Published 29 Jun, 2022 09:45:12 GMT+0
The Next Step in the Historical Evolution of MMORPGs
I played Guild Wars, Runescape, Kalonline, World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Sherwood Dungeons in the past. I was recently interested in MMORPGs again and thought to myself: What if an MMORPG were integrated with crypto tech? What would the result be like? When I searched for a crypto-based MMORPG, I found Legends of Elumia (just Elumia for short): someone mentioned Elumia on Reddit and I wanted to find out more. So I found the official Elumia website, read the Elumia whitepaper and that is what made me enthusiastic about this project. I recommend anyone to read the Elumia whitepaper. What amazed me when reading the whitepaper is that the team clearly planned years ahead and this demonstrated to me that the team is highly skilled at what they are doing. I also learned from the whitepaper that like Axie Infinity, the Legends of Elumia game will have 2 cryptocurrencies: $EKS and $ELU, the latter of which can already be bought on centralised and decentralised exchanges. $ELU is the governance token of the Elumia game; it gives players a voice or say in the game, and player feedback is exactly what MMORPGs need. Having read the whitepaper carefully, I felt the urge to obtain some $ELU for myself on Huobi and gate.io. After buying $ELU, I was scrolling through some of the aestheticslly pleasing Elumia graphics on Twitter and I joined the Elumia telegram and later the Elumia discord. I discovered that the Elumia team is very accessible and willing to answer questions. This made me feel highly involved in the project and immediately made me feel like I wasn't some outsider who had nothing to do with Elumia. I cannot stress this enough, the Elumia community and team are very welcoming and friendly. In my experience, whether a crypto project fails or succeeds is largely determined by social factors: can the team get along and can the community get along? I believe Elumia has the right social recipe for success: the devs are very likeable people and the community is very supportive. This is also the kind of social experience one desires from an MMORPG: for an MMORPG to work, everyone has to be socially involved in the game. Even though Elumia is not playable yet, I can already feel the right atmosphere is built for the game and whilst being part of this special cryptogaming community, I can already feel the characters coming to life that we may identify with as MMORPG players. After all, what is an MMORPG without some good old classic role-playing? I recently participated in an AMA (acronym for Ask Me Anything) of the Elumia team and 2 of my questions were awarded with prizes. This is the kind of activities that make Elumia fun and involving, you can really contribute something to the team of developers. I feel the team are genuinely listening to our community input. Truly listening is a social skill that isn't easy to learn and the team has mastered this skill. The Elumia team consists of individuals who not only developed games, but also gamed themselves. This is particularly relevant as it explains the overall approach of the Elumia team, which I believe to be destined for success.
I have already mentioned MMORPG multiple times in my review describing my experience with Elumia. Before I move on further with my review, I want to revisit the history of MMORPGs in order to give a proper impression of what the unique and innovating place of Elumia is in the MMORPG genre. Nothing emerges in isolation, there is always some historical context. To understand MMORPG, we have to first understand RPG: RPG is an acronym that stands for Role-Playing Game. I do not say "MMORPG game" in this review since that would be redundant while the G already stands for Game. In an RPG, everyone assumes a role. In other words, the idiosyncratic feature of RPGs is that players identify with a fictional character. RPGs really took shape in the 70s of last century (already about 50 years ago now). Dungeons & Dragons is the tabletop game that really popularised this concept from 1974. Almost synchronous to the development of the RPG in the 70s, the development of the MUD started. MUD stands for Multi-User Dungeon. MUDs were simple electronic games (this is the 1970s, remember?) that were usually fashioned after and inspired by Dungeons & Dragons. MUDs became more complex over time and organically morphed or evolved into MMORPGs in the 1990s. MMO stands for Massively Multiplayer Online, so MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. The term MMORPG was coined by the pioneering creator of Ultima Online (an early era MMORPG). It is good to fresh our memory on this as many people may have heard MMORPG but do not really know what it stands for, nor what its history of origin is. The first MMORPG was Neverwinter Nights. The 1990s came to be dominated by 3 MMORPGs that dominated the genre: Ultima Online, Everquest, and Asheron's Call. The first two of these games, particularly the first, has many features in common with Runescape which is also from that early era and can be regarded as an improvement upon Ultima Online, which came before Runescape and so Ultima Online is not a clone of Runescape, but it would rather be the opposite way around. Asheron's Call and Everquest already look more like Kalonline, Guild Wars and World of Warcraft. It might be said of Everquest that it really defined the MMORPG genre and moved it away