Bottoms Up! How Should MMOs Handle Drinking?

By Jeff Francis
How should drinking in mmo games be handled?

The virtual worlds of online games allow players to do some fantastic things, such as cast magical spells or fight monstrous creatures. However, mmo games also reflect the real world in that many activities found in the regular world can be found online as well. Some examples include swimming, riding horses, and climbing. Eating and drinking are also a major component of online games in the form of buff-giving food and potions. Yet the consumption of alcohol can be an interesting feature in an online game. Should drinking in mmo games follow reality and have consequences, or should it be a harmless diversion? How should mmo drinking be handled?

Guild Wars 2 drunk

People love to imbibe alcoholic drinks in real life, so it's a no-brainer that mmo developers have brought such beverages to online games. The notion of drinking in mmo games recently came about for me as I was playing through the Shroud of Souls expansion for Neverwinter. During the campaign, I visited a city populated by the undead and came across a vendor. One of the items he was selling was an alcoholic drink, so I bought a stack of them just for fun. Drinking the first brew unlocked an achievement, and I decided to quaff a few more. As I did so, my character became progressively drunker, with the game informing me that my character was smashed. The visuals became disorientating and moving around was much more difficult. Plus, there was a timer showing how long that my character would be intoxicated for. As I had not gotten drunk in the game before, this situation did put a smile on my face and it got me to wondering if this was the best way to handle mmo drinking.

Drinking in mmo games can vary, depending upon the game in question. As stated above, Neverwinter made moving around a bit more difficult and made the visuals more wonky, but that was about it. There were no further effects no matter how much alcohol my trickster rogue poured down her throat. The most common effect of mmo drinking in most online games, such as the upcoming Sea of Thieves, is the player being subjected to blurry or wavy visuals to simulate the effects of being tipsy. Guild Wars 2 takes this a step further by introducing the possibility of getting knocked down for being drunk. This effect can stack up to 25 times, and each stack increases the chance of being randomly knocked down. This chance of being knocked down also applies to attempting to perform any action as well as decreasing the chances of hitting in combat. Personally, I love this effect as there are some repercussions to getting soused within the game.

World of Warcraft vomit

I also really like how World of Warcraft handles mmo drinking. Just like most other games, the player is subject to blurred vision for getting tipsy. This is accompanied by some unintentional turning while moving. If the player continues his mmo drinking, then his character will become drunk, which makes things more interesting. While drunk, the blurring is even more pronounced and movement is really impaired by swaying a lot. There are three other features in how WoW handles drinking in mmo games that really makes it stand out. The first is that it makes the player more foolhardy in the sense that enemies will appear as five levels lower than they actually are. This is brilliant is it does replicate the false sense of superiority that drunk people often manifest. Of course, the opponents are still their actual level. The second is that the player's speech will begin to slur in chat in that the letter "s" will be replaced with "sh" and "...hic!" may be added as well. Again, this is a great feature of mmo drinking in WoW as it's pretty funny but also follows what drinking in the real world can be like. The last interesting feature of how WoW handles drinking alcohol is that the character can actually throw up, becoming stunned. Everyone who has drunken far too much in real life knows of this unfortunate consequence. It would be pretty funny to see an achievement for holding another player's head or hair while their character throws up.

Overall, I love the World of Warcraft system for handling drinking in mmo games the best. It goes further than most online games and features some consequences. For me, I think mmo drinking should be handled with the application of various effects for drinking too much. Having trouble walking around and dealing with blurred vision is the bare minimum of what we should expect. I think that online games should go further when handling the consumption of alcohol. Guild Wars 2 has a great feature in that the character can be knocked down, and I would love to see this feature grafted onto the World of Warcraft system. However, I do think that more can be done to make drinking in mmo games even more interesting. If a player is tipsy or drunk, I think it would be good to have the costs for vendor items to go up a bit to help represent the diminished capability to think straight. Vomiting for drinking too much alcohol is also a good touch, but I would also like to for a game to have the player's character actually fall unconscious if they keep pushing their drinking. Another possibility is the character being arrested for public drunkenness within a game's city and having to pay a fine or be imprisoned for a short time. Decreasing the ability to hit in combat is also a no-brainer. On the flip side, it would be funny to have the possibility of some reward for getting smashed, such as gaining extra gold or some gear, due to some drunken adventures that the character doesn't remember at all. The ultimate would be for a game that features marriage to have the character wake up with a new spouse sleeping next to them. In the end, there's much more that developers can do to add some spice to mmo drinking by characters.


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