Friday, December 16, 2011

Why Skyrim Flooded the MMORPG Blogs

A post crops up here and there, but for the most part the "Would Skyrim make a Good MMORPG?" posts have died down. It's an excellent game, and I'm not here to poke fun at anyone who spoke about it: On the contrary, I think the sudden interest in it is indicative of a larger issue in the MMORPG market at the moment. But let's briefly examine Skyrim first.

In a nutshell, it is a standard fantasy setting in a wintery climate. In comparison to Oblivion and Morrowind, you can't get more fantasy than "Destined to Slay Dragons." How it accomplished this is by having a variety of "main quests" for various factions with well written stories, a truck load of  miscellaneous quests based entirely on rumors and books you pick up, and then letting you run free and do what you want. I can't recall where the quote is from, but a comment I heard about the game was that it reminded players that games are meant to be played with. Other single player games tell you where you need to go in order to proceed, where Skyrim gives you a country and tells you to have fun.

This you likely knew, but there is one part about that everyone highlights: The freedom. Going into random caves and ruins is fun, despite most of the interiors being copy/pasted and put into different order. It caters to a part of online games that has been neglected for a long time: Giving the world meaning. Exploration has been eschewed in favor of instances and set areas for questing or doing group activities.

I could continue, but bemoaning the loss of the world in MMORPG's is kind of old hat at this point. What I wouldn't give for a game like Star Wars Galaxies with huge worlds that people could create cities in and explore to find fun, iconic locations and secrets. SW:TOR is in Early Access phases and will be launching extremely soon, and it will likely tip the scales in favor of big budget games. That's the mindset I fear: Go Big or Go Home.

Salem has some good prospects for world building, I'm rather excited to see how that turns out. I have my fingers crossed that it gets enough attention to garner copycats. No matter how much we hate the slew of "Me too!" 's that followed WoW, it did quite a bit to work out the flaws of the theme park genre. Blizzard made their competitor's mistakes into their own success. Perhaps on a lesser scale this time, to avoid the mass amount of horror stories that the genre generated from its employees during that time.

I believe it will take some time before 'the world' as a concept re-emerges into the online gaming scene though. The MMO industry is notoriously slow, and we must wait until the players who are dissatisfied move into positions to enact changes in the industry. Until then, I suppose we'll all enjoy the offerings they have to offer. SW:TOR, anyone?

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