ultima Online have evolved very little, and, I would argue, have narrowed the impression of freedom greatly.
The only MMOG which attempts to offer the impression of true freedom is EVE Online. Despite its significant flaws (which there are many), the game’s freedom is heavily documented, and EVE by many critics is regarded as the definitive example of what the genre should offer. Tales of treachery, theft into the billions of Isk (EVE’s galactic currency) and entire Corporations wiped out from internal sabotage are commonplace. Yet here is a game which is fundamentally a series of empty spaces, linked by corridors. There is no exploration which offers personal reward or satisfaction. Abandoned space stations that litter the galaxy cannot be examined, boarded or captured while craters within asteroid surfaces that are large enough for space craft are difficult to explore due to the tedious control method.
Yet even EVE, with all its potential, is at its heart a glorified chat room under the topic ‘politics.’ As a budding explorer you cannot map the stars and solar systems, before selling them to other players, as the game has already done it to you. You cannot acquire an abandoned space station that you’ve found in the depths of space, commandeer it, fortify it or use it as a bolt hole. If you find wreckage from an unknown craft millions of miles from the nearest space station you cannot tow it back to a research lab to investigate its components, in the hopes of discovering new technologies. Instead, you are surrounded by beautiful space that CCP Games pretend is worth exploring.
MMOGs aren’t there any longer to cater to adventurers, role-players or explorers. The carrot on a stick approach so cleverly devised by Blizzard has ensured that the player base doesn’t care about invisible barriers or being cattle herded to the level cap. They just care about the end game and the loot.
Physically, as graphics have progressed it becomes more and more difficult to create worlds that are vast, and of interest. The days gone by where graphics were attractive but two dimensional, allowed developers the ability to push the boundary of a game’s content without fear of having to render, map or animate every single object. They didn’t need limitless numbers of industry professionals or Blade Servers in order to create a single tree or host the game world. By no means was creating an MMOG over ten years ago easy, but development practices have significantly shifted focus, placing far too much effort on the graphics engine, and not enough time on fundamental game mechanics and content.
Would offline games such as X-COM or Dwarf Fortress – and the depth of possibilities that they offer – be transferable to an MMOG when fully realised in 3D? I suspect not.
I would be happier playing an MMOG with graphics equal to that of Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn, where possibilities are endless, than continue to be railroaded into the perpetual, neverending grind that WoW and its clones offer.
When MMOGs were a closed shop made up of thousands of players world wide, and not millions, the player base was more than happy to explore what their game world had to offer without the necessity for an abundance of predictable missions. I never once heard of people complaining about lack of content, or that there was “no end game” because people were occupied with the basics of what role playing was. Players were happy to go about their daily business depending on the person and class they chose to be. They didn’t rush to level cap in an attempt to obtain the best items the game had to offer, to then complain that there was nothing to do. They merrily took part in activities which current communities would overlook in minutes.
While some blame for the decline in online freedom and the genres restrictions can be placed on hardware and a developers’ desire for bigger and better graphics, the primary cause must surely be the basic MMOG template. When a player is given a level target, and all enemies have levels themselves, it undermines the entire game world.
Blizzard have created a breathtaking universe within World of Warcraft, but each region within Azeroth has a level ceiling. For example, the Wetlands has a level range of 20-30 based on the enemies within that area. Once you have reached level 30, there is absolutely no reason for you to ever return. Why should this be? Why go to all the effort to create these stunning locations if you only make them worth experiencing for several hours.
Although the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion pack will revisit some of these past locations and change their appearance, due to the game’s storyline, it still remains a relatively redundant exercise. Considering the level cap will be raised to level 85 upon its release, are Blizzard going to place level 85 enemies or greater in these old world locations, in order to entice the level capped player base? It’s not likely, and so yet again Blizzard have spent countless hours redeveloping existing locations, to completely ignore the fundamental reason as to why people no longer visit them in the first place.
The only way freedom will be achieved in MMOGs is if developers realise that the level mentality, sanitizing players’ actions and the carrot on stick approach, is actually ruining the genre’s potential. Developers need to remove player, enemy and region levels completely. They need to remove character classes, and have players learn skills for themselves through physical actions, as opposed to paying gold (who honestly thought this was a good idea?). Players need to see improvements based on unskilled, competent, skilled, proficient, adept and master, not “your Mace skill is 37/100.”