from tne Runscape-like concept of Ultimate Online. By the 2000s, the MMORPG had become a well-defined gaming genre and many of the MMORPGs I played and mentioned at the onset of this review stem from this era. Some would call this the golden era of MMORPGs. A commonly heard assertion by some in recent years is that the MMORPG genre is dead and others have asserted that the genre is in terminal decline. In this fast-paced time of technological development, the MMORPG genre is apparently being perceived by a number of gamers as developing too slowly. We must, however, not forget that the MMORPG is one of the most complex gaming genres and it is also one of the most financially rewarding ones. The MMORPG has already about 50 years of development behind it, starting with the non-electronic RPG Dungeons & Dragons. In the history that I just sketched, we have witnessed the emergence of RPGs, MUDs and finally MMORPGs. This is an amazing history and we should take the time to appreciate that before we move on to analyse Elumia's place.
RWT is considered a problem in MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft and Runescape. RWT is the game acronym for Real-World Trade. RWT is often demonised as breaking game rules and is hence often derogatively referred to as the "black market." In fact, this parallel economy is something that is supporting and keeping the MMORPGs alive and bringing in revenue for the games and is borne out of love and passion for the games. From an economic perspective, this RWT is not a problem, but an asset which keeps players involved. RWT is the organic and natural result of supply and demand; cracking down on this is utterly foolish as it removes any real sense of property and ownership. Rather, a symbiotic relationship with RWT is desperately needed. If players can convert their hard work to cash, it makes it all the more worthwhile to grind levels in a game. The Elumia team understands this clearly: RWT is not the enemy, but a friend. Elumia solves the problem of the on-going clash between the reality of RWT and MMORPGs. RWT is a grassroots development and there is no viable way to eliminate it completely. In fact, that is how MUDs originally emerged on private networks as well and were constantly cracked down upon. Sooner or later, game developers will have to live with the economic reality of RWT and emulate an Elumia-like model that seeks to develop a symbiotic relationship with RWT. In fact, rather than detracting value from a project, RWT increases the value of a project. The Elumia whitepaper characterised Elumia as an MMORPG that allows true ownership of in-game characters, weapons, battle pets, land, and a variety of unspecified items. This is nothing short of revolutionary. Elumia is actually not a classic MMORPG even though the whitepaper tries to make it appear as recognisable to fans of the MMORPG genre as reasonably possible. Actually, Elumia is an NFTMMORPG - a new genre in and of itself. Elumia is making use of the novel blockchain-based technology of the Solana network that allows for the creation of NFTs. NFTs are Non-Fungible Tokens, which are virtual objects that are truly owned just like the coins of any cryptocurrency. NFTs thus enable true ownership of digital assets. Extending crypto tech to virtual items is the next logical/evolutionary step, and extending this to in-game objects is the next logical/evolutionary step after that. NFTs make the most sense in the MMORPG genre as the interpersonal relationships in MMORPGs naturally necessitate an economy based on true ownership. An MMORPG creates an in-game society and therefore basic guarantees of true ownership are socially and economically required. Without true ownership, there is no economic freedom. Without economic freedom and private property, there is no free market economy. The economy of current MMORPGs is deeply flawed as it demonises and severely limits economic freedom. In fact, people are punished with bans for trying to exercise economic freedom in MMORPGs. There is no respect for people's possessions in MMORPGs. Current MMORPGs thus suffer from a tyrannical structure where only one party is meant to profit, and hence Elumia is socioeconomically progressive as it liberates players from being at the absolute mercy of game-makers and moderators. In current MMORPGs, the threat of expropriation is ever looming. Elumia, however, is built upon the core value of true ownership, which the whitepaper expresses as follows: "At the core of our game, we want players to have 100% ownership of their items and characters." Elumia is on the path towards saving MMORPGs from themselves by giving true ownership to players. One-sided tyrannical economic structures have to become a thing of the past. Reciprocal economic structures are the future, because if a vibrant economy can be built around a game, the game can keep being developed. Elumia is not trying to be the next big thing or the new World of Warcraft. It is trying something novel. MMORPG real-world trade economies have been looked down upon and their full potential never realised nor harnessed. Digital ownership is not entirely novel as, for example, Decentraland already employs this model. However, Decentraland does not exhibit classic MMORPG features like Elumia: Elumia has, for example, the "holy trinity" of MMORPG roles (warrior, mage, and archer). The Elumia whitepaper describes these three MMORPG roles as "tanks, healers and damage dealers."
