One World, Every Player
Massively Multiplayer Games (MMOs) have always been attractive to me because they fill me with an optimistic hope that they’ll be able to offer something I will always want from a game, which is the chance to truly live inside its world. I will always be pulled towards something that can offer me a world where a single narrative applies to every player. I know that EVE Online can already give this to me, but sometimes I want just a little bit more choice. EVE has one universe and every player lives within it, allowing them to fulfill a ‘lifestyle’ for their character within the realms of persistent real-time, where actions are permanent and history can really be made.
But EVE’s genre is exclusively an MMO; there is no sub-genre for the game beyond also calling it a role-playing game. I want an MMO that can branch into other styles of gaming such as first person shooters (FPS) or racing games. It’s possible that Bungie has already begun to create something completely new to offer the FPS MMO genre with their new game, Destiny, described as a “shared-world shooter” due to the emphasis on it being an FPS, but also incorporating other elements that allow for the game to have an immersive narrative that’s shared with other random gamers. “Destiny is constantly talking to its servers to see if there are other people out there playing the same mission or simply navigating the same geography as you. When it finds a good match, it combines each of these players into a single shared experience.” [Shaun McInnis, GameSpot]
This, however, suggests that Destiny gives us each our own separate world to live in, and only offers us the chance to intrude on another gamer when they feel it might be more enjoyable for you. This feels like a missed chance for an FPS to really exist within one global world, giving the players a chance to be shooting stuff whilst also creating a real history in the game, rather than just for however long that particular match lasts for.
I really believe that the Battlefield franchise has always had the potential to create something like a single persistent world for an FPS. I first came to the franchise when Battlefield 2 was released where the game is split between three military superpowers: the United States, the Chinese, and a fictional Middle East Coalition. It’s in Battlefield 2 that I also learnt of Conquest mode. In this mode each superpower attempts to control as much territory as they can to run down the opposing team’s (or nation’s) number of ‘tickets’, winning the game once they deplete them to zero.
The ticket system could be inverted so that the more territory a nation controls, the more tickets they have. This would be a measure of global control. The game could build a world around the these three superpowers, so when new territory is captured, the frontline of the battlefield would permanently shift, causing constant changes in the game, such as how long it takes a player to return to a battle once they’ve been killed, or causing a team to reassess its aggression if it keeps suffering heavy losses. Battlefield could create a single-server world where each superpower fights for overall control in one world built to exist in real-time.
This is what Dust 514 is already trying to do. It’s an FPS MMO that uses cloning technology and consciousness transfers to give a player an immortal soldier to forever wage war against their opponents. It’s being developed, coincidentally, by the same people who created EVE Online and Dust 514 will take place literally in the same universe. The planets will act as the maps for the game, but it seems that space won’t be limited. “Dust 514, has confirmed that there will not be a set number of maps at launch, saying ‘We are covering literally a universe of planets, so there’s thousands of different maps and they’re all available to everyone who’s playing.’” [Robert Purchese, Eurogamer]
There are obviously already established FPS MMOs out there, such as Planetside 2, but it’s what Dust 514 has going for it which makes it more attractive to me. The game promises the chance for the player alliances and corporations from EVE Online to be able to hire Dust 514 players as mercenaries to fight for control over different planets. This is just one of a few ideas the game has that makes it incredibly appealing. Whether or not it’ll actually be as successful as the likes of Planetside 2 remains to be seen. The game is currently in open beta and is exclusive to the PlayStation 3 which means I won’t be getting a chance to play it anytime soon, since I’m an Xbox fanboy.
Then there is also MMOs in racing games to consider. There are plenty of open-world racers existing today that allow players to drop into their friends’ games to either drive around in ‘free-roam’ sessions or to complete races together. There are even a few that already call themselves racing MMOs by existing solely online and allowing random interaction with other gamers. However, we are still without any single persistent worlds in these racing games – although I imagine if there ever were it would probably be incredibly chaotic and amount to nothing more than a crazily over-populated driving simulator. But why not something huge like ‘cross-country’ races with hundreds of gamers all in the same race together driving across the same huge stretches of land? Or why not different regions within which a player can exist, determined by their choices of style in car and race, where players move between the different regions to challenge different gamers already established there? I would certainly play these games.
I understand that smarter minds than mine have probably already considered these possibilities and are much more aware of why these games don’t actually exist yet (or maybe they already do and I’m just not aware of them). I’m also quite aware of the huge obstacles that are stopping these games from being made. What I’ve written here are just some thoughts about the potential of MMOs, technical difficulties aside, to incorporate other genres that would allow us to live inside worlds with their own distinct experiences. Experiences like driving in a 100-car race or shooting our way through a never-ending war for global supremacy in a world filled with thousands of other players. I will always want to play those games.
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