Updated at 3:06 p.m. Pacific.
A few years ago, players gathering on a hillside in your favorite massively multiplayer online role-playing game almost certainly meant a raid group was forming. If you climb that hillside in 2014, your would-be combatant might end up as a witness in a marriage ceremony.
A change in hillside etiquette may be jarring for some, but in-game marriage is just another natural outgrowth of the online gaming experience. The first MMO marriages were simple ceremonies that players created within the existing framework of their games. Two people found a nice place, invited some friends, and had someone say a few words. The practice grew, and some developers added marriage systems to their games. A few of these systems even offer perks that make marriage a necessary process for players.
This MMO marriage phenomenon gained momentum last month when Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn director Naoki Yoshida told Japanese website Famitsu that a marriage system is in the works for the Square Enix hit. This system will feature elaborate costumes, matching rings, and undisclosed perks for the bride and groom.
And during developer talk today at the giant Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow, Yoshida confirmed that same-sex marriage will be available in A Realm Reborn’s next patch. The announcement comes almost two years after Yoshida mentioned that same-sex marriage was under consideration during a Q&A on the Square Enix Forums.
The announcement got us thinking about the wedding practices in today’s MMOs, so we took a look at the different marriage options available in four of the world’s most popular online games.
World of Warcraft
Blizzard has added new features to its swords and sorcery-style MMORPG for almost a decade, but a marriage system isn’t one of them. Azeroth residents have responded by creating their own elaborate marriage ceremonies over the years.
This freedom has resulted in some pretty adorable ceremonies:
However, the freedom goes both ways. The lack of a formal system means that player ceremonies can turn ugly rather quickly:
Blizzards has no formal rules for ceremonies that its players put on, but the WoW wiki does offer a few suggestions in its wedding guide:
- For a more traditional wedding, choose a large city temple like the Cathedral of Light or Temple of the Moon. The more low-key options include Uther’s Tomb, Scarlet Monastery’s Cathedral, and the Banquet Hall in Karazhan.
- Tailors can create a wedding dress and a three-piece tuxedo. Almost any set of rings works for the ceremony.
- Use caution when finding an officiate. This person (typically a priest or paladin) will do most of the talking and actual work during the wedding. They will instruct both parties on when to kneel, trade rings, and kiss.
- The wedding party should also appoint a photographer to screenshot or record video.
- Vendors sell fireworks, or you can go to engineers who can make them. These add a nice finishing touch.
Age of Wushu
Age of Wushu demands balance from its players. It’s about martial arts game at its core, but players must also spend time meditating, crafting, trading, and pursuing an artform like painting or calligraphy. A patient population accustomed to nonviolent endeavors seems like the perfect group for an elaborate marriage system experiment, and that’s just what developer Snail Games did last November.
The marriages in Age of Wushu follow many of the traditional values of Ming-era China setting. It does not permit same-sex marriages. Both male and female characters can register self-recommendations — which are basically 16th century eHarmony profiles — with the Matchmaker. As you might expect, this NPC will offer players a potential spouse based on profile compatibility.
Whether you use the Matchmaker or choose your own partner, you will need to follow strict proposal rules. Only the man can propose, and he must offer a Betrothal Gift of Taels (Wushu’s currency) to his potential wife. If the woman accepts, she keeps the money, and it is time to start the planning.
Players now have to purchase the same things real couples need for a wedding: invitations, a venue, travel arrangements, entertainment, etc. Wushu has variety of options for whatever your Tael budget may be.
After the ceremony, the bride and groom dance for their guests. The groom then carries the bride back to the bridal chamber and suggestively closes the door. And players go back to breaking faces and crafting.
Wushu offers no tangible bonuses to players who marry. The only things the wedding ceremony offers are exorbitant wedding costs and mushy feelings, which clearly makes this marriage system the most realistic of all.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
The gaming-romance pioneers at BioWare took a different approach to coupling in MMORPGs. Star Wars: The Old Republic players don’t marry one another; they get hitched with one of the nonplayable companions that accompany each player on their journey.
Every class in SWTOR has marriage possibilities that depend on the player’s gender. A male Jedi Knight can marry Kira Carsen, a female companion. A female Jedi Knight can marry Doc, a male companion. It has no same-sex relationships options, which is quite surprising given BioWare’s past work with the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series. A few players have taken to the message boards to ask for a patch that adds same-sex coupling, and the developer appears to be taking steps to rectify this.
In order to persuade a companion to marry you, you have to gain enough affection points to earn the their love, and you pull this off by completing dialogue and quest options that correspond to the companion’s ideology. Take Doc, a combat medic interested in helping those in need; a female Jedi Knight can gain his affections by healing the sick and donating to charity. Players can also give their companions gifts to gain instant affection bonuses.
Once you finally gain enough affection, a marriage option will pop up in a dialogue box. After a quick ceremony that your ship’s droid conducts, you are married.
Then, things go back to normal. Your spouse doesn’t call you honey or sugar lump while you are killing Republic soldiers. You don’t get any additional cutscenes or special interactions. Your spouse just sends you an impersonal e-mail every now and then. Adding interactions is difficult for BioWare. Every character in the Old Republic has their own voice, so each couple interaction would require additional work from an actor and an animator.
Still, it would be nice for all of that hard work that went into currying favor with a companion to mean something.
The Elder Scrolls Online
Bethesda included a very useful marriage feature in its colossal release. Unlike most other marriage systems, The Elder Scrolls Online system provides real benefits to the parties involved. However, it has a catch: Only players with the Imperial Edition (retails at $100) have access to the item necessary for marriage.
The Imperial Edition bundle contains a Pledge of Mara, which you use for the ceremony — and these may be same-sex marriages. In order to start, players must group and visit a Shrine to Mara in any of the starting towns. One of the players must equip the Pledge and look at the other player. Both players will receive a marriage prompt, and, if they both agree, the ceremony’s magic lifts them into the air and surrounds them with pretty lights. The marriage is now complete.
The married couple will now have matching Rings of Mara in their inventories. These offer a 10 percent experience boost as long as they are both online at the same time. A 10 percent experience boost from level one on is a huge reason to get married.
Another unique feature of the wedding system in ESO is that it permits polygamy. Players can marry again, provided they can get their hands on more Rings of Mara. The experience buffs from each marriage don’t stack, but it is a good way to guarantee a steady experience boost if you are unsure if your first spouse will be online as often as you are.