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6:56pm on Friday, 18th October, 2013:

On the Horizon


Every so often, people ask me what new MMOs I'm looking forward to. Usually, my reply is pessimistic ("none"), but at the moment there are actually four MMOs I'm keen to see — plus another one I've consulted on so can't discuss. I don't think we're approaching the reboot stage yet, as pay-to-play still works its insidious magic, but we're certainly seeing something of a flowering of design.

The MMOs I'm waiting for with some eagerness are (in no particular order) are Wildstar, EverQuest Next, Elder Scrolls Online and Civilization Online.

What I like about Wildstar is that every time I read any Q&A with the lead designer, Jeremy Gaffney, he gives the right answer (well, right in the sense that I agree with him). He knows what he's doing, what he's doing is good: the results should be worth exploring. I'm also interested to see how Wildstar implements Bartle's player types, which, my being Bartle, you might think I'd been consulted on but I haven't.

EQ Next seems to have been given free rein by its backers to be different, so its designers are taking advantage of this. I thought that because EQ was part of the current MMO paradigm we'd be seeing more of the same, which in some ways we are, but in others they're heading off in new directions entirely. They're doing this by not being afraid to buy in talent that intrigues them, from which we're getting the Storybricks AI and Voxel Farm procedural engine. I'm looking forward to finding out how these work: if they're not the future themselves, they're significant steps along the way.

I want to see what Bethesda does with Elder Scrolls Online mainly from the perspective of the combat system (because the Elder Scrolls combat system, bonkers though it is, is at least not the same as in regular MMOs) and its object interactivity. I'm not especially caught up with the story possibilities, although I do expect it to be quite strong on that. I'm dubious about how they balance combat, though: I don't like the way they scale monsters to the player's level in the single-player games and I'm hoping they won't import that wholesale into the MMO.

Finally, Civilization Online looks to be something exceptionally different. I remember ages ago having a conversation in which I described how a group of lumberjacks felling an enormous tree could be a reskinning of a battle in which a group of adventurers took down a boss. Civilization Online seems to be using similar principles: it's all about crafting, but the crafting is on a par with adventuring in regular MMOs. I was very pleasantly pleased when I read the first descriptions of it, as I was dreading that it might be another Sims Online that was developed by people who just didn't get MMOs. It seems to be the opposite, though: not only do the designers understand MMOs, but they're taking them in a new, untrodded direction. I'm quite excited by the prospect!

I have a longer wait than many diehard MMO fans before I get to play any of these, because I don't sign up for betas. The beta UELA usually includes a clause that says something to the effect that you'll tell the developers what you think if they ask, for free. I don't give my detailed opinions about MMOs for free, as being paid to give them is part of my livelihood. It has the side effect that I see a more complete product, though, which is better in other ways.

Until then, though, well I guess I'll keep dabbling with The Secret World.

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Copyright © 2013 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).