The Soapbox: Why I’m hopeful for the future of MMOs

    
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The Soapbox: Why I’m hopeful for the future of MMOs

Earlier this week, Justin asked what gives you hope for the future of the MMOs. As you might expect, the responses were many and varied, with some people naming a far off game or two while a few said that current titles are all they need from MMOs. Still others said — and I quote — abandon hope all ye who enter here because the genre has strayed so far from its original identity that it now serves an entirely different playerbase.

If you’d asked me this question a year or so ago, I’d have fallen firmly into that last camp. The genre has inarguably changed, and arguably for the worse, especially if you are a fan of sandboxes, grouping, virtual world gameplay in general and non-combat gameplay in particular. But as I said in my own comment, better days are ahead, thanks in my opinion to a handful of independent MMOs.

Retaliator_HeaderStar Citizen

Discourse surrounding Star Citizen never fails to crack me up, and I’m not just talking about Derek Smart’s absurdities or the many faces of Manzes. There’s a sizable contingent of people who seemingly want this game to fail, and I’m not sure whether that’s because they’re just uninformed or because they have a vested interest in some sort of competing title. I’ll go with the former supposition, given how frequently these armchair critics call for government oversight of crowdfunding and similarly shortsighted demands.

Really, though, “competing title” is a misnomer because there is no title, MMO or otherwise, that can compete with Star Citizen’s feature set.

Marine1Yes, yes, you’re a project manager or a developer or you know someone who is, and you don’t think there’s any way that Cloud Imperium can deliver what they’ve said they’ll deliver. Except they’ve been doing it. Sure, they’re late more often than not, but still, how can you continue to argue with easily verifiable reality?

And what if, a couple of years from now, the full game launches and it is in fact an incredibly polished and feature-rich virtual world? Stranger things have happened. The opposing view typically boils down to “the devs I’ve talked to said it can’t be done with the money CIG has raised.” To which my response is “perhaps the devs saying it can’t be done for X amount of money are overpaid because it is in fact being done.”

It saddens me that just about every Star Citizen mention devolves into this sort of farcical flame war because the fact of the matter is that everyone with an interest in MMOs, space sim fan or not, should be rooting for the title to succeed. The game’s success can only help the MMO genre, both by proving that there is a (very large) demand for immersive, involving gameplay that’s more than a progression grind and by raising the bar in terms of project scope and visuals.

The-Repopulation-screenshot-2The Repopulation

I’ve been keeping The Repopulation at arm’s length, both because I think it needs more time in the oven and because I’m anticipating playing it quite a bit when it finally launches. My preview sessions earlier this year were more than enough to vault the sci-fi sandbox near the top of my watch list, though, and the fact that such a deep and ambitious game is being made by a tiny dev team only adds to the flavor.

Did I mention that Above & Beyond Technologies has admitted to being inspired by the late great Star Wars Galaxies on multiple occasions? Enough said, frankly.

wp_SnowDragon_1920x1200Camelot Unchained

Camelot Unchained is a bit outside my personal wheelhouse, since I’ve never been much for RvR or really PvP in general. It has its place, granted, and I’m keen to craft my way through City State’s fantasy sandbox and hopefully supply my more bloodthirsty comrades with the tools necessary to achieve their goals.

More importantly, though, Mark Jacobs and company are a refreshing departure from the tired and erroneous notion of the MMORPG as mass market entertainment. Camelot Unchained embraces its niche and its niche audience in a way that every MMO should. This is a game by fans, for fans, and while many a PR person has used that phrase to hype derivative themepark #1,138, CU lives and breathes the mantra by sticking to its PvP (and its subscription) guns instead of selling out for more players.

The MMO space desperately needs more titles and more dev teams like that.

WindowsPlayer 2015-08-06 16-34-44-58Project Gorgon

Project Gorgon’s commanded a lot of attention here lately, and rightfully so. It’s a throwback in all of the right ways, and much like Camelot Unchained, it’s being developed by a firm that doesn’t particularly care about hitting it big as much as it cares about making the game that it wants to make and the game that bigger studios are afraid to make.

Yeah, it could use a visual upgrade — and that’s purportedly going to happen now that Elder Game is flush with some well-deserved Kickstarter cash — but even without the graphical bells and whistles, Gorgon is one of those titles that reminds old-schoolers why they liked this genre in the first place.

