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Role Playing (Games)

John Smedley On the Future of MMOGs 193

Posted by Zonk
from the quite-a-letter dept.
RosethornKB writes "John Smedley, President of Sony Online Entertainment, wrote a letter about SOE's look to the future. In it, Smedley asks some questions about virtual children, skill based combat and player created content. KillerBetties.com posts a response to his questions. From the article: "What if you could have families in MMO's? Virtual Children... What if your characters could have children and pass on the family name...This is a very vague idea and I'm not sure if he words it that way on purpose or not. The concept of Virtual Children and passing on the family name isn't new. For example, upcoming Limitless Horizons MMO Mourning has had it in their design since the game first was announced. Their system is actually very interesting in theory."" Grimwell.com has commentary on SOE's recent activities.
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John Smedley On the Future of MMOGs

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  • by Goronmon (652094) * on Saturday February 12, 2005 @03:45PM (#11653436)
    Its tough to know what the future of MMOGs hold when you consider how little the genre has changed since the Everquest days. I mean, really, look at the gameplay elements of the first 3d games, Everquest and Asheron's Call 1...the games coming out today play almost the same exact way. In fact, you could almost consider games today a step back, since in AC1 you could at least dodge projectiles and spells if you wanted to.

    I mean, yeah, sure, the games have gotten better, but mostly in terms of graphics. The core of these games is still about creating a character, running at mobs and hitting a bunch of icons on the interface to use different skills. Aside from the gameplay, the environment is still about the same. Quests are getting better, but they are still as simple as "Go here and kill this." with some little variation thrown in.

    Another pet peeve of mine is character creation where you have to choose your characters skill set before you even get to play the game. I wish a game was open-ended where you could dabble in different areas as you went on, before deciding what to actually stick to. I want game rules like PvP that are determined by in-game repurcussions, not by hard-coded limits by the developers.

    I guess I just see tons of this untapped potential for MMOGs that just isn't being realized. Everygame seems to tought its one big, new "feature" that is really just a mild improvement on what was done previously.
  • by bigtallmofo (695287) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @03:48PM (#11653468)
    I know we all have joked about "Evercrack", Everquest-Widows, etc... But at some point do these games become really harmful to the average person? I mean when you can start being able to have virtual families including virtual inheritance, we might be crossing the veritable rubicon of unhealthy gaming.

    I've never even considered playing an MMORPG because I know I would become addicted in about 3 seconds. Maybe that's just me.
  • by HBI (604924) <kparadineNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday February 12, 2005 @03:58PM (#11653531) Homepage Journal
    Pretty much. I mean he admits it at the beginning. This stuff is not new, and if you want to know if a feature is going to work or not, one of thousands of text-based games has probably implemented it in the past.
  • by Durinthal (791855) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @03:59PM (#11653533)
    Funny.. a lot of MUDs have been around for years that have the skill development after creation deal, not to mention the virtual family concept mentioned in the article. I'm honestly wondering why they're still so much more detailed than visual MMOs.
  • by PocketPick (798123) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:05PM (#11653580)
    Are MMORPGs really an piece of entertainment software or a financial enterprise and glorified chatroom.

    When we trade characters in order to provide for our own financial well being in reality, or complain about having to 'go to work' and 'Grind EXP', is that game still a game? Virtual children? Virtual families? What happened to making games more fun, or more accessible?
  • by nate nice (672391) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:07PM (#11653583) Journal
    We seriously need more bandwidth in these games. And if throwing more bandwidth isn't likely anytime soon we will need to develop better algortihms and design better systems for ensuring players have low latecny when encountering large amount of other netoworked players.

    All too often when a player is near a large group of other players they are hit with a large lag spike making large scale PvP frustrating and frankly, not fun.

    It is this single issue I believe these games need to address before moving onto anything else really.

    We'll see how Blizzard tackles it with their battleround concept of making an instance out of a predetermined largescale PvP arena, but even if this works it needs to go further. We have to figure out how to make flash mobs of people interact like anything else without the high latency that is a characteristic of all these games.

    Fraom DaOC, Shadowbane, WoW and the few other I have played or observed, it seems this is the one consistant plague they all have.

