Richard Garriott: "Theme Park" MMOs are Dead

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Richard Garriott: "Theme Park" MMOs are Dead

Richard Garriot

Richard Garriott believes that a new wave of meaning driven MMOs are coming and hopes to lead the way with Shroud of the Avatar.

When it comes to big names in role playing, Richard "Lord British" Garriott is about as big as it gets. He's one of the earliest progenitors of the genre, building it up and helping to revolutionize it with his landmark Ultima series. Ultima Online, in turn was the original MMORPG, a genre that Garriott is currently working to re-enter with Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues. Speaking with WarCry in a series of recent, exclusive interviews, Garriott discussed his work on Shroud of the Avatar, MMOs, and what it takes to make it in a field as competitive as game design.

"[Shroud of the Avatar] is the spiritual successor to all things Ultima, and even more broadly, all things Lord British. It's a much stronger story-based game than [Ultima Online], and we're even taking the best parts from Tabula Rasa, like Control Points," he said, discussing the game. "So it's a combination of the best practices of the past as well as some great new design and technology that we're bringing to bear." Among the new design ideas is item creation and an economy left entirely to players. Items created by players will be recycled and reused by the game when discarded while players will often have active roles in villages and cities, owning property and setting up in-game businesses.

That said, Garriott also intends keep some things markedly old school. SotA will feature no quest log, for instance, and likewise will require players to communicate with NPCs via typed English text, rather than dialogue options. The inclusion of such features could be seen in some ways as a response to modern MMO trends, based primarily in games like World of Warcraft, that he sees as having been "completely trodden into the ground."

"I do think level-grind theme park games are dead, in favor of the sandbox, and not just the sandbox, but the sandbox with meaning. That's going to be the next wave," he said. This next wave will presumably be fostered by an emerging generation of game developers and designers that Garriott hopes will learn the right lessons moving forward. "You need to be a person with the interest and the aptitude, as well as have the time to step back and build things with themes. Instead of just laying out a city, you need to think about who will use this city, and what its purpose is," he explained. "If you embody your world with meaning, you don't need to continuously add individual parts that add up to it, they'll already be there, and great things will just fall out of it." To find the interviews in full, head over to Warcry.

Source: WarCry

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Nothing is ever "Dead". Heck, point and click adventures are back in style, care of TellTale.

Theme park MMO's will still keep their place amidst the rest of the new fad, which is sandbox sandbox sandbox. But once Sandbox because saturated, like every other genre shift, people will get sick of it and want either different or the old thing back again.

Ive been saying this for awhile now, theme parks are old for a few reasons those who played them will know. WoW is a great game but it gets boring after you finish all the content and you are stuck waiting for more and the cycle just repeats and that down time sucks.

The real "WoW killer" mmo will be one that breaks the mold and becomes a truly massive sandbox. I would love to see a massive world that players could effect like minecraft and drive their own content building up bases and what not. would be awesome to have a few theme park rides built in too but players being able to make their own toys to play with will really be what sells I think

Just look back at SWG that game had really zero content, aside from the talk to terminal get waypoint kill some stuff at waypoint repeat. All the city building and player community was what made that game great, I loved going into cantinas and talking to people while getting buffs from the dancers. Or waiting at the starport for 30 mins talk to the random people sitting around waiting for the shuttle. I miss the sense of community from that game.

I cant wait to see some real new mmos come out it sad we had to see so many fail trying to be WoW. Im looking at you SWTOR =( fuck I really wanted that to somehow be good. But seriously even the new upcoming MMOs seem to be afraid to completely break the mold. Elder scrolls online atleast has the twitch combat but I hope there are sandboxy elements. Everquest next has neat environment destruction stuff, I just hope the combat system changes it up to not just be the WoW style tab target.

You know... sometimes I pull out an old RPG because I like grinding. It's fun and very rewarding. I love other kinds of games, too, but grabbing Star Ocean 2 and grinding to level 200 in the Cave of Trials or levelling everyone up in FFVI by vanishing and dooming the big brontosaurs makes me happy.

I like Sandbox, too. Skyrim was great and gave me a couple hundred hours of entertainment. But now I"ve seen it all and I haven't touched it in forever. Fallout New Vegas is the same. I haven't actually finished the storyline in either.

All games are viable.

... I was actually coming into this thread thinking the post would be about games like Roller Coaster Tycon, Zoo Tycoon, Sim Theme Park, etc... were dead, and I was going to say how unhappy I was with the thought.

When are people going to learn to stop declaring something 'dead'.

That said, I'd love to see more people try new stuff in the MMO genre. I've never really been able to get into one myself for a number of reasons, so it'd be great to try something fresh.

Most of the major MMOs on the market to date are "theme park" MMOs with relatively mediocre (or worse) story.

