Now that I've discussed socialization and other outside factors, what else is there to talk about? The actually game itself of course. In this part I will be talking about some of the most common elements to all MMORGPs; from character creation to the end game and beyond.
Even though it doesn't seem like much and most games don't really make that big of a deal about it, the seemingly random choices you make while creating your character will affect your experiences and the way you play the entire game. To anyone that's played a MMORPG before, the most common choice with the most far reaching consequences is what class you pick. As I discussed in the first two parts, you should take into account your goals, personality and group balance when picking a class. But there are also some other less obvious choices that will affect how you play.
When naming your character, try to go for something that is short, easy to spell and is in English (assuming that you're playing mostly with people that speak English). If you give your character a long, hard to spell name that has some non-English letters with ascent marks in it, you may think it's cool or funny at first until people can't or don't want to group or even talk with you because they can't type your name which is usually used for those things. For role playing your name is important as well. A name can also have a strategic element to it, for example you could have a character that is a necromancer but name them "Mage". This wouldn't trick enemy players for long, but the 1-2 seconds they are fooled about what class you are might be all the time you need to gain the upper hand in a close fight. An extremely humorous or odd name can also server as a very minor distraction. Try to be at least a little original with your name; not because you have to be, but because all of the good but unoriginal names get taken in the first few hours of a server coming online. Some people like to keep the same name from game to game to easily be recognized by friends and enemies; others like to change their name to keep it interesting. A lot of people like to pick a kind of theme that they use for every character in a certain game so that players can tell that it's them playing that character and because that theme fits their personality.
Your character's appearance, size and gender will also slightly affect your gameplay experience. While you appearance is mostly just for role play purposes, I will give you one minor piece of insight. Most characters in a game generally look alike in the same attractive way. So unlike real life, your character will stick out more if you make them ugly as possible or even just average looking; but sticking out isn't always a good thing. The nail that sticks up the most is the first to get hammered down. Other than class, you size is probably the most important choice. It can be used for deception like your name, make your warrior small or your priest muscular. But the more important factors are your collision and hit boxes. If you're smaller it can be harder for people to click on you, get in line of sight of you or hit you. In PvP this can be a good thing with your enemies or bad with your teammates. Normally female characters are smaller than males. Whichever gender you pick for your character, people will treat you about the same way they treat people of that gender in real life, which of course means both sides have their good and bad points.
Leveling or skilling up in some way is an essential part of all MMOs. It's an indication of your progress and gives you a sense of accomplishment. Your goals will likely determine the speed at which you can and should level; faster if you have an end game goal, slower if you're just having fun. The process of leveling can also provide a great opportunity to meet new people. It's easy to see other people's play schedules and find out how good someone plays before the end game where teaming up with bad players can be costly. You should also try to befriend people whose class choice complements your own nicely, and find a guild like I talked about in part one. Normally you'll also level faster with a good group and will often have more fun as well. But sometimes the difficultly in finding a good group can more than offset the benefits that would have helped you to level faster. So, if possible, try looking for a group as you are doing another task, like leveling solo. Standing in one spot yelling for a group is a huge waste of time and is extremely boring. In addition to seeing how well others play, this is when you want to evaluate and hone your own skills and techniques. See what combinations of spells work well together, both within your own character and with others. Also develop your physical and mental skills and perfect your use of outside technology as discussed in part two.
In most games, the vast majority of quests are very formulaic:
• Kill X amount of mob Y. (Sometimes the amount is one for special or raid mobs.)
• Kill mob Y to get X amount of item Z.
• Take item Z to character Y.
• Go talk to character Y.
• Use item Z on mob or character Y.
• Go to location Y.
Sometimes these can have slight variations like being timed, and of course they will all have different names instead of those variables. There are a number of good reasons most quests are like this. It would be impossible for a game to only have good, original quest designs and still keep within a reasonable development timeframe and cost; and people are familiar with this kind of setup already. Even keeping that in mind; sometimes it can get a bit boring, repetitive and predicable. But normally quests give more experience than just grinding because if you do it right (or wrong depending on your view) you can grind and quest at the same time. Quests generally are still a tad more fun than grinding as well, because they give a sense of accomplishment from achieving a short term goal. They can also give a group a common goal instead of each individual just having there own agenda, which will lead to better results for the group as a whole.
