Friday, September 10, 2010


Nostalgia. This word is really popular in current MMO debates. That has two reasons:

1) There are a lot of influential players who think that WoW: WotLK was a relative failure and there were much less such players at the end of Vanilla WoW or The Burning Crusade.
2) A lot of players think of themselves as especially insightful when argueing that the only reason for (1) is nostalgia.

Now, as you can see by the way I wrote (2), I am not a fan of this point of view.

It is not that I think that there is no nostalgia involved. Nostalgia plays a role. Nobody sane could deny it. But nostalgia is not everything. Nobody sane should deny that, either.

Let's stay with WoW: It has changed. Not just a little, but a lot. There was a time without raids, without battlegrounds, with regular open PvP, with totally unbalanced classes, superfluous damage dealers in groups, forced healing speccs in raids, only one tank specc, few flying routes, almost no teleports, strange bugs, severe stability problems, extremely expensive normal mounts, unreachable epic mounts, almost no epics, only two legendaries, farming raid groups, long distances to travel to get to anywhere, no flying mounts, only one viable weapon enchant, bad graphics, no shadows, many elites in the open world, too much auto attack, terrible UI, not enough addons, strong advantages for Alliance when raiding, ...

I tried to list good and bad things and you might see that the bad things probably outnumber the good things - no matter your preferences. So was early WoW better than current WoW? That is a really tough question .. and a totally unimportant one!

What is important is that the vision behind early WoW was something I like much more than the vision behind current WoW. But since early WoW also had a lot of execution problems, it is hard to say that it itself was better.

Early WoW tried to create a seamless (no loading screens!) virtual world. A world with a lot of quests and some sandbox elements, like open PvP. WoW never tried to beat Eve Online at being a sandbox, but it tried to resemble a virtual world.

Current WoW does not have the vision of a virtual world. .. If you do not agree, I can weaken that statement to: Current WoW has a lesser focus on the virtual world aspect than early WoW had.
Two examples: The rewards in dungeons suddenly change during patches without any immersive explanation. Some NPCs seem to have all the equip you need to defeat the Lich King: Why don't they just give it to you ? You can suddenly teleport to automatically assembled groups of strangers from other servers and do a random dungeon with them. After that you automatically get teleported back to were you were. Not even by some NPC, but just by the game mechanics.

The vision has changed and with it changed the game. The fact that some players nowadays often feel like early WoW was better, is not just nostalgia. It is also due to the fact that people who had liked WotLK in 2005 did not end up playing Vanilla! There was a selection process at work! Those who did not have the time to play Vanilla stopped playing Vanilla! They are not around to tell you that they like WotLK more!
Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that those who mourn after early WoW, in fact, are not nostalgic, but actually are only present, because they liked early WoW.

If there is one thing I learnt from participating in the MMORPG blogosphere, it is that people, indeed, prefer different games. As incredible as I think it is: Some people indeed like to be teleported around the world. They do not consider it an immersion problem. They like AoEing in dungeons, hate crowd control and do not want leveling to be hard at all!

In the last 5 years, the market did not just grow. It grew by attracting players with different attitudes, different gaming mentalities. If you want to play WoW the way you play a console game, you will like WotLK more than Vanilla. Regardless of when you started to play WoW. But it is more likely you started during WotLK as you would not have liked Vanilla.

Up to now the companies still try to make games for all players. But in the future there will have to be market segmentation and product differentiation. A polished Eve Online-like fantasy MMORPG will attract players. But these players will not want to play together with other players who consider a teleporting dungeon-finder a necessity. And vice versa!

MMORPGs cannot cater to everybody anymore. The market became too big, too diverse. At some point the developers need to make a stand and try to convince the players that their vision of a game is actually fun. That does not mean, however, that game developers cannot pool ressources. In fact, they should!


  1. Good post. I assume you have read mine as it was the one quoted on PPI, it echoes a lot of my thoughts there. I wonder at times whether it is just me and other more 'oldschool' gamers that see immersion as a core value of MMOs and hence an issue in WoW the way it is now.
    I've discussed this quite a bit with other bloggers and like you say too, in the end its about our different expectations towards this genre. I am certainly more critical about wow's course than someone is who only just entered the world of MMOs- I think this is in fact even more relevant than just having missed vanilla.
    if things proceed the way they have, I would like to see a re-definition of what this genre is we're actually playing in wow.

    what baffles me is, that many newer gamers do not even get the concept of immersion, mistaking our critique for 'hardcoreness' - that tells me that they have actually never experienced a truly immersive game which saddens me on their account. but maybe ignorance is bliss too as I clearly seem unhappier than others.

  2. @Syl:
    I did not read your blog until now and, of course, I agree. But I think we need to move past the point you make in your post. It has been made often enough by now and enough players. And equally often there have been the "nostalgia" interjections.

    For some reason, that I am unable to quite understand, there are people who seem to honestly like current WotLK.
    Now, maybe they are just ignorant, but I do not think that I have a moral obligation to lead them to the light.

    If players want different games, give them different games!

    Look: If a want a Renault Twingo, I can buy one. If I want a Porsche Cayenne, I can buy one. If I want a Ford Galaxy, I can buy one. But there is no MMORPG right now that I want to play. And it is really not a financial problem!

    I feel like living in communism! All I can buy here is a Trabant. I am willing to pay almost any price (50€ a month, no problem!), but there are no other (quality) cars! There are no suppliers!

  3. Like you I would love to move on - and I've tried really hard the past weeks and months, I went from playing AoC, to looking at allods, eq2 and rappelz (not that i expected much from that one..). and the experience is so frustrating that i am now actually waiting for cataclysm lol.. i had hopes for FF14 but that went down the drain for me too.
    a lot of players will go back to cata simply because we lack half-decent alternatives. and i doubt 2011 will change anything about that.