- Back in August, Darren from The Common Sense Gamer joined the chorus of bloggers growing dissatisfied with the current crop of MMOs. Specifically, he's tired of everyone copying World of Warcraft instead of innovating. While I still find myself drawn to WoW-alike games (see my 17 posts about Champions Online), I am also looking forward to the next generation of MMOs. The question is: where do we go from here?
- I personally view MMOs as occurring in three broad generations based on the dominant games of their times: Ultima Online, Everquest, and World of Warcraft. Each new game reacts to the ones that came before them, but these three icons shaped the MMO landscape in ways that are far reaching. UO was the prototypical virtual world game. EQ went back to the MUDs to make it less world and more game. Blizzard designed WoW as if it was a game with virtual world trappings. That's only one vertical slice of the changes made over time. Each successive generation has built on the prior, tweaking, modifying, and eventually challenging the precepts of the earlier games.
- Games like Warhammer Online and Champions Online have tried to improve on the WoW model. But they are firmly in this generation, just like DAoC and CoH/CoV were in the EQ generation. It takes more than iteration to make that kind of change. World of Warcraft and Guild Wars ushered in the newest MMO generation, not by mimicking EQ, but by challenging the assumptions it was built on.
- For those of you looking for the next big things, that's the hurdle some company has to overcome. Most of the ideas I read in the blogging community about how to make a better MMO relate to pushing them one direction or the other on the simulationist/gamist axis. Others just want to roll back the clock on MMOs so they play just like the good old days. Which is ironic for people waiting for something new.
- Innovation is not easy. Some day, someone brilliant will have a flash and MMOs won't be the same. That's not me. It's not most people I know. Until then, we are most like going to see iterative designs where new ideas are folded into a proven mix. And every so often, we'll get something crazy like EVE Online or Darkfall to fill a sadly ignored niche.
- If you are bored with MMOs, I don't think there is much hope for you. Change is going to be slow (unless something brilliant happens). But change will happen. Maybe everyone should step away from the genre for a few years. Eventually you'll actually be able to notice a difference.
© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
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