Where is this all going?

Hand

I can’t help but wonder what route MMOs are going in the future. We have games like Rift, that are revolutionary in their playability, and polish – changing the perception of the industry only releasing rough products, but at the same time, reinforcing the same repetitive themepark PvE gameplay that has been done ad nauseam. As players, is this really what we’re all looking for? Am I so singular in my tastes that the style of Rift is something I can only take in small, irregular doses? Have we, as a gaming community come to the point of development that we want to be guided by a nose ring to each “event” in a game? I can’t help but look at what is constantly released, and think to myself, that the game creators obviously seem to think this is what we want.

I’m over this paradigm.

I don’t want levels anymore. I don’t want zone lines, or explicit groups, or dungeons, or scripted raids. I don’t taunts/detaunts, I don’t want traditional aggro mechanics where one guy takes a beating while everyone else supports him. I don’t want a finite number of repeatable, divided playrooms that hold no permanent impact beyond the couple of minutes or hours I put into the task. I don’t want to be pigeon-holed into one specific style of play, and I don’t want to be coddled from my mistakes.

I want the freedom to cause myself more troubles further down the road.  I want the tree I chop down for lumber to actually be chopped down. I want that steel broadsword I forged after spending months mastering the skill to last the rest of my character’s life. I want to take that sword to an enchanter to imbue it with magical properties. I want to name my sword, and have it be a part of the character of my avatar, as iconic and intrinsic to who my avatar is as his eye color and race. I want my corner of the world/universe to really be just a corner of a greater, far-reaching, MASSIVE whole. Just a portion of a system that functions beyond my understanding, and that I will only find out about if I go and discover it first hand. I want that discovery to take time, travel needs to be actual travel. Going to the south of the continent? The quick way is by boat, the slow way is by horse, and if you expect that horse to run the whole way, you’ll be in for a surprise when it drops dead of exhaustion.

I don’t know if those things are possible anymore. The existence of recording programs, screen-shots, proliferation of internet and refinement of search tools may have just created too much information access to be able to adhere to any of my above desires. Others though, surely must still be able to be retained, and are separate from information propagation. None of those things seem to be what developers are trying to make though. The majority seem to be “telling a story”, or “crafting an experience”, or “guiding the fun”. It seems to me though, that the more explicitly these things are trying to be artificially engineered, the further they get from hitting the mark.

Basket

Because it works.

Players stopped wanting to work for reward, and companies saw profit in facsimileing achievement through faux effort. They were right, and profit has been achieved – at least for those who disguised the effortless achievement well enough. So, MMOs have become more about gaming, and less about player habitation in the environments. I’ve talked about what I see as the difference between games and MMOs. I’ve talked about the difference between virtual worlds and games. Both of those concepts form legs of the entire reasoning of what I believe has caused the divergent path the genre is headed on, and I do mean divergent. The genre started as a graphical realization of the free form games played on pencil and paper, or (more chronologically relevant) in text via telnet clients. The place where MMOs are going now, is not the natural predecessor of those limitless worlds.

I remember reading an article when in I was in highschool, about the fundamental differences between JRPG’s (Japanese RPG’s – i.e. Final Fantasy, Fantasy Star, etc…) and WRPGs (Western RPG’s – i.e. Fallout, NWN, etc…). It highlighted the linear, singular path available in most JRPG’s contrasted with the more free-roam, open-ended WRPG’s. Where one focused on telling a very specific story, the other told the story, but let you influence how the story was told. The themepark MMOs of now are as much different from what was originally idealized, and are as different as JRPG’s are from WRPG’s. Today’s MMO games are limited, walled off, and narrow, artificial boundaries abound, and prevent the player from experiencing anything outside of the predetermined experience envisioned by the creator of the game,and that runs counter to what it is I love about these games, as well as my oft-written statement of “options are good”.

So, is the entire genre headed to a themepark guided “bliss” of queues and sanitized experiences that you and thousands of others can “share” via identical experiences separated by actual cooperation? With games like Rift being as big of an initial hit as it is, and the temporarily abated fervor of SW:TOR, it seems that way. Players want to play alone, but they want to be alone with everyone else. There’s an apparent desire for all the trappings of a single player game, but with the inclusiveness and Scooby Snacks of progressive accomplishments, but none of the collaborative effort that makes those prizes actually rewarding.

