Monday, June 15

The future of MMORPGs

I guess I don't really have to say that there are dark days ahead. Most of the veteran MMO players have a burn-out feeling. They have seen it all and done it all in the games that are currently out there. Especially since nothing new has come out for over a year.

The last two games were AOC and WAR. I haven't played WAR so I should not say too much about that. But I did play AOC, and I loved it. It looked great, it had enough new design ideas in it that it really felt like something new, and it had a wide world to explore. But after playing for three months I had seen it all, done it all. Very few single player games last that long, so I call it a great experience. From a typical "MMO-last-foerever" point of view it is a failure. I think AOC (and WAR fits there too probably) is just a different kind of MMO. I probably will never play it again. Just as I probably will never play Ico or Fable or Dreamfall again.

On the near horizon of the MMO world lie a few uninteresting games, in my view at least. Aion lacks in personality. I can't relate to that world, and thus I will have to enjoy it for its game play. And that is exactly the weakest point of any MMO. The same goes for Champions Online or that other super hero game. They don't create world I want to live in. Just like the post I made earlier today, it is all about creating virtual personalities, and exploring their world. And with their world I mean the locations they can visit, the skills they develop. But just as important is also the personalities they become, and the people they meet. The game must have a learning curve, but even if in the end I learned I have to press 1,2,3 to kill a rat that is very much ok. A great long lasting MMORPG should never be about a hugely complex fighting system. Because then the fighting will take up all the time, and there is no time left for what makes an MMORPG so special, the creation of characters with depth. It is pretty close to movies actually. Watching a Steven Seagal movie might be fun while it lasts, but that is it. True rememberable movies are about the characters.

All nice talk, but what does that really translate to? DIKU is not necessary done and over with. Character progress is just one aspect. It doesn't really matter that much. Eve Online has probably shown that building an empire is something that would really keep you going. The difference between Eve and all other MMORPGs is that in Eve things move about without your avatar being there. While all sword and sorcery wielding heroes are all one man against the world. You can only grow so strong as individual.

I think an introduction of multiple characters might be it. And I don't mean that in the sense of pet classes or GW style heroes. But real characters that build up your empire. They are more sim like beings that are complete avatars. But since you are just person, you can only be one of them. All the others can be put on some auto-pilot mode. If you don't give your added characters much time they can only do lowly tasks. Maybe having 100 lowly auto pilot characters bring in what you want, but that is not much fun. And besides you need at least 10 medium level characters before the leader of the empire can raise to the next level. There is a bit of a thin line here between a civilzation like god game, a RTS, and an MMO. It should not turn into either godgame or RTS since it will completely loose its personality thing again. Which is probably the main reason I don't play Eve Online. Maybe all those lackeys only have auto-pilot mode. And after they have been auto-piloting for a month real time they can be upgraded to a real avatar.

I don't know. Might not work. My whole post was more meant as a commentary that I think MMORPG should worry less about how the fighting mechanisms work, and more how character development works. And how to ensure there will always be a carrot to chase.


  1. Oh dear, I'm starting to feel bad about leaving you to fend for yourself in Telon now.

    Long post with several good points, some of which I disagree with and many I want to comment on. But it's worthy of a lengthier response than I'm up to now.
    So I'll have to get back to you and just sign off with the happy realization that for once there isn't a "It's all Lani's fault" in there :-)

  2. Huh? How did my rambling made feel bad about leaving? I am having a great time in Vanguard at the moment. Which is maybe contradicting a bit what I wrote here. For some reason I am trying to look beyond the fun I have now. Maybe because I know it won't last? Or maybe I am just trying to get you excited about MMORPGs. Although me spewing ideas is not really changing what game developers are making :)