Crysis, again on the myth of MMOFPS

I saw the news quoted on Joystiq but the original article is currently unavailable, so I cannot read the details.

Here’s what they say:

Power Struggle’s general concept isn’t innovative. You begin the game as a grunt, with just a pistol and basic armor. You’ll gain ranks and earn credits, which can be used to purchase upgraded equipment, by fragging your opponents and completing other tasks (e.g. securing capture points). The end goal is to help your team overthrow the opponent’s base. Now here’s where Power Struggle gets interesting …

To successfully destroy the other team’s HQ, you’ll have to harness the power of alien technology. Randomly generated throughout each map are various crash sites where players can scavenge for alien cores. These energy sources can be used to transform your team’s arsenal into weapons capable of achieving victory. However, you’ll first have to build up that arsenal by capturing structures that manufacture basic weapons and vehicles — and you’ll also have to provide the manufacturing materials.

Apparently, it can take up to 10 hours to launch an attack capable of winning a Power Struggle match. In-game, this feels like days, as one full day/night cycle is completed in two hours. Which means, yes, Crysis’ multiplayer will feature dynamic light – cycles as the icing on the cake.

I’m sort of reluctant to write about this because all I was thinking I managed to explain rather well in some old posts and forum threads. And right now I’m don’t feel as enlightened as I was. That discussion about “the myth of MMOFPS” was even spawned by some thoughts and anticipations about WoW’s PvP that are more actual today than how they were at that time (the theory is: “skill” and RPGs are antithetic, trying to match them is stupid).

Many FPS are already biting into the mmorpg genre or planning to do so. The point is that they can draw more useful ideas from it than what the mmorpg genre can draw from FPSs.

I was planning to write a follow up to that article and that forum thread I linked went in that direction (see the first page), then other things caught my attention as it often happens and I forgot to write it.

In the meantime I had managed to isolate three basic rules that say “why a MMOFPS cannot be a good idea”:

Exclusive choices

– You cannot have detailed character customization if you want large battles.
– You cannot have a satisfying and deep character progression if you want “skill” to matter.
– You cannot have persistent, huge environments if you want the situation to remain accessible for everyone

My point is, a FPS can integrate RPG-like elements and be a better game doing so. I believe that the FPS genre is already much more innovative and interesting than the mmorpg genre, so I expect to see interesting things. A FPS can already have all the persistence it needs, so inverting the model and make a mmorpg like a FPS just cannot be a good choice because it would lead just to many issues without doing really any good to the game.

In that original article I listed the only two “features” coming from the mmorpg genre that I think would be appealing to a FPS. The first is the more complex environments with various layers overlapping and interacting, the other is the persistence.

The first is already happening everywhere (as an example think to the upcoming “Enemy Territory”). Even this last description about Crysis tries to achieve that, hinting at the possibility to break the 10-hour game into a number of smaller missions. Those missions are there to add variation to an otherwise monotonous and static game (who is going to play 10 hours non-stop?). So it adds a tactical depth and a layer of complexity to the environment.

Then there’s the second point, the persistence, which I said was also divided into two parts. The persistence of your character and the persistence of the environment. In the case of Crysis we see the persistence and progression of the character directly tied with the one of the environment as the players progress by accomplishing tasks that depend on the world and “power struggle” itself.

But ultimately I HAVE to ask myself. What is the point? And you should ask yourself too.

In my mind that type of game described will likely lead to a bunch of issues. For example, how you keep the team balanced? It’s not a big issues in a CTF or Deatmatch, where the people you start with aren’t probably going to disconnect in the middle of the game. But on a game that can last up to ten hours you DO expect people to leave. Even if you keep the balance by forcing the players only to join the faction with less players active, you are still going to create gameplay paradoxes. What if, for example, a player drops out only to reconnect and join the opposite faction? It happens often in CounterStrike where a match only lasts a few minutes, so slef-contained, but how’s this coherent with a game mode that is based on the persistence? What’s the point of fighting for 10 hours, trying to slowly obtain progress for your team, when you can switch in a heartbeat to the other side and negate all the persistence? What prevents a frustrated team to gives up right in the middle of a game, drop out and go search for a more favorable situation in another game?

And if we admit that over the course of a 10-hours game there will be (obviously) a constant recycle of the players, then we have to justify the “worth” of the game within the limit of the playsession of ONE player. Where’s the interest of joining such a mode if you are only going to play for one of the total ten hours? You probably won’t ever know who won the match, so everything should be contained in that hour. How the 10-hour persistence adds to the experience of a single player who joins for his own hour?

How they prevent a game to remain balanced so that new players can feel motivated to join instead of jumping from server to server trying to find a match with a favorable situation? I mean, if the match lasts 10 hours then it means that both teams had the possibility to win for all those 10 hours, or one team would have just left the game if they were going toward a sure defeat. Isn’t this happening all the time in WoW’s Alterac Valley? And if the match remained perfectly balanced for ten hours straight, then it wouldn’t likely mean that the whole situation was rather static? And in this last case, where is the fun if for the hour that you can play you are just trapped in that immovable, static situation?

At the end there’s again that doubt that I expressed back then:
– Where are the benefits of a persistent environment in the middle term (week/month) compared to one that resets at the end of a play-session?

Or, more precisely, what are the benefits of a semi-persitent world that lasts longer than the average playsession?

So why trying to do all that?

Well, I have a theory. I suspect it’s all just in the name of the immersivity.

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