Dear Sir or Madam,
I come to you with a grave matter. It looks like your development department has missed a couple of memos addressed to you over the past years. We found them on the bottom of a mailbag which was collecting dust in the cellar of our office. Please accept our apologies for the delayed delivery.
I sincerely hope we didn't cause too much of an inconvenience!
With kind regards,
As a kid of 6 years old I was really happy to get a toy car at my birthday but at 16 years old I would have severely frowned at such a gift to say the least.
To me it seems that what the mmorpg industry is doing (at least the "AAA" branded part of it), is consistently developing the gaming equivalent of toy cars, or dolls, if you will, but not realizing that their audience has grown older, more experienced and more able. Even the younger generations are more proficient and more intelligent gamers compared to us older folks when we had their age.
Then why is it that it seems the industry is mainly catering for inexperienced, juvenile gamers?
Why is all content in AAA releases of the "ready made" kind and all player freedom severely restricted except in designated, clearly marked areas?
Why is the writing in mmorpgs catering for the lowest common denominator? (i.e. "For ages 8 and up")
Why is character development and a player's entire ingame property limited to a character name, a few slider settings at character creation, possibly a list of generic "accomplishments" and the gear you happen to amass?
Why does the industry keep falling back to cookie cutter battleground and instanced pve models and effectively taking out the "massively" aspect out of large chunks of their games?
Why do worlds have to be of the static kind, varying only due to respawn timers or event cycles and where no player influence is truly persistent?
Why do character deaths in most games mean so little to people that they don't feel really compelled to avoid it (even tempting players to use it as a means to fast travel), and with that, effectively taking out most of the excitement out of pve and pvp encounters?
Why is an aspect like crafting always limited to making gear, gear upgrades or potions?
Why aren't players given the freedom and mechanics to pick the role they see fit? And why are roles in general a non-existent factor in these games? (Apart from the predetermined profession based ones).
... I can only guess.
Might be that the industry is still looking at WOW as their main example of a successful mmorpg and "being like WOW" as a strong USP to get funding. (Even though they consistently forget about WoW's strong points like a seamless world and the ability to attack the opposing faction, even in its capital cities).
Might be that the industry is simply too slow to react; developing these games takes years, add in a little conservatism to attract funds or get the stamp of approval from your non-gaming CEO and you have a recipe for games that are outdated in gameplay values even well before they launch.
But more than anything I think "offering convenience" is the true infection plaguing our games these days: insta-participation, level scaling, clearly marked objectives, catering for casuals in terms of accomplishment per session, no real set backs, linear progression, premade rides that adhere to the strictest safety standards ...
It seems as if the last thing they ever want to do is offering players a true challenge (in whichever aspect) or proposing them the daunting prospect of more open-ended and diverse gameplay options. As if they are mortally afraid of having to deal with a single rage quitter who missed out on a dose of instant gratification.
Whatever the reason (feel free to add your own), this tendency results in a complete lack of AAA games that truly break the themepark mold ...
Games that put players back in control as an unlimited source of creating content for each other.
Games that challenge and appeal to our talents, intelligence and creativity.
Games that excite us and give us an adrenaline rush at times.
Games that are compelling and tempt you to dive in deeper, to find the role and niche that fits you best.
A common misconception I read often is that a game like that can only be a full loot, free for all pvp, sandbox like EVE or Darkfall, but even the area somewhere in between the ends of the spectrum is uncharted territory for AAA developers. And there is much more to be found in sandbox country than just a "ganker's paradise"; extensive building, crafting and rich economies with a myriad of opportunities for trading to name a few things.
Sure, the most renowned developers offer fresh shades and hues of existing aspects like questing becoming "dynamic-" or "public events", "offering story as an extra pillar", "action based combat" or by adding "meaningful world pvp" (yet only over designated objectives and in designated areas), but at the very essence they are still the exact same type of game.
Now that The Elderscrolls Online has been announced and the first available information we got makes it look like it will be yet another reinvention of the themepark formula, I kind of lost faith in the industry to really break the mold. It feels like there's a vast potential target group being completely left out in the cold by top developers.
And like in the past decade, those who are truly looking for something more deep, open, challenging and exciting, are still forced to look out for (often low budget) indy developments, or yeah, ... revisit good old EVE.
For me, at this particular point in time there's only one developer shining a beacon of hope, and it's shining from the far east, (despite my personal dislike of some of the design aspects that are branded "Asian").
ArcheAge, it isn't by choice, but may you blossom and come to fruition. Without you as a prospect, things would have really looked bleak for the likes of me.
*neighs solemnly and trots off*