Redefining MMOs: Pesky persistence pg. 3

With all of this in mind, is this game an MMO? The answer is no.

Even though Chromehounds sports a very impressive level of persistence (victories matter, the map changes according to player input, players can influence the research and development of their nation to add new items into the shop, and dead nations stay dead) it does not qualify as an MMO for one simple reason -- not enough players. While the war itself includes all of the players that play Chromehounds at once, a single battle can only be fought against six other people. It's a six on six deathmatch, when you get right down to it.

Even with all of the other persistent elements that Chromehounds sports, the battles themselves lack any type of persistence. While outcomes have a very strong effect on gameplay, the battles are run over and over and over again by different teams. Results don't "stick" from one battle, they only stick when hundreds upon hundreds of battles are won in that specific zone. Players do not physically interact with one another in a massive space, like in typical MMOs or even 1 vs. 100.

So what's the bottom line?

We've been over so many aspects of persistence today. We've been over definitions, examples of persistence in two different games, and we've even looked at how some games display persistence in one way but lack it in another. But what conclusions can we draw from this? Should we keep persistence in the high regard we do in this genre, or should we throw all caution to the wind and just forget about the whole concept?

The answer of this columnist is that we should do neither. Who the heck cares about persistence? Sure, we just spent two pages discussing what persistence is but if you look closely, this article has an important underlying theme -- no game is truly persistent. No MMO or online game even comes close to absolute persistence, and that's ok.

All games involve some elements that lead to repeating game content. Even EVE Online, for all the steps it makes toward evocative emergent gameplay and world persistence through player conflict, has repetitive content in missions and PvE. We shuck persistence in some aspects of game design simply because it's fun and it allows our games to function properly. If we didn't, who would enjoy an MMO where you could only do everything once?

Until we make a game that acts underneath the laws of true emergence (i.e. completing a task means the task never reappears, but it does trigger hundreds of other one time events that allow player participation that then open up hundreds of other events, etc., etc.) we're never going to operate under complete and total persistence. So why should we even bother testing for persistence until then? Why should we hold it in such high regard when game designers can do so much more when they don't worry about keeping persistence as a main focus?

If you want a great example of a game that we classify as an MMO that shucks persistence, take a look at Guild Wars (That's right GW fans, I didn't forget you!). While Guild Wars is an MMO in some ways, it's closed off into a small online multiplayer game in others. We can agree that it's a fun game, MMO or not, and I think that's the bottom line that I'd like to take away from this article -- who cares about genre when the game is fun? Don't pigeonhole yourself, don't worry about persistence.

So, with all of this said and done, what's your take on the issue of persistence?