Hell

There’s a large part of me that hopes Zynga keeps exploding, and takes up so much of the market that it will be very clear that what the believed segment of MMO players were, was actually just a lot of people who enjoyed some games. I love the MMO genre, but what it’s turning into, is something that I don’t really recognize on the whole. It’s become a beast of monotony and repetition, brimming with illusory prizes and illusionary accomplishments. If it means that the bottom has to fall out for companies to get a realistic read on the customer base for players who actually want virtual worlds, then so be it.

Of course, maybe that’s already happened, and that’s why what’s happening, is happening.

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About Shadow
Making serious business out of internet spaceships.

16 Responses to Where is this all going?

  1. Rikker says:

    >>>I want the freedom to cause myself more troubles further down the road. I want the tree I chop down for lumber to actually be chopped down. I want that steel broadsword I forged after spending months mastering the skill to last the rest of my character’s life. I want to take that sword to an enchanter to imbue it with magical properties. I want to name my sword, and have it be a part of the character of my avatar, as iconic and intrinsic to who my avatar is as his eye color and race. I want my corner of the world/universe to really be just a corner of a greater, far-reaching, MASSIVE whole. Just a portion of a system that functions beyond my understanding, and that I will only find out about if I go and discover it first hand. I want that discovery to take time, travel needs to be actual travel. Going to the south of the continent? The quick way is by boat, the slow way is by horse, and if you expect that horse to run the whole way, you’ll be in for a surprise when it drops dead of exhaustion.

    <<<

    Forgive me if this comes across the wrong way, but it sounds here that what you're talking about, what you are looking for in a game, is in fact called "Life". Perhaps, it is really making life into your own game, that you want? Ja'La Dh'Jin?

    As a solution, you could go DO these things. Well,… some of them anyway. Travelling, for example, is expensive and difficult with youngsters, but things such as sword-making, etc… I'm sure you could find those in your area (albeit, the Enchanting bit would be harder to come by).

    In short, I wonder if you're blurring the line between what you want out of life, and what you want out of a game. Is it really just an entertainment, or is it a form of escape into an exploration of another "you"? If it is, that's cool, and go to it, but be sure that it's what you're looking for.

    Good post… gave me something to think about for the rest of the work day ;P.

    • Shadow says:

      In a sense you’re correct.

      I want virtual worlds, not just games.

      • Rikker says:

        I guess I’m just not sure why it’s so appealing, though I am certainly feeling it myself- you and Mr. Meh keep that itch to look at EVE alive, still haven’t found the time yet.

        What is the actual appeal of sandbox games… why do we want a game that is just like real life? I don’t know. More thought is required :/

        • Shadow says:

          The appeal is freedom, I think. In EVE, I can basically do whatever I want.

          I can fly through sectors of space and visit ancient relics of time past.
          I can join a corporation of like-minded individuals and play the market to acquire massive wealth.
          I can do missions security missions for NPC corporations and gain standing with them to gain access to the best, and most rare of ships/ammunition/items.
          I can create a corporation of players who claim a sector of space, and call it home.
          I can declare war on another corporation of players, and have battles for local domination.
          I can fight of giant incoming fleets of enemy NPCs bent on galactic domination via brainwashing.
          I can roam through the unpoliced regions of space, blowing up anyone I see and hold their lives for ransom.
          I can harvest chunks of floating ice for it’s hydrogen molecules to sell as fuel on the market.
          I can live life as a transporter of goods across regions.
          I can partake in the warfare that occurs between the four major empires of the universe.
          I can gain favor with NPC pirate groups to gain access to their rare and often deadly technology.

          And that’s just some of the most common things people regularly do. The great thing about the sandbox, is that your actions are mostly limited by your interactions with other players and what your drive to do is. It’s the freedom and encouragement to play as you want. And, there tends to be a greater sense of ownership of what I do.

