Article by Grant Newby.
Now, I've played a fair few MMORPG's in my time, so I'm pretty well placed to give you guys some free advice, and my first section is for those of you who've never managed to get around to playing an MMORPG. Really, this article is for the new players, most people will have heard of most of the MMORPG's I mention in this.
Right, so you've never played an MMORPG. Your scared of all the hardcore-ness of it all. You hear people talking about things like Green Iron and Agents. You think if you get into the game you'll be overwhelmed by a small continents worth of information and drown in a complicated world you can never hope to understand. But trust me on this, you'll be fine. MMORPG's are complicated, but only if viewed as a whole. When you start, you don't need to know everything. If you've signed up for World of Warcraft and you've decided to be a Gnome Warrior, because it sounds funny, you only need to know how to use your warrior skills, and the basics of gameplay. The basics you can get from the manual, and the small help notices that pop up giving you advice. As for your warrior skills, you'll pick them up within just a few minutes, they're not absolutely vital for the first couple of quests. Before you know it, you've got the first few warrior skills, a new weapon, some various armour and you're beating up some dangerous looking things. Maybe, you've even died once or twice, not that it matters, because in most games these days the penalties for an unexpected death are pretty lenient. Even if they're not, most games will give you fair warning if you're headed somewhere where you stand to lose more than time. For a while, you'll feel a little out of the loop as you adjust to some of the nuances of your chosen world. Don't worry, you'll pick em up in no time. If you have any problems, just ask someone in the general channel. Most people have 2 or 3 characters, and its more than possible there's a lower level character around somewhere who has much more game time than you. So don't be afraid. It's really not as hardcore as you think. You'll pick up a lot of what you need to know as you play.
So what MMORPG is for you? Well, the first thing I would say is go for something you have an interest in. Are you into knights and wizards and swords and sorcery? Then you've got a wealth of choice. Dark Age of Camelot, World of Warcraft and Everquest for example. There are plenty of options in the fantasy genre, and a few more on the way as well. Keep an eye out for Middle Earth Online for your Lord of the Rings fix. However, there are a few other settings you can consider. There are a few Sci-Fi set games out there, including the Matrix Online (I've heard mixed things about this game, so check the forums for general feeling about recent updates), Anarchy Online (Good, but getting old) and, of course, Star Wars Galaxies (again a mixed reception on launch, but the Lightspeed update, that gives you control of spaceships, has been generally applauded). The other big MMORPG setting is the modern day super hero era. The City of Heroes and City of Villains games set you as a super hero or villain in a modern era city. So, what are you most into? I'd go for something you have at least an interest in and then narrow it down with a few choice internet searches.
Despite my little speech earlier, some MMORPG's are quite hardcore, and these require a large input of time from you, so if you want/have a social life, or time for anything except the basics then you might be better off with a slightly softcore offering. These softcore options are still a bit of a commitment mind you, at least as time consuming as taking up a serious hobby. But then, you're gamers, you know this. Also, when considering the price, consider how much real world money £8.99 is. Around my way, that's about 3 pints or so, so at the end of the day, its not really that much money when you consider how much entertainment you get from both options.
Any other considerations? Some RPG's are based on previous film and game licenses, and if you enjoyed any of these films or games then it might be worth taking a closer look at. Also look to whether the game has European servers if you're in Europe. Some of the less popular games only have US or Asian servers. Also, watch out for games that aren't actually completed yet. Most big efforts are almost always finished when unleashed on the world, but some of the smaller games are often funded by subscriptions, as they make the game. Be careful of this don't go for a small MMORPG thinking you're going to be edgy and different. The only difference will be that you don't play as much as people who play other, more well known games. This is mainly because the servers are always down. I can also recommend looking at some of the guides for games on the net. On both this site and GameFaqs.com, you'll find my Paladin Guide for World of Warcraft. Most guides contain a small section of FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) which is a very handy way of learning things about a game, including any flaws. If you are worried about a game's problems I recommend having a look at the game forums. Bear in mind that most people who write on forums are there to report problems and try to solve them, or have arguments about which character class is the best. I know for a fact that WoW has a downtime forum section, so you can check how often the various servers are down. I'm not sure if other games have this particular facility, but if they do, it's a good way of telling how often the servers are down on that particular game.
Well, that's about it. If you haven't tried an MMORPG before, then you definitely should. If you can spare about 10 hours a week (a good Saturday session will achieve this) then you've got plenty of time to play. At the moment, I'm working 10 hour days, 5 days a week, so I can only dedicate about 8 hours a week to my WoW habit, and I'm still gradually chugging my way through the levels and quests quite happily, so you don't need too much time. Obviously, if you have more time than this then you'll work your way through the game quicker, obviously, but there's plenty of people out there who don't play their chosen game all the time. Best bet is to give it a try, find a friend online, see how much they play and try and stay around similar levels. That way, you'll always have a friend to go adventuring with (Hi Tepik!!). Well, that's pretty much it. If you're still doubtful, just go out and buy a game and try the free trial period. Worst case scenario your're twenty quid down. Best case scenario you've found a great hobby that will provide you with much happiness and joy for a long time. See you online (I play the Paladin MorningLord on the Shadowsong server of World of Warcraft). Later y'all.