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Hrothmund's random ramblings.

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Author: Hrothmund

Thinking outside the box.

Posted by Hrothmund Monday January 14 2008 at 6:18PM
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I know there are creative writers and developers out there with exciting concepts of game mechanics and intellectual properties we can only dream of playing at the moment. The question is, where are they? Has WoW pushed the MMO community to a point where the only ideas that actually gain funding and go into production are titles that offer something that has been done before but claim to do a better job of it. Sure, there are some games out there that offer a few quirks here and there, but I've yet to find a product that is truly original and at the same time appealing.

Let's make this clear; World of Warcraft is a great game and huge a success, I do not put the blame on Blizzard in any way for killing the creativity in MMO design. The fact is, that once something becomes as established as WoW, if you come up with a concept that mirrors the original but offers the consumers a somewhat altered and unique end product, it is much easier to get your project approved and funded than a game that pays no resemblance to the current market leader.

I truly hope that there is some crazy developer out there with a solid idea for a sandbox game that would actually have mass appeal, yet be so original there would be no comparing it to past titles. Yes, I recognize that hundreds of MMOs have been released, many of them(especially the crazy Asian ones) being quite original, making it hard for anyone to come up with a truly imaginative idea. However many of the 'truly original' Asian MMOs have plainly been too weird to play for me. The game that would send shivers down my back then, would have to then be a true master-piece, a new avant-garde trend setter amongst the worn-out MMO titles.

Mission impossible, you might think. I've actually been putting my neglected brain cells to work on this one, and have come up with a few ideas that I think could improve the genre.

  • Most MMORPG IPs are either high fantasy, scifi or a mixture of the two. Why not create a world that is as much make-believe as it is realistic and gritty? I would love to play in Film Noir setting, for example. I'd definitely buy a well implemented game set in a toned down version fo the Gears of War or Blade Runner universe. I think comic books and well-written thrillers could provide MMO designers with fresh ideas and a street-wise edge that would be popular amongst many.
  • To be truly immersive, MMOs could learn a little bit from Hollywood. To establish true immersion, the IP needs to be believable, without any major discrepancies and to not include the plague of current MMOs, different design styles for content. There is nothing that breaks your involvement in the game world more than stepping into an expansion area and clearly noticing the difference in the artistic style and overall mood of the setting. What MMO design teams could need then, would be a producer type brand-manager figure, who would make sure the lore and game world are presented in an uniform manner.
  • What I also crave in the current MMO offering are involving and fun time sinks. I know gambling is a no-no for developers that don't want an 'M' rating, but this does not bar minigames and twitch based secondary trade skills, like real-time dancing or sports in general. What I want is more truly casual content, think Wii here,  for killing time.
  • Character progression, that's a tough nut to crack. I would want a steeper power curve for abilities and skills, at least in the visual department. Somehow using the same ability I used to kill level 1 rats and bunnies in the starting area to take down the hardest raid boss in a given game does not appeal to me. Again, yes this is a pain for the devs, but more content is needed here in my opinion.
  • True NPC interaction. Let's say you portray a filthy and parasite ridden bum in rags, why don't the NPCs react to your repulsive appearance? Most likely you will be allowed into the hall of the most respected rulers wearing your potato sack, or level 1 squire's leather armor. I know this is a nightmare to implement, but I hope that in a few years we will get there with more and more powerful computers and a better network infrastructure that will make truly interactive worlds possible.


So there we have it, I could go on and on with demands like the ones above, but what I'm really hoping for is that there is already a development team out there with a like-minded production counterpart that thinks somewhere along the same lines as myself. One can always hope, can one not?