    I offer no solutions as I haven't thought to hard on how to solve this problem and even if I did it's possible my ideas would be naive considering I don't have experiance designing or developing these types of systems. However, from a players viewpoint, I can assure you this is a problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:17PM (#11653647)
    I've checked different MMOGs out but one of the big reasons I've never played one is because I'm not a big fan of either fantasy or sci-fi.

    Has anyone ever heard of a MMOG with a more "real" based environment? IMHO on the of best multiplayer online games has got to be BF1942 because of the sheer size of some of the maps and thus the strategy required to position ships, tanks, and airplanes to conquer a map. But imagine if they could create a MMOG of this? Imagine if western Europe was one big gaming environment?

    A MMOG of BF1942 could also bring some much needed teamwork not often found on public multiplayer servers. Imagine if you started as a grunt and slowly had to gain experience in order to advance in rank and specialty? Instead of just running headlong into battle, you'd actually have to listen to your commanding officer.

    Has anyone else considered this or has it ever been attempted? MMOG seem like they could be great fun, but I don't have any desire become a wizard and chase goblins.
  • by Jameth (664111) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:20PM (#11653675)
    The problem is that, if you can design the spells it will all just end up in a tutorial online.

    The better solution is to just make spells which are more complex to use, as many single player games have. Unfortunately, most complex usage spells require low latency because timing and so-such are often vital for them.

    I would personally prefer a magical system which incorporates magic into the world, rather than having it bolted onto the side at random. That is, usually they just say, "It's a world like ours, with magic," rather than making it a world which heavily uses magic. Why don't crafters use magic? Wouldn't fire spells help a blacksmith? Why don't warriors incorporate small spells into battle to give that extra little umph to a swing here and there? What about the city planners? How many of them, used magic to make a place that was truly efficient?

    And, remember, above all, that it is a game. Thus, making it fun is paramount. I think that a strongly interwoven magic system with many spells which can be used cleverly can be very fun. I don't think a system where you accidentally blow your head off because you're the only person not reading the mage's strategy guide is such a good idea.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:21PM (#11653682)
    A MMORPG with a magic system that wasn't geared toward combat, or ease of use. Something so incredibly complicated that you have no idea what's going on. For once, I'd like to see the PLAYER learn magical theory. And the magical theory to be entirely player researched, and incomplete. A magic system that lets YOU design spells, but all the knowledge you need to do so comes from experimental error. A magic system that KILLS you if you screw up badly enough. Obviously, that would be one of the greatest challenges ever to create, but I'll tell you right now, I'd quit my job if I had one and play that 24/7.

    Belive it or not, some of us don't want that much complexety in a game. When a MMO becomes "work" like real life work then it isn't fun. Part of the fun (and addictive quality) of MMO's is easy advancement. Sure, it might take awhile, but the path is simple. Kill shit/craft shit/cast shit.

  • by khallow (566160) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:35PM (#11653775)
    I think there's a good compromise between the two ends. Namely, create a programming based magic system (blurring yet more the distinction between magic and code :-) or perhaps something based on mathematical or perhaps philosophical grounds. But the average user would employ proven spells as distinct units. So there's room for your wild-eyed experimentalists and for the normal user who's not interested in ludicrously complex systems.

    This also allows room for spell combos that could work together in interesting ways. I first heard of this sort of idea more than a decade ago so someone somewhere has worked on the idea before.

  • Re:Why is it? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:41PM (#11653810) Homepage
    ### That everyone says MMORPG players have no life?

    MMORPG players can of course have a life, the thing that MMORPGs however offer that other games doesn't, is an alternative life in a virtual world. In CounterStrike you play a few rounds, exit and are done, your character doesn't evolv and doesn't persist, it gets reset each and every game you play. The whole 'world' is made up of a few very small maps compared to the large ones that MMORPGs offer, so there is nothing to explore, no special events to happens, its always the same, just tactics and player change.

    On the other side you also have clans in Counterstrike, which work somewhat similar like a party in a MMORPG, however such stuff isn't part of the game itself, but something the community does outside of the game, in a MMORPG most stuff can be done in the game itself.

