Thursday, December 4, 2008

MMORPG - What it needs (Aka I rant some)

What happened to fun?

It seems games these days, both online and off, stress more over innovation than any type of entertainment. The all important "What have gamers never seen.." syndrome has spread through out the gaming industry to the point where we find ourselves riddled with games bursting with "innovation" but lacking fun. MMORPGs are falling victim to the same scenario.

Phasing. A new "innovation" that Blizzard is using with it's popular MMORPG World of Warcraft. What it does it puts you in a outside instance depending on what quest you are in. For example, lets say your doing a quest that has the undead attacking Ironforge. While you are on the quest you are "phased" to a different Ironforge than everyone who has already done the quest and those who haven't. So you'll be all alone in the city, unless of course someone else is doing the quest and is at that step as well. Now while this is attempting to give you the illusion that your actions can change the game world, it fails miserably and only highlights that your playing a game. So your in the phased version of Ironforge with the undead attacking and buildings on fire yet your the only one that can react to that. Everyone else outside the phased instance including your own party members are wondering why your freaking out with " OMG Look at all the undead!!?!". All the while the trade channels are going on interupting the flow of it all. Atmosphere is one of the biggest drawing points in a RPG. However to suddenly be in a world by yourself while everyone in the trade channels exchanges Chuck Norris jokes will only remind you painfully where you are.

My experiences with phasing have been boring to the point of sheer madness if not frustrating. While the attempt to bring back the epic storyline of the Warcraft RTS series is worth commending, Blizzard comes up far too short. Especially if you slap the thousand " Kill 6 X monsters " quests next to it. Gamers want to FEEL powerful, epic, and to look it as well. Take the success of games such as Gears of War. It is no different than previous FPS except that it makes you feel like you did something cool, or did something legendary. Look at the success of a large chunk of action-oriented games and you'll see the ones that make you the player feel like your awesome will be the winners. Assassin's Creed, Prince of Persia, Sonic Unleashed(Sun levels), Gears of War 1/2, and the list could keep on going. MMORPGs need to consider that THIS is what players want.

No matter if your playing on EverQuest, World of Warcraft, Warhammer, or even table-top Dungeons & Dragons nothing beats feeling like a hero(or anti-hero). Ambiance has to be established for a player to thoroughly enjoy their experience. A story that evolves around the characters, a world that interacts with the players deeper then ever before, and a developer that encourages a player to have fun is what is needed for a great MMO. Have whole cities be destroyed by players if need be if this is what it takes. They can be rebuilt. Until then your logging into a static world that will never change in the slightest. It becomes tedious real quick.

So games will probably keep focusing on innovation. It's the next generation word that is quickly taking over how we view and play our games. While innovation is grand, consider making a game for just the sake of fun. It doesn't matter if the concept has been done to death. As long as it's entertaining that is all that matters.

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