The Fallacy of MMO Innovation

The Fallacy of MMO Innovation

An examination of why so few MMOGs truly innovate, and why it doesn't really matter that they don't.

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I'm a bit dissappointed with the read. I feel a lack of substantiality, particularly regarding the claims to Age of Conan's lack of innovation re: the genre. It's from the start been a very obvious fantasy MMO, with tastebytes being taken from single-player RPGs like the Gothic series and the excellent indie game Mount & Blade, the stylistic sense of LOTRO and a strong IP that gives it a sense of anchorage. The changes made have always been pitches as as much improvement upon the formula as "innovation." The cart isn't design-wise much different from the wheel-barrow, but it's still better, right?

Further, I feel the article lacks depth and perspective. Most of what is said is true, of course, but it's mostly so common-sensical that it's devolved to truisms. I know there's a character limit for this kind of article, but surely it's not one and a half page? As a note on something that should be explored, for instance, is Funcom's stated intent at a player base of around 500 thousand steady players and the solid stance that it's not designed to be a "WoW-killer" (as every journo has so originally termed it . . . )

Now, I just posted my first impression on this board, so my opinion could of course be derived from a conflict of interest, but I just feel this topic deserves a true, expansive treatment.

I concur with Pulse here; MMOs are a huge category to cover and thus should be given the length and depth it really deserves, not too pages worth of how 'unoriginal' Conan is because it doesn't care to fix what wasn't broken to begin with. The article seems mediocre and rushed, and if someone assigned this 'Devil's Advocate'-esque topic to Sean, then they should certainly rethink their area of work. Although it is worth noting he's making screaming accusations when the game has been out for less than a day. Lack of innovation? Try telling that to the players who build towns, who use the collision system to combat with or simply the huge base which has already signed up to play.

On a pedantic note:

The Article, Page Two:

basic mechanics of the MMO G re fairly bland

Page One:
bigger visions for what [i Age of Conan</i] might be

I also think this article is very much lacking. It fails to mention all the areas AoC is actualy a few steps back, like extreeme use of instancing and very simplifyed crafting.

Now the thing about MMOs to me is that you want maximum accessibility. The thing abuot WoW is you don't need a "positively bitchin'" PC to run it. That's why it sell sso well. The thing about this new Age of Conan to me is that it's not accessible a nasty M rating and you need a supercomp. I can see it now "New MMO has interactive nudity and graphic sex! GOOD JESUS TEH DEVIL IS WORKING!!!" 3million mommies wont buy their kids that now will they?

I'm looking forward to battlefield heroes myself.. but hey thats just me.

Hm. Not much said in this Article.

My opinion to MMO's is just that the battle and overall gameplay gets boring.

After a few moths you realise that you have done the nearly same stuff over and over again, that there is no use for tactics (anything and anyone just can run through you) and hat tankers suck when you are not constantly playing with others.

But the most important thing is that the gameplay really gets old after a while.

Yea, i have to agree about the dissappointment of this article. It takes a very wrong turn in the last page. And the title is misleading.

What i would want to see is how the mmo market is stale, cause it is right now. Most games in that genre are usually bound by the same rules, maybe simplified, by a different cover. They don't try to make something else, a new genre in the MMO branche. I'd rather accuse them of that, but alas, they say money... I think it's just pure greed that the mmo market is so stale. But that's my way of thinking...

The staleness of the MMO market, and fact that nobody really tries to be innovative or original is quite simple to explain.

What is important in MMORPGs is to have people play it. Lots of people, since the more people playing it, the more moneeeeeeeyzzz you earn. WoW has that down perfectly. It's generic fantasy that anyone can enjoy, it's not too complex, it doesn't have a difficult learning curve, it's shiny and visually appealing and at the same time not too demanding of your PC. So any commercial MMO that tries to deviate away from these factors usually ends up bad.

It's like adding coco to cocaine. Sure, SOMEONE will probably like it, but most junkies won't.

...Except now I don't feel *I* should be the one writing this, when I expected to read this in the above article.

P.S.: If people really want innovative and original MMOs, they should stop playing commercial ones and look at the free to play ones. Cthulhu Nation, Nexus War, Urban Dead, Kingdom of Loathing etc.

Sean glosses over AoC's maturity, but that's really one of AoC's most important and marketable innovations. The fact that AoC is violent, mature, and doesn't involve fantasy elves and orcs puts it in a different category in the minds of consumers. There are no other MMOs aimed at a more mature audience, so in this respect, AoC innovates.

Sure, it isn't game play innovation, and it isn't even thematic innovation (as Sean points out). But it makes AoC stand out, and that's all that really matters. Now that they have my attention (I'm more interested in AoC than any other MMO), which is half the battle, I hope they deliver the goods. The moment a 10-day trial comes out for AoC, I'll be giving it a spin.

Sean Sands:
The great triumph of WoW is in its absolute polish. The functionality of the interface, the client, the server and the game mechanics are ultimately what sets the foundation for creating a great game. WoW, from every angle, screams attention to detail, from the way the combat works to the depth of the original content to the smoothness of the UI. Ultimately, the basic mechanics of the MMOG are fairly bland, even boring, and streamlining every process while developing a polished gameplay progression that keeps the player engaged is the biggest key. In the end, give me a smooth client and a polished gameplay and you're halfway home.

