I get the impression there is a difference of opinion in the community about what constitutes “massive.” Just how many unique users should be in any given server or universe.
To me the further up that number checklist you go, the more the game becomes anathema to me. I’m looking for the subtle balance that gives enough people for a full looking and acting world, but without so many people that the auction house gets inflated to “billionaire’s club only” levels. Enough people that I can find a decent group, but not so many that I don’t feel like I have a place and a face in the world.
With newer shard type structures that picture changes too. I’m not sure if its better or worse in the long run, but it is something different to experiment with. It allows for the higher numbers while keeping some of the strengths of the smaller numbers. But I understand that some people don’t like that certain “rooms” of the shard will only accomodate a limited number of players. I get why you’d want to squeeze 20 people into an area set up and balanced for 5, I honestly do. We did that alot back in the old days of EQOA.
“Either you’re part of the problem or you’re part of the solution or you’re just part of the landscape.”
~ Sam (Robert DeNiro), Ronin
I like to play with the numbers a little bit sometimes in my head. When DnD 3rd edition came out, the Gamemasters Manual had a nice town generator in it. It would even generate, in any given town, how many able bodied milia and how many heroes were a part of the town. Their rule of thumb was that heroes constituted 1% of the general population. And of that 1%, not all of them went adventuring, because the more powerful you are, the more ties you have, the larger a niche you have carved for yourself, the more attention it needs, the less time you have to go gallavanting in caves and dungeons and dragon’s lairs.
5,000 people on your server? 5 million in population. That’s an interesting enough ratio isn’t it? Generally in towns and things, we don’t even see enough buildings to hold a population as large as the number of players walking around. And there certainly aren’t enough farms (or at least, farms not covered in angry mobs) to feed them. Maybe the M- in MMO needs to be balanced a little more by ecology and lore and a little less by server architecture? What would that look like? Feel like? Play like?
And interesting as it is, what about that second part? The MMO paradigm is that the more powerful you are, the more free time you have to raid places. For PnP RPG’s, the exact opposite is true. At best, the top line heroes in some MMO’s might command a castle (Shadowbane, Age of Conan, Everquest II, Darkfall too I assume), but for the most part, all you are really commanding is a room or two in a house. No servants. Certainly no militant warriors to fight with you, or relationships with people in places hi and lo to call upon. I can see where that might be difficult to seed and bring to life in an MMO, where people tend to “cap and trade” quite quickly, and then would spend their time amassing mostly useless sprites and squatting on land to prevent others from climbing the ranks (‘Course, hardcore PvP’ers may be drooling at that opportunity).
But the bottom line is this I think, at least for me, today, in this post: finding a new iteration, a new adventure, in the world of MMO’s is not going to come from the business end. Its not going to come from the technological end. Its going to be an impetus from the lore, from the passion and drive and crazyed, obsessed interest in players doing something different. And I can’t wait for it to get here.