Mission Creep is where an initial plan becomes complicated as more and more objectives are added. In the tech world, this is also called feature creep, and, inevitably, dilutes the original purpose and design of the product. The phrase calls to mind an ambitious, forward-thinking plan that succumbed to missed opportunities, bad luck, and overreach.
Recently, I have been thinking of the over ambitious and feature creep of the Massively Multiplayer Online genre. With the recent releases of Destiny and The Division, one could see the addition and evolution of many MMO concepts: loot grinding, player vs player battles, end-game content. These games take the MMO and narrow the focus. Group sizes and areas are smaller. Player population in these areas are paltry compared to the MMO ideal. The Division has around 20+ players in a single PVP Dark Zone at any given time. Apparently, post-viral epidemic Manhattan can't accommodate the burgeoning masses of Stormwind or Ironforge.
I look at the vast popularity of these recent games and wonder if this is ultimate fate of the MMO. Sure, there are still large online worlds out there to explore. World of Warcraft is over a decade old and will probably exist after the inevitable heat death of the universe. Elder Scrolls Online, while initially plagued with problems settled into a stable life. Star Wars: The Old Republic had amazing initial success followed by a massive player migration has become profitable and respectable after a realignment of expectations. The MMO has become simply a genre. A genre to be cribbed from like an RPG, simulation, or action-platformer.
The regression of the MMO to a mere genre of video games makes me a bit sad.
In the late 1990s, the promise of the Massively Multiplayer Online game was the stuff of dreams. Most games at the time were small slices of a game world, the idea that one could just "live" there felt like the next and, honestly, last step in video games. It was the theoretical "Last Game You'd Ever Have to Play" because it was just simply everything. Instead of getting to the end of a Final Fantasy game and seeing the credits, the game would never end. Instead of waiting for a sequel, content would just constantly roll out. The world would be endless, and you would adventure forever.
The reality was that it was very hard to replicate the same kind of dynamic and world altering content from a single player game to a MMO. In the Knights of the Old Republic, the player felt that every choice matter and that your experience was somewhat unique. In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the illusion that one was making a "difference" was smashed when you'd defeat the quest boss, and right behind you were two other groups waiting their "turn".
In City of Heroes, there were a couple of warehouses in the King's Row district that for some reason or another was the destination for every other quest. Superheroes would come to and fro defeating villains in the most ridiculous storehouse of criminals.
It is strange that the MMO didn't revolutionize games the way it was assumed. The MMO evolved into its own genre while inspiring some of the hybrids like Destiny and The Division. Some day I hope someone will figure out how to fulfill the limitless potential of the MMO. For now, we will have to be content with a small, endearing glimpse.