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5 Non-Fantasy MMOG Concepts With Unfulfilled Potential

Richard Aihoshi Posted:
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Accessible space flight / exploration / combat

For some years now, I've been puzzled as to why we haven't seen more MMOGs with this core concept. Although I like to think I've usually had a decent read on the category's state and direction, I've never managed to come up with a completely satisfactory explanation. Maybe it's as simple as the market not being as ready for such games as I felt it was. If so, perhaps it is now.

I'm confident that the idea of a space-themed MMOG has considerable appeal for quite a few gamers. It also seems reasonable to assume that employing an accessible flight control model with a gentle learning curve would put off fewer potential players than opting for something more complex, most likely on the grounds of realism. So, what I'm thinking of is something akin to the way we flew our ships in the Wing Commander series or Earth & Beyond.

While Westwood's release wasn't without flaws, I thought and still do that its underlying concept is very viable.  So, although I'm not proposing to revive the IP, I am looking to recapture the type of gameplay feel that E&B embodied, or at least something reasonably similar. My admittedly less than crystal clear vision leans toward a PvE focus, but if a limited form of PvP can be worked in without seriously reducing the potential audience, that would be fine too.

If I could pick an IP, my first choice would be Star Wars. I can see a game that would be along the lines of what Attack Squadrons was supposed to be, but with sufficient scale and enough persistent elements to be regarded as massively multiplayer. That canceled project was going to use browser-based technology and a freemium revenue model. Since I'm only talking at the base concept level, I'm neither proposing nor eliminating either of these.

Accessible vehicular combat

While some argue that World of Tanks isn't a “true” MMOG, its popularity is indisputable. Personally, Wargaming's offering doesn't particularly resonate. I don't hate or even strongly dislike it, but as you might gather from what I said earlier, its degree of realism isn't my cup of tea. So, if we once again set aside issues related to implementation and quality in order to focus on concepts, I'd prefer something more in the vein of Auto Assault. And I don't think I'm alone.

As before, I'm not proposing that this IP should be brought back from the dead. I do feel, however, that there's ample room in today's market to support a game with a similar basic concept. I played AA quite regularly, both during beta and after it launched. Despite its flaws, it was the best fit ever for those times when I just wanted to wreak havoc on a virtual world without needing to plan, strategize or think very much. I suspect many other gamers are familiar with similar moments.

Of course, I don't always feel this way. Indeed, I often find it appealing when games force me to think. So, I've long wondered if AA might have been better off if it had been free to play, which would have let people play only when they were in an appropriate mood. Still, that's just me. I'm not prepared to rule out the possibility this concept could be viable with a pay or buy to play revenue model.

In terms of IPs, Mad Max is the first one that comes to mind. It doesn't have monsters, at least not that I remember, but they might not be necessary, or could be worked in easily enough. There is a tribal element that, along with the scarcity of resources, would provide a natural basis for PvP, with groups and individuals competing for supplies and the means to improve their vehicles. 

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Richard Aihoshi

Richard Aihoshi / Richard Aihoshi has been writing about the MMOG industry since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. He has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.