Posts tagged World of Warcraft
I started out ambivalent about Diablo III. I’m not a hater of the series, but I’m also not a lover of the series. I really don’t care about the “always-on-ness” because I’m an MMO player and – duh – those need to be always on as well. I really don’t care about people’s point of angst over the online requirement based on the argument that this is a “single player game”, just because Diablo and Diablo II were single player games. D3 is a multiplayer game. You just have the option to play solo most of time…wait…
A multiplayer game played solo? Preposterous! What kind of a knucklehead would play a multiplayer game “wrong” and solo all the time?
I started to read this gushing love letter to to the game over at Games Industry, and I thought I’d be a real wiseass and whenever they said “Diablo III” I’d mentally replace it with “World of Warcraft” You know what?
It holds up!
Let’s look at some examples. I’ve gone ahead and replaced the game names, and have done some trimming where the specifics might be more flexible:
“World of Warcraft instead pushes every character down the same rail… A [class] of any given level will have the exact same skills and attributes as any other [class] of that level.”
“Most critics agree that Blizzard has crafted a detailed and visually rich (though somewhat linear) world to explore…”
“World of Warcraft…positively delights in being a gamey game…This is, essentially, a quest for numbers – keeping yours high, augmenting them with number-riddled items, and whacking everybody else’s to zero.”
“In this sense the game becomes a fairground ride, as players run back to the front of the game for another go…”
tl;dr: Everything that people have complained about in World of Warcraft – the linear nature, the “themepark” ride, the numbers game – is being lauded in Diablo III. Is this OK, or are we witnessing another “Blinders for Blizzard” moment?
Bigger question: so what? Approaching it from the opposite direction, the slapstick-level fun that you can have with the Diablo III loot pinatas illustrates Blizzard’s (apparently) central belief that stripping away the veneer of overly complex systems employed in the name of “RPG”-izing, you have what amounts to Pong: It’s fun specifically because it’s mindless and repetitive, but still gratifying. You don’t have to be a mental giant to kick back and click the hell out of your enemies while “oohing” and “ahhing” over the shiny stuff that explodes like a grift-fountain from the bloody corpses.
We accept this in Diablo III, and have been looking forward to it in the Diablo form for over a decade, but we give World of Warcraft shit for basically doing the same thing. Why, exactly? What do we expect WoW to be? A cure to cancer? Some highbrow art form? It’s still a game. It’s still a Blizzard game. Praising one while damning another is really devoid of any kind of perspective.
I quit World of Warcraft a while back, when my wife stopped playing, and a few of our group drifted off to either do their own thing, or who stopped playing as well. Rift had just arrived, and compared to the feeling of potential danger in Rift, the push-button simplicity of where I was in WoW wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I drifted away, but with no animosity. I have no love nor any hatred towards WoW, and that’s all I can say from a pseudo-emotional standpoint. I may return some day, but it’s not on my radar, not even with the announcement of their next xpac.
Some people have been less subtle in their opinions of the Mists of Pandaria, I suppose, expressing sarcasm, hate, demented torture fantasies involving pandas…you get the gist. WoW elicits strong feelings in all kinds of MMOers whenever it shows up to the party, whether those people are hardcore WoW raiders, current first-timers, lapsed players, or the dozen or so people who’ve never even tried the game. Obviously, current players have a stake in whatever is going to be directly affecting them in the near future, but many people have asked why lapsed players, or non-players in general, care what is going on with WoW.
World of Warcraft has really transcended it’s origins as a product, and has become a concept. A creature of pure thought, in a way. It’s pervasive…TOO pervasive for a lot of people, because it’s continued presence casts such a long shadow over the genre, the industry, and popular culture, and whether we’re playing in Azeroth or not, we all have to contend with that shadow whether we like it or not.
While I don’t have any animosity towards WoW, I do think the general MMO genre would be better without it: each xpac extends the game’s life so that it can continue to be blamed by rage-haters, or continue to be a template for a “poor man’s WoW” (Allods, RoM, etc). So long as WoW exists, and keeps pumping out xpacs which are carefully milled by the artisans at Blizzard in an effort to retain their ginormous player-base, other companies will continue to try and reach for their brass ring, or will at least be accused of doing so. The longer WoW is in operation, the longer it looms over everything, and the more people will inevitably draw parallels between WoW and any other MMO that releases.
And that’s really kind of a shame, because it seems that the MMO community is divided along WoWers and non WoWers, even when WoW is not directly involved. The general chat channels of any new MMO will fill with WoW-related arguments. Any screenshots of a new MMO or any discussion of the mechanics of any new MMO invariably turn to whether it is like or unlike WoW. When it’s “like” WoW, it’s a strike against it. Whenever a feature or visual is deemed “unlike” WoW, it might as well be a bullet point on the back of the box for all the garland that the anti-WoW community festoons upon it. Being “like WoW” is a crime, and being “unlike WoW” is apparently really, really hard.
That’s also a shame, because that means that no MMO can be allowed to stand on it’s own merits, partly because of the incremental creep of innovation in the genre, thanks to risk-adverse capitalization, and partly because of the fickle “we don’t know what we want, but we know what we don’t want” community. Human beings have an almost genetic imperative to catalog and compare two items that show even the slightest similarity, be it good or be it bad, so being the most visible object on the horizon from any vantage point, WoW invites the most comparisons, 100% of the time. That means that no game can be accepted solely based on what it brings to the table, only in how it’s different or similar to World of Warcraft.
I can’t speak for the legions of people who have voiced their displeasure with the Mists of Pandaria. I really don’t think I’d want to, anyway, as hate tends to fuel hate when it feeds on itself. I do believe that this expansion’s downbeat tempo marks the dénouement of World of Warcraft, and that Blizzard is attempting to bring the calm before the storm that will be the game’s epic conclusion. Just look at Blizzcon itself; Blizzard doesn’t believe in subtlety, so it might be that MoP is going to be your last rest-stop before the crescendo that will be as earth-shattering and bloody as Blizzard can make it. After that…what? Will WoW go F2P? Will it cede the stage to Titan? At some point, WoW will end, and there will be no more expansions designed to keep the players paying. WoW’s presence will never fade, but at least at some point it will cease to grow. Maybe at that point some other MMO will become the template, or maybe we’ll return to the wild-west days when MMOs first started showing up, and no one knew where the next steps would take us. I think we could use that uncertainty, a genre without a roadmap, or without someone to chase behind.