Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tabula Rasa - Tobold discusses the end of shooters

Recently Tobold discussed how the fact that with the loss of Hellgate earlier this year and now Tabula Rasa, is it possible that the "Shooter" based MMO is at it's end.

Tobold states :

"It is totally possible that there is a large demand for good shooter MMOs, but neither Hellgate nor Tabula Rasa were good enough. But then, I kind of liked Tabula Rasa, especially the instances, and wouldn't say it was a terrible game. Is it a statistical fluke that over the last 10 years games with swords sold better than games with guns, or is there a fundamental incompatibility of MMORPG gameplay and shooting?"

This is possible. I have argued about the other aspect of this known as "avatar" based Sci-Fi. This would explain the success of EvE for example.

He goes on to say :

"The reason why that question could be important is future games. The Agency will be a shooter MMO. Star Wars: The Old Republic will have both (light) swords and (laser) guns. Are these future games going to take a hit just because of the weapons they use, or will we see a game break the curse of the shooter MMO? What do you think?"

I notice he did not mention Stargate Worlds. Even though I am smelling a fail there myself.
My only argument for it's success is the magical like nature of the Asgard or the Jaffa, even though it really is science. Also, the Renaissance or Egyptian like settings at times, which meld Sci-Fi and Fantasy lend an air of mystery.

Of course, Hellgate and Tabula Rasa did this. No luck there.

The simple reason, and what I keep stating is overall, avatar based Sci-Fi MMO's always seem to fail. Matrix, Star Wars, TR, Hellgate, etc, etc, you name it. Science Fiction as a genre really does not have as large of a following as Fantasy in the MMO field.
But, why is this?

Lets try this...

What would happen if the MMO was a "real" shooter instead.

Look at Huxley (still vaporware mind you), which was to be a full blown shooter, and not calculated dice rolls.
Would it's Halo/Gears of War like shooter mechanics have been a better MMOFPS if you will?
The Agency for example has been noted to be real time shooting combat. And maybe this was the problem with Tabula Rasa. It used dice rolls to calculate the damages.

But, then Hellgate was real time. I think overall Hellgate's issues stemmed from content being so random and yet, the same. Dungeons used the same tile systems over and over.
And lets not forget bugginess that persisted even longer than Age of Conan's issues.

Who knows?

For Tabula Rasa, I am in the same camp with Tobold in that I do not think it sucked actually. It did not deserve a monthly fee though, and this is where it dropped the ball. A lower price point or micro-transaction could have been the winner to keep TR alive.

So far ..Fantasy lends itself to the "We are legion" type of gaming, and this may be the other issue with Sci-Fi MMO's.
Think of all the FPS type games where it is "kill or be killed". Not much in the way of "team" based combat or mechanics.
More people play Deathmatches than the co-op features of most of these games.
The only difference is say the Horror genre, like Left 4 Dead which is showing that co-op counts to survive in shooters.
(And that begs the question of why no one has made a Horror MMO...even though Funcom is working on one with the Secret World, but, we know how everyone feels about Funcom lately.)

The only final argument that has not been brought up is the female gamer aspect. We do know the female gamer is becoming more prominent in the shooter arena, with Halo, etc.
But, for the most part, females look for a more casual type of gameplay according to various studies. Also, a Fantasy setting seems to attract gamer women. I can attest to this as all of my previous gamer girlfriends, as well as my current wife either do not like or abhor Science Fiction compared to Fantasy. All we need to do is look at the sale of Sims 2 and the overall female population there to note how this affects the genre.
When Tabula Rasa came up, even though I felt the setting screamed Stargate, and the wife enjoys SG, she just did not want to shoot guns...period. Even though I showed her you gained "magic like" powers with the Logos system, it was a no sale, thanks to guns (of course, she loves Horror games like Silent Hill or Resident Evil, and guns are not an issue there.)

So, we come full circle. Why is it that Sci-Fi fails in the MMO genre, compared to so many Fantasy MMO's coming out of our ears.

What do you feel is the main issue?


Scott said...

Horror, I guess technically (feel free to put air quotes around that word, too) there's Requiem Bloodymare although the only "horror" aspect is plenty of blood and giblets.

