Back during one of Total Biscut's mailbag vids (I wish I could remember which one, it involved Borderlands 2), TB outright stated that the MMORPG genre as it is now is terrible and will continue to be terrible as long as they continue to work with the foundations that pretty much every MMORPG uses. He argued that MMORP Gs, rather than try to enhance the staples of RP Gs with the MMO aspect, instead outright cripples them for the sake of accommodating it instead...
Oh, wait, here it is. Skip to 05:21.
While a few MM Os (TERA, for example) have been trying to do more engaging combat, and Guild Wars 2 tried to streamline questing, I really do agree with TB for the most part. For starters, storytelling in MM Os is, quite frankly, terrible. And don't use The Old Republic as an example, because while Bioware is good at storytelling, TOR's storyline(s) are, for the most part, basically single-player RP Gs with a co-op element to them.
Actually, screw it, every MMORPG plotline is practically this, and as TB said, it's always obvious that you're doing the same damn shopping list as EVERYONE ELSE. And while NP Cs just standing around with mainly no other purpose than to be talked to is normal in many games, in an MMO it just feels even more artificial. Hell, so much of pretty much any MMORPG feels so 'fake'. So many MMO staples pretty much break any sense of immersion in half. There is so much potential, but the foundations ruin it.
And then there's other aspects - questing, level grinding, equipment and skills, etc. Nerf Now once contemplated the notion of an MMORPG that removed all of these aspects, and while I doubt the latter two need removing or really changing all that much (aside from my personal opinion that the staples of these from hotkey MM Os should be cast into the firey chasms of Mount Doom forever, or hell, the entirety of hotkey MM Os, for that matter), I personally believe that leveling is at the very core of why MMO worlds and stories feel so artificial - you need the give players the same experience when rising up levels in order to give them a level playing field, whether it be shopping-list style quest progression, equipment that can be dropped, or skills. I personally believe that if we got rid of leveling systems in MMORP Gs, we could do so, so much more with the genre. If you want a carrot and a stick so goddamn badly, then do levels that have no actual bearing on gameplay.
I brought this whole thing up on another forum, and someone pointed this out to me:
MMORP Gs are a unique market because of the role the population plays on a game's "quality." Many developers start an MMORPG thinking they'll make the World of Warcraft killer, but they fail to understand that a key facet of World of Warcraft's framework basically prevents it from being overthrown: the community. People don't want to play World of Warcraft because it's fun- they want to play it because all their friends and everything they're invested in is there. Making a game that competes directly with Warcraft is an exercise in futility because you're asking people to make an extra time investment in a similar game. This works for other genres like first person shooters or platformers because "more of the same" works for those games. Warcraft does seem to be beginning to show a waning interest, though it wall be a while before it really manifests, but what that does happen, there will only be one game that inherits its niche and to do so, I expect it will be very different, not similar.
Indeed, there's no way that a game that copies the formula World of Warcraft created is going to be able to beat it. World of Warcraft is entrenched, and despite the slight waning interest in its userbase, World of Warcraft won't be beaten unless there's something else out there that is both very different and demonstrably better than it.
There is some hope. DEFIANCE, which has a topic that was posted a while back, while being a shooter, is trying to create a more dynamic game world that's linked with the show of the same name, with player participation as a means of affecting the story, and exceptional players could be mentioned or even appear in an episode of the TV series - exciting stuff. The Matrix Online, while it wasn't a stellar MMO, also had an over-arching plotline and events that were affected by player participation (including a mass freaking brawl between two factions that may or may not have been planned by the developers that resulted in one faction getting into serious trouble). And EVE has game universe that is controlled completely by the players, which results in some absolutely incredible things occurring every now and then (the year-long-planned destruction of a megacorp and its CEO, Bo B and Goonsquad getting backstabbed on separate occasions, etc.), though it's held by the fact that it's practically so goddamn boring to many, as well as the learning cliff present.
Oh, and DayZ. Say what you will, it's practically an MMO shooter in its own right, and one of the most compelling ones I've ever played, and with good reason. No level progression or questing, just you, the zombies, other people, who may or may not be dangerous in their own right, and a very pressing need to survive by any means necessary.
