[MUD-Dev] The Future of MMOGs...

Brian Lindahl lindahlb at hotmail.com
Tue Jun 11 19:24:16 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


From: "Talanithus Hotmail" talanithus at hotmail.com

First of all I think your use of MMOGs isn't quite accurate. A MMOG
could, in fact, mean a 1000-player game of a first person shooter. I
think it would be better to use the term MMORPG, instead, since you
refer rich histories, storylines, quests, and environments.

> Basically, it seems that MMOGs are simply treading water with the
> current "mindset" behind MMOG development. Sure, some have bells
> and whistles that others do not, but there has been nothing that
> has truly pushed the envelope of what a MMOG is for some time.

I definately agree with you here. Although I think almost all gaming
genres have hit this brick wall. I don't think MMOGs are the only
ones stuck in this stagnant pool, treading water, as you put
it. Almost every game I see come out on the market appears to be
just a facelifted clone of some other game that came out last
year. Only in rare occassions does a game come up with a truely
revolutionary idea, and when they do, it usually becomes a genre of
its own, and sooner or later, hits the same brick wall it's parent
genre had hit.

> of the players themselves. Therefore, once players have achieved
> the ability to customize their characters to their heart's
> content, does it not hold that they will seek to then personalize
> the world around them?

Quite true. I've witnessed this often enough on MUD 'x', where a
player masters all the classes and then, once finding that he can no
longer provide any creativeness to come up with a statistically new
character, heads down the road of amassing money, and equipment,
leading clans, building a house, etc.

> in the interactions that define those worlds. Yet they are
> curtailed by their need to retain consistency within their world's
> history, fiction, development, and background, ultimately
> resulting in interactions that always leave the players thirsting
> for more.

You've hit the it right on the nose here. The most common problem
with MMORPGs to date is that the history, fiction, development, and
background is constant. There is rarely any actual feeling
progression through time. The regions, rulers, economics, stability,
social structure, etc. all stay the same. The players have very
little control over the world.

> the storyline progressed through multiple titles. It was only
> logical that this step would lead to the creation of tools where
> players could not only keep their characters alive, but create the
> worlds in which they adventure. I believe the next step of MMOGs
> follows this same pattern, by allowing players to build and create
> pieces of the worlds around them, and SHARE them with others
> within the Massive Multiplayer environment.

Here, I begin to disagree. You seem to put a large emphsasis on your
opinion that allowing players to modify the world is a good solution
to this dilemma. However, I completely disagree. Modifying the
actual world to the degree you mention would defeat the feeling of a
MMORPG.

What is needed is the flexibility of the world's history and
environment, not the landscape, structure and physics of the
world. When game developers design a MMORPG, they often design it as
a static world. Things are only structured in one view; X does Y and
Y does Z. I think the solution to the dilemna you proposed is
breaking this mold. When game developers design a MMORPG, the design
should have direction, not completion. Design the world so that it
has a living history, so that new situations arise. Plan out epic
storylines months in advance. Flesh out these storylines so that
they have options in them. Make it so that the players themselves,
decide the outcome of the storylines, which branch out to
significantly different and derived storylines.

An example of a static storyline which most MUDs fatally design: A
war or an invasion of some sort on the main city of the MUD. The
players drive off the invading forces and the city is saved.

Now apply my solution to this storyline:

  A war or invasion of some sort takes siege on the main city of the
  MUD. Make it so that the outcome is unknown. Perhaps the players
  are unable to drive off the invading forces and they take hold of
  the city. The players are now cast into a sort of slavery which
  leads to the next storyline of a rebellion a few months down the
  road. Also allow a for a situation in which the players DO fight
  off the forces. Have the NPCs of the main city push towards a hunt
  to root out the source of the forces and lay siege on them as an
  act of revenge and to prevent further invasions.

By applying my solution, the future history is not written by the
game designers, but by the players themselves, giving them the
satisfaction of creative control which they have been deprived of,
after mastering the character customization. I believe this is the
solution to your dilemna, to allow players, not the game designers,
play the most important part in the future history and direction of
the theme. I don't believe the solution lies, as you put it, in
allowing for players to create their own worlds, structurally, under
the fantasy theme. As this solution would only lead to different
static futures, not dynamic futures.

A MMORPG extends beyond the lifetime of it's game designers, so
therefor, the history of it's world should too. Naturally, since
game designers come and go, players should take the role of
design. Not structurally, but along the lines of storyline, plot,
history. The excitement is in the unknown and actual creation, not
the planning of a design (something which allowing for world
creation would lead to). In the game genres you mentioned, none of
the players have any anticipation of forward movement of time to an
infinite point. In fact, conversely, they anticipate the end of the
round of play. Because MMORPGS do NOT have an end, their design
should surround the significance of a non-static future.

Although I make no claim as to whether or not my opinions are where
I see the future of MMORPGs, I make the claim that this is, in my
opinion, the best solution to the dilemna you proposed. In fact, I
believe that the future of MMORPGs is not headed in my direction,
but in yours, unfortunately. From what I've seen, game designers are
strongly encouraged to design a game like last year's best
seller. Any outside-of-the-box thinking is considered a waste of
time and frowned upon by upper management. I actually agree to this
opinion, from their point of view. However, from a player's point of
view, where profit is not of concern, I strongly disagree. I see the
dynamic capability of MMORPGs as a tremendous asset to entertainment
and one that should not be ignored simply because "thats not how the
other genres made money."

Food for thought, -Brian Lindahl, coder of TCP ('The Cathyle
Project')
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