Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Future Sailors


An interesting topic was raised on Empire Avenue by InGame reader and smart cookie extraordinaire Lyraxsis. Questions were lobbed in the original post, but the thought brought up by Lyraxsis that I zeroed in on immediately was this: “I hear people say that they want innovations in MMO (and other) game design but no one is ever very specific about what they want to see happen.After some back and forth, I figured a blog post might be in order.

I think the first thing you have to look at is what makes any experience fun at all – novelty. New experiences give the human brain a unique playground within which to navigate. There are slides, those cool bars you can hang upside down from or hand-walk across. There're swings. There's a see-saw. The ground is made of lava. In your brain. That's where headaches come from.

And nightmares, maybe.

When MMOs first surfaced, what did we have? MUDs and their like, basically. Here we were, interacting with other living, human brains. Sure, the world was entirely represented in text, but that world was relatively MASSIVE and there were hundreds of others to share it with at the same time. Provided you could read and type, this was a magical playground unlike any other.



And then years passed. The magic faded. I'm simplifying here, but eventually the late nineties happened and we got graphics to replace our text, instantly transforming MMOs into something else entirely. The genre was new again, and beginning to resemble the MMO as we know it today. What was the next step? Well, regardless of what you thought it SHOULD be, Blizzard saw the future as being one of ease and convenience, and thus World of Warcraft was born. The “grind” as it was understood was reduced considerably and you even got rewarded for not playing at all.

This is you raiding.

For all intents and purposes, there has been a holding pattern since WoW launched. With unprecedented success came all the waves of copycats. That's understandable. There have been breakaways of course. EVE Online introduced players to a massive world (okay, a massive GALAXY) policed largely by the players themselves. The emergent gameplay that resulted – in-game corporate takeovers, developer condoned swindling of digital goods worth exorbitant sums of real world money and time, scandals involving developer wrong-doing – all of this was new and exciting. EVE is one of the very rare examples of a game starting small and actually succeeding, showing sustained growth of its subscribed playerbase over time.

I was going to make a metaphor or something then just realized sea monkeys were gross.

It's getting rarer and rarer to find a game release from a major studio without some sort of substantial multiplayer element. This trend is not going to suddenly reverse. With that in mind, I gave considerable thought toward what tactics I'd most like to see implemented to move the genre forward or see it take its next novelty-step into the future. There isn't really an easy solution. Perhaps something sort of free-form like EVE would be appropriate, with methods in place to assure a far easier learning curve. Something akin to how WoW changed the EQ-style of MMO into something far more palatable for a wider audience, so too can this mystery sandbox game do for the style EVE represents.

The other option, I think, would be to start looking at and designing MMORPGS on a more dynamic yet smaller scale. Through phased content, games like WoW and LotRO have already teased at creating environments and story the players themselves change. It is a thin veneer, however, and one with little real permanence. The game still exists in its unaltered state for some players, as it should be and the player DOES know this, thus ruining the illusion. It is the necessary evil of Massive Online games. I think if you reduce the Massivity of it all, perhaps by drastically limiting the number of players on servers or drastically scaling back the scope and design of the game itself to simply serve a smaller audience at a time, you open the door to so much more interactivity and Permanence Empowerment than can be achieved with trying to keep as many paying customers happy in your gigantic theme park as possible.

15 bux/moth bliz gg thx cu l8r shtlrdz

Is any of this possible? I think the more appropriate question would be to ask if any of it was potentially lucrative. I'm not sure, but maybe in the meantime we should all just dust off our D&D source books once more and try to find a DM worth a damn.

10 comments:

  1. 1.) I vote you bust out your D&D manual, because, damn it, I miss playing D&D with you guys. I'd even play over the internet if I had to.

    2.) I think to move forward, we have to look back. There was this amazing game that never got past beta back when I was in high school. I can't remember the name of it for the life of me. But, it was an MMO where everything was created and controlled by players. They built the cities, they were the shop keepers, etc. You could do basically anything. Like, if you wanted to wipe out an entire species or race, you could. It might take you a while, but if you managed to kill every bear or every elf, there would never be another one ever again. You could take players hostage and lock them inside a box and keep them there as ransom, or just to be a dick. Surround someone's house in a massive army of undead so they can never get out, etc. Your skills were also (virtually) limitless. The more you did something, the higher the skill got, granted, the higher it was, the harder it was to raise. Now, some of the things definitely need to be taken out for being able to be fun for everyone (cause how much would it suck to be the guy in the box?), but it's a good concept. You want to be a farmer and raise sheep and grow corn? Go for it. Sell it to the shop keeper who in turn sells wool to the tailor. Tailor sells the sweater to the warrior who is about to venture into the cold lands to hunt yeti to bring back the pelts to sell to a leather worker. It's an amazing concept.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There are games that borrow bits and pieces from that concept. LotRO, in particular, I always felt was pretty good at compartmentalizing crafting so that there needed to be a lot of interaction among various crafters in order to have a functioning economy. Minecraft and Terraria do a very good job with world building and alteration. The skill improvement system sounds a lot like what the Elder Scrolls series does.