Garriot is speaking from his ass and he's doing so because he wants to draw attention to his project, which looks like it came straight out of the 90s. The real question is, what will he do once Shroud of the Avatar fails to prove him right and only attains a modest following well below that of established "kings" of the genre? Will he admit he was wrong, or just blame the customers for not understanding his grand vision?

His "new ideas" sound suspiciously like ripping off things Eve has been doing for a decade. Maybe someone could explain then how he gets away with claiming this is new and/or original?

Who else besides me thought Garriot was talking about an MMO that played like...well...Theme Park or Rollercoaster Tycoon?

RikuoAmero:
Who else besides me thought Garriot was talking about an MMO that played like...well...Theme Park or Rollercoaster Tycoon?

I also thought that was what he was talking about. Then I realized MMO part ya I dunno not sure I care honestly.

If Theme Park MMOs are dead maybe it is time for Theme Hospital MMOs? Ho hum.

All you have to know is that this guy Greenlit Ultima 9: Ascension. Also considering his last foray into MMO's was Tabula Rasa.. yeah.

That said, MMO's are stagnating but really that's just because the nature of MMO's is to try for broad appeal. It's compounded by the simple fact that the number of online grindy time sinks a person is willing to sink their time into is at best two and for most 1 and those people already have that one game ith all their levels, friends and gear.

You're going to have a hard time getting them to abandon their levbel 90 Trolloc SHammie to start as levl 1 again on someplace they don't know. <<O's are disappointing but it's not the theme park aspect, that's not so bad, what irks me is the playerbase and the narrative. See you can't immerse yourself in the worlds when every other payer you meet keeps jarring you out of it.

What do MMO's need to figure out. How to make level 1-75 feel as important ans levels 76-90. That's sort of the the thing every MMO hits you with eventually. Nothing you do matters, nothing you do in this world is important which if that's the case... i might as well just play Minecraft

I'll probably be one of the poor saps that wants to play the single-player version of Shroud of the Avatar. Other people be damned.

Oh yeah and Richard? *stagnating. Nothing is ever gonna die, people like what they like so somebody is bound to make something like it. However, I am gonna enjoy the sandbox craze if it happens. I'm just hoping the MMO w/ Single Player function is also gonna be a thing. It should be a thing.

Not a surprising message from Lord British, given that he arguably started out with the idea of MMOs as a sandbox. The thing is though that like his missteps with UO, he needs to understand that "hell is other people" and games that rely almost entirely on the players themselves to drive things are also going to fail nowadays. Quests and such are what keep a lot of people, especially the more casual players, invested in the game and it's world, and gives them something to do without needing to deal with other players. One can argue that "if you don't want to be around other players, you shouldn't be doing an MMO" which seems valid until you consider that AAA quality RPGs with a decent amount of depth
are pretty rare nowadays, they come along, but not enough to scratch the itch of an enthusiast. Not to mention that when people get involved in games nowadays, the first impulse of many is to mess with other players, something Richard overlooked with UO, and learned the hard way when he famously wound up getting himself whacked due to forgetting to turn on his invincibility (which arguably should never have been a factor). A lot of players do not want to deal with that, and indeed nowadays where MMOs are no longer in their infancy you see a far more "compartmentalized" social environment which has been hurting new players from coming in, that is to say people who move from game to game with the same basic social circle and refuse to deal with anyone outside of it other than in the most mercenary, or outright antagonistic fashion.

At any rate, I was an early backer on "Shroud Of The Avatar" and think Richard has some interesting ideas. At the end of the day though he seems to be trying to develop a game that is playable both on and offline, and which has some quests and such attached to it, but as he points out isn't deep enough there to really be considered a quest driven "theme park" game.

To be honest in following everything he's said and the videos he's put up it seems to actually be a virtual real estate scam of sorts. In the MMO portion of the game there are only going to be so many plots of land people can build on. To get a plot you have to wait for one to open up and then pay the company for access to it with real money, in addition you need to pay a hefty, constant, stream of in-game money in taxes to retain control of the land and anything else you build there. If you do not, then the plot reverts to the "bank" and Richard re-sells it to someone else for real money. Going by his pre-order deals which I guess are supposed to be unusually good, he's charging a ton of money for a structure in addition to the property you put it on.

The thing is that this does sort of solve the issue of "house overcrowding" that we saw in SWG and UO, where after a while you literally could not move outside of a protected area without running smack into a barrio of haphazardly placed player structures. Many of which were abandoned after some PKer managed to get the house key, making it unsafe for storage. At the same time though it makes it so the "point" of these sandbox elements is only there for someone with a decent amount of real money to blow on something as transient as a video game (would you pay for the right to run a shop selling virtual socks?). Not to mention the whole idea of "plots" ruins part of the fun of that type of game which was going colonial, scouting out and finding a place to put down your house. Especially early on, in both SWG and UO part of the fun was finding a place near resources or a spawn point you wanted to use, and preferably where the neighbors were tolerable.

