Saying No to MMOs

The Escapist has published an op-ed piece in which the author looks at MMOs from the outside (via a friend who doesn’t play MMOs).

That’s not the only thing off-putting to those unfamiliar with the genre. Look at an MMOG screenshot and you’ll see a 3D landscape completely smothered by buttons, meters, minimaps, progress bars, portraits, chat windows, character names, and other tidbits of information. And that’s just what’s onscreen. When you consider the numerous map, social, quest, and other essential windows that players are forever popping open and closed to get things done, it’s a wonder how any fantasy world can shine through all this junk.

There are reasons for these perceived shortcomings, of course. Many are technical. The average console action game doesn’t need to track and record the actions of thousands upon thousands of players and characters, for example. Others are practical. If you’re building a PC game for the largest player base possible, you need a game engine that will run on cheap, off-the-shelf PCs. And then there’s the stubborn, if-it’s-not-broke-don’t-fix-it tradition of game creation. If WoW’s refinements to familiar MMOG design drew in more than 10 million subscribers, why not stick with it? Why reinvent the wheel the next time around when you can simply refine it?
Imagine an MMOG with the graphical prowess of Fallout 3, the AI sophistication of Half-Life 2, and the physics engine of a game like Crysis. And imagine seeing it through an unobtrusive, streamlined interface that didn’t compete with its imaginative setting. Is such a game possible? I don’t know, but I like to think so. I’m certain I’d enjoy it. And I’m willing to be my friend Allen would, too.

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