I know Thanksgiving has come and gone (and I'm sorry if you're not American and don't give two copper), and I for one have way too many things in my life to be thankful for. Sure enough, like everyone, I've got my ups and downs. But really, when I take a step back and look at it all, I'm pretty pleased with how things are going for me. That said, as I was sitting around the dinner table with my family last week saying my own thanks it occurred to me that I'm thankful for a lot of things about MMOs too. However no one at the table seemed to have any idea what I was talking about, so I thought I'd take some time this week and share them with you all. In the continuing spirit of the holiday season, here's a list of five things to be thankful for in MMOs. Feel free to put in your own serious and not-so-serious additions in the comments below.
5.) Expanded Travel Options
This is one of only two items on my list that deal with actual gameplay, but it's major enough that I felt the need to say thanks anyway. When I began playing MMOs, and I know this is a common sentiment these days, I had all the time in the world and I didn't care that I had to spend half of my day running from one corner of the map to another. It was part of "The Adventure". I miss that, but I also appreciate that life has become delightfully more complex as I age. Therefore I am infinitely thankful for the way in which games have become a little simpler (at least in terms of travel).
I'm all for immersion, and a sense of "world" in my games, but I also want to be able to easily get around so that I can actually do things with my precious moments. I love that games are offering a bevy of travel options, usually tied to in-game currency, and that the option to explore is still there right alongside the option to take the shortcut. I can stop and smell the Gravebloom or I can take a flight and just get where I'm going. In a way, one of the biggest and best developments of the MMO industry over the past 10 years has been "options" and in-game travel is no different.
4.) Cross-Server Interaction
It's going to be a little while still I suspect before more games are able to adopt the "shardless" system that's present in EVE Online without heavy instancing. That said; I'm thankful for the way in which many developers are fostering Cross-Server interaction. Whether it's through PvP, chat channels, or even running instanced dungeons together, cross-server technology is making finding and playing with people much easier, especially on the under-populated servers. I can only hope more and more games start to pick up on this trend, at least until we're all playing in one Norrath/Azeroth/Tyria.
3.) New Subscription Models
Go ahead and hate me, but I absolutely love that we're seeing games which can't quite carve enough of a niche try their hands at a hybrid business model. Why do I love this? Because it wasn't long ago when failing games would just be canned. And just because a game was failing, at least for me, doesn't mean it's not loved by some. I have at least six games on my PC right now that I'm not actively subscribed to because I just don't have the time to justify it. Give those games the Turbine-model treatment and you bet your arse I'd find myself playing again, and maybe even buying fluff content like cosmetic items. I don't know why, but for some reason I'd rather spend money on little items here or there in a game like LotRO than to try and justify being subscribed to it when I only get to play it once or twice a month. Conversely, I feel perfectly at peace with buying a rad looking chestpiece for my Warden because his actual equipped item looks like hobo chic.
In the spirit of good cheer, I'm actually going to throw out a thanks to the "Suits" or investors of MMOs. Thank you, men looking to make their millions into even more millions, for keeping my hobby alive. We can disagree all day about whether the genre is evolving or devolving, but at least it's still kicking. So thank you, green-seeing money hounds for thinking WoW could be replicated, and thank you for realizing a few years later that it can and instead focusing on the part of the MMORPG that is genuinely promising: the MMO part. Keep the investor dollars coming please, because it's only a matter of time before lightning strikes twice. Just remember that it's never in the same spot.
1.) The Players
And finally, but also firstly, I have to thank you all. The players are who read this site. The players are who entertain me with conversation, with someone to compete against or with. The players are the reason I get to call myself "writer" and hand out little business cards that claim the same nonsense at events. The players, more importantly, are what keep this genre alive. Some are jaded, others are naïve, but all are important. It's the players, you, them, me, us that ultimately drive this whole show. I have no idea where this genre is headed in the next ten years. Some will claim it's doomed, while others will say it's bound for a new renaissance. But wherever it goes, I'm glad to be a part of it. I'm thankful I'm a player.