For example, if I wanted my character to become a Ranger using a bow, who could tame animals, there should be the following options available to me:
I should be able to purchase the bow and arrows from existing player shops and gain proficiency in them through practicing against stationary targets or creatures.
I should be able to make or buy an axe in order to chop a tree down (which will eventually grow back) in order to fashion the wood into both bow and arrow. With enough practice the quality of my crafting should increase.
I should be able to make flights for the arrows from killing feathered creatures and combing the components.
I should be able to visit the nearest town library to learn the basic skills of animal taming through reading books.
I should, if I do not wish to visit the library, be able to acquire the knowledge from already proficient players. They could teach me voluntarily or for a fee, the basics which I would need to know.
I should be able to go to the town hall and purchase a title deed in the name of Ranger.
None of the above would be difficult to implement, and my list of core design changes to MMOG mechanics is lengthy. Sadly however, we have countless development studios with no creativity, wasting time and resources appeasing the current demographic who are incapable of thinking outside the World of Warcraft model. Until Blizzard directly change their approach to MMOGs (it is only Blizzard capable of changing the market) and break away from the chains they have locked players minds into, then we will continue to have cloned MMOGs that pretend you are free to do as you wish. But if you scratch just beneath the surface, you will find that there aren’t any original role playing elements left.
Players complain that there is no end game content in current MMOGs, but what they really mean is that there is actually no game content.
Email the author of this article at Lewisb@tap-repeatedly.com.
‘Players need to see improvements based on unskilled, competent, skilled, proficient, adept and master not “your Mace skill is 37/100.”’
This bit made me laugh because I remember the argument I had with you where I was talking (shouting) about how RPGs rely on these arcane, abstract numbers that just serve to mechanise the experience rather than enhancing it. I spoke (shouted) about how if RPGs tried to represent proficiency physically, graphically, aurally or through written description as Dwarf Fortress does then RPGs would feel far less stat driven and strange. I suppose it’s something that’s been passed down since the AD&D days.
If you ever play Dwarf Fortress Lew, I will eat my own neck. Dwarf Fortress wouldn’t be able to run in 3D single player never mind as an MMOG! I’d argue it’s one of the most advanced games ever created and a truly free sandbox game. Or at least it will be.
Interesting article brother. The funny thing is, that Ultima Online screenshot gets me more excited than most of the MMORPGs these days!
I put that in for you Gregg 🙂 I remembered the argument very well and will admit I was wrong. I would like to see such a change coupled with graphical representation like Fable. i.e the more heavy weapon wielding you do, the bulkier you become.
I just think statistics are lazy, especially considering the graphics engines that games sport these days. Even if something can’t be dealt with visually, aurally or interactively then there’re always descriptions which are tried and true.
Didn’t Morrowind have that skill learning thingie? I remember jumping everywhere in order to increase acrobatics. Using a sword all the time gave you single-handed melee skill advancement, etc. I liked it a lot as it was an organic way to role play, i.e., you get better and better at what you do over and over. Instead of spending hours of whacking things and fetching things to get xp in order to instantaneously advance the chosen skill.
That is a comment about offline RPGs and not MMOGs though. As far as the actual topic is concerned, I have nothing. Going now.
@ Mike, do you not think that games of Morrowinds type, would be better as an online experience? Why should off line mechanics not be implemented into online ones? I think your comments are entirely relevant to this subject. 🙂
Great article, Lewis.
I don’t like most online games. I don’t like people, especially internet people. The one exception I’ve really enjoyed is Left 4 Dead, but I only play with friends I know. I had a bad experience with MU* games back in college. Had to quit.
What would be nice is a game of the type you describe that could be played and enjoyed online or off, with neither side being gutted for the benefit of the other.
Better as an online experience?! One of the reasons why I prefer offline experiences is so I don’t have to endure lots of virtual tourists bunny hopping everywhere and speaking shit.
EDIT: Sorry, just read your comment Steerpike after typing that. I agree. The only game I think I can manage multiplayer, with strangers, is TF2. L4D is a joke when you’re stuck with some fools who don’t co-operate so friends are the only way to go really.
Lewis, I think any type of game could benefit from that kind of mechanics. I sort of resent the game I’m playing now (Gothic II) cause it is the old model of nonsensical grinding for skills.
Lewis’s point that it’s all cadged from D&D is incredibly telling. Fantasy wasn’t invented in 1978, but fantasy roleplaying was. And even among those who vocally express a desire to break from those traditions, there’s still something that sticks to them.
