I have been gaming for about 20 years now, and some of my fondest memories of gaming are wiping over and over again on a boss encounter while attempting to figure out how to beat it. In fact, one of my earliest memories of gaming was Final Fantasy. We had Zelda and the Original super Mario Brothers for our Nintendo system, but my first really vivid memory and the memory that brought about my love of gaming was Final Fantasy.

I can’t for the life of me remember which one of the multitude of titles it was, but it was the first time that I can remember their being more than one main character. You chose 4 teammates and you chased down the enemy, explored, equipped, and chose your battle strategy. I grew up in a family with four brothers and one sister, so this was the first time we didn’t have to wait to play together. Granted there weren’t four controllers, but we each got to choose which one of the characters we wanted to be. We got to choose the gear and what we wanted to do on each attack. It opened up gaming to me as more than just a solo player adventure. From this point on I was always looking for that same team and companionship in gaming.

It took years for me to find another game that brought about the same level of enjoyment. GoldenEye was ground breaking in that the game was the worst part of it. Everyone played the multi-player. We had gaming parties where friends and family came over to play and fight each other. This was my introduction to multi-player live environment gaming. It took years before I eventually got into MMORPG’s. That same level of enjoyment and companionship is what dragged me into this style of gaming. From World of Warcraft to Aion to Rift to Star Wars and now to Guild Wars 2, and that one awesome shooter MMO you got me to play for awhile I have seen an both an incline and a decline in the gaming industry.

Jin: Well, my story is slightly different. Back when I was about 12 years old, I was gifted with a Master System game console. I can safely say that that was my introduction to the gaming world. Back then, online multiplayer was still beyond our wildest dreams. I used to play games like Sonic and Alex Kidd with my friends.

It was only when I got my first PC, that I started to play Roleplaying, FPS and RTS games. I can still remember countless hours invested in JK2: Jedi Outcast. Oddly enough that was the first title ever where ihad the chance to try out my first online multiplayer experience, and it was amazing! The ability to play vs the world was very futuristic and extremely enthralling. After Unreal Tournament came out thought, FPS games started to feel less and less appealing… That’s when i started to focus mainly on RPG titles.

As you have mentioned, Final Fantasy was the mark of an Era for us. I started to play heavily into that saga, having so much fun on my own. Strangely, it was an RTS game that bridged the gap into mmo world, for me… Warcraft, as you might guess. WoW was my very first experience in MMO’s. Of course, Wow was only the beginning… As my friends stopped playing that game, I started collecting online experiences over a wide number of free to play games(mostly MMO’s). I remember being totally lost in Wow, trying to figure out how to play the game, and delving into the lore of it with limited satisfaction. It was no SquareSoft title, I can tell you that much. After Wow, I’ve enjoyed a lot of different titles in the same style.

Nevertheless, the truly unique experiences came from games like Global Agenda and Fallen Earth, which in their own way, tried to break the mmo model set forth by Wow and even older titles. I have to mention also Lotro which was my introduction into a more hardcore play, since I used to play it with my RL friends. With that group, I’ve had the chance to migrate into SWtor and eventually meet the people that brought me to one of the best mmo’s experience I’ve ever had, which is GW2.

James: Global Agenda! That was the game such a great game, but it failed in two major aspects. There was nothing to do once you reached max level. The lower levels were engaging and fun, but once you reached max build there was nothing ahead of it. That same problem affects a lot of games that come out ahead of their time or approach a specific genre with a different take.In mmo’s if you can’t keep moving forward than you people will leave.

The gaming industry itself has made such amazing leaps from the days of solo players. I have some good friends who play Call of Duty and other first person shooters. Did you realize that their online play is now balanced around gaining experience points and upgrading your gear to specific weapon combinations to benefit your style of play? We are talking about First person shooters taking a page from MMORPG’s and adding it into the game. I find this to be the most amazing advancement in gaming outside of graphics

Jin: Well, I guess it was to be expected. The FPS genre has grown very stale over the years and there’s no doubt about how it can still evolve beyond its limitations. The crossover into mmo is a step in the right direction since it creates a progression style play for said games, allowing them to have a greater depth. And you can see this change slowly making its presence in the market. Games like BF play4free already have this incorporated into it.

