I’ve been spamming Twitter over the last year about most every Kickstarter MMORPG that has been proposed. Some of them I’ve believed in wholeheartedly (Mark Jacob’s Camelot Unchained). Some of them are more of a gamble but have interesting ideas that I would love to see implemented in the genre (The Repopulation, Pathfinder Online). One question I am asked over and over, is what do I see in these projects that gets me on such a soapbox?
The answer is simple. I firmly believe we need more flavors in the MMORPG genre. Most every game since Blizzard’s World of Warcraft has been a design clone. Sure there might be improvements made, or small changes to differentiate games, but at least in my opinion, the overall feel of current games is WoW (one exception is Funcom’s The Secret World). I see this trend continuing with the MMORPGs coming out this year, and I’m deeply saddened by this. Why can’t we have more diversity in our most beloved genre of gaming?
The issue here is that because WoW has been so astronomically successful, most anything that followed it did not stray too far from Blizzard’s design. Quest hubs, linear quest paths, instances to deal with hundreds of thousands if not millions of simultaneous players, fast travel, etc.
I guess game design today is also a victim of today’s fast paced, instant information at your fingertips world we live in. And if you are commuting two hours a day into San Francisco, when you get home to relax and game the last thing you want to do is wait 45 minutes to try and grab a rare spawn, or have to gather four of your friends to make it back to your corpse.
I understand the need/desire for instant gratification, or being more efficient with the time we have. Many of today’s gamers blow through months of content in days, want zero wait dungeon pops, don’t want to run for 20 minutes across digital fields to group with friends, etc. That’s a symptom of the world we live in. The need to save time permeates our lives, and carries over into so many aspects of our culture, including gaming. We ask our phones what we should eat for lunch, as it’s too much of a bother to pull that info from our brains. :P
So while we have our socio-driven reasons for the more casual direction of today’s MMORPGs, there is no reason we should not have other choices that deviate strongly from what the status quo is today.
My first MMORPG was Origins’s Ultima Online. I was actually a tester for UO. In the first hour of that game, I watched a group take down a wyvern. I promptly walked up and looted the corpse. The other players had no clue what had just happened, and I had just committed an act so out of character my heart was pounding. On my way back to town, not two minutes from safety, I was jumped by another player and robbed. It was then that I fell in love with the sandbox, open world game design that the genre could offer.
I had a discussion on Twitter today with a friend who inspired this post. He asked why I keep pushing EQ veteran Brad McQuaid’s new MMO project he’s Kickstarting named Pantheon. I told him, I miss non-instanced, open world exploration. I miss corpse runs. “You like corpse runs?”
Emphatically YES I miss corpse runs! Sure they could be a pain, but the sense of community and the bonds made when you had to rely on your guildmates because of game design elements like corpse runs made for some great memories. I miss that need to group, because it was just too dangerous to solo. I miss the games where if you went out at night, the world was a different place and you were asking for trouble.
So I ask myself, why isn’t anyone offering these choices in MMORPGs today? Darkfall somewhat does and I played Darkfall for quite awhile before the reboot and enjoyed it. The issue with PvP centric sandbox games for me is that the community is a little more venomous than I prefer to deal with. For me, a game like Mythic’s Dark Age of Camelot struck this perfect balance between community, PvE, PvP and open world. I very much miss the consequences of old school MMORPGs. This was most recently apparent to me as I played a very enjoyable game of Diablo III hardcore with a group of friends. Knowing that if I died in game, my character would be gone for good made playing D3 a highly exhilarating rush to play. I cared so much more about every action I took, every mistake made. For me, that danger made for a much more fulfilling gaming experience.
Which brings me back to the soapbox. I very much feel like I need to support the classic MMORPG veterans like Richard Garriot, Mark Jacobs and Brad McQuaid in their efforts to once again create worlds for people to get lost in. I am actually amazed at the hatred spewed in forums against these men, who are in many ways the digital gods that forged the paths for the most popular games we play today. I know Garriot and Jacob’s have millions of their personal wealth invested in their projects. The most vicious attacks I’ve seen have been on McQuaid, usually regarding the collapse of Sigil. If you hate this guy, I ask you to watch this interview. I think you will change your mind. If you do not want to watch the entire interview, start at 20:50. (I highly recommend this interview in it’s entirety, at parts very touching).
I am also very much impressed with indie studios like Above and Beyond, and their MMO The Repopulation. I do not see major studios publishing games like this. They are too niche and will not generate the revenue that publicly owned companies demand. This is perhaps the most important reason to be open to crowd funding. Even if you do not have the means to do so, or do not particularly like the product being offered, crowdfunding is a powerful tool. Choice is good for everyone. You never know where the next revolutionary game design choice will come from. I love what SOE is doing with Landmark. The tools to be creative seem vast. I bet Notch is flattered. :P (I kid I kid!) Who knows what impact a little developer like Above and Beyond could make in the genre. Who knows what three old school industry vets might come up with that improves Blizzard’s next big game. And in the end, because these games are offering something different from today’s choices, I can’t help but support their cause. The more flavors the better.
That’s why I fight the good fight. Someone has to do it.
Please consider backing these games if they interest you.
The Repopulation – https://www.therepopulation.com/crowdfunding/
Camelot Unchained – http://camelotunchained.com/en/builders-tiers/
Pantheon, Rise of the Fallen https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1588672538/pantheon-rise-of-the-fallen
Shroud of the Avatar – https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/