Having been a fan of Phnatasy Star Online (aka PSO) for the Dreamcast, I was pleasantly surprised to happen upon a previously played copy for the Xbox. After spending 19.99 plus tax, the game was loaded and I played offline for a bit in order to brush up on my skills. I was looking forward to the comraderie and challenge of online play via Xbox Live, and did not want to appear rusty in front of the players whose skills had been honed to perfection by countless hours of practice online.
Subsequent to logging on and creating a team by the name of “Newbie game”, I eagerly awaited my first cooperative play session in over a year. Whilst exploring the confines of the forest area, “MASTAR420” joined my game. After beaming down to the surface by using my thoughtful telepipe, “MASTAR420” proceded to tarnish forever my experiences on PSO.
Being that he was only 3 levels higher than myself, I was not prepared to see that the king of chronic was a juggernaut of mass destruction. His armor was impenetrable by the weak attacks of the enemy, and his mighty strikes clove the enemy in twain. The magic powers of his character incinerated groups of enemies with a single hit. In short, I was totally outclassed. To be honest, my level 99 Dreamcast character was outclassed by this level 10 upstart. It was obvious to me that this character was some sort of hacker, and that he had somehow provided himself a collection of the best and rarest implements in the game.
My only recourse was to ask him to leave my game. After various slurs and insults, after questioning my sexual orientation, after implying certain facts about my mother’s choice of career and bedroom proclivities, and after making the astoundingly cruel comment that, to put it lightly, my avatar was colored a shade which he found personally displeasing,
“MASTAR420” left. I was shaken, but perhaps it was a fluke.
The next character to join my game was much as I had expected. He was polite, shared the loot aquired from dead enemies, and was a real “team player”. THIS was the experience I remembered from PSO! We worked our way through the rest of the forest, supporting each other, clearing the nooks and crannies, and ocasionally trading small bits of wisdom or snappy witticisms. While we resupplied for our forthcoming assault on the cave systems, another player by the moniker of “TheSquid” joined our game. I welcomed him to our team and we soon embarked upon our spelunking expedition. My annoyance soon returned, as this individual carried a rifle approximately the same size as a circa-1945 German railway gun which hit the enemy with so much force that the pain was psychicly transmitted throughout the map, thus causing all other adversaries to lie down and ponder their impending demise while waiting for “TheSquid” to get around to providing the means of transport from this mortal coil to the place where cave beasts go when they die. My new friend and I were like the man who goes to the local tavern for some darts anticipating the ocassional bull, yet somehow is transported to the middle of Operation Overlord. Indeed, our puny blows were like the merest tickling of gnats compared to the thermonuclear explosions dealt out every second by “TheSquid”.
After this indignity, I began a new game, protected by a password. My friend joined up, and invited another aquaintance who was also not cheating. We set out and played the game, even though we were crippled without the incedibly rare yet readily available YHVH spell, or the equally obscure yet easily obtainable “Sword that Kills Enemies just by Looking at Them”. Together we passed the hours, and a great time was had by all.
The next day, I decided to examine some other teams. My dimay was multiplied tenfold when I realized that playing the game as it was meant to be played was attractive only to the tiniest sliver of players; indeed, the average player seems to feel that the game is simply unenjoyable without the best weapons and armor equipped almost from birth. Whilst navigating the depths of the first episode, I noted an amusing fact: These players, in a word, sucked. Being low level, though armed with high-powered weaponry and protected by the very grace of God, these characters could still be hit by the enemy. I was subjected to a constant stream of cries to “REZ ME!!” and “heel now1!”. I laughed as they charged into the fray, often dying and leaving only myself standing. I would carefully and skillfully destroy all the enemies with my, to them, puny 50 points of damage, and then ressurect their corpses at my leisure.
So, I will probably not purchase the online, nine dollar per month, “Hunter’s License” that Sega demands from those who wish to play on Xbox Live. I simply cannot envision myself spending my small pleasure budget to fight through a constant stream of duplicated items, hackers, and obstreperous 12 year olds with dental-drill voices.
Now I am left to wonder if I have grown too old for gaming, or if I have simply reached a level of maturity not shared by the majority of players. Perhaps I will soon degenrate into telling the kids with their ear-destroying robot voice that in my day, I had to walk uphill seven miles to get down to the mines, and that the astounding weaponry and armor they employ is nothing more than foofawery foisted upon the weak. In fact, while you are up, why don’t you fetch me a cup of tea, since you probably have a unique tea-making Saucer of Caffeine +10.