Jan. 19th, 2012

kent_allard_jr: (Dungeon Master)
Kim's mother got me Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for Christmas, and I enjoyed it immensely (well... as much as I can with any videogame, since I always have the sense I'm letting my life dribble away while playing). The graphics were stunning, as you can see from the left-hand screenshot, and the world wonderfully immersive. After I finished the main story, became leader of the Companions and Grand Wizard of the magic academy I gradually lost interest; there were a few more quests left, but it didn't seem fulfilling, extorting protection money from shopkeepers after saving the world three or four times. Ultimately I bought the largest house in the game, got married, and happily retired, which wasn't a terrible way to wrap things up.

Before Skyrim I had briefly returned to City of Heroes. Now free to play, they had introduced a few new features that I wanted to try out. One was the "morality mission," which let you turn your villains into "rogues" (mercenary, Catwoman types), your heroes into "vigilantes," and then from rogues to heroes and vigilantes to villains. I took Fantomah on the full path to redemption, and enjoyed the ride, getting a strange sense of accomplishment I never got from the leveling grind. I also tried some of the "user-generated content," and while I still believe amateur dungeons are the future of MMOs, they weren't good enough to make City of Heroes worth playing for long.

I put a lot of faith in amateur-designed dungeons because I'm a non-programmer who's written paper&pencil RPGs, loves to design worlds and loves to be a game-master. I have to acknowledge, though, that something like Skyrim is better than a D&D campaign in just about every way. There's no math to juggle or rules to memorize; you can play it any time you like (no tedious scheduling emails); and the sights and sounds are more vivid and intense than the descriptive text of even the best game master. Players are almost always better off with a computer for a GM.

It's the GM who loses out. I want to create and show off what I make, and for some reason RPGs have been the best medium for my diverse if underdeveloped talents. I don't think I'm alone in that regard, and would like to see more tools for budding Dungeon Masters who would like to continue creating content for a 21st century medium, hopefully without requiring the vast resources that computer games seem to need these days.

That's part of why Minecraft appealed to me so much. I stopped playing after its official release in November -- I just ran out of new stuff to do -- but with a few new features I think a Minecraft server could serve as a custom designed online RPG. I don't think I have the computer chops to run one, but it's a possibility.


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