RPG Defined - What is a Themepark MMO?

The term “themepark” brings to mind the idea of a setting with attractions to ride over and over. But no matter how many times you ride the attractions, the details just never change. If you wait several years and go back, they are right there, waiting for you...just as you left them. While this could be fun the first few times, it gets boring quick and you could find yourself looking at other themeparks for new and more exciting rides.

The concept of a themepark MMO is much the same. Heavily driven by developers from the very start, new players begin with a set path to follow. The developer controls the experience, from the first time a player logs in with a new character and every time after, until that character achieves the level cap for that particular game. Developers restrict the attractions offered, often only allowing one ride at a time. In other words, once on there’s no turning back until the ride stops!

Anyone familiar with games produced by Iron Realms might think the standard novice introduction is a classic example of a themepark MMO element. In some ways, that’s probably true but most of the Iron Realms games offer at least a little variation and only serve to make sure new players gain familiarity with basic commands. After the initial introduction to the game, assistance beyond basic help files comes directly from other players. Even the administrative newbie guides are just volunteer players willing to serve in a more serious type of mentor role that goes above and beyond the standard mentor-protege relationship.

World of Warcraft, or WoW, a classic example of a game that is more true to the themepark MMO stereotype. Of course it offers high quality content but the repeated scenarios don’t offer a lot of chance for walking to the beat of one’s own drummer. If a player wants to begin a quest, that’s great! But unless they stick to the restricted process set out by developers, life might get a little boring. The advantage is that developers can control the level of quality right up until the player completes the quest and acquires the reward associated with it. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that -- except that until developers release the next upgrade there is almost always little opportunity for a repeat performance.

Games produced by Iron Realms offer a lot of opportunity to repeat quests. For instance, my first character in Achaea made a fortune catching a seemingly endless supply of butterflies before giving the net to a certain NPC. To someone who is a fan of themepark MMOs this might sound boring but keep in mind, I was able to hop between newbie lands and start and stop quests, as well as pick up where I left off at a later date, completely at my leisure. For someone with a short attention span excited to try as many new things in the game as possible just starting out, the sandbox MMO features of Iron Realms games go above and beyond to fill that need.

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RPG Defined - What is a Sandbox MMO?

The term “sandbox MMO” is defined as a virtual world or society within a game, that has no direct impact on real life. Plenty of social opportunities exist for players within the community-like setting, usually in the form of organizations like guilds, cities, or clans. Players in sandbox MMOs can join those groups, or perhaps none at all choosing the be a mysterious stranger type of character.

Sandbox MMOs offer the freedom of choice. Characters explore the game on their own terms, and for the most part enjoy open-ended goals that allow them to explore all the sandbox MMO has to offer at their own pace. Whether a low-level tradesman or a high-ranking combatant, people-pleasing politician or eager explorer, all characters fit a social niche within the community. Encouraging players to live and work with each other in a sandbox MMO provides goals that involve interacting with the community. Sure it's possible for players to grind their characters to the highest attainable levels, but those who do miss the point of the game. Roleplay is paramount to the success of a sandbox MMO.

Characters who thrive within a sandbox MMO are the brainchildren of players who take the time to develop them. Those characters usually have a detailed background. Even if the background isn't long and drawn out, the details that do exist are big enough to permanently impact on that character's life. Maybe the character's parents left him in the woods and forest creatures raised him. Perhaps a character kidnapped from his home lived at sea for a time, trapped aboard a pirate ship. Or it could be that the character ran away from home to escape some negative aspect of childhood that they aren’t quite ready to face. For players who thrive on daily drama, a sandbox MMO certainly helps fill the need for it.

For a sandbox MMO to survive among the wide array of MMORPGs available, it helps to have a great amount of areas to explore that are widely diverse. In games produced by Iron Realms, players can adventure their way through physical terrain including, but certainly not limited to, dungeons and caves, deserts, mountains, tropical islands, forbidden cities floating high above the clouds. Characters who reach the borders of a sandbox MMO usually don’t stop there, and many go on to become volunteer builders who use their imaginations to help expand and develop the game for the benefit of their peers.

