Ask Massively: Cataclysm and other dead horses edition

So, yes, I'm playing World of Warcraft again for the time being. It's a chance to roleplay with Ms. Lady and enjoy a revamped overall experience, even if I still think the endgame is vile enough to be used as a biotoxin. I'm also not too keen on the fact that half of the major plot developments between expansions happen off-camera in a novel, but hey. The game is fun for what it is, and that's what ultimately matters. Also, I get to stack a bunch of corpses on someone, which is a feature more games should implement.

That having been said, I'm willing to bet you didn't come here to hear about my gaming habits. You came here for the newest edition of Ask Massively, and here it is once again, complete with questions on the eternal war between sandboxes and themeparks, the eternal war between the game you are playing and the games you aren't, and the eternal war of purpose vs. nonexistence. And if you have a question, even one not related to eternal wars, you can swing it over to ask@massively.com or just leave it in the comments field.

Kaahn Stewart asks: Do you think there's a way to successfully wed the two ideas of a themepark MMO (guided fun) with the expansive free-form-ness that are sandbox MMOs?
In tabletop gaming, there are groups of players who prefer ornate systems that include rules such as "cross-reference Chart C in sub-section 42 of the Advanced Movement Impairment Charts." There are other groups of players, in turn, who prefer a rule system that can be explained in no more than one page of hard text, and even that's pushing it. Creating a compromise between the two groups has been tried, but never to great success, simply because you can't really make a system that's both rule-heavy and rule-light at once.

For many players, the guided nature of themepark games is what makes the game enjoyable, as opposed to the directionless morass of sandbox games. Similarly, the open world and freedom of sandbox games stand in direct opposition to the stultifying limitations of a themepark. Most of the attempts to merge the two have resulted in some degree of failure.

There is room, however, for something that tries to meet both points halfway.
Final Fantasy XIV certainly attempted a sort of "sandpark" approach to gameplay. It also produced some very mixed opinions and is decidedly not going to appeal to everyone, partly because the mixture is not attractive to a number of players. As time goes by, it's likely we'll see more attempts to combine both extremes in this fashion.
cowboyhugbees asked: I'm a big Lord of the Rings Online fan, but with the plethora of MMOs that are currently being upgraded/expanded upon/changing payment plans, I'm always curious to test the waters in other games. How should I deal with this "grass is greener" mentality?
It all depends on the amount of free time you have and the amount of money you're willing to drop on the hobby.

If you have a lot of time, money, or both, the best way to deal with a sense that the grass is greener is to go stand on the other lawn and take a good hard look at the grass. Sometimes what makes a new game so appealing isn't anything more than not having it, and once you try the game you find it's not really all that great. Other times, you find that you like the new game more than your old game, and it's where you should have been in the first place. If you're willing to spend a month or so trying new games and seeing if something else might fit you better, by all means, take a little time off and head on a tour.

But let's assume you don't have time to stop playing your current game due to social obligations or what-have-you. The trick then becomes to figure out why Game X looks so appealing compared to your present game. While you can't find the same sense of novelty in a game you've played for quite some time, changing your playstyle can often do a lot to rekindle the spark. Looking at another game for roleplaying support? Get involved in more events on the server. Looking at the endgame options longingly? Start thinking about your current options and what you want to be doing at the level cap.

Speaking personally, at this point I don't really feel as if I can play just one game. There are too many different things I enjoy out of MMOs, and expecting one game to scratch every itch isn't fair to the game itself. That is, however, where the analogy falls out of sync with a relationship metaphor. (At least, it ought to.)
Zorak asked: If male losers can no longer score trophy women, what is my motivation for living?
You could get really fat. They have some really awesome food out there right now that tastes super great.
Looking for some advice on which class is best for soloing in Aion? Not sure who this Raph Koster fellow is? Curious about the release date of NCsoft's newest MMO? You've come to the right place! No one knows MMOs like we do. If there's anything you'd like to know about the MMO genre or the site itself, Ask Massively is here to help every Thursday afternoon. Just ask!

This article was originally published on Massively.