MMO Developers: Are They Running Out Of Ideas?
By Kei Beneza (dividelife), OnRPG Journalist
Have you played tons of MMOs hoping to find something different among the linearity? Do MMO storylines feel like nothing but recycled tales? Is the Fighter just a renamed version of the Warrior? For years, MMOs have impressed us with their array of character classes, open sandbox world and immersive questing, but after a long period of time, these games are starting to feel repetitive in almost every way. It’s always exciting to try out different MMORPGs; trying out new features and experimenting with different character builds and dungeon systems, but along the way, I realized that everything was starting to feel like renamed clones of their MMO brethren. With all the carbon-copies lurking around the MMO scene, I just have to ask… Are they running out of ideas?
Whenever I log into an MMO for the first time, I always make it a point to select the most UNIQUE class available. Maybe it’s because I’m just sick of seeing MAGE, WARRIOR, and ROGUE/THIEF all the time. Regardless of how many times they rename their characters, the archetypes will always be the same. This is exactly why I ended up picking the gunslinging girl in Aika Online. As far as character classes go, it’s the same thing for almost every MMO out there. I’m not saying that the archetypes should be ignored, but there are various ways to alter playstyles while giving the same class effect. A good example would have to be the Warrior in World of Warcraft, which relies on the RAGE meter that fills up each time they fight rather than a mana bar or a RENAMED mana bar found in numerous MMO games. Anyway, must MMOs always contain these archetypes? City of Heroes did a good job of implementing a class system, but when it comes to other MMOs, the class selection screen always seem to be quite generic. Creating something new is a hard task, but surely they could comeup with a good class if ONLY they tried, right?
Theme- “This game has dragons” “hah! so does this game—and this game–“
First of all, the medieval theme is getting really old, and the Oriental theme is soon to follow. For sure, the age of chivalry is EPIC, and being a part of an Ancient Chinese dynasty in the midst of war is extremely radical; however, there are other themes with tons of potential that are left in the cold. Must developers always farm and milk the same theme just because it sells? Requiem: the Bloodymare gave us a horror-themed game. It’s not that scary, but at least it served as a big break from all the cloning.
The Story- Interesting! The gods destroyed the world…. AGAIN
Let’s start with Humans and Orcs. Apparently, the existence of these two races spells death for the entire world. Once you put these two races in the game, it will be wanton murder until the end of time. There’s also this story about an evil god who ends up destroying the world. There’s always one good deity among a line of evil ones, thus recreating the world an giving mankind a second chance. These storylines have been used by countless games for over a decade (and don’t even get me started on Ancient Chinese storylines). Don’t you think it’s about time we get something a bit more original than interacial chaos?
The Gameplay- Awesome! New Game! Now to grind to level 999
It’s great that developers were able to incorporate other genres into the MMO scene, giving birth to MMOFPSes, MMOShmups (Shoot em’ ups), Arena-type fighting games, and more variations of MMORPGs. Little by little, I can see these genres evolving for the better, but once one of them features something new, five more games with the SAME feature follow. When an MMO gives quests, the other gives more quests. Maybe it’s like a competition of who can present it better, but honestly, I would rather see something. Wolf Team Online managed to take MMOFPSes to the next level by featuring a transformation option that allows players to turn into werewolves in the middle of combat. After seeing a series of knives in other Counterstrike-like MMOs, it was absolutely REFRESHING to see something different from WarRock and Special Force Online. Free Realms also broke free from the linearity of leveling as it “Wowed” us with a different levelling system, allowing players to gain experience by satisfying their job descriptions instead of just hacking and slashing outside the town walls.
MMOs are one of the most highly played genres today, catering to different individuals with their massively multiplayer goodness and action-packed gameplay. I was really happy at how the MMO industry managed to supply us with different playstyles as more MMOs came to light. From RF Online’s Chip Wars to Granado Espada’s team of three, and from WoW’s epic gear to Guild Wars’ skill dependent combos… it really seemed like the possibilities were endless, but now, the evolution seems to have reached a state of hiatus.
My Two Cents
If console games can evolve, then surely MMOs can reach new heights. As for the class system, I know that there are limited medieval classes to choose from, but there are various ways to put them in your game without making them feel like another generic class type. The same goes for the gameplay, which currently revolves on a single system of grinding and questing. In my opinion, the MMO industry is capable of so much more that what we have seen so far. After brushing through a library of generic storylines and an array of copied gimmicks, I could say that the MMO scene hasn’t emerged from its previous state just yet. Is this the end? Are they permanently out of ideas?