Thursday, August 02, 2007

MMORPG : Scavenging from Other Games

Most MMORPGs nowadays are simple games, where you smash monsters around with a big stick, and perhaps get the chance to make a bigger stick for yourself (which invariably ends up being worse than anything you get from monsters). A MMORPG, based on its virtue of being a virtual world, should be able to do more than that. Why not incorporate elements from other game genres that would fit well within an MMORPG?

The Thief games, arguably the fathers of stealth games as we know them today, incorporated lots of scenes where the player was expected to avoid enemies rather than engage them - even when killing said enemies would be easy, doing so could alarm more guards to your presence, compromising your mission. In Thief, the player had to jump from shadow to shadow, avoid loud floors, knock down guards and extinguishes fires to avoid detection, the performance of which represented most of the game's gameplay.
In MMORPGs, the concept of stealth is usually limited to a character basically turning invisible until someone of a high enough level gets close enough, and there is no consideration of lighting, nor do you care much about loudness. Stealth does not require any skill from the player.

In the Prince of Persia series, the player is challenged with complex acrobatics maneuvers, both during the platforming times and during combat. The player will successively walk on walls, enemies and columns, demonstrating the prince's incredible agility. Some will be quick to point that acrobatic-enabled sections of the game were hard-coded, meaning that it wasn't possible to walk on any random wall, but still, the idea of using short steps on the side of a wall to increase one's jumping distance is certainly something that is worthy of being considered for an MMORPG.

In the Civilization (rather long) series of games, the player must build cities to collect resources and make their empire grow. Yet, in MMORPGs, whenever the cities aren't fixed at game creation, the best thing players can do is place their house close to where they want to be. There is no resource consideration, and finding a source of drinkable water is never really a consideration. But what if that was actually important? Player might need to go scouting for locations before building up, considering natural resources, trace routes and potential threats. Successful cities would bring hundreds or thousands of players, challenging in popularity the NPC-operated cities.

In Flight Simulator... Yeah, OK, you see where I'm going with this one. Those so-called flying mounts would certainly take a whole new significance if you had to watch for wind direction and potential obstacles.

I'm not going to touch the economic simulations games, but suffice to say that there is a world of difference between a true open economy and a free-for-all auction house.

This is already a nice list of genres to borrow from, and I haven't even touched city simulators, sports, racing, puzzle or card games. MMORPGs can be much more than simple monster mashers, and if more MMORPGs trying to incorporate new ideas become successful, we might see a true revolution of the genre. MMORPGs of the future might have nothing to do with their simpleton ancestors.

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