I was prowling the Escapist’s latest issue, and happened upon this little article:
One point that Mr. Zacny makes is that game themes have polarized to the dark, immature “M” rated stuff and happy shiny pretty world, with little in between. I exaggerate a bit, but there’s truth to it. I have to wonder: can gamers handle subtlety? Do they want subtlety?
Framed in MMO terms, currently everyone is a hero (or a scrub who is just training to be a hero). I touched on this back in Fewer Heroes, MMOre Adventurers. Where are the games that allow for small, modest, humble lives? I’d argue that the social framework of an MMO is the best place for such subtlety in games, since you’re dealing with a large variety of players. There will be those who just want to stake out a mining claim on the side of a mountain, or plant a small crop and build a house, or make a pub and cater to travelers. They can’t do that in real life, so they do it in a crazy, fantastic alternate world.
A Tale in the Desert and EVE apparently have some of this sort of “low key” activity going on. Notably, I think that they are possibly the biggest MMOs with functional, in-depth economies. Puzzle Pirates has a good economy, but isn’t quite the same sort of game.
More and more, I believe that a vibrant, healthy world with room for subtle lives and player creativity will need a strong economic model and a healthy crafting suite. Yes, there should be opportunities to be the Hero, but sometimes, it’s enough to just go to the digital equivalent of the Cheers pub; a place where everyone knows your name, and it’s OK to just relax and be some dude whittling a new trinket.