By now I’m sure many of you have read/seen the Gamasutra top 12 games of the decade piece, which has World of Warcraft at #1. The whole piece is a nice look back at many of the big games in the last ten years, and I agree that WoW should be placed at the top.
To me, WoW is to the MMO genre as Final Fantasy 7 was to the RPG genre back in the 90s. Both games opened their genre up to the ‘mass market’ by not just being great games, but also in part by NOT following what everyone else was doing in the genre at the time.
For FF7, that including top-shelf graphics in a genre that is usually a few years behind in that area, and a story told more like a blockbuster summer movie than something written by Tolkien. It was also (for that time) more streamlined and ‘accessible’, with only the optional bosses requiring extra work and in-depth knowledge of game mechanics and secrets. For many FF7 was their first RPG, and they would go on to look for similar qualities (movie-like story, fancy graphics, quick progression) in future purchases.
Most know what WoW did to the MMO genre in terms of solo play, hardware requirements, and bringing a release-ready product to a genre accustomed to playing paid beta for months. Like FF7 before it, WoW is the first MMO for many, and those first-timers go into future games expecting similar qualities (plus the added ‘problem’ of the first-MMO love syndrome that is impossible to reproduce).
Much like after FF7 ‘old school’ RPGs became a niche in the RPG genre, today ‘old school’ MMOs like DarkFall and Fallen Earth are the niche games in the MMO genre, while big budget, ‘accessible’ MMOs are in the mainstream. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues into this decade, or whether WoW remains the exception to the rule and too many costly failures turn the big bucks away and leave the space to the little guys.
Well I hope the MMO market is large enough at this point to accommodate both the big budget “Final Fantasy” titles and the smaller, “Demon Souls” games as well. At least in terms of raw subscriber numbers, “niche” titles like Fallen Earth, Darkfall, or to some extent EVE, can thrive even as their subscriber bases shrink as a percentage of the overall market. Darkfall is only niche in virtue of the millions who play and have played games like WoW, millions who if not for WoW would never have touched any MMO. If the Final Fantasies and Dragon Quests of the MMO genre make it possible that more old-school games like Darkfall or Fallen Earth can exist simultaneously – and I think they do – then even people who prefer such niche titles ought to thank these more mainstream games for increasing the potential subscriber base.
If MMOs are anything like RPGs in general though, I doubt we’ll see the big budget titles fading any time soon. What seems to have been the trend over the last five years is that more and more midrange titles have failed as the market bifurcates between triple-A, expensive productions and cheaper niche titles primarily for portable systems. This is only exacerbated by the increasing costs to produce current gen art assets; and when the measure of triple-A MMOs, World of Warcraft, has so much developer produced content, your only options are to go big (AoC, WAR, SWTOR?) or be smart about budgets and do something like Darkfall or Fallen Earth. I think the real victims of this environment in the next decade will be games like LotrO, middle of the road games whose potential subscriber bases don’t justify the budgets needed to produce them.
Surprisingly genuine assessment of WoW…
Although, I personally predict that within the next decade we will REALLY find out what a mass market MMO looks like when someone launches a successful MMO on Facebook or one of the other social networking sites.
In my mind, the social engineering aspects of Facebook is ideal for such an explosive game to be created. Right now, FB games have almost no gameplay to them and are immensely popular. Can you imagine how popular a decent MMO would be if it ran on that platform?
There were plenty of old school RPGS on the PSone even with FF7 in full swing: The tales of destiny series was as old school as you can get, and it thrived and updated itself while keeping the same feel. Persona 1 and 2 and FF tactics are also “old school” games, as was the remakes of the Lunar games. Grandia is also very old school in presentation. Suikoden as well, classic old school game.
Even now, old school games are hardly niche. Disagea and virtually everything NIS puts out could have been done on a psone. The Nintendo DS especially overflows with old school games, even old school to have roguelikes and wizardry clones.
The big budget games became a draw, but they enabled the whole genre to flourish, and it got much better, even the old school ones.
As FF7 was my first “RPG” (not counting Final Fantasy Tactics) it hurts me to have to agree with this assessment.
I would like to think that FF7 did a lot more for the RPG market in terms of setting a benchmark for quality though, because as we all know, WoW was not quite astounding even in 2004.
In ways you are right, but then again, you have to add other things to your comparison. FF7 is in essence the same it was on release, while WoW is updated all the time (for the worse if I do say so myself). I can go back to FF7 and enjoy the same experience, much of it being nostaglia since the game is blocks compared with current RPGs (while it will never be the same as the first time played, the game hasn’t changed while the player has). While WoW, well I will never be able to re-experience vanilla again since the actual game has changed (with the player). Stuff like massive world PVP with no promise of rewards or other events created by players (e.g. a server which set up arena events in Dire Maul with better and crowds) will never happen again because the motivation/time/place is gone.
Is FF7 as different from other RPGs as WoW is as different from other MMORPGs? I’ve never played FF7 but I know I personally wouldn’t call WoW a MMORPG. It is where you meet friends you already have and team up with and against random people (who might as well be bots) you will never see/meet again. The new LFG-thing, might as well give up and remove the game world since that is now more effective.
I personally think someone should beat WoW at its own game (or many aspects) WHILE effectively progressing the genre. Have voices instead of whole quest text (though that can be included). Forgot the current form of progression completely, characters can have instant progression, each action they use changes the game world in a minor way (hence a different type of progression) so it actually means something (each minor action and other major actions affect the story). Let yourself go on the journey rather then the journey force you to go where it wants. That type of game is far to early, but you get what I mean. Current form of progression is lost, players in WoW and most other standard MMORPGs don’t progress, they live someone elses dream (the developers).
ANYWAY, you get my point. While I get the points you are making and agree, there is more depth to it (which I’m sure you are already aware of).
BTW, this decade’s FF7 is clearly Halo. Dumbs down a genre completely and makes it available to many on a simple platform (who ironically think their hardcore).
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