I certainly hope so because after almost ten years of playing mmo’s I’m getting… bored.
In the beginning every new mmo was exciting and fresh but now, after approximately eleven mmo’s, I’m finding that they are all starting to feel the same. I stress the word ‘feel’ because there is a great deal of superficial variety in mmo’s. Some are biased towards pve [player versus environment], some towards pvp [player versus player] and some try to be all things to all people – with varying degrees of success. Some have beautiful graphics and some do not. Some have exciting battling systems and some force players to mash the same buttons over and over again. Some have interesting storylines and some are just a pointless grind…
Enough said. There are differences between mmo’s but when you strip away all the gloss you are left with one basic model – play to become more powerful to get more gear to become even more powerful so you can get uber gear that only a small percentage of players can boast about. That’s it. The best mmo’s do have ancillary benefits – such as meeting interesting people and playing in bursts of high-excitement groups – but at the end of the day all that effort boils down to very little.
This is where Guild Wars 2 may or may not break the mold and set us all free. From the reviews I’ve read GW2 aims to make its players’ efforts and choices count. As I understand it players will have the ability to change their own storyline in a meaningful way by making choices which will then determine the paths that will open to them. In theory this should result in a living storyline rather than one that is imposed from the outside. It should also mean that players will be given a sense of purpose, somewhat like the sense of purpose they get when playing single player console games such as the Final Fantasy series.
That, at least, is the theory but will they be able to pull it off?
The reason I sound so skeptical is that I know Final Fantasy xiv tried to break out of the established mold – and failed. Part of the reason it failed was that hardware [i.e. servers] lagged behind vision so the promise was never fulfilled. Another reason was that the game was just too raw; FFxiv was beta tested but apparently commercial considerations outweighed player feedback and it was released without addressing many if not all of the known problems. The third reason however was the worst – players wanted to be able to do the things that they were used to doing in other mmo’s, including ffxi.
Now I know that the development of GW2 has been very different, including their timeline for development, however I cannot help wondering whether all the innovations will actually deliver the excitement that players have come to expect. Will they embrace these new ways of playing or will they too demand a return to the familiar?
Personally I think GW2 is on the right track and I am looking forward to playing it but I fear that the game’s ultimate success will depend on how deep the playing public’s appetite for change truly goes. Gamers are no longer defined as 14-something fanboys but there are still an awful lot of them around and their vote still counts. Then again mmo’s have been around long enough now for some of those fanboys to grow up and demand more from their mmo’s. Let’s just hope that there are enough of them to push mmo’s to a new and much needed level of sophistication.
Until then we’ll just have to wait and see.