Monday, June 18, 2007

Will Lotro (or any MMO) ever have a GAME OVER screen?

In my glimpse into the future Throg finishes Lord of The Rings online and is rewarded with a "GAME OVER" screen. The books that Lotro follow come to a conclusion so why shouldn't the game itself?

Of course I don't think it will ever happen and not just because the scouring of the Shire is a pretty unremarkable event on which to end and epic adventure. Commercial logic dictates that the developers of a game must keep us playing and paying subs for as long as possible.

I am a reasonably fickle gamer. I have never stuck with one game for more than a few months. When I play a single player game I generally try to struggle through to the game over screen or at least finish one of the main campaigns. The traditional pay per month MMORPG doesn't offer that kind of uplifting parting of ways. No matter when I decide to leave I will always leave a failure - forced to sneak out the back door with my tail between my legs.

This may explain why I can never see myself going back to an MMORPG once I have left despite the fact that I often replay some of my favourite single player games.

Surely I am not alone in wanting to finish one game and move on to another. Humankind is notoriously addicted to novelty. I would be very happy to pay for and play an MMORPG that had a defined storyline with an end. Would others not see the advantage of this too?

Even if players want it it is unlikely to happen unless companies see a profit in it. Perhaps Guild Wars has shown th eway with its non subscription based episodic content. Guild Wars is not a fully featured MMORPG but perhaps the business model could be used in one. Faced with the overwhelming dominance of World of Warcraft in the monthly subscription market many MMO companies are looking at new ways of establishing a niche and new ways of earning revenue. Perhaps a 200 hour long storyline based MMORPG might find a niche. Even seasoned World of Warcraft players might be tempted to leave Azeroth for a couple of weeks to try something new.

EDIT: After writing this I googled to make sure that I wasn't parroting somebody else only to discover that the venerable Tobold wrote a piece called Game Over in his MMORPG blog back in 2005. Tobald thinking was slightly different though - he was looking at a "game over" message as a delimiter between the end of leveling and the start of the raiding game. I am thinking of "game over" as meaning exactly what it says: You have finished the content now go and find something else to do.


Lars said...

This probably won't happen for LotrO, but A Tale in the Desert is fairly unique in that it is an MMO that does end (every year and a half or so). Its quite possible that this concept could catch on in future MMO games.

I would like to see a more story-driven MMO that was scheduled to end. The game might start up again -- in an episodic fashion, with a new story, in the same world, with the same art assets and game engine, but with all the PCs wiped or reset (though perhaps with some kind of system in place to reward players for their time investment). Quest givers, maps, and most importantly, the goals and stories would change over time as the overarching story evolves.

I guess what I want is a world where things really do change over time. Where the Evil Wizard can truly be defeated, and his hordes of minions permanently disappear from the planet. (Even if that leaves an opening for new threats to appear.) A world where the guy at the docks finally gets all the murlok fins he needs, and he stops asking for more! A world where there's some measure of progress that isn't tied to the individual character, with overarching goals and a sense of purpose greater than getting to the ever-shifting level cap again and again.

mbp said...

Hi Lars - yes I agree it would be great if players actions really could change the world. I guess there is a fundamental problem that developers cannot produce content as quickly as players can consume it so they have to design games to use the same content over and over again. Even still with clever game design some things are possible - The gates of Ahn'Qiraj was one example from World of Warcraft where a combined effort by all the players on the server actually changed the world.

Lars said...

I do think we'll start to see MMOs with Game Over screens eventually, but not while the cost to produce them remains so high. As the software and art assets become more commodified, and as middleware platforms like enter the market, future game designers will have more freedom to experiment.