A Dysfunctional Relationship

Like most gamers, I dislike barriers to entry for games; the little things that constantly get in the way, even briefly, of a smooth and unhampered experience. In general, among the reasons I largely neglect my PS3 is that I painfully resent the idea of installing a console game, to say nothing of the interminable required updates. I have maintained a grudging acceptance of PC installation, though I can be found impatient and irritable during the process, and I am still a lukewarm user of digital distribution because of the delay in downloading 2-10 gigs of information. Lo, how my ire did rage when Steam was unable to preload any Fallout 3 data.

So, you might expect that having to stand in a virtual line as though trapped, waiting for hollow-eyed clerks at the DMV would send me into fits. In at least one case, you would be wrong.

When it comes to my gaming time, I am a dedicated control freak, and to have even the access to my content unpredictably interrupted in ill-defined terms should be an absolute deal breaker, and yet there I sit giddy and content in a World of WarCraft queue a thousand people deep.

This is only one of the exceptions I make for a genre that by every other measure is an inhospitable, temperamental and unaccommodating beast. These are games that make demands on my time, my bank account and my style that would be unforgivable from any other corner of the industry, and yet that I accept without question or contempt. Sometimes, when I think rationally about it, I simply boggle that MMOs have gotten away with it.

I really can’t fault those who are critical of the genre as a whole. Playing an MMO must seem on the outside like having a platonic relationship with a promiscuous diva, annoying in the extreme and consistently unfulfilling. The issues that one must face are a litany of the unforgivable excesses of an industry.

It is expensive
Uncontrolled forces can interrupt or prevent play
Your access to the game can be revoked
Gameplay relies on repetition
Diminishing returns
Extensive time investment required
You are at the mercy of other players
You are beholden to other players
You have no control over the world or your environment
You can not win the game

And so on. The reasons not to ever invest in a massively multiplayer online space are far more tangible, convincing and imposing than their positive counter-parts. Even as a long time World of WarCraft connoisseur – to say nothing of my time spent in EverQuest, EverQuest 2, Dark Age of Camelot, Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer Online, Star Wars Galaxies and others — I am hard pressed to convince anyone that it is a worthy pursuit.

So what compels me to steer my ship again and again into the rocky shoals from which the MMO siren song beckons? What has enraptured me all anew about the latest overpriced expansion for one of the world’s most popular games? In part, it is a compulsive desire that swells with each level gained and each numerical statistic raised, but even within that answer I must answer to a deeper truth.

I am impatient and scornful of the failings of other types of games, because I have the illusion of ownership of them. Fallout 3 is my game, unrestrained by shared spaces and outside control, so I expect it to bend to my will. The more concrete my illusion of superiority, the less I will put up with needless inconvenience.

In short, I am attracted to MMOs, precisely because they play hard to get.

Like the lover you wanted most in your youth because she constantly reminded you that she was unattainable, World of WarCraft is at one turn a soothing and sensitive deliverer of endorphins and then suddenly she is completely unavailable and unspecific about when exactly we might be able to get together again. The hour spent in the queue is the half dozen needy phone messages left on an answering machine. The endless cash spent on a world with no promise are the gifts and charities that go unrequited at one turn and barely appreciated the next. The understanding that the MMO experience will be fleeting and ultimately unfulfilling, a futile exploration of time lost, well that’s exactly the same in both cases.

I know that there are better things to be doing with my time than losing myself in reckless abandon in the world of Azeroth, just as I suspect every gamer has a nagging sense that gaming itself is a borderline recreation of limited value but irresponsible fun. There are certainly far better games I could be playing, reliable and faithful games that promise to reward my time and money with a sense of accomplishment. These are the games that will always be there, old reliable standbys that I will turn to when I need a promise of comfort and consistency.

And, I will unfairly demand far more from them, simply because they are malleable and knowable quantities, while saving the forgiveness of sin for the games that most require it, an act that would perhaps seem noble if it were not so stained by compulsion and addiction. As irrational as it seems, it is the inconvenience, the uncertain temperament, the unrealistic demands and inconsistent rewards themselves that keep me coming back for more.

Comments

Interesting comments. Personally I've never been an "acheivement" gamer - beating the game was not the point. I wanted an experience. I wanted to spend time in an alternate dimension. In many ways, beating a game just means the fun is over, and for a really good game, that can be a depressing moment. I think back and this is pretty true even for early games, though the experience was more abstract. I played Super Mario World not to beat it, but because it was a fun, colorful alternate universe to play around it, a ride where as you progressed the sights and challenges changed.

