Tenfold Hate

How Far Away Are Truly Persistent Worlds?
October 9, 2008, 10:10 am
Filed under: MMORPGs

Tobold has a great post today about the “Groundhog Day” feel of MMORPGs. Engaging in the same repititious tasks day in–day out. You know the drill: saving the princess, slaying the dragon, ridding the forest of bandits, only to have them respawn five minutes later. How epic are epic dungeon crawls if they never happened once the instance resets? How epic is an epic item if a few hundred people on your server are running around with one? And when will the day come when our avatar’s actions in a virtual space actually matter?

It’s the lack of persistent worlds in the MMO space that will ultimately sour me to the genre if things don’t advance over the next few years. The problem is, the resources to create a truly dazzling persistent world are probably only available to the big guys like Blizzard, Sony, and EA at this moment in time. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy and frequently engage in their brand of fun, but its a fun that’s long since exceeded its expiration date.

But the gap between technological and creative possibility gets smaller every day. So for argument’s sake, let’s dismiss the technological/resource issues of creating truly persistent worlds in MMOs (based on the fact that such resources, if not available and affordable to devs now, will be in the immediate future). Now, what other hurdles are we left with?

We’ve seen pseudo-persistent worlds in heavily instanced games like Guild Wars and Age of Conan but at the cost of a massive, living, breathing world. That just won’t do. But how do developers keep games persistent and fun? If some rival players decide to torch your town in a persistent world, do you have to spend the next week rebuilding your village? Well sure, if you want a place to live. So developers have to figure out how to make what feels like work or a grind under the current MMO paradigm feel like fun. Like ENTERTAINMENT.

If a band of late night adventurers drive the goblin hordes out of the gold mine, what are we gonna do when we log in the next day? A persistent world would truly be driven, shaped, and molded by player-created content. Not some dude with a yellow icon floating above his head. Things would matter. The problem is, that has both good and bad connotations.

Logging in for an hour every night when you just wanna relax wouldn’t necessarily equal an hour of guaranteed, unadulterated fun–or could it? You may have to chop down wood for the village that got burnt down. That’s no fun. I don’t wanna do that after I’ve just spent my whole day getting paid to work in RL. And this is the challenge to developers–making persistent worlds persistent without making it feel like work when things go “bad.”

Chopping down the trees to rebuild your town might piss off the dryads who dwell in the woods. Maybe you’d have to negotiate with them. Or fight them. Perhaps you’ll recruit other players to sack the town of the opposing side who just made your life miserable by burning down your village. Maybe you’ll defect and join the opposing side in a world where factions and alliances are not written in stone. A world of possibility.

But when will we see these kinds of game worlds, and will the development team ballsy enough to do it be rewarded, or punished for demolishing the amusement park?



I just dont know how this could be done AND match the play styles and times of so many different people. It would HAVE to start with something minor in the world, however I have no clue how you could get around the need to respawn named mobs and NPC’s. It is truly an issue too big for me to wrap my head around

Comment by Hudson

Yeah, me either Hud. I for one am not a developer so it does give me a bit of a headache. But I think this is the challenge they face once they start talking about “next gen.” Being in my mid-thirties, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the evolution of electronic gaming from the early eighties onward. When I was playing the Atari 2600, I couldn’t have IMAGINED anything like the Ultima single-player RPGs I’d be playing half a decade down the line on my (or my parents’ to be precise) Apple ][e. When playing single-player computer RPGs, I couldn’t have IMAGINED anything like the multiplayer environment I experienced in my first MUD (Gemstone). And playing that MUD, I couldn’t have envisioned the elaborate, beautiful world Blizzard would give us with WoW fifteen years after that. So I have faith.

Comment by tenfoldhate

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