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Redefining MMOs: Pesky persistence pg. 2


The illusion of persistence

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that 1 vs. 100 shouldn't get the MMO treatment because the world isn't continuous. The game state resets often and those 70,000 people aren't really "in the same world." There's just no persistence there. But what does persistence mean? By dictionary definitions, persistence means to continue onwards with some degree of permanence or to display continued existence. If you're wikipedia, then you actually link the concept of the persistent world to the definition of the massively multiplayer game. Now take that definition, apply it to your favorite MMO, and think on how much of your favorite MMO includes some level of permanence.

If you're an EVE Online, Darkfall, Ultima Online, or Shadowbane player, I'm sure you can point to plenty of aspects of permanence to your games. But everyone else, well, you may have just realized how much your game resets. No quest is ever truly completed forever. No action you take has any lasting permanence. As much as you want to save the princess, you can't. As much as you want to kill the raid boss, he still has to be around for next week, the week after that, and available to every single guild in the game. So what resets more? 1 vs. 100 or your standard MMO?

Now certainly you could argue that your gear and statistics certainly persist, as they obviously last from playsession to playsession. But, at the same time, don't the prizes and money in 1 vs. 100 persist as well? They don't exactly get wiped when the game is over. This is where the illusion in MMOs comes in: the world doesn't persist but the characters do. Because we continue to exist and continue "forwards," the world seems to persist along with us. We modify our characters via leveling, items, and abilities and that gives us the illusion that the world changes along with us. However, since the effect of this "persistence" to you is essentially to save your own state between play sessions, it's no greater than a save state in your favorite offline game or a game of Team Fortress 2. It does nothing more, and nothing less.

The Case of Chromehounds

For those of you still clinging to the concept of persistence, let me relate to you one of my favorite games -- Chromehounds for the Xbox 360. I'll describe to you the gameplay, and you can feel free to call out if you think it's an MMO to your monitor. The online component of Chromehounds is called the Neroimus War. In this mode, players must join with one of the three nations of the game, and then they must join with a squad of other players. Squads function much like guilds, as players join the squad and then fight alongside members of their squads in missions.

The world map is divided into locations, with certain areas being contested. When your nation is contesting an area, it's open for you to select and play in. Upon choosing the area, you team up with up to five other people to fight in that specific area. If you win, points are added in your nation's favor and you earn cash and items. Lose, and your enemy gains control points, the cash, and the item. When one nation gets enough points, control swings in their favor and the battle moves a step down the line, opening brand new areas for conflict. If you push the battles all the way back to a side's capital city, and then win enough battles in the capital city, then the city calls and the nation is destroyed.

Players of a losing nation may either decided to join up with one of the two remaining nations or turn into mercenaries and attempt to resurrect their nation by, once again, winning battles in their capital city. If one nation is left standing, the war is declared over and the winning sides gets achievements, special items, and other perks. The server shuts down for a day, and then a new war starts the next day.

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