Traditional MMOs have gone out from fashion lately. It used to be that every gaming brand had exciting untapped MMO potential and each publisher wanted an MMO in the stable, however the gold rush inspired by World of Warcraft yielded little precious metal, and plenty of publishers got burned along the way – especially Electronic Arts with Star Wars: The Old Republic – as the term “MMO” has become taboo when discussing a fresh type of games that features The Division and Destiny, although in many respects they can be both massively multiplayer and internet based.
Now it’s not Omega Zodiac that publishers are very quickly to stuff into portfolios, but “shared-world shooters” and MOBAs – multiplayer online battle arena games – because all of us want a bit of those big fat Arena of Tanks and League of Legends money pies, plus it sure doesn’t cost just as much to bake them.
“The traditional MMOs [have] had their time, definitely,” Ragnar Tornquist tells me, and that he should be aware of. The Secret World, which was a traditional MMO he built at Funcom, launched last year and suffered exactly the same fate as many others: it failed to bring in the crowds and caused serious difficulties for the organization because of this. Tornquist has now left Funcom and release his ties for the Secret World.
“I don’t begin to see the traditional MMO having much of a chance down the road, but games that bring plenty of people together – they’re definitely going to exist. So you’ll have a subset of this, but I’m hoping it will diversify a little more,” he elaborates. “Definitely you’re not going to get the big subscription-based MMOs any further – those are dead.”
World of Warcraft’s stiffest competition over the years came recently in the form of Guild Wars 2, an MMO that challenged conventions and did not need a monthly subscription fee. It’s not traditional in those regards, then, but it is traditional in the multi-million-dollar scope, approach and vision. Guild Wars 2 sales appear to be they are near to five million and, coincidentally, Warcraft has dropped to the lowest subscriber numbers in years.
“I don’t determine if [the globe has] progressed,” Guild Wars 2’s lead content designer Mike Zadorojny says, “but definitely the landscape of the market is changing.
“Traditional MMOs are pricey what you should make and it takes a lot of time investment, and it’s kind of a danger, sort of a game, and it is determined by the type of game you build, what your pricing structure is, how much time you add into development and such things as that.
“So everyone’s trying to find how they may connect to their fans in an engaging and effective manner that’s also, because this is an organization, inside a profitable manner too. We found our way; the fans have actually been really receptive to what we’re doing in terms of our strategies and such things as that, and they’ve supported us through this.
“This is only an evolution of the it means to become thing about this industry,” he says. “Things are going to change. A lot of people can find strategies to still be profitable with traditional markets or what they are currently doing, but many people are always gonna be taking a look at what’s another big thing and the way is the fact likely to affect them.”
Another big thing in the regular MMO world will be the Elder Scrolls Online, a massive, heavily financed project that’s experienced development for six years. But has it missed the boat? It’s had a rocky reception thus far, although its profile rose at E3 with news that it will probably be on PS4 and Xbox One this coming spring in addition to PC.
“It’s an extremely strong IP,” says Tornquist, “it’s a really strong universe, and when any game may give some CPR on the MMO genre, that might be it.
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“But I’m worried on their behalf. I’ve seen just what a big MMO can do to a studio, and I’m worried that this might be slightly a lot of too far gone. But we’ll see.”
“We’re eyeing it,” says Guild Wars 2’s Zadorojny, “but we’re so centered on the initiatives that we’re doing regarding what we’re seeking to accomplish that it doesn’t really change what our plans are.”
Will The Elder Scrolls Online need a monthly subscription fee, even on the top of PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live fees? We don’t know yet. I hope not. But simply as publishers like NCSoft (and hopefully Bethesda) are starting to recognise and respond to problems with the industry of Warcraft enterprise model, so developers will also be starting to require a new method of the basic game design.
Activision and Bungie’s Destiny is among the hot new kids on the block, declining to get referred to as an “MMO” but a “shared-world shooter”. It isn’t a traditional MMO from the experience of starter zones, fetch quests, raids and so forth, but it is persistent and also online, and it also scales from single-player experiences to co-op to multiplayer, match-making behind the curtain. Ubisoft’s The Division is an MMO in console clothing in lots of respects also, while even Respawn’s Titanfall, due to be authored by EA, is always on the internet and features persistent elements.
Originating on PC are online multiplayer games like DayZ, a hardcore survival RPG with zombies that, when it was an ArmA 2 mod, rocketed to over one million players in just four months. Now a standalone version is on the way. Then there’s Minecraft, a world-conquering phenomenon with a Field of Warcraft scale, born on PC. A myriad different worlds/servers hosted from the community exist online, as well as the scale of a few of the communal projects is staggering.
DayZ and Minecraft originated from nothing. These people were creations of a single brain in each case, built quickly and cheaply. They blossomed because they were new, risky and built on the creativity and participation of the players more so than their creators; while they weren’t blank slates, they weren’t staid, monolithic theme park Omega Zodiac Guide trying to please everybody either. They had what came to be acknowledged as being a tightly focused appeal, despite their many players and shared worlds, and that is now catching; Camelot Unchained, for example, is a Kickstarter MMO by using a budget of $5 million and an unwavering center on a niche audience that wants a hardcore PVP game. In a few respects it’s risky and uncompromising, but it seems smart to the teachings learned by its latest peers, which can be exciting.
“You wouldn’t see ‘Guild Wars 2 is currently a MOBA’, but you might see that maybe we introduce a whole new activity type or anything like this…”
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Finally we go to MOBAs, a genre dominated by the enormous League of Legends, although there’s space while dining for Valve’s Dota 2 and maybe Blizzard All-Stars too.
Most of these goings-on don’t fall on deaf ears. It’s nothing like ArenaNet or Blizzard function in a bunker, oblivious to current affairs. Blizzard is to take Titan to the the drawing board, for example, which can be read as being an admission that its current ideas usually are not around scratch. Meanwhile, at ArenaNet, a huge selection of staff play all the popular games of today, and they’re not shy about being affected by them.
“We draw inspiration from what other companies are performing and some of the other stuff that we’re playing,” Zadorojny freely admits. “Drastically, you wouldn’t see ‘Guild Wars 2 is now a MOBA’, however, you might realize that maybe we introduce a new activity type or something like this, that plays comparable to those kinds of things.
“We would like to change up. We want to make items that are new and exciting for that players and provide them an opportunity to try a few of these things but are familiar with their character type and being able to celebrate that.”
Traditional MMOs – big, hulking projects trying to claw back investment with massive sales or micro-transactions or subscription fees – might be going the way in the dodo, then, nevertheless the fundamentals of the MMO concept are certainly not, even should they be changing shape to be able to retain their relevance and refresh their mystique.
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Former Blizzard developer Mark Kern blogged recently about how he thought Arena of Warcraft, a game he helped build, had “killed” a genre. “Sometimes I take a look at WOW and think ‘what have we done?'” he wrote. “I believe I know. I do believe we killed a genre.”
It is possible to understand Kern’s reaction, naturally, because the last decade is littered with the remnants of dead and dying Dragon Awaken hewn in Field of Warcraft’s shape. But he’s probably being a little harsh on himself, because it’s not his fault that numerous publishers failed to look sufficiently beyond what WOW was offering searching for some thing related to evolving tastes. And the reality is, when we saw during E3, many game makers are performing that now, and the fruits of these endeavours have almost finished ripening.