Raph Koster, perpetrator of UO and SWG, has posted What are the lessons of MMORPGs today?
Raph's been playing the wrong games, I guess. Many of these don't apply to FFXI:
- You can change jobs freely. The only reason to ever start a new character is if you don't like your name, appearance, or species.
- You do have a home, and you can decorate it (the FFXI newsletter even has a regular feature on artistically-decorated homes), though nobody can visit it.
- There are children, though only NPCs have kids. Adventurers never reproduce. Actually, what with the in-game marriage ceremonies, I'm surprised I haven't heard of people role-playing families with Taru-Taru playing children.
- Death hurts, because it costs you experience, which is equivalent to time and effort. Every death can cost you hours of your life to replace.
- Charity to NPCs is pointless, but charity to needy young adventurers is perfectly reasonable, since they start with a loincloth and a stick, basically.
- "The birds never migrate. Strawberries are never in season."... Okay, the birds don't migrate, and strawberries aren't in season, but there are seasonal holidays, the cherry blossoms bloom in spring, there's Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating, and so on. Life changes in FFXI. WoW and SWG are abandoned wastelands, but that's not true everywhere.
And of course, almost all of them are wrong or totally irrelevant to Second Life (of course, Second Life is not a game):
- There's no killing, or if there is, it's a wargame played between willing participants. Attacking someone who doesn't want to fight is a crime, and you will be temporarily exiled (suspended) or executed (banned) for doing so.
- Freaky alien life forms? They're people, too. Furries, robots, zombies, vampires, whatever.
- Making things is the best way to gain admiration, and one way to earn money.
- Holding social events is the second-best way to gain admiration, and again earn money.
- Every premium account user has a home, and many basics rent a home, and it's there to show off things you've made and to have people over to hang out in (or have sex in).
- Your eyes point where the mouse cursor is, and you can easily do body language. "Condensing fact from the vapor of nuance", as Stephenson put it. You can make your own gestures and animations, and wire them up to respond to anything you say, keys you hit, or controls hidden in your HUD.
- There are people playing child avatars, and the Teen Grid is entirely made up of children.
- There is a constant development of new technologies, such as better scripts, better vehicles, better sex organs...
- There are in-game governments with laws. There are a few democracies, the borderline-governments of the land barons, and of course the filthy Gorean slavers.
- There's a near-limitless range of appearances. The average person is pleasant but not HOT. You can tell who someone is from appearance, you don't need to see their name over their head.
- Music fills the world. Almost everyone streams some music they like into their land.
- Everything you see around you was made by someone in the world. It's beautiful to someone, because it's theirs.
But the number one lesson in "MMORPGs", is that MMORPGs are pointless. Nothing you do there means anything. If you kill a monster, if you save the city, if you cure or don't cure a sick person, it doesn't matter. Nothing changes. You can't create your own art. You can't create your own buildings. When you leave the world, nothing changes. All victories are hollow. It can be fun to play at the time, but mostly you're an interchangeable part with any other player.
Second Life has no purpose, no objective. But because it's permanent, because you can change the world, it's meaningful in a way no MMORPG is.