Flatfingers had a response to Brian Green’s question “Do you enjoy your favorite MMORPG more or less because of the changes that have been applied to it?”
“Unhappily, my MMORPG experiences since EQ have led me to precisely the opposite conclusion: as a gamer, I’m just not interested in playing any of these games any more because my perception is that they have ceased to change in any meaningful way.”
I originally had a draft post that used the discussion on live team drift to lead into Flatfingers post because it fits with the question I raised last week about murder and theft as core gameplay; whether it is possible to get away from it. Flatfingers is correct when he laments the “lack of innovation” in the MMO industry. The typical MMO is “kill and loot” + agro + trinity. Even nontraditional, child oriented MMOs, such as Wizard 101, follow the same formulas. This is not just with the online RPGs. Change the ruleset and tweak the story (but keep the cliches) and Dragon Age is another Baldur’s Gate. Pen and paper RPGs have been in the “commit mass murder and steal from the dead” business ever since at least 1978. Aggro came from text MUDs and was initially a workaround for the problem of determining who a mob attacks in a node based environment that lacks a coordinate system.
But what could come in its place? Some worlds do break from the “standard model” in spectacular ways:
- RPI MUDS
- A Tale in the Desert’s crafting emphasis – not a dead mob in sight
- Darkfall’s manual swings
- EVE Online’s time (as in calandar time) based character advancement and economy emphasis
It is probably not surprising that the first two of these examples are socializer and roleplayer oriented, while the latter two are PvP oriented. But what about for achiever and explorer oriented play? As Damian Schubert has often pointed out, the usual gameplay conventions are not in place because of lack of innovative thought, but because most of the alternatives simply can’t hold onto a player for an extended period of time. As evizaer pointed out, breaking combat addiction is hard to do, very hard.
One problem with player pontification is complaining that there is no innovation without trying to come up with alternatives. We can’t just expect professionals to “innovate”. They are usually spending other people’s money and have to take a route that is known to “be fun”. We have to come up with alternatives and ideally implement them; or at least prototype them. My conjecturing from yesterday is worthless without a prototype example.
So I repeat my question from last week. Is it possible to design a world that is compelling to explorers and achievers without resorting to the usual crutches?