Dark or Light

The Story of the Week

Jon Wood Posted:
Columns Jon Wood 0

Going through this past week’s news offerings, there really wasn’t anything that stood out to grab me as the week’s biggest story. So instead, I turned my attention to the story that captured MY attention the most this week in the hopes that I’d be able to string together a few sentences that might entertain you folks this weekend.

The story that I came out with and that we’ll call our Story of the Week is one that comes out of Undead Labs. For those who might not be aware, Undead Labs is an MMO Studio set up to create a zombie survival MMO for consoles. In fact, their site clearly lays this out:

“Undead Labs is a Seattle, Washington-based game development studio that’s on a mission to take online gaming in bold new directions. Our singular focus is to create the definitive massively multiplayer zombie game (MMOZ) for console gamers. Nothing screams funny quite like wading into a group of rotting zombies with a lawn chair and a box of sharpened #2 pencils, and nothing says fun quite like hunting zombies with your friends, whether they are online or on your couch.”

Also on the site this week is an editorial from former Guild Wars developer Richard Foge wherein he talks about how he doesn’t like MMOs because they are slow and, he feels, “barely even games”.

That’s the first of his statements that I’m going to playfully take exception to. In reality, Mr. Foge is entitled to his own opinions and is more than free to express them, especially given the fact that he presents it as nothing more than his own opinion.

That being said, I disagree that MMOs are barely even games. Mr. Foge states that “MMOs aren’t even close to keeping up with cutting edge videogames from a gameplay or presentation perspective.”

Honestly, I think that expression is a little bit of a reach. MMOs are just a different beast altogether and while it would be great to have an MMO that was on the cutting edge of modern day graphics and gameplay, my understanding is that the requirements of a full-fledged MMO and a massive open world make that an incredibly difficult proposition.

Now, I WILL concede that there has been a bit of a drought in recent years in terms of integrating more modern gameplay concepts, but I don’t think that disqualifies MMOs as games.

The author then goes on to admit that he’s a “console guy”. Now, I’m not one of those PC gamers who feels like any and all console gamers have a screw loose. But that could go a long way to explaining why he doesn’t like traditional MMOs and that’s because they’ve never really translated well into that medium. I’m not sure why. It might be something about the flow of the games or the restrictions that often exist between console companies and the kinds of free updates that have always made MMOs what they are. Then again, it could be as simple as the lack of a proper communication tool on consoles. Keyboards have always played an intimate role in the way that players communicate in MMOs, from text chat to emotes.

Whatever the reason, I just don’t think his earlier comments about MMOs are fair.

Now, with that all in mind, I can’t help but be excited about some of the ideas that Foge brings up. For instance, he suggests that the wave of the future for MMOs is going to be in action-based games rather than the traditional RPG concept. While I disagree that they’re going to replace traditional MMOs, I can honestly say that they’re going to spin off in a big way into a sub-genre of MMOs.

While I obviously haven’t played whatever is it that Undead Labs is working on, I can say that I’ve not only noticed the trend moving toward a more action-oriented MMO experience (The Secret World, DCUO), but quite enjoyed the feel of DC Universe Online when I had the chance to play it. No doubt it’s a growing as a design style.

I’ll be honest when I say that I’m really looking forward to whatever it is that Undead Labs comes up with. I’m going to be the first one in line to try it out, and I wish them the best of luck. But please keep in mind that MMOs ARE games and there are millions and millions of people who think so too. They may not be for you, and that’s cool, but I like ’em just fine.


Jon Wood