CCP is working on World of Darkness as well, and I'd be inclined to lump that closer to Horror than Fantasy or Sci-Fi.

Hellgate isn't FPS shooting either, by the way, it's still RPG die-rolls under the hood. I think they came close to nailing the overall feel of a shooter though, but I'll have TR loaded up on Dec 11th or so to make a side-by-side comparison.

While I'd love a great sci-fi or sci-fantasy MMORPG I can't help but wonder if it will have to wait until the industry and its consumers are ready to move beyond levels and hotbars. One of the complaints of Hellgate's various Hunter classes (I have a Marksman, for example) is that they never actually need to put points into any of the skills. Just grab a gun, which you can continuously upgrade through crafting or drops, go into first-person view and blow stuff up. It might take you longer to kill things with zero character skills, but it can be done. Guns and hotbars just don't seem to mix.

Playing Mass Effect and even the slower tactical shooters like GRAW2 make me wonder if it's not possible to have an MMOG like those where you're not needing to constantly use the cluttered hotbars and inventory management we're so used to. But on the flip side, would it have enough draw to warrant a monthly subscription? Would it be an RPG, an RPG-Shooter hybrid, or a Shooter with RPG elements like we've been seeing with the Battlefield and Call of Duty series over the past few years?

Will gamers pay a monthly fee for a game that is more like a shooter? SOE decided The Agency would be better served with in-game ads and microtransactions over a monthly subscription, for example. While we're all for the "play for free!" attitude of Guild Wars, looking at Hellgate's design of public lobbies and an instanced "world" I can't help but think they'd have been much better off going for the Guild Wars model of no "servers" to choose from which just separates the consumers and no subscription, and charge a few bucks here and there for expansions.

I was mentioning similar things over at Random Battle, saying that players (myself included) are just mentally wired to play different. Give me a fantasy character with cool armor, weapons, etc. and I'm still perfectly content to ride around, explore, craft, chat, etc. But give me a gun and I want to shoot the gun and blow shit up with no interest in fluff. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has that subconscious shift in playstyle, and perhaps that's just as much of a barrier to sci-fi MMO's?

Anonymous said...

I do not see a problem for the SciFi genre as such for making MMOs, but the few efforts so far have covered a rather narrow piece of the whole SciFi field.

The original SWG would have been better off without Star Wars attached to it IMHO. On the other hand they may not have been given the funding without Star Wars.

And EVEs "new frontier" type of game is something that appeals to more people that playing "starship troopers movie".

Melf_Himself said...

"Think of all the FPS type games where it is "kill or be killed". Not much in the way of "team" based combat or mechanics.
More people play Deathmatches than the co-op features of most of these games."

You musn't know much about FPS. Ever heard of Counterstrike or TF2? Teamwork anyone??

The only shooter MMO's that have been made sucked. This is not really that much different to fantasy MMO's, the vast majority of which crash and fail also.

Shooters are played more online than MMO's are (look at XFire numbers if you don't believe me, as I know you like doing that). I don't seen any reason why a shooter MMO couldn't be made. But of course it would have to not involve grind and such, because shooters are used to playing games that are actually fun.

Openedge1 said...

You musn't know much about FPS. Ever heard of Counterstrike or TF2? Teamwork anyone??

True. But, then which sold more...Halo3 and CoD or TF2 and Counterstrike.
And Halo and CoD SCREAM all for me, none for you gameplay.
They offer up co-op, but it never seems to be filled with players like Deathmatch and CTF.
And even though the co-op games work (like Left 4 Dead), the majority of players doing teamwork here sucks. Everyone helps themselves more than the teammate.
Lets take Shadowrun. This game screamed Teamwork, and had RPG like playstyles, AND had Magic with Weaponry..

What a perfect combo.

This game failed miserably.

And it was not because it was a bad game (though light on content).

But, the other major consensus we can see here is simple.

Grind + FPS = Fail also.

Who wants to "quest" and FPS?

Maybe that is the issue?

Is it levels maybe?

Hard to say.

When we FPS, we wanna kill shit like Scott said, and who cares about levels and crafting (lol).

Should be interesting to see if Agency or SWTOR makes any headway in this genre.

Still looking for ANY MMO to get a million scrips also besides WoW.