Thankfully as graphics have progressed, gaming has gone more and more in that direction. Many games are more experiences these days instead of simple tests of skill to be mastered.

So it's no surprise that I have been drawn to MMO's and their current pinnacle, WoW. Not only is it an experience, and a whole huge gameworld to explore, it's a shared experience. And that somehow makes it matter more, and adds that level of unpredictability and interaction. Even if it's just a quick wave to someone as they ride past - it's a world you're sharing, and that matters even though I spend most of my time technically "solo" in WoW.

There are definitely aspects of the genre I don't like, but I play on my terms, and that minimizes the issues such as time dedication - I play when I want and am able to without feeling obligated - I don't raid, so I don't schedule my life around the game (like I could even if I wanted to with a wife and 2 kids). Since I'm not that achiever type, it doesn't bother me that I'll never have the best stuff. Getting cool stuff is fun, but secondary to the overall experience of simply adventuring in an alternate universe.

Wanting an experience rather than a challenge is precisely why I engage in what I call "comfort gaming". These are generally single player games that I've finished and enjoyed, and which have an easy mode. The Halo and Half-Life series are good examples of this.

Unlike AcidCat, however, it is important to me that the game have an end, not because I want the achievement of "beating" the game, but because I want closure. I want the story to come to a satisfying conclusion, with (at least most of) the loose ends tied up.

I make one exception to this - arcade games like Galaga which don't have a story and where you're likely never to see the end (if there even is one). For some reason, the lack of closure in these games doesn't bother me.

So MMOs are never going to be my speed. I thought for a while that I might like EVE Online, but the slow levelling, the grind and the lack of stories made it just another MMO, plus, one where one could easily lose months of work in a few seconds. A griefer's paradise.

Hans

Thank you, Mr. Sands, for dredging up every negative memory my life from age 14-20. I worked hard to forget all that, and your powerful analogy brought it all back in a single blow.

Bravo. You are a master of your craft.

Dick.

What stood out to me most was:

Elysium wrote:

You can not win the game

He's right though, because everyone here just lost.

Actually I find WoW convenient.

I love not having to have a disc in the drive to play.

And I love not worrying about saving my game. Computer blew up? Well my game is saved. Kid unplugged the cord? My game is saved. Wife turned off electricity to house to get my attention? My game is saved.

Also, it is pretty convenient to hook up with friends in the game. The meeting stones, the friends list, mail and multiple chat channels as well as flight points and teleportation and portals help all this out. The same with sharing quests and being able to shift-click an item to show it off in chat, etc. It all spells convenience to me...

It's even convenient that the game never ends.

I think this convenience polish is the appeal for me as is the loot model.

And I do like the sense of community that this game provides even if I'm not a big part of it. I mostly solo and only do instances when I can get together with a bud or two. I don't play a whole lot. I'm more of a casual WoW gamer if there is one.

Last the sheer size of the game appeals to me much like the above and beyond work the better authors put into their classic novels appeal to me. It's not that I'm going to know everything about the world in the book or have the time to learn it all, but that background is there if I do get the time. And that extra work, even if I don't partake in it, makes the part I read or play feel all the richer. I feel that way a bit with WoW.

In summary, is Elysium WoW's plaything?

This past summer was the first time I ever played WoW. I got a Warlock and a Druid into the 20s, and a Priest to 10 or so, but then I quit. Mostly for the reasons you've just cited as why you appreciate it. Yet I can still appreciate why someone would love the game.

Also, I'm starting to get really annoyed by all the people who complain about the PS3 needing an update every time they turn it on when they only turn it on once every 2 months. For the love of God, it's not that bad. I mean, it's less than monthly. I think I could make the same complaint about TF2 or WoW if I only logged on to them once a month. And you only have to update if you want to go online, which I admit accounts for a significant amount of the fun, but it's not like the thing is unusable. And while the updates are unfortunately lengthy, I usually just set it up to do its thing overnight before I go to bed, as it has the option to turn itself off after updating. Alternatively, downloading the update from the website and throwing it on a flash drive takes maybe 5 minutes or so.

I know this wasn't the point of the article, but you bring it up and it's a complaint that's become a pet peeve of mine.

I quit WoW in 2006 and have been clean since. Every time a new expansion rolls around, my old cravings come back. Thanks for reminding me of all the reasons why I did quit.

