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The other day, I watched this demo of Gaikai, a new service being spearheaded by the legendary games developer David Perry. The idea is a simple one: using a browser you can access everything from MMOs to racing games and even the memory-hog that is Photoshop with all the actual software installed on a remote server and accessed via the cloud. Now it seems like an awesome undertaking but I came out of it feeling really impressed. WoW and EVE were running at lightening speed and the prospect of not patching or updating got me a little excited. Now browser-based MMOs are now new.
It seems like every website I visit these days, from MMO-centric wikis to the LA or New York Times has adverts on it. This is no big surprise as it's the perfect way of making money on free content but what does surprise me is the number of adverts for MMOs like EVE and WoW. Coming across such adverts on gaming sites is understandable but I get a little shock whenever I see them on news sites or even on TV. I watch quite a bit of Sky (British satellite television) and I've noticed more and more commercials for games over the last few years but the first time I saw one for WoW, my exclamation of amazement sent my cat scurrying for cover.
There's a self-created paradox in the MMO industry. This genre asks its participants to invest copious amounts of time and people do want to spend a hours and hours within a single, expansive virtual environment. The downside is that videogames tend to spin on a single mechanical axis: conflict.
Keen has two blog posts up discussing the similarities and differences between Aion and World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online. The first thing you should bear in mind is that he has not played Aion all the way through to the end game, even though he has "finished" both other MMOs. The second thing of note is that these points of comparison were requested by his readers.
With the way MMOs keep changing and growing, there's some very exciting things on the horizon for players wanting something more than what's currently out there. For example, Eskil Steenberg is working on a unique procedurally-generated MMO - you could call it an art-house MMO - named Love. What we've seen of it has been utterly fascinating so far, and the fact that he's developing it solo ensures it will hopefully come out precisely as he wants it.
MMOs are well known for variety, in fact they're famous for it. The world (whichever you might choose) is quite literally your oyster, You can mine, you can craft, you can kill and you can quest. Part of the charm of these virtual worlds is the freedom to do or not do whatever you want. Some people, for example, live for PvP, while others spend their time making things, digging up plants or drifting in the depths of space mining asteroids and other celestial bodies.
GigaOM has posted up a fascinating feature by Wagner James Au which claims that World of Warcraft and Second Life, the two best known of the MMO major players, are not the be all and end all of virtual worlds. Far from it. The post was Inspired by the release of a report by Engage Digital which claims investors 'poured $237 million into virtual world-related start ups and payment systems last quarter'.
Last month when members of the Massively team were tossing around ideas for a new series called, "Redefining MMOs," I jumped all over the more solo direction MMOs have taken lately. I wanted to point out that today's MMOs are less about we and more about me. I wanted to list off a dozen or so features I felt were responsible for killing social gaming. I wanted to rekindle the debate over whether or not this is a good or bad thing.
Two developers have simultaneously turned to a brand new texturing solution for their future MMOs, according to Gamasutra. Both Funcom and Stray Bullet have licensed Allegorithmic's "Substance Air" middleware package, a new set of programs that lets developers keep high resolution textures as extremely small files and even let users modify textures for in-game customization options.
MMOs are rarely stand-alone entities; there are exceptions of course but most are created thanks to a fan base from some other medium. Some, like WoW, are based on older games (often completely different types of games like an RTS or RPG) with a rich mythology that lends themselves perfectly to transcend its original form and become an MMO.