Characters, which are NFTs owned by the player, can be traded online if the player so wishes. All characters are unique in the true sense of the word: no two characters are alike. The Elumia whitepaper describes this amazing feature as follows: "Each avatar that is created has a set of pre-determined set of stats and skills, that will affect their optimum play style. This allows for social and team play, with different players coming together to deal with the challenges they face." The social aspect of this is not overlooked. All characters are given true individuality, which makes cooperation necessary just like in the real world. This is one of the things that MMORPGs actually need in order to progress, they have to encourage players to form a true community. Elumia is, by design, a very community-friendly project which thus helps foster social connections. What I like about the Elumia graphics is that it looks friendly. The warm colours of the Elumia world looks welcoming. The atmosphere of the Elumia fantasy world is pleasant. This will also influence people's social interactions. After all, game environments affect people's mood just like non-virtual environments do. There is a reward system in Elumia as follows: players can obtain loot items with varying degrees of scarcity (which determines value), players can gain experience points and levels, and players can all in-game assets will have a monetary value. When playing a game such as Runescape, I was experiencing an existential crisis like many other players since I felt like: "Why on earth am I doing all this grinding actually? It has no real value in the real world, unfortunately." Explaining this to relatives has no use as long as gaming generates no income or value, and that is being solved by the economic system of Elumia. Relatives won't need to nag games anymore, saying they are wasting time and earning nothing of value by working so hard to level up. In fact, Elumia thus respects players' efforts much more. It is ironic that people have made the accusation that RWT diminishes the value of people putting many hours into a game. On the contrary, RWT is the only way to give some value to your hard work and hence it needs to be embraced. Overcoming the existential crisis that gamers may experience as they are grinding for levelling up is one of the key issues for MMORPGs; they have to give players something back for their time, and monetary compensation is the right thing, which can be done organically with how the Elumia economy will function.
My general criticism of the Western film and game industries is that they no longer know how to tell a story. This story-telling art, however, has not been lost in the East. The social hub of Elumia is the city and the Infinite Tower, around which the story of Elumia is centered, is the gateway to the dungeons where players can get access to gameplay zones, engaging in multiplayer adventures, quests and fierce player battles with in-game enemies and against other real time players. The Elumia story, which features dungeons, is a return to the quintessence of MMORPGs, and it is a return to the original concept of Dungeons and Dragons from about 50 years ago that inspired many MUDs and the dominant early MMORPGs (Ultima Online, EverQuest and Asheron's Call). Elumia is thus an exploration of what it means to be an MMORPG in this day and age. It is a soul-searching quest for the genre that is much appreciated during the current identity crisis that the genre is experiencing. In the process of this instance of soul-searching, Elumia is reviving the essence of MMORPGs and it is questioning/challenging the soundness of in-game economic models that do not allow true ownership. If Elumia turns out successful - as it is likely to be given its current trajectory of development - it will save the classic MMORPG genre by giving it new direction and ushering in a new golden era with the novel development of true digital ownership.
There is much more I could have covered in my review, but I will leave it at this.