Next up is Destiny: Of the three games in this list this is probably the one I enjoyed the least. However, it is hard to deny that Bungie doesn’t have something special on their hands with their first post Halo franchise. In a lot of ways you could take what Bungie did with Destiny and make it a template for how to do a new generation of MMO-ish games. Hopefully developers would add in a few more support features for guild management in the game and not leave it on the app but there are the basic building blocks present that you would need to create rich MMOs.
While not an open world there are hotspots on the different planets that you can explore and pick up random quests along the way. These typically encourage you to play with others and while collecting X of Y you are more than likely to run into a random/dynamic event. You could tweak the questing system a bit, which to their credit Bungie has done since release, and make it more traditional. Or you could leave it exactly the way it is. Just for Pete’s sake, make the grimoire, tome of knowledge, or whatever a developer decides to call it, accessible in game. In fact make everything available in game (see previously mentioned guild management comment) and stop forcing people to visit your website for anything game experience related.
Creating a few encounters that go beyond the cap of 6 to try and bring a more “massive” feeling to the game would be a nice touch too. Having encounters that only require 3 to 6 players does make the logistics of an aging fan base easier to manage though.
Finally let’s talk about the newest of the bunch, Xenoblade Chronicles X. When I first did the review of this game for our site last month the multiplayer aspects were not accessible. Had they been it probably would have upped the score a few tenths of a point. While that may not be enough to really move the needle on the overall score it is enough to accurately reflect the fact the multiplayer component enhances the overall experience. In the main game you are in charge of the protagonist and you have a cast of support characters. Typically you’ll have a group of four combat members (a strange walking potato will escort your group most places but he doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty). After you get a few chapters into the story three different types of multiplayer options open up when you log into the game.
In the first style you are the member of a squad. This squad is a loose confederation of players that work together across the world to kill certain monsters that are considered a pest but not a threat. Chances are you’ll never see another member of your squad, you’ll just chat with them. This is designed to be a solo experience but simulate that you have people you can reach out to if need be. With the second type of multiplayer you can join a friend’s or a favorite’s squad. These squads are more geared to group missions and an active multiplayer experience. You can tackle side quests and other quests that other players have put out bounties on.
The third type of multiplayer is geared primarily for end game players. These groups are out to hunt Tyrants. These squads consist of up to 32 players and multiple squads could be involved in taking down these Tryants. Tyrants are considered to be global threats and they continue to get stronger the more they kill players. You will encounter tyrants as you play through the game and early on you will even be able to solo a few. However once they get to level 80+ you are going to need all the players you can muster to take them down.
In addition to these three types of multiplayer there are some asynchronous systems that allow for a multiplayer feel. You can assign your character to a system that allows other players to run into it in the field when you are offline. Your character will appear in a level appropriate area and greet players as they run bye. If someone has you join their party you will receive rewards based on your contribution for that when next you log into game. You character will act as an NPC while in another players group. You can also go to terminals in town and rent people that have registered to help through this system. This allows lower level players to “rent” the assistance of higher level players while they aren’t logged in. The higher level a player the more you have to pay. These rentals are time limited too. Once the time is up that player will leave.
I truly am enjoying the convergence of MMO features into your standard single player RPG and hope to see MMO’s borrow more from their primarily single player brethren. While most games have had some form of coop for a while (who remembers Secret of Mana’s three player capability on the SNES?) these little twists really add something special. It is especially nice being able to keep up with your friends even when the lot of you can’t be on at the same time. Evolving enemy networks, player retribution, smaller scale MMOs, and asynchronous gameplay offer four different ways to work towards accomplishing the goal of making a more engaging MMO experience.