Zoso has an interesting post on MMO Musings about the Wrath of the Lich King expansion coming for the World of Warcraft. While I’d love to get psyched about it, I just can’t. It’s ten more levels of ten more levels and then we’re off to the same old content bottlenecks that got me out of WoW in the first place. Zoso’s post and a similar one in Melmoth’s Inferno pretty much sum up my emotions about many of the titles around today or due out in the future: meh. Being in what is now my third MMO (LotRO), I’m having a hard time getting handed the same old leveling crack in a shiny new wrapper and trying to act excited about it. Were LotRO in something besides Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth, I think I’d probably not be playing that either.
What we need is some kind of paradigm shift in the MMO genre. Why must MMOs all be level-based? I’m tired of leveling. I’m tired of NPCs that stand stock still to spew forth quests / dispense loot like some kind of anthropomorphic vending machines. I’m tired of running through a zone where I quested before and seeing that nothing has changed at all. “You mean to tell me that I killed all those damned wargs and you still have a warg problem? Did no one follow up on my hard work?”
We need new ways of implementing what Sid Meier defined as a good game: “… a series of interesting decisions.” I’d like to see worlds that, when I pass through a zone I’ve already been in it could still be different. The worlds need to change. As PvP objectives fall, the zone control changes. Or make it similar to Oblivion, events unfold which open the way for more events. Gates for the demon army open up. Demons could turn the area into an invasion zone. Close the gates and they go away (but can pop up somewhere else). Decisions about what to fight and where would lead to consequences. Ok, save the town by the stream to preserve the water-supply but the city in the center of your supply routes to the North could fall.
Quests could be worth credits (or gold or whatever) which would then be spent on armor / weapon upgrades thus relieving the need for the same quest NPC to hand out the same quest and there-by the same items. The available quests could change but the credit amounts for the area would be the same (IE: the warg problem we had has been resolved but now there’s all these dead wargs all over the place so here’s your shovel and corpse-handling gloves … ok, maybe something more fun, but you get the idea).
A world that was changing would also be a world worth exploring. Even a zone you have been to will be different when someone else is in charge of it. And if there were “hidden” facets to the world (secret entrances, areas that become accessible / inaccessible due to natural calamities / player actions, you could go past a place you’re seen before but which has changed significantly).
And while I'm in full-out babble mode, I’d like to see a crafting system which actually felt like a crafting system rather than an exercise in watching character animations.
I think I’ve ranted enough for one day. *pauses for cheering* Long story short, I think until MMOs get over the slump they’re in, LotRO will be the last for a while. I won’t be getting the WoW expansion or heading back there any time soon. I don't think the changes the industry needs will be easy but nothing worth doing is.