The gaming industry has drastically changed over its fifty year-plus stint; video games have become a giant that few would have imagined back when “Pong” was the hottest thing, (and even more-so to “Tennis for Two” creator William Higinbotham back in 1958) and some even stack up against Hollywood’s finest films in terms of substance. Perhaps the biggest change thus far is the MMO (massively multiplayer online) genre, where people from all over the world can come together and play the same game in a world that is evolving around them. Games have evolved from a series of pixels popping back and forth on an analog screen to completely fleshed out worlds that we can explore and immerse ourselves in –some more than others. One thing that remains similar between these games is the ability to play with others simultaneously.
Multiplayer has always been a big part of video games and their success. From “Tennis for Two” to “Call of Duty,” multiplayer has been key in making the experience new and ever-changing. It’s not to say that single player games are not as captivating, but there’s something about always being in a battle to best your friends in an all-out war, or working together as a coherent team to overcome the greatest of odds. In the horror genre we have yet to see much of this, “Left 4 Dead” being the closest thing to a significant team experience. There are other titles, “Resident Evil 5” for example, allows you to play with another person to go through the campaign together and fight off everything that comes at you. The problem with these titles is that they are more action than horror; with zombies running full-force at you it becomes more of a scramble of button-mashing than legitimately being startled and using precision to get away. Believe it or not, zombies are just scarier when they lurk in the dark.
So how is all of this relevant? I have been mulling over some ideas and I feel that the MMO genre, which seems to have centralized itself in medieval and sci-fi games, has overlooked horror for the most part. So this piece is generally going to be offering suggestions and ideas (we want your input as well) to what would make a great, horrific MMO.
To bring it all the way back the zombie heyday, I would make player-constructed barricades a must; imagine holing up with your buddies, manually boarding up the doors and windows for the night, after having spent a long, threat-filled day gathering rations and supplies. Upon entering and leaving the house, one of your mates stands watch on the rooftop, clearing the area around your house of any looming terrors waiting to pounce.
The atmosphere would be a combination of changing weather –from warm and sunny days, to fierce thunderstorms. Fog would encase the forests after a long shower and the days would fade in and out of dusk and dawn ala “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.” The daytime would be just as terrifying as the nights, only different terrors await you during the day: raiders who would just as soon kill you than let you take any resources that they could claim for themselves roam everywhere, both NPCs and human players. Other player groups could come to your house or bunker attempting to kill you and steal your rations, taking your residence for their own.
When night falls, your daytime enemies become your allies as you fight for survival from horrific creatures. Zombies, vampires, werewolves -whatever the epidemic is, it lurks in the night and waits to feast on human flesh. A raider that was once attacking you and your friends is now turning his back to you to fend off a lumbering zombie, waiting to eat his brains. Do you help him in an act of humanity or let him die for fear that once dawn comes, he will come back for you?
The possibilities are endless and a survival horror MMO would fit nicely in the mix of current MMO’s, adding its own elements of gameplay and story. Could your characters gain levels? Perhaps, anything is possible. Would it be an MMO without upping your characters’ attributes but being able to find and create your own weapons from the environment? Think about the possibilities and what you would want in a game like this. I look forward to reading your comments and thoughts!!