Combat within a sandbox MMO is often player-versus-player, or PvP. Each of the five Iron Realms games allow players to engage their characters in both hand-to-hand and group combat. Activities like sparring another person or participating in a full-out raid on a city or other organization isn’t uncommon. Without the team aspect of a sandbox MMO, it becomes one big single-player game which defeats the purpose of its existence.

Sandbox MMOs, especially the ones produced by Iron Realms, make it possible for all kinds of characters of varying personality types to interact in a virtual realm. Features like the MMO item mall allow players with a talent for economics and finance to build a cache of elite accessories and weapons that offer an extra edge over the competition. Time and commitment allow players to master multiple classes and gain knowledge that helps them survive within the community.

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Text Games: The 10 Commandments of Steve Jobs Applied to IRE

One of the most memorable articles I've ever written about MMORPGs is this one, inspired by an article in Newsweek. Steve Jobs, bless his soul, was more than just a tech-gadget genius, and hopefully this article shows that his ten commandments for business can be applied anywhere -- even to F2P text games!

Less than two weeks after announcing his resignation as Apple’s CEO, Newsweek magazine published an article titled, “The 10 Commandments of Steve.” Employers everywhere are using the infographic as a suggestion for improving their own business. However, Iron Realms has been using the same processes attributed to Steve Jobs’s creative genius since they released Achaea in 1997!

1. Go for perfect

Iron Realms Entertainment doesn’t expect perfection, but it does hold crafters to a high standard. One Achaea text gamer offered, “It’s crazy! My high school English teachers weren’t this strict. At first it was discouraging. It’s just a dress for my character in a RPG game; so who cares if the grammar is a little off? They care. But their caring has made me care more about how I present myself outside the text game, even on Facebook!”

2. Tap the experts

Iron Realms doesn’t look for outsiders to play Divine characters in their MUDs. Each offers a process that allows text game characters equal chances for promotion, whether stepping into the role of a Guide to help the newbies, or being elevated to full God status! The result is an administrative team familiar with the basic ins and outs of text game details and mechanics.

3. Be ruthless

If something isn’t working out, scrap it and move on. The Iron Realms RPG games have followed this practice over the years -- even when a Divine Character has run its course! More recently, IRE began testing a Digg system to replace its former word-of-mouth advertising via TopMudSites (which was bought out by Aardwolf MUD).

4. Shun focus groups

Jobs says, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” That doesn’t mean shunning suggestions! Tracking player feedback lets producers know what’s working, and what needs tweaked. Each of the MUDs associated with Iron Realms Entertainment allows feedback about the text game to be offered through communication not only between players, but also between players and administrators.

5. Never stop studying

In addition to listening to what players have to say on the forums, they also include a system for reporting bugs, typos, and ideas. A large player base has potential for hundreds, even thousands, of things to be reported daily! The end result is that Administrators can more easily fix bugs and typos, and perhaps even implement an idea or two!

6. Simplify

Text. It doesn’t get any more simple! The graphics in Guild Wars might compare to art hanging in the Louvre, but how does inspire the imagination? IRE games are a better choice over graphic MMORPGs because they push text game characters to comprehend the RPG game, making decisions that directly impact character background and development!

7. Keep your secrets

Mortal Builders, the players assigned with updating current areas and building new ones, are required to sign and provide a hard copy of a nondisclosure agreement. These people agree not to discuss new areas with anyone, neither fellow mortal builders nor Divine characters in the text game!

8. Keep teams small

Mortal characters in the RPG Achaea can apply to become Celani, a kind of Divine-in-training position. Celani are promoted to Demigods, who in turn can be promoted to full God status! Instead of creating new Divine characters when people are promoted, the administrators promote Demigods into the roles of dormant, current Gods. This allows for clockwork-like operations that keep the text game free for everyone!

9. Use more carrot than stick

People don’t invest in things they don’t like! When the admins are enthusiastic, that feeling trickles down to the players.

