Monday, July 30, 2012


From time to time I look back fondly on all the MMO's I've played. Even the ones that took an unforeseen turn for the worse -- I focus on the enjoyable experiences prior to whatever patch or bug destroyed the game and/or community. It's not quite nostalgia, because I do not long to return to any of the games I've stopped playing. I stopped playing them for a reason afterall. I just like to think back to the days of old, when each MMO actually had something that set it apart from whatever other game was on the market at the time. Not things that made it necessarily better, just things that set them apart. That's difficult to find now.

Most MMO's bank all of their effort toward repeating whatever worked for whichever game came before it based on popularity of said game. This ultimately fails because it provides gamers with absolutely no reason to switch from the game they're already playing to the new game. Why start over with no gear, friends, or money in a game that's basically exactly what you're playing anyway?

A lot of people incorrectly label this the WoW Effect. Since World of Warcraft was for many people their first MMO experience, every game which followed afterward that had similar features was dubbed a WOW clone. With even just the slightest amount of actual research however, you will realize that most of the features in WOW were actually completely ripped off from other MMOs before it. That's right, Warcraft was not innovative at all. For instance the beloved PVP battlegrounds everyone thinks are token WoW material were actually alive and well in DAoC long beforehand. Talent trees, classes specialties, and even PVE instancing were all present in games predating WoW by years.

I find it incredibly interesting that while I liked WoW the least, it was one of the longest games I ever played. The learning curve was nonexistent. You could effectively do most tasks by rolling your face back and forth across your keyboard and get by just fine. The expansions were always just more of the same, to the point where even the models and other art were simply copy pastas of previous content. World PVP did not exist once BGs were introduced which reduced all player v. player conflicts to mundane, preplanned events. The only thing WoW had was the people.

Don't misunderstand. The majority of the Warcraft community is akin to some sort of special gaming Olympics. Millions of invalids who can do nothing but regurgitate old memes at one another with the overall combined charisma of a rancid turnip. Every once in a great while though, you'd stumble upon a genuinely intelligent, reliable human being. And if you were really lucky, they will have already sought out other such individuals and combined themselves into a small tightly knit guild, making the game worth playing where otherwise it would not be.

It's amazing how one or two great people can keep you around when all else can't. Especially when you manage to find them in what is essentially the Mos Eisley of gaming communities. Looking at the other games I've played, the reasons I had for sticking around post-apocalypse were much simpler. They were fun. Dark Age of Camelot had amazing PVP in its youth. Anarchy Online had a truly imaginative PvE instancing system, catering your 'dungeon' to your specific desires. To this day I am unaware of any true MMO that allows that. Starwars Galaxies had astounding role-play. Matrix Online had a truly immersing environment, add in enjoyable combat and interactive locking emotes and you had the recipe for role-player bliss. Everquest 2 was just amusing to play, the mechanics were simple but efficient. Age of Conan had a seriously innovative combat system and an impressively loyal community. Warhammer Online was an entertaining foray into the living, breathing Warhammer universe.

Ironically their short-comings were somehow related to why they had been worth playing in the first place.

DAoC tried to out-do their own PVP experience and basically ruined what had kept people playing in the first place. Seeing the error of their ways they reintroduced 'classic' servers. Sadly it was too little too late for the game to make a complete recovery, resulting in the combining of servers to combat the ghost towns they had become.

AO didn't change. Which is both good and bad. The good is that the gameplay remained entertaining and unique. They never tried to over-do it. This is also bad though because it made the game stagnate. The graphics are more or less the same as they had been when the game came out ages ago, despite all of the vast advancements in computer capabilities. Funcom has had a graphical overhaul planned since 2007, but there has been no change and no set date as to when this change could be expected.

This means your playerbase is composed entirely of the especially die-hard fans of the game and no one else. New players won't join because they dislike the subpar graphics and many old players leave because they've grown bored. If a new player does get over how out-dated the entire game is, they feel lost and hopelessly too far behind as soon as they login and realize almost everyone they meet is 200 levels higher than they are.

You can play it for free, however, so there is no reason not to play it every once in a while.

SWG's role-play came to a grinding halt once they took a game with over 20 classes, that you could hybridize to endless possibility -- to a game with fewer than 10 starting professions that could not stray from the set path in any capacity whatsoever. One completely game-altering 'upgrade' was enough. The second effectively killed the game and it's now shutting down forever come December. Despite the communities outrage and disappointment, SOE decided not to heed them and refused to roll-back to how the game had been, or even provide a 'classic' server where people could get away from the NGE. This was such an enormous marketing disaster that a member of the staff who pushed the NGE forward actually killed himself.

