One of keynote speeches from Korea Games Conference 2009. KGC 2009 was held at COEX in Seoul from October 7 to 9 and top executives from Ndoors, NHN, AMD, Crytek also shared their knowledge in online gaming.
Amongst keynote speakers, Jake Song, a founder of XL Games, discussed the evolving world of MMORPG.
Jake is a legendary developer behind blockbuster games likes of ‘Kingdom of the Wind’ and ‘Lineage,’ whose accumulated revenue exceeded 1 trillion Won (US$ 769 million). He’s currently working on a new MMORPG called X2 (working title) at XL Games.
The Evolving World of MMORPG
Jake Song took WOW as an example of current trends in the MMORPG world- quite predictable and tamed like Hollywood movies.? In order to overcome this limitation, developers have to take users’ participation and creativity into account.
■ ‘90s MMOPRG: Virtual world with lots of freedom
First of all, I want to start with saying that this is my personal opinion which can be right and sometimes dead wrong.
To give you an idea, the 1st generation of MMORPG includes Ultima Online and Lineage in 1997 and EverQuest, Lineage 2, Dark Age of Carmelot can be categorized as the 2nd generation. Now we have World of Warcraft and Aion.
Ultima Online paved the way to modern MMORPG as introducing the make-believe virtual world with a liberal dose of freedom, which produced reckless PK and auto program as byproducts.
Lineage also created a series of problems; reckless PK, monopolizing hunting grounds by few clans, secondary markets outside of the game.
It was all about trial and error for the 1st generation games.
■ 2nd generation games: A hands-on approach to solving problem
That’s when the 2nd generation games likes of EverQuest, Lineage 2, Dark Age of Camelot came in. EverQuest, the first 3D MMORPG, introduced raid system that multiple users hunt monsters together, and non-tradable items. Dark Age of Camelot employed RVR system as expanding from PVP.
Throughout development of variety contents from the developer’s side, blockbuster games like World of Warcraft and Aion solved lots of problems.
In case of WOW, they took entertainment aspect of the game more seriously than virtualization. Non-tradable items kept users from creating a secondary market and no PVP within clan rule reduced reckless PK. Introducing an instanced dungeon solved monopolizing hunting grounds problem.
Emphasizing the entertainment aspect brought out good things from games but it also has a side effect- entertainment and convenience made players overlook unreasonable situations. For example, boss monster that you killed several hours ago got spawned.
Instanced dungeons brought out a fun part like riding attractions at theme park with your friends. You ride one and move on to another.
■ Bring Out Freedom Again
As Instanced dungeon gained its popularity, the whole world of MMORPG became an entrance lobby to instanced dungeons. In my opinion, today’s MMORPG is like theme park ? guaranteed fun with limited choices.
Players became passive consumers. Rather than actively seeking contents like the 1st generation games, they just follow game developer’s lead within confinement. They can’t build a castle or house within this confined world. Hence the predictable and tame MMORPG world.
■ Future MMORPG
I believe the next generation of MMORPG will redirect to the previous trends- freedom and creativity. You can get that predictable fun from other entertainment forms.
This will be possible to integrate background, relations, and user-created contents. For example, the background can be changed according to season, time of the day, weather and so on. And you can cut down trees to build a house or a castle.
Let’s say a pond can be created when the meteor strikes was placed during a battle last week. And you can hire or date a NPC, who normally just sells items or offers a quest in today’s games.
Unpredictable fun should be implemented in MMORPG. We need to work on addressing problems rather than put a band-aid on them. On top of its sophistication, the future MMORPG incorporates a way to give users back freedom and creativity.