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Editorial: Dr. Stalegame

Frank Mignone Posted:
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Dr Stalegame (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the MMOs)

Staff Writer Frank Mignone talks about MMO popuarlity and what it means to the industry as a whole

On September 30, 1997, Origin System turned the gaming community on its ear. The launch of Ultima Online ushered in an entirely new genre of game. It was graphically lacking and rather limited in its gameplay options. No one seemed to notice, the concept was so revolutionary, thousands of players together in one, persistent world. It was unprecedented. I was there, I remember the awe I felt walking around this massive world, interacting with real people, like it was yesterday. Growing up, my 1st RPG was Ultima 4: Quest of the Avatar and I have a lot of found memories of that game. But this was like someone brought that world to life! This is the power of the MMORPG. People can immerse themselves in worlds like never before. It is this power that may ruin video games for us all.

Just over eight years later, the MMORPG has come into its own. I think there may be more servers in ‘World of WarCraft’ than there are playable MMOs on the market today. EverQuest II’s graphics are nothing short of stunning. While the gameplay is still fundamentally ‘kill, level, rinse, repeat’ (it’s always been community that drives the MMO more than gameplay) the graphical shortcomings of their forbears are being overcome. As a result, the popularity of the genre is taking off. Even as I write this article for a website dedicated to the MMORPG genre, I wonder how many of us who haunt this place, looking for the next MMORPG to fill our need, notice the dust piling up on our PS2s, Xboxs, and Nintendos. PC games with solid gameplay sit on shelves in stores, not selling. Our old favorite games line our cabinets, no longer in use.

After Ultima Online, I took an MMORPOG vacation. I played lots of games, PC and console. I probably bought one once or twice a month. Then I bought Final Fantasy XI. This was my first time back to the world of MMO’s. After Ultima Online, the graphics blew me away. It was a completely different ballgame. I was hooked! I spent all my game time there with my guild mates, mindlessly whacking endless streams of monsters. Over the next 6 months or so, I missed a lot of new games, good games that I would have really enjoyed. I was simply too involved with the world of Vana’ Diel to notice. When I grew bored with FFXI, it was EvE Online, Matrix, SWG, EverQuest II, Anarchy Online, and now Lineage 2. I am a hardcore MMO player now, always on the lookout for my next fix. As of now, my eyes are set on ‘Pirates of the Burning Sea’.

All the while though, game developers have turned out some really good games that I never bought. Multiply me by a few million gamers spread over the MMORPG genre and that is a lot of gamers not buying other games! Sure, on occasion, we might buy one game that is just too appealing to pass up, but it takes a lot to get on of us out of our MMO. As a result, developers aren’t getting back the money they invest into games that really push the envelope. Great games that should sell really well and reward their innovation. Over time, we may expect to see developers investing less and less into single-player games, innovation becoming scarce, and overall game quality on the decrease, as more and more people come to our worlds. After all, developing a game is risky (they can cost millions now) and how many of you missed ‘Sid Meier’s Civilization V’ or some other blockbuster because we were all to busy standing around iron forge, doing nothing but waiting for our turn to enter the next PvP arena that was just like the last?

Community drives an MMORPG’s. The gameplay isn’t on the same plane as a single player game, because that’s all a single player game is meant to do, have great gameplay. An MMO is a business. It’s primary goal is to keep you playing the game, and paying for it, as long as possible. This is the reason why we have to grind, farm and repeat over and over again. While we love it, we should not forget to show the other side of the gaming market some attention. Dust off that old console, go to the store and find a single-player RPG with a great story (remember those?), get out there and support what you love. Occasionally we all like to take a break from our MMORPG of choice. As for me, I am going to make myself play Age of Empires 3.

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Frank Mignone