I was having a mini-discussion with my ex-co-lead from Warhammer Alliance about his new blog and a post he was working on, which discusses endings in various forms of media. Ironically enough, this is a topic I bitch about incessantly to my husband, particularly when we play MMOs.
In an MMORPG, you are not the hero. You will not be saving the day. And whatever good deeds you do accomplish will be undone and redone by someone else. You’re just another warrior in a large army. You’re trained to do as everyone else does. As “unique” and special as we like to make ourselves out to be in MMOs (GM, MT, CC, etc.), we’re still just another warrior, getting a job done. Think of it this way: a sniper and a ground troop person (sorry, not up with my Army-lingo) are told to kill someone. The sniper hides, and takes the shot stealthily. The trooper guy runs right in at the right moment and takes the person down viciously. The job is done, so it doesn’t really matter which route you take (please don’t get into the whole hypothetical situation nonsense–it’s just an example). Whether you are a Mage or a Paladin, a Dragoon or a Monk, you all share the same goal–complete the quests and level up.
Because of this structure, it is difficult to feel any real passion for what you’re actually doing. You go in, kill 10 boars, get some silver, and move on. And while you’re moving on, those 10 boars respawn, and someone else kills them. Here’s a better example: Last night I “saved” this NPC in WoW from some Warlock entrapment spell, and he was able to get out and revive all of his fallen comrades. We then proceeded to kill the jerk who entrapped him, and all was well in the world.
Until about a minute later, when they all fell down dead again, and the guy was trapped once again.
There is nothing worse to trivialize your actions than watching them utterly reversed by a simple set time frame. Perhaps this is one reason I enjoy instances/dungeons so much. They’re generally closed environments with a direct beginning, middle, and end. You infiltrate an area, go through, kill a bunch of high ranking mobs until you finally get to the boss. And when you defeat him, you feel a moment of–rock on. The end. Instance completed.
And then you go out of the dungeon and do it all over again.
In an RPG, however, you are the hero. There is a story with a problem and you–with a select group of fellow heroes–save the world from its utter demise. Wow. Awesome. This is role-playing. You are inevitably forced into following the story line, because you want to know why you’re the hero, how you’re the hero, and what you’re saving the world from. Much like a novel, no matter your gender, appearance, etc., you can easily slip into the shoes of the hero and go.
Now, this isn’t to say that an RPG is always better than an MMORPG. MMORPGs function much more like life itself. It’s open-ended; you don’t have to do every task assigned if you don’t want to. An RPG functions like a book. Each action flows into another action. Now, I’m not saying an MMO is always worse than an RPG, or that an RPG is always better than an MMO; however, I frequently find myself feeling unfulfilled through MMOs BECAUSE I don’t get that firm ending. I raid because I want to feel like I’m saving the world from this diabolical villain, or I PvP because I want to rid the world from the other “evil” race. But ultimately, much like in life, little changes in those worlds.And for me, I like the feeling of completion. I like thinking that I made a difference.
So what do you guys think? Do you need a finite ending? Does it help you enjoy a game more?