Which is not to say that you're wrong for playing. Far from it - hobbyists in general are full of idiosyncrasies and rationalizations that allow us to enjoy our hobby. As a PC gamer, you kind of HAVE to.
"Sure I spent 3 hours troubleshooting the crash bugs in this game, but you know...mouse and keyboard!"

oMonarca wrote:

In summary, is Elysium WoW's plaything?

Maybe B*tch is more appropriate?

For the love of God, it's not that bad. I mean, it's less than monthly. I think I could make the same complaint about TF2 or WoW if I only logged on to them once a month.

Yup, that's true. But, irrational as it may be, half the time when I see that ridiculous installation bar on the PS3 I just turn it off and fire up my Xbox instead. I really just can't get my brain to deal with it.

I just hate it.

The only (quasi-)MMO that I've ever been able to get into is The Kingdom of Loathing because I can play it at work, it has a time limit in the form of a limited number of adventures per day, and it's ascension mechanic gives the game a sense of a beginning, middle, and end. I've talked about it before here and there, but I've not really been drawn to MMOs because: a.) I'm not a huge fan of grind, and b.) I don't like being required to play games with other people.

I would have liked MMOs when I was younger. I didn't used to mind grind so much back when I was playing Diablo and Final Fantasy, but anymore I find the repetitive nature of grind to be incredibly unsatisfying. The moment I realize that I'm killing monsters solely to level-up, or that any of the last ten rats I killed should have had a tail but didn't, I stop having fun.

And playing games with other people ... I don't like that that's a requirement to enjoy or even experience parts of the game. I know that's the second M in MMO, but I'd rather be able to play everything by myself unless I choose to bring another player or players into my game. If I take a game out on a date, I don't want it to have to be a group date.

Elysium wrote:
For the love of God, it's not that bad. I mean, it's less than monthly. I think I could make the same complaint about TF2 or WoW if I only logged on to them once a month.

Yup, that's true. But, irrational as it may be, half the time when I see that ridiculous installation bar on the PS3 I just turn it off and fire up my Xbox instead. I really just can't get my brain to deal with it.

I just hate it.

I think the difference here is that a WOW or TF2 update will probably add some neat new in-game feature or fix a bug you might actually care about, the PS3 update is probably just bug fixes or adding one tiny feature to a thing you don't care about at all. You just want it to get out of the way so you can play a game. Look at what the marquee feature was in the last one- a new account creation screen. Couple that with the insanely long time it takes to update for whatever reason, and you get unhappy customers.

I dunno, the last Xbox update was multiple long install bars for a huge amount of stuff I don't care about.

And that was the first time that had ever happened. Before that, there were updates a couple times a year that took less than 10 seconds.

Dysplastic wrote:

Maybe B*tch is more appropriate?

Thought of that, typed it, but then changed my mind. Afterall, we have to be civil. That's what separates us from... the rest.

The understanding that the MMO experience will be fleeting and ultimately unfulfilling, a futile exploration of time lost...

This is why I've never understood the appeal of MMOs. If one can spend an hour playing a game that's somehow rewarding or an hour playing a game that's unrewarding, why choose the unrewarding experience? I guess what I'm really asking is why so many people seem to absolutely love the tedium and frustration of grind-based games? In some ways it's a bit like the myth of the American Dream, where people spend their lives miserable and working towards some ever-changing definition of happiness that is always just out of reach. Why do so many seem to prefer being "almost good enough" or to "almost have everything necessary to actually play this game" when they could instead play a game that's immediately fun or rewarding?

Personally, I love the general concept of MMOs, but the execution has been so routinely terrible that I've never been able to stick with one for very long. When faced with the problem of having a handful of developers producing content for millions of players, why do game companies always seem to settle on grinding and repetition as the solution? The only pseudo-MMO I've played recently that doesn't follow this approach is Guild Wars, and the game was surprisingly unpopular comparatively.

complexmath wrote:

If one can spend an hour playing a game that's somehow rewarding or an hour playing a game that's unrewarding, why choose the unrewarding experience? I guess what I'm really asking is why so many people seem to absolutely love the tedium and frustration of grind-based games? .

