Lately, there has been a lot to talk about in the MMO-verse, with Age of Conan just getting released and a World of Warcraft expansion pack on track for a holiday unveiling there seems to be nothing that can stop the momentum gained by the industry. However, despite all the success being thrown around by the top five MMOs (World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, EVE Online, Final Fantasy XI) there seems to be very little that is truly pushing the genre towards the “next step.”
In every walk of the technological life there are upgrades to the original. Even something as simple as the web was fully upgraded into what has become to lovingly termed: web 2.0. So the same should hold true for MMO, right? You’d think so, but very little has actually changed since the dawning of the 3D MMORPG in the heyday of Everquest. There has been smaller changes like the advent of a quest based storyline and an enhanced mini-map and traveling system, but nothing I’d really call revolutionary, or next generation. Let’s face it, nobody out there is really attempting to do anything to set a new standard in the industry.
Now I know that there is at least one EVE Online fan reading this right now in disgust. Let me say this right now, EVE Online is definitely a different experience and CCP has done a marvelous job and creating a successful MMO that strays from the typical archtype that most MMOs follow today. However, that said, they are not setting a standard in the industry. EVE Online and CCP will not be changing the way the industry makes its games and there probably won’t be any long lasting affects from their technology. The original Xbox was the first to really incorporate seamless online and now it has become the standard. MySpace truly pushed the bounds of “web 2.0” with it’s social networking applications and it has now become the standard. Apple created the first truly desirable MP3 player and it has now become the standard. All of these are examples of an industry that was expanded on by companies that wished to create a fresh experience on an old application and as such truly changed the landscape of how everybody else played in that field. So despite EVE Online’s unique gameplay they certainly haven’t changed the way developers make games.
So, where does that leave the industry? With the huge success of World of Warcraft, which handily dashes the success of the other top four MMOs combined, game developers desperately need to find new ways to make their games different and if that means employing a new combat system (Age of Conan) or seriously enhancing the PvP and RvR settings (Warhammer Online) then thats what these companies will do. Unfortunately, many of these “enhancements” are gimmicky at best and won’t be offering any true MMO 2.0 anytime soon. However, and this is just my prediction, I think it’s safe to say that after all the so called “WoW-killers” have debuted to date, the only MMO that will truly begin to pick away at the house that Blizzard built will be an MMO 2.0 game. Personally, I’m keeping my eye on Copernicus.
P.S. I am in no way calling Age of Conan’s combat system or WAR’s RvR system bad or flawed, but, rather, non-revolutionary. Yes I have tested out both; Age of Conan beta, Warhammer Online at E for All 2007.