Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fire-fall lazorz! pew-pew Planetside

I hopped into Planetside 2 today for twenty minutes; that should about do it for this month. However, twenty minutes was long enough to get exposed to a near-lethal dose of mass-mindless blabber, including a recurring theme over the past year or two "hey, didja hear about that game Firefall, it's kinda like this one!"
And of course whenever I've hopped into Firefall I've heard the same about PS2.

Never mind that one is a strict PvP faction war without resource collection and the other a PvE, largely solo resource collection grindfest. They both use twitchy, fast-paced FPS mechanics and are both set in vaguely syencefyctiony locales, so hey, that must be all there is to it.
No, sorry. A slice of bread is not the same as a chicken wing just because they're both off-white and edible.

However, this does bring up a couple of points.

Though the online game market is finally edging out from under the desperation to copycat World Of Warcraft as closely as possible, WoW's detrimental influence will be felt throughout at least the next decade in ways I can't even conceive sitting here so close under its looming shadow - but likely the worst of these is the irrelevance, the complete trivialization of player action. It seems ridiculous that the average FPS-er wouldn't care whether he's shooting a techy-lookin' gun at another player or computer-controlled "baddies" until you realize that they've been taught it makes no difference.
Resources and monsters instantly and randomly respawn in Firefall. Bases flip in four minutes in Planetside 2. There is nothing to plan for. There is no intelligent authority (like player guilds in olden-days MMOs*) to decide whether you're pulling your weight or not. Repetition is everything. Under those WoWified conditions, yes, it really makes no difference whether you're shooting at a live or simulated entity, especially in the context of FPS. Ever since Unreal Tournament... let's say 2003, bots have easily been as twitch-capable as human players.
Computers are faster than us. We are still (narrowly) better planners. Without a greater context in which to place the action of the moment and without repercussions for player actions, those little deadheads in PS2 and Firefall can't really be blamed for their inability to discern between man and machine.

WoW's legacy also includes the decisive shift toward fantasy themes. Don't get me wrong, fantasy is always easier to slap together than science fiction ("it's magic" being all the logic demanded) and even something like Firefall is actually science fantasy. Still, given that the concept of an MMO stemmed from cyberpunk's popularization of decking into the matrix, the early MMO scene divided itself pretty evenly between SciFi and fantasy. Ultima Online, Asheron's Call, Lineage and Everquest shared the stage with Anarchy Online, Earth and Beyond, Project Entropia and EVE:The Second Genesis.

However, the industry's attempts to copy/paste WoW's market appeal after 2005 also included a complete dedication to the cheap elves-and-goblins Tolkien knock-off setting ripped off from D&D and Warhammer. To players who have grown up with the past decade's utter fanatical devotion to pointy ears and green skin in MMOs, yes, that must seem like part of the definition, and when two well-publicized multiplayer games hit the market handing out plasma rifles and dropship rides that superficiality weighs much more heavily in the comparison.

So. I may scoff at the younger generation's ignorance but I really can't blame them for it. It's all they've known. Don't hate the players, hate the game.
Hate World of Warcraft.

*Challenge me on this, I dare you. The concept of a guild or clan has been another one of WoW's victims.

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