progression servers

If You Could Do It All Again – Progression Servers

We live in an age of the geek ascendant. Superhero movies continue to draw in billions of dollars and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. The movies and shows we loved in the past are being remixed, reworked and rebooted, for better or worse.

Gaming is making more money than ever and continues to work its way into every aspect of peoples’ lives. You can play a game pretty much anywhere now.

So given that gaming is so popular and also given that costs are so high in development, why do we never see reboots? Where is the Amazing Spider-man of Azeroth and where is the superior Spider-Man Homecoming of the Alliance and Horde? Clearly World of Warcraft itself in this example is the Sam Raimi Spider-Man, for better or for worse.

This whole idea came from the news of RIFT Prime. RIFT Prime, if you hadn’t heard is an upcoming vanilla and progression server from Trion Worlds. They are bringing back the subscription model for it and they are dumping lock boxes and the vast majority of items currently available in the store. They also promise to progressively unlock the content of the game through in-game milestones and monthly achievements for players.

All in all, that sounds like an awful lot of fun. Be sure to watch here for more when we get our hands on it.

What I would like to discuss is not a vanilla server like Blizzard is working on for World of Warcraft. It’s not a progression server like Trion is doing for RIFT or like Daybreak has done previously for EverQuest and EverQuest II. It’s not even a retooling like Funcom pulled off with Secret World Legends, ripping out the combat in The Secret World and repackaging the game with new combat mechanics and some graphics love.

I would like to discuss what you would do if you could do it all over again. Creating a brand new MMO from scratch is a labor of love, as well as a vast undertaking in terms of hundreds of hours of work to say nothing of the financial cost. Yes, there are ways to bring down some of these. There are ever improving tools available to developers and hobbyists to create games and scale them up for larger and larger audiences. Between free engines available to people and new technologies like we are seeing used in Crowfall or by SpatialOS, the future looks very interesting for people to experiment in. What if you didn’t have to though…?

What if we not only got a vanilla World of Warcraft or a vanilla Everquest II but then took them in a different direction entirely? When some of these MMOs have been out for years upon years and built constantly on the content they began with, there are always some bits that people did not like nearly as much as research might have suggested. There is always that one release no one likes. In terms of Guild Wars 2, I can point to specific moments in the Living World that I just hated (We are all looking at you Braham) and wish we could get rid of.

I am not suggesting a head-canon type situation where you just ignore what you do not like and pretend it isn’t there. I am suggesting continuing the development of the games we enjoy but if the vanilla servers get enough promise and population, bringing them in entirely new directions. Every expansion ever has contained the “true ending” from the previous iteration. Either factions must work together to beat a bigger bad giving you a generic ending that favors no one, or the nominal good guys win like the Global Defence Initiative always does. The only real difference that springs to mind in the typical “you won!” ending method would be XCom 2 taking the view that you lost in the first game but hey, that’s XCom baby. If there’s ever a Dwarf Fortress 2, it will likely up the ante and physically punch players to remind them of losses.

I personally would love the opportunity to see the ‘What If’ games, the separate small servers who go off in experimental directions. What if Wrath of the Lich King ended differently, leaving one version of Azeroth with an entirely different playing field? What if Mordremoth had won at the end of Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns and the server brought in PvP as Sylvari run wild over the other races of Tyria? Or what if Heart of Thorns had broken off differently, with the first season of the Living Story focusing not on Scarlet Briar but following through Malyck’s journey of self-discovery and the sleeping Dragon that was such an intimate danger to all Sylvari.

What if RIFT Prime keeps the Blood Storm around longer? What if the Dragons that originally sold so many people on the game were all still around and the content went another way?

What we will have in Secret World Legends isn’t really a new story told with an old game, they’re going to build on what the old game had and move on from there. There are all sorts of possibilities present in a reboot and new directions they could take. What we have in Final Fantasy XIV was a wiping clean of a damaged slate and starting anew.

How many expansions have there been for the games we love where you have been left wondering, what if we had taken another path? What if you could do it all again…but the expansion you know should come after is riding entirely on the outcome of what we are playing.

What if that tangent server, that restart, ended up in an entirely new place? How exciting would our worlds be then? Clearly there would be issues in execution. Issues with divided teams and divided directions. At least in games with multiple servers, if the new MCU Spider-Azeroth ends up outperforming the original, you can migrate people over. Why not experiment with it at least once? Why not take the worlds that players know better than the one they inhabit and then change course in an all-new way, instead of playing the greatest hits all over again?

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About Jonathan Doyle

Once long ago Westwood made a space game. Earth And Beyond was the start of the journey. From there, through Paragon City and to the fields of Altdorf, there were battles. Westwood brought me to MMOs. City of Heroes refined my love for them. Warhammer brought me to writing about them. He loves all things space, sci fi, Warhammer or heroic.