I think most gamers, who are true gamers at heart, have the itch. Each gamer may have a different itch, but we all get them. The Itch is that craving you get to play something. You may not even know what in particular, but there are probably certain aspects you're looking for. Maybe your itch is an RTS. Maybe your itch is shooting some people in the face. My particular itch is the MMO itch. The biggest reason is probably because I want to see pretty armor upgrades, awesome spell particles, classic class mechanics. There are few RPGs that offer this, but MMOs usually fit the bill (at least the ones I play).
Why The Itch? What happened to DA2?
This weekend I started to get the itch again. Which is kind of funny - I had just cancelled my WoW account a week ago or so because I haven't touched my toons since January. But I guess Dragon Age 2 just wasn't hitting the spot the way the first one was. Honestly, I blame the lack of interaction with the other toons. In DA:O, one of the things that really kept me going was the character interaction. I'd blogged about that before. Sometimes I wanted to go back to camp just to chat it up with my team. Also, it probably doesn't help any that two-thirds of the gear I pick up, I have no use for, since it's meant for other classes and I can't equip my team's armor anymore. I've only gotten part of the way through Act II and just kinda lost interest in the game.
How to Satisfy the Itch?
I'm not normally into free-to-play MMOs. Mostly because the graphics and/or gameplay either suck terribly, or are very JRPG-based, which doesn't attract me at all. However, more and more big title games are offering some free-to-play version of their game while keeping the "premium" content for subscribers. And for an itch that may only last me a couple weeks, this suits me fine. So I began looking at some bigger-name MMOs that have gone free-to-play. I knew that I was definitely in the mood for a modern, 3D, fantasy-genre MMO. So this did cut out some options such as Anarchy Online, which I did enjoy for a time back in the day.
Several weeks back, I had started the download for the Lord of the Rings Online's free-to-play version. But it was taking forever and I wanted to play something else, so I killed the download and never returned to it. Over the weekend I spent some time over at Turbine's site, and figured out why I still have yet to really try out LOTRO. It just doesn't fit enough into the standard fantasy MMORPG. I want my normal classes and races. I want to be able to make a female dwarf damnit. But really, 4 races? And the classes are limited with a free-to-play account too. But really, it's their website that really killed it for me. The website is NOT laid out in a way that makes it easy to find basic game information, nor is it simple to just get the free download. So I gave up on LOTRO without even downloading it.
Since I was visiting Turbine, I checked out one of their other freebies: Dungeons & Dragons Online. I couldn't remember anything I'd heard about this game, so I figured what the heck, I'll give it a shot. Only six races in this game, two of which you're locked out of in the free-to-play version. But I went ahead and made myself an elf. Now, this being D&D, I half expected the class system to be limited. To my delight, I was mistaken. There are 11 total classes, only one of those being unavailable in free-to-play. Within each class, you can specialize, and you can also multi-class. This sounded great! The graphics so far weren't so hot, but I was willing to deal with it if the game was going to be good enough. So I played for a couple hours or so. It was very much like the MUDs and RPGs of old with the die rolls and saves, etc. I was really thrown off by the fact that there was a Dungeon Master/narrator. Wasn't used to that in my MMOs at all. It took a while to get key bindings set up to the way I'm used to from almost every other MMO that I've played. While I don't necessarily want cookie cutter MMOs, I don't want key bindings changed from game to game either. Once I got that all figured out I realized combat still sucked. I had to click for every swing. Targeting was a pain in the ass. Otherwise, it was typical MMO. But the graphics and interface/key bindings are what did it for me in the end. I decided I wasn't too keen on DDO.
EQ2 - Extended
Finally I turned to one that I've had fun with in the past, and though the free version is very limited, I knew I'd enjoy myself again. I downloaded and installed Everquest II Extended. The free to play version of the game only allows you to play one of four available races (out of a total of 19 for subscribers), and one of eight available classes (out of a total of 24 for subscribers). There are plenty of other limits too, such as limits on trading, mail, bag and bank space, etc. But I knew that even this pared down verison of EQ2 would satisfy the itch I had. And sure enough it did. After letting it download overnight on Saturday, and installing on Sunday, I played for a while on Sunday between errands and got to level 10 before I had to quit for the eve. I made an Erudite Wizard because in my old subscription account, I hadn't really messed with Erudites.
Other Ways to Satisfy the Itch
I've really been considering just going to the store and buying a bunch of 30 day game cards to various MMOs that I've enjoyed playing over the years. That way when the itch arises, I can just choose a game card and play a game without worrying about getting sucked into the subscription again if I won't be playing that long. I'm not sure how well this will work, or if I'll do it, but I'm really considering it. I may even stop by Gamestop on my lunch break today to take a look at 30 day cards. I'm definitely up for other suggestions too. If there's a good MMO out there that's free, can stand up against other current-gen MMOs, and is Western-based, tell me about it! I am aware of Guild Wars, I've just never gotten around to buying a copy of the game. But it's one I've definitely considered many times just for The Itch purpose.
I'll even consider single player RPGs that might satisfy The Itch, though usually this particular itch makes me go for something like Oblivion or Sacred 2.