Heck, even Morrowind/Oblivion numerized stat gains – you just got higher and higher rankings the more you used a skill. You could track those numbers as easily as you could track “Your Mace skill is 37/100.”
Impressions of freedom rely greatly on the player’s way of looking at things. For me MMOGs don’t bring up any feelings like that. Neither do any other types of sand box games – they just seem very empty and artificial. The games that offer me the best illusion of freedom are adventure games and games like Thief or System Shock 2 where almost every one out of a great variety of game world elements makes a difference for the gameplay.
@Igor: I totally agree with you, being a huge fan of those games myself. They were very non-linear titles that encouraged the player to go rummaging about. The developers trusted players to find all the things they’d hidden. I loved that about them. I always regarded Half Life 2 as a ‘single play’ game purely because all you did was shoot things, move on, shoot more things, move on, obligatory puzzle, move on, shoot more things again etc. The story was compulsive but the gameplay just got so repetitive. “More combine?! Oh for fucks sake.”
Hmm, I remember there being two very interesting and opposite design philosophies coming from Gabe Newell and Warren Spector… found it. Check out the last two questions here. Priceless argument from Spector. My particular favourite: “If the only choice a player gets to make is which weapon to use to kill a bad guy, you’ve completely wasted that player’s time. Roller coaster rides are immense amounts of fun, but really, all they do is provide an adrenalin rush and a moment’s distraction from the workaday world. Games can be more.”
This is coming from the guy who worked on Thief, System Shock and Deus Ex: he knows.
@ Gregg and Igor, are games such as Thief and SS2 still not linear experiences, just disguised better than others around them? It’s not like they hand you an entire city, or zone (ala Stalker) to undertake your mission in, you are still very much penned in and funneled to the end goal.
Also @ Gregg, within MMOGs, just like real life, you will encounter every possible person you can imagine. Sometimes they are annoying, selfish, impolite, rude or obnoxious. Yet ten seconds later you could encounter the nicest, most fun person who you remain good friends with even when you log off. Of course, if you can’t ‘hack’ such encounters, then MMOGs certainly aren’t for you. But for the most part, idiots within the game are there because of the core mechanics.
They don’t want to role play or get along, they just want to scurry up the level and gear ladder as quickly as they possibly can so they can begin to PVP. An MMOG then becomes a third person death match.
I think Gregg, you would have much preferred MMOGs such as Ultima Online or Dark Age of Camelot as at the time, they just didn’t have idiots on board (I never encountered any, anyway.)
@ Igor again, MMOGs feel artificial because you can’t actually do anything in them besides level up and bash enemies. Even crafting in 99% of MMOGs is awful and insultingly simple (see WoW and WAR). In over ten years MMOGs since Ultima, still don’t offer player housing, player shops, the ability to cut trees down, harvest crops, etc. its madness as they should out of every genre offer the most scope for freedom..
There is Tale in the Desert but it’s not combat based. I spent a few hours in it on a guest account. It had a lot of the mechanics you described, cutting trees, harvesting crops, building player housing.
Of course they’re linear! That’s why Igor said ‘illusion of freedom’, I’m talking about the freedom the game makes you feel knowing there ultimately isn’t any. GTA IV was massive and wasn’t all that linear but it felt very linear to me because it was just a case of picking a mission then doing it in the same way as nearly everybody else. You want to snipe? Tough, there are no buildings that will allow it. You want to shoot the guy before he jumps in the chopper? Tough, it’s scripted that he will. You want to stop the truck by killing the driver? Tough, there’s a series of QTEs you must enjoy later. Er. No thanks.
It’s the freedom to approach given situations in your own way, to have some player authorship rather than jumping through hoops or playing by numbers. Hmm, playing by numbers… I like that.
Dark Age of Camelot was the only one I played Lewis and I got bored whacking carrion spider after carrion spider. I liked the weather effects though. Hahaha 😉
EDIT: @Scout – Yeah I’ve heard about that and it looks really interesting. It’s been going for a while now I believe.
Can someone pinpoint a time for me when, as gamers, we collectively became obsessed with freedom? Is it even truly possible? What gives?!?
Great article, by the way.
