Got an invite to the SC2 Beta yesterday from my good friends at Blizzard (i.e. I won the lottery….). Installed it, cranked up a 1v1 game and was instantly reminded of my childhood. While my buddies didn’t seem to appreciate the subtle differences or the fact that the game tries to remain true to it’s roots, I had a fun 30 minutes (although I’m still as bad at StarCraft as I was in the 90s). More to come as I have time to play it (that is, if I don’t get to into FFXIII).
Found this article on Slashdot. As a fairly well seasoned WoW player (although I have since lost interest), this Dana Massey has hit the nail right on the head. The entire MMO genre is based around a singular idea. You log in, you kill stuff, you get more powerful. All games have basically the same UI elements, but fail to deviate from the norm.
Who said that MMOs require hot bars? Who proclaimed that it’s not a proper MMO unless you have quests? Blizzard took a formula that almost all MMOs had been using for years and distilled it down to addictive perfection. Love or hate WoW, it’s a polished, polished title. It’s no coincidence that on hardcore MMO sites, like this one, WoW is not the most hyped or trafficked game around. It’s not that it’s bad, but veteran MMO players don’t have the same love for it, simply because we’ve all seen some variation of it before. The WoW community has always been a bit apart from the larger MMO community. Based purely on the number of subscribers, WoW articles should statistically annihilate every other game on this site, but they don’t. A huge percentage of people who truly love WoW, I’ve always believed, do not know or particularly care about this whole world of MMOs out there. They’re WoW players and that’s it.
It’s true that this is a tried and tested formula, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. It’s attracted millions of people to a hobby that was once basically an underground. Blizzard’s commitment to quality is nothing less than astonishing and let’s face it: they’re in the business to make money. If your users are happy, that means more sales and subscriptions for you, and making players happy is something that Blizzard is very good at.
Part of the problem, as Dana states, is that re-visioning the genre is risky. Developers see a style that works and make their game conform to the standards. From a business perspective, it makes sense. The only problem is people who play MMOs aren’t going to leave their hard-earned characters and move over to a new title that has basically the same gameplay elements and only has slightly better visual elements. Because of the nature of MMO games, there’s no reason to transfer. It’s basically like playing any regular single player game 90% of the way through and then dropping it to pick up the next title, except in the case of MMOs, the game never ends.
For people who don’t mind doing the same thing over and over again, current MMOs are just fine. I’ve always been a person who enjoys not only variety, but a genuine challenge, and current generation MMO games don’t deliver that (I’m looking at you, Blizzard). If a game came out that even began to carve a new path into what massively multiplayer online games are, I would probably give it a fair chance. Until then, I’m going to enjoy the ever-changing Team Fortress 2.
Update: There’s a great GU Comics about the above article.