Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Rose coloured glasses Dilemma

Now this is an argument I've been wanting to flesh out for awhile now, and while I have touched on it once before, I never got there because it fell into an unproductive argument instead.

It came to me after listening to Paul Barnette, a creative director for Mythic Entertainment with Warhammer Online. (I swear I have nothing against the man, promise)
And I wondered, do these people not get it?
Did they not see the signs of failure?
How could they not see what seemed so obvious to me at the time? (and I'm not the only one)

I think we can count out being incompetent, because their not.
Nor do I think they're being deliberately deceitful either, churning out a product they know is no different, in order to try and make a quick buck. (cough, 'Nintendo' cough)

Then is it the consumers who are at fault? Are we too fickle?
No, I don't think that's it either. I believe there very much is a definitive thing we want, and it wasn't meet in the case of Warhammer Online.

I think there is a disconnect here, where Mythic really did think think they had a winner on their hands, given the information they had.
Which begs the question, was the information they had correct?
Could it have been skewed in anyway?
Did they see something as a positive rather than as a negative?
Possibly..... lets compare notes.

Lets use the case of the quote "core" mechanics of MMO's, also known as the status quo.
Now from my perspective, I have no inherent loyalties to any given mechanic, their all free game. A mechanic of a game stands or falls on it's own merits.
If it doesn't work as well as I'd like, then I'm more then happy to lose it in favor of something better.

So as far as levels (progression mechanic) and classes (skills system mechanic) goes, I think they work perfectly well in single player games, because it's all about me in that case.

But in MMO's, the goal changes. It's the social interactions that a key, and both levels and classes restrict these interactions and cause unnecessary strife as a result.
Needless to say, making a game painful to play is just poor game design, so in my mind, levels and classes have to go. (and be replaced of course)

So why is it that year after year, these 'broken' game mechanics get recycled?
Maybe it's because they can't imagen anything better, but that makes them look a bit stupid, and I don't think that's necessarily the case.
Or could it be that they don't see them as broken?
And as such, don't fix what isn't borken. (bork bork bork)

This is where I think the rose colored glasses comes in.

From my understanding, people like Paul Barnette and his colleagues (esp lead designers), were born in a generation that were introduced to the bedrock of modern RPG's and gaming, pen & paper RPG's, model painting, and the dawn of MMO's - MUD's.

And this is where a lot of these 'core' mechanics as you will, were invented. And they probably have very fond memories of these older kinds of games, even thou by todays standards, my generations standards, these are boring relics of the past.
In their time, they had to like it or lump it, they weren't as spoiled for choice like we are.

And as such, it is this attitude towards these long held mechanics, seems to be what is now causing this saturated, everything is 'vanilla' status quo, problem of the modern day MMO industry.

Whether they are oblivious to the problem, feel that people should just put up with it, or just can't bring themselves to let it go. These rose coloured glasses are getting in the bloody way, and somethings got to give.
Otherwise, get used to the status quo..... it's going to be here for awhile.

Which is why I hinge my bets on the younger demographic of developers. They in my mind, are far more likely to go against modern conventions, and try something new.
And it's this 'pushing the boundaries' attitude that will lead MMO's, and quite possibly games in general, into a whole new era of gaming.

Nothing improves by accepting medocity.


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