Redefining MMOs" series, a collection of articles examining how the MMO genre has been redefined during the current generation of games and where it's headed in the next. So far, we've looked at the terminology we use to refer to MMOs, how the art of storytelling has changed over the years, and the rise of the "massively singleplayer" online game. In this week's article, I examine what happens when players are given the reigns of an MMO or have a hand in part of its development. If you have something important to say on the topic, feel free to post a comment on page 3 or even write your own "Redefining MMOs" blog post and leave a comment with the URL.
Traditionally, all content for an MMO is designed by the game's development studio and players have no direct influence on its creation. The idea of handing the reigns of an MMO to its players is considered heresy and we shudder to think of what horrible quests and areas players would construct if given a chance. But is our aversion justified or is it something developers should strive to overcome? Certainly Second Life has successfully capitalised on letting players develop almost every aspect of its virtual world but could successful mainstream MMOs make use of it too? City of Heroes, EVE Online and even World of Warcraft are prime examples which suggest they can. All three of these games have handed at least some part of the game's development over to players, with incredibly promising results.
In this article, I look at these three successful examples of players being allowed to develop aspects of an MMO. I then go on to explain why this works and how the next generation of MMOs could learn from these pioneering feats.