The RPG for the MMO

Dig through enough of my posts here and you’ll find a few about managing expectations.  It is, in my opinion, one of the fundamental elements of success that most people simply ignore, usually while their marketing team is lying to them.  You have to ensure your audience is approaching your product expecting the product you are actually delivering.  In order words: avoid misleading or overselling.

The people at BioWare are poised to bring us a new MMORPG at some point… probably 2012.  Which means we will all get to play it for a couple months before the world ends.  Or maybe Star Wars: The Old Republic is the apocalypse that destroys the World (of Warcraft) prophesied by the Mayans.  That’s all speculation, and I’ll never call any game a WoW-killer, but BioWare, or at least some people from there, has no problem going around talking about how awesome their game is going to be.

Last week, we got this:

BioWare designer and writing director Daniel Erickson told CVG that the Mass Effect studio had been disappointed by the “lack of fun” in other MMO titles on the market.

He said: “In the early days when they first announced that there were MMOs, like the existence of them, I knew in my head what that meant – because I played Role Playing Games. It was just giant Role Playing Games.

“And then MMO [games] showed up, and it wasn’t that. It was the ruleset to an RPG: There was combat, and there were areas, but that was all. Someone had left out the module. There was no story, there was no point. You just kind of wandered around. And that hasn’t really changed all that much over the years.

“We’ve always had that thought in the back of our heads: That Old Republic should be all the things we thought an MMO would be in the first place – which is all the parts of an RPG. Which means – and this is the most radical idea – it should just be fun. Like, just fun to play. You shouldn’t be trying to ignore all of the content to get to the end as fast as possible.”

And there was much responding and on-topic posting: Tobold, Zubon, Darren, Jaye, Tuebit, Syncane, and more.

To me, the thing to watch here is the lead.  BioWare is out there telling everyone that their game is going to be totally story driven, non-grind based and essentially the complete opposite of the bulk of the content that exists in most games.  Will they be able to deliver?  Will people want it if they do?

Personally, I’m both excited and wary of what they have to say.  I want more story, I want things to matter… but I don’t want to be isolated from the world in a directed story, I don’t want to play a single player game with multi-player features tossed in (and especially not for a monthly fee).  At this point, BioWare has shown me some things and they’ve told me some things, but I haven’t actually seen the game unfiltered through marketing yet.  They haven’t yet shown me the answer to “How does it feel to play?”

I’m keeping my eye on them, but I’m tempted to just ignore them until they get much much closer to release.


  1. Chas says:

    I’m hoping that “focus on story” means more “focusing on the NARRATIVE.” The distinction:

    Going back to Tabletop roleplaying games, I’ve had GM’s that were so focused on THEIR story that we, the players, had very little input. Heaven forbid you choose to do something that he didn’t account for or want in his story. It had a plot, twists, and a predetermined conclusion, and you WILL PLAY IT THROUGH.

    In most MMO’s, this is what we have, for the most part– and why we the players largely ignore it when we’re going about our business & trying to make OUR characters come alive OUR way. The “story” – often awkwardly structured to justify game mechanics that don’t fit the setting right- becomes an obstacle to really playing your role your way.

    Bioware’s single-player RPG’s are notorious for this. Heck, you often don’t even get a chance to really choose WHO you are. Sure, you choose to be a soldier or a smuggler at character creation, but you’ll find out you’re actually the mind-wiped sith lord eventually…. It made a great story from a moviegoer’s point of view, but it totally takes the player out of feeling like you’re participating.

    On the other hand, I’ve had GM’s where the story emerged over the play… play became something of a collaborative storytelling by both players and GM. We all had our general directions we’d like to see things go to… and we all knew that we’d have to adapt to the contributions of the other participants, but in the end, we got a STORY that we could call our own. The GM established the narrative, but the player decisions help establish the flow, and together, the story takes shape.

    If Bioware’s “focus on story” is akin to their single-player games, I’ll be terribly disappointed. If they’re more focused on advancing the genre’s ability to deliver participative storytelling… I’ll be very intrigued.

  2. Jason says:

    I should also add, I’m also less excited because they are probably going to keep pushing the release. Spring 2011 doesn’t get my blood pumping, especially when I’m certain Christmas 2011 is more likely.

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