Having just listened to the folks over at Channel Massive lamenting in their podcast #66 the fact that MMOs these days are being perverted and twisted away from their original concept of another world in which to adventure, socialise and immerse oneself, and have instead become all about gaming achievement, I am inclined to take a suppositionary meander down the quiet leafy byway that is MMO Evolution Lane.
You see, it was not too long ago that I foisted myself upon the innocent and upstanding folks of the Van Hemlock podcast in their episode recorded at the Eurogamer Expo, where, as well as repeating the phrase ‘War Twat’ far too often, I also posed the question (about 33:33 in, for the stalkers out there) as to whether MMOs will succeed on consoles.
The answer from the panellists was that MMOs would indeed succeed on the consoles, with a few tweaks to the games in order for them to translate well: “Get rid of the grind”, “Make it drop-in”, “Streamline the UI”, “Must be playing for fun”.
As such, and with the thought that MMOs are apparently being twisted by the player base into something different to what they were originally, my question changes to: will MMOs succeeding on the consoles destroy the MMO as we traditionally know it? Essentially, are MMOs coming to the consoles now purely because consoles have evolved enough to be able to handle an MMO, or are they coming to the consoles because they have (d)evolved to such an extent that they will now appeal to the drop-in, streamlined, Xbox Gamer Card achievement generation?
I have to wonder if we’re about to see the evolution of a genre, or the creation of a new genre at the expense of the old one.
I look at games like GTA IV, Saints Row 2 and Oblivion and I find a glimmer of hope in the future MMOs on the console. These are still sandbox games, adventurous in scope and nature, and they live equally well in the hearts of PC gamers and console gamers alike. The first two games do cater to the achievement crowd though; don’t get me wrong, however, achievements can be a good thing if done well, they can encourage players to attempt feats they may not normally have bothered with, to explore places they may not thought to have looked, but they can also be used to encourage behaviour which is the antithesis of what it means to devote oneself to an MMO.
Console MMOs will undoubtedly succeed, but I am a little concerned as to the nature of their success, and whether it will come at the cost of the genre that I have known and loved, that future MMOs will be little more than glorified clones of Pacman, with players gobbling down pellets of XP as fast as they can in order to achieve the high score.