While I’m willing to admit that I’ve read a bit about Eve Online, Alternative MMOs have never really appealed to me. I’ve always been a fan of high fantasy, so I’ve chosen my MMOs to taste.

Yet, nearly every upcoming MMO right now is breaking the sword and sorcery mold and exploring other settings. Right now, we have everything from spaceship battle games to those reminiscent of SimCity on the landscape, each hoping to carve another little gouge from our bank account balances.

Two of the biggest games coming out are Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Before these two games hit the horizon, I was of the opinion that any non-fantasy game was going to be niche, just based upon the consumer base. Yet, I’m no longer so sure.

Even though the genre is founded upon high fantasy (elves, dwarves, and wizards, oh my!), IPs with such mass appeal could drastically change the landscape quite a bit. Once (if) investors see that non-fantasy titles could reach mass market success, titles that would have received very little support may wind up higher on the totem pole than we would currently find them.

It struck me today while reading Massively, so many non-fantasy titles are coming out that we may well bear witness to a huge transition in our favorite genre. After all, many of these titles are simple “MMO” and lack many of the fundamental and classic “RPG” elements we currently see as staples.

Will the future of online gaming be the MMO? I think that it’s possible, if taken just for those first three introductory words: Massively Multiplayer Online. MMO may come to mean simply, “persistent world” over our current definition, “persistent world of character advancement and story progression.” How rapidly our ideas on what an MMO is could change, although it is almost certainly guaranteed to be a slow transition. Much like how a frog won’t jump from the pot if the water is heated slowly, perhaps we shall find ourselves looking back through the steam at what our favorite genre used to be, for better or worse.

Other games out now have pushed in this direction already and it only seems to be picking up steam. I personally think it’s wonderful. The appeal of an ever present, populated, online world is great and flush with potential for every genre. People like to connect and the more opportunity there is for that the better.

In the coming years, we may find ourselves having a multitude of options in many different sub-genres of the MMO, some that aren’t even present yet. Having seen GTA and SimCity-esque titles on the horizon, it’s a definite sign of the times.

So, is sword and sorcery on the way out? The theme has been done over and over but I’d be disappointed to see it drop from its #1 spot. It’d be like the end of an era. From tabletop to computer to dormancy, until the next great title of platform breathes life back into it. MMO-wise at least.

Should such a turnover come to pass, the dethroning of both fantasy and RPG from MMOs, I only hope the social aspect is retained. Being solo-friendly is nice but that final transition, from group to independence, should never be brought full circle. Before being forced by game mechanics to group in order to succeed, I never really understood the appeal group play outside of instances. Now though, I’m disappointed more games don’t push you towards it because I honestly think people miss out in a lot of ways by soloing all the time.

Persistent online is fine but grouping should be ever present and necessary at times. Social interaction, in trade, combat, and cooperation, is what makes an MMO and MMO. Without it, you have the multiplayer equivalent of Spore. And really, what’s the point in that?

*note* Links to these games can be provided if there’s interest. I’m at work and am currently unable to provide them.