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Outside the Box: The Future

Posted Feb 20, 2006 by Dana Massey

Outside the Box: The Future

In the final part of a three part series, Monday columnist Nathan Knaack completes his look at the past, present and future of MMORPGs with article #3: The Future.

Most people would fill the entire “future” section of an essay like this with a blueprint rundown of their perfect, or “dream” MMORPG. I’m just going to list the bullet points of features that game designers really need to take a look at if they hope to compete in tomorrow’s market, because the first game that comes along that truly incorporates all of the following ideas is going to dominate the MMORPG industry. These aren’t fantastical, far-fetched Ideas I personally conjured up either; they’re the kinds of ideas that have been bouncing around the player community for years now, ranted about and demanded but never properly included in an existing MMORPG. For the sake of what little sanity most developers have left, after working legendarily long hours, usually under absurd deadlines, I’ll start with the simplest and/or most straightforward topics.

One word: Immersion. Other than the number of players involved, the biggest difference between a regular computer RPG and an MMORPG is the replayability factor. Nobody plays Fallout, Knights of the Old Republic, or Baldur’s Gate for four hours a day, five or six days a week, over the course of three years. The obvious reason is that those games are designed to be played through once, but maybe half a dozen times if you decide to try it using a different character or method. Unfortunately, the same design mentality went into almost all of the modern MMORPGs on the market. Most architecture and geography is static, meaning that no mater how many times you nail that little wooden shack with your super rocket launcher, it’s never going to budge. An MMORPG might seem completely immersive your first time through (just like Fallout, KoTR, and BG all did), but when you log in for the hundredth time a few months later, seeing the exact same towns, hills, dungeons, grazing horses, floating space stations, and NPCs locked into their paths spoils the immersion.

You can read the full column here.

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