Because Blaugust isn’t hard enough as it is, our friendly blogging taskmistress (aka Syl) decided a little extra sadism was appropriate so she started the Blaugust AMA thread over on Anook. Seeing that I’d get to ask TAGN a question I went for it, only to discover he’d already more than covered my question in his blog (curse you, Wilhelm!). Jaedia from Dragons & Whimsy then asked me a question and I had no choice but to meekly comply. So here we are.
Q: Do you feel as though MMOs have lost their way over time? Or are you excited for the future and the unique ideas that it brings?
A: Yes, and no. Yes, and no.
Okay, whew, that was easy! See you tomorrow!
Double-curses! I’m not meeting the length requirement! (Thank God there’s no ‘meaningful content’ requirement.) Surely I’ve done a post about this in the past!
/realises that searching archives from 5-6 years ago will take longer than actually posting
/goes back to posting
Do you feel as though MMOs have lost their way over time?
Yes, because they’re not at all like they used to be 10 or 15 years ago… And no, because change isn’t necessarily a bad thing — despite the way most gamers react to it. Games have changed quite a bit over the last decade: to name just one example, we’ve gone from super-simple combat interfaces (smash monster) to having eleventy-million buttons to hit (see EQ2-Exhibit_A) and back to having fewer buttons to hit. Because it turns out that having lots of things to do in combat is fun, but mashing buttons as an interpretation of that ‘things to do’ concept is actually un-fun.
And no, because change is inevitable. For one thing MMO gamers are an incredibly opinionated and whiny lot (you wonderful people excepted of course, at least as far as whining goes) and we demand change all the time. Then we complain about the changes that were made. And when those changes are toned down (by developers who really ought to know better), we complain about the changes to the changes! But if no changes were ever made to games (I’d add an example but I can’t think of one) we’d complain about them being too static and… unchanging.
You know, I think the world needs another post on how MMO gamers are probably the most annoying people in the world. But not today.
As far as ‘losing their way’ goes… No, I don’t think so. The MMO industry is still really quite young, considering — I don’t know the insider stuff but I’d guesstimate we’ve had maybe 4-6 ‘real’ development generations for MMOs, if we can call them that, and that’s not a lot. Games aren’t made in a vacuum: studios and devs see what other studios and devs are doing, play what other studios are doing, like some of it and emulate it, don’t like some of it and try to correct it or make it better, and so on. We tend to forget that we’re still figuring out what makes a great MMO — and given the variety of playstyles, preferences and genre options I’m not sure there is such a thing as The One MMO to Rule Them All. World of Warcrack did a great job at the ‘One Size Fits All’ genre, but now we’re seeing that smaller, so-called ‘niche’ MMOs are not only doable but possibly a better option.
Do I miss the old-school MMOs? Of course. No game will ever be the same to me as my first MMO was. Asheron’s Call was weird, quirky, and amazeballs… but much of that comes from the fact that it was my first MMO. And because I had hours and hours to play back then. And because I was younger. And because MMOs weren’t as sophisticated (and neither were their players) nor as widespread as they are now and we didn’t have as much choice, so we were less picky. And because I met some of my best RL- and e-friends in that game, many of whom I still hang out with in person or online.
But I don’t think that means they’ve lost their way. If anything, I would contend that gamers have lost their way. And we won’t even touch the whole GamerGate thing which makes many of us hesitant to even use the G word anymore. (For the record, I come down hard on the side of the so-called SJW and if that bothers you so much you can’t get over it, feel free to read some other blog in your spare time.)
…or are you excited for the future and the unique ideas that it brings?
As for question 2, I’ve probably halfway answered that already. I am excited for the future of MMOs, though I hope there will be some re-adoption of old mechanics and ideas — in my case I’m desperate for a game that doesn’t offer much loot and depends almost entirely on a player-driven, player-crafted economy like SWG did in its early days. There are games in development that offer exactly that. Project Gorgon for one (I think – don’t shoot me if I’m wrong), whose current Kickstarter project has 17 days to go. I backed it because Eric & co of Elder Game have some design ideals that are very close to my heart. Camelot Unchained is another that I’m intrigued about. And then of course there’s Shroud of the Avatar, which I also backed last year and still can’t find the time to explore as much as I’d like. And if sci-fi is more your thing, there’s The Repopulation. [Note that those are all sandboxes. That’s my personal preference. I’m sure there are old-school less-sandboxy games in development as well.]
I expect the future of MMOs will certainly include more mega-titles, because some companies can afford to make them (EA, Blizzard, Square Enix), but I think it will include a great many more ‘homebrew’ or ‘indie’ or, you know, normal-sized titles. And I suspect that the ‘niche’ games will be just as successful as their larger brethren, once the smaller studios find out how to plan, develop and publish them in a way that doesn’t bankrupt them or force them to expect unrealistic revenue. Crowd-funding is one option and it’s certainly worked for the tabletop and MMO projects I’ve backed (even if it took Project Gorgon three tries – we’re all learning as we go here).
If we add technology changes into the mix (Oculus, anyone?) we’re looking at an evolving sector with evolving players, evolving technologies and evolving platforms, and it’s a wonder MMOs today are still recognisably the same type of game as they were 15 years ago. I can’t wait to see what they’ll be like in 2030, assuming I’m still around.
Damn straight I intend to be an MMO-playing pensioner!