These days, everything has to have an online component. Whether it be for keeping track of how far you’ve gotten in a game, showing your gamer score when combating against other online friends, or proving how little you care about online components in the first place. It’s like having a restaurant force you to pay attention to their salad menu, even though it’s a goddamn salad menu. I’m sorry, but unless I see you tossing squid tentacles or live rattlesnakes into a bowl of lettuce, I’m not going to care! I’m happy you have this new selection of salads, but don’t make it out to be the future of your restaurant’s business!
It’s at this point Brutuxan forgets what he’s writing about, and instead goes into a long tangent about salads. Also what does this have to do with MMO’s? You’re just talking about online functionality in today’s games! Either stick to the topic, or discuss how much you dislike salads you flip-flopping carnivore!
However what I was building up to was this, there’s a reason why online components are being pushed super hard into games that shouldn’t even need them in the first place. Right now, we’re entering a phase where publishers think that there’s profit to be made with adopting the MMO model. Meaning, “Hey, if World of Warcraft was so successful and Blizzard is making a shit ton of money, why don’t we do the same thing?” Mostly by slowly planting those seeds in there, letting them settle in, and finally growing them into a full-blown MMO tree with all the features of the previous game. Rockstar did that with Red Dead Redemption, and is technically doing the same thing with GTA V‘s multiplayer mode.
Granted, not all of these developers have the same mindset, some of them just want to make an MMO because that was their creative intention. But for the publisher, that’s like seeing dollar signs just swarm around them like butterflies trapped in a cage. And why shouldn’t they? As I stated, there is a lot of business to be made with MMO’s, mostly because they harness every single thing that makes Brutuxan kind of cringe when he hears about them – micro-transactions, monthly fees, auction bids, guild events, slightly over-priced DLC, some bullshit cockatoo pet that you can teach to to play a ukulele (actually that last one sounds kind of cool). Hearing those words would make almost any executive want to create a happy accident in their…piece of clothing suitable for covering up their legs, something like that!
Games like Destiny, Fable Legends, The Crew are all games that are marketed as console MMO’s. These were games revealed almost around the same time, and were made in the same mindset of, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we mixed a racer/shooter/combat RPG with an MMO?” Granted, maybe I’m a little out of the loop here, but were people honestly asking for this? The Crew does sound genuinely interesting, and I could see that appealing to a certain demographic, Destiny only maintained its momentum because of Bungie’s name, and Fable Legends…I have no goddamn clue why that had to happen. However it’s not just about these games, for all I know they could be great games, it’s just the repercussions of sticking to that model that seems worrying.
As we all know, there’s a lot of resources that goes into making triple-A games. But an even bigger risk is to invest your company into the development of a major MMO title. Doesn’t even have to be up to the same caliber as World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2, the game can be as milquetoast as what 38 Studio’s title was most likely going to be, but it’s still a heavy investment. Also I know there’s going to be someone out there complaining about how I was belittling 38 Studios, but here’s the thing I want you to ask yourself, in an age where we have WOW, Guild Wars, Everquest, Old Republic, Planetside, Elder Scrolls Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Star Trek Online, Battlestar Galactica Online, Final Fantasy 14, Wizards/Pirates 101 and among a ton of other MMO’s how do you plan on separating yourself from the rest of the herd?
Let’s gloss over the controversy behind what happened with 38 Studios, because personally, I think there was equal blame go around on that. Right now, I want to look at Project Copernicus:
So there seemed to be some interesting designs, looked pretty, but other than that for a game that had a budget of $100, 000, 000 + was there anything in there that screamed ‘I have to play this’? Sure it was very early in development, but it’s blatantly obvious what this game wanted to be the moment I saw that fucking medieval compass, tree chandeliers, and Easter egg houses. Seriously, why are their Easter egg houses in the trees, why couldn’t they just be ‘treehouses’ – was that not grand enough for you 38 Studios? Just like every other MMORPG out there, it wanted to be WOW, but couldn’t because Schilling apparently forgot that maybe aspirations, dreams, and shit cost money. Even worse is that Rhode Island got nipped out of its tax money when realizing most of it went to this goddamn studio’s undesirable dream project.
Also get this, Schilling’s big reveal for the game was that it was going to be “free-to-play.” It’s like saying, “Hey, I’m going to be borrowing your money, well, most of it to finance my dream project. Oh, and I’m probably only going to give you a fraction of that money back, okay, maybe only 10%. But still, it’s at least something, right?” It’s a lovely message Curt Schilling likes to call, “Live your dreams, except if you’re a resident living in Rhode Island. Yours isn’t as important.”
