Thursday, March 04, 2010

One is the Loneliest Number

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You know, when you run around in these old games, there's something that is painfully obvious to us in our modern world:  it's a very lonely place.

Oh sure, there's the odd Store Keeper here and there to talk with.  Nethack in particular allows you to chat with some of these people and other characters, though the responses you get are limited.  Once in a while you might even run across your own ghost, although that generally means you're trying to kill yourself, which is a bit Shakespearean in its overtones. And depending on the character you choose, you might have a pet, a potent little animal who helpfully guards you and attacks your enemy - and annoyingly gets in your way when you're trying to move around.

But there are no griefers, hosers, crackers, hackers, lamers, famers, farmers, grinders, etc.  There are no other players to play with.  You play alone, quietly slogging through a world that is made up of lines, symbols and the alphabet, a Sesame Street version of a role playing game.  If this were what World of Warcraft was all about, the producers of it would long ago have gotten into the real estate market to make ends meet.

30 years ago, no one cared about interacting with other players.  10 years ago, it was an additional feature, though not a requirement for a game.  Now, its an integral part of the gaming experience, and almost no game ships without strong support for multiplayer gaming.

There were certainly multiplayer games back in the 80's.  Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs) were a big thing when I got into online gaming in the early 90's.  That was all there was, so that's what we did when we wanted to team up and play together.  The games, though, are text based, like the old Zork adventure games.  Type N to go north one space, receive a description of the area, respond to things that are there using text commands.  None of the graphic intracacies of a game like Rogue (yes... I said that with a smile).  You can still play many MUDs today even, and a lot of them are free, but they simply no longer hold up to games like WoW or City of Heroes.

Well, for now I'll go on being an army of ONE in my quiet little world.  Fingers crossed I can get higher then sixth level, though, being lonely and dead is worse then just being lonely.

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