Destiny could be the most promising and most fun future for MMOs.
It’s taken a while. Games like Borderlands with their bundles of loot and emphasis on multiplayer have gotten close to the scale of a proper MMO, but never quite reached the full potential. They have all that’s needed to support hundreds or even thousands of players. They just needed the ambition to go a step further, to find the compromise between the millions-of-dollars-cost of traditional MMOs to the much more reasonable price of blockbuster game development.
The MMO genre has seen a lot of change. We went from primarily fantasy RPG styles to sci-fi games. It’s not all third-person action anymore either, other genres have implemented persistent worlds too–like Planetside. And many games have started skewing toward single-player experiences. The bulk of Star Wars: The Old Republic is about seeing your character’s story through by yourself. Sure, you can invite friends, but the incentives to do so are little. MMOs are for everyone now.
That includes those of you who don’t want to spend a lot of money, or none at all. The free-to-play structure has changed how we think of MMOs. Now the cosmetics that defined the RPG parts of MMOs can be turned into microtransactions that can be bought with real money. The usual massive time investment is being subverted with microtransactions too. We now have level boosts and special items that can be purchased.
It seems that all the current MMOs are trying for a solution, a way to find a middle-ground for several different types of players. They’re not going away. But I think there’s a game that manages to find a home for a different audience while maintaining the best parts of the genre.
That game is Bungie’s Destiny.
Destiny promises a single-player shooter like Bungie’s other, hugely popular shooter Halo, but with tons of RPG-like mechanics and loot and the ability to bring in other players. That’s huge. It may not sound as novel anymore with all the marketing and hype since its announcement, but that lone concept is very exciting–if it works. It blends the already-proven first-person shooter genre with another, and it hopes to do it seamlessly. The weird struggle of MMOs trying to be both singleplayer and multiplayer is gone in Destiny. Instead, it’s designed to let you choose. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned with the success of games like Skyrim and Minecraft, people like to have options.
There are worries too. It could feel vacant, barren, like so many other MMOs. It could have a terrible endgame where the hard encounters are stale. It’s subject to a lot of the same pitfalls as most MMOs, but it has way more potential to be something great. Let’s hope Bungie can pull it off.