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As we look back at the past several years of the MMO scene, we see a genre that has gone through significant evolutionary leaps. With those pioneering days of text MUDs and blocky graphics behind us, today we enjoy professionally developed games with impressive development teams and massive budgets behind them. The genre's depths have been thoroughly explored and we've even categorised the features we've come to love and expect from our favourite online retreats. Every part of the genre, from the types of gameplay available to the terminology we use, has been routinely evolving and redefining itself over time.
My American sources tell me this is a long weekend for you folks across the pond. Something about independence from Blighty a few hundred years ago. Essentially an excuse to let off fireworks, have BBQs, enjoy the fine weather and skive off work. Good on you. It seems like lots of MMOs are using it as an excuse to take the real celebrations in-game. For example, World of Warcraft has the Midsummer Fire Festival which concludes tomorrow with a bunch of snoozing goblin guards and a whopping fireworks display. Likewise, Lord of the Rings Online has one festival with four different names.
Syncaine posted an interesting article on his blog discussing why he thinks there hasn't been much uptake in the majority of MMOs released since World of Warcraft. Basically, he believes that just because you enjoy playing WoW, it doesn't mean you'll enjoy other MMOs.
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.
15 Minutes of Fame is WoW.com's look at World of Warcraft players of all shapes and sizes - from the renowned to the relatively anonymous, the remarkable to the player next door. Tip us off to players you'd like to hear more about.
There are couples who play together, and there are couples who play together. Jen and Mike, members of <The Panic Attacks> on Scilla-US, fall into the latter category - so much so that perhaps their playstyle doesn't accurately qualify as "playing together" at all. More accurately, Jen and Mike play as one, sharing the controls to seamlessly guide their mutual character, FertZane, through Ulduar and all the rest of WoW's endgame content.
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.