Blizzard Discusses the Challenges of Console MMO’s

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The Xbox 360 and PS3  are not known for their massively multiplayer online games. While there have been a few such games to grace consoles, like Final Fantasy X1 on the 360, and upcoming DC Universe online and Final Fantasy XIV on PS3, the nature of console’s peer-to-peer networking ensures that implementing and maintaining large online universes for consoles is a tricky endeavour.

Speaking to CVG, The undisputed champions of the contemporary MMO, World of Warcraft developers Blizzard’s Greg Street and David Kosak  have discussed the challenges and obstacles of creating a console-based MMO.

"I think the control scheme is a part of it,” street said. “The traditional MMO has always had a lot of typing and is dependent on the mouse and keyboard paradigm.” A few years ago everyone said the FPS couldn’t be done on consoles and clearly Microsoft has been able to pull that off with Halo and other games. Hopefully someone will be able to do the same for an MMO on a console."

"It’s a real design challenge because you have to throw out a lot of what you’ve learned on a PC,” said Kosak.”On PC you’re sitting right in front of a screen, you can have a lot of dense information displayed and very complex control schemes. If you’re playing on a couch from a distance with a controller, it requires very different design.” "I’m sure someone will solve that problem. I’m amazed it hasn’t been solved yet but someone has to put a lot of thought into it and it has to be the right game for that medium.

"I think we’ll see something in the next few years. (Laughs) I said that a few years ago but I’m pretty sure someone will solve that problem! It’s tricky but someone has got to be able to find an answer to that."

Another reason for console MMO’s scarcity, particularly on Microsoft’s platform, is the closed nature of Live. "Yes, I think certainly that we would place really heavy demand on the technical structure of those things before it was something Blizzard would want to get into."

I’m terribly afraid of MMO’s…I have a somewhat addictive personality, and I fear I may never see sunlight again if I were to start playing ‘em. Then there’s also the fact that there’d be subscription costs involved, over and above the cost of Xbox Live. I’ve signed up for the DC Universe Online beta, and that may change my stance. It might also signal the end of my social life.

Check out the full interview, here

Last Updated: December 7, 2010

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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