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Much loved and well respected Craig Morrison, game director of Age of Conan and now Funcom Montreal creative director. Has been giving his insight into The Secret World (TSW). Craig in an interview with Gamasutra stated he thinks audience expectations are handicapping the MMO genre.
Commenting on TSW Craig stated that if players didn't adopt such a high expectation mindset, they would see that a game starting with around 100k of players has massive potential. Craig points to the success of EVE Online and how a small game can build up to something significant.
Craig references other games such as League of Legends that started from meagre beginnings. Hoping TSW can follow suit Craig believes the keys to success are taking a small user base and building it up with continued investment. At the same time listening to user feedback and tweaking the game in accordance. With a highly successful beta attracting 500k and initial sales of 200k, it seems TSW might be well placed to be the next Eve or League of Legends.
Craig also gives his wonderful insight into how the MMO genre needs to evolve in the extended version of the article. Craig is anti terms search as Sandbox and Themepark, if he had a choice he would remove these from the MMO genre. Considering these pre-defined terms to be a hindrance to the virtual worlds that are being created.
Pointing to the genre as whole Craig states an MMO at the three year point is a far better game than an MMO at release. As with all good things it appears MMO's improve with age. The true potential of the genre is in the way the games are 'slow boiled' and their communities organically built. Which I suppose ironically raises the question why anybody would buy an MMO at release? But let's not dwell on that point.
Craig states that we should not view a game as worthless because it doesn't have a million players. Instead we need to see how cool it is to be niche. Funcom being one of the last independent MMO studios, has a major advantage in terms of technology with their proprietary Dreamworld Engine. Worth in itself 10,15,20 million dollars and five years worth of development. Pointing out they could make their next 'system-driven' MMO on a very small budget of 10 to 15 million dollars. Diminutive compared to the likes of Guild Wars 2, The Old Republic or even TSW.
The future for MMO's, from Funcoms perspective, is regular content update. To quote Craig '...you probably have to remain important and in the mind of your users all the time, and not have too many big breaks between content updates'. One things for sure, with a savvy go-getting and insightful creative director Funcom have few worries for the future.