Unfortunately, not everything is as good news as pressure from investor groups and the game distribution companies, among others, has been forcing games into a profitable way of making money, mostly through the concept of “pay to win”, which the mmo concept greatly allows. This, in my opinion, is a very negative attitude towards gaming in general. I totally agree that a game should be profitable, in order to maintain its ability to evolve, but games should always value skill over economical standard. As one can draw from Riot’s work with LoL, a game doesn’t need to be a money scam in order to be successful or widely played. It needs to be competitive, fun and above all, it must respect the gamers who play it.

James: I have no opinion on League of Legends since I have never played it. The one downside to my personality type is that when I can only invest in one game at a time if I want to be good at it. I have always gone from one game until it no longer was interesting and then started the next. The reason I love MMORPG’s is that the game never becomes stale in terms of there is almost always growth or people to talk to or pvp.

I am not sure FPS ever became stale because as long as you have online battles there is always an ever evolving play since you are fighting live targets. I consider the change more a beacon of peace added in order to attract those of us who don’t play FPS. It’s a chance to make money because you can feel like you are doing something even if you hand eye coordination is not as quick.

I think pay to win is always going to be involved in games because even if they eliminate the need for currency to advance or allowed you access using multiple different avenues to reach the same gear. You will still have the way to get there. Someone who has a lot of money will reach that point quicker. Pay to Win is always going to be an issue, but you can limit its influence using different markers.

For me the worst advance that online gaming and the gaming industry in general made was the removal of difficulty in gaming. You went from puzzle type bosses that required precise timing with a little leeway to easy modes where it was run in and spam AoE and this was where the pursuit of the almighty dollar almost killed the gaming industry. I love difficult play style. I am not talking about the bosses that required 12 hours to kill because they wiped whole parties in a single fight. I am talking about investing some time into actually avoiding damage and learning how fights are done. Guild Wars 2 has rolled back to that manner a bit, but there is still this unending push by players to rush in and aoe everything down, that makes the game lazy.

Jin:  What I mean, in regards to FPS progressing towards staleness, is simply the fact that all the change you see from title to title is new weapons, different skins and little else changes… For so long, FPS have been diferentiated by the lore/tech era/timeline in which they happen. It has become difficult to tell them apart, when simply comparing game mechanics. We are now starting to see a development in the right direction (in my opinion), as Call of Duty has had the Zombie content added, which allows for both new development in game play and at the same community play, as it allows for cooperation in beating the intricate maps. But again, this is only a sort of survival side game that can hardly be described as innovating, since other titles have mainly focused on said survival type play.

 In my opinion, one of the issues that most propagates the removal of difficulty from games and, at the same time, propels the community towards “fast/easy mode” play is the gear treadmill concept. This concept is a trait of the vertical scaling type mmo’s. I understand it’s necessity, as it exists to define a progression for players to evolve through the game and actually acts as a reward system. Even Guild Wars 2, which is a sort of mix between vertical and horizontal scaling, (although unarguably horizontal for the most part), also makes use of said system. Nevertheless, in PVP(structured), they were able to cut this out from the game and honestly it is so refreshing to finally see a game that allows for true skill to be valued among players, through the use of a system where all are alike under the same sky. Structured PVP in Guild Wars is simply amazing, and ultimately proves that all others concepts are quickly becoming obsolete. In PVE however, the gear treadmill is necessary, although it pains me to state this, since the reward system it bolsters gives players an objective, a goal to play the game. But I must say that Arenanet has done beautifully, as we are also able to enjoy World vs World type of PVP, where servers are pitted together in a never ending war, with siege weapons and mechanics, keep defense and conquest. Also the Live story concept promises to be amazing, in a sense where community game play becomes more and more appealing, and even guilds are being taken into consideration, with new content about to be released for guildies to enjoy together. I love how Arenanet has finally brought the gamers together, instead of throwing them at eachother over unique mob killing and resource gathering. In Guild Wars 2, you need the players around you, you enjoy reaching a map, and seeing other people there. You can finally apreciate their presence since you are not savagely competing with them. Spawn camping, corpse camping, open world abandoned pvp areas, I am so glad that these are progressively becoming a thing of the past.

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