Favorite MMO things: Races

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Bleu from Breath of Fire I

Not too long ago I talked about my favorite mounts in MMOs, so today we’re off to the races! Most MMOs have them and make full use of the fascination that is learning about different cultures and exploring different playable species. Unlike in the real world where there are no different races among people, no matter the American English use of the word which is alienating to me personally, MMOs can conjure up genetically different humanoids or even more alien, yet sentient beings for us to play and get involved in.

I’m a fan of racial diversity in MMOs, despite often having opted to play humans in the past, often for reasons of size, armor design and frankly identification. Fantasy MMOs have a wonderful opportunity to create content beyond all rules, so thanks to all of you who don’t follow my example and make more daring race choices instead! I love Tera’s Popori, the Asura and Charr in GW2 or Wildstar’s crazy Chua that defy at least some of the tiresome “shorties cliché” that’s so widespread in this genre. Things get especially interesting when MMOs dare venture into dragon territory, designing playable races that leave little room for anthropomorphization.

That said, I am still that boring conservative that won’t alt and prefers horses as mounts in MMOs, simply because I can’t shed my formative D&D years and that classic interpretation of high fantasy. I also find it takes time to get into ingame personas, so over the years I have only ever grown attached to very few of my characters. In chronological order:

  • Syl, Human in WoW
  • Syl, Arisen in Allods (yeah I don’t change nicks either, sue me)
  • Syl, Norn in GW2
  • Syl, Cassian in Wildstar
  • Syl, Au Ra in FFXIV

I have also had some brief flirts with Asura, Gibberlings and Lalafell but sooner or later, I end up playing characters that are tall. Of the four mains, Arisen and Au Ra are by far my favourite MMO races. No other race design has ever come close to the eerie grace of Allod’s undead cyborgs – if you dig cyberpunk and Egyptian mummies, the Arisen are for you (they disappear into a sarcophagus when going /sleep)! As for my current love that is FFXIV, the Au Ra may or may not be related to dragons but at the very least, their race design clearly toys with a human-dragon/lizard hybrid concept. Given that my longterm online name is based on a wild-elf/dragon character from the Dragonlance novels, there couldn’t be a more fitting race for me to play in MMOs.

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At this point, I ask myself what races I’d like to see in MMOs that we haven’t seen yet? Considering some past JRPG favorites, I am leaning towards frogs (Glenn from Chrono Trigger) and naga (Bleu from Breath of Fire). I believe there were frog people in Everquest which has completely passed me by. Furthermore I would really like to see another serious attempt at darkelf/drow design sometime. Drow never seem nearly as badass in MMOs as I always imagined them reading the Forgotten Realms. Black skin, white hair, red eyes – what’s not to love?

12 comments

    1. I have played Tera briefly in the past; I resisted for a time but the game has as many commendable features (wonderful world, mobs, combat, music) as it has unsavory ones, the Elin and Castanics certainly among them. I like to say that Tera is/was a millisecond away from greatness – too bad they blew it with silly characters.

  1. Not related to the main subject of your post, but I strongly disagree with your first paragraph from a semantic point of view – us gamers keep wrongly talking about races when we really mean species, and it’s us German-speakers who are ridiculously (if somewhat understandably) afraid of even talking about the concept of race. I’ve had some fun with this at work when I had to translate a news article that featured a phrase along the lines of “XYZ was the first black woman to star in a campaign like this” and my colleagues and I were all scratching our heads because you’re just not supposed to say things like that in German, even if they carry positive messages.

    To actually say something on topic though: I enjoy rolling a variety of alts of different species, though I think I mostly tend to be drawn towards the “pretty yet slightly exotic”: elves of all kinds, WoW’s draenei, SWTOR’s twi’leks etc. I seem to be a minority in the blogosphere in that I actually tend to dislike short races.

    1. I don’t know what your basis is on this, personally I believe the concept of different human races has been refuted by modern biology. Or then, it’s used in too many different contexts. It is simply not a good word to use for people in my book, doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. :)

      There may very well be a semantic confusion between race and species though, I think you’re quite right the term species should apply for MMO ‘races’ – but well, most MMOs call them races, anyway.

      1. You can use a different word for it of course, like ethnicity or something, my point is just that it describes an actual thing, which is “population groups that share certain traits”, even if one wants to see them as purely social constructs. In English it just doesn’t have that same extremely heavy value judgement that it has in German. I remember being quite baffled the first time I applied for a job here and was asked to fill out a routine equal opportunity survey at the end where I was asked what race I considered myself to belong to. :P

      2. Yeah, I know what you mean! I’ve no problem with the example you gave either, we should be able to refer to how people look without feeling weird. It’s just the term itself, race equals ‘breed’ for me coming from German but it’s obviously somewhat different if you’re native English. That and also, the Americans are obsessed with race – everything is raceracerace all the time and it automatically creates unwarranted division between people who are, few cosmetics aside, completely the same.

  2. I prefer taller characters, Draenei, Elves and the more unusual ones such as Charr or Sarlak (EQ2’s equivalent to the Au Ra). Occasionally a shorter race comes along that I have to try, like the Popori (I gave up on Tera for the same reasons I believe), Asura and Chua. I generally dislike playing short characters simply because the viewing angles are worse, especially in busy combat situations.

    Also I remember noting the writing race but meaning species thing in a post I did on Togruta. It was reflexive to point that out probably because I studied German for so long :-) In Britain it is not normally talked about except in the most guarded and academic of terms. You talk about nationality instead.

    1. Same here! on both accounts hehe – I’m totally with you on tall races and we also only ever talk about nationalities in Switzerland, rather than races or colors.

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