Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Why don't we play innovative games?
A Tale in the Desert is an MMO without combat, but not a pure sandbox either, there are skills, a series of tests, and a complex social gameplay. Puzzle Pirates is a completely player-skill based MMO, where your success at anything is determined by your skill in various puzzles, not your level or stats. Wizard101 has more traditional levels and quests, but a completely novel combat system based on magic cards. And the guys from PixelMine just sent me a press release on how their MMO Ashen Empires won the Best Fantasy MMORPG award at the Independent Games Festival. And that is just a handful of examples I happen to know of. There are tons and tons of innovative MMOs out there. But each of them attracts only a few thousand players. Meanwhile millions of players play games like World of Warcraft or Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, and then whine loudly about the lack of innovation in these games.
Doh, guys! Most game companies produce games for the money, not because they hope to become critically acclaimed starving artists. They are always going to look out what kind of games seem to sell well, and then make that sort of game. If customers throw a billion dollars a year at Blizzard for World of Warcraft, and A Tale in the Desert is making peanuts, then of course other companies prefer to make a game more like WoW than like ATitD. They would be crazy if they didn't do it.
In the last open Sunday thread people were blaming the big companies to make games as bland as McDonalds bland food. I'm saying that the complaint would be a lot more valid if the complainers weren't actually sitting in the McDonalds restaurant and eating bland burgers, while right next door there is an empty, small gourmet restaurant with a varied, but foreign cuisine. As soon as about a million of you guys start playing innovative games, game companies are going to make more of them. As long as you go for games that offer small, evolutionary steps to a well-known concept, companies are going to make those. The question is not why WAR isn't more innovative, the question is why there aren't more people playing Wizard101 or other innovative games. Game companies produce what the customers want, and we only have ourselves to blame if we voted with our wallets for evolutionary approach. If even we as players are afraid to try something really new, then how can you expect a company to bet millions of dollars on really new?