To achieve true freedom in a game is probably impossible (it’s got to be hasn’t it?), it’s hardly possible in real life! I think interactivity in itself is freedom, but of course, how much depends on the game. A lot of freedom in a game becomes a fantastic device to craft unique experiences and it gives us that giddy sense of discovery we enjoyed as children exploring possibilities. The less freedom there is in a game the more it begins to resemble a book or a film. Non-linearity and player authorship (within a designers vision) is where I believe gaming will separate itself from other artforms.
Regarding your question xtal: I’m not sure. I thought pen and paper role playing was all about freedom and that got adapted into gaming very early on. I couldn’t tell you when though!
xtal, from what I can make out gamers became obsessed with total freedom around early Dec, 2002. 😛
I’m going to have to check all the old PC Gamer calendars I saved and check what games were released that month. Thanks, Scout 😉
@Gregg Good interview that!
@Lewis Thief and SS2 are fairly linear and story-driven although usually they offer several sub-quests and story-lines you can follow concurrently. The amount of available locations is quite huge (and in SS2 you can go back to most places you visited previously), but it’s not an open-world design.
What is really fab in those games is that they focus on elements logically relevant to the player character and realize all of them in great detail. In Thief that would be: sneaking, hiding, stealing, searching, trailing, eavesdropping, climbing, fighting. So in that game the gameplay becomes defined by how the shadows, sounds, and other human characters behave to your advantage and disadvantage – what’s even better you can manipulate them in a 3D world in a believable manner. And it’s all perfectly tweaked for the player in such a way that he can feel the importance of learning and using different tactics. At the same time, he participates in an engrossing storyline with its own unique gameplay devices.
That’s the kind of game that makes me feel that “I can really do things” and in great part it is thanks to its linearity. Even if it was possible to make an online game that allows you to do everything you could ever want, I’m not sure it would be much of a game anymore without giving you some kind of focus and straightforward goals to follow.
@ Igor, I agree with your sentiments, and as offline games Thief and SS2 certainly make the player feel that they have a certain level of freedom. However, what I am proposing is that within MMOGs, the only focus neccesary is entirely dependant on each player.
Some may wish to adventure, so a mission and quest structure should be in place. Some may just wish to be the best crafter possible, in a house theyve bought in the middle of the forest, never even setting foot in a dungeon. As a genre with these possibilities, the fact that Ultima Online offered so much more than our current breed, over ten years ago is a testiment to what they actually achieved at the time.
This is the thing I’ve noticed playing something like XCOM. Games (generally speaking of course) don’t seem to have built upon the foundations of titles like Ultima Online and XCOM that were way ahead of their time. They’ve been streamlined and made more accessible and while I’ve no problem with this, accessibility is very important, a certain depth of experience has been lost.
Emergence. Remember that? It’s not something we get much of any more but gives the player a tangible sense of freedom, at least mechanically. Dark Messiah and Bioshock had it where, after some planning, you could watch the mechanics of the game just play out in front of you. Scribblenauts. Now that’s a game of playful, sandbox, freedom and emergence. The Sims (though, confession time, I’ve never played it). Dwarf Fortress is built entirely of meticulously crafted systems that interact with each other in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways.
I’d say freedom isn’t binary anyway and is measured subjectively, there’re different types of freedom in a game as well. Spatial freedom where there’s no limitations on movement (XCOM, Sacrifice), situational freedom where there’s no strict way to overcome a problem (most strategy games, Deus Ex, Scribblenauts), character freedom (most RPGs, Baldur’s Gate, Fable), narrative freedom where the story can be discovered at the players discretion (Planescape: Torment perhaps, Blade Runner). I don’t know, I’m just throwing that out there. *ducks and covers*
I completely agree with you Gregg on all points. For me, an MMOG is the only genre truly capable of having all those methods of freedom, entwined into one; creating a real world, with narrative freedom, with no spatial, character or situational limitations and interacting with real people. It’s entirely possible.
There is no reason why developers cannot combined the political and economical model of EVE, the land scale and graphics equivalent to World of Warcraft, the crafting of Dark Age of Camelot or Everquest 2 and the free form nature of Ultima Online. While we are at it, lets add a sprinkle of creativity by removing level caps, class types and skill sets, and also lets refine what is already in existence in those pre mentioned games. Of course, we would need a minimum of 100 million dollars to undertake this, and a minimum of six years development time.
It’s not too much to ask, is it?
