Monday, March 25, 2013

Rise of Massively Multiplayer Online Gameplay Anthologies (MMOGA's)?

Blizzard's newly announced Hearthstone online card game is neither new to Blizzard (which has had a paper card game for years) nor online games (SOE has had online card games playable in several of its MMO's for years).  It is a natural fit for a company whose flagship MMO is increasingly a platform which hosts a range of distinct types of gameplay, as much as a single gaming product. 

Last week, my World of Warcraft mage hit level 88 doing a random Pandaria dungeon.  I'm generally reluctant to spend time running non-heroic versions of current expansion dungeons that I can expect to run repeatedly once I get to max level.  The thing that changed my mind was the realization that this expansion's solo content just isn't clicking for me, but that I'd rather be playing the five-man dungeon game.  (In fact, I'm currently running max level Hard Mode 4-man Flashpoints in SWTOR instead even though that expansion - and accompanying gear reset - is just over two weeks away.)

So I'm in when it comes to WoW's Pet Battles and 5-man content (and possibly its pick-up looking for raid, if/when I get that far).  I'm lukewarm on its solo game and indifferent to its crafting/cosmetics.  I've been out of its PVP (which itself comes in multiple different flavors) and structured raid games for years.  I may or may not be in when Hearthstone arrives (though this, unlike pet battles, is playable a standalone product without a WoW subscription - I'd be very surprised if the two products don't have tight cross-promotion).

If you look back at the old school PVE MMO's, I'd suggest that there was effectively one type of gameplay - killing mobs in groups - with some variation to be had in terms of how big the group and what you might do (e.g. crafting) to gear up for said.  With WoW - and other games that have tried to mirror the something-for-everyone approach with varying degrees of success - we increasingly have very different types of gameplay under one virtual roof, to the point where we're no longer playing the same game.  Rather, Azeroth is a platform that you go to in order to launch off onto one of the various gameplay options - some of which coexist in the open world, others of which build on its lore, and some of which are just about some good competitive fun.

Are we increasingly playing in a world of Massively Multiplayer Online Gameplay Anthoglogies (MMOGA's to pick an acronym that's vaguely pronounceable) rather than virtual worlds or traditional MMORPG's? 

P.S. Hat tip to Josh of the Game Diplomat blog and various podcasts for producing what is almost certainly the Internet's first Hearthstone podcast within days of its announcement.  :)


Bhagpuss said...

To quote from the recent Massively report on their conversation with ANet:

"Above all else, the developers still want to make a game that appeals to everyone ... there will be more content for every sort of player. In the team's eyes, everyone in the game is always on the verge of running out of content, and ANet wants to be sure that its players always have something to do."

And from their chat with SOE's Dave Georgeson - "Georgeson told me that his team does have to identify what flavors of players there are and then make sure there's something for everybody. When creating something from scratch, he said, there are a lot of ways that SOE can make sure that "the things you want to do are the things that are available to you." "

It's one of the futures. The other is niche.

Kasinder said...

I'm trying to figure out where you draw the line between MMORPGs and MMOGAs. I always thought a virtual world was a part of MMORPGs. Are you trying to say that minigames aren't part of an MMORPG? I don't think Hearthstone will be on the scale of the WoW Pet Battles, as far as I can tell, they're trying to make it a complete game in its own right. There are a number of different ways a player can choose to experience World of Warcraft. They can play the raiding game, the auction house, the battle pet system, the crafting game, heck, there was a time in my WoW career where I wanted to be the best angler on my server and I got damned near close. I got the Titanium Seal of Dalaran twice or maybe three times. Maybe my view is skewed but I look at WoW as the quintessential definition of "MMORPG". What's happened to it recently that justifies a redefinition of the game as a gaming anthology?

Green Armadillo said...

@Kasinder: "What's happened to it recently that justifies a redefinition of the game as a gaming anthology?"

This is a question of evolution, not revolution. The difference between WoW 2013 and WoW 2011 is not that great - though it's also non-zero when you consider Pet Battles, Farms, LFR, Scenarios, Hearthstone later this year (albeit as a standalone product), and whatever they plan to announce at Blizzcon. What do you see when you compare WoW 2013 to the MMO's of 2003?

My suggestion is that the range of activities - and the range of players who only use a small subset of these activities - has grown greatly over the last decade. MMORPG's have always had emergent player activities, but today's games - MMOGA's if you choose to accept the term - provide many more developer-supported activities.

Perhaps it's not yet time to redefine WoW in particular and the genre in general. We'll see where things stand post Blizzcon.