TOM: And we are back with this nail-biter of an MMOFL battle with the Grimomar Goblins against the Wyndstorm Warriors. And I see that the Warriors are putting their all into this attack; just look at those mana bars deplete.

CARL: That’s right, Tom. Offensive lineman Harry “The Bulldozer” Calhoun attacks his opponents with his +2 Shoulderpads of Fiery Torment. Looks like about 20 hit points of damage to me.

TOM: We’ll have to check the tape for that, but he’s definitely getting an XP bonus from that one.

CARL: That’s right, Tom. And is that quarterback Dequan “Golden Arm” Washington readying a pass? Yes, protected by the tanking of his offensive line, he is readying a throw. Is that the uncommon Ball of +1 Passing we’ve seen him use before?

TOM: No, it looks like the rare purple ball “Oblate Spheroid of the Thundering Darkness” the team won last week.

CARL: That’s right, Tom. A bold move, that ball only has five charges.

TOM: There’s the pass, and…it’s good! A 110-yard touchdown to receiver Dan “The Shiv” Jablonsky, who stealthed and snuck into the endzone unbeknownst to the opposing team. And that looks like an automatic 200 hit points of damage to every member of the other team.

CARL: That’s right, Tom, they’re falling like flies. The players have already broken ranks to loot their fallen corpses.

TOM: Oh, but what’s that horn and the sound of drums in the deep? It looks like the mighty doors hidden beneath the stadium are being opened.

CARL: That’s right, Tom, it looks like it’s time for a boss fight, and if the strategy guide is correct the team will now be facing Grogthank the Devourer, Demon of the Seventh Eye.

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I’ve decided that I hate MMORPGs, despite the fact that, once upon a time, I poured dozens of hours and bushels of dollars into their gaping maws.

Look at what happened to 38 Studios. The company was created from the get-go to make an MMORPG. It retained R. A. Salvatore to write 1000 (!) years of backstory and hired Todd MacFarlane as art director, to say nothing of the talent that was attracted from all over the industry. The studio put out (almost as an afterthought) a single-player game using those assets that was a success, but given the amount of money being shoveled into the MMORPG dev furnace almost no amount of cash flow would have been enough. Just imagine what kind of single-player game, or single-player game with a multiplayer component, that could have been made with that talent for the reported $500 million debt the company rang up.

Worse, when an MMORPG fails–as 90% of them do–there is nothing left. The game is useless and can no longer be played and all player progress is lost forever. If there’s a particularly dedicated fanbase a few pirate servers might be set up, but that’s it. Given the relatively short lifespan of some of these incredibly expensive projects, like Tabula Rasa (2007-2009) or The Matrix Online (2005-2009) or Earth and Beyond (2002-2004), all that money might as well have been piled up and burned. But because Blizzard has had such success with World of Warcraft, as well as a few other niche players, developers and financiers with dollar signs in their eyes keep trying.

From a narrative standpoint, too, the games leave much to be desired. Star Wars: The Old Republic has been lauded for creating an experience that feels almost like a single-player adventure (in other words, like the single-player Knights of the Old Republic) but that came at the cost of $200 million, the most expensive video game price tag of all time. Developers without that kind of muscle are severely limited in the kind of story they can tell, often falling back on repetitive fetch/kill quests or dungeon grinding. And it goes without saying that there can never be any kind of narrative payoff, as the games have no end. When you inevitably lose interest and cancel your subscription you don’t even have the satisfaction of a narrative well-concluded.

Just imagine if some of that money and talent had been spent on a game like Mass Effect or Skyrim.

Keagan valued his online privacy, and valued it heavily. People that knew him personally attributed this to a variety of factors, but all were impressed by the lengths he was willing to go to maintain e-anonymity in an age when it was increasingly easy to strip such away.

All his interactions were carried out through an elaborate proxy system, using server information from as far away as the Philippines and Egypt. He used a specially sanitized computer to interact with the outside, one which had never contained any personal information in any form, and was religious about not bringing over content from his personal machine, which was totally unconnected to any network at all. The entire setup was run off a university server as well, adding yet another buffer.

The reason for all this? A game.

Keagen was, unbeknownst to most, one of the world’s top-ranked players of the Dungeons of Krull MMORPG. He’d one been the number eight player worldwide based on experience points, instanced boss kills, and elite equipment but had slipped to fifteen after a number of Korean players made unexpected headway.

As the world’s most popular MMORPG, with a fanatical following at home and abroad, Dungeons of Krull could be legitimately dangerous. A player in Seoul had been killed by a guildmate who stood to inherit control of a vast amount of treasure in 2007; another had died in Seattle a year later after humiliating a much lower-ranked player in a duel. Radiant Gauntlets of the Seraphim might confer resistance to all missile attacks inside Dungeons of Krull, but they offered no protection against a Beretta.