I touched on this last column, but I wanted to expand on it a bit. I feel it is something that is relatively known, or at least should be. It's regarding trying something new. One thing I find a lot of people don't want to do, or don't try to do, is give a game a chance because it is different. But then, the same people complain about how games clone one another. Of course there are games out there that slowly try to innovate, without completely overhauling the MMORPG genre. We can see this in games like SWTOR, Tera, and GW2. They have their regular MMORPG elements, but there are things to all of them that are different, Perhaps different enough to attract people for those reasons. SWTOR had the Bioware story-telling system that so many had grown to love, Tera had a fun and engaging combat, and GW2 had a number of things, including expanding on the public quest system and enhancing questing in general.
There are also plenty of games in the genre that try to be very different, like TSW and Darkfall. I know a lot of people that had a hard time getting into TSW for various reasons (clunky gameplay, didn't like their skill based system, didn't like the graphics, didn't like the combat, didn't like the questing, etc). There were other reasons, as well, but a lot of those reasons basically add up to "it's something different and new and I'm just not a big fan of it." Then they go back to WoW, SWTOR, GW2, etc. Darkfall was another story, a few people liked it, but it was buggy and had some issues it needed to work through (so much so that, instead of fixing it, they are making a new game completely).
Perhaps TSW just didn't hit the nail on the head. I personally like skill based systems, but didn't like theirs. I played Ultima Online. When I think about good PvP and gameplay with a skill based system, I think back to theirs. It was a fast-paced PvP game with mounted combat and player housing in open world. Mounted combat alone was amazing. You could dismount people to your advantage (they run slower/can't get away) or you could dismount yourself and send your mount to kill people (tamer).
Sure games have picked up a few elements from UO, or tried to, but I've always wondered why not try to just remake that game. It'd be new, in a sense. A lot of people that play MMORPG games nowadays have never even heard of UO. If games want to start going towards the skill based system, they have to do it better than TSW did, and more like UO.
One of the problems TSW had was it was relatively hard for the average gamer to explain the progression of their character. In most games you can just say, "I'm a level 90 Orc Hunter with full X gear" or, in UO, "I'm a 7x GM dismount, archer/tamer." This was a topic we actually recently discussed on Gamebreaker.tv. People not knowing how to add up their progression in the game and, to me, that is a big deal (should I talk more on this next week?).
Something like this should be apparent to all players and that's why using a solid number is the best and easiest way. I don't think it is the only way and I think that, if a team is efficient and goes into making a fresh, new game with all these things in mind, they should be able to pull through. It would be nice to finally have a game that not only tries something new, but does so with all the right ideas in mind. They aren't going to beat WoW, they will likely be niche (at least in the beginning), and they will have to put progression in the way some way (even if not by questing).
Like my last column said, at the moment we have a well-deserved quiet in the industry. We've seen many games come and go already. Now it's time to reflect. Where do you all see the future of the MMORPG genre? Slowly innovating the genre, not innovating at all and keeping the same mode till it dies, or eventually there will be a game that is released that changed the genre as a whole?
Hillary "Pokket" Nicole