But not too different.
I've stated similar things before on this blog (which is nearing 100 posts now, hurray me!), but I want to reiterate it. I do not think that the MMORPG genre is ready for anything too different from the norm. Refinement is still going on. Broadening of appeal is still occuring. Until 2004, the MMORPG was just a tiny portion of a much larger market. True enough, the industry buzzwords right now are MMORPG and Polish, often hand in hand. And therein lies the rub.
I've been given the chance to test many games over the past couple of years. Some have released, and some are still forthcoming. Out of them all, the only one I consider to be remotely worth playing is Lord of the Rings Online, and even I will attest that it has likely stuck too close to the traditional trappings of the genre. But in doing so it has drawn quite a few subscribers, most educated guesses are around 200k, and it that is not bad by any means. It's no 800 pound gorilla, but then, nothing will be for a while yet as most of us bloggers have theorized.
The other betas, which must remain nameless for now, are lacking at best. "But, Bildo, it's beta!" I know, folks, I know. But these games of which I'm speaking are edging closer and closer to release. It's not the content. It's not the polish I'm worried about. What bothers me about these games is how they're trying to recreate the UI. I can't go into more detail without running dangerously close to breaking the NDA, but suffice to say, I don't like these companies' take on the tried and true control scheme.
I'm all for shaking things up. I'm all for trying something new. I was my "circle's" earlier adopter of the Wii-mote. It's not that I'm against doing something unique. What I am against, is trying something unique, failing, and forging onward as if the difference is all that matters, not the quality.
What I'm saying in this long, rambling, arguably pointless post, is that the MMORPG has a basic interface that works. Don't fudge with its core. Fudge with its limbs. Tweak things. Play with ways to interact. But by Jeebus, if it doesn't seem to work, your beta testers are not playing your game, and most of your MMO-a-holic fans are telling you they're worried, it may be time to start rethinking your tactics.
PS: I'm sure that all the games I'm referring to could very well end up releasing, having dedicated fanbases, and thriving. In fact, I'm sure one of them at least will, based on its pedigree alone. But to me, it's busted. It's ineffective. It needs a great deal of fine-tuning before release, and I hope its makers know this.
I'm done ranting. Hope that made some sense.