We’ve had some great discussions over the past few days in our comments section about MMOs and how mechanics have changed over the years. Throughout the discussion one theme kept rising to the top: Relying on others. Whether it be for survival, advancement, accomplishment, or social edification, the human component has slowly disappeared. Grab a drink and relax. It’s story time.
Once upon a time…
The worlds we played in were dangerous and unforgiving places. We used to huddle around light sources in the middle of camps so that we could see at night and at least know that death was coming. Finding another player evoked almost this ‘I want to hold on to you for safety and follow you just because…’ kind’a feeling.
Grouping with others usually increased your chances of survival. It may have decreased your experience per kill or slowed you down, but even the chance of dying once wasn’t worth it. Grouping meant you could do and see more amazing things. Solo play was incredibly effective, but grouping gave options.
People used to talk in groups. That annoying thing in the bottom left corner of the screen with all the words in it — we used that to communicate. Over days, weeks, and months of grouping people gained real reputations. We knew the people on our server. Tim the Enchanter was a day trader; Marvin the Wizard was a veterinarian; Doug the Necromancer was in middle-school. We discussed the world, each other, and built relationships.
And lest you think this tale is solely about grouping, solo players and those wandering the world relied on each other as well. Happening across another player who could increase your run speed or mana regeneration changed your life. Stumbling upon someone who could resurrect your corpse made your cry tears of joy. When lost in a dungeon and filled with despair knowing you are going to die and potentially lose your corpse just as a hand reaches out from the darkness and guides you to safety is a feeling beyond my ability to relate with words.
People. People are a mechanic I want to see more of in MMORPGs. I want that human interaction. I want the unpredictability. Other people are the truest form of ‘dynamic gameplay’ we will ever see. People are the greatest tool a developer can use to leverage the world they’ve created. In the end, I don’t care how it’s done. Old school or new, I just want the results.