I had a friend recently approach me and say that they have the urge to go back to Maplestory. When I heard this, I was terrified. Not because of the terrible experience’s it caused me, but because there was this slight, minuscule shared temptation. I wanted to play as well. But I stopped myself. I am making this post to help those who are relapsing and wishing to go back to Maplestory. These tales are to warn you of the horrible game it truly is, and how nostalgia is blinding you from what is another of South Korea’s free-to-play cash cows.
I made a video last year discussing three horror stories I encountered in my years playing Maplestory, and I realized, I have so much more to tell.
Plus I just want to make fun of the game.
Tale #1: The Grind
If you are playing Maplestory for the gameplay, I want you to consider, what actions do you do? What do you, as a human being, have to do when playing Maplestory? I’ll gander a guess and say it isn’t very sophisticated, and you probably hammer a single button occasionally, maybe hit another button to heal and move a little bit with the arrow keys. That is all there is to combat in Maplestory. Sure, they may claim that there are different skills to use, buffs to use, and tactics to employ, but it never gets more complicated than glancing at the cooldown time for a move and then acting upon it.
You just go into mobs of enemies, hit a few buttons. and watch numbers go. But it’s so addicting because it’s so colourful, and you just want to see the numbers get higher and higher. And the grind is never enough. You grind for a level, and then what do you do? Upgrade skills to grind more effectively. Is there a point to Maplestory? Is there a main, massive quest? Are there factions to fight for? Are there people to unite with and have a camaraderie with? Are there guilds to meet friends through? Well, Maplestory DOES have all of these things, but they are irrelevant to the grind. There is no ultimate goal in Maplestory, and you can’t really expect that in an MMORPG. But at least in other MMO’s, there is a reason outside of leveling to keep playing. Maybe you have friends to talk to, maybe there are raids and factions that are always changing and require you to be actively participating in.
Maplestory’s world has none of that. There is no purpose or effective change players can have on the world. All of the screens are set in stone, all of the spawns are set on random or specific timers, There isn’t even really a reason to fight any bosses because they just take too long and stop you from leveling as fast as you can. It is all just a numbers game. It’s Clicker Heroes but with a few more steps.
So why am I telling you this? Because there are multiple stories of the grind I have that negatively impacted my playtime. See, mobs on the screen could be killed by anybody, regardless if there is another player present. Nobody has the law to own an area, and that is a good thing. However, even though there is no law, it doesn’t really matter, because a stronger player could be present and just kill everything without even acknowledging your presence. This guy could be 30 levels higher than you, do double the damage, and have moves that kill more enemies. You can’t do anything to stop it.
It also doesn’t help that massive screen clearing moves also kill in one hit. This means that if another player activates a move that kills 15 enemies at once, there is no way for you to ever have any hope. Therefore, you either had to wait for them to go, politely ask them to leave, or find another area. It was horrible.
It also didn’t help if a player WAS the same level as you, but threatened to bring his friends to steal the mobs I was killing. This happened so much, and it got ridiculous. Like people would call their friends, who are 60 levels higher than necessary, take 20 actual real-life minutes to find this training area, and just start killing to bully me away. It was so stupid that there was this high-school mentality of being with the cool kids, and that there was no way to combat this scummy behaviour. You couldn’t report another player for this issue. In fact, you couldn’t report any player for anything. If they were visibly hacking, you had to manually write their name down and send Maplestory’s customer support an e-mail. It was such a cumbersome process, and it was why hacking and other unethical activities reigned supreme. There was little to no policing of these activities.
It’s likely especially worse now, as a lot of people likely have high-level characters pocketed on their account, so they can spawn in at any time and bully other players away.
I will always be proud of myself for never bullying other players when I got to a high level. I could have, but I said no. I would politely ask them to leave if they hopped in, or I would party with them. I tried to be as friendly as I could in a toxic environment, and you know what? It paid off! I didn’t make any friends, but they were all welcoming and I never ruined anybody’s experience.
Every change in Maplestory is made for the sake of the grind. It is to make the grind slightly easier or make it superficially different. The grind is everything.
Now you may hear this and think “well what’s so negative about the grind? Just party up, right?” Well, that leads me to:
Story #2: Why Make Friends?
What does the 2nd “M” in MMORPG stand for? Multiplayer. Well, Maplestory is an MORPG. Massive Online Role Playing Game. There is no advantage to partying or meeting new people in Maplestory. This is because they are a hindrance to the aforementioned goal of leveling as fast as you can.
