Gamer Hate

Belligerently lacking in remorse.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Question: “What, if anything, can kill WOW?”
From Technohazard

Well I never thought the first question would be THIS easy. 😉

If you’re looking for something to kill WoW, there’s a very easy and obvious answer to what will finally topple this giant of the MMO games. If you’re thinking it’s a better MMO, you’re wrong. Let me give you a little background on where MMOs came from.

Back in “the day” (TM), if you wanted to hang out with the on-line community, you had to use a modem. A modem used your phone line to connect to another computer that allowed for multiple incoming calls to be maintained at once. These were called BBS, or Bulletin Board Systems. When they started, they were just for having forum discussions, but eventually they started using them for games. One of the most popular types of games was called a MUD.

MUD stands for Multi-User Dungeon. When MUDs started they were entirely text based. In fact, they were a lot like the old classic adventure games where you would walk North by typing N and hitting enter. My personal favorite was called Crossroads, where you could multi-class in different elemental power types.

Anyways, the MUDs were wildly popular among people who knew anything about BBS systems. Of course, most people didn’t. Then the internet became more and more popular and graphical interfaces for games became required. It wasn’t until about 5 years later that a MUD would meet a GUI and really click with the public though.

That game was called Everquest. Everquest was my first foray into a graphical MUD, or as they became known, a MMORPG or Massively Multiplayer On-line Role Playing Game. Everquest became an obsession for many at Blizzard, and we all played it to the detriment of our jobs. I was definitely not a hardcore player by any means, but I devoted nearly 4-6 months of ACTUAL PLAY TIME over the course of the 3 years I played it. When I did quit, I had to remove it from all my computers, smash the discs, and swear an oath to never touch the damnable thing again.

A couple years later I picked up the game again and played a Shaman to the upper 60s, but the game soon became frustrating enough to never even want to play it again. You could not solo in that game. You had to be in a group, and it was very difficult to find a good group because anyone decent was already at the level cap. The game became so frustrating that I quit without even really caring. I never returned to Everquest after that.

But at Blizzard, the passion for MMOs was only beginning, and since the team played that game so frequently, it became an obsession for them to create a better MMO that would rival and even defeat Everquest. Sadly a game I was much more interested in was cancelled as a result. Nomad, you will be missed.

When WoW started development, I had little interest in playing. Having just gotten over an Everquest addiction, I found the very idea of playing another MMO repulsive. The grind to reach the higher levels was ridiculous, and the penalties for death in EQ were extremely harsh. You could cycle die all the way back to level 1 if you bound yourself over lava. Everquest made a lot of poor game design decisions, but the fact was, there wasn’t another game in town that even came close to its immersion. Which is why making World of Warcraft made sense for Blizzard.

What World of Warcraft had was a good design sense. Sure, there were mistakes made (like slow typing the text out on the quests to force players to read them) but they fixed them in relatively short order. WoW had all the immersion of Everquest without the super hardcore under theme that Everquest had. This was an MMO that everyone could sink their teeth into and enjoy.

Indeed, it has been quite the success story. Millions are playing WoW and shelling out 15 dollars a month for that privilege. No other MMO has ever come close to their success and I doubt there will be many afterwards that will unless they’re not fantasy based (Starcraft MMO anyone?). However, something is brewing within the lands of Azeroth that will topple the mighty WoW empire within the next couple years.

As you may have noticed, WoW has had 1 expansion and 90% of the content for the expansion was content for the additional levels they added. In fact, no new classes have been developed for WoW as of yet (though the Burning Crusade promises one, it is a “hero class” meaning that it starts at level 55 (seeing as how there’s going to be no content for it 1-55, that makes sense).

In addition, the majority of the content when you reach the end level for the game is Raid content, which requires multiple competent people to get together to defeat a large enemy. This is one of WoW’s major flaws, because the people who enjoy raids are probably about 10% of their customer base. Raids are a major source of frustration for most people as they don’t want to play the way that is necessary to accomplish things in a raid (meaning being extremely attentive for 2-6 hours at a time).

The other way to spend your end time in the game is to fight in the arena or battlegrounds. Both of which are hardcore situations due to the competitive nature of being placed against opponents. Either way, you lose anyone who isn’t a fairly hardcore gamer in your end content. A lot of what the casual gamers enjoy is the easy and fun questing system that WoW has. But that content dries up quickly or often becomes a series of collection quests instead of individualized and super interesting quests. For example, the first 10-20 quests in the Burning Crusade expansion were totally awesome. Who doesn’t remember sifting through poop or dropping bombs while flying?

The problem is, that content dries up and you can only play through the game so many times before there’s really nothing you haven’t seen. Will the next expansion hit before you’ve reached the max level for the current game? Most of us have been at the level cap for many months. Let’s face it, WoW is an easy game to level through which is a good thing because leveling up is the thing that keeps people playing. Some people will make multiple characters to keep their addiction going, others will get into the hardcore raid content (though if they turn out to be slackers, they’ll fail repeatedly or be booted by their guild). A few more will take to ganking n00bs for hours… Assholes…

At the end of the day though, the lands of Azeroth will begin to become stale. The players have seen it all and done it all, and the thought of grinding through the old levels as a new character will no longer appeal to them. The thought of grinding experience at all in fact will not appeal to them. You see, the major flaw of all MMORPGs (to date) is that the actual gameplay is not all that appealing. When you really think about it, what are you doing? You’re standing in front of a computer generated object and hitting buttons to kill it. Yes, there’s more strategy to it than that, but how many times do you have do it before it becomes annoying? 100? 1000? 1,000,000?

