MMOs and the Lack of Innovation

Tired of button macros and monotonous button presses, like you’re playing tactical chess that tries to emulate real-time combat? I’m sure we all are, we can’t dodge attacks by moving, we can’t put up our shield just in time to block in MMO’s, and we can’t choose where to attack on the body of the opposition. Fortunately, these next-gen MMO’s have been swaying towards this feature, and hoards of players are moving from greater environments to less open worlds, and dungeon style gameplay: EX: Vindictus / Dragons Nest.

Not to say those games aren’t top notch, due to their development engines and intricate combat. In fact, dragons nest is quite fun, it being anime inspired, but it lacks in true real-time combat, and the overall plot reeks of an abc morning cartoon a child would watch before he departs for elementary school. Many people enjoy it however, but it’s not my cup of tea.

However, as I am a frequent viewer of MMOHUT, a new game has dawned, and quite specifically, tingled my MMO senses when I saw a TERA style combat format, F2P! The graphics are nearly as good, and frankly, it seems more polished than TERA itself. The ui is very minimalistic, and it truly is action style and combat oriented, no arbitrary strafe dances, only dodges, blocks, evades, and point to point hit detection. This is the era of MMO’s where things drastically change from… skill 1, skill 2, skill 3, being hotkeyed, repeated in an arduous manner, to a devil may cry skill-based combo system. But alas we will always then left click to an auto loot for some wheat grass. MMO traditions seem to never fade in this respect, innovation is always stagnant when finances hinder development and bravery to venture where no dev has ever gone before.

Needless to say, this F2P market of gaming has involved repetitious order, of contriving duplicates of WoW and other P2P MMORPGS, for “keeping it safe”. Unfortunately, this has spawned hundreds of the same MMO, with slightly different mechanics, but with a new skin, all lesser to WoW. In some respects, like RIFT, they’ve gone a long way to provide a unique gameplay feature of environmental pvp with a cross server portal system, but it unfortunately fails due to its original nature of “playing it safe” with the same static UI and combat system of WOW. It’s like someone releasing Madden, then someone else releasing a game called “Nikido” an asian football game, same controls, but you get a red football stadium, there is new helmets to choose from, and your jerseys look slightly more awkward. Even the teams in this “nikido” are the exact same lore based content, as it if it was some epic history involvement that would tell a story within the lore of some other fictional reality. Red sabers are cool, but slice like a sword. Lances are sweet, but animate like a staff. These analogies reign true in all MMO’s especially F2p, which is predominately hoarded in the ‘fantasy’ genre.

Take for example Rappelz. Fun game, pretty much the same as WOW, and it gets boring. There is no true purpose to play these games besides to advance your character, obtain your equipment, to perform against higher level mobs with your keybinds and attack rotations. There is nothing fun, the lore sucks because it amasses up to a 50 page novel, wherein you substitute most of it with your own notions, and community fan fiction. The myriad of fantasy MMORPGS has been saturated, literally. There is not one game that provides a unique experience, and the best way to put a “copy – paste” fantasy MMORPG is to subliminally offer an environment, and a hierarchy based on level, time played, in a social chat-room.

Thankfully, some games recently attach you to your character, offer an actual story that progresses, and makes you feel like you’re playing a unique single player experience. However, after playing “Star Wars The Old Republic,” it still leaves a sour taste in your mouth. The same combat system, with a push on story, results in the end as another socially dynamic single player game. The arbitrary cycle of key presses and collection quests which are entirely redundant to your character and the story, round up this game to being another clone, with a fancy smile, and an overcoat to justify its existence beyond max level. These games will fail in time. These features should fail in time. I don’t understand why it has lasted this long, perhaps innovation has ceased in networking, and the cyclical nature of humans has contorted some exhilarating game-play to a glorified chess match.

I for one, am tired of strafing circles in PVP, raising statistics that shouldn’t matter besides base equipment. In reality, we don’t measure the blocking capability of a shield, we look at the material used and exemplify it against a steel sword. We can’t cast a lightning rod and at the tip of our mind, measure our remaining mental stamina, and realize the total damage it will inflict on that individual. In these respects, it all feels like a card game trying to resemble a strategy game, in a game about singular advancement in an unreasonable tone, where you can connect and explore with other people. To put it simply, MMORPGS shouldn’t devalue the immersion of the player with statistics in an overall “D&D” die roll.

