Thursday, February 21, 2008

Nationalism in MMORPGs

A while ago I made a negative remark about Pirates of the Burning Sea, saying that I didn't see why my freetrader should finance the PvP combat of another player I don't know. Grimwell replied to that, talking about team spirit and pride. Today I read an entry about Warhammer Online on Keen and Graev's blog:
There’s nothing new but in the interview one of Josh’s answers explains perfectly why the RvR in WAR sounds so appealing.

Josh on RvR: “You’re fighting on massive battlefields, laying siege to enormous keeps and castles. You’re literally struggling to move the battlefront forward in the persistent game world. And your success or failure will decide whether your beloved capital will be gutted, and its citizens slaughtered and then finally burned to the ground, or whether that fate will befall your enemies instead.”
There must be a gene missing in my MMORPG DNA, because I don't get it. "Beloved capital"? I don't feel no love whatsover towards my capital. "Citizens slaughtered"? Only NPCs and the players that chose to defend the capital. "Finally burned to the ground"? Only to be miraculously rebuilt three days later, looking exactly as before. Basically from what I heard, I consider losing the PvP war in WAR as a minor annoyance, a few days of not being able to access whatever facilities you need in the capital. Nothing more. I'm not a nationalist or however you want to call it (factionist?) for whatever side I happen to play on in a MMORPG.

I blame the Dunbar number. The number of players in my faction is greater than the number of people my brain is wired to feel "trust" for, my maximum social network. You *could* get me excited about WAR PvP by telling me how it is all about guild vs. guild combat to capture keeps. But I can imagine some keep being taken by a guild of my faction, and me hoping for some guild of the enemy faction to conquer it, so my guild gets a chance to grab the keep.

Conquering enemy lands in WAR, PotBS, or any other MMORPG can't be permanent. At some point one side is declared the winner, and the map resets. Designers even have to include obstacles against the same side winning again and again in quick succession, because that would just make the players of the losing side quit. It is very hard to feel nationalist if your nation is one you chose on the character creation screen. Other side is always winning? Delete this character and make a new one on the winning side, problem solved. You do not have family or land in a MMORPG that would bind you to a particular faction. With my love of playing alts, and WARs system of having different classes for every faction, I'll probably end up playing all the possible factions in WAR anyway. Why worry about the fate of my virtual nation?

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