Well, WoW went a LONG way to eliminating that kind of tedium, which is one of the reasons it's been so successful. Like many others, I do find the gameplay rewarding - it's literally rewarding, you get goodies for every enemy you kill, sometimes rare valuable goodies, and you're constantly making visible progress on your character. You play for an hour or two and you've made some progress and had some fun. Very unlike the old school grinding MMOs that took forever to do anything.

AcidCat wrote:

In many ways, beating a game just means the fun is over, and for a really good game, that can be a depressing moment.

EXACTLY!

I remember loving Rayman 2 so damn much because it rekindled my love for platformers, a genre I despised for all of the post-16 bit era. when I realized I was almost at the end, I quit playing the game. I didn't even look at it for months.

somehow, I felt I was making the experience last... silly me

When I finally made up my mind to finish it, I was more sad than proud or anything else.

That was the first time I really felt I didn't want a game to end...

so I guess I understand now why someone would enjoy an MMO despite it not having any end in sight.

AcidCat wrote:
complexmath wrote:

If one can spend an hour playing a game that's somehow rewarding or an hour playing a game that's unrewarding, why choose the unrewarding experience? I guess what I'm really asking is why so many people seem to absolutely love the tedium and frustration of grind-based games? .

Well, WoW went a LONG way to eliminating that kind of tedium, which is one of the reasons it's been so successful. Like many others, I do find the gameplay rewarding - it's literally rewarding, you get goodies for every enemy you kill, sometimes rare valuable goodies, and you're constantly making visible progress on your character. You play for an hour or two and you've made some progress and had some fun. Very unlike the old school grinding MMOs that took forever to do anything.

But it's still grinding. It's pretty typical for quests to be the "kill 25 whatever" variety for example, and the quality of awards is directly related to the time spend working for them. Worse, WoW is very gear dependent, so it's not even possible for a skilled but poorly equipped player to be competitive against unskilled but well equipped players, making Battlegrounds somewhat of a joke.

As example of what I'm talking about, someone showed me videos of the Moria expansion in LotRO recently, and I couldn't look beyond the spawn placement to actually appreciate the scenery. This is all too typical of games like WoW, where every square inch of the game world is packed with sedentary creatures whose only purpose is to server as fuel for player grinding.

To go on somewhat of a tangent, Ultima Online did something very interesting in beta by modeling a closed ecosystem--critters reproduced in a realistic manner, predators hunted for food, etc. What happened, of course, is that when players were allowed into the world they quickly consumed all available resources and were left with an empty game world. So the UO team rethought the idea and changed everything to a spawn system much like MMOs have today. But the problem wasn't that the idea of a closed ecosystem is unworkable but rather that the player density was far too high for the resources available. Player density was obviously decided based on a ratio of projected subscription fees to maintenance costs, but I would still very much like some designer to fundamentally reconsider the idea of content generation for MMOs. Unfortunately, grind-based games are relatively easy and obviously quite profitable to make, and why mess with a good thing?

interstate78 wrote:
AcidCat wrote:

In many ways, beating a game just means the fun is over, and for a really good game, that can be a depressing moment.

EXACTLY!

I remember loving Rayman 2 so damn much because it rekindled my love for platformers, a genre I despised for all of the post-16 bit era. when I realized I was almost at the end, I quit playing the game. I didn't even look at it for months.

somehow, I felt I was making the experience last... silly me

When I finally made up my mind to finish it, I was more sad than proud or anything else.

That was the first time I really felt I didn't want a game to end...

so I guess I understand now why someone would enjoy an MMO despite it not having any end in sight.

As a counter-argument, I'd like to suggest that the relative value of time spent in a game is a function of how much time a game takes to complete. Sure, it's depressing to know that you've reached the end of a really good game (or book), but would it still be as good a game if it never ended? I can see one arguing "yes" in the case of certain types of action game, but for anything containing a story I would argue quite vehemently "no." Fantasy books, for example, end as soon as the interesting stuff is done with. And adding more interesting stuff to stretch things out cheapens the entire experience, because at some point this approach will result in tedium and the perception of repetition. Encountering a Dragon can be a defining moment in a RPG, for example, but what if that Dragon is the first of thousands? Or what if you simply kill the same damn dragon over and over again thousands of times because there's nothing else to do? No matter how well written the story is behind that first encounter, the fact that the same experience is repeated lessens its value by turning a memorable moment into just another day in the life.

Out of curiosity, looking back on time spent in previous MMOs, what do you find yourself waxing nostalgic about?

complexmath wrote:

But it's still grinding.

