“We’re finally seeing a point where companies realize that they’re not going to create the next great MMO by just copying what’s come before.” That quote comes from a recent interview Gamasutra held with ArenaNet’s global brand director, Christopher Lye. Of course, this is intended to refer specifically to Guild Wars 2 and how the team is trying to change many of the conventions of traditional MMOs. Despite that, he made his statement a more general one, and that makes us curious. Are MMOs really trying to change up their gameplay more?
Most developers claim that their MMO is trying something new. While arguably the core PvE experience for Dark Age of Camelot was somewhat similar to that of EverQuest, the PvP (or Realm vs. Realm in that particular game) certainly was not. EVE Online and Star Wars Galaxies were both rare breeds of successful sandbox MMOs. World of WarCraft launched with a greater emphasis on advancement via quests as opposed to grinding in the world’s environment. That model, like the hot-key based combat system, has become the de-facto standard and you can see it in almost every MMO that comes out today.
A few MMOs have tried to break the mold a bit since WoW. When Warhammer Online introduced the concept of Public Quests it was considered to be a pretty radical idea, and Rift embraced and evolved that idea to make it the core selling point of their game. More recently, Bioware attempted to inject their famed single-player storytelling style into Star Wars: The Old Republic in hopes of emphasizing the personal story of a character. TERA features their active combat system where players need to actively dodge and aim spells. Perhaps one of the biggest changes in recent history is the revenue systems for MMOs swinging toward Free-to-Play as opposed to the old subscription model.
Guild Wars 2, of course, offers a number of changes that are focused on delivering a more dynamic world, more active combat and enhancing cooperation between players, and they seem to be doing a good job of it. The Elder Scrolls Online will apparently feature a single-player only storyline, and The Secret World is doing away with both classes and levels which are traditional components of most MMOs. If we widen our scope, PlanetSide 2 offers an MMOFPS experience that we haven’t seen since, well, PlanetSide.
Are we seeing more innovation in the genre these days, or are most of these parts of an evolution that has been going on in MMOs since their conception? Let us know what you think.