MMO Living Conditions, Ranked Worst To Best

A while back, my wife and I got into this anime called Log Horizon that involves thousands players getting trapped in an MMO world. Not in a virtual reality way, but actually physically there, having to work out how to navigate the intricacies and politics of a world where former players are apparently immortal. Since then, we’ve often joked about what it would be like to wake up one day in the various games that we play. Here are a few of the games that I play or have played over the years, ranked based on how much I would or would not want to live in them.

Tamriel (Elder Scrolls Online)
This game has finally clicked with me and I’ve been enjoying playing it a lot lately, but there’s no way I’d want to live here. There’s a three-faction war on, yes, but that’s the least of our worries in this world. Crime is rampant, everyone is racist, and daedra are constantly causing terrible things to happen all over the place. At least two thirds of quest stories end depressingly, usually involving people ending up dead. And can you imagine living in Vulkhel Guard with dark anchors dropping from the sky every five minutes about a hundred yards from the city gate? Sure, adventurers love killing the daedra there for the experience, but what happens if they don’t show up one day?

The Star Wars Galaxy (Star Wars The Old Republic)
There are a lot of cool places to live in the Star Wars ‘verse, there’s a hyperdrive-equipped spaceship in every driveway, and the prospect of having force powers is tempting, but in the time of the old republic, you’ve got about a 50/50 shot of living in the not-so-bad Republic, or on a world dominated by the Sith, or, perhaps worse, some Hutt gang. And then there’s the whole thing with the Eternal Empire coming through and wiping everyone out with superweapons. Given the choice, I’ll pass on this one.

Gielinor (RuneScape)
Life in RuneScape is pretty simple. For the most part, catastrophically bad things tend to only happen when you go looking for trouble, and there’s no shortage of ways to earn gold for those willing to do a little menial labor. Even basic housing is pretty cheap! The only reason it doesn’t rank higher is because, quite frankly, it’s one of the least exciting MMOs I’ve ever played. It’s about as safe as real life because it feels a lot like real life, just with the occasional fireball thrown in.

Tyria (Guild Wars (2))
All things considered, life isn’t too bad in Tyria. Sure, there’s the threat of elder dragon attack, but cities (other than poor Lion’s Arch) seem relatively safe, and travel is fast and easy (and cheap!). Also, anything you need help with, from your livestock getting loose to a bandit raid to a mordrem invasion, you can pretty much just yell and adventurers will wander by and help you.

Nexus (WildStar)
Aside from the fact that this world is about to cease to exist, Nexus seems like a pretty cool place to live. Sure, there’s the constant threat of random faction violence, becoming a Strain mutant, and danger from all manor of weird alien life forms. I’m not saying it’s safer than any of the other worlds on this list. But there are hoverboards. And space ships. And giant plots of land in the sky that you can get for free! What more could you ask for?

Middle-Earth (Lord of the Rings Online)
Middle-Earth has its fair share of places that would be terrible to live (forget orcs, I can think of way too many places infested by giant spiders), but for every one of those, there’s a place like the Shire, or Bree-town, or Rivendell (which, while beautiful, is infested by elves, who are almost as bad as the spiders). Pretty much everywhere is beautiful, apart from Mordor and Angmar and maybe a few other places, and most of the free peoples are pretty friendly and helpful.

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MMO Anime Recommendation: Log Horizon

Log HorizonI’ve never been into anime. I don’t have anything against it, it’s just not my thing. I mean, I watched Pokémon back in the 90s just like everyone else, and I enjoy anime styled games like Megaman, but the shows have just never caught my interest. Bad translations bother me, bad dubs bother me more, and I’m not interested enough to pick through bad shows to find the good. Besides, most of my TV watching is done while I’m doing something boring on my other monitor. Fortunately, I have friends who watch anime (and play MMOs) who highly recommended Log Horizon to me. They described the plot as, “A bunch of people wake up inside an MMO one day and have to learn to live in the game.” My response was, “Is this another name for Sword Art Online?” I watched exactly one episode of Sword Art Online, and couldn’t stand any more. It seems pretty clear to me that the people who made Sword Art Online have never played an MMORPG, possibly never played an RPG. All I remember is the characters talking about needing to get through all 100 levels (not in the “enough XP to level up to 100” sense, but in the Mario “beat all the levels to win the game” sense) before everyone else did because all of the monsters would be killed and then they wouldn’t be able to get any XP to get strong enough to progress to kill the evil dude who trapped them all in the VR game in the first place. In other words, nothing respawns. What kind of crappy game designer thought that up? “Oh, you bought the game a week after it came out? Sorry, should have gotten it on launch day; the XP’s all gone. Better unsubscribe now.” Also, the whole “if you die in the game and you die in real life” thing is a bit hokey. Especially in a genre where you pretty much expect to die from time to time, especially if you’re the first ones to do a brand new raid.

Log Horizon, by contrast, actually feels like it was written by a veteran MMO gamer, but it makes no assumptions that the viewer is as well. The players suddenly wake up in their favorite MMO, Elder Tale(s), and the show spends the first half of the first season slowly introducing MMO mechanics, as well as how they are different in this new world, such as classes and how they interact (the three main characters are a tank, a DPS, and a support), PKing (the game is apparently all OWPvP), crafting (can you craft stuff you know about in the real world that wasn’t previously an item in the game?), RP (one of the main characters is very serious about being a ninja, and another is very serious about being a cat-person), death and respawning (XP penalties, ew), even what happens to players who play a character who doesn’t look like them (the main character has to ajdust to walking because his character is much taller than he is, and another character turns out to be a girl playing a male character). A large chunk of season two involves players learning a new raid. It introduces these concepts gradually enough that I think a person only marginally aware of MMOs could follow it, but it doesn’t feel like it’s talking down to MMO veterans. It has all the anime trappings, from unrequited love triangles to over-the-top action sequences. The plot as a whole is very well thought out; it’s clear that the author had a plan for the story from the beginning, and has stuck to it consistently across both seasons and (hopefully) beyond. Overall, it’s incredibly well done.

Both seasons are available to watch for free (with ads) on Hulu and Crunchyroll. I’ve been watching the subtitled version (it’s good for the most part, though a lot of spellings change between seasons), and I think a dubbed version is available, but, from what little I’ve seen of it, it’s not very well done, so stick with subbed unless that just really annoys you. My wife and I were hooked after just two episodes, and we binged the whole first season in about four days on our recent vacation, and now we’re almost done with the second season. If you’re an MMO player looking for something to watch, I highly recommend this show!