Posted Fri, Feb 13, 2009 by Ethec
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With the sheer number of "action" MMOs set .To date, with the notable exception of Planetsideand perhaps World War 2 Online, the MMO shooter has been either a legend, a myth, or a lie . All Points Bulletin, the so-called Grand Theft Auto of MMOs, and Huxley have been teasing us with their existence ever since they first appeared on our radar screens at E3 2005, both delaying for year after year. Kwari, a MMO shooter where players purchased ammo with real money and won it back by downing other players, seemed like a fun idea but was killed off at the concept stages. Global Agenda, with perhaps the best massively multiplayer premise of any of the above save WW2 Online, has been quietly under development at Atlanta-based Hi-Rez Studios for a few years and is just now breaking onto the MMO scene.
In the meantime, multiplayer FPS games have steadily become more like RPGs. Games like Team Fortress 2 and the Battlefield games have incorporated RPG staples like levels and unlockable items. And while open PvP is nothing new,World of Warcraft has done a particularly good job of returning the favor by incorporating scoreboarding and FPS-style instancing (battlegrounds) into the game. So with all this cross-pollination, why were Auto Assault and Tabula Rasa universally criticized for being too active and not giving players enough impetus to work together.
Easily the biggest danger in creating an action-oriented MMORPG is that the fast-paced gameplay will necessarily take away from the massively multiplayer experience. The formula for a fun shooter is well-established, and I'd be willing to bet that MMOFPSs get stuck on their fun shooterness and can't seem to contrive a reason to go MMO.
The core problem is story - every beer bottle tells a story, and so does each game. MMO gamers live out their stories slowly, in guilds which take weeks to congeal with characters that take months to develop. It's a playstyle at war with the reason for being of the average action-oriented game. In single-player mode, FPS games have gotten extremely good at letting you live out a story in fast-forward. In multiplayer, the story is told purely by rapid gratification and achievement, and there's nothing wrong with that.
But play something in the Gears of War line or Call of Duty (just finished World at War late last night - well done if slightly buggy, even though COD 4 was superior in sheer storyline grit) and you'll realize that MMORPGs simply can't compete with the rapid storytelling of a scripted gaming experience. That's ok, since the real fun of an MMO is sublime - it comes at unexpected moments from the sheer scale of the game world and the playerbase.
That's not to say that the MMO shooter is an impossibility, only that the first game that has an excellent reason to be both a shooter and a massively multiplayer game has a huge audience waiting for it. For games like Global Agenda to succeed, we'll need more than reimagined scoreboard rankings to tie us together, so here's hoping Hi-Rez is up to the challenge.
Congrats to Corné, a WoW Oceanic gamer, who won the Polar Bear mount code given away yesterday. Thanks to all who entered, and we'll try to include the rest of the world when customs duties and contest rules aren't prohibitive.
Didn't win? You still have plenty of opportunity to hit the jackpot with our Tales Runner "Dress for Success" giveaway, featuring over $20k in prizes. Everyone gets some in-game swag just for entering too, click here for details.
8 new MMOG hand-crafted articles today! 62 in February! 198 in 2009!
New MMOG Articles At Ten Ton Hammer Today [Thanks Phil Comeau for links and Real World News]
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-Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle and the Ten Ton Hammer team