Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wolfshead‘s WoW Bashing

Good criticism differentiates. It does not claim that everything is bad about something, nor does it claim that everything is good. Having said that, I feel with Wolfshead. For six years now MMORPGs move into the wrong direction. From his point of view; from my point of view. They become less and less the kind of game we wish for. But criticism doesn’t work, if you don’t mention what is actually good about MMOs. In this case, we talk, of course, about World of Warcraft.

So, what is my opinion about Blizzard newest expansion: Cataclysm ?
1) Cataclysm is a technically superior single player game for children.
2) At maximum level Cataclysm becomes a technically superior multiplayer game for dedicated adults who like a childish theme.

Is this what Blizzard aimed for? I doubt it. Can it work? We will have to see. If it works it proves Wolfshead’s point: You can throw people into difficult content and they deal with it, and they grow with it, and they have fun learning.

So, why do I feel for Wolfshead? Because World of Warcraft is no MMORPG.
1) It is massive only at indirect interaction (auction house, potential players in the dungeon finder queue).
2) It is no roleplaying game.
3) And most of all, although it is not part of the MMORPG abbreviation: It is not a virtual world; not at all.

The only thing about WoW that is persistent is your character and his social connections. The world suffers from high-frequency resets. Moreover World of Warcraft makes fun of itself all the time. Now, to make fun about fantasy is almost an own genre. So a funny thing every now and then I can live with. But WoW is making fun about itself every step of the way. The goblin starting area may be “concentrated coolness”, but it is not a credible place.

For adults who like Harry Potter, this kind of “concentrated coolness” can be enjoyable. And obviously there are a lot of adults nowadays who like content for children. So Blizzard will be successful with Cataclysm. Their rentention rate certainly suffers at max level, but the players they can keep are loyal.

My prediction for Cataclysm: It will be successful, financially. And it is even an enjoyable game at maxlevel for me. But the very second a technically feasible virtual world is available on our global market I am gone, because WoW requires too much time to be played in addition to a serious virtual world for adults.

My advice for Wolfshead: Differentiate more. Give more reasons. I know that your opinion is not as one-sided as you make it look, because I have read your older posts. But many readers have not. And in the end we want to convince our readers to believe in our perfect MMORPG virtual world, do we not?


  1. If MMOs were considered as attempts at creating works of art, World of Warcraft would be best described as kitsch.

  2. It certainly is a parody more than a fantasy world, a little bit like what Discworld is to classic Sword&Sorcery books. thats probably also why WoW never managed to create the same 'epic feeling', but is still colorful, goofy and entertaining. roleplay is a mere afterthought.

  3. Good opening point.

    Yeah, it's not embedded deeply in reality, and it's not designed for everyone - it has a lower barrier of entry for sure.

    A lot of my friends aren't interested for much the same reasons you have, but.. I have fun with it. :)

    You're going to be hard pressed to find anything that really matches up to what you're looking for - at least on a computer without someone reacting to your actions on the other end.

    I gave up on that expectation a long time ago, not to imply what you're looking for is childish and to be outgrown, just that I've seen too many MMOs hoping to do that sort of thing fall off and die for various reasons.

  4. @Nils
    While I think you are a little over critical on WoW's theme... I agree with your sentiment. I think Syl really sealed it for me. WoW doesn’t feel epic. I believe the world is persistent to a degree, enough to classify it as a MMO atleast. EQ was an epic world to me, I felt like I was part of it. WoW is just a game, a fun one though.

  5. I agree, Epiny. The segment of WoW players' who mourned the loss of 'immersion' and 'epicness' and sometimes 'challenge' over the last 6 years, needs to stop attacking WoW for what it is not, and congratulate it for what it is.

    Complaining that WoW doesn't offer enough 'epicness' is like complaining that Tetris doesn't offer character customization.

    That having said, it is perfectly ok to complain about no reasonable AAA-MMORPG being on the market today.

  6. I 100% agree with that Nils. I honestly can't figure out why nothing else has been able to break the 1 million mark.

    I mean I know why games have failed... AoC and WAR had obvious issues. I think SWTOR is walking into a trap with a fully operational Death Star by focusing on their 4th pillar.

    I guess another good question is... do people really want a MMORPG or just a MMOG? Alot of gamers claim to want a real world but by game sales and what remains popular I can't help but think they are lying to themselves.