    Not saying that MMORPGs necesarrily are more addictive than casual games, but the persistence of the world makes them quite a bit different from a random round of CounterStrike or SuperMarioBros.
  • by LearningHard (612455) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:42PM (#11653816) Journal
    It has got much less to do with bandwith available then it does with the processing power available on the server side. When a large group gathers in one area it drastically increases the server load. I think it has to do with the way the load balancing works. In AC1 I know it was because the load balancing was in vertical "strips" along the map. If there was more than the expected amount in one strip the whole strip could experience server-side lag. It really sucked when you were hunting on the same strip as old arwic or ayan baqur where tons of people gathered because sometimes you would get caught in the lag and die to monsters even though you were on the other side of the continent.
  • Smedley (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dragoon412 (648209) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:42PM (#11653822)
    Who is Smedley trying to kid - the future of MMOs, at least in the short term, is to keep cloning EverQuest until it's no longer profitable or some independant does something better and gets the ball rolling in a different direction (my fingers are crossed for DDO [www.ddo]).

    Look at the big-name MMOs for the past 5 years or so: EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, Anarchy Online, Lineage, Lineage 2, Final Fantasy Online... every single one of them is, fundamentally, the same game. Sure, the Asian-market games tend to have a sadistic streak, but beyond that, they're all about grouping up, camping, pharming, looting, wash, rinse, repeat.

    Their combat systems are downright shallow. Their characters are less characters and more like animated spreadsheets. They're about spending hundreds or thousands of hours killing progressively larger bats, rats, and snakes to attain the privelage to spend more time killing even larger bats, rats, and snakes.

    There's no thought. Combat and gameplay is so mind-numbingly formulaic that there's nothing to get the adrenaline going, and there certainly isn't enough happening to engage the mind.

    Why can't we have a MMO with a combat system like Jedi Academy? Why, when mecha fans are some of the most hardcore gamers on the planet, has there not been a mech sim MMO?

    Like I said, I have high hopes for D&D Online, but I don't foresee MMOs radically changing any time soon. It's just going to be EverQuest: Again: And Again: And Yet Again. ...at least until someone realizes that there's a huge group of people that aren't twitch gamers, but are bored half to death by the current incarnation of MMOs, and makes something that might actually entertain them.
  • by Mitaphane (96828) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:47PM (#11653867) Homepage
    I've never really throughly played an MMORPG so take that it consideration before reading. It seems to me though that a big problem with Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games is that a lot people don't notice "Role Playing" part of it. Most MMORPGs I've seen are way too heavily focused on virtual combat. There's so much potential for a "virtual world" It's so sad that most of is spent in the endless cycle of "Kill more shit to get better stuff to kill more shit..." Of course hack-n'-slash dungeon crawling can be fun, but you can play Diablo II if you want that. MMORPGs should have a hack-n-slash element but it should have more...

    A merchant class in a game world should have very little to do with combat. He should be able to hire people to defend him. Moreover, his ability should be gained by knowing people(like a game with a sort of built in social networking mechainic) and things.

    A dancer/entertain class should play like rhythm games such as DDR.

    I could go on but you see my point...A world that has 80% of it's population wandering the lands killing various creatures is pretty boring if you ask me.

    Yes it would be very complex to create a game that played very different based on all different classes. Yes it would be hard to set a complete game world with all these classes interacting with one another. But for the $10-15/Month people pay for MMORPGs I don't think that's too much ask. Especially when someone can pay a flat $30-50 for a copy of Diablo II and get a similar experience on BattleNet. Then again, I don't have much first hand experience about MMORPGs. I just know what I see...
  • Re:Why is it? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by agraupe (769778) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @11:48PM (#11664662) Journal
    Well, that being said, I think it's better to have an alternative life by playing World of Warcraft or Everquest, than it is to have it by smoking pot and drinking, for example.
  • GUI's for MUDS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DrStrangeLug (799458) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:41AM (#11666729)

    That's all most of the MMO's out there really are.

    I tried the SWG:JTL demo , and found the space combat rather fun, but didn't like the ground stuff at all. It would have been much better if the ground combat againts the mobs worked more like an FPS (ala Planetside).

    The real killer for a lot of MMO's , at least as far as I'm concerned, is the turn based combat.

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