Yesterday’s reminiscing about Ultima Online and the uncertain future of the MMORPG industry had me reflecting on this question: “What made Ultima Online, the oft-referred grandfather of MMORPGs, successful?”
UO had roughly 100,000 paying subscribers around 6 months after it released in September of 1997. Most people would agree it was an amazing game — it was “the next best thing” of its time.
Have you seen the list of games that released in 1997? Go ahead and Google it. On that list are some of the widely acknowledged best games of all times. Many of them outsold UO. Many of them are far better remembered — probably most of them. And a great many of them sure looked and played a heck of a lot more advanced than UO.
So it wasn’t the prettiest or most complicated game and it didn’t have the widest appeal. What then?
Smedley’s tweet to Raph Koster has made its rounds in the MMO sphere these past few days. Raph was talking about simulationism and Smed chimed in talking about deep ai and machine learning as the future — to which Raph agrees. The next statements are what made the headlines. Raph says to imagine UO’s original ecology, to which Smed says he already accomplished it with Hero’s Song (that game he failed to make a few years ago) and that he ‘will‘ make ‘that‘ game which is the next EverQuest.
We’re all going to have our different answers on this one. What do you think is the biggest challenge about playing an MMORPG? To really answer this question, we have to toss aside some of the obvious disqualifiers. The obvious answers that don’t count (but are indirectly valid) would relate to having an MMORPG even worth playing, having one that doesn’t fail after 3 months, etc. Assuming there is a game that’ll last for a while, what challenges do you face?
I had a friend ask me what I thought about the MMO industry going back to the old school style of games. Then I saw this question from the Pantheon twitter account. What do you think about the industry’s recent shift back to older school games and vanilla re-launches/servers?
MMO industry going back to old school style of games?
Industry shifting back to old school games and re-launches?
I’m not living in the same world, I guess.
The MMO industry has not shifted anywhere. In fact, the MMO “industry” is quickly losing its “industry” status altogether. The MMO genre has been dead for several years now, with a handful of strong titles still living on to keep that flame from going out.
I have always loved the act of going out to gather resources. There’s something so meaningful about the accumulation of raw resources, whether it be to take those resources and create something yourself, have someone else use them to make something for you, or to simply sell. Harvesting resources can be so much more than that, though, and should be if a MMO ever hopes to create a harvesting system that’s meaningful.
My days of meaningful crafting in MMOs were few, relatively speaking. My big claim to crafting fame was in SWG where I made millions and millions of credits as a Chef back in the early days when I could make various foods and drinks to radically improve people’s stats. I took those millions and invested them into a vast network of resource gathering harvesters (by purchasing other people’s slots to use them since you could only have one character). I took them resources and either used them, flipped them raw, or converted them into items that I then resold. At one point I even opened up a tailor shop and a weapons and armor shop where other crafters sold their goods on consignment — goods they made with my resources.
I’m a believer in harvesting resources being more than smacking a random node that then disappears. That’s lame, and I don’t find it ‘fun’ at all.
MMO housing systems are one of those topics we used to all sit around the table and talk about. Back in the good old days, when there were half a dozen major MMOs in development and everyone was talking about mechanics and features, etc., there would inevitably be a conversation about housing. Will the game have housing?! I remember the forum posts (remember forums?) with long discourses on the pros and cons, how it could be implemented, etc.
Devs would hype their game having houses when it comes out and there would end up being no housing at all. Open-world housing would be promised and it would end up being instanced neighborhoods or “islands” off in the middle of no where. For whatever reason, it kind of became a big joke to me.
I love housing in games. I love decorating them, building them up, collecting things to store in them, and visiting other people’s houses. But I love those things when the games are built around them. Does that makes sense?
I haven’t felt the urge to play so many characters in a MMORPG for over a decade. I think the last time I felt this torn between characters was in Vanguard. In WoW I’m currently playing my Paladin main, a Warrior alt (who has almost caught up to my Paladin in gear), and now a Monk who is a fresh 120. I like them all.
Trying to level up alts and then subsequently gear them isn’t always the easiest activity in WoW. Taking WoW at face value and keeping all things relative to WoW, it’s not alt friendly. Since most of the end-game activities I want to participate in are gated by gear grinds, I find myself stuck in a feeling like I’m running in place. I want to go do higher M+ keys, but my luck on drops sucks. I can’t get the traits I want, or I can’t get the iLvl upgrades I want, etc.
The experience of making a new character and thriving has significant barriers to entry.
Should MMORPGs be more alt friend? If so, how?