aNewDomain — The mechanics of the massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) were firmly established with early popular titles like Ultima Online and EverQuest, but those common characteristics are starting to show their age.
The tried and true ways of progressing your character through the game world have become the tired and mundane.
You know what the massively multiplayer genre needs? A good kick in the pants.
Dying one collection quest at a time
I have been playing MMORPGs since EverQuest. My current favorite remains World of Warcraft, which I have been playing steadily for over 10 years. But even though I play it regularly, I am finding it less and less interesting. It is not that World of Warcraft has gotten bad all of a sudden. It is more because it has gotten far too familiar.
As a change of pace, I recently took advantage of a free play weekend for the game The Elder Scrolls Online. The weekend was provided to beta testers that had never purchased the full game since it was released over a year ago. I didn’t care for the game in beta and, after playing it for a weekend, I don’t care for it one year later.
But, again, my problem with The Elder Scrolls Online has more to do with familiarity than it does with the construction of the game. There were a couple of “new” quests; ones I did not do during beta testing. Unfortunately, the storylines of these quests were obvious to a veteran player. I knew who was going to betray me the moment I met them, so from that point on it was just a matter of going through the motions until the obligatory reveal of treachery. Yawn.
Familiarity breeds contempt
For all MMORPGs, the era of collection quests, escort quests, traitor in our midst storylines and dungeon crawls is dying. Players need more than the tried and true progression mechanics, they need an adventure. Game makers are going to have to double-down on the story, on the lore of their universe. Just think how much more interesting a game would be if your character’s progression was tied with the progression of the story and not to the dozens of boar scraps you collected.
This is not a completely radical idea. Much of what makes World of Warcraft so popular, even after 10 years of existence, is the lore of the universe. The developers and game designers at Blizzard do a great job of giving players a sense of participation in the overarching story. It is the reason World of Warcraft continues to draw 7 million plus players each month. But players need more.
Video games are big business, requiring big budgets and big risks. I understand the desire of game developers to fall back on the tried and true, on the mechanics that are proven. But I am saying those established mechanics are not enough anymore. Veteran players like me, the kind of player that pays for a subscription to a game for over 10 years, now require more. The next successful massively multiplayer online game, whatever that is, will have to be innovative, it will have to be more compelling than collection quests, and it will have to take risks.
For aNewDomain, I’m Mark Kaelin.