The last week wasn’t an enjoyable one for MMO fans and much more devastating for developers. Between Wildstar’s layoffs and Everquest Next being shelved for good, people worry about the future of the genre as we know it. I am using that phrase very consciously because massively multiplayer online games will always be a thing – we just don’t know what thing. Or in Scaurus’ words: “we are old fogies holding onto old definitions”. I am pretty sure that the fascination of chasing virtual dragons (or zombies) with other people is not particular to only my generation. MMO angst has gone from an annual bloggers favorite to a quarterly one and yet somehow, we are still here. I’ve been called overly optimistic about the genre before; I decide to remain so until proven otherwise. The fact is when we look back on MMOs an awful lot of things have gotten better over the years, and some have gotten worse or just different. Every time the wheel turns there’s what we leave behind but there’s also what’s yet to come.
And so I came across Russel Shanks giving an interview on EQN’s cancellation over at MMORPG.com, with particular note to this segment:
MMORPG: Do you think the genre of MMO, MMORPG, MMOG, or whatever you want to call it is just in a different place these days? There are a handful making a lot of money, and plenty of smaller niche titles carving out their own fanbase. But where you do you see the genre headed, as a company and as a fan?
RS: I believe the magic of MMORPGs and MMOs in general has not been diminished. In fact, games like Destiny incorporate many of the compelling elements of classic MMOs, which expose them to a new generation of gamers.
Good MMOs bring players together. The activities within the games provide social opportunities, as well as challenges and achievements that build lasting friendships, camaraderie, and long-term enjoyment. These elements, combined with scale, differentiate MMOs from most other forms of entertainment. I don’t see them going out of style, ever.
Moving on to playing Black Desert Online, right now I have a few minor gripes from within the realm of polish: the fussy submenu handling and mouse cursor switch, the weird auction house, not being able to buy multiple items without choosing a separate buyer’s option and then confirming choices over and over (YES okay??), overly complicated dye management…and so forth. Am sure these are fairly popular annoyances with hopefullly fixes down the road.
If we are thinking more longterm however, there is one thing on the forefront of my mind since the beta: BDO is very playing alone together. There is not just very little opportunity to cooperate with other players, the game actively discourages player-to-player interaction on several levels:
– Restricted ability to speak in global channels (due to goldspam)
– No player to player trading other than potions (due to goldspam…it didn’t work because the shop allows gifting)
– Experience penalties for grouping up above five levels difference
– Guild size capped at 100 people
– Guild leaders having to afford all fees/money costs themselves
– No shared nodes / looting in FFA
– No way to share housing or crafting installations
Given there is also little traditional cooperative PVE content (not complaining), it would be nice if there was at least the basic social experience of you know, sharing your resources or housing with somebody else or within guilds. It’s also not exactly easy to group up without EXP penalties or meet new people in the game, although I have that same complaint for FFXIV which doesn’t even offer global channels. I fully understand publishers trying to fight the goldseller plague but the player base is paying a very high price for it considering it’s not working?
I realize this isn’t an issue for everybody. To me, cooperation is still to some degree a core mechanic of MMORPGs and it feels like a more sandboxy title should allow for that and not actively penalize it. Random acts of kindness between strangers go a long way. Maybe I am missing something here. All I know is further down the road, Black Desert Online’s singleplayer experience might get real lonely pour moi.