All this rambling aside, I think the gaming media needs to spend some time getting on Richard over his virtual real estate plans honestly. It's nice to see one of my favorite game designers back in the saddle, but really it seems like the whole "OMG, it's Richard Garriot" thing is getting in the way of really looking at his product for the moment. On a lot of levels I am kind of hoping he'll go on to develop some good, epic, single player games... instead of apparently experimenting to see if he can become what amounts to an online slum lord. :)

joeman098:
Just look back at SWG that game had really zero content, aside from the talk to terminal get waypoint kill some stuff at waypoint repeat. All the city building and player community was what made that game great, I loved going into cantinas and talking to people while getting buffs from the dancers. Or waiting at the starport for 30 mins talk to the random people sitting around waiting for the shuttle. I miss the sense of community from that game.

I know that Sony didn't support the game too well and there were people that loved it, but SWG tanked hard so it's not the best example.

There is a big difference between what people should play, what they want to play, and what they do play. There are a few theme park style MMOs that have 'exhausted' the genre, but there are just as many coming out soon that people are even more pumped for. Most of the sandbox games created in the last several years (of which there are few) didn't do very well. There are so many different factors which go into making a successful and long-term played MMO past theme-park-or-not that I would put it down towards the end of that list.

Please, Richard Garriot, tell us how it really is, right before you fail to deliver on about 75% of the announced features of your game (*cough* Fable).

mirage202:
His "new ideas" sound suspiciously like ripping off things Eve has been doing for a decade. Maybe someone could explain then how he gets away with claiming this is new and/or original?

..... Ultima Online had this stuff way back before Eve was even thought up.

If we go even farther, MUD's have been doing it since the internet was a thing.

Just because a relatively new game does it doesn't mean they did it first. For example, Anarchy Online actually started the idea of Instanced Zones to decrease server load.

OT: Spoony has an interview with Richard Garriot recorded along with a couple of other things from when he was able to sit down and talk with him. Hopefully there is more about what's to be expected in SotA in them.

Dick needs to shut up. He hasn't done anything meaningful or original in years.

delroland:
Please, Richard Garriot, tell us how it really is, right before you fail to deliver on about 75% of the announced features of your game (*cough* Fable).

Wrong guy

sirjeffofshort:
When are people going to learn to stop declaring something 'dead'.

Declaring things dead is dead.

BWONG

StewShearer:
SotA will feature no quest log, for instance, and likewise will require players to communicate with NPCs via typed English text, rather than dialogue options.

Seriously? All the way back to Ultima IV? Name, job, health?

Yeah as a life long fan of RPG's, from both East and West, my recent experience with FFXIV just reminded me how I can't stand the modern 'theme park' MMORPG. Biggest factor it came down to was probably the mob zoning. I've never minded grinding, but I've always liked it to come as part of the challenge in getting from point A to point B. Like it was in FFXII, and while not quite a MMO the first Guild Wars did it too (haven't played the second). That and despite it's "MMO" label it didn't really feel like a social game. More like the occasional chat room completely separate from the game.

So I'd love to see Lord British get it done here, but I'm skeptical it will work out. While there are those like my self that desperately want it, majority of the paying customers are probably happy sticking with the theme park style.

Blizzard will come out with Titan which will really be nothing more than a WoW reboot and prove this guy wrong.

MMOs don't work unless they try to emulate WoW. And then people won't play it because WoW is still better. You can't win.

You know, I think his opinion might hold a bit more water if he wasn't using it to flog his own game...

Seriously, this is the guy who tried to revolutionize the MMO(with Tabula Rasa) and failed hard. he talked a lot of shit before that game came out too. I don't think he is a great designer. I contribute a lot of Ultima Online's success to Raph Koster and not Garriott. Ultima before UO was pretty bland.

Nurb:
Dick needs to shut up. He hasn't done anything meaningful or original in years.

delroland:
Please, Richard Garriot, tell us how it really is, right before you fail to deliver on about 75% of the announced features of your game (*cough* Fable).

Wrong guy

You're right, I'm thinking of Molyneux, but Garriot has a little bit of the crazy too.

Reed Spacer:
You know, I think his opinion might hold a bit more water if he wasn't using it to flog his own game...

I dunno. I call that "putting your money where your mouth is". There's nothing cynical or hypocritical about what he's doing. He's got some ideas, he's trying to make them real and convince everyone they're great ideas.

On the other hand... It all seems very ivory tower to me. He's making what he wants, but is that what lots of other people want? Recent history suggests that it probably isn't, and worse, that he's overlooked things that ARE very important to players, and will drive away people who might otherwise be interested in his vision.

