December 19, 2007

My Take on MMOs

So I've brought this up now and again over the course of the blog (at least I think I have, not sure really) especially in the last few days, I'm not particularly big on MMOs. Now I am not trying to alienate my fan base (that is, if I have a fan base), but I have just never understood what makes these games so successful and why people keep coming back to them. In my time I have played: Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, City of Heroes, Guild Wars, D&D: Stormreach, World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Lord of the Rings Online, and now finally, Final Fantasy XI, so I am not exactly new to the genre. Admittedly, I haven't played any of them for more than around 50 hours (which some of my friends say doesn't even count), with perhaps the exception of World of Warcraft, but there is a reason for that.

Every time a new interesting looking MMO comes out, I get excited for it. The graphics look cool, it has some new combat/faction/economic/character/whatever model that looks really interesting, it's in an IP I'm really interested in, or some other reason that piques my interest. I run out and pick up a copy, spend about 1+ hours installing and updating it, and finally I'm ready to go, and for a while it's great. The environment is new and different, it's got some new system I'm playing with, and I'm just having a fun time finding things out. Before long, however, I start to become bored when I realize that it's the same old grind I've played over and over and over before. Some of the newer games get away from this better than others with solid PvP like Guild Wars and DAoC, or cool quests like WoW or LotRO, but ultimately these are some of the most repetitive games in existence.

Sure, when you boil things down all games are based on some level of repetition, heck, the industry was founded on people willing to pay to play the same thing over and over and over. As the industry as evolved, however, many genres have tried to get away from this, either by having gameplay that evolves throughout the experience, or breaking up some of the repetition with other things to do, like vehicle segments or townspeople to talk to, or a hundred other things to do besides shooting, racing, fighting, etc. MMOs on the other hand don't seem to have really grown much from their MUD roots. Ultimately it's all about walking around and killing stuff so you can get more experience/better equipment and kill bigger stuff, and the cycle repeats ad nauseum.

I guess the truth is that MMOs are still young compared to many of the more standard genres. FPSs, Platformers, Fighters, even RTSs have been around long enough to have learned from their more notable mistakes. The problem I see is that the overwhelming success of a few MMOs has lead to an overabundance of "me too" developers trying to get their slice of the pie. I'm not sure on the exact statistic, but I'd say for every MMO in existence right now there are probably about 2+ MMOs in development. The problem is, by and large, none of these new MMOs is really trying anything different. Typically, they just try to separate themselves from the pack through their IP and so MMOs have seen very little evolution in gameplay.

Ultimately, this whole cycle ends up leaving me feeling very disenchanted with the whole genre as I get excited for new properties only to find out they are the same game I've been playing for the last five years with a new coat of paint slapped on. Until this changes, I think that you can count me and many others like me out of the market for this particular genre. From what little I've heard of the new Bioware/LucasArts venture, I've heard they are taking a completely new approach that may, in fact, change the genre. If there's anyone I could imagine doing it, it would be Bioware, but you'll excuse me if I don't hold my breath, and until then you can find me playing my other games quite happily and more heavily invested.

No comments:

Post a Comment