Reinventing the MMORPG is, obviously going to be a difficult task, but really, it might be necessary, as World of Warcraft is not going away anytime soon, as long as Blizzard continues to use it as a means to print money, and every attempt to beat it at it's own game has ended in spectacular failure (TOR being the latest example). The only way to beat World of Warcraft is to do what it does not, and to excel where other MMORP Gs have so far failed spectacularly at. It can be done, but it requires both developers and players to let go of the preconceived notions of what an MMORPG should be.
So, thoughts? And any suggestions on how MM Os could be reinvented and improved?
The game examples you give already gives the solution I think...all of them are more player-driven game than the traditional MMO...which is why they seems to be much more fun, because the fun aren't what the developers force you on the fun, players easily can make those fun that developers might not expect (or developers are making new contents based on what the player did, which still fits)...I think the player-driven thing is important, since it would help much to eliminate the "sameyness with what others does" problem...
Despite them being largely responsible for the oversaturation, there is some innovative stuff coming out from Korea. Sturgeon's Law does have the 10% after all. We're seeing games with sandbox elements (the West is really picking up in this area as well) and unusual genres like horse racing and fishing (an entire MMORPG devoted to it, not just a minigame) to name the most recent.
The concept of a player-driven gameplay experience lasts only so long as you realize that players — not all of them, but enough — are colossal jerks who will take any opportunity to:
Form cabals and cliques to dominate an entire game's economy/military/whatever.
Use whatever means of progression exist to lock out new players.
Grief any attempts to play the game solo or form "independent" cabals or groups.
Essentially, whoever has the most time to play and the most ruthless group of friends will inevitably dominate the game.
There are ways around this, of course, but they all require some way to reset or constrain the amount of power any given player or group of players can accumulate. This in turn alienates the hardcore crowd who will run off to find some place where they can rule unchallenged again.
If you don't have some kind of meaningful progression path, whether it's gear or levels or skill grinding, then the game becomes boring very quickly for anyone who isn't dedicated to PvP.
If you allow players to fully control the in-game economy, then you'll have to deal with hoarding and inflation. Any in-game economy will become vulnerable to Real Money Trade.
If you allow fully open PvP, then you must have some mechanism to control the inevitable griefing. Griefing drives new players off like nothing else can.
A meaningful single-player storyline is not compatible with immersion in a massively multiplayer world.
There is not enough developer time in any company to keep up with the progression of players through a true multiplayer PvE storyline.
/ EVE Online has a learning/difficulty cliff anyhow...
On the Extra Credits forums, I was pointed to Firefall, an MMO shooter that takes conventional MMO wisdom and shoots it in the face. It's a free-to-play shooter where the entire world isn't open to you right off the bat, instead the community as a whole has to work together to liberate territory from alien invaders, piece by piece.
No levels, you use experience to unlock perks and skills, and your skillset can be configured for any mission, and matters very little in PvP.
Conventional MMO wisdom is to put out as much content as possible at launch and let the players access it immediately. Not so here. You want to explore outside of humanity's last safe haven? You and everyone else have to fight for it. I imagine it'll stretch out the longevity of the initial content considerably, and give the devs more time to polish newer content.
The storyline is community-driven. There are aliens invading Earth, there's only one safe haven left, and it's your job to push them back.
It looks very fun, and I sincerely hope it succeeds if it does turn out to be good.
^^ That is an interesting way of making the players work together.
But I largely agree (sadly) with Fighteer's post. If you give the players control, expect them to use it to their own personal ends. And if you don't side with them, better hope you're too small to notice. Give them too little control, and it feels static. Boring. Flat.
I like RIFT. Seems quiet, gameplay is okay, you have the apperance of making a difference (even though things go right back to hell if you don't do anything to close rifts) and the wife and I are having fun playing it together. Plus, new content being added on a regular basis. Plenty for me to wander off and explore.
We did EVE for a bit, but the learning cliff and time required to progress in much was irritating, plus we got war-dec'd by a bunch of idiots looking for a "good fight", like a bunch of miners constitutes a good fight.
^ I think he means visitable content - lots of MM Os let the player go pretty much everywhere except bonus or quest related areas, and arguably in a lot of them you can gain access to powerful things and reas pretty much immediately as long as you have either the money or the strong enough friends to help you obtain them.
What he means is, no matter what there are things in that game that cannot be accessed at all unless the players work together to allow access to them. Basically, that you have to fight for your content, as apposed to it being at your fingertips as long as you grind/pay enough.
