MO Division Interview - Flintwick: Division Captain!
Recently we had the pleasure to interview Flintwick, Division Captain for Mortal Online. Read as he shares his thoughts and insights on MMO gaming of the past, present and future! Thanks to MO division members for the questions, and to Flintwick for giving his time to answer them!
Interviewer: So, how did you get into MMO’s? What was your first one?
Flintwick: Well, I guess the progression started back in 1998. I was on an Army posting to Canada (BATUS) for six months, and with the extra money/great exchange rate I bought myself a laptop computer. I also had a mobile phone, and thanks to the joys of PCMCIA and 9600baud modems I got myself some internet access. The first thing I stumbled across was Gemstone III, a MUD (multi-user dungeon), which was essentially a text-based RPG that many people played together at once.
Immediately I was hooked on the player interaction possible, and started looking at other games that were available. It was then that I stumbled across The Realm. The Realm was my first graphical MMO, although it still didnt look anything like todays MMORPGs. It was a side view game, much like the point and click adventure games many of us grew up with (Monkey Island!), but had the same rich player interaction that I had come to love with Gemstone. Added to this however was the ability to actually see other people walking around, admire their armour and weapons, run around looking for things to fight and slay. Normal games held nothing for me now.
The final step on my road to modern MMORPG’s was of course Everquest. I bought this just before the end of our Tour in Canada, and while my laptop wouldn’t be able to run the game at the time, I thought the opportunity to play the genre I had come to love in full 3d cutting edge graphics was too much to pass up! Once I returned, I splashed out on a new gaming computer and the rest is, as they say, history. Since then I have played at some point in time pretty much every mainstream MMORPG out there, and most of the lesser ones to boot, ever on the lookout for that feeling of excitement and adventure I felt when I first stepped into the world of MMO Gaming.
Interviewer: You say you have played most of the MMO’s out there, which would you say was your favourite and why?
Flintwick: Well, all things considered, I would have to say my favourite MMO of all time, being the one that holds the most great memories and was the most enjoyable to play would have to be Dark Age of Camelot. the RvR gameplay in that game blew me away, with the sense of Realm pride, the natural way the three factions balanced themselves out as the weaker two worked together against the strongest, the fantastic combat system… the whole package was amazing. It is just a shame the game got so dated eventually. With a full overhaul of the UI and graphics, but sticking to the original game systems, I would re-subscribe in an instant. Sadly however it is unlikely, as players now are too focussed on hitting max level, or “grinding” to the end of the game. DAoC thrived on people enjoying content from level 1 right the way up, and there was plenty of content for that. Also, with PvP, people did it just because it was fun, and to take joy in crushing the two other factional enemies. Now, people wont do it unless it yeilds insane rewards.
My current game, Mortal Online, is about the closest I have gotten to the DAoC feeling since. There are no levels therefore there is no reason to grind, so people are finding other ways and means to enjoy the game. There are multi-factional PvP conflicts popping up all over, and lots to explore and experience. More is being added to the game constantly, and if things keep going the way they are, Mortal is a serious contender for my MMORPG top spot.
Interviewer: Do you think that in the future games will have less grind in terms of exp/level and work more towards a community grind instead, like MO is doing ( IE notice you need guild members to help grind gold for houses? )
Flintwick: I truly would love to be able to say yes, but sadly consumer pressure dictates otherwise. Currently, the general gaming community is focussed on the current big thing: Achievements. We see them in console games and PC games (through services like Steam), and this gives people badges of honour, saying “hey! I have done this!” and “I have more achievements than you, I must be better!”. Achievements in their current form are relatively new, but they have always been there under the hood. We just called them Levels. At some point, we moved away from playing a game to have fun, and towards a mentality where we play to beat the game. This is fine in single player games, but in MMORPG’s, as soon as you beat the game the games company loses that revenue. What this means is, developers need to constantly move the goal posts, and give you a new aim, or a new thing to beat. That may be a higher level cap, or a new dungeon to beat.
I honestly believe that a large factor in this paradigm shift is the MMO Behemoth that is World of Warcraft. With their focus on raid content, and encounters you must beat, we all suddenly needed to get X item or complete Y quest in order to progress and continue beating the game. No longer could we sit back and just enjoy playing, we had to progress or get left behind. Thanks to the massive success of WoW however, this is now seen as the only way to play, with a visible progression, and big signs telling the player where to go next. The downside of this is players have forgotten how to make their own fun. A good example can be seen when you consider kids. Children start off in the playground. They didnt need any advice or rules thrust on them to know how to have fun, they just took whatever was to hand and made stuff up. This is the essence of a sandbox. But, as children grow, they start playing team games, where rules are king. Football: you must kick this ball through that goal to win. You must adhere to these rules. You must play in this way. And suddenly, those same children lose the ability to just make things up and roll with it. They can only play to those rules governed by others.
This is where I think the games industry has shot itself in the foot, because now the emphasis is on them to design and almost play the game for the player. The player is just along for the ride. Sandbox gaming however is putting it back on the player. Provide enough sand, a few tools, and let them go. Emergent gameplay is king. We are going back to the days of the playground, where whatever you were doing and whatever you have to hand, you were having fun. Ultimately I think this is where gaming needs to go, to give players back the freedom they once had, and remove the dependancy on the game to tell people how to play. We need to teach people how to play again!
Interviewer: Do you think for a mmorpg community that forcing players to do something besides grinding is healthy for the game?
Flintwick: Oh, certainly! Grinding is the boring bit you do to get to the point where you can do that thing you wanted to do in the first place. Gaming shouldn’t be about that, although some people inflict the grind on themselves. But, if you are able to do that thing you wanted to do anyway right away, and are able to grow and develop while doing it, surely that is a good thing?
This is why I generally dislike the term “end game”, as this is in essence saying that everything you have done up to that point was only there to get you to that point. Every minute you play should be as enjoyable as the next, playing to play, not playing to get to the point where you can start to play. The more we can get people out of the “grind to the end game” mentality, the healthier a community becomes. People are not stressing about reaching a goal, they can stop and enjoy the scenery, interact with their fellow players, and get to inventing ever more elaborate and intersting ways to play their game.
Interviewer: How is the game community in general now, vs back then, are there any changes, anything you note?
Flintwick: The focus of the player base is very different, as I have said in the above answers. Where back then, the focus was on community, cameraderie, “realm pride”. Fightng the war, even if you weren’t personally the most effective, because you were part of a team and every person contributed. Now, its all about getting to max level, or beating the next dungeon/boss. Often even choosing to play solo, as it is more profitable to do so.
That is a broad generalisation however, and there are a small but growing community of players who have had enough of being spoon fed games and progression. Those who want to have the freedom to play the game the way they want to play. In a large part EvE has helped this community grow, with its massive sandbox and vibrant community. Now it is Mortal Online’s turn, and by reaching out to the players who prefer the fantasy, sword and sorcery, style genre it is bringing more people back into the playground and teaching them again how to play.
Interviewer: What about personal interests, what do you do when you aren’t gaming?
Flintwick: I work with computers as well as game on them, so when im not gaming I try to keep active. Currently I do Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), encompassing Thai Kickboxing and Brasilian Jiu Jitsu, Archery (traditional English Longbow, which I made myself!) and love riding my Motorcycle. I will also be starting dinghy sailing soon with my fiancee, and generally just love getting out and about, particularly to the countryside.
Thanks for reading, and check back soon for more interviews and news from the Mortal Online Division!