The RPG Scrollbars: The Declining Magic Of MMOs

There’s a basic rule of the universe – everything is better when it’s a dream. A new car. A new toy. A revolutionary new way of playing games. As a dream, they’re magical. They’re promise. They’re an opportunity yet to be bled dry or squandered. When we get them… they’re a thing. It’s hard to see the impossible in something right in front of you, which is why we shrug off such marvels as access to the whole of human knowledge and electronic telepathy on a yearly basis, because suddenly this year’s modern miracle has a shitty screen and won’t connect to a magic watch.

So it is with MMOs. Why did we never see a World of Warcraft killer?

Simple. Because in a very real sense, a World of Warcraft killer was impossible.

When we look at the genre, a few things usually come to mind. If you’ve never played an MMO – though I’m assuming that by this point you probably have, and have certainly had the chance – it’s probably talk of players and worlds and grind. If you have, it’s more likely to be thoughts of dungeons and raids and personal quests, and if you’re more used to the F2P flavour, boobs by the cartload.

But this is a generational thing, and that’s often overlooked. What really sold MMOs back in the day, and by that we’re talking the Everquest generation rather than the likes of Meridian 59 or the AOL games – the time they first started hitting it really big and emerge into mainstream consciousness with things like ‘Evercrack’ – is that they were, in a word, magic. At this point, online gaming was in its infancy. That doesn’t mean it didn’t exist, obviously. Quake was huge, Doom had been massive, Tribes was a personal favourite of mine… there were many other successes for those of us who played games, even if many of us were still suffering along on 56k modems at the time. Still, it was mostly primitive stuff – basic shooters, deathmatch, a little strategy, and thumbing through copies of Snow Crash and dreaming of a Metaverse future that has still yet to happen.

Ultima Online, Everquest, and a few lucky others offered a glimpse at the future, albeit a future decked out like a Ren Faire with usually very dodgy graphics. More, they offered a glimpse at the impossible. A virtual world with millions upon millions of players? It’s hard to imagine now how impossible that seemed – how stories of the Lord British assassination in Ultima Online or the tales of heroism in Everquest sounded at a time when simply downloading a shareware game could take hours. Do you remember your first footsteps into an MMO back then? The realisation that everyone you could see moving was a real person on a quest?

World of Warcraft was a hit for many reasons. Its chunky graphics that still hold up. Its focus on a personal quest. Its generally welcoming attitude and approachability. But what made it the game that it was was being the first to bring the magic of MMOs to the wider world. Only the hardcore even knew what a raid group was at the time, and fewer cared about dungeons. Everyone though could admire the wonder of that world and that experience – the taste of the impossible, the realisation that things had changed. There’s a reason that a few years ago people were seriously talking of Azeroth as the new country club – it was a revelation for so many, separate from any mechanics.

But the trouble with magic is that the same trick rarely works more than once. As much as games that followed might have introduced people to other worlds, culturally, the genie was out of the bottle. Suddenly, worlds full of people became just a thing that computers can do, no more inherently exciting or surprising than a lens flare effect or the ability to create real-world locations.

Remember when that was a huge deal?

And so, inevitably, MMOs declined. Not necessarily in terms of raw playerbase, but in cultural importance. At the same time, technology marched ahead. The subscription fees that seemed so important in the late 90s, because obviously all those servers cost money, started to feel distinctly quaint in a world where every tech company was throwing servers and bandwidth around like they and it were free. Each new world was simply the next in line, catering for an increasingly nomadic audience that thought it was on the lookout for the net big thing, but was secretly looking for that magic hit. It’s not as if the raw mechanics of these games have ever been particularly compelling without it, or without the psychological treadmill effects of techniques like variable ratio reinforcement – the key to raids, which keeps you playing by never promising you a reward for success and thus making the precious dopamine squirt of success all the sweeter and more exciting.

For those who stayed though, the original magic faded. What was underneath it? Not nothing, of course. Solid games, beautiful worlds. World of Warcraft remains a thing of beauty and design excellence, with Warlords of Draenor some of Blizzard’s best work to date. But still, games.

