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Jason: I feel that MMOs are definitely here to stay. They are the thing right now and, in my opinion, they are fun. That is the bottom line with a game. Is it fun?
The MMO genre has made it through the fad or passing phase stage and is still around. Whether it will continue in the same form in the future has yet to be seen, but right now MMOs are out there en masse. In contrast, single player CRPGs are slim to none in development and even games that are touting themselves as being CRPGs have turned into action heavy adventure games. And yes, I know V:TM - Bloodlines was one of those - it was built on a shooter engine and we built it to play to the engine's strengths. Plus, I had my heart set on the Vampire vs. Hunters multiplayer part of the game, which sadly never happened.
Personally, I believe it is just part of a cycle. One day in the future, some small team, probably an indie developer, will turn out some type of classic RPG that gets everyone's attention. There will be some technology or new innovation that will make it oh so cool and CRPGs will pop back onto the radar and everyone will start making them again. Game development, like many other things, runs in cycles. We just have to wait for it.
I love to play single player RPGs, but generally if I go back to the old ones, they feel dated, and nothing new has come out that peaked my interest. I also love Jagged Alliance and X-Com type strategy games, but no one is doing those at the moment either.
GB: What would you say are the strengths of massively multiplayer titles in their current form?
Jason: MMOs have many strong points, or reasons that people are drawn to them. A lot of more casual gamers like to Min/Max their characters and the MMOs feed that.
Then there's the social aspect of it - where you get to connect with people, which I see as a big improvement over the single player RPGs. When you have a good experience with other people in an MMO it is very rewarding. You feel good.
I have actually found it is also a good way to keep in touch with people that I wouldn't normally talk to for long periods of time. I hate talking on the phone - nothing personal, just who I am. But I can easily chat with friends and family online while we're playing and it gives us that one more thing in common to tie us together.
GB: If you could name one or two things you want to improve when it comes to MMO standards, what would they be?
Jason: The 2 big things that I always think about improving upon are the storytelling and the character development, because I personally have not been happy with it in any of the MMOs I've played.
I think the core storytelling methods used in current MMOs could be improved on. A lot of the concepts of the worlds I've visited feel very convoluted to me. When you have a couple thousand quests that are given out sporadically, it is very hard to keep the story together. The story can easily get lost in the noise produced by the designers attempting to be creative with their quests. And this can make the world lack cohesion.
True character development is another thing I would like to see improved. It seems like most MMOs have reduced characters to a grouping of stats and a configuration of skills. I don't want to go into details about my ideas at the moment, but I will say that I believe there needs to be a feeling that you are making choices in the world and at the very least I believe these choices should affect your character personally.
GB: The massively multiplayer market basically comes down to World of Warcraft and then everyone else somewhere down the list, which really isn't the case for any other video game genre. How do you feel about stepping into a sector with such an odd market share distribution?
Jason: I don't worry so much about the market share distribution. I know it sounds arrogant, but I am planning on making an awesome MMO. I am trying to put a team together that shares both my enthusiasm and my vision. This question goes back to my feelings of defeatism that you see in the industry.
There are many people who say "Oh, you're making an MMO? And you really think you're going to compete with WoW?" And you would not believe how many times I have heard something along those lines... That is not the attitude I want on my team. I am playing MMOs and I am enjoying them. WarCraft is one of the games I play, but it is not the only one.
I am making a game that I truly believe in and that I am willing to pour my heart and soul into. I am not worried about WarCraft. So many people say "Why Try?", but my response is "Why not?"
GB: Can we ever expect to see you back in the single-player RPG business?
Jason: Well of course. As I've stated in other interviews, I love games. All types of games. Heck, I'd love to work on a tactical turn-based strategy game too. As I stated earlier, something like that will come along, just give it some time.
I will be occupied with this project for a few years, so it might not be me that rebirths the genre, but it will definitely happen. I have no doubt of that. And when it does I'll be right there with the rest of you guys - ready to play!
We'd like to thank Jason for his time and his wife Sharon for prodding him on until he answered these questions. We look forward to hearing more from Jason in the (near) future!
Thomas "Brother None" Beekers
Jason D. Anderson Creative Director Interplay Entertainment MMORPG Project
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