We’ve had some discussions here before about MMOGs, especially the fantasy variety: the grind, the emphasis on “kill, loot, level”, the obsessive playing, the eternal hunt for “good drops”. In China, they do things differently.

While breezing through gamesetwatch earlier, I came across a post that pointed to an article about a Chinese MMOG called ZT Online. It’s free to play, but paying nothing gets you nowhere. Literally.

There is no grind. Players buy (with real money, of course) the highest level they can afford. They have to buy all their equipment, as well. There are no drops from defeated enemies, or as rewards for completing quests.

Gambling is also very popular. Players buy a chest and a key for a very small sum. Opening the chest starts a “wheel of fortune” as items spin around and then one “comes up”. Often, it isn’t what the player wants, so another chest is purchased. And another, and so on.

Where Western games encourage cooperative play through groups, ZT prefers to set players against each other with incessant warfare. Everyone belongs to a country, guild, and faction, and they are all at loggerheads with each other. Personal power and prestige are more important than anything else.

Personal revenge is another big feature. If you’re killed by another player, that person’s name goes on your “revenge” list, so you know who to go after later.

According to the article, ZT usually has a million players online at any time. I didn’t think China had that many people who have nothing better to do with their money than spend it this way. And they are spending it in great amounts. If they want to play, they don’t have any choice.

You know, I’m finding this situation scarier all the time. It’s bad enough when players pay real money to others for “neat stuff”, or to furnish make-believe rooms with virtual furniture they don’t own.

This ZT seems to be the ultimate, where everything is for sale, and the pressure to compete is enormous. And the more players spend, the more important the game becomes, yet there isn’t really anything material to show for it all.

The article is long, but well worth reading. Take a look, and see what you think. ZT Online isn’t a game I’d ever want to play myself.

Gamble Your Life Away In ZT Online on danwei.org