My Problem with the Current State of MMOs

I’m sure you all will remember the post I wrote at the beginning of this month that riled up quite a few people. I was the self-proclaimed asshole who enjoys PvP, the occasional gank that could be construed as griefing, and could find the humor in things others could not. I’m not going to reopen that can of worms, as I have made my points known, and had further discussion on this blog and others where we could all come to a compromise of sorts, or at least agree to disagree.

There was a completely different post planned for today, but I couldn’t help but put that one on the back burner after having participated in some commentary on Eri’s blog; I have new things to talk about instead. First, a little history (which some of you probably already know about me, but just for clarity).

I played MMOs heavily from the early to late 2000s. Most of my time was spent in Norrath, where a different type of MMO player was born and a different culture was cultivated. The unwashed masses joined in on the MMO scene once World of Warcraft released, and a new type of culture developed — the entire industry changed due to the juggernaut that is WoW. We have to give credit where credit is due, but maybe not in the way that you think.

I can acknowledge that WoW became king due a variety of circumstances, but mostly because it brought MMOs to the mainstream. The polish and accessibility are both lauded as reasons for its success. I have played the game, despite saying I never would back in the early days of its existence, but I never played it for long. To me, it was too samey, and all MMOs that have released since 2004 have all been samey as well,  which we all know is due to the money grabbing that other companies have gone for, rather than trying to do new things. It seems that as of late, the only big-budget company that is still working towards something new that might revolutionize the industry again is SOE. On smaller levels (mostly with crowd-funded backing) some indie companies that have a bit of (developer) name recognition are trying new ideas, but any and all of those games that might come to fruition are still being worked on, so time will tell if they do something vastly different or not.

When I was playing EQ2, quite often I would come across a player who came from WoW, and said that EQ2 was the superior game, not only graphically, but in depth and play-style variety. They’d also talk about the toxicity of WoW’s playerbase, saying they were “all a bunch of kids,” and things of that nature. I washed my hands of the subject, vowing I wouldn’t play the game, as I felt my game of choice was superior. I’m sure everyone playing WoW felt the same about their game. It was a sign of the times. But people grow and change, and most of us have come to a point where we don’t raid, because we don’t have the time, or because we thought it would be great if there was something else to do (we’ve also become more migratory). Don’t get me wrong, I remember being a raider and wanting everyone to do things “right” and if they did things “wrong” we’d kick them from our groups. I’m sure you all have heard stories similar to these. That doesn’t make it the right way to go about doing things. Developers shouldn’t be pigeonholing everyone into doing that samey content all the time, where there is only one right way to do things, and only one end game. Unfortunately, the massive success that is WoW has forced the entire industry to conform to these ideals, and I’m pretty sick of it.

Being away from MMOs for a few years allowed me to remember why I love single player stories and gave me the time to cultivate a love for the MOBA genre. I still felt that itch for an MMO-sized experience though, and have made a few forays into different games this year. I started by going back to the tried and true (EQ2), tried the new hotness (Wildstar and ArcheAge betas), filtered through some titles I had missed in my absence from the genre (Rift, SWTOR, Tera) and even took a little tour of some of the new stuff in WoW (mostly to play with some fellow bloggers).  I picked up Guild Wars 2 somewhere along the line and decided to get more into that recently. Having tried so many in the past few months, I can honestly say that it’s not too difficult to get through part of the game and realize they are all the same. Nuances might be different; some try action-oriented combat, some don’t rely on the trinity, some allow you to grind out XP your way, but they all suffer from being the same type of experience when it comes down to it. Player choice is an illusion. There is optimal and sub optimal. This is the problem with the current crop of MMOs. There are no meaningful choices to make. I want a game where I can play the exact style I want to play in, and don’t have to conform to a preconceived notion that there is a “right” way to build my character, to progress through the game, to have fun. Yet there is a portion of any player base that will tell you exactly that: you’re doing it wrong.

In that post that I wrote, or perhaps it was during discussion on my podcast about PvP, or maybe even in the comments on blogs elsewhere, it was suggested that there are primarily PvE players that are just as much of assholes as the ganksters are in PvP. Equivalents, if you will. The reason why someone might not want to play a particular game, because they found it overwhelmingly populated by people who think their way of playing the game is the only way. Sadly enough, some development teams enforce these attitudes with their design choices. I believe Blizzard is one of those companies, and as such I am back in that camp I was in so long ago. I have no desire to play their game, to give them more money to develop with. As a matter of fact, I feel as if I am in that state of mind that I was when I quit the genre almost 4 years ago. There isn’t a game out right now that really compels me to play it. That puts its hooks into me like games of the past. That won’t let me let it go. I keep wanting to give the genre a chance, and I keep feeling let down, long before I ever reach the game’s cap. Even if I did manage to get to that cap, I probably would be bored of the same old bullshit they call an endgame. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, yet all I seem to read is how each person is playing whatever game, or dancing between games, and somehow finding doing the same, repetitive bullshit fun.

Yes, I know that sounds funny coming from a MOBA player, seeing as how each game of LoL could be seen as doing the same thing over and over, but the human confrontation that I have gone on and on about is what compels me to keep logging in. Each game feels different. Each victory is as sweet as the next, because I was playing against a whole new set of people, and matching my skills and wits against them. Oh what’s that? You beat heroic Garrosh whatever the fuck raid? Yeah, it will be exactly the same next time you do it too, and you still won’t get that item drop you really want. It might be different if you have different people not using the “correct” item and talent builds though, cause you might fail as those choices were suboptimal. That elitist attitude turns me off from a game more than anything. But this is just my opinion, and what do I know? Any and all points will be refuted by the fanboys of any game. Semantics I say.

Ok, I think I’ve gotten that off of my chest. Sorry for the rant folks, I had just commented on Eri’s post about what WoW character to play and was basically told that any and all of my opinions were incorrect, so I thought I would give a longer retort. In general, MMOs need to impress before I’m going to bother with them anymore, outside of very casual play (if at all). I’ll leave it at that.

#gamedesign #mmos #rant