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Tycho / on Fri, Jun 18 2004 at 4:30 am

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Next Time, On True Tales

This is the pilot for a new series on Penny Arcade, called True Tales Of The Industry.  We’ve always wanted to run a rumor column that was sixty percent fabrications.  Suffice it to say, if we are calling forty percent truth good enough, we know enough things already to crack these out until the heat death of the universe.

Playing two Massive games at once is howling madness.  It’s like working one shift in Houston and another shift on The Moon in the same day.

I am often asked if a person should play World of Warcraft or City of Heroes, and it’s always interesting to me that it comes down to those two, like those are the only two things on the menu.  It’s never should I play, you know, Tabula Rasa or Asheron’s Call 2.  It’s also interesting to me that months before release, World of Warcraft is so potent even as a concept that it can cause people to fast on the entire genre rather than sully their palette. 

The short term answer is that you should play City of Goddamn Heroes.  I mean, if you’ve already got this question in your mind, and you see all your friends on there immolating ne’er-do-wells, don’t wait another second.  Lean your head back, and tip the entire hors d’oeuvre tray directly into your mouth.  You can cross this World of Warcraft bridge when you come to it.  Don’t forget, of course, that you can get a taste of WoW early provided you are a Night Elf - but that’s neither here nor there.  City of Heroes is great.  It’s a young, ebullient design that delivers the amusement payload of a Massively Multiplayer game while discarding much of the insulting busywork.  And if you don’t like it, well, I guess that answers your question.  If you do like it, chances are good that Blizzard’s entry in the Massive genre isn’t going anyplace.

The trouble with trying to compare these two games is that even though both are played on large multiplayer servers which support thousands of players, that’s virtually the only thing they have in common.  Time was when you could expect certain things out of this space, gameplay wise.  City of Heroes is really more like Diablo in that you largely just whack guys with abilities drawn from discrete skill trees, and since many of the missions you go on take place in instanced dungeons, the entire game experience usually just comes down to you and your crew - even on a server with fifteen-hundred other people.  So, in your mind, put it at the far right end of the scale.  On the far left, put the classic, long-running games we associate with the medium.  Those games have a certain amount of self-flagellation - onerous death penalties, punishing levels which require double the experience, that sort of thing.  City of Heroes doesn’t have that kind of thing, but if it did, you wouldn’t whip your own back with a knotted rope or a barbed whip.  You’d would whip it with a sweet, soft strand of red licorice - a Super Rope.  You’d probably like it.   

World of Warcraft is a good deal more traditional than that.  This is because they are trying to make a genuine genre contender that is a lot of fun in its own right, wears off some of the more egregious offenses of Massive RPGs, but still lets refugees from other games go through this self-whipping motion that they have come to expect, and even demand.  If you were attracted to City because it sloughs off the fantasy trappings for a modern metropolis, you might find that you don’t need anything from World of Warcraft.  It’s awesome, don’t get me wrong.  I played it for several hours yesterday, and the day before, and the day before.  But where World of Warcraft says, “Here, let me show you a better way,” City of Heroes says, “You know what?  Fuck Dragons.”  Those two distilled manifestos might be just what you need to pick your poison.

(CW)TB out.

making love to his tonic and gin

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