Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Exploring the Genres

The thoughts so far have talked about an MMORPGs of the fantasy genre, by far the most common genre in the current market, but it would also be possible to use the concepts exposed with other genres. Let's take a few of the most popular genres for comparison.

Science-fiction is, of course, the obvious first, being both popular and fairly common. The skill tree of a combat-oriented science-fiction game would be somewhat different, with less emphasize on melee combat, and more on ranged and mechanically-assisted fighting. Crafting wouldn't use many hammers or needles, instead relying on automated mechanics, of both the micro and macro kinds, and the portable and industry sizes, taking instructions from the crafter. Vehicles become more important, ranging from portable impulse generators to space stations rivaling the sizes of inhabited moons. Whether you're planet-side, hunting exotic animals in no less exotic terrains, or fighting the good fight against alien invaders in your rental space ship, you're bound to have the time of your life in a science-fiction MMO.

Next in line is an MMORPG striving for realism, and here you have some problems, because MMOs being what they are, people are bound to get hurt; and if you push the realism too far, you'll find customers quite dissatisfied at permanently losing limbs, or worse. Every forward push of the fun takes away from the realism, until your game has more rule and loopholes than a poorly-worded NDA. Not to say that it's impossible, of course, but I'm not holding out for The Sims 3 to rival World of Warcraft's combat experience just yet.

There's also science-fantasy, where psionic capabilities rival microgravitic field generators. This is the realm of jedi knights saving helpless princesses from multidimensional dragons. You might not have mighty wizards wielding arcane powers and fireballs, but you can be sure the ill-defined laws of the supernatural will offer just the same experience. Like the science-fiction world, the science-fantasy universe will offer multiple planets to explore and conquer, but they will have a greater emphasis on personal capabilities; people with supernatural powers are of little help in ship-to-ship combat, but they will offer great support during close-encounter fights, leading to much different tactics.

Finally, there's steampunk, the oft-forgotten child of history and realistic fantasies, where one can build autonomous androids with a coil of wire and the right Swiss army knife; here, there aren't many machines of mass destruction (not that it'll stop some from trying), so close combat is again important, but you will see a significant number of pseudo-technological objects, from pistols and blunderbusses to esoteric devices affecting the world in every way imaginable. There's no lack of things to do here, so it's probably from a lack of awareness or desire that a world of steam-powered mechanical animals hasn't risen up to the glories of MMORPGs yet.

These is just beginning to scratch the surface of different genres, of course. There could be a lot more to say about those genres (and maybe more will actually be said), and other genres are also possible. Fantasy is king, yes, but even lowly pawns can overtake the mighty king.

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