One thing that’s interesting about emergence is that most gamers have such overdeveloped senses of what they “can” and “cannot” do in a game world, that developers who build in emergent systems find them going unused. Warren Spector always tells the story of a focus group test on Invisible War where users were presented with a T intersection. There was a window at the top of the T, to the right were laser tripmines and gun turrets, to the left was a locked door. Something like 87% of testers went right because it simply didn’t occur to them that they could go through the window or use a grenade on the door.
Tap-Repeatedly’s Legal & Comics Advisor Ajax19 crafted an entire internal storyline for his XCOM game, Gregg. Lost loves, secret messages, brothers in arms, it was epic. I’m sure he’ll regale you with some tales if you ask. 🙂
Ah, yes, my epic XCOM adventure. It was one the most enjoyable computer gaming experiences I have ever had and a good portion of it was all in my head.
As someone who started playing RPGs at age six, I always enjoyed the character interaction aspect of games. I am not sure how many people remember it, but back in the day some of the later D&D “gold box” games tried to introduce role-playing. If I recall correctly, there would be some message when you set up camp to rest and memorize spells about two party members looking across the fire at one another. Also, when one of the “lovers” got knocked out or killed in a battle, the other lover would go “beserk” and start attacking like crazy. I am not sure if there was anymore to the mechanic than that, but it was very, very old precursor to what Bioware has been doing with its RPGs (Mass Effect, Dragon’s Age).
XCOM still remains one of my top 5 favorite games of all times. I always found it more fun to give my troops some sense of personality and sort of “role play” them to match. It really added a lot to the game. Granted, given the life expectancy of your typical XCOM soldier, it’s hard to get too terribly attached to any one of them, but certain soldiers began to standout, get better skills, higher rank, etc. and they became the “main characters” of my story.
Most of the details on all of that a bit fuzzy, as it was 15+ years ago. Luckily, I wrote down the fate of all the main characters in the inside cover to a collection John Milton poetry (I had to do something in class). I still have that book somewhere.
The one thing I do remember were Sylvie and Wolfgang. They were my heavy weapons team and they were in love. They were a couple of bad-ass soldiers. At the end of the game, where that big brain is and everything up that last elevator, the team was getting ready to go up. Sylvie, Wolfgang and one or two other soldiers were all that were left. Wolfang pushed Sylvie out of the way and went up the elevator. He was surrounded by aliens. He looked around with grim determination, pointed his blaster launcher at floor and fired… A heroic, selfless act that saved earth and the woman he loved.
There were a couple other very dramatic happenings during the final battle, one involving mind control, which led to the head of XCOM shooting her mind controlled best friend in the back of the head and her eventual retirement. It was epic.
Anyway, I love that kind of RP and the only way you can really do that is to have that level of freedom and then the imagination and will to carry it out. What I always envisioned for the “Next XCOM”, would be something that helps with the role playing aspect of it. Something like Bioware does (as much as I enjoy it) with a main character and a set of strong supporting characters and what not simply wouldn’t work because of the high turnover. I like XCOM being a grind and having to find and recruit soldiers constantly. What I would like to see is each soldier given some type of personality, likes, dislikes, character traits, etc.
The closest thing I can compare it to is the simply astoundingly marvellous stuff the folks over at SI Games do with their Football Manager/Champ Man series. I know it’s a sports sim title, but for anyone who has ever had the pleasure to play it, you know what I am talking about. You never feel like you’re just managing a collection of stats or attributes. You feel like your managing real players with personalties. They like certain styles, certain other players, dislike certain, somethings make them happy, others piss them off. I’d love to bring that element into an XCOM game. I think it’s a good balance between the freedom to play as you’d like, while still having a pretty solid foundation to assist with the role playing aspect of it all.
@Steerpike: Hahhaha, oh man that sounds brilliant. X-COM is wide open to that sort of exposition. Lost loves? I can only imagine how short lived they were! I hope it didn’t end in Chrysalidisation. Were they articles then or forum posts? I’m sure I’ve read a few bits here and there on the forum from a while back.
That’s interesting that you mention that with the T intersection. That’s exactly the sort of thing that Spector spoke about in the interview linked to above where a good portion of content (and possibility) goes unnoticed. 13% in that case!
Remember those sections in Half-Life 2 with the suspiciously placed explosive barrels? Well it’s the same sort of thing but they were such obvious opportunities that there wasn’t as much joy in capitalising on them. If they’re rare and hard to notice then it’s all the more rewarding when you do spot them. There’s no fun in saying “I did ‘blah, blah, blah’ at this bit” to which others respond “Yeah we did that too”. Emergence, player authorship and discovery are all vital components of freedom in a game, if you don’t have those it’s not nearly as liberating.
