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M, M, O, & G, Yes, but not so much R and P.

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Nenicirene's picture

The fundamental problem is that a dynamic world and accessible content are incompatible. Dynamic worlds require events that can only take place once or, at best, a small handful of times. However, the creation of such events and storylines requires at least as much developer and designer effort as static content, with only a small payout to the user. (Witness the prevalence of TV shows and comic books where everything is fundamentally the same after each episode or story arc as compared to vast, sweeping stories like Babylon 5.)

Dynamic content is ultimately targeted at a small audience of hardcore followers who can keep up with it at the pace dictated by its publishing, as opposed to being able to enjoy it on their own time at whatever pace they wish. Blizzard has already shown that they are catering to the much broader audience of dabblers, a design decision I ultimately agree with. GM-run storylines that change the world work for a MUD with fifty regulars. They don't work for 100 servers with 3000 people each.

Furthermore, people don't really want dynamic content. They want empowering dynamic content. You don't want your capital city to fall if it has long-term negative consequences for you (unlike a loss in say, a battleground), and you don't want to stand around while Thrall kicks the ass of all your enemies and you get to fetch him a refreshing beverage afterwards. You want to be the hero. Unfortunately, so does everyone else. Thus, no one gets to be the hero. You can't have a world of protagonists.

Ultimately, MMORPGs suck as a medium for telling stories, precisely because they are massively multiplayer. A story needs to be about something, and it needs to have interesting, relevant characters that can take effective action. Good stories are also personal, and connect with their audience. If you want all that, get three to five friends together, set aside a night a week, and sit down around a table to tell some amazing stories. I do so twice a week, and real roleplaying games are so much more narratively fulfilling than any MMORPG could ever hope to be.

I agree that all of the games that've come so far have tried and failed. They have failed for the reasons that you list - the game designs are not made around things to encourage/foster roleplaying, rather to capture the 'gamer' market. In addition, the support by the companies have been all lip service. Blizzard showed their fannies in this regard, making such a huge deal about their approach, then letting it disappear before the first month was out. All they ever really did was answer issues about player names. Even that seems to have gone to pot.

But you might have seen my reply on the other board. I still have extensive faith in regards to what is possible and what is being done behind the scenes in the market. The big companies (and several little ones) are c⁠ashing in on the MMOG cow. Most of the buyers right now are looking for "the same, but better". They're reluctant to go with "different and better". Different, doesn't guarantee sales. And it will take some young start up company (like Verant once was) to make the big wave a lot of us want.

The sad part, to me, is that I know a whole lot of MMOG players and most of them are very sick of the 'level up and get loot' approach to gaming. They do want a dynamic world and they don't expect to be the everything-to-me kind of hero. Heck, the people that I do know that are of that lewt-cow mentality end up getting bored of these games within 6 months because they've done it all. EQ proved that "more content" isn't better. But they did discover that those 6-month players would keep coming back.

But think of this: Say you've got a huge player base, like all the major MMOGs have. 20%-30% of those might be the powergamer that tops out their character within the first month, are the first to kill big-time mobs, are the first to get the phattest of loot. Guess what - they're also the first to get bored as heck. They might stick around and max out another character or two, but they're still gone in 6 months. Now take the other, much larger portion. They aren't rushing to max out. They are enjoying the game, casual players, or whatever you want to call it. They are the ones I always hear pining for dynamic, more-realistic content. Deeper interactivity. More roleplaying. More experiences. Less grind. Less focus on things like levels and loot. It isn't that they don't want good things - they do. They often just wish it wasn't the only thing you could count as a "goal" in the game.

But instead of catering to that much larger percentage player, they focus their attention on retaining that 20-30% that get bored quickly and demand more "content". Funny thing is, they don't have a clue what content is. To many of those, content is "more zones", "more loot", "more levels". The same old crap that the current batch of games confirm are the only goals they can produce.

Game companies are so stuck in the concept of what the other guys are doing, that they fall into the same traps. Blizzard is, too. Granted, they've added in a deeper PvP focus, but it's no different than an EQ expansion - more zones, more loot, more levels (in this case, honor system).

Well, not everyone is stuck in that box. There are designers going in quite the different direction. It may be hard to believe because so far, we just keep getting the same old crap. But it is happening. I just hope it's sooner, rather than later. =)

Unfortunately not all of us have our friends in the same general area, nor do we have a nearby place to find them. So those of us stuck in the boondocks would really like for these suits to suck it up and take a risk.

/le sigh

I miss gathering for a good living-room PnP game.