While perusing You Tube, I watched the following video, boldly titled “The Top MMOs to Play This Year”. I found it to be quite informative and felt that the creator made their case well. However, one thing struck me about the five new MMOs that were referenced. All of these titles seem to be stepping away from the “business as usual” approach of the genre and pursuing an increase in complexity with respect to their game systems and mechanics. Now that’s not to say that existing MMORPGs are not complex. Some are, but I usually find that this is born out of skills or systems bloat and a games growth over time. On paper many of LOTROs mechanics are straightforward, but it is their implementation that is esoteric. This is not the same sort of complexity I saw referenced in the video. Many of these new MMOs will feature systems that need to be monitored, maintained or augmented by the player, because they have a direct impact upon the gameplay experience and the very environment of the virtual world they’ll inhabit.
The weather, the economy, faction feuds, coupled with mechanics such as ageing, permadeath and full corpse looting means that those playing Chronicles of Elyria will have to be cognisant of what is happening around, both at an in-game and community level. And it is this very level of complexity that will be a major selling point of the game. You will always find comments on gaming forums or websites such as Massively Overpowered, from some old school gamers lamenting the level of “hand holding” you find in contemporary MMOs. The industry shift in the last ten years to accommodate the so-called “casual” player has not been universally embraced. Therefore, any new title that dispenses with quest trackers, mini-maps and any of the other quality of life improvements must surely appeal to such advocates. Having to think and reason, as well as play collaboratively must surely offer an experience closer to that found in the golden age of MMOs; something such player always extol. Surely the element of risk presented by playing in such an environment, will be to their liking?
One thing is certain. If you wish to effectively play these new MMOs with their additional layers of complexity, then you will need to invest a substantial amount of time not only to progress through the actual game, but to track and master the various systems and variables that can impact upon your experience. You must also cultivate a mindset that accepts that external factors beyond your control will impact upon your time in-game. You may lose valuable resources, or your avatar may even die, effectively mitigating the time and effort you’ve spent. And therein lies the rub. Although on paper I find a lot of the complex parameters featured in these upcoming MMOs interesting, I wouldn’t choose to endure them. A decade ago I had the time and the dedication to invest in MMOs. I do not now and certainly wouldn’t choose to play a game with such a specific rule set. I play for amusement and leisure, not competition and bragging rights (as some seem to define gaming by). I simply don’t want a game that becomes a “job”.
What remains to be seen is whether these new MMOs with their complex and punitive rule set, find a sufficiently big enough player base to sustain themselves financially. I believe that there are gamers out there that will embrace such an approach and we’ve seen successful games of this nature in the past. It simply comes down to whether there is a viable market or not. I suspect that not all of these titles such as Chronicles of Elyria, Pantheon: Rise of The Fallen, Crowfall and Ashes of Creation will survive. When looking back at early MMOs, we must not overlook the context of the era that spawned them. Many factors such as internet connection speed, graphics quality, server technology shaped their design. Gaming itself was also not so common place an activity and pitching to a player base then, was radically different from the market we see today. So, I think that possibly only a few of these new titles will be commercially successful and the others will end up as interesting but ultimately failed experiments. As ever time will tell.