Despite its linear trappings there was a bit in HL2 where I had jumped off a ledge I couldn’t get back up to. I knew there was a bit I’d missed up there so I set about trying to get back up, only it was too high to jump up and there was a slope that couldn’t have crates placed on it without them sliding back. The slope had some metal railings running along one edge, so I found a bar and wedged it between the rails. This acted as a stopper to catch the crates so I could stack them. I conceived the idea, it was consistent with the situation and just worked. It was bloody brilliant. Haha, sorry was I supposed to rave about the other parts in the game?
Were they articles then or forum posts?
It was long before the internet became what it was, so it was done the “old school” way, in the oral tradition. I wish I had written more down that just the names and fates of the characters. It was pretty involved.
Football Manager,, mmmm, the love of my life..
The personal touch to FM can be superb, Ajax, but it can be frustrating as hell. For all the positive things SI games do with regards to player interaction, they leave a million and one questions left that you feel you should be able to do, but physically cant.
@Mat: I was just about to tip him off! I was positive I’d read/heard somewhere that you love your football manager games!
@ajax: Sorry, I missed your post there. I take my hat off to your imagination! It’s the perfect game for it and that does indeed sound epic. It’s remarkable how you remember the names of your ‘special’ ones though. Marie Watson was my first major death and though she didn’t have any story imposed on her she was my hardy captain who’d Just Survived. That in itself was special.
I remember Theme Hospital having personality descriptions when you were hiring staff which I thought was a really nice touch even if it didn’t affect the game. You mention character traits, personality and likes/dislikes, which is something I really admire about Dwarf Fortress. Tarn Adams is constantly adding layer upon layer to the game, to the point that each dwarf is demonstrably unique. Some have a visible history with certain limbs, appendages missing and/or scars, some have cherished weapons and prefer certain minerals, food, drink and weather. Some go mad. Some will kill themselves. Self-grooming was what he was working on when I last checked. Seriously, it’s mind boggling.
There’s a hilarious Dwarf Fortress Let’s Play that was carried out by folks over at Something Awful that recounts the rise and fall of the infamous Boatmurdered fortress. Each player was given a year at the fortress and had to chronicle their progress. When their time was up, the fortress was passed on to the next player. This is called a successor game. Each player approached the fortress in their own way and some were brilliant role-players building their inevitable retirement into the mythology of the game. It’s hilarious and can be viewed here.
@ Gregg: That comes as absolutely NO surprise whatsoever! Lewis has probably bemoaned my ramblings to you on several occasions, haha. Rest assured this won’t be the last you hear of it, either.. it’s literally the only PC game I play (for now, at least. Roll on Steam for Mac) so I have to try and fit in somehow!
I got into Football Manager/Championship Manager in 2000/2001. I forget where I heard about it, but once I read about it and how indepth it was, I had to get it. Despite being a hockey/American football fan and not really knowing anything about soccer/football – other than playing it when I was a kid and retiring at age 8.
Those games are daunting at first, but one you get into it… They are horribly, horribly addicting. I’ve spent countless hours managing my teams and players. It served me well too, since I moved to Europe in 2002 for a few years. I had a decent soccer foundation upon which to build.
I stopped playing for a while, but picked up FM 2009 and had fun and I just bought FM 2010. Haven’t fired it up yet.
Those games rank up there with XCOM as my favorite PC games of all time. Just amazing. I can’t comment on what they don’t include or allow, since there’s a lot in the game that I never really touch. So, personally, I am more than satisfied with the level of control those games give you.
I’ve played plenty of sport sims in my time, even SI’s Eastside Hockey Manager (which I love), but nothing has ever given me the feeling that I’m actually managing players like those games.
It’s not just “I want more money”, or “I want more playing time.”
It’s your young Italian striker coming to England and not being able to adjust to English lifestyle and, thus, needing to hire an older Italian player to help mentor him.
It’s your star striker getting frustrated at the lack of talent on your team, speaking out against them to the media and then having all of your other guys hate him, except for the back-up keeper, and then calling out your star forward to defend the rest of your team and having that guy and the back-up keeper all pissed off.
