Friday, February 1, 2008

Gimme Action

I hope Tobold doesn't mind me pulling material from him, but I'm sure I'm not the first. The epic blogger recently created a list of predictions for MMOs' features come 2020, most of which I'd say are very likely to be true in some form or another. But there's one that really bothered me, and perhaps it was the way he worded it.
Combat: Due to advances in technology both from graphics animations and data transfer, MMORPG combat has become more interactive. The old system of autoattack coupled with special attacks on hotkeys is gone. Players now need to watch what the computer controlled monster is doing and react accordingly. Earlier experiments to have this interactivity be based on split-second twitchy reactions have failed, as only a small audience of male teenagers were able to master that sort of gameplay.
Now, I'm not saying there's not a significant portion of the console playerbase who are teenage males. I'd be lying to myself to refute that. What I have issue with is that Tobold seems to look down on this style of play as lesser than a more strategic approach.

I don't know how old the man is, but this portion of his post comes off making him seem like a Walter Mathau of Grumpy Old Men. And as I wrote in a comment over at his blog, I see this prediction as more of a hope due to his preferred playstyle than as an actual educated guess.

Personally, I think what is more likely, looking at games like Call of Duty 4's online multi-player is that you'll see more and more titles of all genres including MMO-like features. They may not all be persistent worlds, and in fact I think very few persistent world MMOs will have major success over the next 12 years, but rather I see games offering players the ability to level up their characters in online play in many different genres from sports games to FPS to more traditional single-player RPGs with an online component.

Why? Because it costs a lot of money and a lot of development time and heartache to make the type of world that can compete with WoW as many investors are going to realize over the next few years. Either the development trials and tribulations have to be lessened somehow, or the games will have to shrink in scope. Something will have to give as the bubble bursts in the next 5 or so years.

And personally, I'd almost rather have this happen. I love MMOs, but it's becoming clear to me that paying for them monthly, having to devote yourself to them solely, and essentially spend all of your free-time with one and only one is something I don't relish. I'd much rather have a few solid massive worlds to play in, and then some venues of smaller scope that wouldn't cost me additional monthly fees to play, and hours upon hours of my time. And before I get lambasted here, it's not that I have anything against the traditional MMO design... just that it's becoming outdated as the genre evolves.

Where am I going with this? I guess I'm just saying that I want evolution and I eagerly await it, however it may be. Blizzard's beast has launched the MMO into the American mainstream... so let's see where we go from here. I'm betting there will be something for everyone more so than any select few, and that my post and Tobold's will both be rendered moot.

EDIT: I should have just posted a link to this Next-Gen article, then I wouldn't have needed to write any of the preceding. This thing says it all.


Tobold said...

My post predicted a MMORPG of 2020 which would be even far more mainstream than World of Warcraft. A combines MMORPG market size of hundred of millions of players. You can only achieve that by offering something for both young and old, for both male and female players. The twitchy gameplay you as a young male player like isn't all that popular neither with people like me, nearly twice your age, nor with housewife demographic of casual games or social space virtual worlds like Club Penguin.

I'm not looking "down" on twitchy gameplay, I'm saying it is "too high" for larger audiences. But if you slow it down to a speed where everyone can handle it, you need to add more strategic options or it becomes totally trivial.

Bildo said...

I'm still not convinced twitchier gameplay won't be the mainstream by then. Perhaps it's my desire to see it come true, but I think more action-oriented controls are what we're going to see growing over the next 12 years.

I look at the evolution of console games as an example. The way things went with console controls, was simple -> complex -> most complex -> the Wii.

Not that controlling an MMO isn't already unnecessarily complex with the keyboard, but that's another part of it to me. Console MMOs are going to be the biggest growth of the genre over the next 12 years. That's my number 1 prediction. Not that PC gaming will die, but that (like always) it will take a backseat to the cheaper, easier to develop for, console systems... especially now with the hard drives, internet focused gaming, and so on.

Like you, I'm not saying your preferred method of play is bad. I, in fact, enjoy both depending on the given day and mood. But I think you're squarely off the mark with the prediction that combat will remain somewhat like it is now with more options.

I see rather a slew of new combat mechanics being tried and a few remaining. Hack and slash mechanics, FPS mechanics, turn-based mechanics... they'll all have a place.

At least, that's what I hope.

Bildo said...

What I meant with this...

"The way things went with console controls, was simple -> complex -> most complex -> the Wii."

Is that new forms of interactive entertainment begin simpler, and then become complex with reiteration. A standard is first adopted (in this case the WoW/EQ model of play), and then it's improved upon, made more complex, refined and re-imagined, until it becomes to broad and hardcore oriented, and then someone brave comes along and brings it all back to the basics.

That diverging control methods, interaction schemes, etc, is what we're set to experience over the next 12 years. Will it be "back to basics" by 2020? I don't know... I suppose that's what you're predicting will happen, though.

Relmstein said...

I guess the real experiment to settle this issue will be to watch how popular the combat is in Age of Conan. I hear they are doing a more involved combat system but in all honesty that waiting and responding to how a mob acts doesn't seem that fun to me. Vanguad claimed to have a system like that and it basically boiled down to icons which would light up sometimes when a mob did something.

I see the most popular combat system being simple that lots of people can get into without specialized skills. If you could make a MMO with Zelda style combat where a wii remote controlled swordplay I think you would have a winner.

Pixey Styx said...

Ddo had the beginings of a good combat system but didnt take it quite far enough. Aoc i see taking it to the next lvl, will it be perfect no, but certainly more engaging than wow / eq 2 combat.

tabula rasa and hellgate are on the right track in keeping me engrossed in the combate and not hit key make coffee hit key games.

the one i really want to try out is spellborn but that again is another game that is stalling out of the gates

marnie said...

i dont see why you keep nudging tobold's age , as if it got anything with mmo.

even old people play handheld tetris and at high level tetris need hand-eye-brain coordination too..

dont diss older ppl

Bildo said...


Not "dissing" older people. Even if I was, I believe I'd be within my rights to do so.

Anyway, the "Grumpy Old Men" reference was not a shot at Tobold or his age. It was a shot at his clinging to older game mechanics.

It's honorable, sure, but I still think he's doing so in vain. He and I get along well, we just don't always see eye to eye is all. That may actually have something to do with our age difference, sure.

But then, which of us is right? Neither. These are merely our differing opinions.

Thanks for stopping by, mate.