first entry, yay...
Alright, figured I'd kick off with a classic.
I'm sure a lot has been said concerning the MMO market and current games available in the genre, however I consider this an important issue and so will post my thoughts. After all, you're not forced to read this :)
Understanding the MMO.
Yeeeah I'm using steps.. for no particular reason but to give it some form of order.
Anyways, first step.
Being fairly young myself I won't make the assumption of having seen the "roots" of the MMO gaming, however I've had my fair share for about 7-8 years now. So where, or more important, how did a MMO come to exist. Go Google!! I'm sure you'll find a lot of satisfying answers about server structures, game structures etc. Which is not THAT interesting unless you want to define a typical MMO.
What I'm more curious about is, what do you expect or hope for when playing a MMO.
For me personally I'm looking for an environment more challenging ,engaging(immersing) and most important ,a more rewarding environment than a single player one. I am THAT complicated, or not.
Well, I reckon there is a bit more to it than one would think at first.
I can't help shake the feeling that whenever I play a singleplayer game I'm forced to follow a certain path. This seems to be a common argument, but it's true. In my eyes it's simply not challenging knowing you can beat whatever comes your way by means directly accessible to the player. Make no mistake though, I do not dislike every singleplayer game, just the ones that try to challenge the player and usually fail.
Ok to even the ranting with a bit of positivism ( could be this is not a word... it should be though), the last single player game I really enjoyed was 'the Witcher'. Perhaps the Witcher won't satisfy my "challenge" need, it did however stay true to it's RPG genre and settle for an amazing story line.
Ok.. an engaging game. This I feel is a bit of a tough one. How do you define engaging?
Bright colours, stylish designs!! Alright call me 'tarded but I feel this is important, as are graphics in general actually, opposed to the whole "game play is the alpha and the omega".
To my great satisfaction it seems game developers are picking up on this more and more ( star trek online being the latest). Simply put, MMO games are not YET suited for the realistic approach. It just doesn't add anything in my eyes.
One of the great abilities of a human being is to believe in fantasies, and as such it often fails to represent the reality as we know it.
So I’m thinking stylized ( yes, popular term nowadays) design here. Something that surprised me though was Team Fortress 2, which definitely mastered it's style. Simply judging by the graphics it would appear to be a childish, easy game, however after some time one would notice this is actually a very well thought-out complex design. This also allows for a somewhat different type of humour than the more realistic games would allow.
Not sure how to explain this any further, perhaps I'll elaborate on this some more later on.
As stated before, one of the key stones of any MMO. This is actually closely related to the whole skill versus time investment discussion. What should reward the most, time investment, skill or a combination? I'm not sure really!!
At least some combination of the two, 50/50 would be one that comes to mind. More skill required could be boring since you would always need similar or greater skilled opponents/allies.
More time investment could lead to an easy game where the non-employed would reign. So I'll skip this discussion till perhaps another post in the future.
Back to rewarding, what would you like to gain out of a MMO? This could vary in a wide range of requirements, with a couple of common ones like : loot - friends - guild - fun - satisfaction - challenge.
Hey!! Seen that last one before, congratulations Sherlock. Either way these would apply to me whenever I intend to commit myself to a MMO I would try to find these "requirements".
Mm so yeah , so much for order. Imagined step 2 would be something like "requirements for an acceptable MO" , but that’s kind of weaved in up there so I'll continue with step 3.
Innovating versus Recycling.
This concerning the current MMO’s released and the design about them. Let's not forget MMO's haven't been around as long as "normal" games and are in my eyes still at it's infancy.
Unfortunately it's an expensive infancy since it appears to be a rather expensive and risky operation to launch a MMO. Problem here is, if I recall correctly in the history of games there's always a form of mainstream generally accepted games and then there's the odd ones out.
However these odd ones usually had a couple features or innovations about them that were worth mentioning and so they could become incorporated in mainstream games and as such aiding to the evolution of games.
When comparing this to MMO's this would mean relatively large investments for the "odd" MMO's to help evolving the MMO genre ( hope that sentence made any sense, since I’m making this up along the way :P).
Some mainstream MMO games at the moment : Everquest II - WoW - City of Heroes and most likely Warhammer in the future. What do these have in common? Most of their structure was lend or inspired by earlier creations, WoW of course being the well known champion.
However do not despair!! There is still hope, that is the advantage of MMO's. Once you get a solid player base the expanding commences. Now this is more interesting, since the game basics are already there and the company is expected to at least make a half arsed attempt to innovate. Not to mention the increasing MMO interest from the newcomers to the genre could assure a bright future in MMO gaming.
I also feel the need to mention the upcoming Age of Conan, this one being somewhat the "odd" one out. It's not mainstream, mainly due to the PvP focus and Mature content, however it does seem to be one of the most anticipated games of the moment, which I thought was surprising. Time will tell how AoC will contribute to the genre.
Ok this step being somewhat more of a leap since my working day is almost over and I want to finish this :P
How to make the MMO preferably a perfect one?
I wouldn't dare suggest to have the answer. Actually my first thought would be it's impossible to make a game that caters to everyone, however would it be unthinkable such a game could exist?
Maybe not now but in a few years when most gaming types have somewhat defined themselves in MMO's, I reckon MMO's would be THE genre to make it possible.
One could say it would even be possible to put all kinds of game types in a MMO. Ask yourself, could you imagine a game where RTS - FPS and RPG ( these being the somewhat most common of game types) would be incorporated into a game?
I know I could in many different ways, but perhaps this is something for a new post :D
Either way, this is what I came up with concerning the subject, hopefully it's readable and I have no doubts I'll be doing some format editing soonish :D
Feel free to share your ideas and/or suggestions.
Note : I'm not a professional writer or even an experienced one, nor is English my primary language so excuse me if I messed up somewhere. Also these are just my thoughts or experiences so excuse me once again if it's a bit garbled.