Let’s not forget the people who worked on the game, I mean sure there are those who honestly were on board with the idea from the start, but there had to have been those who were there because they needed to work. If Schilling was aware of what was going to happen, in context he sounds like a really selfish person. Maybe he wasn’t, but when you put hundreds of workers jobs on the line for a dream project involving Easter egg houses and cartoon elves then perhaps its time to re-evaluate some things. Like maybe painting the Easter egg houses green, I don’t fucking know.
The problem doesn’t just linger with 38 Studios, it’s something that persists in mostly every other MMO since WOW‘s success. The Old Republic was an MMORPG built for those who wanted to play an MMO with a thick engrossing story built around their characters. If only most of the players stuck around though, because as it turns out the game took a financial nosedive soon after its release. The Elder Scrolls Online was an MMORPG that was built on the concept of, “What if we made a more open-er Elder Scrolls that allowed you to interact with other players?” Instead the game came out with mixed reception despite its attempts to make it seem more unique than it was.
Future MMO’s face the same problems such as Destiny with its story. I mean, listen to this inspired piece of dialogue from Peter Dinklage!
This an MMO filled with content that will span for over 10 years. And this is the type of dialogue and writing we can expect from one of the central characters in the game…doesn’t that just fill you with excitement? Man, I sure can’t wait to get to know that Peter Dinklage robot who sounds more dryer than a eraser broad being cooked in the sun, and without the decency to at least be lit on fire cause that would require…trying!
There are several major problems I have with MMO’s that I will not fully get into with this article, but let me briefly bring them up. One, if it’s a fantasy MMO it’s story is probably ripped off from Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, if it’s a sci-fi MMO it’s story is probably ripped off from Star Wars or…Star Wars. Two, every task giver says pointless dialogue just to send you to do another mundane errand, that will later send you to another task giver and then do several more repetitive errands, eventually leading you back to the mundane task giver with the mundane repetitive tasks because you need XP to put more numbers behind your numbers. Three, the idea of giving your character this extreme purpose like he’s Neo from The Matrix is bullshit the moment you see another player with the same class doing the exact same mission. Four, if you’re a turn based MMORPG, chances are, you’ve probably hijacked the same mechanics from WOW.
Not to mention there’s the wastefully time consuming talents, the mounts you won’t get till a higher level that also requires a ton of gold, the constant slow run back and forth between missions areas, and the raids that prevent you from furthering your progress. There’s a difference between, let’s say, playing something like Deus Ex or Pac-Man Championship Edition. Where one offers you the choice to play the game your own way, and the other is all about stacking as many points as you can within short bursts, so you can come back and play it later. Those games offer great entertainment value without the hassle of monthly payments or repetitive uninteresting gameplay elements, and eventually you can find the end of the tunnel with them. With an MMO, you’re investing your own time into a tunnel that keeps going and going and going and going and going and – wait – keeps going and going.
That’s fine if you’re into that sort of experience, especially if you have a tight group of friends who just play one game all year. What I’m saying is, this is what the industry is striving toward right now. Games based off a model that worked once or twice, involve very expensive budgets, and have a high possibility of only bringing in a specific crowd. Essentially, these publishers are just sticking to building mansions instead of well-put together two-story houses or one-story houses. Or hell not even equaling things out by dabbing into all three columns.
This is not me saying we should eliminate the MMO genre altogether, this is me saying there’s a lot of incredibly risky moves being made right now, and the result of said incredibly risky moves will hardly be beneficial, in fact it could be disastrous if this is where the industry is going. Right now we have several free-to-play MMO’s that aren’t the sharpest looking tools in the shed, but they can certainly kick the crap out of your shiny run-of-the-mill fantasy MMORPG’s that have over millions of dollars invested into them. Want to know why the free-to-play model is succeeding? Because they either stick with one poison, instead of all them (micro-transactions, monthly fees, full retail pricing). And even then, some of those free-to-play MMO’s still have just as many problems as a monthly subscribed MMO.
It’s why I hate hearing the concept of a Pokemon MMO being thrown out there, like it’s going to be fuckin’ rainbows and kittens. There won’t be any of the expected problems we run into with other MMO’s with the new Pokemon MMO! Those are just there because we put them in a box inside the darkest recesses of our mind that we occasionally check due to morbid curiosity! Same damn thing goes for those geeks who want a Firefly MMO, an X-Files MMO, a Lost MMO, anything based on a beloved geek property or something Joss Whedon had a hand in must have an MMO because that genre represents the high point of gaming! Everything in the world needs an MMO, despite the fact that it’s probably been done already in one of WOW‘s latest expansion packs!
You see what I mean? You can put all your time and effort into a product that you claim will be different than WOW, but guess what? Even if those fans flock to your game for a few weeks, they always go back to WOW. Because WOW never dies, but those who try to be WOW, despite their best intentions, wind up just clutching on for too long, and finger by finger they lose grip, falling into the never-ending abyss of Everquest sequels and whatever DLC The Old Republic has coming out.