I don’t mean to pick on Keen and Graev here, because they’re awesome, but here is yet another post about why MMOs aren’t evolving. Is anyone else sick to death of this topic? Two of my least favorite themes have been recurring in 2009, and I was hoping the new year would stop them. These two themes are:
1) MMOs aren’t evolving, nothing new and exciting is happening.
2) World of Warcraft brings nothing new to the table, is just a copycat game of all its predecessors.
Let me take a peek at them, and be done with it.
MMOs ARE evolving.
Apparently, people think that no game that’s been out recently have evolved or changed from the original MMOs. Frankly, what do you guys think an MMO is? What defines the MMMORPG category? If you radically change the game, isn’t that no longer an MMORPG?
How much did Modern Warfare 2 evolve from the original Halo game? There are still guns. You still shoot with them. I bet many mechanics are still the same, and most evolution in first person shooters has come through better graphics, better multiplayer features, newer consoles, and more advanced physics and technology. What more do you want?
I sought to find some ‘evolution’ for everyone.
User Created Content – Here you go, a blatant evolution. Long gone are the days where roleplaying is simply something you do fleetingly before it goes away into the abyss of chat logs. Now, in Everquest 2 you can create player-made books to share stories with other people. Lasting impressions on the game. Player-housing is something that has gone mainstream, with everything from Lord of the Rings Online to Free Realms and Wizard 101 embracing it.
Instancing – World of Warcraft took a concept that would have been blasphemy to original Everquest players and made it the new standard. No longer do you have to leave a dungeon because too many people are camping it. No longer do you have to stand around and wait until a group kills a boss and have it respawn. No longer to guilds fight incessantly about spawns and “who got their first”. Yes, the Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion had instancing and it was in fact awesome, but no one would have wanted to be EVERY dungeon. Blizzard didn’t care and did it anyway. Good thing too, because it enabled awesome features like the Dungeon Finder.
Maps – Remember when Everquest didn’t have maps? Players had to create maps and you had to use the EQMap addon in order to see them in game. Now, you won’t see an MMO without a built in map. And furthermore, because of the advancements and evolutions in map systems – there will probably be robust objective information on said map. Imagine that in 1999.
Ease of Use – Fondly, everyone looks back to Everquest or UO and thinks they were so damn fun. Sure they were, but we had fun DESPITE the lacking features and complete pain in the ass they were to play. Waiting for boats + hours of travel? No thanks. Look at all of the features that have been added to make MMOs more accessible for more than just the 500,000 geeks who used to play them. Mentoring, guild systems, instant traveling, UI modding ability, flight, recruiting friends, newbie tutorials, customizable chat options, I could go on. Free Realms is basically a walking demonstration of evolution in ease-of-use in MMOs.
Let’s just look at ONE particular game. Everquest 2. A game that people seem to forget when they’re thinking of evolution. This game had/has the following (not saying all of these are new, but they are all evolved features from the first MMOs):
- Diety systems, the ability to use religion to affect your character
- Character evolution that allows you to pick your class later on
- Heroic opportunities
- Guild leveling + rewards
- Appearance slots
- Instant teleporting to zones, no travel
- Scaling dungeons
- Climbing – since when do MMOs care about the Z-axis?
- Mini-expansions with adventure packs
- Cut scene featuring your character (the original ship scene with the dragon)
- Any race, any class
- And SO ON.
WoW is not Walmart, it is the iPhone
Every time I hear someone say “World of Warcraft is the Walmart of games, didn’t bring anything new to the table and Blizzard are nothing but copycats” makes me want to scream.
This *is* evolution guys. Does anyone doubt that the iPhone is an amazingly powerful device that has had a huge impact on smartphones in 2007-2010? Were they the first touchscreen? Were they the first phone to come out with wireless internet? The first with a camera, or email, or SMS messaging? The first with games, or bluetooth, or internet tethering, or music playing capabilities? The first with ANYTHING? The answer is mostly no to all of these. What Apple did was bring the best features together into one slick package, market it well to a non-geeky, non-smartphone crowd, and sell the shit out of it. Hm, sounds like WoW. The difference is that the iPhone is hailed as an innovative technological success by mobile techies, and World of Warcraft is considered McDonalds, Walmart and a watered down version of an MMO by MMO players. What gives? Why is it even a debate that Gamasutra picked WoW as the Game of the Decade? What other game iterated this much, made such a huge impact on the game industry, and had over 10 million players playing it?
Commonly you see a new feature release in WoW, with a handful of people saying “this is an incredibly great feature” and then a huge handful of people saying “that’s great, but X game had that first…WoW just made it prettier.” Take the new Dungeon Finder for example. An absolutely brilliant, game-changing addition to World of Warcraft and people insist on shouting “Warhammer did that first with Public Quests”. Well no, they actually didn’t. It was a completely different feature that was implemented not at all the same. But hey, Public Quests WERE an innovation. Keen and others must forget that because the game wasn’t all that successful.
How about soloability? World of Warcraft revolutionized soloing in MMOs, permanently. There wasn’t even a concept of soloing in modern MMOs, now it is the new standard? But that isn’t evolution? And talent specs? They took putting points in alternate abilities and made it into full-blown game-effecting class specializations that allowed you to play a druid and pick whether you want to heal or tank. Sure, other MMOs had points and skills, but WoW took this to the extreme. In fact, they even innovated on their own feature by allowing you to dual spec. How about 10-man raids? How about raid and dungeon lockouts? You don’ t have to LIKE features for their to be innovation.
So where are people looking for their evolution? What exactly are they looking for? I really don’t understand. I’m a firm believer that players don’t even really want what they think they want. With the exception of WoW, MMOs are *still* niche. Are there really enough players who want DAoC 2? I frankly don’t think so. It’s awfully hard to be a MMO game designer when the playerbase is full of:
- Old school MMO gamers who refuse to evolve because “that’s not the way things have always been.”
- Old school MMO gamers who think new features aren’t evolution, and want new games to come out to replicate their old favorites.
- People who discard new features as not being innovative, even when designing and tuning large features for a multiplayer environment is no easy task.
- New MMO players (the majority by the way) who don’t give two shits about UO orEverquest
- MMO players who have no idea what they want, because this genre of gameplay is relatively new (MUDs aside)
That was an unorganized rant. You get the point, hopefully.