I’m starting a new column to talk a little bit about the next great MMO. When I’m playing WoW regularly, I can’t help but think about what’s coming next in the MMO world. It’s a conversation I have often with my gaming friends, and I’ve talked with them about starting this column for a long time.
There are a lot of games in development that might finally try to be something other than a WoW-clone. Most every major MMO I’ve seen since WoW has failed because it tried to emulate the industry’s gorilla. The latest batch looks like it will break that mold, which can only mean good things for us players. If you’ve seen any of the Guild Wars 2 development videos, you know developers are at least thinking about ways to re-imagine virtual worlds that characteristically function and persist without interaction from the player (If you head back to the Alliance starting area, you’ll still find Hogger milling about, despite the millions of times he’s been killed and, if you kill him, he’ll keep coming back).
I woke up the day after Christmas to find the latest installment in BioWare’s teaser series for the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic. It included a look at another class, the Trooper, but more interesting (to me, anyway) was the section on Crew Skills. Crew Skills give you access to the profession system in SWTOR without requiring you to spend time building those things up. Some of you probably read that last sentence and cringed. Part of what makes the world engaging is that you spend time doing things and then see the fruits of your efforts. I agree with that to a degree, and I’ll probably do a bit of the profession work myself if/when (more likely when) I play SWTOR, at least for my first character. Past that point, though, professions can be a bit of a chore. It’s annoying to fly around for an hour or two just to farm up some ore. Automating that process means I’ll be able to see the benefits of my professions more quickly, and I get to keep doing the stuff I love while I play. I’m going to spare you my own description of the Crew Skills at work and trust that you’ll just watch the video.
I love the concept, and it’s nice that BioWare has finally given us something other than lightsabers and wristrockets to get excited about in SWTOR. The next great MMO isn’t going to have shinier purples, it’s going to have a more streamlined player experience, aimed at keeping your character solvent even if you can only play a couple hours a week.