MMO Mechanics: MMORPG mechanics predictions for 2016

In the last edition of MMO Mechanics, I looked back on 2015 and the mechanics I managed to squeeze into the column: We looked at fast travel, barriers to exit, and some mechanics tied to previously untapped IPs, but I haven’t yet talked about my hopes and expectations for 2016. I was quiet during the various discussions the Massively Overpowered team had about 2016 and what it might bring to the MMO scene, so I owe you guys some predictions! Rather than being too specific here, I’m going to look at the industry trends that are most likely to create new mechanics or at least heavily innovate on existing ones.

crowfall

Player-friendly mechanics to pair with crowdfunding

Despite the general weariness seen on the faces of almost every gamer when they hear mention of the word crowdfunding, we’re seeing large-scale, ambitious MMO plans coming into being through crowdfunding that could point to a player-led rejuvenation of the MMO genre. This movement to player-led funding inevitably has a huge impact on how development proceeds, especially when you factor in stretch goals and the sense of ownership backers feel over the projects they choose to support. I’m very interested to see what this means for the mechanics of these MMOs, and I have a few ideas regarding what we might see in 2016 and beyond.

I believe that the wave of crowdfunded MMOs means that we’ll see an increase in player-driven mechanics across the board, not just in games that were crowdfunded themselves. Traditionally funded games need to compete with upcoming titles such as Crowfall and Star Citizen that feature player-led mechanics: Many have even opened up the development process of those mechanics from the earliest possible stages to intense community scrutiny. Other non-crowdfunded MMOs will need to look to and perhaps emulate the player-led development of crowdfunded MMOs and the mechanics within them, so I’d argue that it’ll make for some interesting developments in 2016.

I need look no further than my beloved Guild Wars 2 when I consider the impact that iterative refinement of mechanics based on player feedback has on an MMO, and I’ve been feeling very optimistic about the game’s future because of how ArenaNet has responded to the community in the last quarter of 2015 and presently. The genre has a fantastically rich history that has resulted in a playerbase that is acutely aware of its likes and dislikes: Developing for a certain niche and creating great community-designed mechanics isn’t a bad way forward for prospective MMO devs and veteran studios alike.

splatoon

Hybrid mechanics employed in not-so-MMOs

The great “Is it an MMO?” debate rages on as strongly as ever in 2016, so I think it makes sense to look at these periphery cases for places where novel mechanics could filter into the genre. I’m not arrogant enough about my game genre of choice to believe that so many developers want a piece of the MMO pie without equally considering that MMOs could be greatly improved with the blending we’ve been experiencing recently. Why can’t we see some mechanics that offer MMO enthusiasts the frantic pace and immediacy we more often associate with non-MMOs trickle into current and future titles this year, for instance?

I particularly like how Tom Clancy’s The Division plans on tackling an open world PvP survival game: No classes to speak of is a brave step that not many MMOs have taken, especially when this is paired with a single skill tree that allows on-the-fly changes. While I haven’t noticed Ubisoft specifically call the game an MMO within the marketing, I don’t need to look much further than the official website to see the familiar hallmarks: the buzzwords include “social,” “player-to-player trading,” “exploration,” “player progression,” and “persistent and dynamic environment.” The choice to avoid the word MMO is perhaps more to do with appealing to the console market than accurate labeling. If it walks like an MMO and talks like an MMO, chances are it’s a bloody MMO!

So what mechanics do I think MMOs can be borrowed from periphery titles? For me, that largely depends on the game at hand! I think most of the stealable mechanics in my mind are more about quality of life, though: I’d love to see more MMOs employ a player-directed mechanic for regrouping quickly with allies in fast-paced PvP and open world scenarios that mirrors the effect of Splatoon‘s respawn launcher mechanic or Paladins‘ super-quick mounted return to battle, for instance. I’m not talking about automatic mechanics such as portals and the usual warping tricks employed in MMOs here, but rather fast manual mechanics that can be used strategically by a player to redirect or refocus assaults at critical moments.

eve v

Movement mechanics for VR development

This section is admittedly a little bit pie-in-the-sky, especially with the frankly unaffordable and unrealistic price point of the Oculus Rift, but we know that some MMO studios, CCP one of the most notable among them, are particularly interested in the opportunities offered by virtual reality technology. When you throw the traditional UI out the window and have the ability to harness the full range of motion and control of the human body, it stands to reason that the scope for new mechanics is absolutely massive if this technology realises its potential, and I believe that the MMO market will almost certainly be able to make good use of it.

EVE Valkyrie will be bundled with the Oculus Rift on launch, so we’ll have a solid conceptual development piece in our hands fairly soon. The VR dogfighter has garnered so much interest that the studio managed to get $30 million towards VR development, so I’m really excited about where the financial boost will take the technology and how (or even if) the team will apply it to the company’s future MMO development. Our very own Brendan Drain last played an early build of the shooter at EVE Vegas and was impressed with the polish it displayed despite being rather light on the customisation front. We’re both united in our opinion that such experimental developments are only a good thing for the gaming industry in general and the MMO industry in particular, and I can see plenty of opportunity for new mechanics to flourish in the virtual reality worlds developers are creating.