Revival_01Revival

Revival is something of an x-factor, and while you can actually play portions of the other titles on today’s list, this one is completely theoretical. The theory’s pretty fascinating, though, and I encourage anyone who’s even remotely interested in non-linear virtual world gameplay to read through Revival’s various dev blogs and forum posts in order to see what the team at Illfonic has up its sleeve.

revival_05The game has of course made headlines for its use of sex, but thinking of it as that MMO with funking really does it a disservice. Instead, consider this excerpt from Illfonic’s mission statement and realize that it’s just one of the ways in which Revival purports to reclaim the MMORPG for immersionists.

“Gone are the days of poring over walkthrough websites featuring a lengthy description of the process that you will then undertake to defeat the Dreadlord Ignominious Thrax, just like everyone else at your level, only to leave him alive for the next group in line,” the statement says. “Finally behind us are endless runs through the same content, only to get a chance at receiving a purple bit of gear that all of the others of your class on the server already have. Items in Revival are as individual as the players, and building your personal kit is a reflection of your individual playstyle, not the rote completion of a template.”

So yeah, I’m pretty hopeful about the future of MMOs, thanks to these titles and others like Shroud of the Avatar, Shards Online, and even smaller-scale multiplayer joints with MMO features like ARK: Survival Evolved. All of these projects are unapologetic in their presentation of deep, immersive, and feature-rich titles that are worlds first and games second, which is a welcome departure from the grind-to-get-gear-to-grind-to-get-gear nonsense that World of Warcraft and all of its unfortunate offspring have visited on the virtual world space for the past dozen years.

Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively OP writers as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews (and not necessarily shared across the staff). Think we’re spot on — or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!

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Taun
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Taun

Koshelkin Taun LOL, actually I’ve been playing RPG’s for over 25 years.  I wasn’t trying to say Star Citizen was like a traditional RPG videogame, but simply to theorize what features of Star Citizen could be used for actual Role Playing (similar to PnP & Live action roleplaying).  I’ve seen a number of people on the forums who plan to stay in character while they play a role, i.e. pirate, trader, bounty hunter, salvage, miner, escort, passenger transport, etc..
Perhaps you can be more specific as to what you mean by character development.  Are perhaps you referring to personal narrative development?   Then that part would be limited to Squadron 42 & future single player expansions.  The persistent universe is more of a sandbox, & so it’s experiences will be different than a Mass Effect, Witcher, or Final Fantasy.

Koshelkin
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Koshelkin

Taun Koshelkin You clearly have no clue about RPGs.

Taun
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Taun

Koshelkin “I doubt Star Citizen will provide the character development depth of a traditional MMORPG”

Well it definetly won’t have a traditional RPG stats based approach.  But the gear your equip will have different stats, as will your ship & it’s equipment.  You’ll also have NPC faction reputations to deal with, the biggest of which is the UEE.  As far as character customization, they’ve been collaborating with Warhorse Studios on highly customizable clothing system.  And I remeber reading recently they’re planning to allow you to adjust your weight.  As for facial customization, I haven’t read anything about that.  What I do know is that they are scanning real people’s faces into the game.  I’m not sure if that’s just for SQ42 & NPC in the persistant universe or not.

rioinsignia
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rioinsignia

Cotic_OP An interesting analogy.  However, if one thinks of CIG as Cameron, I can’t for the life of me think of a single MMO developer that could be likened to Scott.  DB (and by proxy FD) certainly can’t.  SOE?  Nah.  Funcom?  Definately not.  Arenanet.  Nope.

DoctorOverlord
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DoctorOverlord

“The MMO space desperately needs more titles and more dev teams like (Camelot Unchained)”
I have to agree with that.  After the glut of oversized failures trying to be WoW clones, it looks like the industry has finally stopped trying.  Now it’s time for games taking completely different approaches like CU and Star Citizen and the rest.
We may actually seeing the MMO industry start to embrace the concept of attempting real innovation rather than just copying the current big name.  It just took a decade and millions and millions of dollars of losses to force MMO devs into that corner lol

Thornz
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Thornz

Mark Jacobs 
Thank you very much for taking to answer my question.
Ya, WAR had so much going for it and poof… it exploded…..
Ya EA and the likes tend to toss games out fast for the quick cash grab.
 

I have been following CU and very impressive for sure. 
Will look at funds and look over CU and be a backer.
Be well and see you in the forums…

ityere
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ityere

rioinsignia ityere rioinsigniaityere Because it was my opinion. Because I am interested in the subject, but, when discussed with reason, not with bias or making opinions sound like facts. So, I gave my feedback.

