We’re Working Backwards

In 1999 players were welcomed to the world of Norrath, one of the most expansive and immersive experiences ever encountered.  In 2001 the realms of Albion, Hibernia, and Midgard gave players the chance to participate in a three-way war for territorial domination comprised of keep assault and relic sieges.  In 2003 the limits of a player’s ability to interact with the world were stretched further than ever before in a Galaxy far, far away.  These are but a few examples of many games that released before their time.

Looking at what the MMORPG’s of the past were able to accomplish and what is being designed and attempted today, does it not appear as though we are working backwards?  If someone who knew very little about these games were to look at the industry objectively, would they not see the pinnacle of what today’s players want in a game released a decade ago and the path to that point clearly illustrated in a straight line of regression as each new game releases?  Dark Age of Camelot, for example, had the ideal three-way realm war.  As new games released, such as Warhammer Online (ironically made by the same developers), doesn’t it seem like WAR should have come first and then Dark Age of Camelot?    The same holds true for each of the examples I gave and many more.

Why are we moving backwards?  Why are the games today releasing as mere shadows of what came before them?  It only makes sense that we should be moving forward and making each new game better and better, building upon what came before, in order to achieve further success.  Yet, today a game releases and it’s brushed aside with comments like “It’s not as good as…” or “Why didn’t they include or learn from ….”  and then the game is set aside after only a few months to wither away and be set on auto-pilot with a skeleton crew of developers as they move on to the next project.  Sadly it’s looking like the MMO industry has become a salvaging operation with the mindset that there’s more money to be made in selling it for parts.

To correct this problem, why not make games that push the boundaries of what we knew?  Release a game that rivals the ideas presented in DAOC, AC, or UO.  Why not design the games to release at a point where they mirror what was once considered the peak of perfection and then push just a little further?  Even taking bits and pieces from several games and refining them into a polished game works — that’s how we got World of Warcraft. This is why people ask for DAOC 2.  It’s not just nostalgia.  It’s the ability to recognize a model that released before its time that could have astronomical results today.  I do not believe there is a soul among those of you reading this right now that can’t look at a game from the past that you thought was amazing and then add ideas to it that would make it even better.  If you can come up with those ideas, why can’t developers?

This industry started and became as big as it is today because of the potential recognized in the older games.  What released since then does not reflect that though.  What is holding us back?  I do not believe for one second when people tell me “the time for that has past”.  Bullhooky!  You’re crazy if you think millions would not eat up a game built with the ideals of DAOC, with the graphical capabilities of today, providing that ideal three-way true territorial realm war.  You’re off your rocker if you think an enormous open sandbox game where players can populate the landscape and involve themselves in the social dynamics of a complex player-driven society, economy, and conflict would not blow away the success of today.

Do we have the wrong people for the job?  Are there not enough idea men out there? Is it a problem of not enough money?  Technology not good enough?  I don’t believe any of these issues are true, nor do I believe that if they were they could not be rectified.   There is an enormous amount of untapped potential — yeah, yeah we all hate that word now — but it will never be fully realized workingbackwards.  You do not move forward by starting from the beginning and breaking each new game down to be only a bi-product of the original.  They may have released before their time, but it’s not too late to start again and make them only the beginning.  There is money in it, fun in it, and amazing games just waiting to be made.

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