It only does everything! Even Bingo?
Online gaming is not a new concept – hell I remember dialling up people to play ID games directly over my 28.8 modem! No, online gaming has been around for ages… what’s new though is the amount of people discovering online play and what that could mean for the future when new hardware arrives.
Now certainly many have come to online gaming through disconnected means. For instance playing Call of Duty over Xbox Live. Tending their crops via Facebook, or feeling the social rush playing Bingo with their friends.
It’s via these means that gaming online has become such a huge part of most people’s lives. Does your aunt even realise the mechanics buried within a game like Song Pop? No. Nor should she care. The conjoining elements here are the social aspects. Xbox Live, as fun as it can be, wouldn’t be the place it is today if Microsoft hadn’t incorporated easy to use voice chat – and included that free headset for most SKUs.
Likewise a lot of companies like Zynga or PopCap would have languished in the realms of shareware on the PC or poorly constructed gaming dump sites, if it hadn’t been for the likes of Facebook. Tight integration with social mechanics has brought online gaming to the masses. More people are connected globally by online gaming now than ever before and it can only continue to grow.
As more and more titles embrace the social aspects the longer they will run. Look at the shelf life of a title like Call of Duty 4. A huge milestone title that changed a lot of what first person shooters had been doing since Quake. But, since 2007, how much revenue and business has COD 4 done? Take the example of World of Warcraft. A massively successful game too, one that has sold many millions of boxed and online copies. It continues to do many millions of dollars worth of business though, even 8 years after release. It does this by engaging people on a global scale. Pushing the social aspects of guilds and group quests and making people band together.
As we approach a new year & face the upcoming announcements of new games consoles, one thing seems incredibly clear to me. Social and co-operative play has had its early years. It’s had its teenage years. It’s time it grew up and become all it can be.
Titles like Dust 514 are embracing a concept that many have hinted at and one I’ve tried to write design after design against for years. In the same way that when Peter Molyneux finally had the idea of letting you see and move around your theme park in 3D, rather than viewed from the over head view. The next genre of multiplayer and co-op titles will take a step towards a more global theatre of play.
Allowing people to interact with a game world from multiple angles is a logical step and Eve/Dust 242 are making this early move. To expand that further why not have a game world that speak to many player types at once? One limit yourself by saying Space Gunner Blaster Boy 14 is a platform shooter, with a hint of RPG? Why not just make Space Gunner Online. Then have platform fans interact with the game as a 3D/2D platform title. You undertake missions to collect rare materials from around the Space Gunner worlds. Simulation fans then purchase the materials with in-game currency to construct the factories, buildings, roads and general infrastructure of the Space Gunner universe.
Space exploration gamers can then take a ship, made from the factories, and use it to explore new worlds – make contact with other civilisations (also more gamers in the universe) who are also evolving at their own pace. Trade routes are established, pirates must be patrolled against so your flight sim and space combat fans get to interact with the same world by being the airforce for their respective home worlds or corporations.
Inevitably wars will break out so you then have your RTS fans laying in the strategy for war. This then feeds in to scenarios that First Person Shooter fans can drop in to and interact with a world in a meaningful and permanent way.
The options and scope are endless and massively daunting. The amount of work to bring this to fruition seems insurmountable. That’s not the case though. You’d need a visionary publisher/developer. Someone with money and ideas to burn. We’re talking Valve or Activision here in all reality. They have all these game types already in existence. All they need to do is pool the ideas in to one whole. To weave the online thread throughout the entire product catalogue. Imagine your joy at playing a quick game of Space Gunner Tower Defenders on your iPhone 8 whilst on the bus. Then getting home that night to see that your quick game on the trip to and from work/school has helped defend your home planet and net you a load of cash and resources. Which you then use to build your new hydroponic farm to grow wheat. Which you then sell to get the money to travel on a quest to anywhere in the game universe you want.
The front end technology is in place. The data infrastructure is almost there. What we need now is someone to weave that thread. To see the bigger picture and start to pool this all together to make a conjoined universe.
Who knows… maybe this is what Valve or Blizzard have been up to these past years other than churning out sequels and game updates. These tentative steps made by Eve and Dust 514 will be watched very closely with-in the industry. As was the attempts to make a unified game world/platform by the Trackmania and Shootmania team.
All I can say, with some certainty, is these advance will and must happen. To my mind though we’re looking to people like Peter Molyneux, David Braben, Will Wright or Sid Meier to take us to the next level – to lead innovations once again. It’s not going to work straight away but, to paraphrase Philip Vera Cruz, “If not them, then who? If not now, then when?”.