A lot of players in MMOs think it would be cool to be a game master. Well, I got that chance for about a year a while back, and now I am sharing my story. The year was 2003. My console of choice, the GameCube, was not living up to my expectations. I felt like I was always waiting for the next game to come out that would end up getting delayed or cancelled. My PC had become outdated. I did not have the money to buy a different console or a new PC. I still loved gaming though.
As I got bored with my existing game library, a friend told me about a free online game called Mu Online. I liked some things about that game, but its importance is that it introduced me to the Asian MMO beta. I had never really known there were free betas online before. I ended up trying out many of them including Kal Online, Knight Online, and Risk Your Life. These games really were not that great, but I could not afford the subscription MMOs. I did not even know an MMO could be better.
Risk Your Life was a game made by a Malaysian company. It had many of the same characteristics of other Asian MMOs, but shortly after I started playing, I heard there was an American company that was going to publish the game for America. That company was Planetwide Games. They created a website with some forums, and I started posting while I continued to play the Malaysian version. I was excited at the possibility of better connection quality to the servers located in America and a better translation into English (Asian translations were pretty bad).
The Closed Beta for the American version was delayed many months. Finally, the first invites went out in the summer of 2004. I remember anxiously waiting to see if I would get a beta invite. I did not get in the first few rounds but did get an invite by the end of the week. At this point I quit the Malaysian version and just played this Closed Beta. I truly wanted it to be a good game. I became more active on the forums and sent in bug reports whenever I found one. The Closed Beta was three or four months. Then, it was time for Open Beta.
Some of the beta testers had suggested a helper system. They had played other MMOs where veteran players could assist others in the game and on the forums. Those players got a special title for other players to recognize. Planetwide Games liked this idea, so they created the Guide system. This happened just at the beginning of Open Beta. As I had been active on the forums and submitting bug reports, my application to be a Guide was accepted. All of the Guides got the “Guide” title in front of their name on the forums and in the game.
I had a lot of fun as a Guide just helping people out. I learned as much as I could about all the classes, character stats, game environments, and more. Whenever someone asked a question in the global chat, I wanted to be the first to answer it. At some point the company decided to add some volunteer Game Masters. These would be like the employed Game Masters but with fewer in-game powers. Naturally, I applied the first chance I got. I was accepted a few months later. Now I could help other players in a more official capacity.
They did not have any backend tools for the GMs, so every day I would log in with my GM account and announce that I was available to help with any problems. Everything was done through in-game whispers. I became an expert at managing whispers with multiple players at once. If I could not solve a player’s problem with my limited GM powers, I would contact one of the employed GMs to handle it. We opened up a free IRC chat for players to get tech support. I would have that in the background. When I heard the little sound that someone had posted something, I would tab out to help there. It was a lot of fun “GMing” for many months.
I did get bored eventually. None of us volunteers got any money. We did get unlimited free access to the game when it launched though, but it was not enough for me. Some good GameCube games had come out by then, and I was done. It was 2005 now. I quit my volunteer position that summer.
Those who know their video game history know that World of Warcraft came out at the end of 2004. Planetwide Games went with the same model as WoW. You had to pay $50 for the box. The first month was free, but then you had to pay $15 per month. I thought it was a mistake to charge the same amount as WoW. I knew by then that Risk Your Life did not compare. It did not stand a chance. Its only hope was to have a discounted subscription.
To shore up interest, the company attempted to do a player vs player tournament with an unprecedented prize of $1 million. This grabbed many headlines, but the game engine was not in any shape to prevent the eventual hacking and exploits that occurred from all the people eyeing that money. The tournament was cancelled after thousands of people had bought the game for that sole purpose. Within a year the game was shutdown.
A game failing is not a happy ending, but I value those memories. I got a chance to see what it is like “on the other side”. My Game Master account being hacked was a big wake-up call on security, how not to trust random people online to be who they say they are. I am always skeptical now, always watchful. It also gave me an interest in the game community. I chatted a bit on forums before that, but ever since I like to get more involved. I do not want to just sit on the sidelines. I give feedback in the hope that the games will be better. I have this blog to give my opinions on the game industry.