Reading on massively this morning about the new Rift game, I came across this quote from one of their staff writers about their first impressions of the game:

“… When I first saw RIFT (back when it was Heroes of Telara), Trion talked about how everyone would feel like a hero while taking part in a massively multiplayer experience. Sadly, that didn’t occur, and not even the odd unexpected rift invasion could save me from being disappointed at the treadmill-like linear grind.”

I’ll get to my point immediately and then build on it; if everyone is a hero in the game, then nobody is one. A hero is someone whose actions set them apart from the great mass of others. So it stands to reason then that if every person playing the game is doing the same actions then we have no hero’s as such. That the makers of Rift should be pretending that their game will make everyone a hero is the usual marketing fallacy that we have come to expect. That a staff writer would believe it possible and then be disappointed when it turned out not to be true is quite disturbingly pathetic.

But the real point is that games should stop pretending that everyone is a hero. WoW has attempted to get over the problem of having everyone a hero when it’s not really possible by using cut scenes and phasing. They want each and every player to believe that they alone are the great saviors of the world, time and time again. Honestly, by now based on what my little rogue has supposedly done, the greater populace of every city that I enter should be bowing down in abject reverance. But every other moron who is dancing semi naked on the mailbox has done the same things too. It’s not believable, nor realistic, nor absorbing.

I used to read fantasy novels until I realised that every one was trying to be the Lord of the Rings but with a different map. The usual story was that there was a young person in a small isolated village who was actually hidden there to protect him as he is the foretold saviour of the world, the universe and everything, and then he finds a ancient sword or is discovered by the crazy wise guy travelling around with some gypsy caravan and they embark on an EPIC journey to save everyone from the baddies which stretches across 11 weighty volumes that each weigh the equivalent of a truck. Just once I wanted to find a book about an ordinary dude with a sword who was just trying to survive in his little part of the world. Why was it that every single time there had to be a terrible threat to existence that had been buried for a thousand years but was back right now?

When you look at WoW I think that you would have to say that the most successful part of the game has been the Auction House and making gold. More time and effort is dedicated to writing about that aspect than to any other in the blogging world. And it’s not about being a “hero”. It’s about making your way in the world, in this case with the economy. Leave the being the hero bit with single player games like DragonAge Origions. But if a MMORPG is based on interacting and playing with thousands of other players, then it should be just that. Just take what the auction house does and apply it to every aspect of the game. Put the framework in place and then let the players actions and the needs of the virtual world dictate who is going to be trying to lop off whomevers head.

Off-topic: I am now in Holland after driving here from Italy via a night outside Munich staying with some relatives. Another week here then on the plane for Australia. Oh man, I can feel the warmth already.