Thanks, Lore, for going out on a limb with this topic--I really appreciate the chance to hear what others are thinking about the genre as a whole. I began playing just after TBC. I was a D&D geek as an '80s youth, and just couldn't resist a game that made the D&D experience "real."
Thanks to Steveh for bringing up a great way to dissect the massive player base that WoW has gathered. Articles by Luke Crane, author of the Burning Wheel pen and paper RPG, are similarly useful and thought provoking, if anyone's interested: rpg.net I believe.
Not to be yet another quibbling lore nerd, but I think it's important: the root of the content we play in WoW lies, going way back, in Lord of the Rings and the genesis of the fantasy genre as a whole. Moving forward, the root of WoW is in Dungeons and Dragons. It's there that I think we can look for what future MMOs will expand on.
To my mind, the biggest hole in the game, the element least served, is the game that the Socializers play via WoW. I believe future fantasy MMOs that can develop the role of the server economy into a game unto itself, rather than simply a support for the raiding (and to a much lesser extent, the pvp) game, will have found themselves a market that Second Life players currently enjoy. Despite many players like myself who are no longer young, WoW players are still generally a young and male. What if a future MMO allowed players to build villages, build temples, make public art/spectacles, have families, gardens, crafting shops? I think more women would be interested in such a virtual fantasy world. Such a game would find an entirely new population to draw its player base from. Such a game wouldn't need to shave 10% off the iceberg of WoW's player base.
The grindy nature of MMO's came from korean MMO's and Everquest long before FFXI. Games like Ragnarok Online was an MMORPG just not in firstperson or in 3d but rather in isotropic form and it was super grindy, both for gear upgrades, gear/item drops, and high end leveling.
Great work on bringing all that together. You talked about adding new aspects to the game, or "gimmicks" as you put it, and one up coming MMO that I've been watching intently is Star Wars: The Old Republic. One thing the developers have really been hyping is the role that plot plays in the game experience. Good idea or bad idea? Judging on Bioware's past history with RPG's and plots (KOTOR, Mass Effect, Dragon Age) I think they could make a great plot with this.
What got people to play WoW in the first place was the fact that it was new and fresh. You had no toons, hadn't seen the world yet, knew no one yet, didn't have a plethora of websites hand-walking you through every aspect of the game. It also was the first game that probably required you to enlist the aid of others to accomplish your goals in the game (pvp/raiding).
Where WoW is getting old is that we all have about 8 toons, seen and done everything (for the most part), know as many people as we care to know, have every website telling us in advance everything we need to know about the game bookmarked and on RSS feed. We no longer enlist the aid of others to accomplish our goals because we have an automated system feeding us random RL bots as needed.
The concept of MMOs is very very old... it stretches back to the days of nothing but text based gaming (MUDs). In fact, that is where MMOs really were born. All the gaming companies really did was add graphics to what had been done for years in text based games. Took it to a new level, but the basical idea and concept was still the same.
You can add new expansions and levels and gear, but you can't change the fact that those who have been playing this game for a long time are going to quickly master it. The only thing that makes MMOs interesting to those players is the challenge. That is what Blizzard currently is taking out of the game. So while they may think the player base as a whole want Invincibility Mode turned on all the time, what they are in fact doing is killing the only thing left that the game could possibly offer to keep us all playing.
The new player base is extemely small. The biggest markets for WoW is currently outside of the U.S. because to them, it is new and fresh. But it's not the game we all leveled in, so the new players are getting pole vaulted into level 80 at rates never seen before. So they don't develop the love for the game that we have. They don't realize what they missed or are missing. The reason the player base that has been playing the game for so long is so vocal about some of the upcoming changes in Cataclysm is that it clearly marks the end to the last aspect of the game that separates the MMO from the single person shooter. The need to rally a large group of people together in order to down a new instance. There's nothing epic about 10 man anything. You can ultimately find 10 non-stupid people and cruise through anything tossed before you. Now 25 mand and 40 man, that took real coordination to pull off. Half the fight was in your raid makeup. If every raid leader could assemble 25 non-stupid people, end game would be a joke. But you always carry a certain number of those who just can't help but stand in the fire. That just made the game more epic... we won in spite of our stupidity.
Unless Blizzard re-thinks their desire to make the common denominator 10 or less, I suspect that many will wander off. And perhaps that is the plan... to urge us all to move on to Starcraft2 and let WoW quietly slip away into the night. As you said, the technology behind it is old, people have been playing it for a very long time. Nothing would help everyone out the door quicker than to make it so easy as to even make the most casual player think it's too easy.
Their only gamble is in whether people really care about space as a genre.
I wouldn't lump EVE into the "wow but w/ a gimick" catagory, like it says it was released before wow and the gameplay of eve isn't even comparable to wow
Originally Posted by Alrinea
Gratz on the 26th episode, I enjoy listening. I'd just like to mention exponentially declining reward as one of the reasons for WOW's success. I heard a Blizzard dev describing this as "no super weapons". People that spend 2 evenings a week on WOW can raid with the people that spend 5 days a week. The latter will have better gear, but the differences are marginal (exponentially less reward for time.)
One other thing: I think the biggest threat to WOW is not necessarily the competition. Inside Blizzard, the Finance department and the Create department will be struggling over issues like how long to spend on an expansion, how much to pay for sound tracks, how much risk to take, and so on. So far Creative has been doing great, but I know of no long term defense against the Finance department.
I think you hit a very very good point. My wife does actually play the game and she enjoys the social aspect of raiding. We enjoyed a similar MMO that emphasized Socializing more than most other parts of the game previously. In that game she spent hours redesigning a room/house/palace spending in-game currency with other players to get more furniture, etc. She also had shops of her own to run and manufacture things for herself or other buyers. She likes to play the AH on WoW and would greatly enjoy being a "shop" owner in some sense as you talk about. Imagine all those people that play silly Farmville games on FB having their own little plot or piece of WoW that people can check out. Even if those "plots" of land have no value to raiding or other pieces of the game, you'd have an explosive economic game. I think you've hit a gold mine here.
Originally Posted by Vajrapani
Can I make a donation for Lore to get a new shirt?
I'll match every dollar so he keeps wearing his normal wardrobe. =P
Originally Posted by Zietgeist
An interesting point about what you were talking about is.. that it's blizzard that is really making changes to their mmo.. without their competition really keeping up. If you think about all the steamlining of things they have done; from making leveling faster to the dungeon finder... well, they are constantly improving on their concept and it's gonna be hard for a competitor to really stay ahead of them.
My guess is the "wow killer" will be another blizzard mmo. ;p
The first online game I played was Diablo II. The biggest think I like about wow that I hated about Diablo is that Gold actally has a value. Gold in diablo was used for repairs and to tease a person after they died and you picked up their gold. I would never do something like that... to someone I liked. The key to makeing gold valuable in wow was to offer a item that looks really cool for the price of a hundred thousand gold. A good example would be the diffrent mounts you can purchase with gold. The games that are no pay to play games can only get new contant from expansions. When you have a pay to play game like wow, new contant can be added by patches. The new contant is paid for with the subscription, It makes new contant easier and faster to make.