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Champions Online: Embracing the Future of MMOGs

Posted Tue, Sep 01, 2009 by Sardu

Stronghold

There has been an interesting evolutionary process at work behind the MMOG industry’s rising success stretching all the way back to the late 1990s when  the first few titles that pioneered the concept sprang forth from the primordial MUD soup. As with most dominant genres in gaming, current MMOGs continue to fall back on the foundations created by these early success stories, but for a newer title to be truly successful on its own terms, something new must be added to the magical brew of gameplay mechanics and beyond. Relying too heavily on someone else’s recipe for success may on occasion prove to yield positive results, but looking at the broader picture this ultimately leads to stagnation on a much grander scale.

This is most apparent in the “WoW clone” syndrome; a label that fairly often gets slapped on the surface of any newly announced MMOG that doesn’t claim to innovate in some way or another, especially when the setting is essentially a new iteration on Tolkien’s elves and orcs. A number of deeper questions arise from these basic design decisions, but even many surface elements can be called into question. For example why do healers always have to wield a mace, and why can’t elemental spellcasters blast their targets wearing a full set of plate armor?

One possible answer here is that we culturally have an easier time accepting something new when it contains just enough familiar elements for us to feel grounded, so that taking those first few steps into the unknown feels somehow safer. When you throw a shaky economy into the mix this can hold all the more true as many gamers tend to be hesitant to try something as of yet unproven as a solid source of entertainment. The trick to weaving these familiar elements into the fabric of core MMOG design is to keep what works, and throw the rest to the wolves – you know, the ones that give you +1 to your skinning skill provided they’re not a grey-con for your profession.

If it isn’t Broken, Iterate Upon it

Looking at the greater tapestry woven by the industry over the past 11 years, there is indeed a direct progression from each major launch to the next. Newer titles will neatly pick up the threads of successful gameplay implementation though only a few will eventually add bold new elements that go on to become the basis for a new generation of developers to weave their own particular brand of magic on.

For all intents and purposes the original EverQuest gave us the MMOG template that Blizzard later polished and improved upon with World of Warcraft. Funcom’s Anarchy Online contributed instancing, while Dark Age of Camelot gave us factional warfare on a massive realm vs. realm scale. Cryptic Studios  threw caution to the wind with the release of City of Heroes which altered our belief that MMOGs were synonymous with fantasy or sci-fi, while the Guild Wars franchise proved that fantasy can still be successful without the tired clichés of elves and orcs and that subscriptions weren’t the only business model on the block. Each of these established titles has resonated with a broader spectrum of players over the years yet has also carved a unique identity along the path to success.

We’re currently standing on the verge of what I’d like to call MMO 3.0. A number of in-development titles claim evolutionary elements on their bullet point list of features, and considering the caliber of the studios involved it’s not all that difficult to see these claims as genuine. Leading the pack and boldly taking us into the unknown is none other than Cryptic Studios, a company that has made a name for itself by bucking trends and forging ahead in unexpected directions.

Before I dive directly into the key elements of Champions Online that I believe will help shape a brighter future for the industry as a whole, I think it’s equally important to take two steps back and see which of the strongest MMOG tapestry threads Cryptic has picked up and ran with.

PerfectWorld-Black-Logo.jpg

Perfect World Entertainment has already made the move to mobile and now they’re making plans to head into the console space.

Press Release, News, Official Announcements
Thu, Dec 19, 2013
Martuk
CO-Aura-Prev.jpg

Cryptic enhances hero customization for Champions Online with customizable auras that can be combined for unique visual effects.

Previews, News, Official Announcements
Fri, Nov 22, 2013
Martuk
CO-Winged-Hero.jpg

Cryptic sweetens the pot to tempt players to pony up and become lifetime subscribers and Champions Online.

News, Official Announcements
Thu, Nov 14, 2013
Martuk
Neverwinter-Jack-o-Lantern.jpg

Perfect World Entertainment announces its Halloween plans for its online gaming lineup loaded with festive fun for shooters, heroes, and MMORPGs.

News, Official Announcements
Mon, Oct 28, 2013
Martuk

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