Camelot Unchained and Crowfall, the Possible Future of MMOs

An editorial on Rock, Paper, Shotgun talks about the current state of MMO games, their perceived decline, and lists two hopeful contenders that may help get the online gaming industry out of a rut. These games are Camelot Unchained and Crowfall, both successful Kickstarter projects leaning towards specialization and a scope that's more manageable than something as grand as World of Warcraft. Will these games revitalize things or will they see lukewarm reception like The Secret World did before them? Only time will tell. For now, we have our hopes, developers' promises, and an excerpt from the article:

Such success on Kickstarter doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on either of these games reviving a flagging genre, or of them even following through on their promise on release. What it does do, however, is set a precedent for experimentation within the genre, showing that there is a player base willing to support something unique. Innovation within MMOs has been in short supply for some time.

World of Warcraft may have found such success because the genre was stagnating and its approach (arguably a highly polished amalgamation of everything before it) revitalised the genre. In many ways, Camelot Unchained and Crowfall are attempting to do the same, but instead of spinning plates across multiple game modes, they’re utilising their resources and industry pedigree to innovate in a much narrower space.

It would be doing both games a huge disservice to suggest that they’re simply offering another PvP MMO. Instead, each studio has started from scratch when it comes to core design decisions. The way players deal with death, how they craft, use abilities, design their homes or even choose their archetype have all been radically altered. Additionally, both studios are ensuring the development of their titles are community led, complete with realistic timelines. Most importantly, each studio is conscious of the fact that they can’t please everyone and so have no intention of trying to.

Risk is inevitable when such radical changes to a traditional formula are made, especially when those changes have the potential to alienate the very players you’re trying to entice. But even if both games fail miserably upon arrival, City State Entertainment and ArtCraft Entertainment should be applauded for attempting to find new ways to allow masses of players to interact and play together online. We could also look to Worlds Adrift, which is putting physics-based exploration and combat, and persistent hand-built locations and crafts at the heart of its design.

MMOs have followed predictable designs for a long time, adding more features and systems to their worlds rather than concentrating on innovation around a particular feature or idea. Things may be about to change for the better.