          In old-school MUDs like Gemstone, my impact on the game-world can actually be long lasting. In sandbox games, I, as a singular or a part of a group, can claim entire regions as my own. In Darkfall, players run the events of the world, not the game itself. Being involved in shaping a world, universe, or whatever, is an intriguing idea to me.

  2. Mr. Meh says:

    Well, I think the type of game play you are describing exist. You play in one called EVE. What you are talking about is Sandbox. A much more mature system that requires the players to make the system work, rather than work around a system. The trouble with that, is it doesn’t prove to give you big sales. I doubt there is any big name IP investment that is going to help produce a game with ‘Original’ ideas.

    Developer: “Oh we want to make a game that does all these cool things.”

    Big Name Producer: “Yeah, and get 300K subs? No, you’re gonna make WOW with my IP’s skin and you’ll like it!”

    Developer: “Doh okay.”

    Why is SW:TOR not going to break the mold that you want it to? Because it’s named SW and the investors want returns. No sandbox has broken a 1million subs. Fail WoW clones have atleast sold a million boxes. Which one does the investor want?

    I want to like these sandbox’s coming out too. But so many are having a hard time. They just have poor releases or bad implimentation. I was really looking foward to the concepts by Earthrise, but that ended up being a giant flop. When you break away from themepark games, you find broken sandbox ones. And in the end you just end up back at EVE. Damn you EVE!!! Make something new CCP.

    On terms of playing alone: I think you are right. I’m not sure that I or many like me play MMOs to be around people. There is this idea that if you are in an MMO, you clearly must like other people. And that’s just not true. I think we like progression and like to show it off. It’s like being into exotic cars. You want them and you want to ride around on them on a shared road, but you don’t want people around on said shared roads. Unless those people are out of the way, jelly over your ride. Same concept for MMOs. You are fine where you are, so long as it’s not slowing me down or in my way.

    • Shadow says:

      Which may be why I find myself playing EVE far more than I am Rift when I choose an MMO and why I’m feeling the itch to reactivate my old Gemstone IV account…

  3. Jestor says:

    Remember back when Shadowbane was released? There were tons of people playing that game. Some RL friends and I built a city out in the middle of no where. People came to our city to train, use the bank, etc. It was a real world and we tore down trees and replaced them with buildings.

    Unfortunately the politics of the game allowed people to have alts and second accounts which led to one person having both the most powerful military and the money from a “peaceful training haven” which ended up ruinging the game. The long and short though is that sandbox existed. Partially anyways.

    • Shadow says:

      Shadowbane had some great sandbox, world-building tools to it. It was really a great game in some of the things that it allowed. But you’re right, there were some design choices that let things take a turn for the worse.

  4. theerivs says:

    I think with MMO’s it’s the people you play with the make things better, I’m playing with some great people, and we joke, have fun, and it’s makes the game more enjoyable.

    • Shadow says:

      I agree that the people you play with can enhance the fun, or prolong the life of the games we play. However, I’m not sure if anyone could get me to play a game that I honestly disliked. I have tons of RL friends who all enjoy things different from myself. Some like Nascar, others like watching WWE, and others enjoy listening to hip-hop. All of those are things I do not enjoy, and won’t ever partake of on just the basis of my friends enjoyment. I’m happy they like them, but will gladly leave them to their choice of entertainment.

  5. BruHa says:

    ( Warning, Comment is not related to the above post)

    Mr. Shadow,

    Nice site and very Bloggerific! Though I don’t travel much trough this part of the universe much I will be stopping by from time to time. (Good work!)

    🙂

  6. Gankalicious says:

    I’ve long go come to terms with the fact ‘What we’re all looking for’ does not, in fact, include me. Wherever the vast majority of players seem to head I tend to be pushing past them in the opposite direction. Well, not always, but I definitely choose to play games that offer a bit more freedom of decision, and ones where my decisions may have an impact on future play.

    Just because everyone’s into it doesn’t make it good but companies will always strive to increase their profitability and will cater to the lowest common denominator. Look at popular television. Most of it is complete rubbish but that doesn’t stop millions from watching it.

  7. Pingback: It’s just dull « Shadow-war

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