Well, I think he's saying that because right now sandbox design appears to solve some of the juxtaposition players encounter between their actions and the game world at large. A common example would be "Everyone is the Hero", where the player introduction to the game world is via some scripted event in a linear tutorial where they get told they are some kind of chosen one, and then get tossed into the world at large with tons of other players.

On the other hand, sandbox MMOs likely will have their own bag of problems. What happens if the game employs destructible terrain and some high level player decides to go GTA on an entire city? It would be pretty entertaining, but likely disruptive to at least some portion of the player population. Especially if the antics result in a building collapsing and killing a valuable merchant.

Then again, maybe we do need a dose of anarchy in our MMO space.

I think that the new generation of MMOs will be more in line with what Sony have planned for Everquest next, that is to say more sandboxy and less scripted along a set path. They seem to have learned their lessons from their previous MMOs like SWG and Everquests.

I dunno. I'm getting into Guild Wars 2 right now, and as theme parks go, it is a pretty great one. Sure, the heyday of WoW and its imitators is gone, but big deal. There are still plenty of MMO's with their own little niches, and now even Guild Wars and WoW are two well-aged, mature franchises with plenty to sink your teeth into.

Basically, this is a really dumb prediction. Show us what you've got first, Garriot, because especially given the shameless hyping of this particular industry, anything else is just hot air. I'll stick with what's here right now, and what's fun.

joeman098:
Snip

You basically just described Everquest:Next :P

OT: I do not think that Theme Park MMO's are dead, not at all. Pop culture doesn't die, it gets replaced. Sure, Games like WoW are certainly getting stale and stagnating but they're not dead yet. Not until the next big thing comes along.

WoW has 7.6 Million paying subs, sure sounds dead to me. Look, I like Garriot, but when someone thinks they have the foresight to claim something "dead" all the while being responsible for one of the most dull and broken MMO's in recent history, Bullshit drama magnet alarms sound.

I declare that Richard Garriot is dead.

No, seriously. Has he made any meaningful contributions to the gaming arena in the last 15 years?

Odd. From what I can see they're not dead enough.
Not nearly enough to make that claim, at least.

and ... this will be that last any one hears of it, till it gets shut down cause no one plays it.

delroland:
Please, Richard Garriot, tell us how it really is, right before you fail to deliver on about 75% of the announced features of your game (*cough* Fable).

That's Peter Molyneux (OBE)

Then again old DIck can shut up, nothing is ever dead in gaming, like fashion trends from 30 years ago and the music of the 80's everything comes back around... whether you want it to or not!

Story driven MMOs have a problem - theres only so many times you can see the same story till it gets boring.

Therumancer:
Not a surprising message from Lord British, given that he arguably started out with the idea of MMOs as a sandbox. The thing is though that like his missteps with UO, he needs to understand that "hell is other people" and games that rely almost entirely on the players themselves to drive things are also going to fail nowadays. [snippity snip]

No, player driven MMOs wont fail. Giving players no steering wheel and expecting them to steer - will. If you want player driven sandbox games to work - give players the ability to actually run the sandbox. Take a look at Eve-Online for example. players drive the market, heck, players own 2/3 of the systems in the game, maknig their own security patrols, industries. becuase players are given the tools to do it. On the other hand you got MMOs where players cant do anything and still expect players to do everything.

Pyrian:

StewShearer:
SotA will feature no quest log, for instance, and likewise will require players to communicate with NPCs via typed English text, rather than dialogue options.

Seriously? All the way back to Ultima IV? Name, job, health?

actually that made some games amazing, when you could find hidden phrases to make NPCs say interesting things.
not to mention

hi
trade
sell 50 halberds
yes
bye

was so ingrained into me i could do it blindfolded in the middle of the night.
Speaking to NPCs is awesome and im very sad they no longer do that. this was one of the features they RUINED in modern games.

Colt47:
On the other hand, sandbox MMOs likely will have their own bag of problems. What happens if the game employs destructible terrain and some high level player decides to go GTA on an entire city? It would be pretty entertaining, but likely disruptive to at least some portion of the player population. Especially if the antics result in a building collapsing and killing a valuable merchant.

Then again, maybe we do need a dose of anarchy in our MMO space.

That would be quite... awesome. and then we would see NPCs reconstructing the city slowly, with ability to pay them mroe to do it faster.
ALso you can already do that in Eve to soem extent. player owned structures can be destroyed and items in it blow up and looted. variuso factions raid each other and destroy their POS all the time. There, of course, is a space regulated by NPC police who got OP guns though, that one is safer. And you cant blow up stations sadly. The post thing is good thing for me, since i actually build them and thus they give me moneys for replacements.

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