Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Singapore the MMORPG

Edit: I stumbled across an article that pretty much sets out everything that is wrong with MMORPG's nowadays - but centering its analysis on WoW. Pretty much sets out what I write in less rambly language.

Having recently hit level 60 at WoW, I could not help but notice a startling similarity between WoW and Singapore.

For the benefit of those not in the know, level 60 is the absolute highest level you can attain in WoW. In many ways, it represents a coming of age. This is where your character stops growing and starts participating. There are many "60's only" places and quests. It's like getting keys to the executive bathroom. A whole new world awaits you.

Here's the catch. The game at level 60 is vastly different from the game at level 1-59. Strategies that once worked from level 1-59 absolutely do not work at level 60. At levels 1-59, you have many choices to thrive. At level 60, you really only have two choices to avoid character stagnation.

You either sell out, or compete for scraps.

Like WoW, Singapore literally hands you the game from levels 1-59. Sure, there are super-performers in school who get all the perks. Sure there are people who get crushed by the wheels of a merciless system. By and large, however, you -will- get a decent education, you -will- get your bellies filled, and you -will- enjoy a standard of living that, while not fantastic, is certainly comfortable. Singapore hands its citizens the equivalents of level 1-59. The system facilitates both casual participants as well as fanatic workaholics. You can choose to work hard, or not.

Once you hit 60, the environment changes. The strategies that kept you alive at levels 1 to 59 don't work any more. You realise that your NUS degree, and whatever few marketable skills you have means little and increasingly less in the big bad world out there. You realise that that you are largely helpless in spite of the fact that you may have worked your ass off during levels 1-59. Casual participation becomes nigh impossible. Only complete utter dedication will allow you to thrive - anything else risks stagnation. You realise that there are only two ways to achieve the end-game rewards. You can team up with people to get "raid" end-game dungeons, or you can fight other players in "(P)layer (V)ersus (P)layer" battlegrounds.

Teaming up requires having a skill set that the team needs. That skill set may not be the one that is most desirable to you, merely those most desirable to the team. The team does not care if you have hopes, dreams and aspirations of your own. The team only cares if you can contribute to help them slay Blackwing, Onyxia or Ragnaros. Except, if you've played WoW long enough, you will know that many raiding guilds are run like military organizations or corporations, and have more than their share of catass-ery.

"PvP" requires something else. It requires you to pit your skills with foul mouthed kids and teenagers, who have nothing better to do but to hone their skills in the Battlegrounds. Alternatively, you'd face a person who plays a character that is invulnerable to damage, can teleport from place to place, and can kill you with a keypress. In short, you remain breathlessly disbelieving and wondering why the system rewards loophole exploiters and the obsessed, but punishes the casual.

Both of these are not the problems. The problem starts when you are level 1 to level 59 - the system gives no indication of the problems you will face at level 60. All we get are anecdotes of players before us - players who have their own self-interest at heart when doling information out. The senior players are likely to have gotten ahead either by nefarious means or by simply "grinding" away while the rest of us casual gamers have lives to tend to. They are not likely to lobby for casual-friendly gaming. In suffering, they expect us to suffer along with them for rewards. These hard-core gamers exert a disproportionate amount of power and often lobby and obtain landscape changes that yet again favours them while stiffing us.

So you look at your options, and wonder why you pay dues for the privilege of aggravating yourself. Your eye starts wandering. You discover other MMORPG's, and wonder if they are just more worthwhile. Unfortunately, you have a sinking suspicion that jumping ship may mean a serious case of "Same Shit Different Day".

You know that the problem is not with the system, but with the inherent nature of man.

Chances are also that while you hate the problems with WoW, you have friends you made there. Leaving WoW means leaving your friends behind, and you just -cannot- do that. Ever.

So what do you do?

I'm still trying to find the answer.

Some days it doesn't pay to get out of bed.


ted said...

Well, there's always Guild Wars, they limit your level grinding tactics...hehe. And you have more possible character development...soo..choices choices.

Anthony said...

I'm not THAT good on FPS. Or rather, I'm not good with FPS that involves a mouse and a keyboard, so Guild Wars has been kinda iffy so far.

ted said...

Oh the latest version is fantastic, you can scroll from a FPS to a 3rd PS smoothly.

Anthony said...


Been to the website. Looks good. I might go sample it at some cybercafe in the future.

Slinky said...

LOVED this entry.

And you're absolutely right. Not about the WoW part of things, I don't pay it (sad sniffling).

But yes, we're spoon-fed until we hit the working world then we get shoved in the mad, bad world of politicking, average salaries, skyrocketing housing and car prices, limited opportunity for advancement and the prospect of working 12 hours a day for the rest of our lives in order to earn enough to keep food in the table and maintain a decent standard of living.

And of course if we dare to complain about the system and the administrators, then we're either bumepd off the servers or declared ungrateful 'quitters' for daring to hope for a life where we're actually living instead of just going through the motions.

Anthony said...


There's another aspect to it - being brought up in whatever environment means you've sunk roots into it, whether you like it or not. What I -hate- is the fact that, if you unroot yourself, you're pretty much going to do it alone.

It's emotional mutilation no matter which way you head.

dawndie said...

What can I say, I really love the brilliant analogy!

-ben said...

You Play World of Warcraft? You're Hired!



Mythical said...

You could always get a bunch of casual gamers and make your own game. One thing about World of Singapore is that you don't have to stagnate if you can resist disillusionment. You can become Kevin Tan. Haha!

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

Dungeons and Dragons Online has been released. Wilson has started. I don't know about Colin, Brian and the others. I may start on it. If I do, it will be over this weekend.

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

Guild Wars is pretty fun. Like WOW, there is an expansion coming up.

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

I got my Dungeon and Dragons Online last night. Wilson dropped a set at my place.


It's based on v3.5 rules.

Anthony said...

Shyue Chou,

I tried DDO during beta. I can't play it for long - something about the UI makes me very nauseous.

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

The interface is quite unpolished too. And the contortions one has to do to view things in combat is annoying.

-ben said...

I tried DDO during beta. I can't play it for long - something about the UI makes me very nauseous.

I know hardcore gamers who take Dramamine just to get an edge playing such games.


Marcin said...

ORGANIZE. There is 6 million players in WoW; not everyone can be NUMBER 1. One may either do 10 things at once, or have 10 people each do one thing; it's just like real life. The ones who succeed are the ones who organize. (Read 'Think & Grow Rich' - Napoleon Hill)

Set goals: have definite intentions for playing the game; How much gold do you want to earn today? What weapon to you want to purchase? What accomplishment do you want to achieve? FULFILLMENT FROM ACHIEVEING A GOAL, in WoW or in Life, is the greatest joy one can experience; one gets the benefit of enjoying the end reward and also becomes aware of their daily improvements.

The only dead-end is in the mind: '95% of all the problems you experience are only in your mind'. Blaming outside circumstances is a loser mentality. To be wealthy in every section of life, one must look within to find the faults on which they may improve. Only then will you begin to win in WoW.


free mmorpg said...

nice article