I blame you all for not posting about this early. To many posts to read and getting caught up in twitter more than I usually do.
Anyway, Last weekend I was a part of the 150th Contains Moderate Peril Podcast for a discussion on the Future of MMO’s. I have to say that I was quite honoured to have been invited although it seems I might have ruined there sound quality as, even though I had my mic muted it wanted to echo the conversation being made. It’s a 10% mic from the supermarket and all I could get on short notice due to my 100$ one having an awful static to it because… reasons.
We explored many different facets about the future of mmo’s, directed by the amazing Roger (A true professional) and even with going for an insanely long time (it was 3am when I finished) I don’t think we covered nearly as much as everyone wanted. Discussing about the future of mmo’s is just a massive undertaking, and with having multiple guests of various backgrounds and interests there was no way we were going to be able to delve into it all.
Go check it out.
For me personally there was a lot more I wanted to discuss but you know, you really don’t want to butt in too much or be too controlling on the flow of the conversation. I did seem to get the last word in quite often though.
It is rather funny how I began in the genre. I wouldn’t exactly call it an overwhelmingly positive experience playing those kinds of asian grinders but I think they did influence me in some way, maybe making me more attuned towards limitless menial tasks. Just doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to many others.
The other part I didn’t get to discuss is how I think a lot of my interest in MMO’s has been influenced by the stories around me. Those I’ve read around the internetz and the impassioned stories of games like Shadowbane and Ultima from guild members. I hear these stories and I just want to experience something like that, here and now while a community is strong around it. That’s really what I believe drives my interest in the genre onwards, I’m not even sure if when I experience that I will like it but there is a strong desire there.
To me personally I think the wheel has turned back onto the debate surrounding Hardcore and Casual. A lot of these newer games now are focusing further on harder content to entertain or maybe just buy more time. Spurned on in part I think by the focus on action combat and by proxy skill based gameplay. Syl was pretty on spot with the rest thoguh how the genre seems to be moving towards a more Hybrid style of mmo, an amalgamation of mechanics from across the great mmo divide. Incorporating sandbox elements in our themeparks and more guided play within sandboxes. I want to see this more as I think it is a much healthier design but I still wish there to be the more focused game styles.
The rest I think that really made me think is the discussion on what players want as that really isn’t something I think anyone really knows, only feels from time to time. Dip your toe into the mmo stream and you can feel the flow towards something but there are a myriad of currents and paths within. It’s mystifying at times but I think we can kind of see where it’s going and I think that is two distinct splits in MMO’s.
It’s obvious that the themepark design and that which remains accessible will remain popular. No matter how many new titles that come out that really don’t offer much different beyond a theme change and maybe some more modern improvements they still sell, and in huge numbers… usually. having a large connected world like that is enticing and with the pressures of time they make it easier for players to jump in and have fun. There is an immediacy to the world and each elements is refined.
For the other part I see more MMO’s coming up that break from this design. I think there is a growing population who are after something more and something different than this popular paradigm. My first example of this is just how quickly we seem to be progressing through mmo’s now, the general appeal seems to be growing less and less as that experience gets more and more focused.
The second example is the rise of Kickstarter and the projects that got funded which are more nuanced in their design with a focus towards more open ended gameplay. Shroud of Avatar with the ultima feel reborn. Camelot Unchained and back to the PvP breach and then the massive Star Citizen, a modern Eve? The appeal in these titles is huge and if you were to take away the stigma of kickstarter and pledging money towards an idea rather than a product well… I think they would be much bigger.
The third well, just through my usual travels through the wilds of the internetz, in forums, trawling reddit and a few other game communities. This of course will change based on the person and places visited but from what I see there is a growing sense of discontent at how mmo’s are these days with an increasing amount of focus on nostalgia in these groups. The reminiscence of older games and experiences and a longing to see that again.
This used to be the domain of a rather niche audience, one that was only able to sustain smaller projects but it has grown over the years and I think now is the time that a more open ended mmo, one with more complex mechanics with the ability to make your mark on it would be quite successful. Maybe not ever WoW success but enough to rival any of the newer mmo’s. Of course this is a group I think that is after a larger and more polished experience than the fringe indie games can provide, after all, we have grown up on these big budget games and are used to that level of comfort.. and prettiness.
I’m sure I’m forgetting bits here and there is so much more I could say about the questions we talked about. The changes in payment styles and how mmo’s are marketed and designed with it in mind. The changes in communities, both player based and that of the fan sites, a long discussion by itself I think. And then the question about what the future holds. Looking at the current in development mmo’s in certainly looks different, at least in the next couple of years. And even for those I am excited about or believe could do something great there is so many variables there as to whether or not the become great or crumble from the pressure.
Whatever happens, I’m excited to be apart of it.