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the dark side beckons

A few months ago, someone asked me if I was capable of talking about anything but video games. It struck me as strange, because I do most of my talking-about-things in my journal, and there's next to no gamespeak to be found here. Instant Messenger's a different story though. Here's a random chunk of conversation from the archives:

    self:
    I've got no desire to own that game, regardless what platform(s) it's released on. MMORPG*s are really too much of a time and money commitment.

    * MMORPG = Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game

    friend:
    I am worried about the time that is for sure


    self:
    I have enough of a time problem with RPGs in general, but when the game advances without you, that's a hundred times more scary. It almost doesn't matter if the game's any good. If you play it a little, you'll be playing it a lot. Otherwise, you've thrown away your money. Of course, you can't stop paying for the game, 'cause that would mean throwing away all the time you've invested.


    friend:
    bastards


    self:
    I understand I'm in the minority, but I'll never subscribe to a game that doesn't let me keep the content I've paid for. I may buy episodes and advance through a game one level at a time, but if I can't go back and play through the earlier stuff a year later at no extra charge, that game has less value to me. If, over time, it exceeds $25, it was overpriced. (Why not $50, like a normal game? Because I can sell a normal game when I'm done with it and get half my money back)

    ...which means, of course, that I've got less than ten years of gaming left before there's nothing left which interests me. Single-player epic storylines are this years 2D Platformer or last year's Fly-to-the-Right Shooter.


    friend:
    I guess as long as the game keeps growing and progressing, I don't have an issue. my problem is that the games can't grow fast enough. new modules and levels aren't out fast enough, although with the amount of time I can afford to spend on it, that may be a good thing


    self:
    MMORPGs, by their very nature, should satisfy you and upset me. Human players equal depth. The game doesn't have to expand at all, so long as there's room for your community to evolve. But of course, you'll never be able to go back and experience the same adventure twice. And even if you could reset your status and go on the same quests (with different social dynamics giving the replay more life), you'd have to renew your subscription if you wanted to play that a year later. And lord help you if the publisher stops supporting it. You'll never own the game. But it ends up costing more in the long run than when you did.

    As for episodic content, I'd pay like $2.50 for a new level every month without blinking, provided they're not too short or they at least expand on your multiplayer variations. It's the cost of a rental, really, and it lets you decide at every chapter whether the game is holding it's value. If owning one chapter means unlocking something in another, you'll want to collect them all - remember the MegaMan games? That principal plays well here. Of course, the magazines are sure to report which chapters are worth going through and which you can skip, which leads to some truly interesting consumer trends.

    But, again, if you don't get to store all that on your hard drive indefinitely (or in an ideal world, burn it to CD or whatever removable media's convenient), I will personally feel cheated.

That conversation was about two months ago. I've since had the chance to check out a beta version of Earth and Beyond, which harkens back to my BBS days playing Trade Wars, or one of it's freeware imitations. The graphics are great, the nostalgia's strong, and you can more or less ignore the other players. At this early stage, it fails at the sweeping social dynamics MMORPG fans are looking for, but succeeds as a single-player narrative. Everythng I said up there still holds, and yet, it has my attention.

And now that the door's open, the flood of Star Wars: Galaxies hype is starting to reach me. My resolve is wavering. This is not good.

I have no time.
I have no money.
I must remember that.

No time.
No money.
No.

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