Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Future Development of the MMO Genre

Maybe we've missed a trick, or rather a decent analogy, in our mental impression of how MMO's are currently shaping up, maybe we've missed the obvious staring us in the face in mapping out how we perceive this genre of entertainment... And this is realizing how lazy the human-being can be.

Now, I don't mean us bloggers, commentators and players of games (though some of us, no doubt, are bloody lazy) and neither do I mean that the developers of these games are lazy; quite the opposite on that front I feel, rather I think that due to pressures of necessity and our ingenuity as a species we will always look for a short cut to get things accomplished, we like things easy and sometimes when we can't get to the solution we want out continual thinking sends us into mental frustration as literally can't see the wood for the trees.

I think as observers, players and EULA sufferers of the MMO genre, we've missed realising, missed tempering our opinions and reviews with the fact that people find it easier to do one thing than another. Not that some out there don't understand the necessity of developers cutting corners to get a job done.

However, during the recording of SUWT on Sunday morning I speculated that things were getting a bit homogeneous in a certain large scale online game, that they were ever expanding up and up and up and never adding any real breadth or depth to the game.

And I'm afraid to say in some areas of that game I was right, however, I was wrong in applying that opinion to other titles out there, Eve-Online most certainly has massive breadth & depth, though it mediates this by real-time progress as much as repetition. I suppose that's a strength of CCP over Blizzard. It also reinforces another topic covered in SUWT, that of how different companies interpret their products.

I suppose you're asking what this has to do with laziness and finding the short cut? Well, I believe the current generation of MMO's are either so busy trying to get out of the stable door, to be the next wow, or to be wow itself, they have had certain faults, certain plot devices ill explained. We have however enjoyed a plethora of new offerings in the MMO genre. The genre has matured a lot since the days of Ultima Underworld.

But I believe we need to look at all current and indeed most up coming MMO releases including WoW, DDO, RoM, LOTRO, WHO, AION, STO and all the rest as one generation of the games (obviously).

And I believe the thing which will define the next generation, won't be the story line, or the plot and probably not even the graphics (though it'll look spanking as processing power has gone up a lot as it ever has). No, the thing I think which will mark the next generation out from the current offerings will be delivery.

If an MMO suffers teething problems, scaling problems, order fulfilment or even billing and support issues, it will be instantly tarred with the same laughing stock brush as all the current bunch which have bolted from the hands of their development teams and been unleashed on the paying public early.

Those producers have got to sit back and think carefully, they have to execute their development cycle with delivery of perfection before delivery on time. Maybe this means tempering down the amount of public information released, not to promise too much too soon (as so often happens with blogs, tweets and journalists).

Whatever it means, it means letting development and testing, real testing not “public beta”, decide when to release.

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