S.O.S.! Save Me from the Anti-MMOG
A few weeks ago, I
freed my “iMMOGination”
to talk about a couple of dream games for
me. Just as I sought to describe the perfect massively-multiplayer
online game (MMOG) then, I will seek to define the worst MMOG now. I
will be using the same criteria for the worst MMOG, the Anti-MMOG if
- Worst story
- Worst world
- Worst combat
- Worst quests
- Worst character development
- Worst diversions
Grand Theft Auto: Virtual City (GTAVC)
With all due respect to Rockstar Games, makers of the wildly successful
Grand Theft Auto franchise, GTAVC is my choice for worst possible MMOG.
Why did I pick a well-known franchise like GTA instead of something no
one has ever heard of? It comes down to expectations: people expect
more from a well-developed and tested core system. The fact that the
GTA games are so good means that people would expect big things from a
GTA MMOG. Let's find out why this imaginary game is so awful.
Worst. Story. Ever.
In Grand Theft Auto: Virtual City, players assume the role of a mafia
hit man sucked into the virtual world while playing a video game when
the arcade is struck by lightning. Once in Virtual City, the player
sees his chance to establish his own mob with him as don. In order to
achieve his goal, the player must commit as many crimes as possible.
But the path to cartel dominance is fraught with danger: Virtual City
law enforcement agents will be out to stop the crimes. But that's not
all! A few rival mobsters and some gang members were in the same arcade
when the lightning struck. Now those people are in Virtual City, too,
and they're all hell-bent on cornering the market on crime.
Crummy World Design
Virtual City is a sprawling metropolis, or so the box for GTAVC says.
Players won't actually feel that because the world is divided into over
a hundred zones, each of which requires 5 seconds to load. Run a city
block? Load a new zone. Enter a gas station to commit a little armed
robbery? Load a zone.
Compounding the matter is the lack of detail. Each city block (or zone
as it is) features the exact same pattern of non-descript buildings and
virtual hookers. Unlike a real city, where different neighborhoods have
landmarks and architecture that makes them unique, Virtual City looks
like its engineers were robots. Everything looks the same and is
arranged the same. Even the hookers on 61st and Park have the same
tacky leopard pattern skirts as the hookers down on 3rd and Moreland.
Then there's the draw in. That's right: draw in. Virtual City
inexplicably suffers from the “fog.” Distant buildings magically appear
out of the fog as players get closer. It's as if the robot engineers
magically teleport buildings and cops into place through the use of
this mysterious fog.
Prepare to Defend Yourself
Just about anything in Virtual City can become a weapon, but it doesn't
matter since hitting a target is close to impossible with anything but
a melee weapon. Sure, you can pick up a chair or a box and hurl it at
your foes, but the lack of a targeting system in GTAVC's 3-D world
makes ranged combat very iffy. It's a shame that your mafia “hit man”
will repeatedly miss a target seemingly right in front of him with an
AK-47. Time to get the lead pipe.
Compounding the inconsistent nature of combat is the fog mentioned
above. Just when you think you are safe, you'll pass a building and
four rival gangsters brandishing 9MMs will draw in, and they don't have
a problem hitting their targets! The only safe way to travel in Virtual
City is to “elect” one member of the group to scout ahead. When she
dies, you'll know enemies are ahead.
“Bring Us a Shrubbery!”
Quests in Virtual City range from standard fetch quests to plots for
arson and mass murder. The problem is that Virtual City is very large,
and the quest descriptions are extremely vague. You'll love the dreaded
“Kill 30 of them. Then they'll know you're hard” quest. Kill 30 who you
ask? Well, your avatar received a letter from a rival mob threatening
to run him out of Virtual City. The problem is that the letter wasn't
signed by anyone. You don't know the name of the gang or the
whereabouts of their headquarters. Grrr.
To make matters worse when you're looking for the rival mobsters—trying
to kill anything that moves in the hope that it counts toward your
quest—you'll be passing though several of those zones, waiting 5
seconds for each new zone to load. Imagine your frustration when you
reach 82nd and Park only to find out you needed to go to 5th and Ben
Franklin for your duel!
The Mindless Grind
GTAVC does not work off of the standard XP system used in most MMOGs.
Instead, you'll earn “Rep” (reputation) points for each crime you
commit. The asinine aspect is the apparently random way the game
assigns Rep points for different crimes. Killing a hooker yields as
much Rep as icing a cop. Now which do you think is easier to do? And
which do you think would really improve your standing with other
criminals in Virtual City more?
Burn down a church? 500 Rep. Burn down a school? 5000 Rep. Quest
rewards are insanely disproportionate in GTAVC. In the end, the easiest
way to level in the early game ends up being killing all the hookers in
town. Unfortunately, hookers are also a good way to get back your
health, and their spawn timers are on par with that of Lady Vox in
Of course, another player could choose to “do the nasty” with you to
give you some health, but it will cost him or her Rep. Sleeping with
another player shows weakness. I guess a good mob boss is asexual!
A great MMOG will have plenty of diversions: trade skills, mini-games,
and optional quests. Of course, GTAVC has none of those. Unless you
count killing hookers as a mini-game. Oh, you can enjoy a little player
vs. player (PvP) combat, but since there are no real classes, PvP boils
down to spamming attacks until everybody is dead.
Worst of all, PvP allows for huge exploits. A player with a really high
Rep score can hold still while you kill him. You'll get a tremendous
amount of Rep for taking out this rival, and he won't lose a single Rep
point! Once PvP opens up at level 20, everyone can reach the Rep cap by
killing each other over and over. Sigh.
I've just described the Anti-MMOG—a game marred by poor design, a
flawed combat system, and broken character development. Lucky for us
Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) fans, DDO doesn't have these
problems. DDO allows people to create unique characters with a plethora
of DDO Builds . And Turbine releases content to address the
problems with DDO  on a consistent basis. Let's all take a deep
breath and be happy we play DDO and that GTAVC doesn't exist!