As for the new generation – well, they’d not grown up in the same technological world. A few may have heard tales of the dark days, possibly with parents humming The Modem Noise until ordered to stop on pain of having shrimp sewn into the curtains, but ‘always on’ and an internet full of people was no longer a novelty. From small BBSs and primitive chat services like ICQ to the likes of Reddit and Digg and Facebook, the idea of meeting and interacting with people in virtual worlds was expected rather than a novelty. Those virtual worlds just tended to be more metaphorical, resembling networks and Apple stores rather than Ren Faires. Though still with many gratuitous boobs of course.

In this time, some hard truths were also learned about networking, that while once the prospect of a million new friends was tempting, in reality having a handful that actually meant something was always going to win. Cue a generational shift from games offering millions to those that pinned their hopes on just four, or five, or at least private worlds in World of Warcraft’s often overlooked true successor – Minecraft. Really, it serves the same purpose and audience, only with the advantage of allowing everyone to make their own world rather than simply splashing around in someone else’s fantasy.

That player base also became more of a liability than a strength. Being ignored by thousands of people is hardly an improvement, and nor usually is having the experience diluted by trolls and idiots. The world simply became filled with paper-dolls rather than people, with their direct impact having to be cut to next to nothing to prevent a handful from ruining the world for everyone else. The natural descent into entropy has worked well for a few games, notably Rust and DayZ, both as a mirror for the good people to be reflected in and to add a sense of danger. It’s not the experience that holds millions upon millions in its clutches in the long-term though, or PvP servers would be the norm in the genre rather than PvE. As for attempts to boost player importance with the carrot of control and power? It was tempting once, but no longer, not now that everyone knows only the biggest guilds are in with a chance of acquiring a measure of it. Who cares if some other geek is Emperor?

What other MMOs have had anything like World of Warcraft’s sense of magic? Really, I’d say you’re looking at two – Eve Online (which predates WoW of course, though its legend started to grow at roughly the same time outside its core community), for its fascinating but impenetrable galaxy of player choice. Also, more recently, Planetside 2 springs to mind. Its scale of warfare was jaw-dropping, even though it itself seemed to drop from conversation almost as soon as it was released. Still, it stands as a good demonstration of the current state of play – that actually intimate experiences trump theoretical epics any day. Even GTA Online, popular as it is, has had nothing of its single-player source game’s cultural impact, though it has of course done rather better than APB. Admittedly, dead and rotting crustaceans have more fans than APB did on release.

(What of Second Life? Well, it had a shot, but its complexity and cost and clunkiness worked against it from the start. Only in theory could someone jump in and start building – to create anything took commitment and was the mark of an advanced user willing to invest in their work. In Minecraft, building a cool house on your first evening was the gateway drug. All else followed, with satisfaction and control at every stage – something it will be interesting to see Everquest Next handle)

Of course, MMOs can still be and are successful, as Blizzard will attest, and many F2P games will either enthusiastically or reluctantly agree. I’d say that Final Fantasy XIV is a good example of how it can work, as there’ll be many, many players of those games who have never touched an MMO before and it does such a great job of introducing the mechanics and advantages of group play that I suspect a whole new audience has been shown the magic that hit the rest of us back between 1999 and 2005. Deservedly too; it’s surprisingly great.

Still, there’s a reason why it seems that everyone’s making MOBAs now instead. Again, it’s not that Dota especially is new, but that for most of us outside the Starcraft/Warcraft community, it’s a whole new thing, and a whole new kind of magic. For now, at least, it’s no wonder games like Guild Wars 2 are borrowing a few of their tricks instead of vice versa. Who knows how long they’ll stay on top? MMOs were unshakable money machines too, once. Still, it doesn’t matter. Whatever rises and falls, there’ll always be magic left somewhere, and games that know how to surprise as much as they entertain.

92 Comments

  1. Nevard says:

    I’d never thought of Minecraft being the true successor to WoW before, but that rings true pretty heavily now that you’ve made me think about it.

    • LexW1 says:

      It’s a half-truth.

      It serves part of the same function – that of a multiplayer world to get together with friends in – but there are a lot of other games like that, and it’s vastly more successful than WoW ever was in terms of copies sold, and mostly played by a much younger market – it’s a game the kids are playing together when they’re single-digit ages and annoying their parents with. WoW was never that, for better or worse.