"My final prayer: O my body, always make me a man who questions!" — Frantz Fanon
Doesn't grinding for content = fighting for content since fighting is 99.99% of what players do in most MM Os outside Facebook anyway? I think what's really needed is for developers to stop advertising the endgame and focus on the richness of the starting experiences. Hard to encourage exploration when Trailers Always Spoil.
Regarding Firefall: I got in on the early beta and it was virtually devoid of content; they were just getting their systems built. Maybe it's better now but it was boring as all hell a few months ago.
As for early-game content, it's hard to argue that World of Warcraft doesn't have a great early experience; the problem is that players will always outgrow it. Unless you can somehow guarantee a steady flow of new players, the endgame will come to dominate. Even if you reset progression somehow, or build content that scales with players' levels/gear/skills, you're going to run into the fact that players don't want to do the same thing over and over again.
I reveled in World of Warcraft's early game experience back in 2005. Nowadays if I roll a new character, I quite frankly don't care about the intricacies of the zone plots. I read the quest text, to be sure, and laugh at the antics of the NPC's, but in the end my goal is to get to max level as efficiently as possible.
Well, developers obviously shouldn't neglect endgame content. They should just refrain from spoiling it for the sake of advertising and try to draw in new players by covering the starting areas (of both the base game and any new expansion) in that amount of detail instead. For example, Cataclysm could have been advertised as just 'something big ripping up Azeroth' instead of out and out saying that something was Deathwing since most Player Characters would likely not have been anywhere near Deepholm at the time.
There is not enough developer time in any company to keep up with the progression of players through a true multiplayer PvE storyline.
Well, as long as that remains the view of people, MMORPGs will stagnate, since the story is a key part of a role-playing game (MMO or not).
To make the story truly dynamic would be a colossal task, I agree. Imagine something on the scale of what the Cataclysm expansion did to the original continents, done every few months, and you'd have an idea of what it would take. But if MMOs don't try something like that, they're going to get more and more drive-by players who pick it up for about six months, see what they want to see, and move on to the next one. That's not viable for business.
As much as I appreciate Eve, mining, frankly, shares all the qualities of "things that are wrong with MMORP Gs" with the additional risk of blowing up and losing stuff. In short, it's a game of watching progress bars, and grinding more of it.
Pvt, if you and Red ever get interested in Eve again, my suggestion to you is investing in some cheap frigates and learn by getting them blown up in creative ways. ;)
In short, it's a game of watching progress bars, and grinding more of it.
It's more of a 'Capsuleer life sim' than a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game in that respect. I think CCP was very specific in what they were aiming for.
Which then raises the question: Should MMORP Gs (and MM Os in general) be more of games or alternate lives? The former would focus on the entertainment value while latter would also include the same types of tediums as Real Life, albeit with Fantasy or Sci-fi twists. I think the expectations of a lot of gamers - especially those like me with more old school leanings - are kind of torn between the two.
Yes they do need to be changed.
But they wont because MMO gaming rewards Skinner Box mentality that makes players continue to play while thinking they are "progressing" by raising a few stats.
And with F 2 P its only going to get worse.
MM Os are going to be a bad place soon. Maybe not for the companies, but for the gamers.
I'd imagine an alternate life game would have to have some nebulous end goal, but not in the sense of "hit level 50" or "win a zillion pvp points" or stuff like that.
You might have some sort of Bucket List you can gin up at the start, picking items off of a huge laundry list of things, and add/delete items off of it as you see fit.
I'd also imagine such a game would be less dependent on stats and stat upgrading. Depending on the combat model, of course.
...sigh. Kind of a hard concept to wrap my brain around.
How about a real life version of Brain Burst, where your avatar is solely based on the player's personality and you get to decide which power-ups you want to get, depending on your avatar model, of course?
Of course, personality tests are still so open to abuse that people would just try to get the right answers from the internet to get the best possible avatar, at least in Ragnarok Online's Novice Personality Test anyway.
World of Warcraft allows pick-up group raids, which are easier than "normal" modes and award less powerful gear, but can reasonably be completed in an hour or so with any random group of people who are smart enough to find their asses with their hands.
Like any other system, this has drawn complaints, but the availability of random matchmaking services for dungeons, raids, and PvP means that you can run them at any time as long as you meet any other requirements.
Only organized guild-based runs require an advance time commitment.