This article will be my 4th installment in a miniseries titled: Insight. It isn't mandatory to read the previous editions, but they do add context and continuity. You can jump to those and check them out via the links below:
After those, you should be current and more than ready to get today's injection of insight. Be warmed though, I can't be held responsible for any side-effects of reading this article. You have been warned.
H1Z1 Plagues the Genre
I feel like just about every product Daybreak Games (SOE) has out is polarizing right now, but H1Z1 is probably the most aggravating. There are things I absolutely adore about this tile, and yet there are also things I cannot stand. It's a true love-hate relationship that you just can't walk away from.
Now is a good time to note that this game is still just emerging in its early-access development cycle, so it's nowhere near complete. Yet, at the same time, the gameplay experience would lead you to believe it already has almost everything it needs. For something that started out as just an off-the-cuff idea, this game has really blossomed into something brilliant.
Unfortunately the game falls just as much into an arena shooter and PvP survival game as it does an MMORPG. That attracts a very different audience that doesn't give two shits about what a persistent world is. Because of that H1Z1 is a very volatile place. The server-by-server variance is incredible, as some places are fairly orderly and cooperative - while others are kill-on-sight bloodbaths where the only words shared are crude insults shouted at mangled corpses.
It's a very unpredictable game right now, and since it's still early in development, the features are seeing fairly heavy and frequent revisions.
How the Game Feels
I feel like I experience more than my fair share of trash-talking in the MOBA genre, so logging into an MMO and getting bathed in the same obnoxious filth thrown in my direction is a bit irritating, especially since it's going straight to my ears (rather than in some form of chat text). Because of this, I feel like my reservations of proximity voice in MMOs a very dangerous prospect - even if you're catering to a traditional MMO audience.
I still log in and tune it out though - because more often than not, my encounters with other players are curious affairs at least, and hilarious and memorable more often than not. There's just something about this game that feels right (perfect even).
When I'm playing H1Z1, I actually feel like I'm playing the intended experience. I feel like a lost and lone survivor. Even better, when I'm with friends, it feels like we're truly on an island, competing against the environment and other players to survive and improve our quality of life. More importantly, I constantly feel in the moment and my nerves are always a little bit on edge. Having a friend alongside me certainly helps, but that tension never completely fades - especially at night.
Very few games can say they offer an experience and actually deliver it, and I feel like H1Z1 is already doing so. Or at least, they're definitely on the right track.
It's a pity more games aren't able to capture this intense feeling of immersion and context in their games. Plenty of them show it to you, but you rarely ever feel like you're in a fantasy world, or an epic hero, or whatever else they're pitching at you. In H1Z1, you actually feel like a survivor, with all the odds stacked against you and unpredictable fellow survivors that may offer to help you... or take advantage of you in every way they can.
(FYI: we have a detailed H1Z1 guide covering all the basics of this game, which you can find by clicking here, or the picture above.)
Future Effects on the Genre
While I'm not entirely sure how many features will come around that push this game back towards the realm of an MMORPG experience, I feel like the few things it already has done are enough to help influence the genre. We've seen more and more non-fantasy MMOs hit the market, with First-Person-Shooter play styles becoming more and more common. Planetside really paved some massive inroads for these games into the genre, and now we're getting to see other studios take their crack at creating a massively multiplayer twitch-reaction experience.
Planetside 2, H1Z1, Firefall, and other games are all proof that technology has progressed enough to make these kind of games possible on a massive scale. Already we're seeing more and more MMOs branch into action-heavy, skill-shot type combat. Epic battles are no longer about tab-cycling your environment and mastering a cooldown rotation. These game are getting smarter, more strategic, and more in-the-moment than ever before.
Because of that, I feel like the whole genre feels much more active, engaging, and immersive than ever before. With the combat reaching never-before-seen heights, and graphics continuing to push the "bleeding-edge" as far as it will go, it's really only NPC/MOB AI that is lagging behind. And that's a fact that is true about H1Z1 specifically.
Advanced AI Needs to be Prioritized - Everywhere
Almost every concept of the game feels great, except the AI. Zombies are laughable at best right now, and after crafting an impromptu bow and arrow, don't pose any sort of threat whatsoever. I know it's still early, and I know they plan on making huge upgrades to these (and other) mobs - but right now they are quite pitiful. But H1Z1 isn't alone, it's merely highlighting and issue that plagues all MMORPGs.
Current AI being employed by 95% of the MMOs out there is borderline lobotomized.
It's predictable, exploitable, and usually detracts from the immersion of most games more than it ever really adds. That's a huge reason why I'm mostly focused on and attracted to an upcoming roster of games that is either A) making a strong push back towards social mechanics, where focusing on the AI as a major interactive component of the game is not substantial OR B) they are making emergent and dynamic AI a core emphasis of their game design.
The fact of the matter is that I just can't stomach stupid "AI" any longer, at least not when so much of the gameplay revolves around it. Traditional and current MMOs have a huge problem in that area, as more and more games become solo-friendly and erode their social mechanics to the point that players have to work around features and systems to enjoy and experience with one another. It's become intolerable, at least to me anyways. I just can't do it anymore. I need a world that feels alive and vibrant, and it doesn't matter whether the vehicle for that experience is players or NPCs/Mobs (preferably both!) but it needs to start happening now.
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our H1Z1 Game Page.