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This post is an exploration, of sorts, in that I offer no opinion, but rather asks questions of the community and to the nether (ether) in general. As such I am not saying things that can be defined as either right or wrong, but merely pose, questions and statements to give rise (hopefully) to a positive discussion, why? Well I suppose I enjoy the hobby of online gaming and wondered which direction it was going. Why the caveat? Lol, this may be my first ever post on these forums, but I have read them for years, and they can be a daunting place.
So, a split in the genre? What do I mean?
Sandbox vs. Theme Park vs. Theme Box (or Sand Park) – No, I do not mean this
“High” Fantasy vs. Sci-fi vs. Contemporary – No, I do not mean this either
Free to Play vs. Subscription vs. “Freemium” – Nor this
No, when I think about a split in the genre, I am not thinking of the mechanics of a game but the purpose of the game; motivation.
Now I am not an EQ1 or UO vet or anything like that, so I apologise if some of what I say, may be a bit “well that’s how it used to be, we moved on” but I will talk about my motivation for playing MMOs. I loved to play fantasy games, from a young age, read books set in medieval style settings, with tales of high adventure, or political intrigue. Enjoying all the early incarnations of the old typing adventures we had on the Commodore Amiga, for once, I (ME), could go “adventuring”, just like the characters in a book, solving riddles, exposing sinister plots and “tidying-up” a “world gone mad!”tm.
However as online gaming progressed, these role-playing games, dried up, or changed, no longer were they about character development, no, no longer were they about solving those riddles (let’s just Google (other search engines are available) the answer)). What they were about was “Stuff”tm. The more “Stuff” we accumulated, the more we demonstrated that we had developed our character……. But no, that isn’t true is it? Let’s look at a real world example to add context;
I am a top flight footballer (soccer), I play in the English Premier League, and I play in all the big matches. As a top football player, I earn lots of money and buy lots of “Stuff”, I even have a camouflaged Bentley Continental. My character is developed.
I am a top flight raider, I am in the top raiding guild, and I take part in all the big raids. As a top raider, I earn lots of shinies (Stufftm by a different name), I even have a camouflaged horse with wings. My character is developed.
I call this type of player (and its not only raiders, there are lots of different sorts of players concerned with getting Stufftm ), demonstrators. As demonstrators; they can demonstrate through pixels what they have achieved in-game. Fine, this is all well and good, no issue, no problem, we all play games where we want to “win”, a trophy, a card from a deck, the pot in the middle of the poker table, etc. etc.
So this type of player, lends itself to the modern incarnation of the MMOs, that’s great, there must be lots of this type of player, therefore, the market is absorbing them, through the churning out of “collect stufftm games”.
But what happened to the character development games, or players, now before you say they don’t exist, or they are minimal in number, I would hesitate to believe that. Let’s take Sim City, Sim City is a character development game, it’s just that your character is a city and not an individual, you can’t really win Simcity (well you can, but after that, most people sit and tinker and adjust, and play with their “character”, ad-infinitum), yet millions of people play it, so it can’t be unpopular, remember we are not talking about the mechanics or style of a game, I am talking about “motivation” to play a game, so yes apples (simcity) oranges (mmo), but same principle – taking a blank canvas and creating something in YOUR mind’s eye..
SO, is the question for future developers the following?
“Are we making a “collect stufftm game” or are we creating a character development game, a world to live in not just feast in…. (if that makes sense).
And if that question is now the question, does it mean we have a split in genre? From the 8 button skills of the action “collect” game to the 50 ability “role-playing” game. Would not acknowledging clearly and plainly that the genre is diverging into subsets, and catering for those subsets, rather than trying to be the panacea MMO bring about games that people WANT to play? Would it not reduce development costs for the makers of such games to say, instead of trying to cater to everyone I have read on the MMO forums, I am going to take that 40% of the market and target my game at them?
I know, I know, a boring post (I wrote it, I should know), but it’s a post to find out the appetite of RPGs, hey maybe I am developing one myself….. and to postulate that maybe, just maybe, it’s not about “Casuals”, “Raiders”, “Roleplayers”, “FTP”, “PTP”, “PTW” and all the other things we debate ad-nauseum but, its deeper than that. To build anything, we need solid foundations, and foundations are built on the purpose or “motivation” to do something.