For a long time now, I have played MMO's. Over the years, I have gone from hating them to loving them many, many times. My love comes from the idea itself, that of creating a character, an avatar of yourself, in a fictional world, and then doing what your character does. The hate, however, is why I am starting this blog. All of the games I have played, from starting in EQ to currently playing in LOTRO, have given me hours of fun and addictive gameplay, but always in the end, leave me drained and stressed. Why, you might ask? That answer is simple. I have spent countless days in a world that has given nothing back, and thus I always leave the MMO, and move on, usually back to single-player games.
Single-player games are simple. You play as a character in a story, and that is it. In a sense, you are playing in something of an interactive movie, and the sense of reality there has grown over the years. Once upon a time, you would jump over blocks and eat mushrooms in a side-scrolling world, all just to save a pixelated princess (and perhaps find she was in another castle anyways). Later on, games became more realistic, and now you can enter into an immersive world of flying ships, dragons, various environments, and characters that have a fair amount of depth to them, all culminating in an epic battle and storyline that leaves you breathless for more. The thing is, that is how it always ends, leaving you wanting more.
That is where we end up in an MMO. There is always more. Expansions see to that. Hence there is the persistent online world that can enchant us to no end….but there is an end. An end to patience.
So what is the problem? Well, that is not an easy answer, as we have a multitude of problems and a multitude of players that see different problems where others see nothing. For the story I will be telling you all, my perception and those like me will see the problems that I point out. I have a feeling though that what I say will make a lot of sense to more than those like me, and some might find sense in the empty feeling they have when they play online.
The biggest problem I think that IS facing all MMO's is the lack of real reward and freedom to obtain it. This is something that will be haunting the genre for a long time until technology permits the characters in a world to chase their own rewards at whatever cost they may have figured out, and to allow them to use any means necessary to reach their vaunted goals. However, you would think that companies would be bettering the technology in order to continue to make MMO's more and more complex and fun right? Well, no. The problem there is the mythical unicorn chase. Imagine life-like graphics to be personified as a unicorn, and then imagine all the game companies as a mob trying to find it in an immense forest. That is the state of all games right now, something of why people are slowly noticing the quality of games are dropping in favor of better graphics.
Graphics are continuously the focus on game development, as processing power and memory increases. As companies spend more on developing the game with the most epic graphics, they continue to use tired trends that have pervaded in the industry for quite a while that are typically favored by the mainstream. Admittedly, I find myself drawn to games that showcase some fairly impressive videos, but when I play them, my attention inevitably falters, unless the story-line and music captivate me (Final Fantasy usually comes to mind there).
Don't get the wrong idea, though. That doesn't mean all companies are this way. Through the likes of those like Valve, for example, there are those who experiment and try new things, such as playing with a unique physics system that sets standards within the industry. It is never enough, though. Unless, of course, you are the mainstream. But in my experience and other people's whose minds are just as hungry, you get bored too easily.
So how do games move on to give real rewards and that complete freedom? That is the real question that I will continue to explore in various ways.