Antithesis: commercial casual games or virtual worlds. MMO's

I'm empathically inspectng the minds of online game-developers to understand why they all make such lousy products, why they treat players like children to be babysitted... what are their contradicting scopes + the marketing needs etc.

Massively, a good site with news and opinions on online-gaming, posted an article about the lack of innovation in MMO's, called "we put the NO in innovation". The current situation is well depicted, title after title we keep playing the same game... it all started after world of warcraft came out... they speculate on why this happened, the typical issue of what online players want, whether they're subscribed to the blizzard's antichrist or not, and so on. It's a complicated affair that's being analyzed in a messy ambiguous way. As usual i intervene to put thigs simpler and straighter.

When developers are conceiving a game, two forces are at work in their heads... one of them focuses on the game's peculiar characteristics, like the trademarks of a specific IP(i.e R.E. Howard's Conan, Lord of the rings etc.), the other force, in sheer contrast with the first, is aware of the genre's established standards, and for one or more reasons He feels that his game needs to have those said standards. Everyone knows what these standards are, WoW made 'em so paramount that many players even treat them as the very foundation of an MMO(iit's irrelevant whether WoW invented them or not... the vikings discovered America but everyone knows Columbus did it because he made it public to the masses).

From now on, to know whether a game is a clone or not, we just need to count the % of uniqueness and that of recycling. Most of the times the uniqueness appears in the combat system and some of the more superficial PvP mechanics, while everything regarding for example the character progression is repeated exactly the same from game to game. I estimate this percentage as being respectively 15% to 85%. The problem is that a minority is always suffocated and assimilated by the winning side. Take Warhammer Online... the unique part is obviously the realm vs realm element. There's forts all around, players need to conquer them. It's practically the only original bit about this game(and the tome), everything else is exactly like warcraft. So what happens? These bits play and feel like random, shallow, confused open-area battles we've already seen in warcraft.

Why? Because these mechanics are not developed and detailed as they should have been, exploiting their unique personality in new mind-numbing systems and mini-games. In Warcraft the open pvp was immediately trashed because the game structure wasn't suited for it, they cleverly focused on other things... they knew this because the structure was their own. The Mythic folks reused a framework that comes from other people, they didn't understand that WoW as it was couldn't be converted into a PvP game, the elements don't work that way... the result is then that the more prominent elements of this game, Warhammer, are exactly the least cured ones, they feel half-done, just as those in WoW were before the game took a definite conceptual path.

So to resume, a cloned gameplay mechanics, with the same UI, the same character progression, the same world framework, such as the separation between instanced and open-world, the separation of maps/zones, the separation of factions(order vs chaos) inevitably affects and crushes the small and bashfully developed unique bits(bashfully because of market obbligations, because market dictates players are scared of innovation bits), ultimately strangling them. Another example would be Fallen Earth... scavenging SEEMS to be a unique element, but in the end it's choked by the fact that a player scavenges only to level up, to sell those wrecked parts, to upgrade the same old talents, to make recipes, to craft stuff in the same old way... it's in the end the same old game... if these elements had been developed more thoroughly, making up mini-games from ZERO, new global objectives, new activities that change the player's point of view, instead of gear farming, loot, and having the best template, they would have given the whole game an original identity. Obviously they didn't and are destined to fail. It's exactly the objectives, that determine a WoW clone, the reason for doing things. Even if you do certain things in a new way, the old recycled clichés will still cover the reason for doing them, crushing every trace of innovation.

Finally, to understand what an MMO should be, let's talk about Star Trek Online by Cryptic and its potential. The game is destined to be the same old goop of WoW clichés adapted to Star Trek names, scenarios, places, some of the more superficial extremely gimmicky aspects of the franchise, a juicy bait for the idiotic fans with nothing inside(aw! Saint Joe how i love being blunt!). Instead, what should it be? It should simply be the Tv shows and films made into a virtual progressive world, whose only requirements are massivity and persistancy... after the developers simply take everything from the franchise, the next step is to filter the informations from the tv shows that give away hints to real-time continuity and virtuality... for example how much time is needed to make a journey, or to study a subject of the academy for an exam(naturally with real manuals the players must study).

This is the difference between videogames and virtual worlds... when MMO makers will understand this, a new era will most likely begin, everyone will realize that the future of cinematic, literary and dramatic fictional worlds and settings is not to make film after film, but to become real... their natural evolution is a virtual world because it's not one transposition of class-A products into a collateral class-B random funny gamey that vaguely reminds of that world and uses the names with a license, it's that very fictional world that, thanks to persistancy, in every way becomes alive.

I hope one day we can understand the impact of this concept.


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