Dear Developers: WATCH OUT!

WARNING! WARNING! Yes, today we’ve got a number of warnings – for game developers, of potentially disastrous potholes in their roadmaps.

I don’t know if game developers read MMO blogs. From a market research point of view, the big devs would be mad not to. But I certainly hope some of them are reading today, as a number of insightful bloggers appear to have gotten together to highlight just some of the things that could go very, very wrong in their plans.

From the eternal spectre of unfair F2P, to “emergent mechanics” that break your game, to accidentally supporting and encouraging prejudice and discrimination – it’s a pretty scary list:

  • Pewter writes a really interesting article looking at the unspoken assumptions often built into character and game mechanic designs, and how they can end up supporting unsavory points of view“Obviously, sometimes NPCs are there to be emotional stimuli, or to impart information to a player; but recognising the way in which taught design principles can systemize the presentation of gender, race, disability, religion and sexuality in game is a first, and positive step.”
  • Jester tells the story of how some emergent behaviour in EVE let one player “break the game”, and why he believes CCP are still fixing the symptom, not the cause“It’s a glorious demonstration of EVE emergent game play, and yet another example of the lengths that EVE players will go to to avoid EVE’s sub-par PvE. “
  • The Ancient Gaming Noob sounds a general alarm bell about the shifting future of Free To Play – an alarm bell for MMO players and developers alike, IMO“The simple days of the implied social contract that came with the subscription model appear to be fading as companies look for further ways to monetize their games.”
  • Stubborn points out one way that The Secret World has utterly trumped WoW for him, despite WoW’s budget – by giving him actually relatable NPCs“Other than humor, and the very occasional moment of sadness, WoW did little with literally thousands of questgivers, and TSW has already hooked me with the 30 or 40 I’ve met.”
  • And Syp rounds off with a look at one area I’d agree many MMO developers are failing in – body language for their characters – the comments are very worth reading, too – “Whether players realize it or not, one of the reasons we have difficulty connecting and empathizing with the NPCs and events is how limited and stilted the body language is that we witness.”

I’d really not want to be an MMO developer. Film is a horrendous medium to work in because of the sheer number of things that can go wrong – but it’s nothing compared to the landscape of FAIL that can await an MMO.

What pitfalls do you see in MMO gaming’s future?