What game isn't grinding?

complexmath wrote:

Encountering a Dragon can be a defining moment in a RPG, for example, but what if that Dragon is the first of thousands? Or what if you simply kill the same damn dragon over and over again thousands of times because there's nothing else to do? No matter how well written the story is behind that first encounter, the fact that the same experience is repeated lessens its value by turning a memorable moment into just another day in the life.

Alternatively, you could make the story about a guy who kills dragons all day long, absentmindedly. He doesn't hate dragons, doesn't want the loot, he just likes to relax by killing a dragon or two. He's also very involved in the dragon preservation movement, so that future generations can know the pleasure of killing their first, or thirtieth, dragon.

It's possible for an MMO to overcome some of its shortcomings with better storytelling. It might happen more and more as MMOs evolve. If they evolve. As Elysium points out, WoW can just slap people around and they'll still keep coming back.

Nyles wrote:

Alternatively, you could make the story about a guy who kills dragons all day long, absentmindedly. He doesn't hate dragons, doesn't want the loot, he just likes to relax by killing a dragon or two. He's also very involved in the dragon preservation movement, so that future generations can know the pleasure of killing their first, or thirtieth, dragon.

It sounds to me like you're describing an action game, not an MMORPG. Personally, I don't think the depth of combat in MMORPGs is enough to make fighting mobs a motivating factor in playing. But then that's just an opinion
.

It's possible for an MMO to overcome some of its shortcomings with better storytelling. It might happen more and more as MMOs evolve. If they evolve. As Elysium points out, WoW can just slap people around and they'll still keep coming back.

Yeah, I suppose I'm just not one of the MMO faithful. I hit 60 in WoW, realized that I had to grind to be competitive in BGs and canceled my subscription. But I have friends who tore their hair out raiding and what have you and kept coming back for more even after it seemed like they weren't having fun any longer.

I don't play MMOs, so listening to people describe MMOs is like listening to crack-heads describe the things they're seeing while they smoke.

Like crack, the experience is probably much more compelling while you're on it than you are able to convey to someone who has never been.

It's still crack.

Enjoy your life-destroying cyber-drug, crackey.

complexmath wrote:

But it's still grinding. It's pretty typical for quests to be the "kill 25 whatever"

Well, I believe the common definition of "grinding" is simply killing monster after monster. WoW has so many quests that you don't need to do that, completing quests gives more experience than just mindlessly killing. Sure, most quests involve killing monsters, but most are not that simple, and each one is a little story, often including lore of the area you're in. And with each expansion, Blizzard continues to add more variety to the quests.

complexmath wrote:

This is all too typical of games like WoW, where every square inch of the game world is packed with sedentary creatures whose only purpose is to server as fuel for player grinding.

This is true, but when you think about it, it's true for most games - populated with enemies that just wait for the player to come along and kill them.

I've tried quite a few MMOs - Everquest, DAoC, Jumpgate, CoH, WoW, Guild Wars to name a few. While I enjoyed WoW the most and stuck with it the longest, they all seem to follow the same arc:

First it's all nice a shiny - a new game! Then it gets better as my toon levels and gets more varied powers and locales to exercise in. I soon join up with a guild and while I solo almost exclusively, enjoy the banter on Guild chat. These are the halcyon days and can last months (or in the case of WoW over a year), during which time I buy no new games and play nothing else. Going from a new game every week or so to none and not missing them is a bit of an epiphany. Unfortunately, it always seems to end up at the same place. In almost all the MMOs I've played there gets to a point where the grind increases significantly and I'm done. Jumpgate was probably the exception as it was the griefing that did me in.

I may go back to one in a few years, but with the current selection of new games and a laptop that can play them (go XPS M1730!) I'm not feeling a void in my gaming need.

AcidCat wrote:
complexmath wrote:

This is all too typical of games like WoW, where every square inch of the game world is packed with sedentary creatures whose only purpose is to server as fuel for player grinding.

This is true, but when you think about it, it's true for most games - populated with enemies that just wait for the player to come along and kill them.

Hm... I realized I should probably distinguish between the two aspects of MMORPGs that I don't like. The first is repetitive behavior (what I'd call grinding), most often killing trash mobs. To me it doesn't matter if there's a thin excuse for this or not--it's still repetitive behavior and by nature tends to be very mechanical. This is why bots are such a problem, for example.

