Friday, May 23, 2014

CO-OP MMORPGAMING, PART I

CO-OP MMOR-WHAT?
Cooperative games are games in which the players work together rather than playing against each other. Cooperative game modes are often abbreviated to co-op, since gamers are by and large a lazy folk.

Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) have been around for a while now. Depending on how you count it, since either the 80s or 90s. Some of the most popular ones over the years have been Ultima Online, Everquest, and of course World of Warcraft. In these games, a player joins the same game as thousands, or even millions of other players in order to adventure in the same fictional world. Many games have multiplayer features, but MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) games take multiplayer to another level with an immense, persistent world. This article isn't really about the origin or history of MMO games, but knowing a bit about the genre will make it a much better read. With that in mind...

Welcome to CO-OP MMORPGAMING, a chronicle my delve into playing an MMO with my girlfriend. It's the first experience I have had with playing an MMO as a local co-op game, sitting next to the other player. We will be attempting to play more or less the whole game as a two-person party, which is entirely new to me. Hopefully it will prove useful to gamers on a time crunch who are looking to start an MMO with their significant other or close friend.

MY MMO PAST
About five years ago I had lots of time for gaming. I was single, working part time, and was a student with few enough time constraints that I could game from about 5pm to 3am, several days a week. And I did. I devoured games, completing most shooters and adventure games over the course of a weekend. RPGs held my attention a bit longer, and I could spend weeks or months on them before exhausting them of new content.

Around this time I tried my hand at MMORPGs for the first time. I played The Old Republic (a fun Star Wars MMO) for about 6 months, because I loved the KOTOR series. For the record, KOTOR I and II are still the best Star Wars games out there. I played EVE Online (spaceships and spreadsheets) for about a year and loved it, but ultimately tired of my trading and space exploration. I played Guild Wars (a fantasy MMO with a focus on player-vs-player team fights) for a few months before I lost interest, played TERA (a fantasy MMO that includes a race of Ewok-ish creatures) for a bit, and played AION (a fantasy MMO where you can fly with awesome angel wings) as well. Ultimately I decided that MMOs weren't really my thing. The gameplay structure was based on playing with friends, but my friends never stuck with any one game longer than a few months.

MY CRITERIA
Fast forward to now. I work full time and am living with a wonderful young woman who would like to play games with me. We have gone through a number of cooperative console games, and I decide it is time again to try out an MMO. This interest, in part, was sparked by the excellent anime Sword Art Online. We both work and have too many hobbies (gaming, cosplay, music, art, dancing, writing) so we only have an hour or so a day to play games.

Here's the catch... her computer isn't that brilliant, and most newer games require some pretty impressive hardware to run. The second catch... we don't want to pay money to play the game. 

A lot of free-to-play MMO games are either very limiting to free players or require you to pay money for cool stuff. They let you play for free up to level 10, or to play a few classes for free and pay money for the others. Some let you do certain quests for free, or require that you pay money for decent gear. Some games are free to play, but don't offer any real challenge or excitement and are arguably not even games at all. Social games like Farmville fall into this category. We wanted a real game that we could get a lot of content out of for free.

CHOOSING OUR GAME
I did a bit of research and determined that our options for a fun, free-to-play MMO with friendly graphics requirements were a bit limited. Dungeons and Dragons Online looked good, but was very locked into D&D rules. I love D&D, but wanted to try something different for an MMO. Another option was TERA. TERA boasts some pretty graphics and the option of playing as a Popori, which are cute little animal-creatures that look kinda like Ewoks. Finally we had Aion, which is a bit older but allows players to fly around on awesome wings.

I chose Aion because I figured my girlfriend would like the idea of flying in an MMO. Aion is also the middle-ground in terms of graphics among the three games, and seemed a good starting point to judge system performance. We installed Aion on both machines and fired it up, then waited about 7 hours to download the numerous patches the game has had (it's up to version 4.5 now) since it launched...

Stay tuned for CO-OP MMORPGAMING, PART II

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