Nick Rathbone 0107482

Friday, May 12, 2006

Envision a World of Text Adventures (525)

The advent of the next generation is almost upon us, and some may argue this is the most important shift in the videogames industry since the heyday of the Sega and Nintendo era. With the inevitable leap in graphical prowess alluring nearly every gamer on the planet, it seems almost uncanny that innovation and gameplay are taking a back seat. With this year’s E3 in full swing as we speak, in the modern gaming market videogames are almost universally sold on their graphical merit, (with the exception of the Nintendo Wii). With this shallow prospect in mind, it is hard to believe that the Interactive Fiction (IF) or the Text Based Adventure as it is commonly known is flourishing in the form of MUD’s.

Multi-User Dungeons (MUD) are basically IF’s with themed role-playing elements and interactive social messaging via commands usually in English. These MUDS have been crucial to the evolution of the online gaming genre. This is evidently backed up when you delve into the mechanics of the genre and unearth some rather fascinating details.

As genres like the ever popular driving and platform-adventure evolve not just in terms of graphics but most importantly mechanics, the MMORPG mechanics remain largely unchanged. One of the most evident examples of this is the direct relationship between DikuMud and EverQuest. The basics of navigating around a virtual environment may have made the leap from simple inputs of ‘go north’ and ‘pickup object’ on a keyboard, but it is the fundamental RPG structure that is in need of being reinvented. From collecting objects/gold, destroying monsters, completing quests and developing your personal character via experience points, there is an overwhelming sense of déjà vu in the genre.

It is fair to say a successful formula of mechanics should not be changed but built upon, thus evolving it into a dynamically adaptable genre. This is clearly demonstrated in the ORPG universe, where gamers have become obsessive with the virtual worlds. Especially in countries like Korea and America where the user base for games like World of Warcarft and EverQuest II are in their millions. And it is these large user bases that I draw my conclusions as to why the genres mechanics have remained largely stagnant in terms of features and ‘to-do’ objectives.

As we all know the videogame industry is a business at the end of the day and it is this that governs the evolution of the games we play. If you envision a world of Text Adventures whether they are in the forms of MUD, MOO or extravagant massive online graphical enterprises, they all succeed because they are relatively the same. If I buy a shoot-em-up I want to shoot objects, how that is delivered via gameplay and mechanics is obviously the key to its uniqueness, but that is my individual opinion. In terms of the MMORPG a dramatic shift in the genres style seems to be enough to entice games to pour more money into a virtual life. However, changing gameplay mechanics involves such a risk that it might see even the Koreans keeping their online Visa card their pockets.

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