I got to talk to Mark Kern a few weeks ago. He's previously worked on Starcraft, Diablo 2 and Warcraft 3. But Mark also knows his MMOs. He was team leader on World of Warcraft and he's currently CEO of Red 5 Studios - the team behind MMO FPS Firefall.
Mark reckons massively multiplayer games need to evolve dramatically if they're to be successful. "We've got to break out of the mould." said the CEO. "If I see another action MMO combat game with exclamation points over quest givers, I'm going to commit seppuku! We're pouring so much money down a very stale formula. It's an illusion to say that "Oh, that's safety. It used to be safety but it's not anymore."
According to Mark, creative indies might be MMO's saving grace: "Gamers are ready to try different things. It's time to take risks and I'm really looking towards the independents to try that. I want to see the Notch of MMOs. Please don't spend $200 million on another WoW clone because it just doesn't do anybody any favours and you're going to lose your shirt."
Firefall is attempting to meld the FPS and MMO genres when it gets released this December. I asked Mark why more developers haven't experimented with two of the most popular genres on PC. He describes a venn diagram to help explain his theory: "I used to draw what I'd call "The Circle of Suck". Tabula Rasa came out and Hellgate: London came out, and I drew one circle that said "MMO gameplay." I drew another circle that said, "shooter gameplay." Where they intersect - that little sliver - is full of suck."
"We were trying to blend the two genres, but it wasn't fun. So [with Firefall] we picked one or the other. Let's get the shooting right, and selectively add in the MMO elements. Let's take the idea of open world sandbox play and feature hundreds of players instead of four or eight player co-op. Let's take towns, crafting and resources and combine it all together. And that group would be a much more fun game when we started playing it than anything we'd tried before."
Firefall is due for release this December. The complete interview with Mark will feaure in issue of PC Gamer UK . Read our Firefall preview or watch the gameplay footage embedded below for more. Have you ever experienced the "Circle of Suck?" Did it suck?