To any and all MMO players out there, I pose a serious question: When’s the last time you had fun in-game? I’m not referring to the fleeting taste of satisfaction that comes with completing goals (goals that most likely took half a lifetime to grind out) but rather the pure, unadulterated fun associated with feeling truly connected to your game world. Honestly, within the MMO genre, when is the last time a game provided users the experience necessary to literally lose themselves inside of their own game universe?
In my mind, this is the glaring flaw with current MMO design. It’s all about the rewards, not how one actually goes about obtaining said rewards. Endgame is everything, and if you have to run the same dungeon 500 times, click the same spot 100,000 times, or fight in the same PvP area for months, it’s all worth your time. We online gamers are a special breed in that we can withstand massive amounts of boredom to experience comparatively minute amounts of enjoyment. Now, being strong-willed is great and all but really, why do we subject ourselves to such treatment? Why is it that we find such game mechanics to be not only acceptable, but worth paying a monthly fee for? Well my fellow gamers, I for one am fed up. It’s my personal philosophy (and hope) that within five years time, the massively multiplayer online market will have undergone some drastic reformation the likes of which it has never experienced before.
Change is just around the corner. Star Wars: The Old Republic, an MMO set hundreds of years after the events of the original Knights of the Old Republic, is slated for release sometime in 2011. By all accounts, the release of TOR will mark a monumental step in online game design. Story will truly come before all else and, if you’re familiar with the KOTOR series, you know how phenomenally Bioware can bring to life the Star Wars universe. As a side note, if you’re not familiar with Star Wars or its Knights of the Old Republic series by now, you’ve seriously been missing out.
Go check out KOTOR now.
Back to the issue at hand, let’s say Star Wars isn’t your thing. I can almost guarantee that’ll be no problem because, assuming TOR realizes its currently projected amount of success, in no time there will be AAA MMO developers lining up out the door to replicate what Bioware will have done with TOR. It’s the way of the market. Think back to late 2004, when a certain developer released a certain game that could only be described as “WoW!” Since then, the online genre has literally been shaped by developers attempting to mirror WoW’s success by copying its game structure and mechanics. The phrase “WoW Clone” has become so engraved in our vocabularies that we forget its origins. Whether you agree with the fact or not, WoW was, is, and for the time being will continue to be, a successful game that continually shapes the face of an entire genre. However, it’s not yesterday’s revolutionary “WoW” game I’m interested in. I’m tired of the same old overused game mechanics that sacrifice story and immersion. Bring on the “WoW” of tomorrow. It’s my sincere wish that TOR is successful, and that with its release, the floodgates to a new breed of creative, deep, and structured online game will at last be torn down.
I must admit, thus far, we’ve been talking as if nobody has tried to break off and create a unique, deep, immersive MMO, and this is not the case. Open world sandbox games like EVE Online, Darkfall, and Mortal Online all strive to provide players freedom of choice. While all three take place in huge sandbox environments which, on paper, should encourage player creativity, at present date, none fulfill the requirements of a “genre altering title.” EVE, while incredibly deep and engaging, is simply too complicated for the average human gamer to even give a second glance. In the case of Darkfall and Mortal, both are incredibly hardcore games; so much so that it’s nothing short of disheartening to attempt to acclimate yourself with their respective communities. For a time the Mortal forums were a friendly place to hang out, but I know from experience that the Darkfall forums are just not a place you want to call home…
I also feel like I should add that at present date, Mortal Online is hardly playable. (just in case anyone out there was of the mind to go try it out)
Guys, the signs are everywhere. In the not so distant future, the MMO scene will realize some major changes in both design, and gameplay. I guess whether or not I’ve predicted the genre’s path of evolution correctly is irrelevant because, in the end, I’m simply an advocate for change. Innovation keeps the world running, and as long as online gaming continues to evolve, I’ll continue to adapt right with it. Inevitably, the future’s innovative designs will become yesterday’s stale game mechanics, but if you can’t look forward to the future, what can you look forward to?