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Posts Tagged ‘4X’

4XMMO=?

Runescape is a game that gamers love to hate.  “Real” MMO gamers (WoW fanboys) loudly deride its lower quality graphics and weird business model (not the gospel $15/month), and “those other MMO gamers” (Puzzle Pirates, W101, etc.) look at it as a grindy mess like all of those “big soulless” MMOs (WoW).

So, it’s understandable that the buzz for the company’s next project, MechScape, isn’t as big as, say, the hoopla around BioWare’s Star Wars The Old Republic.  Still, they look to be doing some interesting things in the MMO design space, and for that, I applaud them.

This really has me scratching my head, though:

4X gameplay in MMO format as a goal for MechScape

Now, I love ‘mechs as much as any other Battletech geek, and I really like 4X strategy gaming (mmm, Master of Orion/Orion 2/Magic, Civilization), but I’m having a hard time seeing how this could work in an MMO setting.  I love Exploration, too, and the notion that an MMO could be built more around the 4X model than the DIKU model makes me very happy.  So, I’ll be happy if they pull this off and make lots of money doing it, maybe even reshaping the MMO genre.  It’s just… you wouldn’t make Mario and Bowser the stars of a JRPG, would you?

Oh, wait… (yes, that’s an important distinction:  the characters made the transition, but they changed the game design pretty significantly to shoehorn Mario into FF-Lite)

OK, so maybe this is a better example of design pulling in different directions, and the business model causing further problems:

Hellgate

You just can’t make every game type into an MMO.  I’m all for innovation, and I wish Jagex well on MechScape, but sometimes, the best intentions can still go awry.  Here, I’m voicing concern over both the “will it blend” approach to game design, and the annoying trend of making every game an online monstrosity (as if slapping on the “MMO” label makes roadkill sausage into top sirloin).

I guess time will tell what settles out of the mix, but for now, I’m cautiously optimistic, hoping that they will find a great niche for massively multiplayer 4X gaming.  There’s certainly potential there for would-be galactic emperors.  It’s never going to hit the same sweet spot of marketability that WoW did, but if they can manage to concoct a solid game, it’ll be one that I definitely look into for a while.

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Pursuant to my comment over here, and following Zubon’s idea, I wanted to take a nostalgic look at Master of Magic, and with any luck, discern some game design principles that might be useful for designers today.

Ah, the MicroProse days.  Master of Orion was one of the first games I spent a lot of time in.  (The other being Star Control 2, another brilliant game that I’ll write about another time.)  Later, XCom: Terror from the Deep was fantastic (difficult and frustrating at times, but the core concept and gameplay were excellent).

At its heart, Master of Magic is a 4X game, an expansive strategy game based on the 4 “X”s: — eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate.  It borrows themes from Magic: The Gathering and gameplay mechanics from Master of Orion, throwing in a fair bit of Civilization and shades of D&D.  In other words, it uses time-honored gameplay and fantasy world elements.  There were no earth shatteringly new concepts in MOM, but the game pulled elements together into a very enjoyable whole. (more…)

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