Probably, if it was my blog, my game news website, I would not delete an opinion about another opinion, just because its divergent of the author’s opinion, as well as I saw other similar comments been deleted. 

This is a clear evidence that the author/website wants to force his opinion on people and making it appear as a fact, and deleting divergent opinions to make it appear that everyone agrees. 

It couldn’t be more clear now. But thanks to let my point of view appear in your quote, at least, instead remaining deleted.

That makes more clear to those that did not see the context, understand what I am saying.

I see that you are the kind of person that likes a comment who says: “Go back under your rock”. 

It’s telling about yourself and about your objectives here. 

So, don’t feel bad that I am not replying to you anymore. You lost me too.

Have a good day.

ityere
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ityere

Vikingr Red_Shirt_Rod There is a difference of what crowdfunding is and companies involved do with what Roberts decided to make. There is nothing better on encouraging people to invest based more and more in imagination, sometimes thousands of dollars, for things and features that are added only as dreams, while the only thing which expands, is graphical appeal that adds more and more constraints to make all those gameplay dreams to come true.

Publishers cut things?
Roberts too. Meaningfull features like coop in out gameplay during a campaign were already removed.

Social areas were expanded in graphical fidelity and monor details, but adding constraints to include meaningful gameplay related. Making people imagining a Mass Effect and not having the insight that the experience will be more like walking around the area, after all side and main quests done, which is boring. It could be simplified in favor of better gameplay , fast pace of development and additions. So much details for the FPS, to a game were the premisse is a long road buiding a character and evolving it. FPS is born a death feature. And again, adds more and more constraints to the game advance.
All that is just good to delay the core of the game, to sell more ships and to make Roberts and main producers, associates, earning a lot more in salaries above the average of the market, benefits and comissions, while the rest of the team is poorly paid and works under a lot of extra effort basis, if the rumors are true. People takes longer to figure out how failed is their expanded plans, how terribly bad is the cost-benefit of the kind of expansion made.

In the end, a lot of people that were imagining a more expanded private server, coop in out gameplay during a campaign, features that won’t work as intended or won’t be used by the majority, due the own premisses of the game, and not having more patience, or not resisting to competitors of ga
mes that delivers more value and less fluff, because SC will be the slower game ever to have meaningful addtions to gameplay and making their additions having meaning, and spent thousands of dollars for imagination, between other possible disappointments raised by more time spent waiting, will have just themselves to blame. 
Mainly because they blindly supported the wrong thing for too long. Things that in the end of the day, just puts the developers in a comfortable chair of not worrying if it will work or not, or if customers will be disappointed or not, if its sustainable or not, because made his money anyway, even more than earlier dreamed.

My bet is that it does not matter, because blaming themselves or not, the game will be death, but all this lead to the CIG leaders to get richer, regardless killing the chances of the game and the company to survive in the long term with revenue, justifying more effort and investiments. 
I would not define what Roberts does as a standard crowdfunding project, since for him, “the sky is the limit”. For me, what he does is just a shame, out of reality. Freedom has limits. It does not help when you have the freedom to screw the future of the game, company, etc., because you presume that gamers will change just because is Roberts and CIG, or becuase you managed to make a few delusional. What CIG does has nothing to do with “because crowdfunding” and its just a lame excuse to make unrealistic shit to feed imagination and making profit. Its a lot worst. Its much less care to satisfy customers and a lot to satisfy personal egos. So, there is nothing better on that. Its a lot worst and the attitude is going to be never “game changer” and makes the entire venture as a train wreck to come.

ityere
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ityere

Vikingr Red_Shirt_Rod I see many great and innovative games coming from publishers, from AAA level to indie level. I think that you people are too tied to one genre and dismissing all others as nothing.

Shervy
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Shervy

Mark Jacobs
It is refreshing to see a notable developer such as you posting in online discussions. I enjoyed your previous efforts and was in the early early Warhammer alpha thanks my boss at the internet cafe (Biju) off of Rockville Pike near the best buy and Ledos pizza. I enjoyed the game early on very much and as others have stated it is a shame how things turned out. 
I look forward to Camelot unchained, I feel a lot of people have fantasy/sword and board fatigue due to the lack luster options that have been available for some time now. 
Also I think its great you are active online and commenting on posts, some devs just don’t get that a little bit of active exposure can really be beneficial to not only your fan base but new people as well. Also helps that you are humble and not arrogant as some devs can be. 
Keep it up!