Recently we heard of game studio layoffs again. Did you ever wonder where all those skills go? I’m sure some find like work in big studios, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many end up as Indies or in small teams – or even more likely (judging from the crowded space) as mobile and cross-platform developers.
Personally I’ve never been a purist. I won’t blog just one game, I’m unmoved by open worlds until the day when instances don’t make a game run better. Raiding is for when I have the time, pvp I prefer consensual. Hardcore makes me worry about people’s health. I don’t want to “work” in a game, it’s a leisure activity and finally I can socialize without a quasi-military structure or do-it-yourself rentagang. And all of this is perfectly valid because in the end, I am the customer. This particular customer isn’t into “pure”, just a good product I can enjoy in my own way will do fine. Other customers feel differently, and that’s life, and it also leads to possibilities.
The amorphous blob I mentally label “Massively Mulitplayer Online” reminds me of that wibbly bit in a film before it goes to a cut scene, or the fade before another viewpoint.
Right now, I’m in a position to try out a ton of games and I have been. Some things do strike me. I (like many others) see huge potential for those games with purist attributes – if they set up shop as niche products. Unbelievably hard games with great big learning curves and ocean-like time-sinks for the hardcore anyone? People feel passionately about their gaming, maybe enough for a healthy market.
That would give us all a more varied and interesting landscape to play in – and there are signs of it happening. Niche interests abound on Kickstarter nowadays. I don’t think any of these should be judged on whether they become huge or make tons of money. If enough people want to play them to support them and keep the devs alive, that’s success already. If you’re making something you love, the chances are you’ll put heart and soul into it, and that always comes across – so a big playerbase and riches are possible to0, but I think the basic thing of providing something enough people want and will pay for, *that* is the bar.
So we have a lot of talent sloshing about, and the beginnings of niche gaming. A third factor seems to be something to do with size. I do see attempts at the MMO format on my android, but they only have a few of the dimensions. Ravensword, The Bards Tale etc don’t compare with the giant that used to be WoW before all the content was stripped out. These mobile attempts keep getting a little richer as the technology improves though, and oddly enough, the big games keep heading more towards rails, simplification, fewer dimensions, generic classes, blandness. Both sides are heading toward the middle from opposite ends! This makes sense – there is a lot more money wafting around the mobile scene than there is to be had for a big MMO. The larger endeavors cut costs by simplifying, the smaller ones aim for an even bigger market by adding more systems.
It’s fascinating. Will they all end up mid-sized and varied, or will they all end up big and on rails? Could MMOs end up bunkering in PCs where more is possible and become like frilly octopi, catering to all styles of gameplay? Will mobile MMOs explode into fragmented MMO aspects that one can fit together at home where a cavernous desktop dominates the living room?
Whatever happens, I don’t want boring. I understand that big MMOs are seeing advantages in niching themselves and trimming development costs by not catering to everyone, and cutting systems like crafting to cosmetic. I also get that the technology is never going to allow me to play full-blown WoW even in its stripped form on my tablet. (Mind you shouldn’t say never). But I think depth is always possible, from the simplest gameplay (e.g. Flutter) right through to the sparest MMO world (like GW1) – and any game that achieves that stands a good chance.
Big teams are required for a fully fledged MMO… no not really. The tools nowadays are such that a one-man-band can make plenty of noise, and a small team can create a universe. Server costs are reasonable too. I don’t think team size matters as much as it once did. Borrowing matters. If you need to borrow to set up your MMO you’re in a tight spot and there’s huge pressure to stick with the tried and tested. That’s true for large or small studios and large or small games and is probably the single thing that keeps us all cloned and bland.
Of course, the more variety we have, the less easy it becomes to play “definitions”. That’s fine by me. Defining stuff is for high-school debates and high courts of law. In creative endeavours insisting on strict universal categorisation is counter-productive. Any definition anyone has of “MMO” is fine by me. A rough grasp of the concept will do for exploring the thought :)
As small and large move closer and no MMO bastion cannot be emulated by all and sundry, I love to think that some of the straightjackets to fall off so that the MMO genre gets more worth exploring, like in the early days. At the moment all the places you go are not like that strange little unique cafe in downtown Ancient Mesopotamia, more like McDonalds in various settings. We could be having a lot more fun. Why don’t we have Social Molo games? Will someone ever do the crafting game of my dreams? What about a lore-driven game with emergent elements. Oh yes there’s a lot more out there and possible than downing the UberRat yet again for a piece of gear that’s obsolete in a month. – Can we have a pvp game that’s more ‘knights in shining armour’ or ‘adrenaline of battle’ and less ‘inadequates on the loose?’
I’m always hopeful, me :)