Thursday, September 3, 2009

Life After the Party Part 1/4

A long overview/review in four parts; part one.

Top image: a "periodic table" of Final Fantasy characters; bottom image: World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King login screen.

In general, most video games are easy to understand in terms of the relationship between the player and the character: one player controls one character. The player either completely micromanages the character, or calls on the game's AI to help automate certain types of behavior.

But talk about Role-Playing Games, and the idea of the party becomes a necessity. Travel alone, and face instant death; join an adventuring group, and gain an increased chance of surviving. The early RPG video games made use of certain boosts and AI-controlled allied characters or summons in order to aid the player and the character, but fell short of allowing the player control of an actual party.

And then along came a little something called Final Fantasy. For many video game enthusiasts, the idea of being one player controlling a party of characters was influential and revolutionary, increasing the fun factor, replay value, and mental flexibility of games and players alike. The Japanese have since gone on to enshrine the concept among their plethora of video game tropes, and the West has followed suit (see: Bioware).

The same progression may now be underway in that group of video games known as Massively Multiplayer Online Games - and in particular, the large segment of those titles that are RPGs.

Pioneering MMO worlds such as those of Ultima Online and Everquest operated within the one-player-one-character paradigm, and also allowed players to join together in groups: parties, guilds, alliances, nations. Following in their footsteps: World of Warcraft. and many, many others. Some MMORPGs even take the progression of group size to its logical limit, allowing entire servers to unite against global threats.

In 2006, the progression took a step futher, with the introduction of a Korean title that was eventually ported throughout the globe: IMC Games Co., Ltd.'s fantasy MMORPG Granado Espada.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

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