I feel like this concluding paragraph makes Sands' article largely obsolete. He spends two pages presuming to decry a lack of innovation in MMOGs, and then finishes by admitting his own weakness for slick interfaces and shiny carrots on sticks? I've always felt that there is a severe and uncompromising trade off between core innovation and superficial sheen, but maybe the point is that there doesn't have to be. Perhaps he means innovation within that realm of "polished gameplay," which I could agree with--seeing as how so many MMOGs tend to emulate, modify, or just straight rip-off WoW's modular hotkey interface.

It's not really to innovate the whole genre that is MMO, essentially it boils down to a few core designs that make an MMO, an MMO.
Grind, lots of people and PvP. [Yes i'm sure there are PvE MMOs somewhere] The point is it's not really innovating away from the genre as more innovating its core mechanics and systems within the game.

MMO's never really reinvent the bicycle just really repaint it and bells and ribbons here or there.
Doesn't really matter whether it is AoC or Runescape for that matter.

They don't try to make something else, a new genre in the MMO branche. I'd rather accuse them of that, but alas, they say money... I think it's just pure greed that the mmo market is so stale. But that's my way of thinking...

The problem here is finding someone willing to risk losing millions of dollars on a "new and innovative" MMOG that doesn't "catch fire" the way WoW has. Does not wanting to throw away vast sums of money on something that fails miserably make someone greedy?

MMOGs face a special set of hurdles. There's increased beta testing and development time, coming up with ways to stave off goldselling and item-farming services, and of course buying server hardware and bandwidth for the players to play on. If the game falls flat on its face at release, there's not much you can do to recoup that time and money invested.

Suppose someone comes up to you and asks for a couple hundred thousand dollars so they can start up a "Punch You In The Face" store. Now maybe there's a market out there for that, people just aching to plunk down their hard-earned money for a punch in the face. No one's tried it before! Will you give up the cash to see?

There was that article about MMOs last year. You may want to read it.

Just wanted to point out a little HTML hiccup on the first page, a failed [i] mode

Like many recent Escapist articles this one is another wishy-washy effort, with the author unable or unwilling to take a real stand for or against anything. Escapist authors need to understand that readers don't want authors to always be right, reasonable or fair. What we want is strong opinion, well voiced. Heck, the best articles (I find) are those I disagree with - they give me something to think about and some reason to write in reply. The above article gives me nothing to vociferously agree with and nothing to rail against except the author's own cowardice!

Authors - take a stand! No more of this wishy-washy nonsense please!

"The cart isn't design-wise much different from the wheel-barrow, but it's still better, right?"

Well, the problem with Age of Conan (the cart) is that all its innovative features have been washed out due to too much worry about mature themes in what was never going to be anything other than a mature-themed MMOG (with a Mature rating). I don't know who the developers were worried about offending, or why they thought removing nudity and sex themes was a good idea in this game, but the Conan Lite they've delivered really ends up offending me. Also, the beautiful graphics which Conan has in spades doesn't really wow me - I'm not looking for beautiful graphics alone - I want for a better gameplay experience which, sadly, Age of Conan fails to deliver. Plus, since it takes up a horrendous amount of hard drive space to run all those lovely but superficial graphics it's a cart that needs a virtual thoroughbred racehorse to pull it.

So, in answer to the question, if the cart doesn't hold more than the wheelbarrow (i.e. if Conan doesn't have any real innovation in it compared to LotRO or other good MMOGs), and if it requires a thoroughbred to pull it (i.e. if the game demands that I buy a new computer or a new hard drive when my old computer runs LotRO and other MMOGs just fine) then the cart IS INDEED demonstrably worse than the wheelbarrow.

Now, when new carts come along that actually pull a greater load, THEN I might be persuaded to get that horse to pull such a cart. But so far I don't see any reason to buy either the horse or the cart.

Well, to sum up my thoughts, this article crossed the wrong side of the line of competence and kept on going another 100 yards where it finally tripped over its own shoes and broke its neck at;

"The great triumph of WoW is in its absolute polish. The functionality of the interface, the client, the server and the game mechanics are ultimately what sets the foundation for creating a great game. WoW, from every angle, screams attention to detail, from the way the combat works to the depth of the original content to the smoothness of the UI."

Now, I do have my fair share of hurt from what the current MMO heavy-weight champion of the United States and most of Asia has put me through, but I'm far from anal about it. So when I say that statement sounded like what GameSpot would require you to say if you were reviewing Kane & Lynch, don't think I'm one of those angst-filled, WoW-hating wankers.

Now I feel I know that the Escapist can do better, and I agree with some of my peers here that this did seem pretty half-assed.

Edit: Delete this, please.

Edit: Delete this, please.

There must be over a million posts on the various game and game hobby boards that all scream for the same thing. There is so much noise and so much hype that the people who have the funds and the ability to make the decisions do not really know what is what. So, they are led by those business folks, and marketing folks who can only emulate what has already been done, and not think through something that has never been.

I just read where Turbine scored 40 Million in funds. It makes me heartsick to think of what could be brought forth as an offering that would change the landscape of entertainment as we know it, rather than to bring out more of the same grinding mind numbing meaningless single player games set against a cardboard stage with other players experiencing the same mindless cycle of run-find-kill.

It's true. A lot of people who have the funds are not innovating, but that has not stopped the 'Frontier 1859' vision, or its' (now) International online community from digging in until a like-minded venture group with a real vision and passion helps the founder step up to bat.


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