Is Lacking Mindlessness a Mistake for MMOs?
When I think of hardcore games, I think of a raider-crunching success numbers about an upcoming battle in World of Warcraft (WoW) or a similar MMO game. Given recent information about WoW, that may be an outdated view of games, but it does mean that there is a stereotype about the intensity of MMOs that I would like to call into question.
I don't think MMOs should be intense. I think taking a page from casual games playbook and making a PC game that allows mindless interaction would help AAA titles like World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Dungeons and Dragons Online. Even games that already try to cater to casual audiences like Guild Wars 2 need to think about the ways in which they make low-intensity, mindless "activities" a side note instead of a lifestyle choice.
What I mean by this is that you would sit around and play Mario Kart 8 or Just Dance 4 on your Wii U with your friends for hours, but you can only raid for so long because after a long day, most people are too mentally exhausted to actually think about the strategies and statistics needed to succeed with most modern MMOs.
There is a huge debate in gaming right now about whether games in general and MMOs in particular should be cooperative, or competitive. If you are making a competitive MMO where people are simply encouraged to be mean to each other all the time, then this is irrelevant, but if you are trying to build a community in your game, then look to those games that already do so well--such as multiplayer console games and Facebook/mobile games.
There are challenges with that, though. Guild Wars 2 tried to take Mario Kart and imput it in to its MMO with little change other than mechanics and a new name, Sanctum Sprint. It was fun, but it didn't change the game itself in any substantial way. If you want a fun, addicting multiplayer game on the PC, your options are limited. I couldn't think of even one PC game you could play with friends without having to consider strategies. Am I wrong?
Good characters, decent mechanics, and beautiful landscapes are what we judge MMOs on. Maybe that's fine. I'd just like to see one casual multiplayer game where you don't have to crunch numbers, calculate positions, and coordinate strategies. Can you think of any? I can't.