Redefining MMOs: Pesky Persistence

Seraphina Brennan
S. Brennan|08.14.09

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Redefining MMOs: Pesky Persistence

Here in Redefining MMOs we've been over terminology, working with lore, the place of soloing in our online games, players acting as developers, and attempting to get away from the carbon copy feel of the genre. With all of that in mind, where could we possibly head to next? Well, how about dealing with persistence?

One persistent world holding thousands of players simultaneously, a world that continues even when you log off. That was the dream, wasn't it? Having an insane number of players all occupying the same game space? Having you and 100 of your closest friends (or perhaps enemies) battling it out over loot, bosses, pvp, and anything else the game had to offer? Persistence has long been one of the central aspects of the MMO genre, where "one continuous world" rules over all. So is persistence what defines an MMO or is it not that clear cut? Perhaps persistence is nothing more than a pesky piece of unpleasant pie and maybe we shouldn't define our genre by it as we do now.

In this issue of Redefining MMOs, I'm going to tackle the thorny issue of persistence, from its definition down to what we perceive the word to mean. I'm also going to include a discussion on two very different games -- 1 vs. 100 and Chromehounds -- and put both to the MMO persistence test. Then, as the article all comes together, I'm going to tackle the biggest question of them all: "Does persistence matter?" If you have an opinion on this week's subject, feel free to leave a comment on page 3 or even write your own "Redefining MMOs" blog post and leave a comment with the URL.
The Curious Case of 1 vs. 100

Earlier this year, to much fan faire, Xbox Live finally launched their Primetime Channel service with their first free game: 1 vs. 100. This flagship title, based on the game show of the same name, was the second "massively multiplayer" game to make it to the Xbox console, only trailing Final Fantasy XI. However, we here at Massively were presented with a problem -- is 1 vs. 100 a "true massively multiplayer game?". At Massively we have regularly applied what we call the "persistence" test to games that come up to us, asking for coverage. If the game features a persistent world, we're more likely to cover it over games that do not.

This is one of the reasons we've ceased our coverage of Exteel, as the game focused more on small team combat set in non-changing instances. So, we set out to apply the same test to 1 vs. 100 and, of course, it immediately failed. The game simply isn't persistent. Now here's the problem -- how could 1 vs. 100 ever be persistent? It's a game show, and game shows are never persistent. Contestants change, games reset, and new prizes are made available to be won. The game, by it's basic design, can never be persistent. Yet doesn't it hold a massive amount of players simultaneously?

1 vs. 100, if you just take into account the 100 player mob and the single contestant, seats 101 people per game. That's already more people than a lot of online games deal with in one space. Still, if you expand that out and take into consideration the viewing/playing audience (who can win prizes and have an impact in the main game via the "trust the crowd" lifeline) you have 70,000+ people all playing the same game simultaneously against one another. Although those players aren't all displayed on screen at the same time in the same universe, that's more than 20 World of Warcraft servers combined (at about around two to three thousand people per server) and even more than EVE Online's concurrent connections record. It's clearly massively multiplayer and an online game, yet it does not get the "MMO" branding from sites like us. Why?

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