See, Maplestory has the genius system of dividing the experience depending on how many party members are in a group. This makes sense, right? If there are two party members, each of you gets half of the experience you would get going solo. To compensate for this decrease, you kill more enemies, right? Well, there are three issues with this philosophy. The first is that a half cut in experience is way too much. In other MMO’s, they do reduce the experience, but usually by 25% instead of 50%. The second issue is that the spawn rates of these enemies do not increase or account for the fact that you’re in a party. You and a friend can easily wipe a screen of enemies, then be forced to wait 15 seconds to do it again. This drastically reduces the experience amount everyone gains, and ironically, makes playing with friends worse than playing alone. The final problem with this idea is that if you don’t put in the damage to kill an enemy, you get even more reduced experience. This means that if you are a class that focuses on 1-on-1 combat and you are in a party with a character who can wipe the screen clean, the screen wiper will get the majority of the experience.
I know all of these specifics because I always played as an archer in Maplestory. I was a boss-killing class that had skills that were meant for smaller, much beefier enemies. Because of this, I was just forced to play alone if I wanted to have a slightly enjoyable time. This meant that in the 5 years I played this game, I met almost no new friends online. This wasn’t entirely the fault of the game, it was also me being very shy and introverted as a child, but the forced isolation did play a significant part. This meant that while my friends were doing party quests, getting married in-game, and socializing, I was out wandering on my own. Basically like a lone ranger. But it wasn’t cool or intriguing, it was sad and depressing because I was an 11-year-old in a video game.
So Maplestory is basically a single player game that you occasionally talk to other people in. And you usually end up getting insulted or end up asking them to leave because they get in the way of your grind.
Story #3: Cleric and Archer Slavery
As mentioned before, I played as an archer. And as an archer, when I reached level 120, I had access to a skill called “Sharp Eyes”. This skill enabled a higher critical hit rate for me, and my party members. Critical hits in Maplestory did 200% damage, and increasing the probability of them was essential for anybody who wanted to do more damage.
Therefore, I sold myself into slavery for experience and money.
People would offer rates like 2 million mesos (Maplestory’s currency) and shared experience for an hour of Sharp Eyes. I was desperate for money, so I obliged to a lot of these demands. I would usually hide in a very safe place, while a few other people grind, and I occasionally hit a single button. It was incredibly boring, but I was able to do other things like chat to friends, watch TV, do some homework, or anything else, really.
But it doesn’t change the fact that this was a booming industry and a legitimate way to make money in Maplestory. Classes that had great buffs were able to sell themselves for easy levels and more money. The better my Sharp Eyes skill, the better I was able to sell my virtual body. I was able to sell it for more and more, to buy skill books, to upgrade sharp eyes, to make more money.
But then I realized something: Why don’t I just use it? Why don’t I upgrade Sharp Eyes for myself, and actually play the game? What was even the point of waiting for others to do the work so I could do it myself?
So I retired from the slave industry a new man, and I was going to forge my own path in this virtual world. Except, I was filled with rage. I was angry that I allowed myself to be used so much and set myself behind on my quest to make my damage numbers bigger. So I pull a Django Unchained and turn from slave to slave owner. I bought a Cleric to be used in my party, so I could mooch off their buffs.
The Cleric was a class designed to be support for parties. Naturally, this made them the least popular class because they were the slowest to level and did not adhere to “The Grind” philosophy. But the cleric was not completely dead because they possessed the best skill in Maplestory: Holy Symbol.
Holy Symbol enabled its user and party members to gain an experience boost. Naturally, this made clerics a high commodity, and they sold themselves very well, mooching off experience and providing buffs for money. And of course, desperate to outpace my real life friends, I hired a cleric for an hour, as they stood there, hitting a single button just for me. It was love at first sight. Except when I tried to talk to them, they didn’t reply because they were probably chilling somewhere else and had a weight pushed down on the button that casts Holy Symbol.
Because of that, I never bought another Maplestory slave again. I mean, what was the point? You get a few buffs for a few hours to level slightly faster? Is it even worth it? To some, it is, and to others, it may not be.
I’m just amazed that there was a legitimate market for training characters for hours of real-life time for virtual dollars.
Never play Maplestory again if you have before. And if you haven’t before, stay far away from this game. It will suck your time away, and leave you bitter and resentful. It’s also probably going to die in a year and nobody plays it so, whatever I guess.