5 Things that MMOGs Can Learn from Witcher 2

Jeffprime delves into the gritty world of Witcher 2 to examine the game elements that can lift online gaming from banal themes and stagnant storytelling.
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has hit the gaming
community like a kick to the groin and players are rejoicing. With its
gritty world and immersive gameplay, there are many elements of the
game that could be used by MMOGs to uplift their stagnant, moribund
state. MMOGs have been in a creative rut for quite some time, and the
breath of fresh air that is style="font-style: italic;">Witcher 2
is just what the doctor ordered. Let’s take a look at five
features of style="font-style: italic;">Witcher 2
that could positively impact online gaming.

Offer Meaningful Mini-Games

While some MMOGs do have a few mini-games, they can take a page from
mini-games to be found in style="font-style: italic;">Witcher 2.
Games such as arm wrestling, dice,
and bar fights (or fight club as I like to call it) are both fun and
quick to play. Many MMOGs do not have mini-games, and if they do, they
tend to somewhat stale or time-consuming. The games in style="font-style: italic;">Witcher 2
only keep the player entertained, but they also reinforce the world
setting. Wouldn’t it be great if you had 20 minutes to kill
before you raid group formed and you could spend that time betting on
various arm wrestling matches or playing the tables to enhance your
bank account? Only got a half hour to play for the night? Well, if your
MMOG had fun mini-games like style="font-style: italic;">Witcher 2,
you could spend that time having
fun playing the games and interacting with other players.
Mini-games not only
provide entertainment, but they also reinforce the multiplayer aspect
in MMOGs.

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alt="the witcher 2"

Can you go Over the Top on the

A Vibrant Game World

The most compelling part of style="font-style: italic;">Witcher 2
is that you become totally
immersed into the game world. It may be dark, gritty, nasty, brutal,
and dirty, but it feels style="font-weight: bold;">REAL.
I can just wander around and listen to
and watch the denizens of Temeria for hours on end. You get the
sensation that everybody is living a life that doesn’t
revolve around you, but rather your character is a cog in the engine of
the game world.

Practically all MMOGs have a cookie-cutter world in where nothing
changes. Sure, it may be day or night or perhaps it might be raining,
but does the world ever change? There are ways that MMOGs can immerse
you into their world and make their setting more alive and vibrant.
Beggars can harass you for coins, shops can close at certain
times, black-market trading only occurs at
night, NPCs actually have
lives and wander around according to that life, and so on. If a region
doesn’t like a particular race (such as elves), players of
that race can get
harassed by the town guard, be charged higher prices, or perhaps even
imprisoned and forced to pay a fee or do a service to win their
freedom. Perhaps a riot breaks out due to the drunken mobs at the rugby
field and the players find themselves swamped by rioters and forced to
defend themselves or that the rioters loot the shops, closing them down
for a time. MMOGs need to make players feel that they’re
visiting an organic, breathing world that exists with or without them.

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Looks like this fight is going
to hurt.

Gripping Story Arcs

While you can play through style="font-style: italic;">Witcher 2
and focus only on the main quest
arc, doing so would rob you of enjoying many hours of intricate story
arcs on the side that grip you as you play them. Let’s face
it: most MMOGs have quests of kill X of this thing or go escort Y to
this place or take this item to a particular NPC. Not exactly the most
fascinating situations to seize your imagination nor are they the stuff
of legend. While some MMOGs have story arcs (such as various adventure
packs in href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/ddo"> style="font-style: italic;">Dungeons and Dragons
or the Defias Brotherhood arc in
style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft),
they tend to not be the most gripping of tales.
Most mission chains follow a pattern of you get some info to take to an
NPC, then you go kill X number of bad guys which leads you to other
kill missions, and eventually you attack the lair of the bad guys and
finish them off. However, the vast majority of players never become
emotionally invested in the overall story arc.

What Witcher
does is make you care and
fill you with the same fire
and enthusiasm for these side quests as you do for the main quests. So
much time and effort has been put into these and it shows in
their quality. If MMOGs would devote as much storytelling
energy into these side quests as they do into end-game raids, players
would have a greater gaming experience. When you finish off the last
boss in a story arc, you should feel like cheering about your victory,
not thinking, “I got to run back real quick and turn this in
so I can get my shiny trinket as a reward.” Playing the game
and finishing quests should be the reward you’re looking for.


Choices have major consequences in style="font-style: italic;">Witcher
but not in MMOGs. In
, a choice you make can come
back to haunt you hours later or
end up in a result that you weren’t looking for. Not to
mention that many choices offered to you in style="font-style: italic;">Witcher 2
clear-cut good or bad. There are many times where you’ll see
that both sides have solid arguments on their side, but you have to
make a choice. Do you help out the elves who are being persecuted by
the humans or will you help defend the human farmers from marauding
elves? If you choose to help the elves, innocent humans will be
butchered. If you help the humans, then you’ll help commit
genocide on elven villages. What to do?

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What to do? Remember...choices
have consequences!

Online games can really take a page out of style="font-style: italic;">Witcher 2’s
playbook on choices and consequences. To be blunt, there are really no
consequences to any of your actions while playing an MMOG. I understand
that the nature of the game mechanics and the multiplayer aspect can
limit to what you can do, but there can be consequences in the game.
You can have merchants refuse to buy or sell from a player if their
favor is negative or charge higher prices if the player is mistrusted,
but not hated. MMOGs could also not allow NPCs to grant quests to
players if their reputation with that faction is too low. You can have
an NPC who may not deal with a player if that player killed a relative
in an earlier quest. There is a great deal of options open to MMOGs;
it’s just that they have to be willing to let actions have

Embrace Adult Themes

Many people have focused on the sex that your character can partake of
in Witcher
, but that’s only
part of the story. The game is
an adult-themed game with foul language and adult situations. These
elements are not done for shock value, but to make the game real and
emphasize the gritty nature of the world setting. So far, there
haven’t been any MMOGs that really focus on adult themes and
situations. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/aoc"> style="font-style: italic;">Age of Conan
promised a mature gaming experience, but all
we got was a glorified PG-13 setting.

The adult situations in style="font-style: italic;">Witcher 2
help create an emotional intensity that sucks you into the game. Do you
let a house full of innocent people get burned to the ground or do you
prevent it? Will you stop the rape of conquered townswomen by your
comrades or will you
allow it? Such choices, good or
evil, make for a heightened gameplay experience and players will
remember the choices they made one way or the other. We’re
big boys and girls; we should be allowed to play big boy and big girl
games. We can safely venture from the G and PG world of current online
gaming into R or even NC-17 games and have solid and memorable gameplay
experiences. Just because a game is mature doesn’t make it
tawdry or sordid.

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alt="the witcher 2"

We're big kids and can play
big kid games. BTW, the answer should be yes!

Overall, there are many elements of style="font-style: italic;">Witcher
that can enhance the gameplay of MMOGs. From making a vibrant game
world to having adult themes to the
crazy notion of actions have consequences, the five elements cited
above can help lift MMOGs from their current position of staleness and
sameness. Why play another version of the same kind of MMOG that
you’ve played over and over again for the last decade when
you can be drawn into an intricate world filled with choices and
gripping stories? I think that we, as gamers, are ready for a real
adult-themed MMOG that isn’t made for partying frat-boys, but
one aimed for actual adults who don’t mind watching style="font-style: italic;">Power
Rangers with their kids, but
sure don’t want to spend endless
hours adventuring in that kiddie-themed world. We deserve better and
shows us the way.

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