Haven’t been playing WoW over the last few weeks: Christmas Break (Boise), then playing Fallout 3. It’s interesting, comparing my feelings about that game to my feelings about WoW. Fallout 3, being an RPG, definitely also operates from a basically individualist, capitalist paradigm: the player sees through the eyes of a single avatar, navigating a world and gaining in power/status/wealth; a hero or villain of renown. But because it’s a single-player game, Fallout 3 contains really interesting differences from an MMORPG.
In particular, the player can affect the gameworld greatly, permanently killing NPCs and garnering a permanent reputation with NPCs. WoW and other MMORPGs are historically bad at this – it being pretty much impossible for individuals to change the world and still have a fair playing field for all – although WoW in particular combats this problem in a couple of ways:
- The phased instancing thing they started doing with Lich King
- NPC factions, with whom an avatar has certain status. This status can change, depending on the player doing quests for the faction, killing its members, allying with a rival faction (i.e. Aldor and Scryers), etc.
Therefore, the classic dichotomy of control-the-world-all-by-yourself vs. exist-with-others-but-in-a-static-space between single-player games and MMOs isn’t quite as neat as I’d thought. Even though MMOs came later, it almost appears to me now as if the single-player game is trying to mimic the kind of status/ethos that an MMO world gets automatically. Especially Fallout 3, where your actions affect NPCs’ attitudes toward you but you can’t easily see what those effects are (even garnering favor or enmity of groups that you don’t meet, like the Talon Mercs, who showed up randomly to carry out a hit on me because I’d been doing good deeds). Fallout 3 is trying to approximate the ways that ethos works in an MMO with other players, or in real life: you don’t immediately see the consequences of your behavior vis-a-vis other people. A move toward realism for this game? Yes. But ironically, also a move towards something the MMO gets by default.