So the blog has been on quite a hiatus of late, much dismayed given the rather happening time around the blogosphere. As the saying goes, real life > all else.
Truth be told, everything seems to come to a head at all the right times. Work ramps up, family responsibilities et al, but I also came to a realization a couple months back that I didn’t expect to come to, much less wanted to come to:
The MMORPG genre, the genre that I was a fan of before it was technologically possible, the genre I cherished across games such as FFXI, EQ1 and WoWv1.0, is dead. Not dead as in those games don’t exist, not dead as in those communities are gone, but dead in the direction the industry at large has taken.
Water, Water Everywhere…
It’s a feeling I’ve long had that eventually the situation would implode, as most trends do, before getting better. I’d always felt that a couple flagbearers might emerge to offer spiritual successors of the games that made the genre great, but it’s looking more and more like a complete reboot of the genre might be necessary.
I don’t hold out hope that a nostalgic, jaded individual might: I see the team over at Runic breathing life into the dream, the fun of gaming. I see Valve making all the right plays in merging community with game with business. It’s just the MMORPG genre doesn’t have that right now, and is living off fumes of its past. I’ve predicted the demise of the genre in no uncertain terms, and some of those terms came to fruition a little ahead of schedule. The timeline isn’t of terrible importance, but more the succession of events. I’m hoping, for the good of the genre, the prediction comes true.
What We Need
Gameplay that is involving. Actions that bear equally reward and consequence. Micro and macro-casm of gameplay. The immediate influences the big picture, and at large dictates what the present offers. This is done, largely, by any game, across all genres. But the focus of how this gameplay weaves with those who engage in it that has been largely neglected.
Community that bonds. The filth that crept into the video game industry spread to the genre. Was the vitriol of Xbox.live Halo to be contained? Of PS3 CoD? Of LoL? The one thing the genre did have going for it was a sense of community. Sure, the ‘other guys’ were always villanized, be it the themepark vs sandbox folks or be it the faction opposite one’s own, but there was a sense of camaraderie amongst ‘our team’. The aforementioned titles had gameplay that required communities to form. Today, gamers are so fragmented that it might be best to describe the experience as ‘collective soloing‘.
A relic is this misnomer: “MMORPG”; the genre has ceased to exist. There is nothing Massive about ‘raids’ that are all of 20 people big. There is nothing Multiplayer about games infatuated with phasing. For all intents and purposes the games could be played solo, and require Online connectivity for business practices, not for player enjoyment. With how homogenized all of these games feel between themselves, and the internal gameplays, there are no Roles to Perform any longer either. At best they could be classified as Games, but with the amount of focus developers have for living someone else’s story, I think I’ll pass at being generous on the last opportunity to qualify what this genre calls games.
Back to the roots, I suppose. Blogging about game design as inspiration strikes. Less external deadlines and more internal inspiration. I’m less and less excited about current and future offerings, even by companies that I stand behind, but perhaps my thoughts will reach a developer miles away, or years down the road. In any case, they’ll be submitted for engulfing by the internet abyss.
Still a huge fan of the MMORPG genre, and will be a diehard supporter when the future title of some studio decides they’re going to actually produce such a game.