  7. Epiny, I don't think that many players want a 'real world'. They / We just want less suspension of disbelieve.

    But, as I have written in my latest post, this is really not just a zero sum game, where you can add immersion only at the cost of less gameplay fun. This, I feel, is what Blizzard thinks when they talk about their 'gameplay first'.
    But it is wrong. And actually Blizzard runs into that trap repeatedly.

    For example, there are more and more cries for heroic dungeons that balance themselves depending on the group. For somebody who really considers gameplay to be the enemy of immersion and follows "gameplay first", this actually makes sense.

    But what these people don't understand is that in classic WoW, and many other games, unbalance is absolutely ok, if there is an immersive reason for it. The problem exists only, because of the removed immersion.

    In classic I had no problem with Scholomance being 'hard' (it was back then), because it made sense that the Scourge was a hard opponent. The thing with unbalance in heroics is problematic only, because Blizzard removes the 'immersion' more and more and, even though the gameplay is very good, it cannot make up for the balance problems. These problems have been there before, but they were negated by the attitude of the players: An 'immersive attitude', if you want. The players didn't exspect the world to be fair. They exspected it to be fun.

    Your latest question is my deepest concern when it comes to MMOs:
    Am I just lying to myself? Do I actually want a game so much more than a world? I think I'm going to make a post about it.

  8. I don't necessarily want a 'real' world I want an immersive world. I’m even okay with the suspension of disbelief. My issue arises when a game creates a world and rules then breaks those very rules. That is the point where I draw the line. If you are going to ask me to believe that dragons and magic exist in your world then you need to create rules and laws for them then adhere to those rules. You cannot change these rules because now it has created a complication in your game play design. That is the point where I start to lose the ‘world’ feeling and it just becomes a game.

    For instance up until Shadows of Luclin EverQuest felt like a world. After SoL it was just a game to conquer because SoL broke all of the existing rules in order to improve game play.

  9. I agree, again :)
    I actually wrote about realism and immerion and credibility etc. some time ago.

    I wouldn't even phrase it as drastically as you did.

    Immersion is important, but so is gameplay and sometimes these things really clash. What I hate is if a developer doesn't understand that immersion can also enhance gameplay! If he arbitrarily destroys immersion for questionable gameplay improvements.

  10. Interesting and thoughtful article. Part of why I go after Blizzard with ferocity is that they are the top dog in the industry. They have the resources to produce the very finest virtual world experience but they choose not to.

    It's very possible that Blizzard is going to milk WoW dry and is purposely not putting their profits back into WoW and is either making WoW2 or their next-gen MMO. Maybe they are saving all of their innovation capital for those projects. Who knows.

    I try to be fair to Blizzard. I have a lot of respect for their high level of quality and polish - mainly in the art and sound departments. While I disagree with the actual design, how it is presented and produced is spectacular.

    I also commend Blizzard on their development process and philosophy. Blizzard's success has afforded them the luxury of being able to release games when they are ready. Although now that Activision is on board this may not be as true as it once was.

    Thank you for pointing out many of the truths of WoW and the many sacred cows that graze in the fields of Azeorth. WoW really isn't a MMO, it just tries to masquerade as one complete with all the trappings of what we once knew and loved about MMORPGs.

    What really troubles me about Blizzard and it is now manifesting itself in WoW is that Blizzard has no soul or vision. I get the feeling that the devs in charge at Blizzard really don't believe that MMOs or virtual worlds are special or that they have the potential to elevate and transform gamers into inhabitants of an alternate reality.

    Of course not everyone wants to be part of an immersive fantasy virtual world and have a shared experience with other players but many of us still do.

    Back 10 years ago when the MMORPG revolution happened we all felt we on the cusp of something big. There were movies about alternate realities like The Matrix. There was a feeling that technology was really about to make being part of a virtual world -- a Star Trek holodeck -- become more possible.

    MMO devs have forgotten those dreams and aspirations. Instead, they are just trying to make the next WoW. What happened to all the creativity, to the originality?

    In closing, I think we've traded away far too much for far too little in return. Pretty graphics is not worth the loss of challenge, danger and community that we used to treasure.

    The sooner the WoW era is over the better for everyone. Richard Bartle was indeed right; the best thing that could happen to the MMO genre would be for WoW to be gone.


  11. Thanks for the comment, Wolfshead. It's an honour *smile*.

    My sincere hope is that Blizzard on purpose put game>world people in charge WoW to put the world>game people in charge of their new MMORPG. They would be stupid to try to make a WoW-killer. They should try to cover the whole market and thus make a game that complements their MMORPG-portfolio.