I’d like to talk about a problem in the industry, that is also a benefit. As always the case, it’s just how you look at it.
I’m talking about the ‘monkey see, monkey do
’ attitude that has been spreading like pneumonia. The current MMO generation has been going for a long while now. We all know about the behemoth that is called World of Warcraft
) and everyone that has been keeping up with the news has seen the term ‘WoW-killer’
more than once.
Firstly, I’d like to particularly mention a development that seems to go mostly ignored. I’ve noticed that almost all the sites and podcasts that deal in MMO’s have been making comparisons, mostly between WoW
and the latest triple-A title addition Warhammer Online
. But people seem to be forgetting something here. Both games are solid packages, WoW
as a matter of course more streamlined with its history in the books. But I’m talking about a phenomenon that WoW
introduced: The pre-paid game card
was there at the right time, with the right media coverage and very importantly, the right subscription methods. There were a lot of people on the fence that were swayed because of a different payment method than the credit-card only system. Also kids that don’t have a credit-card (legitimately anyway
) have had the opportunity to play it. Word of mouth started and gained momentum until we have the modern day wildfire that -proverbially- killed Smokey the Bear
. This is one of the best developments in MMO gaming in the recent years, and a positive thing picked up by the aforementioned Monkey syndrome.
On to the topic of the day. It’s been mentioned in the news that WoW
has ‘stolen’ features from WAR
. Not really that strange of an idea. If it works, and if players like it, introduce it. This is something that a lot of games have used with great success. It also gives players a good game that keeps getting better. For instance EverQuest
, which is still going strong.
But it also halts innovation
. Instead of devising new ways of adding to the player experience, they just look at other games and copy what they did. Maybe just that little bit different, but still generally the same. That’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing all those similar MMO’s and people are starting to have the Genre-burnout
This has also been added by the fact that the promise of innovation doesn’t seem to deliver. The lore of games may vary, but the game mechanics are generally the same. Most of us will remember the promises made by Age of Conan
, they didn’t deliver. This is a pitfall that most developers will wander into. They’re always full of promise and ideas when they are developing. But most studios seem to underestimate the workload that a MMO brings with it. Best example is seen in the Free-to-play
MMO’s. This system for micro-transactions has taken over the west. It’s something that has been done in Korea for a long time now, and it’s finally made its way here. It’s a good system, but developers forget that free-to-play
does not mean ‘easy cash’
. These are almost all fairly basic MMO games that have been tagged as ‘Korean-style’. If you like that kind of thing, they’re not bad. But most of them feel incomplete. Until of course they copy what they didn’t already into their games. Most of the good ideas are actually stolen from the Multiple User Dungeons. As a former Medievia
player, I know that a lot of the MUDs
have innovative systems. Developers should start paying more mind to them. Maybe then the MMO genre can have a evolution, of sorts.
Maybe the problem is in the setting. Almost all the current large player based MMO’s are High Fantasy. A recent Daedalus Project survey
depicted that the most players like High Fantasy. Although the survey is good, I would advise a certain degree of caution. These surveys are made with a MMO background in mind. This means that if no one has seen a good implementation of a genre, they might have objections against it. But developers are skiddish about making something that is not High Fantasy. Mostly, because a lot of MMO’s that are not High Fantasy have failed.
Nonetheless, there are very promising MMO’s in development. I’d like to draw attention to Project Powder
), a snowboard MMO, free-to-play, reminiscent of the SSX series
. As well as Otherland
), a Cyberpunk
MMO based off the Tad Williams'
novels. Lastly, the officially announced Star Wars: The Old Republic
). These seem very promising and have great potential, although they seem to be taking too much of a workload
, I’m going to keep my eye on them hoping for innovation. Now that MMO’s are starting to branch into different territories, the possibilities as well as their development rate will keep increasing. But the Monkey Syndrome will most likely remain to be a boon and a problem.