These kind of mini-dramas take place and are wonderful. I’d love to have something along those lines in an XCOM-type game. The SI database has thousands of players. How hard could it be to have a similar database of potential XCOM recruits all with their own personalties, motives, etc. to some degree or another?
Hahah, Me and Lew are toying with getting Solium Infernum for the PC but we need more players to make it a justifiable purchase at £20 each. It’s a turn based play by email game so there’s no time commitment to it other than carefully playing your turn then sending it off. The aim is to become the ruler of hell using any mean necessary. It’s a potent mix of psychology, politics and war. Check it out here and here, and if you’re interested let me or Lew know!
EDIT: Sorry that was in reference to Mat and his PC gaming habits! 😉 But if anyone else is interested…
Perfectly summarised, Ajax. Football Manager has the ability to throw up one time events like the ones you mentioned, based around the personality of not just your players but the entire rest of your squad (comprising of 20+ players, usually), the formations you play, your tactics, how you talk to players, how your players train with each other, how compatible their personalities are..
One of my favorite things about FM is bringing through youth players. Watching a 16 year old come through your clubs academy, eventually start playing for the reserves, then the odd game for the first team, then going on to become a regular for you and scoring the winner in a cup final 5 years later. Just a brilliant experience.
To be fair Football Manager surpassed “videogame” status for me several years ago. It’s now just something that happens between waking up and going to bed.
I didn’t read all the posts so I might be repeating this, but there is a MMO(RP)G called Mortal Online that might interest you because of it’s freedom 😀
It’s in open beta now and anyone can register and enjoy, I did but since I have a mac I tried playing with parallels 5 with tragic outcomes, more specifically a glorious framerate of 1.3fps.
BTW I just bought Solium Infernum with the indie strategy bundle, I just need to read the damn manual and train some more with the single player mode and I’ll be glad to play with you!
Bundle (available until the 9th of march): http://www.indiestrategygames.com/
Solium Infernum Tutorial (VERY basic): http://www.scribd.com/doc/23753452/Solium-Infernum-Tutorial-1
Welcome to Tap Hanamigi. I’ve read about Mortal Online and it sounds really interesting but I’ve got to say that I don’t play MMOs for fear of losing too much time to them!
Yeah I saw that bundle and would have bought it if I didn’t already own AI War 🙁
Drop me an email and I’ll keep you posted about me and Lewis with Solium Infernum – the more the merrier. Oh and thanks for the links by the way!
Thanks Gregg, just registered.
My email is (snip! We don’t want the spammers getting hold of that 😉 -Ed), thanks for keeping me posted!
I am italian so the fact that Solium Infernum has a PBEM multiplayer (although I never played a game by email) is a big plus for me, so that I don’t have to be awake all night just to enjoy some multiplayer with games not really known in europe or with fanbases that are mainly non-european. Same thing goes for Gratuitous Space Battles, although it’s not PBEM but more like a level editor.
So if you don’t mind getting Solium Infernum emails in the morning and first afternoon count me in 😀
Sharing links is good!
Welcome Hanamigi, great to have you on board and good to hear youve got SI, it does look very good 🙂 I’m also hoping to convince Mat that he should play it, but I’m unsure if it works on MAC?
I’m going to look into Mortal Online. I’d heard of it a long time ago, and I had actually forgotten all about it – thankyou for reminding me! A sandbox MMOG taking elements from Ultima Online with no strict level system…sounds good to me.
I just couldn’t play FM, it felt too inconsistent at times with tactics seeming to have very little effect. I also hated losing, so would often be too apprehensive to even kick-off another match!
Hi Lewis, SI does NOT work on mac but performs greatly on Crossover Games, which is what I try to use for most windows games.
It better sound good to you Lew because aside from A Tale in the Desert and Mortal Online, you’ve got bugger all choice if you’re wanting a more UO experience! 😉
It doesn’t look like there’s a Mac version of Solium Infernum yet. Mat has a PC doesn’t he?
Hanamigi, I got your email address and edited it out before the spam bots find it. My internet connection is terrible and I’ve been so busy lately that traditional ‘real time’ multiplayer can’t fit into my life so PBEM is the perfect solution. I read the RPS Gameboys From Hell feature they ran and it won me over.
Thanks for saving my email address from almost certain damnation Gregg 😀
[…] B wrote a great article about freedom in game worlds. While he was focused predominantly on MMOs, a lot of what he felt was […]