Plenty of MMOs could enhance their mechanics sets by employing VR, and I think we might see further development in that direction by the end of 2016. Graphical beauties with vast open worlds scream for this level of immersion: I am imagining how much sweeter GW2′s vista mechanic would be if the game worked with a VR headset, for instance. Explorative MMOs with rewarding journey tracking mechanics would be an absolute treat for escapists everywhere, and action combat would take on an entirely new meaning with the technology too. I’m sure I’m not even scratching the surface here, which is why I’m particularly keen to see what passionate MMO developers with cleverer minds than mine could do with the power of VR behind them.

Over to you!

I am hoping that this year, developers continue to explore genre mashing, new development sources, and promising technological advances to shape the future of MMOs. Borrowed yet reinvented mechanics could challenge the definition of MMO even further, crowdfunding has the capacity to change how developers approach the genesis of mechanics, and virtual reality technology possesses the power to transform more MMO mechanics that I can even foresee at this time, provided its adoption surpasses that of other promising yet overpriced home tech developments such as 3-D television.

What do you think? Have you any mechanical predictions for 2016? What do you think will shape those mechanics, and why 2016? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

MMOs are composed of many moving parts, but Massively’s Tina Lauro is willing to risk industrial injury so that you can enjoy her mechanical musings. MMO Mechanics explores the various workings behind our beloved MMOs. If there’s a specific topic you’d like to see dissected, drop Tina a comment or send an email to tina@massivelyop.com.
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89 Comments on "MMO Mechanics: MMORPG mechanics predictions for 2016"

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Zardoz1972
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Zardoz1972

CU is not exclusive or elitist. It is just a game that is 100 % about PVP or supporting PVP. If someone is into that then CU is for them. If not then not.

Zardoz1972
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Zardoz1972

We lost a mini-game the other night, that we should have won. One guy who was a new pvp”er said, “It’s ok to lose sometimes.” I told him, “With that attitude I do not want you in my TeamSpeak. We are here to win everytime. Think genocide and murder or get out”.

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

Tina Lauro paragonlostinspace Damonvile Zardoz1972

 Exactly Tina. We all have our favorite games that we love and games we don’t care about as much. The one thing that I think I can state without causing much debate is that we’re all fans of this hobby and love to talk about it. :)  

  I think that it also would be fair to say that we also who write, read and post here on MassivelyOp share a desire to learn more about other mmos than just our favorite. Which is why I’ll read articles about MOBA’s for example. They aren’t my cup of tea really but I do reading about them and even watching some of the streams that MassivelyOP has run. :)

 Btw, looking back at my post, I realize that it’s pretty badly stated, I actually do take to heart what posters and readers say about mmos, even if its not something that they normally care about or like. I’d scratch that part of my post out if I was doing the post again. Even someone who doesn’t care for a mechanic or a certain mmorpg, can bring insight and an interesting point of view. 

 Now off to go play some Eagles albums back to back, seems like the bad news keeps hitting. Seems that Eagles guitarist/singer Glenn Frey just passed away too. Lemmy, David Bowie and now Glenn Frey plus the legendary Alan Rickman. Ugh.

Zardoz1972
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Zardoz1972

Let’s be real, if someone wants to play across all factions and not commit fully to one. CU is not the game for them. It would not be a case of 33%, 33%, 33%. It would be 3 times 100 % . You have to be all-in on your chosen faction per server. Then when it comes to aggressiveness if someone is super timid, hardcore pvp does not fit their personality. I see CU as a niche game that will live or die based on having the proper type of people in it. Not from an elitist standpoint. But from a personality standpoint.

Tina Lauro
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Tina Lauro

paragonlostinspace Damonvile Zardoz1972  And I enjoy your comments, Paragon, because they always add something from another perspective than my own! :D The staff here are all human and we obviously each have games that we do enjoy and ones we don’t. I write two general columns, and the real challenge there is that I talk about games I personally dislike or don’t frequently play (if I play them at all in rare cases) if it makes my point or the game speaks to me mechanically. I actually have mentioned CU before in this column, and I talk about whatever specific game the reader in question mentions for Guild Chat where relevant. Of course I adore talking about my favourites, especially GW2, but I equally adore writing Guild Chat and MMO Mechanics because the crafting of those articles stretches me and allows me to appreciate games I wouldn’t normally as a player.

Estranged
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Estranged

I’m big on realm pride. Appreciate your stance on TSW factions. However, we don’t want to alienate people from our game(s). Heck, I didn’t like the spying that went on in WoW as well.

Estranged
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Estranged

You were going too far, basically accusing Tina of playing favorites and making the game seem exclusive and elitist. Now, you are bowing up to me, because I disagree with your tactics.
Your defensiveness speaks volumes. A mod deleted the post in reference, so the proof is in the pudding. Cheers.

schmidtcapela
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schmidtcapela

paragonlostinspace Tina Lauro SallyBowls1 DeadlyAccurate 

Zardoz1972
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Zardoz1972

Many people don’t like the feeling that someone on the other side of the computer screen wants to put them in the dirt. But many of us view it that way. I had a guy here tell me he’s going to kill me if I roll Viking. I loved the comment. I hit “like”. Bring it : ) People need to leave their sensitivity at the door in a competitive environment. I don’t shit talk the opposition. In fact, I hope that there is zero way to communicate with the other sides.

Zardoz1972
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Zardoz1972

It is my hobby too. I’m not personally attacking anyone. Just saying that I like the concepts that CU is bringing forward, and that I want to aggressively PVP against other Factions. I am a Cabal/Guild leader in TSW and I take Faction seriously. If someone has an alt in either of the other factions they can not Premade in my Templar group.