I remember far more about Dementate than I want to.

22Sep11

I was not aware that there was going to be a World of Darkness MMO coming out.

See, even though I have played a few MMOs, I do not follow the field. I generally find the idea of paying a monthly fee for a game distasteful, and the idea of doing it for multiple games a sign of mental instability. After all, the MMO idea is that you dedicate huge amounts of time to one game that you continue to pay for. Trying this with multiple games…I can’t justify it. So I don’t bring up the World of Darkness MMO to say whether or not I’ll be buying it, I certainly won’t, and through no fault of the game itself.

However, I am bringing it up because right now, the developers are apparently toying with the idea of having permanent character death. On the face of it, that’s sheer insanity. In most MMOs, no one wants to spend weeks, months, even years tweaking a character, outfitting them, and getting everything just right, only to be killed by a game glitch and lose all of that work FOREVER. You’d be losing subscribers left and right, people decrying your terrible game loudly in every dank corner of the Internet…a total disaster.

But then I read a little more, and two points caught my attention beyond the permanent death. The first was their conception of the game as more of a LARP than anything else, with roleplaying strictly enforced. The second was the idea that players would be able to hold the important social positions. Suddenly, permanent death stops sounding like the worst idea possible.

You see, I’ve played a good deal in the World of Darkness system, both old and new-almost all Vampire, which would be the same as the World of Darkness MMO at the start. Sure, it would let you play humans, but most people would want to have the neat vampire powers. Even nerdier, I was mostly playing in Vampire LARPs. I was not one of those who tried to dress up in neat costumes, but it still was a step beyond just rolling dice around a table.

The idea behind these large-ish Vampire LARPs was that it would be primarily social, rather than combat based. You’d have to actually have a conversation with other players and NPCs to convince them of your point, instead of just rolling the appropriate skill and seeing if your roll was high enough. In that sense, it was a nice improvement. The problem, though, was that when you’re playing with a bunch of friends and you’re supposed to be trying to kill of a character you don’t like, you have to confront the fact that your friend likes their character. So either you target the characters of people who aren’t friends, or you pull back a little from being as ruthless as possible, which underplays the whole idea of being a vampire in the World of Darkness system.

MMO players, though? They won’t have that problem. These are people who will stalk a person for days, killing them repeatedly, just for the fun of being total dicks. You’d better believe they’ll leap at the chance to kill someone’s labour of love. All the nastiness of anonymity will fuel the roleplaying aspect of being a vampire, so suddenly all of the roleplaying book’s talk of never trusting anyone, and having no emotional attachments, will finally ring true. They might ignore the finer points of how given clans are supposed to behave, but they’ll absolutely nail the point of killing off people to get ahead.

Then there’s the idea of players in important social positions. Of course, all those MMO assholes will want to kill clan leaders and city princes. So anyone who attains such a position will do their best to avoid being online, with the thought that you can’t die when you’re not online to be attacked. Which is unfair to anyone that wants to take the job by less stabby means. But again, Vampire leaders are supposed to be remote, hard to pin down, and certainly not on your side. Who’s more remote than the person that isn’t even in town when they don’t need to be, and leaves again as soon as they can?

Of course, it still sounds like a terrible idea in practical terms. All the talk of enforcing roleplay will break down the minute someone figures out a powerful glitch, and people start to get one shot by a broken game mechanic. All the RP potential of permadeath will be out the window then. But it’ll make for a fascinating apocalypse.

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