Crafting is also relatively formulaic in most games, then again crafting in real life isn't much different. You gather the materials needed to create something, put them together in some manner, usually with a possibility of failure, and then after you have successfully made one or more of those things; you are able to create things that are better in some way than the thing that you made previously because you have gained experience. In a lot of games crafting is a waste of time. You can normally obtain items that are just as good, if not better, from other sources like PvP and PvE; or you can simply get the item that you want from another player who is already a crafter. This isn't always the case, but is a general rule of thumb. Even though it is a waste of time, it's a very good waste of time; so if you have some free time that you can't or don't want to do something else with, crafting can be an excellent choice.
Travel and exploration put the "massive in massively multiplayer online role playing game" (in case you still don't know what MMORPG stands for even though at this point you've read about 7 typed pages worth of text on the subject just from my rants alone). Without them the world just won't seem large or interesting. Depending on the game and where you're going to and from; travel time and distance vary incredibly wildly, from a few seconds using some kind of teleportation to hours if you're traveling a great distance by foot. Whether you're main concern at the time is the journey or the destination, you will have to travel... a lot. If you'd like to travel fast, of course get a fast means of transport, but equally important is knowing the fastest way to and from somewhere. For this simply research maps and ask others the best way to get from place to place. If your destination is the journey itself then you're in luck because there's bound to be a whole lot of journeying.
In case you haven't guessed by now; role playing, storylines, plot and lore aren't my main priorities. In fact, I don't really pay attention to or participate in any of them. There are likely many other sources that discuss those subjects in detail; so I'll just briefly say a few words about them. Talking in third person is not, repeat not, role playing; it's annoying and makes you, as a person, seem like an idiot even if that's not the type of character you're trying to go for. Not only is it not role playing, it is anti-role playing because it is distinguishing yourself from your character and acknowledging them as a third party (if you were actually that character, you'd speak in first person because that would be yourself). Normally when the game talks about story or lore in quests I just skim over it, if not skip it entirely. I do usually watch cut scenes and even though I don't care about the exact specifics; I do try to get a general sense of what the hell is going on in the game world so that I'm not completely out of the loop. Those are just my own personal thoughts on the matter and in no way reflect what you should or shouldn't do in this regard (other than not speaking in third person).
After making your character, leveling up with quests that had you traveling far and wide and maybe even getting in a bit of role playing and crafting; you're now close to or hit the level or skill cap which is where the game you've known and loved ends and a new one begins. At this point there are normally a few general options; PvP, raids and other PvE, starting a new character or just quitting the game. You don't have to (and probably shouldn't) pick just one of those and will most likely end up doing them all if you play long enough. The end game can seem like a completely different game, but shouldn't be treated as one. You should still maintain the same goal(s) that you've had this whole time, whether it's to have fun or to keep improving your character to be at the top.
There are two kinds of player verse player (PvP) combat; instanced and open world. To be good at instanced team on team PvP you need to study, plan, practice and execute. Studying should be done mostly on your own during your research time. You should try to memorize the most common (if not all) of the spells, skills, powers, abilities, talents, items, builds, etc for every class. You should also check on the best and most common team combinations and what their strengths and weaknesses are; and how your group's setup might counter them. Then plan with your group. Share any interesting finds or ideas that you've had while doing your research. See what formations, maneuvers and strategies you and your team thinks are best based on your skills as players and your characters. Figure out which targets everyone on your team should be going for and in what order they should go for them. Even the best laid plans mean little if you can't follow through, this is where practice comes in. It's very likely that if you had any original ideas at all during the planning stage, when you practice them they won't go 100% as planed the first time. You may just need a few tweaks or more practice, or you may have to rethink your idea entirely. Finally, now that everyone in your group knows what to do and how and when to do it, you can actually go into combat and succeed. If you win that's great, if you lose or even if you just think you could have won by a little more; go back and repeat whatever steps you need to repeat.
