The Illusion of Life
For years now I’ve thought of MMO’s as living breathing ever changing worlds. Yesterday I came to the harsh conclusion that this is a completely false statement. Lets see if I can organize my thoughts into text here on this matter.
In an MMO the NPC’s do not remember you. If you decline a quest and come back later they have no reaction what so ever except to offer you the exact same quest in the exact same manor. There are no relationships even though you may have spent a LOT of time working up faction for these people. A good example is that when my defiler (a Freeport resident) walks through Qeynos, the guards cheer for her. I don’t have any idea why but I’m pretty sure there’s no reason for the people of Qeynos to be cheering for my Freeport character. You can’t emotionally interact with anyone and you very rarely feel as though YOU are making a difference – except for one small area.
PLAYERS bring a world to life. Players are the one area of an MMO where actions (and reactions) matter. They remember you, your interactions with them actually count. If your game doesn’t have players it’s considered “dead” because running around talking to NPC who don’t care whether or not you actually talk to them, is boring. No, I’m not talking about grouping here I’m talking about seeing other players around, watching chat channels, and the ‘illusion’ of life and an ever living world.
My thoughts on this matter came after spending a day playing Sims 3 and trying to figure out on a very basic level why the game (and any RPG for that matter) appeals to me. It’s because it feels alive to me. Now, some games try methods to make their worlds appear alive. LotRO for example has their very sound story line built into the game. However, if a player decides NOT to follow that story path for whatever reason there isn’t a single NPC out there who would notice. The world itself would not notice. It is up to the player to approach and find the proper NPC and interact with them to find out where to go next. We may as well be talking to cardboard cut outs lining the streets for all they seem to recognize or interact with us.
I realize what I’m describing here is an RPG and single player games have these interactions in spades. It’s one reason why they’re so popular. I would LOVE to see MMO companies try to come up with inventive ways of bringing their games LIFE without relying on a heavy player population. I know that’s something that’s easy for me to say since I don’t design video games and I can’t even fathom the amount of time and work and money that would go into a project of that size, but I still don’t think it’s something that’s out of our scope of imagination completely.
Hopefully I’ve explained that well enough. It’s 7am and my thoughts tend to be a rambling disaster. Happy gaming, no matter where you find yourself!