The MMO of the future
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 November 2012, 4:41 am
I write this blog to make other people think. That isn't an easy task: People not only get angry if state an opinion they disagree with, they even get angry if you just ask a question where they feel somebody might give an answer they disagree with. Thus my special thanks go to Bob Flinston who took the time to actually think about my questions and answer them instead of just ranting about how unfair it is for me to even ask them. I agree with his summary that "To bring all of these points together, I believe that Blizzard have created a single player game, in a multi-player server environment, that is easy to play with a difficulty option only for the most dedicated raiders. This may be the MMO of the future, only time will tell.".

While World of Warcraft is undoubtedly very successful with this approach, I do think that the "MMO of the future" could look very different. If you consider network effects, it appears probably that if a MMO of the future could create a social system where players perceive each other as a help, as opposed to either an obstacle or a background decoration, that hypothetical game could have even better traction than WoW. The current model of solo and group play, where other player are perceived as competition for resources when soloing, or as reason for wiping when grouping, appears to be not ideal to foster a great community.

The other consideration for the MMO of the future is whether it should be based around killing monsters. I believe that killing monsters has two big disadvantages: People who want to do it together need to be online at the same time, and the outcome is binary, you either win or lose. The "win or lose" aspect creates a challenge level which isn't very flexible, thus if you want a game that is easy to play for most people, you end up with a system in which players nearly always win fights, but it feels trivial.

Now imagine a game which is about groups of players working together to build things. It could still fulfill the idea of being "a single player game, in a multi-player server environment, that is easy to play with a difficulty option only for the most dedicated". But it could also be set up in a way that players would not compete for resources, that they could work together on the same building at different times, and that the challenge is completely variable (x% of contribution to a common project).

I don't think we have reached the "end of history" of MMORPGs yet. The type of MMORPG where you level up a character and kill monsters solo or in groups might have reached its peak, but that is far from the only possibility of what a MMORPG can be. And the more the market gets flooded with similar games, and the more they fail, the closer we get to the point where somebody decides to make something different instead of copying the old, worn-out formula.
Tobold's Blog

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