My enjoyment of virtual worlds goes back to Ultima Online, in large part because I loved the sRPG Ultima games, growing up on Ultima V and always being jealous of a friend who had a PC and had Ultima VI on it. The very basic idea of having an RPG like Ultima, but having it never end, plus getting to play it with others, was a dream scenario for me. And the hype was real, UO was exactly what I imagined it to be, and all was good.
Then came EverQuest, and the birth of my themepark hatred (I’m oldschool like that). Imagining what the MMO space would look like today had EQ1 never been released is, frankly, depressing.
UO was changed drastically with Trammel. I was not happy about that change, and around that time moved on to Asheron’s Call – Darktide. AC-DT was pretty damn great, if less worldly/sandbox than UO (not to mention it did not use the Ultima IP, which again, I loved). After AC-DT came Dark Age of Camelot, another stand-out PvP MMO that, much like AC, was more themepark than UO but still not on the EQ1 level.
2004 comes and, being a fan of Warcraft as an RTS, I jump in on WoW. I was the officer of a very established, successful raiding guild. We have a great time, make some very solid friendships with people that I still talk to today, and enjoy ourselves. Then WoW (slowly at first) began to change, and our guild broke and we all move on.
For a while there I was mad at WoW itself for changing. I liked the original version, I had fun with it. I was not done having fun with it when Blizzard canceled the party, much like I was not done with UO when Trammel arrived, or with DAoC when ToA arrived.
But today I don’t care what happens to WoW itself. I’ve long since come to terms with the fact that WoW is what it is, and no amount of changes short of a total 180 are going to return the game to the state I enjoyed. Again, I’m good with that. Power to the sparkle pony crowd, knock yourselves out.
Today my dislike for WoW is much like my original dislike for EQ1; the influence those games had/have on other titles. Much like I doubt Trammel would have happened had EQ1 never been released, I have my doubts whether something like WAR would have been as flawed had WoW never existed. Would Rift be as generic, and with 1.2, as dumbed down had WoW not set the standard and precedence? My guess is no.
Add in the all-but-scientifically-confirmed WoW tourist phenomenon, Blizzard’s RMT approach, their “innovate by copy/paste” design practice, Bobby being a gamer-hating clueless user car salesmen, etc, and there really is plenty to dislike about WoW beyond whether current heroics are super hard or that the leveling game may or may not be faceroll easy.
Oh, and that whole “expand the audience” angle is BS if you ask me. When a small studio can make EVE/DF, and a big one can make WAR/AoC, I’m not all that sold on this “big money = big win” theory. Toss in that the bigger an MMO gets, the seemingly worse its community gets, and yea, I’m cool with JUST playing along with 100k others. I also don’t see WoW/Farmville outpacing the world in terms of quality, content delivery, or player benefits thanks to those 11.4/100m players.
What I find comical however is those who rage against WoW, or LotRO, or any other established title, and keep crying for those 180 changes like they might actually happen. Or, for that matter, like they would even make those titles better games today. Worldly housing is not going to make WoW a better game, its flaws are much deeper than that, and honestly, the 11.4m playing today don’t even want that. They want more sparkle ponies, and they will get more sparkle ponies. Or whatever is even more ‘accessible’ than $25 ponies to further “broaden the audience”.
I’d love to throw out a counter-example of a game focusing harder on it’s core rather than trying to expand, but I can’t name even one. (EVE is close, but EVE has just been doing what it does since day one, so that’s more a case of business as usual rather than an anti-Trammel/ToA)
On somewhat of a similar note, I’m always amused at people hating on something like DarkFall, with all its 5-50k subs (depending on which fan/hater you ask). DarkFall, short of getting 100x more subs, is never going to influence your themepark. WoW will never get reverse-Trammel’ed because DarkFall exists. Full loot FFA PvP is not coming to Azeroth, don’t worry. The next ten AAA MMO titles won’t be DarkFall clones with “insert not that important change here”.
At least, not for another 7 years, when WoW dies and EVE hits 10m subs. Then you can rant about how it sucks that your carebear title was just made inaccessible because the last safe PvE zone was made FFA PvP with perma-death, and your only themepark MMO option left is some 2D flash title made by a guy in his basement.
I’ll shed a tear for you then, but I’m not holding my breath on it happening.