LockSixTime discusses the spike and fail culture of MMOs.
As I said in part one, I have been thinking a lot recently about why I enjoy MMOs, why I seek them out, and why I put an inordinate amount of hours into them, as opposed to seeking out the more carefully directed gaming experiences to be found elsewhere.
Don't get me wrong, I love games like Portal, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Skyrim, etc, that exist to revolve around the experience of an individual player. I just like to spend the bulk of my playing time in a virtual world, alongside like-minded people like you.
The more I think about the great single player games I have played, the more I lament how much MMOs have been trapped trying to capture success in the same way that they do, and I think it comes down to playing to the strengths of the medium. By and large, MMOs miss out on their opportunities by looking to emulate greatness from other genres.
In part one, I lamented the use of the classic single player storytelling mechanics in MMOs. I can't understand why a team would put so much effort into creating systems that drive players apart when the platform is at its best when it brings us together.
Why did Star Wars: The Old Republic make us leave the open game world to listen to some exposition instead of interacting with other players every few minutes? Why is it when I discover something that has been lost for thousands of years in The Elder Scrolls Online there are several strangers standing around the same spot? And don't get me started on the phasing. These are two sides of the same coin, and to me show that this type of 'Chosen One' narrative just doesn't work in the genre. Millions of dollars are squandered on voice acting and quest dialogue that will never be listened to or read by a game population becoming increasingly frustrated with this kind of narrative.
Yes, the lore-hounds like it, and I dare say there are a few of you reading this that do read the bulk of the quest text or listen to the glassy eyed bit-players, but there are better ways of communicating the story and history of a world than this.
Think about the way games like Portal communicate story: the world is the story, you can see the consequences of events and learn from the inconsistencies. That's why, for all the thousands of words written for books in The Elder Scrolls Online, not one will be remembered like the simple 'THE CAKE IS A LIE'.
Part two in this trilogy was mostly about my experience with WildStar. There are many great things about WildStar, and I would encourage anyone looking for the 'traditional' MMO model to give it a look, but for me they aimed to fix a symptom instead of a cause.
The combat system in WildStar is great, and while it may not be a style you enjoy, you'd be a fool to ignore the many things it does remarkably well. It’s exciting and intuitive while allowing for an incredibly high skill cap. Unfortunately for Carbine, the system does nothing to address the core problems its design has inherited: repeating puzzle based content with a reward based context. We've been down that road before; we all know where it leads.
There is still hope in the Warplots, and hopefully the scene is competitive enough for it to grow.
I believe these are the two core issues with MMO design right now that are damaging the genre. Developers spend more and more time and effort with their delivery of 'Chosen One' narrative. They put so much into novel combat systems that I'm often left wondering if they even asked themselves why it is people like us play these games to begin with.
So I'm going to talk about another game that isn't EverQuest Next or Landmark, but you may have heard of it.