Competition has always been a part of my life. Growing up with two
younger brothers, there was always a sense of urgency in everything I
did. From eating all of my dinner the fastest so I could get the
biggest piece of cake to trying to win in our game of basketball so I
wouldn’t have to rake the leaves in the yard, the pressure of
winning was placed firmly on my shoulders. Even in my small hometown, I
was always expected to be “the best” at what I did:
school, athletics or the dating game. Don’t get me wrong, I
failed at a large portion of the things that I tried, but the need to
compete was instilled into my very blood.

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competitive in EverQuest was a chore.

So when I eventually found myself playing massively multiplayer online
games, I was caught between a rock and a hard place. In the earliest
MMOs, trying to “win” meant that you were the
hardest of the hardcore. To win at an MMO like style="font-style: italic;"
target="_blank">EverQuest or style="font-style: italic;"
target="_blank">Ultima Online or style="font-style: italic;"
Fantasy XI, you might need to raid
fifteen hours a day, go to work to pay your rent and/or subscription
fees, get an hour of sleep, then be at it again. Between my family,
social, and job-related activities, I’ve never had an
extremely open schedule, so being an elite member of the MMO community
was never an option. Ultimately, my competitive spirit was quashed by
the very nature of MMO design.

At least that was the case until a number of smart MMO developers
decided to integrate e-sports options in their MMOGs. On top of that, a
hefty number of development studios are seriously considering building
sports-based massively multiplayer games. Even the most PvE oriented
MMORPGs are now hosting regular fight nights where players actively
compete to see who can out muscle their competition. The flame of
competition is burning bright again, and it’s not merely
focused on gamers who spend their lives glued to a computer chair.

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Guild Wars'
GvG battles are a thrill to be a part of.

With this in mind, I bring you the first edition of “In the
Trenches” a weekly commentary on the state of competition in
MMOGs. I hope to bring you the highlights of competitive MMO gaming,
from href="" target="_blank">World
of Warcraft Arena competitions to GvG battles in style="font-style: italic;"
target="_blank">Guild Wars to epic RvR
sieges in href="">Warhammer Online
to track and field events in href=""
target="_blank">Empire of
Sports. I’ll even dabble in online games that
pretend to be
MMOGs, titles like NHL
(which features a character
creation system and persistent characters for players to use) and style="font-style: italic;">Call of Duty 4 to
see what kind of MMO elements have snuck into those heavily competitive

And those six games I listed are only the tip of the iceberg. Over the
next year, gamers will see a variety of titles – released,
upcoming and some that aren’t even fully announced
– begin to really push the MMO genre and really begin to
define how gamers compete with each other. Forms of indirect
competition experienced significant gains over the last year with the
integration of achievement systems in style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft
and Warhammer
, not to mention the previously developed system for
href="" target="_blank">Lord
of the
Rings Online. Driven by the success of the Xbox Live
achievements, MMO
developers found a natural way to give players bragging rights without
necessarily always focusing on those gamers that can raid every night
of the week.

But 2008 was certainly the year of the PvP gamer. Although past titles
had given gamers the option to have a genuine interest in player versus
player combat, sales of href="" target="_blank">
Age of Conan and Warhammer
were driven
by PvP features. Even if some of those PvP features weren’t
fully fleshed out when both games released, the fact that players
showed a true desire to have PvP in their games really caught the
attention of developers across the world. For the first time in years,
we’re seeing a number of MMO studios working on MMOs that
have PvP at their core, including href="">Darkfall
Online and href=""
target="_blank">Mortal Online.

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Empire of
Sports may not be the best MMO, but its one of the only sports MMOs.

But perhaps the biggest unknown of 2009 is how sports-based MMOs will
fall into the popularity mix. Last year, we saw the announcement of
several sports and/or soccer based MMOs, and as those teams ramp up in
2009 it will intriguing to gauge the interest that gamers have in this
particular area of our genre. Although sports-based games are certainly
popular on consoles, will an MMO truly gain the sort of foothold that
console games have held for decades?

I won’t give the previous question a definitive answer until
we’ve traveled a bit further into our current year, but I do
think there’s a vast depth of potential for sports MMOs that
really has yet to be exploited. Even current sports MMOs like style="font-style: italic;">Empire of
Sports don’t feature the sort of sports-based
gameplay that
those type of players would really enjoy. I’ve just touched
the surface of
Empire of Sports,
and even though it is entertaining at times, I can
already tell that problem areas lie ahead. Keep checking back in with
Ten Ton Hammer to see my eventual review of this MMO sports title.

In next week’s column, I’m going to take my first
look at World of
’s upcoming Arena season, which
promises to be an entertaining venture. If you have an idea for a
column or would like to see a particular team or game featured on In
the Trenches, shoot
me an email
. Until next time, keep your competitive
spirits high and don’t be afraid to get dirty In the

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Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016