Over at MMORPG.com, I happened to see this great little video from Bill Murphy about developer created content.  If you want the watch the video, he makes some good points:

  1. Current MMO design is skewed toward gear grinding and PVP in the end game to give time for more developer created content
  2. Not everyone enjoys PVP or gear grinding
  3. Players consume content at a far faster rate than developer created content can ever hope to keep up with it.
  4. There has to be a better way

He also said something that really struck me–that developers keep treating content in MMOs like content in offline games.  It was really struck me because I have never considered that before–it was just…expected that content be delivered that way.

Now we are seeing with the advent of services like The Foundry in Star Trek Online and the upcoming Neverwinter Online, which allows players create their own content, missions and the like.  It reminds me a bit of the developing additional quests and missions in the Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2 games.  The toolsets for the respective games were very powerful and allowed very complicated, nuanced story telling.  Ultimately, The Foundry creates developers out of players and let’s them create the story.  This is, in essence, Player Generated Content.  You take the players out of the game, give them to tools to add back into the game, and let them go.

But I want something more.

I want developers to go a step further than that–I want player interactions the extent beyond, “Chat, Trade, Kill.”  At it’s heart, there are few MMOs that have any sort of allgorithymic player interactions outside of that.  You can join guilds–but really within the game your interactions are still limited to “Chat, Trade, Kill.”

When Tera first launched, I was very excited about the political system.  But then I realized that the political system had a high barrier to entry which meant more of the same grind of kill kill kill to get to max level.  Then you had to have a guild to help you out, etc.  Even then, the system was pretty shallow in itself, basically taxing different districts of the world.  I was disappointed.

What I want is an MMO that has more to do that just hit things.  I want to be able to roll a character that’s a bard–but not a combat focused bard, I just want to walk around singing.  Or a real merchant trader who has to get goods from one place to another.  How about a shopkeeper, a tavern owner, a master craftsman?  There are thousand ways flush out a game beyond “Chat, Trade, Kill,” but as always, it’s a risk.  It’s not as easy to develop engaging gameplay that doesn’t boil down to “Poke this till a shiny falls out.”

More than that, I want these different pieces to all be able to interact beyond Chat, Trade, Stab dynamic.  I want to be able to set up a shop that NPCs and PCs buy things from. I want to build a tavern that players and NPCs can hangout in.  I want put a bounty on someone’s head.  I want to be able to rob someone.  I want to my character to make his story — not have his story told to him.  How cool would it be to try and plan a coup a city, but have to be careful where you talked about it because an NPC might overhear you and tell the king, and you end up in prison and have to figure out how to get out.

I want the content for the game to develop organically in how the game is plays.  The difference between what I’m saying here and The Foundry is that I don’t want to have to leave the game to develop content.  I want it to organically grow out of the game.  Does that mean that developer created content and systems like the Foundry are things of the past?  Absolutely not.  I think the three need to work in tandem to create a unique, dynamic environment with relationships that are deeper than “Chat, Trade, Stab.”

All in all, content in MMOs has come a long way from the days of vanilla WoWbut it still has along way to go too before something like the organic content creation can even be a thing.  Until then, we’ll have to content ourselves with Dynamic Events, The Foundry and other player generated content.