I envision games of the future being very ominous, unknowing, your perceptible level is non-existent, for other than your game-time, skill of play, and the equipment you’ve obtained along your journeys. HP Bar? Do I know when I’m going to die in real life? No. I could be slashed, I could be bleeding to death, and it will hurt. My character may scream and continue to fight, with no knowledge of his 75 hp left. One strike to the liver, the character falls down and drops his weapon. The opponent, advanced in equipment and gear looks at you, can spare your life for another day, or decimate you. Surely, not one developer would take a minimalistic risk on an MMO like this, for statistic junkies, and overall computation involved with raid bosses, but unfortunately this “unknown” and mystical part of the game could be the saving grace of the MMO genre. To be plunged into a world where your choices matter, where your combat skills invest empathy to your fictional avatar. I wish for a game as open ended as this, not a game, but a virtual simulation in a battle torn world. Many years down the road perhaps. The primary cause for such a lack of innovation is the economy. Developers aren’t willing to take risks outside of their safety zone to innovate genres and inspire grandiose moments that would reflect in gamers hearts forever. You think WoW has a long life? How about a game that never diminishes intrigue, never truly ends with a level, and inputs the substance you dedicate into it. A WoW Killer.

In retrospect, WoW is already dying, due to story based games like TOR, and graphically enhanced games like RIFT which offers up unlimited customization in the class development. Even the F2P genre is abundantly becoming clear as a superior market choice for MMO’s. Unfortunately, cash shops have become the “new-way” to fund their projects, and distinct and imperative advancements over the free-players often leaves them with a sour taste. Fortunately for them, they don’t have to pay, but we all don’t get what we want, and without the overpowered cash shop, the game wouldn’t be free, and updates / expansions wouldn’t be possible. Thankfully some of the best games that have the “F2PB4P”(Free 2 Play, Buy 4 Power) aren’t necessarily overpowered. In some aspects, it can ruin games, player-base divided, and since it’s free, and there’s 100′s of other similar games, then they will just jump ship and eventually communities coalesce into brand new games. That’s the problem with these F2P Games. They will always lose market, a F2P MMO is like a bomb waiting to detonate. The engine under the hood is old, it’s a 92′ camry, whereas a new game like C9 which is graphically superior and transcends WoW in every respect. It’s a brand new BMW M9, ready to throttle, just pumping gas at the station. The players with the camry, will see the new tech, will want to trade it in, but great for them, it’s FREE! Although, it doesn’t have air conditioning, rear wheel drive, heated seats, or extra trunk space. These additions cost money for the BMW. However, this engine upgrade is fortunate for the player, unfortunate for WoWs wallet, and the rest of the F2P MMO devs. Some people might miss the cold bliss of their freon in a warm summer day, but others will love the horsepower of the BMW with the top down, and realize that in a short few months, you could have that cold air too. You live, you learn, they adapt, they innovate. Developers like Aeria or NCSOFT make multiple MMOs annually, and surely they’re evolving beyond the industry standard. This is very depressing for those grinders and smithers that avidly dedicate their time, only for it to mean moot. This is why, grind should be removed. Enjoying the world, playing the game, and intrinsically wanting to bond with others on a social medium should be prime. Learning others through their avatar, as well as joining them and being challenged in a dynamic environment with ever-changing combat circumstances, is an idealistic view of a possible MMO future.

This is where RaiderZ comes in. My first look at it, I was nearly astounded. The magnificent open world, with a real-time combat system that is involving while transcending the hot-bar and skill played chess. Dynamic combat, in an open world, should become the new standard. Personally, this F2P Game is class, and even overpowers TERA in some regards. I am so looking forward to this game, and hopefully I will see you in it when it’s released. Currently, they’re alpha testing. The game has a great history, from the developers of GUNZ, so we surely have skill-based gameplay, and frenetic action. Beyond this, there’s no definite classes, we shape our characters like the way we develop in Skyrim or Kingdoms of Amalur. Although, these statistics still exist, it still conforms to the conventional MMO’s, but it’s not a farcry from where I envision the future of MMORPG’s.

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