    The problem with the crafting aspect is that, invariably, a vocal portion of the playerbase will complain that it's too inconvenient to work with others to such a degree. In an MMO. The world then sees an Auction House which, while convenient, depersonalizes the experience tremendously. You might as well be trading goods with a robot and, sadly, I don't think any of us are willing to give up that convenience any time soon.

    Limitless skill advancement would encounter resistance from "casuals" without the time to devote to improving them. World building TENDS to come with a steep learning curve and opens up the door for a lot of griefing if not careful.

    These aren't gamebreakers, just design considerations. A lot of the more "out there" concepts are very appealing to niche audiences. Unfortunately, when developers see the word "niche", they shortly thereafter have the irresistible urge to replace it with "failure." It's not a matter of the game or project not being any good, mind you. The difficulty comes in the form of not making any money. From the sound of things, the game you were describing didn't ever make it out of beta.

    Anyway, I'm rolling a halfling aristocrat named Tyrion Lannister. I'm not going to slay the dungeon, I'm gonna buy all the creeps in it to do my work for me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Smart cookie extraordinaire? I think I’m blushing. Anywho….

    What he said.

    I think the 'massive' of MMOs is a large part of the problem. The number of people per server is astronomical these days and as a result there isn't enough of a connection made between players in game. That means that the sense of 'community' that made MUDs and early MMOs appealing is spread thin if it still exists at all. It's become a massive chore to have to interact with random players to, say, advance in crafting or to group for raids - because we don't have any underlying sense of connection with the randoms. And one PUG experience is enough to turn most people off of the idea permanently.

    I never played Star Wars Galaxies but based on conversations I've had with people who did, I missed out on something special. The virtual economy in the first few years of the game was a big part of that. Apparently the housing/decor system was incredibly flexible and allowed players to highly customize their space. People who were particularly good at crafting/combining objects for decor made in game careers as interior designers. People planned parties with themes that these designers, tailors etc. would create special items for. There are, I am told, folks who never took part in either PVP or PVE combat. They just made stuff, and did things, and socialized. Not what I would want to do, but a pretty good way to entice a different demographic into your game, non?

    The important part of this example for me was that none of these things were planned or instituted by the game developers. The Devs just gave gamers some latitude and the rest is history...well almost. Galaxies shuts down for good in December after a rather drawn out and steep decline.

    One great idea the Devs did plan? Player to player bounties. Someone griefing you? No problem....just post a bounty on the board and someone, somewhere in game will find and destroy the target - and take your money. That I like. For tons of reasons – the most prominent of which is my intense and deeply rooted hatred of griefers. Which brings us to a whole other issue influencing the decline of MMOs… but I’ve taken up enough of your virtual space for now. Ciao.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Cheapdiablo is a professional Diablo 3 provider that provides all kinds of Diablo 3 services, such as Diablo 3 gold, Diablo 3 Items ,Diablo 3 Power Level, Diablo 3 CD Key and so on. We have been committed to provide adequate Diablo 3 gold for our customers. We offer all of these services safely and securely at extremely low prices and with great customer service. Welcome to buy Diablo 3 Gold in our store!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Diablo a couple of has got was killed d3 gold chopping cutting relatively basically only a little impression these days

    ReplyDelete
  6. people chalk available options, prepare approaches and produce strategizes of D3 Account which assist them to far too gain handsomely. likewise most of these free online activities video game titles are a good way correspond senses with normal folks by different places.

    ReplyDelete
  7. If you are a green hand of Guild Wars series, you must prepare yourself enough
    guild wars 2 goldand some great tips and tricks in advance to help you enjoy more in the unknown Guild Wars 2 world.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I further reduce or completely cancel forging costs will increase demand for forged material better. This will not only encourage players to make more d3 gold use of the blacksmith, also allows decomposition equipment more valuable and meaningful, all items have value. This greatly active in forging material position in commodity markets diablo 3 gold and let forging money. In addition, it also allows goods market more competitive. From other people, I got a good suggestion: instead of forging magic items of the same type with a price. So even white goods are also diablo iii gold valuable.

    ReplyDelete
  9. All Colonial meals is mind-blowing, but absolutely nothing retains any candle swtor swtor credits dalborra credits on their incredible desserts. I have but to find out the people that can accomplish a lot more having a straightforward choice of offspring, glucose, whole milk along with nutmeg.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Es gibt Spiele, die Bits und Stücke von diesem Konzept zu leihen. LotRO, insbesondere fühlte ich mich immer war ziemlich gut Abschottung Crafting, so dass es notwendig eine Menge Interaktion zwischen verschiedenen Handwerker sein, um eine funktionierende Wirtschaft haben. Minecraft und Terraria machen einen sehr guten Job mit weltweit Gebäude und Veränderung. Die Verbesserung der Fertigkeiten-System klingt viel wie das, was die Elder Scrolls-Serie tut.christian louboutin sale
    billig christian louboutin

    ReplyDelete