It is to my knowledge one of the most devastating changes made to an MMO in history.

MxO had everything going for it, except that it was run by SOE. They couldn't leave well-enough alone and made change after change until the original player base had basically evaporated. It remained alive for a little while, attracting the occasional Matrix fan, but ultimately met a swift, timely end. The rate at which SOE is handed liscences to games that should have 0 chance of failure, that fail, is boggling.

EQ had a very easy-to-play gaming experience. Quests were easy to follow, combat was simply executed, and they offered an optional graphical upgrade to those who wished it. Meaning if you had a crappy computer, you could still play, but if you had a good computer you could play and not look like you were molded out of Playdoh. While a simple game is a nice get away from games that require some form of degree to play right, it also gives you little reason to stick around. By level 20, you really had nothing to do but continue leveling up. Money was easy to come by. Leveling was a breeze. PVP only existed on certain servers. The most fun I had after level 20 in EQ2 was decorating my character's apartment.

AoC had one of the most innovative combat experiences I've ever had the joy of playing with. Incidentally it also had the smoothest launch of any MMO I've played -- and I've suffered through a lot of game launches. Patch after patch however created bug after bug and Funcom was rather disinterested in fixing them in any timely manner. This created issues that completely broke the game. The fantastic combat system was now a method by which you could charge up and behead someone at 10 yards; before you'd normally even be in range to swing at them.

This bug also only effected melee characters, so before long all of the healers and mages disappeared and the world was filled with warriors running around trying to chop off eachother's heads. Combine that with Funcom going back on their no graveyard camping policy, this meant that if you beheaded someone and ran to the resurrection pad fast enough -- you could murder them repeatedly all day.

This obviously had several damaging effects on the game. Since all of the healers and mages rerolled as melee... you could no longer efficiently get any PVE done. Which meant your entire gameplay experience rested on the enjoyment of PVP. Which you also couldn't do because any time you logged on, someone would chop off your head from 10 yards away before you even loaded.

Now, before you think, "You're just upset because people were chopping off your head!" you should know that I was usually the one doing the head-chopping. I'm just not so much of an ass I can't admit that it was broken.

Warhammer Online was the purist disappointment when it came to games I had been looking forward to. It was developed by Mythic, who did magical things with DAoC back in the day, so I was expecting more of that. It was also set in the richly story driven Warhammer world. How could they go wrong? Well, basically they pushed the game out much too fast, meaning that while all of the races were present, only two of their cities had been included in the game. They also apparently forgot that at the essence of Warhammer is role-play... because there were absolutely no tools implemented within the game to make this possible. You could not walk, or sit, or write custom emotes; you could barely even customize your character (which is forgivable provided you can do all of those other things).

They decided to make the focus PVE and PVP, which is fine as a Mythic game. That's basically what DAoC had been, but as a Warhammer game this was unacceptable. You had this vast, rich world full of life... and no way to interact with it. It was surprisingly disappointing. World PVP was also kind of broken, which left you to do nothing but run BGs. In which case, you may as well have been playing any other MMO already out, like I mentioned above, and avoided starting over. Which is exactly what happened after the first month live.

I realize this turned into more of a rant than I had originally intended starting out. I could gripe about the cons until the cows come home, or alternatively fawn over the pros until I convinced you to play them, but I think I'll spare you this time.

In short, what I was getting at was this: why can't developers create something fun anymore? Something that takes what's right about the other games and combines it all together, leaving out the bad. I mean, that is what made WOW successful. To copy Warcraft's success you do not need to make a clone of WOW. You need to do as they did and steal every good idea from every other MMO currently on the market.

Then, while it would not be a completely unique idea, it would at least be worth switching to from whatever you're playing now. I don't want mind blowing innovation. In my experience that's always bad (Tabula Rasa, Mortal Online, DDO, GW, etc.). Also, why is it the new trend in MMO's that to be innovative you have to switch to first-person perspective? That's not innovative, especially when nothing else is any different mechanically. I swear if one more up-and-coming MMO decides to  broaden it's audience by being first-person, I'll punch them with a dolphin.

I like toast and butter. I do not like toast crumbs in my butter. In that light: I like first-person shooter games and I like role-playing games. I do not however enjoy FPS games in my RPG games. If I wanted to play an FPS, that's what I would've bought. ffs.