Keen has a post up about his recent experience in DAoC. The gist of it is that after the ‘newness’ of being back in DAoC wore off, the fact that the PvE in DAoC is not as on-rails as more recent MMOs was a deal breaker for him, and he could not get himself to play through the PvE portion just to get to the PvP part that he wanted.
Along with the post there are some great comments left by several people debating both sides of the issue. After posting one comment myself, I had another going until I realized it was getting lengthy, and when that happens, its blog post time.
I think two huge issues play into Keen’s feeling about his recent trip to DAoC. First off, he has a pre-set image of what he REMEMBERS DAoC being, and more importantly, he remembers DAoC as a max level character focused on RvR. DAoC was NEVER an amazing PvE game, because it was never designed to be. It’s a PvP game, and as with any GOOD PvP-focused game, you have to make sacrifices on the PvE end to get good PvP. I really don’t think that point is debatable either, games either get PvE or PvP right, or they try to do both and everything ends up meh. UO had good PvP, eh PvE. EQ1 had good PvE, trash PvP. AC Darktide was good PvP, no one cared about the PvE. WoW HAD good PvE, trash PvP, and is now stuck in ‘meh’ mode for both as it tries to become an e-sport. EVE has good PvP, eh PvE. The list goes on and on.
So issue one is that Keen has to accept the PvE aspect of DAoC in order to get to the PvP. This is not to say the PvE in DAoC is worthless, its not, but it’s not what sells the game. You can’t expect WoW 1-60 in DAoC, and then still expect the RvR game to be there as well. It’s similar to someone logging into EVE and expecting ‘!’ above the NPCs heads, while still hoping to get into fleet warfare later; it just does not work that way. The key is to know and accept that day 1. You don’t level a character in EQ2 to max so you can get to the sweet PvP at the end, right? So why expect that from DAoC?
The second issue, and I think this is the big one, is that too many people assume that what worked back in early 2000 won’t work today, because somehow WoW was this giant revolution in MMO design and made any idea before it obsolete. People make statements that things like open world PvP, death penalties, open-ended PvE are all dead, generally based on the fact that WoW does not have them, and since 10 million people play WoW, that must be the one and only way to design an MMO. The truth is almost any idea done well works. Open PvP works, just not in WoW. It works great in EVE, and removing it from EVE would basically be one step away from shutting off Tranquility. Same with death penalties, they don’t work in WoW, but done right they do. The death penalty of item loss was a major factor in AC Darktide working as well as it did, and without it the PvP would have suffered greatly. Or take a game like LoTRO, even being as close to a WoW clone as it is, it does open-ended PvE well in the form of deeds, giving you a reason, however small, to just go and grind away on mobs. The key is, if you hate grinding mobs, LoTRO does not force you to do it, as the deeds are somewhat minor. But the option is still there, and for many, it works really well.
As the next wave of big name titles is set for release, it’s very important to remember that those games are not WoW. If you want an on-rails ! chase, WoW has perfected it, so stick with perfection and enjoy it. But if you want something else, either because the ! chase is not your thing, or because you have been doing it for however long and want something else, you have to accept the give and take of design. The next game you play after WoW won’t do its thing PLUS everything WoW did, that’s just not possible. If it’s designed well, it will do its thing well, and hopefully that will be reason enough to play. But going into a game and comparing it constantly to WoW’s highlights, you will be forever disappointed, no matter how well the game hits its goals.