What I learned from my MUDs was true for Everquest and is also true for World of Warcraft. Once you realize what you’re doing and how much time you’re spending doing it, the game ceases to be fun. Expansions can’t keep up with the need for new content once you reach the level cap, and those who are super casual may never reach the previous level cap at all, instead choosing to make a new character whenever the game becomes too difficult. What you develop is a rift.

The hardcore players will crank straight to the max level in a few days (with no sleep). The super casuals will never quite catch up because just as they get close (if they ever do) there are more levels stacked on top or the game becomes too difficult for them so they restart. The regular casual players aren’t good enough to raid and their equipment pales in comparison to the hardcore battleground and arena junkies, thus making them unable to have fun in any of the end game content.

So to answer the question (finally), what will ultimately end up killing WoW is time. When you finally do quit an MMO, the act of quitting is typically so final and decisive that you will never choose to play again (those who had extreme addictions will never play another MMORPG again). Some might periodically return for each expansion, but that’s typically the hardcore types who will burn through the content in a month and then realize they’re back where they started. The super casuals were already frustrated by the original jump in levels so they won’t bother. The regular casuals might give it a try, but the end content of WoW is still super competitive arena/battlegrounds OR Raids, neither of which appeal to the regular casual players.

There doesn’t need to be a bigger and better MMO to crush WoW. WoW will eventually crush itself under the heel of the design flaws of MMORPGs. Once you realize that you’re grinding, the game ceases to be fun. Once the new content is absorbed, the game ceases to be fun. If you can’t raid and you can’t compete with the hardcore in PVP, the game ceases to be fun. Eventually, everyone realizes this despite all the addictive elements of character building. Eventually, everyone realizes that if they’re going to play a game, they may as well play something that’s actually fun to play…

posted by CommanderHate at 1:15 pm  

5 Comments »

  1. Well at least they earned more than they spent?
    It seems that way anyways..

    Any ideas why Blizzard canceled StarCraft:Ghost?

    I know once the postponed release date was near, MGS4 was announced, and it’s my guess that they felt their competitor totally outshined them (at least as far as graphic goes)

    But hearing and seeing MGS4, I cannot help but be amazed at the sheer work Kojima’s team put into.

    I heard Konami lost alot of money due to making MGS4, and I think it was only possible due to the MGS series popularity and Kojima’s credidentials.

    Would it be possible to have a company like Blizzard out shine a game like MGS4 with perhaps their new SC:Ghost?

    This sounds more like a guess than a question.

    Would any company would have the guts to risk so much money for the sake of a good quality game that could outshine MGS4? Could Blizzard be THAT company? (Maybe I’m being biased due to so much hype I had when SC:Ghost was announced during the days)

    Comment by Kohyunu — July 10, 2008 @ 5:27 am

  2. Kohyunu – I remember the first teasers and gameplay trailers for the original SC:Ghost, were amazing. The playable demo at E3 that year was absolutely terrible, and left a bad taste in many people’s mouths. A revamped multiplayer-oriented demo for SC:Ghost showed space marines hanging off the Wraith wings, landing on the Barracks, etc. That demo was fairly exciting, but the game was cancelled soon after. From the revamped gameplay direction I’d say it was closer to Quake Wars:ET or the similar Unreal game.

    I could see them pulling off a MGS4, but ‘realistic’ doesn’t seem to be Blizzard’s forte. I’d like to think their energies would be better spent on showing us something we haven’t seen, rather than rehashing a premise we’ve seen in countless other games (the stealth-action-commando shooter)

    Comment by Technohazard — July 10, 2008 @ 10:38 am

  3. Starcraft Ghost failed because Blizzard doesn’t know how to manage an outside company anymore. There’s a general lack of trust and some major micromanagement that goes on, which leads to a bad taste in the developer’s mouth.

    Nihilistic originally came to Blizzard with the pitch of doing Starcraft Ghost, but years of Blizzard battering them down and saying it isn’t good enough made them realize that they would be out of business looooong before Starcraft Ghost would ever see the light of day. So Nihilistic dropped it and Swingin’ Ape picked it up.

    But Blizzard didn’t trust in the Ape and so they bought them, crushed their souls, and eventually had to scrap the project because the core Blizzard teams just don’t know how to do action/shooter platformers. In fact, that was the problem all along. Blizzard didn’t know how to do it, and they wouldn’t trust anyone else to do something they didn’t understand (how could they?).

    Comment by CommanderHate — July 10, 2008 @ 11:43 am

  4. Thanks for the insight, Technohazard and Commander Hate 😀

    Comment by Kohyunu — July 10, 2008 @ 6:16 pm

  5. What really got me into Everquest was not the content per say, but the challenge!

    Who the hell cares about sword of power of the gods etc when you are an enchanter and the life of the party rests in your hands as you pull multiple mobs that can crush a wizard in a few hits. It’s a rush when you’re in such a dangerous world with major consequences if you f up…

    Comment by Nomy — November 2, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

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