By Chris Connor – Editor-in-Chief of GameOgre.com
Current State of the MMOFPS
Do you find most MMORPGs boring? Do you get tired of going from Point A to Point B to kill whatever and then return back to point A? Then it may be time for you to trade in your MMORPG for a MMOFPS. MMOFPS stands for massively multiplayer online first person shooter and is basically the MMO cousin of online shooters like the Battlefield and Unreal Tournament franchises. While most MMORPG combat systems require little to no hand-eye coordination the MMOFPS focuses on intense combat in a persistent world. There have been a few MMORPGs with MMOFPS aspects like Neocron 2 and Star Wars Galaxies and one high-profile MMOFPS called PlanetSide but that one great genre-lifting MMOFPS has not yet arrived. Neocron 2 is an exciting MMORPG due to its combat system but does not have a huge player base. SWG’s new combat system has actually lost older players and PlanetSide has been only a moderate success due largely to a huge learning curve and long periods of inactivity. However the potential for the overall genre remains considerably high.
The Hypothetical MMOFPS
Imagine the possibilities of the MMOFPS genre for a second. Instead of going through the tired old tread mill of generic missions and level grinding blast through a combination of other players and intelligent bots on a massive scale. There would be no rooms or lobbies that you have to scan through to find a vacancy but one persistent world. The game would be as simple as an FPS but would have enough depth to keep you coming back. You would also not be able to camp a certain monster for treasure because their would be no monster or treasure. Kills would not be just a score that is continually tracked for your characters but would function in place of the experience points found in MMORPGs. These kills would allow you to invest in armor and weapons instead of having levels and choosing special skills each level. Players with enough kills would be given special titles and equipment that they would have to defend like the top gunslingers in the old west.
So players with more kills would have better shooting stats and could therefore kill me easily? No an MMOFPS can not act like a MMORPG with shooting because it would take away from the shooter aspect. Just because one soldier has more experience in combat does not mean he can outshoot a younger soldier. On the other hand veteran players do need to be rewarded for their time in the game or it would be no better than a series of death matches. This is where the weapons and equipment would come in. Players with more kills would have access to better weapons and body armor. A newbie with great hand-eye coordination a trackball and a state-of-the-art PC might be able to mow down fellow newbies with a couple of pistols but he/she would have a much tougher time against a veteran with solid armor and an automatic rifle. Weapons earned by more kills would do more damage and would fire significantly faster than the initial weapons.
Worried about players buying currency on a MMORPG sales site to buy all the best weapons? Don’t be because the only currency would be the number of kills you get in combat. This lack of a tradeable currency would take out many of the headaches plaguing today’s MMORPGs like farming camping fighting in groups over treasure and unbalanced economies.
Would there be two or three sides warring against each other? The ultimate MMOFPS needs to be full throttle action in order to satisfy the potential of the genre so that old formula does not make much sense here. Of course there would need to be like a no-man’s land for individual players only but the most exciting solution to warring sides would be for players to form there own groups and war against other groups and individual players. By groups I don’t mean where you are playing and somebody invites out of the clear blue and you are suddenly a team. Then the group breaks up suddenly because the group leader’s mother is calling or they have to go to sleep. A group in this hypothetical MMOFPS would be formed by trials only. A trial would consist of something like killing 3 bots in under one minute or surviving against 7 bots etc. Group by trial would weed out the players that lack staying power to form longer lasting groups. Switching groups would also be hard because you would have to take another trial.
The Ultimate MMOFPS Killer
So why hasn’t a game like this been made already? Most of the problems of the MMOFPS genre boils down to servers and how much lag they can avoid. MMORPGers may hate lag but lag is literally deadly in a MMOFPS. First person shooters are so intense and offer so little downtime that any type of lag is too disruptive to the game. The last thing that you want is to think you are shooting at somebody when that person has already moved from that spot and has now killed you! With a large number of player still on dial-up modems instead of broadband and the fact that large numbers of players will be in the same area at the same time at least some amount of lag is pretty much inevitable. That said the hypothetical MMOFPS described above may have to be for broadband players only or for a game with the right server technology that can handle thousands of broadband and non-broadband players at once without any lag.
The Killer App?
Without question there is hope on the horizon for the genre due to a highly-anticipated MMOFPS called Huxley. Huxley promises to be the best MMOFPS to date with both side and large scale battles extensive multiplayer battle modes high interaction consequences continually updated quests and combat style development. The features sound great and graphics look amazing but the true test for the game will be how well it can handle thousands of players at once. Monthly fee or no monthly fee look for the entire MMOFPS genre to swell in popularity if Huxley delivers on its tremendous potential.