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Lisa Jonte Posted:
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I have a confession to make, this wasn’t the column you were supposed to be reading this week.  See the problem is, that the intended subject of this week’s column had a bit of a hiccup at the last minute. Add to that the fact that, by necessity, I work pretty close to deadline and POOF! It’s the night before and I got a big ol’ sack full of nuthin’ to write about.


But I have a deadline to meet, not to mention an editor to appease, so what’s a writer to do?  Never fear, (says I, holding my breath and crossing my fingers) I’m a professional! And as a professional, I’m going to do what any self-respecting game industry pundit would do:

I predict that, in the future, independent game producers will, by virtue of their lack of corporate overlords, have the freedom to do what others only dream about. They will dare where others dare not! They will thrill players in a way that no MMO has yet attempted! They will make us go outside!

Combining the structure of an MMO, with the proliferation of sophisticated handheld devices, the interconnectivity of social media, and the haul-your-butt-off-the-couch ethic of pretty much everything not usually connected with the Internet, (I’m looking at you, Tumblr) the MMO of the future will, I predict, look a whole lot more like Orienteering or Geocaching with a handheld unit, than the virtual smash-n-grab extravaganza that we know and (mostly) love today.

Think of the possibilities!

1.    World maps could be a small as a building’s interior, or as large as a continent.

Depending on the game itself and how its player goals were structured, a single building could be the sole hub of a local MMO, funneling players in, out and through any number of floors and rooms to complete quests, scavenger hunt, or meet real-time NPCs for strategy and advice.

Conversely, an entire city, state, country or continent might serve as the game-scape for an innovatively structured MMO.

2.    Quests would involve actually doing things.

How far would you go to gather the perfect gear? Would you commit a weekend to traveling to specific map points and logging them into your system if it meant that you’d have the sweetest armor possible for the virtual parts of the game? Would you ride a bike? Solve a maze? Finish an obstacle course? What if you could group up with friends and all get those drops?

3.    Quest rewards would accumulate virtually in your game.

You go out and have the experience, but the swag stays in your virtual bag. And really, I think the world would be a better place without the worry of some late-coming jerkwad stealing everyone’s hard earned drops.

4.    Game events could be both virtual and real events.

Not everyone is interested or able to get out amongst their fellow human beings, but for a significant percentage of players, I think real world game events would have an appeal. They would also be easier to navigate socially than regular parties, or even conventions, as everyone there would be there for the same reason, the same specific geekery.  And no, I’m not talking about LARPing here, (though I have nothing against it.) I’m talking about public gatherings of like-minded people; the sort of thing that happens every day for any number of reasons, (sports, book clubs, festivals, business events, etc...) there’s no reason why gaming can’t be one of them.

In many ways, this kind of online/offline adventure combining is doable now, even if the logistics are not entirely convenient. Let ten years pass and I think a lot of those inconveniences will be nothing at all.

While I do think it’s possible for corporations to pull this sort of thing off, (they certainly have the cash to make it flashy enough) I don’t see that sort of Massively Multiplayer Outdoor game being nearly as popular as the Indie variety. If for no other reason than a corporation is far more likely to brand the snot out of everything and turn every quest into a buy-ten-rats extravaganza.

Will this be the future of MMOs? Maybe. I think it’s as likely as any other to be one possible future. (The other being ever more real virtual reality.) But until the day we all have a holodeck in the house, I think the lure of adventuring in the actual world will have a strong appeal to both players and game creators, if for no other reason that it’s cheaper (and likely to be so for some time to come) to visit a real forest, than to create a real seeming virtual one.  

What do you all think? Am I a visionary or a lunatic? Do I see the future or just the inside of my own fevered brain? What do you think the next ten, twenty, even fifty years will bring to the world of MMOs? Tell me so in the comments!

Read more of Lisa’s Independency!


Lisa Jonte

Lisa Jonte / Writer, editor, artist, parent. Currently reviewing games and writing the column, Fair Game at MMORPG.com. One time (print and web) comics creator, and former editor of the webcomic enclave GirlAMatic.com; now a secretive and hermit-like prose writer, (and not so secretive nor hermit-like blogger.)