MMOG Nation today has a post with some pre and post WAR launch reactions, which as expected go from unrealistic hype to ‘worst game eva’ faster than Usain Bolt. It’s entertaining to watch, but nothing new for an MMO launch. People overhyped EQ1, played for a month, and bitch that it too sucked compared to UO. The only difference today is the bandwagon holds far more people thanks to WoW.
PvP in an MMO is an idea that a lot of people like the sound of. PvP is also something a lot of MMO fans don’t actually like to play when you get down to it. PvP is harder than PvE, it’s less ‘fair’, and when you lose repeatedly it’s a direct reflection on you, rather than being able to lay blame on some code and a script. If you are on the short end of the stick in PvP consistently, at some point it’s more a reflection on you than it is anything the game itself is doing, and that’s a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people. They don’t want to log in and be reminded that someone out there is just better then they are. We all want to be the one true hero, right? That’s why PvE is so easy; the NPCs never pack up and leave because your class is overpowered, they fight you repeatedly even if you zerg them, and they are even nice enough to wait around for you in the same exact spot each time. It’s easy to be the hero when the villain lets you win.
To me what separates PvP fans is we understand the limits of PvE, the downfalls of PvP, and in the end the benefits of PvP outweigh the convenience of PvE. Which is not to say PvE sucks and you suck if you like it, that’s not the point. The point is for a certain percentage of the MMO fan base, we would rather trade in the safety of PvE for the ever-changing aspects of PvP, good and bad. While we are annoyed with zergs, item imbalance, ganking, and all the other negative aspects of PvP, they don’t annoy us ENOUGH to outweigh the rush from a quality PvP encounter. Just like pure PvE annoys us with its predictability, safety, and ultimately carbon-copy nature. Killing Illidan might make you feel like a hero for a moment, but you are just following the motions of thousands of players before you, and nothing you did makes you a unique snowflake. You simply repeated the scripted steps necessary for the loot piñata to pop. And again, for a lot of people, popping that piñata is exactly what they want out of an MMO, they want to log on and know the piñata is back up, waiting for its beating. The idea that the piñata might fight back, or bring its candy-filled friends to gank you are not something that is ultimately appealing.
So with all that said, is WAR doomed to follow in the revered footsteps of PvP MMO games like ShadowBane and Fury, bleeding angry subscribers until it folds? Of course not, and if anything, WAR is on a good pace to accomplish exactly what Mythic set out to do, become the #2 subscription based MMO in North America and the EU. Only the truly delusional are surprise that the bandwagon is emptying and people are scurrying back to WoW and its 10 new levels of neon. Everyone knew this would happen, just like we all know in 3-4 months, when the neon starts to dim, the hype will again begin to swell for the next MMO baby jesus to come save us all. And while the bandwagon jumpers will forever chase after the hype of the ‘next’ MMO, fans of each game remain and continue to enjoy themselves, be it LoTRO, EVE, EQ2, WoW, or WAR. And as long as each company caters to that fan base, everything will work itself out just fine. We will continue to get the content we enjoy, while being able to watch and enjoy the show that is the MMO dreamer bandwagon.