The second aspect is the immutable game world. You kill some creature, obtain an item, complete a quest, etc, and a few minutes later everything resets for the next player. The net effect is that while the dialog trees and such may state that your char is affecting the game world, this is contrary to observation and the player is therefore required to pretend, in effect, that the other players in the world basically don't exist in order to suspend his disbelief in support of these dialogs.

The combination of these two features produces an utterly empty and frustrating game experience to me. First, by structuring the game in such a way that, as an achievement-oriented player, I will be chasing an impossible goal--better items will always be created, etc. And second, by rendering all my actions to be meaningless by preventing me from having any sort of lasting impact on the game world.

As a related anecdote (and please forgive any errors, I'm working from memory and it's been a while), one of the monthly events in Asheron's Call allowed "evil" PvP players to defend some boss mob and at the same time directed the rest of the playerbase to defeat this boss. And there was a time limit imposed on this quest. I can't recall the exact circumstances, but I believe that the players had to defeat this boss within the month for some reason or other. However, against all expectations on one server the PvP players successfully defended the boss for the entire month. Now within the context of the game world one would expect the "evil" players to have won and for the next month's event to reflect this. But because there were multiple servers, the rest with the opposite outcome, and because the developers had limited resources the next event assumed that the boss had been defeated on all servers. I can appreciate the technical reasons for this decision, but as a player it was incredibly frustrating to experience.

In a CRPG I can become king of the world, kill every creature in existence, etc, and I'll be the only king of the world and the creatures won't magically reappear. But in an MMO everyone can become king of the world, obtain the same "unique" item, kill every creature in existence, and not only will everyone be able to claim the same accomplishments but shortly thereafter new content will be released which diminishes the original accomplishments by providing new, more powerful creatures to be killed, better items to obtain, and so on. So not only can every single player claim to have saved the world the exact same way, but now suddenly that accomplishment is also rendered insignificant because the antagonist has turned out to be some second-rate flunky of the new bad guy who just got back from vacation and is fighting mad... who of course will also turn out to be a second-rate flunky of some other guy in the next content release.

In my experience there seem to be two types of D&D players... those who eventually retire their characters at some middling level, and those who buy the epic rules, turn their players into gods and continue escalating the power on both sides for as long as possible. I suppose my basic argument is that MMOs tend to support the latter group, while the former are stuck with single-player CRPGs only. What I'd like to see is for someone to design an MMO with a fundamentally different structure--one that addresses the issues I've raised above. This would have to be a PvP-oriented game almost by necessity however, and those tend to be a lot less popular. So I expect that MUDs will remain the best option for innovative multiplayer RPGs for the foreseeable future.

Yeah I definitely understand where you're coming from there - the unchanging world is one of the main weaknesses of current MMOs, and though I understand the reasoning behind it, it does take a certain suspension of disbelief to tolerate. Since I enjoy WoW, it is something I've just gotten used to and don't really think about much anymore - but it is certainly a way MMORPGs can improve, though it is tough when you have so many players in the shared space.

With the latest expansion, WoW does give a small solution in that direction they are calling "phasing" - if you haven't heard of it, it basically allows different players to see the gameworld in different states, while still sharing the space. It isn't overused from what I've seen so far, but the best example is the starting Death Knight area - as you progress in the battle, you see the gameworld change - your forces gradually overwhelm a town, buildings burn, etc. - but other players at different stages in the quests see the gameworld appropriate to them, while still being in the same world, not a separate instance.

Yeah, I've read some articles about this "phasing" idea recently. I think LotRO uses the same effect in places. This is definitely a step in the right direction if the basic game structure of MMOs is to remain unchanged. The other option is instancing, where the instances retain some state from your previous time there. Where things get weird in both cases is when you're in a party where some people have completed a quest and others have not. With phasing it's at least possible to know what to display to each player... they simply report seeing different stuff, but it pretty much breaks the instancing option altogether.

complexmath: EVE Online may be right up your alley. There's one server, and things the players do affect the game world permanently. Though it too has a grind (asteroid mining and killing pirates). It is very P2P oriented, and favors those who have been in a long time over noobs. And soloing will get you dead (as in having to pretty much start over), so you have to join a corporation to have any chance of surviving outside the safe systems.

Hans

To quote Certis: "You filthy whore."

I am proud to say that I have never paid a MMO subscription. The only pay-to-play MMO I've ever purchased was Asheron's Call, for $20, many years ago. I played it for 2 weeks, then uninstalled it. Grind sucks.