Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Generation gap

There has been lots of discussion regarding the "next generation" of MMOs. The discussion started, I believe with Brent's Virgin Worlds podcast #49. Other discussions ensued with others asking and posting what generation we're in now and what people want out of the "next generation".

My post here will hopefully be short and simple...there will even be monkeys. Everyone is using the wrong term in my in a "generation" implies a quantum leap in improvement in feature sets and gameplay over a short period of time. What we're looking at in terms of MMO development is evolution, in which good design and features of MMOs of the past are inherited by future MMOs. Just because an MMO is of the "3rd generation" does not imply that its any better than the second or first, because the term "generation" does not imply improvement....we only need to look to Utah for that (...I kid...I love you Utah). There are still many features that are in WoW that are from EQ...thats not a generational phenomena, its an evolutionary one.

So..if we're now looking at the evolution of MMOs, then we've got a valid baseline to start from. We can now start to look at the improvements that MMOs have made from past to present. We can look at what successful features have been kept since the days of EQ. We can look at what feature sets have succumbed to "natural selection" and have gone the way of the Dodo. How have the graphics evolved? How has gameplay evolved? How has the interaction with the player and the community evolved? How have the design tools changed and evolved? Theses are not questions you can answer if you frame it in terms of "generations". Evolution is slow and gradual..and thats what we're going to see over the next 10 years as MMO designers learn what works and what doesn't.

So, thats it. If you're looking for the next generation of MMOs, you won't find it. Clearly, MMOs have evolved since the old days of MUDs. Take a look at the pic below:

We can think of MUDs as the monkey dude on the left. EQ, UO, AC and Lineage as the next dude. EQ2, WoW etc are just when MMOs have started to stand upright. MMOs are not even close to the point where we take pointy sticks to things, or discover fire, or bonk women over the head and take them to their cave (ahhh...the good 'ol days).

If we look at the coming titles of 2007, none of them, zero, zilch are what you guys are expecting. Even in 2008, there is not going to be a quantum leap in gameplay or some secret sauce discovered last minute. However, if you look at the titles of 2007 and think in terms of slow and steady improvement, then its there.

D out

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