If I were to make an MMO in 2013 it would be titled “The Age of Kickstarter”. For decades our culture never really thought in terms of crowd funding for entertainment. Entertainment in any form has always been issued to us by a music executive, a film producer, or a game publisher. Now there are exceptions; independents that battled their way to the top and made it, but these stories are few and far between. So here we are in 2013 and instead of flying cars, we have the ability to invest in our own entertainment. For MMORPGs, I definitely think the genre has turned a major corner, especially with the announcement today by Lord British about Shroud of the Avatar. It’s another in a long line of luminaries from the early days of the MMO coming back to make a new game, a new world, and they couldn’t be coming soon enough.
Major game publishers now shy away from MMOs. They are terrified of being branded into the genre, after larger recent “failures” all trying to chase the tail of Warcraft. The biggest example of this is Destiny. The guys at Bungie, while talented, refuse to call Destiny what it is, an open world MMO shooter. Instead they are going with Persistent World Shooter. Call it what you want, the game is very much an MMO. Honestly they should embrace it as a much needed change to the genre and go forward instead of hiding away from it. That is what is going on in the AAA publishing world. Keep in mind it is also Activision who is the publisher, and they already have one major MMO project out there, but it was the exception to the rule.
However, in the age of Kickstarter, veteran game developers can now go forth and create the world they want without having to answer to publishers. Instead they have to answer to us, the fans who invest money into their ideas. Over the past few months two very distinct games have met their Kickstart Goals: Pathfinder Online and Star Citizen. As a video game fan since I was six years old, if these games are good, I will happily play both of them for ages. I like both worlds. I like Ryan Dancey and Chris Roberts as idea men and they both have a clear vision. It is a pure win for fans of both genres.
And then in the last few weeks, we saw Mark Jacobs’ announcement about Camelot Unchained. Now, we know Mark cannot talk much about the past, but he can move forward and create an awesome game. He was part of the same principles that made Mythic such a huge success in MMOs. To me, Camelot Unchained could very well be the game fans have wanted for a long time. If you go based on Knights vs. Celts vs. Vikings you really see an amazing landscape open up. One that is not chained to a major AAA publisher that will force decisions on them to meet some standard from on high, tell them what can and can’t work, and fire their staff after the game launches because they bloated it to begin with.
But of all the recent “crowdfunded” projects there is one that really did make me feel like the game industry has turned a corner today: Richard Garriott’s Shroud of the Avatar announcement. Richard is a legend in games for creating Ultima. He built Ultima Online which opened up MMOs to the world and remains playable to this very day over 15 years later. Now, without major publishing, without any constraints, he is launching his project for Shroud of the Avatar. It’s probably a game that no publisher would touch, really. Richard’s trying new and old things alike that wouldn’t seem marketable to some suit who doesn’t care what Richard’s legacy may be.
As much as the game industry is in flux between the new consoles and the rise of casual and mobile games, there really is a new wave forming. It is where top developers can reach out to life long fans and build a game that they all want to play. They’re reaching out to the fans that maybe got lost in the wave of accessibility and the shooter craze, and making games for them.
So what does all of this mean to the MMO genre? Well for one it means that we are all very busy here at MMORPG.com. It means that the idea of the MMO being both online and offline is very much a reality. Play it how you want to play it, in the truest sense of the word. It means that major console titles which cost millions are now being supplanted, but probably not replaced, by grass roots games which you can invest in and help direct. It also means that instead of being force fed a game by a publisher who thinks he knows what you want, you can now invest in one, get into the beta, give feedback to the developers, and have a say in what goes on in the world you play in.
Best of luck to the veteran developers who are taking steps on Kickstarter to build the worlds they love and enjoy. Even if they are “niche” titles, since when is that a bad thing if the budget’s not astronomical? I for one think it is great that we can invest in these ideas and hopefully get the games we really love to play out of it. There is no major hype machine telling you that you have to play this game with fancy cinematic videos and PR reps screaming from the podiums. Nope, there is just the return to grass roots gaming with much better graphics and design techniques. I for one will take gameplay over some flashy cinematic any day of the week.