Most of the steps that I mentioned above for instanced PvP, also very easily can and should be applied to raids and other player verse environment (PvE) combat. But in addition to those things, there's normally one extra, very important, thing that you do in PvE but not in PvP; loot distribution. A bad loot distribution system can ruin a guild. I'd recommend some form the of the Dragon Kill Points (DKP) system. It has numerous incarnations and methods of implementation; find one that's right for your guild. If you're not a guild officer or leader (like I've suggested you shouldn't be), then suggest to one of them that your guild start using or switch to a different form of the DKP system. Of course that could end up being a one way ticket to having to manage that new system. In that case, you could just find a new guild whose system you like better.
Open world PvP is my personal favorite end game option. This differs from the study, plan, practice, execute formula a little; because the only way to practice is to execute and it is very hard to plan out the specifics because the location and your opponents will always be different. In open world PvP the number of opponents, class makeup, levels, and player's skill can vary much more than in instanced PvP. But the element of surprise and mobs are two factors that you can use to your advantage. In general, most open world combat will come in one of two forms; the ambush or the meeting engagement. In an ambush one side has the element of surprise over the other and has been waiting for them to fall into their trap. In a meeting engagement the opposing forces just happen to bump into each other, so in essence it could be said that both parties have the element of surprise. Needless to say, the ideal is your team being on the surprising end of an ambush; and I mention the word team because you should never try to solo a force of an unknown size or makeup. Once you do obtain intelligence on a group, you can try to solo them for fun, assuming they're not significantly stronger than you.
Mobs, or monsters that you fight to gain experience and items, are a force that can be used to your advantage in open world PvP. The simplest way to use them is to wait until your opponent is engaged in combat with one and then attack while they are distracted and weakened; and if you kill that person well enough, you might even be able to take the mob as your own. You can also attempt to train mobs on to them. Training is the act of bringing a large quantity of mobs near another player and then through various means, depending on classes of the players in question and the game itself, you get the mobs to attack the other player instead of you. In a lot of games being killed by a mob will come with worse penalties than being killed by another player; so if possible (especially if there's no advantage in you getting the kill) try to have the mob get the killing blow. After your opposition is finally dead you can corpse camp them. Corpse camping is the act of waiting in a certain area, that varies from game to game but is normally by their corpse, to kill a player again as soon as they respawn but are still in a weakened, unprepared or disoriented state. You can corpse camp the same player for hours killing them dozens of times. And you shouldn't show any mercy to another player just because they're of a lower level, worse class or have a different avatar gender than you; quick kills can be just as fun as long drawn out fights against skilled opponents.
If all else fails there's always making a new character or just quitting. Making another character, commonly called rerolling, is a good option. If you liked the game as you were leveling better than the end game, or simply think that you'd find a different class more useful, fun or a new and interesting experience; then you should reroll. And if you find all of this to be too much of a hassle, then you should just quit that game entirely.
Grinding, farming and other time sinks and repetitive tasks are, unfortunately, necessary. Without them hardcore players would kill everything in the game within a few weeks and then quit; and even most casual players would quit sooner as well. Repeating the same thing over and over, especially during the end game, will cause you to get bored and burned out. To have the most longevity in a game you should attempt to avoid doing the same thing as much as possible. Even if you have to keep doing the same task, try to do other things in-between or do it in a different way then you normally do. As I said before, try not to do the same thing too much. If you start to feel a little déjà vu; stop and ask yourself if you really need to do whatever it is that you're doing. Can you achieve your goals without doing this task again right now or is it mandatory? If it is needed to accomplish your objectives, you should think to yourself if that objective is even worth the time and effort it takes to get done if you have to keep doing the same thing over and over.
No matter what the reason, be it because the game itself, social interactions, or because of outside factors like technology or things that are occurring to you in real life; at some point you will quit every game, but most of the time you will start anew and the whole process will begin again.