MMO veteran Raph Koster (Ultima Online, Star Wars: Galaxies, EverQuest 2) gave some perspective on the future of gaming in the current anniversary edition of Edge (30 years!). However, his claims are based on past observations related to the huge increase in development costs.
Older MMO owners should still be familiar with the name Raph Koster. The American developer worked, for example, as lead designer on genre veteran Ultima Online, as creative director on Everquest 2 and as creative director on Star Wars Galaxies. There are certainly worse representatives of the genre you could have on your CV. Koster also worked for several years on an unannounced sandbox MMO, Playable Words.
Development costs are exploding
Raph Koster is also a member of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences and the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and a welcome speaker at conferences such as GDC. It is therefore not surprising that he is one of the selected developers who have been able to take a look at the future of gaming in the current anniversary edition of Edge (30 years!).
His comments are based on observations he has discussed regularly since 2005 that focus on the vastly escalating costs of game development. For example, in 2018, Koster spoke to numerous studios about their budgets for current game projects and found that game development costs have increased approximately tenfold over the past decade.
“During these expensive times, innovation tends to disappear because the return on investment for innovation in game mechanics is terrible“, explains Koster in a text for Edge. “I’m confident that over the next decade we’ll see some sort of platform breakthrough that will put things back on track.“
Ambitious online role-playing games that want to compete with WoW or FF14 have for many years been among the most time-consuming, expensive and risky projects one can dare to undertake. And Koster’s observation about the lack of innovation has been evident for some time. Instead of playful creativity, many MMORPGs have even moved away from what potentially characterizes the genre towards better single-player experiences to appeal to the widest possible target group.
However, it’s unclear what Koster means in detail with the platform’s twist. Perhaps an engine that allows developers to create large worlds and fill them with content with relatively little effort? Or a new player in the industry that is reaching a similar milestone with its innovative MMORPG as Blizzard once did with WoW? What do you mean? Tell us your opinion on the topic in the comments!