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My thoughts on the MMO market and current game development.

This blog is mainly my opinions of current and future mmo's, what I think dev's are doing right and wrong.

Author: Pyrostasis

Open ended gameplay and character development (Part 3 of the fun missing in MMO's)

Posted by Pyrostasis Friday February 15 2008 at 4:26PM
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So far in this series I have talked about pvp, land control, and having a real enemy you despise to fight against. Today I’m going to talk about character development and endgame mechanics.

Back in the day (just typing that makes me feel old) with UO end game wasn’t even an idea, however today that’s one of the first things people ask. "What’s the end game like?" Why wasn’t it an issue? Well, mainly as the game started about 15 seconds after logging into the game, not 200 hours down the road and countless levels later.

People play games to accomplish something; they have set goals and aim towards getting there as fast as possible. MMO companies seem to have shifted their design from making their play mechanics fun from the get go, to prolonging getting to x for as long as humanly possible, while making you jump through as many hoops along the way. MMO gaming now a days seems more like an endurance match to the finish line rather than a game, and its not uncommon for someone to say "Just deal with it, every MMO has the boring part you just gotta grind through to get to X". My question to you is why?

Why not make a game where you can start right off the bat doing things that are fun, competing with other players who have been around a while, and generally just enjoying yourself from the beginning? The answer is quite simple. Why? Simple. Everquest changed everything.

EQ turned the genre from an open ended sandbox game to a linear progression item fest. Now granted, linear progression item based games have their appealing features, but only to folks who have the time and the intestinal fortitude to put up with the boring stuff long enough to get to the raiding or the pvp or whatever the "end game" is.

I think we need a change back to the basics. Drop the levels, the grind, the items and focus on content and game play. Hell, if you set up the right conditions players will even make their own content.

Its no longer about leveling to 50 so you can fight other 50's its about playing the game, which is a concept so alien to most MMO'ers nowadays that they just look at you funny when you bring the subject up.

But....but...but... if it’s not about leveling or getting the next biggest item... what do you do? Whatever you want is the answer. That’s where a lot of folks are going to just laugh at you and walk away, or just say you are an idiot.

When MMO's first released the game appealed to folks wanting to do anything or be anyone. Now the MMO market appeals to folks by saying you can be X or Y and that’s it.

When I worked at Gamestop back in high school I remember selling UO to people. My pitch went a whole lot like this:

"You really have to try this game. It’s different than anything else you have ever played. You can literally be anything you want. Let’s say you want to be a bow maker, well you go outside start chopping trees get some wood and start crafting.

What if you want to be a dragon tamer! Well, simple you go out and start making friends with little animals and work you way up, they will protect you and fight for you.

How about a thief, want to steal other folks hard work? Well you can do that as well, you just have to learn to be sneaky. Hiding quickly, distracting your opponents, or just simply carrying on a conversation long enough to get what you need!

You can also be a warrior or a mage or better yet a combination of any of the above!"

Usually by that time the customer was drooling and heading for the check out counter with a box in hand. However, that same line above would have people asking... why would I want to tame animals? What do you mean chop wood, what for? What’s the main goal?

When I explain the goal is what you make of it they laugh and walk away. Why? Well... somewhere along the lines folks decided it was more fun to be told what to do, than to do what they wanted to do.

Did the next generation lose its imagination? I love options and possibilities and it seems MMO's have lost that. You can’t make a Mage, Thief, Bowyer anymore... you can be a shaman or a warrior that’s it.

I think when you limit options and branches in your game, folks get bored and pound through content to fast. Give people tons of options and limitless customization and people stop rushing and enjoy what you have made, instead of what your working on next to keep them from being bored.

Make a game worth playing from the start.