Often, I find that online role-playing games try to sustain a playerbase by setting successively more difficult goals rather than creating actual dynamic gameplay. It’s an eternal struggle to keep the player from getting bored with repetitive play by scaling up the power of the player exponentially with each goal reached.
I think the lure of games that attempt to blend role-playing games and first-person shooters, such as the now-defunct Space Cowboy Online and the beta-stage Firefall, is certainly worth tapping into, but often, the RPG elements of successively more powerful equipment and attributes gives certain players an uneven edge in player vs. player gameplay, which is much more of a lure (and potential disappointment) to players in games with FPS elements than games without. Mabinogi and Megaten both attempted to make a more interactive combat system, but both of them ended up scaling far too much like the standard RPGs they are, with diminishing returns in enjoyment the further along one progressed. I probably failed to appreciate Fantasy Earth Zero as much as it deserved, with its FPS-style aiming system and relatively little emphasis on equipment and low level cap. As it stands, however, most games that have attempted to blend RPG and FPS elements result in unbalanced PvP gameplay, which is a major disappointment.
The PvE elements end up having lots of potential, however, so it makes me wonder, what if we had an MMORPG with FPS elements in its combat system? Mabinogi: Heroes (Vindictus) and RaiderZ appear to be attempting this, but one of the complaints often sounded is that the gameplay is still far too repetitive. Compared with the dynamics of a player vs. player engagement, player vs. enemy tends to pale in comparison. League of Legends has a game option to play against bots rather than players, and even though the A.I. is good, and the wide selection of champions opens up a lot of variation in each game, it’s still incomparable to playing against a human team.
So, what haven’t we tried? MMORPGs with FPS elements and MMOFPSs with RPG elements tend to disappoint in the PvP area, and the PvE area is rather lackluster in comparison. The problem is that we’re thinking too narrowly in the constraints of RPGs. Rather than drawing from RPGs their method of sustainability, creating successively higher hoops for the player to jump through for greater power, we should focus on allowing the player successively greater freedom of customization. This would allow a player to “play a role” without creating a severe imbalance in PvP gameplay, assuming the game’s roles were balanced correctly. The nice thing about Mabinogi and Megaten was that their skill systems were completely customizable. The bad thing about them was that each had skill systems that could be optimized in just a few different ways, eventually cutting down on that customization. If we focused only on the customization aspects of RPGs, if we utilized the dynamic gameplay elements of FPSs to sustain the playerbase instead, well, I don’t want to speculate too much, but the idea is certainly exciting.
Comment from continue:
It doesn’t surprise me that the characters I get most attached to in games are those that I feel I’ve put the greatest effort into customization, experimentation, trial and error, towards creating my own unique style. They’re the characters with the most of “me” in them. People get attached to games, to characters they perceive as unique to themselves. I think we tend to ignore this when trying to program sustainability into online games, and focus either on self-improvement or entertainment. We don’t understand the joy we hold in individualism, or, for that matter, community. But using the community to sustain itself isn’t something I can say much about yet. I’ve seen examples community self-destruction, but seldom self-sustenance.