Don't worry. "He'll be back". Again, and again, and again. No matter how many times you kill him.

Don't worry. "He'll be back". Again, and again, and again. No matter how many times you kill him.

Yesterday’s post was more popular than I expected, so like a good developer, I can’t help but rush out a sequel. The second development that I think will shape the next generation of MMOs is actual a combination of two, but both are required to work together: persistence and story.

When you play a current MMO, you pick up an item, kill a named mob, do anything in fact, and within seconds or minutes they reset/respawn and the world is back to the way it was. There is nothing to make you feel like you have had an impact on the world. If this happened in a single player RPG – you pick up an item, but the item still remains in place – we would be giving the game 0/10 but because the game world is shared with others, we accept it. The next generation of MMOs has to find a way to solve this, to allow you to feel some fulfilment in gameplay. World of Warcraft does already do this in some small ways, but the problem, of course, is how do handle it if one member of a party has completed a quest and so an item isn’t usable, or a mob has been killed, and another hasn’t. Having the mob active in one client and not in another would make it impossible for the party to play together.

I think the most obvious solution is to expand the current extent where you can influence the world. Some areas will have to remain fluid and respawn, etc, but if enough of the game can offer persistence, then this will allow the second part: story, or more importantly, engaging story. Some of the recent World of Warcraft quests have been well written and so are “interesting”. Lord of the Rings Online has its Epic quest chain that sort of offers some of the elements of single player RPGs, a story arc. But, if we can have a more persistent world, then we can make our way through the world, progress, and have a storyline as we get in Baldur’s Gate, Mass Effect, Oblivion or whatever your particular poison is.

With persistence and a storyline that affects the world around us, then we will have an MMO that fulfils the RPG in MMORPG. Basically it will allow an MMO that can utilise all the ideas and gameplay that single player RPGs have developed over the years, rather than the simplistic gameplay MMOs offer today. What’s the point of having come all the way from Baldur’s Gate, through Neverwinter Nights, to Oblivion, Diablo III and Dragon Age: Origins, if we then have to lose all that when we start gaming online? What we really want is to be able to play in the in-depth worlds offered by these sorts of single-player games, but together with our friends and guilds, progressing and enjoying the game. What will happen when we run out of story? Well, we solved that yesterday with user-generated content, didn’t we?

Can it be done: persistence and story? Would you prefer this type of game, or are you happy with the MMO gameplay as it is?

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