There was a time in my MMO playing when I would spend hours looking for a group in games like Final Fantasy XI. No television was watched and no handheld gaming devices were manipulated during those prolonged waiting periods. I just sat there chatting with whomever I could in-game. Today, I don't think I could see myself doing this even with the aid of a Nintendo DS or a PSP with which to chip away the hours. Hell, I probably couldn't even do this with one of my favorite shows like Lucky Louie or Flight of the Concords.
This is why it warms my heart to know that Champions Online will contain not only solo content across every level, but some kind of secret endgame feature called the Omega System. My first reaction upon this revelation was simply, "Wow" I certainly hope that with a title like "The Omega System" Cryptic has a compelling endgame feature planned that will amaze everyone or at the very least please everyone.
There's really no reason to speculate on the feature at this point. For all we know the Omega System could be something that allows solo players to fight alongside Defender, Justiciar, Ironclad and other iconic heroes in their own epic solitary story. Hey, that's not a bad idea -- but still probably not what Cryptic is actually doing. No, for this week's column I'm simply going to take a look back at why I'm glad forced-grouping has gone the way of the dinosaurs.
I remember hazily waking up one winter morning back in late 2003. Sitting up slowly, I rubbed my eyes before realizing I had passed out on the downstairs futon that was situated right next to the family computer. I had my own computer but it was a hand-me-down and didn't run Final Fantasy XI nearly as well as the downstairs machine, which was by comparison beastly. It even handled the hex code hack, which meant I could force the resolution up a notch or two!
Anyhow, I logged onto my Hume Samurai (yeah, I know) to find that there were only four people in my Linkshell that were online. "Hmm," I thought, "None of these guys are my level." which of course meant that I would have to flag myself as LFP (looking for party) and wait out the good wait. This posed a problem as I had just woken up and needed to use the bathroom, eat and take a shower first. So I went AFK and proceeded to go through my morning rituals. When I came back, I sat down only to find that I had received not one, but two invites during my absence! I checked to see how long ago these invites were given only to discover -- to my utter horror -- that it had happened only moments after I left the computer.
Let me explain why I felt such horror from my discovery. It was derived from a the fact that having already seen two invites so early in the day, I would have to wait quite some time -- possibly upwards of two hours -- before I saw another invite from an already-formed party. Sure, there were invites from players just starting a party, but those roads often saw only a dead-end.
So the benefit of having solo content throughout an entire MMO is never having to stand around bored. It lets you enjoy a game even when you can't find a proper group. It also lets players who don't always feel like grouping partake in a game they may really desire to play. We've all had those days when we simply don't want to play with other people -- even guild buddies. I'm excited and thankful for the Omega System. Not only does it sound way cool, it also promises solo players at endgame something to do for those morning that just don't go their way.