Next Gen MMO thoughts

Andrew over at Teeth and Claws caught my attention with a plan to discuss the next generation of MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Onlines). I suggested on the page that an excellent first post or two on the subject might be what previous generations were just as a basis of clarity. What makes a generational change, in other words. I still think that’s a good idea, but I got to thinking (sigh).

To me, “generation” is a unclear. Is it evolutionary or revolutionary? Both? What differentiates one (not generational) evolution from another (is generational) evolution if that’s your criteria?

There is also the fact that MMOs have diverged. MMORPGs are the mainstay, but there are MMOsims and MMORTSs and MMOFPSs and, well, the list goes on, really. Heck, looked at in one way Second Life and all that virtual world subset is just another MMO.

Which of course makes it even clearer that Andrew (and Toskk, his co-author on this project) will need to do some clarification. I’m pretty certain they are only talking of MMORPGs – but maybe not.

Having said all that, I’m going to blithely make my own determinations so as to make some personal estimations. Speaking pretty much of the MMORPGs, and defining generational as revolutionary, I have some possibilities as to what some key elements of the next generation of MMOs will include.

I think persistence is going to be a generational effect. Not just character, but world. It’s going to be a bugger to balance with quests but there are some tremendous opportunities if the Great Dragon you killed was suppressing some other Big Beast which in turn made someone else’s opportunity. If you really could clear out the Plaguelands – make an area CLEAR. (Or, if your habit is that way, you expand the border just a bit further.) Are there nasty risks? Oh, yes. An unanticipated player imbalance (Horde’s just more FUN so players went 2:1 that way in some worlds) means the world which should resist, collapses.

And I think some brilliant game owners are going to say that instead of ending the world it creates pressures on the horde to fix things for their OWN long-term survival. Perhaps some Great Summoning spells that allow Great Players from the Alliance side to be brought into this world to start the great task. (Note, I’m using WoW labels for easy understanding. I don’t want to build the relatively immaterial elements from scratch.)

You already get hints of this in a few games. The big pain is for new players – if it’s persistent and you’ve removed the minor boggles nearby, what’s left for OTHER new players to find and do?

That brings another generational possibility, but to grasp how it’s so I think you have to see an earlier generational change. Anyone else remember when there were only about 50 players and lots and lots of NPCs? I think we’re going to see some means of massive increase in players per land/realm/server. At the same time, I think we might see players becoming sorta NPCs themselves. I wrote a while back of allowing people to attack and rob from other players, then said it was already done in EVEonline, and got a little frustrated because something brilliant seemed just out of grasp. Then I got this idea.

You go to the local law enforcement (questgiver) and he gives you a task to find and kill WildPlayer, who has been going nuts killing and stealing from other players. Ganking with prejudice. Kill him and take some item from him, bringing it to the questgiver – and there’s your reward.

If you can’t carry all your gear you need to store it. Yeah, you can use banks which are almost infinite storage places. (Not individually, but once you consider ALL the players…) Allow banks to be robbed, and allow players to build holes and vaults and castles (and hire NPCs) in which to place their goods, and suddenly you’ve got a chance at a really dangerous set of bosses…

So, persistence, with deeper player interaction. Maybe with even more players per world.

That’s my candidate for “next generation”. Just as a point of thought.

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