10. Prototype to the extreme

Pre-planning new areas, creating items players will need for various situations, and implementing tools to ease the transition from newbie to advanced text game characters are just a few of the ways IRE helps make their RPG games more player-friendly. One person commented, “I love when a new area opens! Unlike in some other text games, I can play without being distracted by glaring typos or pause my hunting or questing to report a bug.”

There’s no doubt that Iron Realms has revolutionized text games. By staying true to an uncomplicated platform they’ve developed a loyal player base that has withstood the test of time!

Penelope Swain is a text game enthusiast who enjoys the best roleplaying games from Iron Realms!

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Should Polygamous Marriages Be a Part of MMORPGs?

This is an article originally published on the Iron Realms website. It's republished here with permission from both the author, Sid Jennings, and the editor, Tony Celentano.

Recently I overheard my son and his friends discussing someone named Kody who just obtained a fourth wife and a sixteenth child. Since turning thirteen he’d been known to dabble here and there in Iron Realms text games, so of course I logged into the one my son plays to HONOURS KODY and re-read HELP MARRIAGE. Obviously I’d missed an update, right? Wrong! Imagine my surprise when he wasn’t talking about a fantasy MMORPG, but real life!

TLC’s popular polygamous reality series, Sister Wives, tracks the life of Kody Brown and his multiple marriages. After perusal of a few different websites on both the television show and the concept of polygamy in general, it made me wonder...how would polygamy affect characters in the games produced by Iron Realms? Is it something that would be a welcome change compared to how marriage is currently handled? Would my character even be involved in a polygamous relationship?

Polling MMORPG Gamers

In researching information for this article, another author and I approached different characters, randomly selecting four males and four females in each of the five games for a grand total of forty different ones. After explaining our purpose and asking their permission to use their answers to compile information here, we proposed the following questions:

  • Is polygamy a feature you would like to see in games produced by Iron Realms?
  • If allowed, would you become involved in a polygamous marriage?
  • Would you become involved in a polyamorous relationship?
  • Have you ever been involved in a polyamorous relationship?

As you can see from the results charted on the above line graph, males and females were pretty equal about whether to add polygamy as an option for virtual couples in Iron Realms games. However, a few more females than males were willing to become involved in a polygamous relationship. Why? Jealousy was the number one reason males gave for avoiding multiple marriages. Despite the stereotype that females are the more jealous gender, males were quick to own up to their feelings of possessiveness. As one Imperian male character stated, “No way in hell. I want to be the only man in my wife’s life and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t want me taking on more wives.” While none of them came out and said it, I’m pretty sure none of the males questioned relished the thought of multiple weeks of PMS, either.

The questions also explored polyamorous relationships, which currently can -- and often do -- happen within games, including the ones produced by Iron Realms. Twenty more percent of males than females admitted that they would become involved in a committed relationship that included a third-party. However, less than half the females interviewed confessed to having actually done so. One Achaean female explained, “It boils down to the fact that I really haven’t found anyone my character loves enough to share that kind of relationship with. I’m sure it would be super intimate but it would take a lot of trust between the three of us to be anything more than a glorified threesome.”

Wait..MMORPG Polygamy Isn't New?

Polygamy certainly isn’t new to Iron Realms. In 1999 Achaea experienced its first multiple marriage, between the characters Gijan, Snow, and Anniara. Discussed on the forums in 2006, and the thread explored excellent points on the topic. How would it affect honors lines? Would it be similar to how marriage works now, which is slightly different in each game, or would it require players to buy a special artifact -- like the ones available in Achaea that hide a character’s divorce record or age.

Besides the technical changes that introducing polygamy would require in Iron Realms games, there are also social ramifications to consider. Rou, a character in Aetolia, thinks it’s a good idea, because “It would create more opportunity for diversity, roleplay, and interpersonal relationships.” There are also downsides to the idea. Besides jealousy rearing its ugly head, the potential also exists to turn straight and narrow bloodlines into complex spider webs linking players between various families.

It’s obvious that the potential for polygamy within Iron Realms text games exists, but to what extent? What other pro’s and con’s can you think of that weren’t mentioned here? Your comments are welcome in the space below. And don’t forget to add your voice to our poll!

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