Saturday, December 15, 2012

Handhelds Need a Proper MMO



As someone who has spent an obscene amount of time across a number of massively multiplayer online games, I can't help but wonder why there doesn't exist a single MMO worth playing on a portable system. In fact, the only one that comes to mind that would possibly be considered an mmo is Heroes of Ruin on the 3DS, a Diablo-esque action RPG geared towards online cooperative play, though it features instance-based gameplay, which in my mind disqualifies it from being a "true" MMO.

Part of the appeal of MMOs of all genres is the ability to freely traverse their worlds, running into players and forming ad-hoc parties, trading gear, and more. Instance-based games are devoid of this sense of community, and instead have players use a matchmaking system to form parties to play in private maps. Even being able to can play with people around the globe, this aspect makes it feel like a local co-op game.

Maybe nobody is willing to take a risk this big. After all, it's one thing to make a game with procedurally generated random dungeons, but it's another beast entirely to craft a world big enough for hundreds of players at once. Failing in this endeavor would cripple or seriously maim most studios, but one comes to mind. I'm looking at you GameFreak. If there is one series that rivals sports games in selling us virtually the same game over and over, its the Pokemon games.

Picture it. Freely roaming the many regions of  the Pokemon universe, running into actual players in the wild and being able to challenge them on the spot. Battles against real players are the highlight of the series for many, especially considering the core formula hasn't changed much. Meet the professor, select one of three monsters, get badges, fight your rival, beat the league, all while foiling the evil gang's plans... Over the years, the main campaign has become the sideshow. Pitting your monsters against other humans is where the games shine, and it's exponentially more fun than fighting predictable AI.

This wouldn't even have to be the end of the core series as we know it, but it could exist as a new layer. After all, it's assuring having the pokemon you've spent dozens of hours IV breeding and EV training on a physical piece of media, and not tied to a hackable account stored in the cloud or on the handheld itself which is prone to being broken. The games could continue being released as they are, but with an online option, which would connect your game to a server and allow your file to be played in a shared space with any number of other trainers.Given GameFreak's tendency toward incremental evolution, this might be more plausible than a strictly MMO Pokemon game, but regardless of how they do it, I think we can all agree that it's something the series can only benefit from.

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