Recap: The Future of MMORPGs with Chris Roberts, Richard Garriott, & Luminaries

By Published March 07, 2015 at 6:30 pm
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PAX East 2015 kicked-off to an energetic, populous crowd earlier today, and the day’s activities concluded with similar veracity: A panel of MMO & RPG veterans collected to discuss the future of massively online gaming, filling-in the entirety of the assigned theater.

The panel drew substantial interest from fans of Star Citizen, Shroud of the Avatar (or Ultima), Trove, and Pathfinder Online. Among peers, the most noteworthy names on the panel are inarguably Richard Garriott – “Lord British,” to Ultima players – and Chris Roberts, the visionary behind Wing Commander, Freelancer, and Star Citizen.

The panelists in full included:

  • Chris Roberts, Cloud Imperium Games.
  • Richard Garriott, co-founder of now-defunct Origin Systems and active Portalarium.
  • Andrew Krausnick, Lead Designer at Trion Worlds (Trove).
  • Adam Hetenyi, Game Designer at Trion Worlds.
  • Jon Peters, Lead Game Designer at ArenaNet (Guild Wars 2).
  • Ryan Dancey, CEO, Goblinworks (Pathfinder Online).
  • Bill Murphy of MMORPG.com, the panel host.

Below are select components of the discussion panel:

Discussion began with the developers introducing their titles and legacy, then discussing the means through which their games were published. For many, the pathway to publication involved fan crowd-funding, though Jon Peters of Guild Wars provided a much-needed anchor to the traditional world of game publishing.

Richard Garriott brought-up the topic of industry stagnation as it pertains to basic mechanical expectations:

“You spend an hour in the character creator to make a character before you’ve ever even played the game because you won’t have a chance to do that again, which is wrong – that’s wrong,” Garriott said.

The Ultima creator further enumerated examples of long-standing RPG mechanics, including those pertaining to questing and NPC interaction. Garriott’s primary example was established by stating that players of his game – Shroud of the Avatar – get to decide “what a quest looks and feels like.” The industry veteran detailed that his questing system requires the player to manually make note of various tasks, thus imparting control to the player over her own adventures.

A later question explored the role of crowd-funded game development within a relatively mature industry, prompting clarification from Jon Peters (GW2): “Don’t conflate talking to the fans with crowd-funding,” he urged, before explaining that traditional, non-crowdsourced games still hold incredible weight and viability within the industry. Other panelists, Chris Roberts and Richard Garriott included, expressed relief at the freedom afforded by shedding ties with publishers; the two veterans, formerly housed by Origin Systems, have reason to feel dubiously about publishers.

When asked how to best keep-up with the modern games industry and ensure community interaction, Adam Hetenyi stated simply: “Update all the damn time.” The rest of the panel agreed, emphasizing the impact of regular player-to-developer contact.

Asked about monetization models, all the panelists seemed to differ on their positions. Chris Roberts said “you definitely have to buy entry,” indicating server costs, upkeep, and ongoing advancement of the studio.

Ryan Dancey noted his preference to be “paid for the work [he] did this month,” furthering that “if that’s a subscription, fine.” This, Dancey thinks, allows the player the most flexibility to bail on a game that loses development passion.

The entirety of the panel is available in the video above.

- Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke.

Last modified on March 08, 2015 at 6:30 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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