Since about 2006 people have been predicting that the next big MMO would be a ‘WoW killer’ pre-release. Those people were all wrong, every assassination attempt has failed, and WoW still sits on the throne. Until Cata that is.
Now before you go to comment, no, I have not played Cata. But I have talked to various people about it, read a whole lot, and well, I think I get the gist of it. If I’m totally off here, let me know why, but from what I gather, Cata has greatly pushed WoW towards an online single player game, especially the 1-60 revamp. With quests being so linked, phasing being used so heavily, and everything being even more soloable, it’s far more work to actually do the content with others now than it ever has been. Even the group content (BGs, dungeons) is now an anonymous queue-style experience rather than per-organized stuff, and queue up for raids is surely the next step.
And as of day, that seems to work for WoW and Blizzard. Cata sold well, the response has been positive, and people are enjoying the content. But the game today shares little with the game many fell in love with in 2004, and now shares little with even it’s ‘clones’ like LotRO and company. Some view the new quest style as an evolution in MMO questing, but to me it’s a genre-shift more than anything else. The ‘WoW killer’ was Blizzard, who moved the game OUT of the MMO space.
I say this because I don’t think ‘kill ten rats’ quests are dead. I think many players enjoy them, given the right context. In a single player game? No thanks, I’d rather do Witcher-style stuff (god that game is amazing), but online while I chat with guild-mates and work towards some over-arching goal? Sign me up. I don’t need or want phasing or complex chain-quests when my goal is to hit a certain level, or finish off a skill (if we are talking skill-based progression). A little side-bonus in the form of a simple quest? I’ll take it, especially if my guild-mates can jump in half-way through and contribute as well.
It’s because of this that I actually view Rift’s ‘old-school’ quests as a plus over what WoW does. MMO content, to me, is not about how fantastic the solo stuff is, it’s about how much fun I can have with everyone else around me. To that end, the ‘simple’ quests are far superior, because they lower the barrier of entry (especially if you have flexible quest sharing and ‘more is better’ mechanics in-game) and allow you to focus on what really counts (other players) rather than the filler NPCs stealing the spotlight. Of course, if ALL you have going is simple quests and nothing more, that’s trouble. But if you have good content besides the core questing stuff (like say, rifts), the simpler style of questing fits in well.
Rift has a rather unique opportunity here, as WoW has transitioned away from being an MMO, and if Rift is WoW 2004 with 2011 updates, I’m interested, and I think I’m not alone on that.