This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on a thread started by user Bookkeeper entitled “I'm tired of MMOs that stay the same every day.” In the thread, Bookkeeper laments the static nature of MMOGs, wondering why we cannot see games with a much more dynamic experience, where players can make a meaningful impact on the world:
“MMOs talk about the grand adventure, but they give you the same day over and over again. You kill the same things over and over. Everything stays in the same place, every day is the same as yesterday. The same guy hands out the same lame quest, to everyone, everyday. Everybody does the same lame quests. Time has no meaning, players have no impact. The MMO genre will continue to stagnate and bore the game community until some developer steps up and makes a changing living world. One where time moves forward and tomorrow is different than today.”
Firstly, the most obvious answer is money, time, and manpower. I know most people don’t want to hear this but that is just the simple fact of the matter. Players traditionally complete content by magnitudes faster than developers can create it, so the idea that developers should spend time and money on content that would be seen on just one single day, or for one single player simply isn’t feasible.
If sometime in the unforeseen future we figure out virtual reality and have AI as advanced as the programs in The Matrix or The 13th Floor these “games” would have the potential to be as Bookkeeper described.
However, that is not to say there aren’t games currently available or in the pipeline that address some of these issues in their own way. As many community members responded, there are a number of games, mostly in the sandbox genre of MMOGs that allow for dynamic experiences, as the players themselves create the lion’s share of the content.
User arenasb mentions Guild Wars 2 as an upcoming game looking to tackle this challenge:
“Well I'm in agreement with you. I don't think there are any mmo's out that have a changing world. Guild Wars 2 is coming with an event system that takes the place of quests. The event system is supposed to have world (on a micro level) changing activities, such as a centaur raiding group invading a town, if nobody attacks the centaurs in that town or chases them off then that town will be the centaurs forever (or until the players kill them off). So far that is about the closest I've heard of an mmo having a non-static world.”
Similarly, Heroes of Telara, which is being developed by Trion World Network looks to do just that as well.
Below is an excerpt of a Heroes of Telara E3 ’09 preview by the folks at 1UP.com:
“The focus of the presentation was on the games dynamic world, with group quests tied to regions that can be triggered by the game's masters at select times, keeping players on their toes. These seem pretty much like GM events in other games, but there are supposed to be enough of them, and they'll be scheduled infrequently enough that they'll seem more heroic and epic.
In addition, they'll have repercussions for the game's world. We saw demons attacking a town, and teams of players managed to fight them off without too much property damage. Low level characters rescued people and fetched water while the more experienced repelled a giant demon lord, and afterward shafts of sunlight pierced the clouds and citizens emerged to applaud the defenders. Failure is an option, however, and we're told that should the battle have gone differently, the town would have been destroyed and remained in that state for weeks.”
Jatar, a developer at MMO Magic also chimes in to reassure Bookkeeper that the team has been hard at work on an MMOG that is just as he describes, called Citadel of Sorcery:
“Since our game was mentioned I've been following this post. Bookkeeper, I also responded to your question in the Citadel of Sorcery forum.
Let me just say that this kind of game play, though not exactly what Bookkeeper described, but very close, is absolutely possible. Several of you have mentioned that it is not technically possible, or feasible to make a world where time moves forward and players have unique adventures. We are building just that very thing.
I invite you to read about Citadel of Sorcery and ask me any questions you like. I am allowed to answer most of them, being part of the design team on the game for the past five years. This is a long term project, and like a few of you mentioned, it's not an easy task to build an MMO, let alone one that changes with time every day. But, that's what we have been building, and continue to build.
Come check it out, we're still looking for input from players as we have a lot of work yet to go.”
As for currently available games, what better example of emergent gameplay than EVE Online? Zlayer77 brings up a great point:
“Op you should come play EvE then... its the best sandbox right now If you ask me.
Things dont stay the same, the hole point of the game is fighting other players for teritory. You can build 99% of everything that is in the game. And it has the best economic pvp market of all mmos.
Build your own POS ( player owned structure) lay claim to your own space. Shoot, negotiate and spy on your competition.
EVE has it all…”
Heck, even old school games such as the now defunct Shadowbane tried to tackle this issue, as zerglin87 explains:
“Another sandbox game that the OP was trying to argue here was Shadowbane, Wheneer you logged on, every city could be different, it could be owned by another guild/nation or gone completely. That is why i loved that game and i wish there was a game like it but i have yet to meet a fantasy sandboxPvP MMO Close to it.”
Robsolf offers an excellent example on some creative ways developers have attempted to create the illusion of time passing in an MMOG with the Epic Storyline system present in The Lord of the Rings Online:
“LotRO's whole quest/advancement philosophy works this way. When you advance through the epic quests, "time" passes. Once you've completed all quests from Aragorn in the Prancing Pony, for example, his door is locked and you don't find him until Rivendell after the events of weathertop, and then once those quests are done you're locked out of the room and you don't see the Fellowship until Lothlorien, sans Gandalf. Thus, the illusion of the passage of time based on advancement. “
Can you think of other MMOGs (both present and future) that offer more dynamic worlds? Darkfall? Star Wars Galaxies? Ryzom? Let us know in the comments below!