Here at Massively, we're slowly becoming bigger and bigger fans of Lila Dreams, a tiny little MMO with some big ideas so far. The latest post over at the dev blog talks about how they made the best use of things that would normally be thought of as limitations in MMO design, and actually came out of it with more creativity than if they'd used more traditional MMO technology. The game is built in Java and Flash and is only 2D, but instead of settling for cheap animation, the designers actually used the drawback as a benefit, and designed a 2D scheme that lays down a set of bones, which can then be customized with any art that the designer wants to put in. What that means for players is customization -- the animation is designed around movement, not specific art, so lots of clothing or items or shapes can be put in their places, and the animation will still work.
It also means, they say, that anyone can be designing animation, since instead of drawing frames or creating movement, you're just dragging keyframes around until they look right. The idea itself isn't necessarily new (lots of designers have used this "paper doll" philosophy, and of course letting anyone do animation doesn't guarantee that Lila Dreams will be anything special), but it's a good sign of the creativity of the Lila Dreams team that they took what most MMO developers would see as a negative (the limitations of Java and Flash), and made something interesting out of it. Can't wait to see they game they're cooking up.