      Nor is there much to do once you’re in there – the survival and cooperative building gameplay in Minecraft is paper-thin, and adults get bored of it, in my experience, in a few days or weeks (if I was a little kid, I’d still probably be playing it after years, I suspect), which leaves just building big flashy things in an obsessive way (together or solo), which is a super-niche pursuit.

      So yeah, half-truth – it’s as important as WoW, but it doesn’t really fit the same need/want or do the same things, in practice, not even for another generation.

      The future, really, I think, contrary to what this article seems to suggest, remains unwritten. The “ultimate game” of this super-broad type would definitely not be a MOBA, Minecraft, or WoW, but rather something like an amalgamation of elements of Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress, and perhaps Skyrim.

      Also Richard claims that for those who stayed with MMOs, the magic faded leaving just games:

      Let me say, that is categorically untrue. It may be true for him – but it’s wrong as a generalization about MMOs.

      What it’s true about, absolutely true – is WoW and more modern, game-ist, heavily-guided-experience MMOs. The magic fades rapidly and you just have a game. It’s not true of, for example, Dark Age of Camelot. I’ve been back and have played that since – and it’s still more than a game, it’s still actually world-like, something you can get lost in, in a way that’s simple not possible when your screen is full of quest indicators, flashing opportunities of various kinds, and where you’re constantly queuing for stuff..

      Had more games taken a more world-like route (not sandbox, necessarily, just more world-like), I don”t think they’d have seen the heights of popularity that WoW did, but they’d be a lot more relevant, to be sure.

  2. shadow9d9 says:

    It all comes down to innovation dying(UO, Everquest, and AC were all very different from each other) and a continuous push to copy WoW. The market can only sustain so many copies of the same thing. Companies decided that innovating or even copying alternative formulas like AC or UO was not preferable to making another copy of wow. It has nothing to do with subs vs fake free to play and everything to do with the fact that everything has been a wow clone in the last decade. How many times can you keep playing the same game?

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      There have been plenty of non WoW games, including Secret World, Wurm Online, Runescape, Age of Conan. Free Realms, Galaxies, Earth and Beyond, Second Life, There, Tabula Rasa, City of Heroes, The Matrix Online, DC Universe…

      You can like individual games or not, but they’ve been made and the basic fact is that almost none registered more than a temporary blip on the world, never mind WoW’s subs numbers.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Only one or two of those games even *try* to make the whole “massively multiplayer, persistent universe” thing even matter. Of course you can make a variety of mediocre games which allow a bunch of people to play, but that’s not actually interesting.

        Where’s a single big-budget sandbox MMO? Anything like Ultima Online or EVE, but better? I don’t want those games remade, I want the next step on that path. I’m using “sandbox” in the broadest sense of a world that can be meaningfully changed by players.

        Maybe EverQuest Next will be something. That’s the only one I’m aware of.

        • Dawngreeter says:

          People don’t play sandbox MMOs. Love is an example. Perpetuum is another. It’s like “hardcore” MMOs, there are always vocal people about it but then you end up with Wildstar.

          That’s why sandbox is going in the direction of “not quite massively” multiplayer games such as Rust, DayZ, Minecraft, etc. And, really, it just might be for the best.

          • rabbit says:

            Nah, Perpetuum isn’t an example. Perpetuum didn’t make much of a ripple because it was an utterly shameless reskin of EVE Online. I don’t know how much it’s grown now when compared to then but for a good while on release it WAS just EVE Online plus line of sight, minus everything else that a decade of EVE’s development had brought to the table.

          • Dawngreeter says:

            I wouldn’t call it shameless. It’s certainly a game that saw EVE and decided the world needs more of that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’d be happier if we had ten more games like that, instead of just the two.

          • GamerOS says:

            Wildstar was as much aimed at ‘hardcore’ MMOplayers as the next wow clone, the game was still as much a theme-park MMO with some bells and whistles aimed and marketed specifically at people nostalgic about old WoW raiding.

            The world needs more EVE Online and Perpetuum style games, I’d kill for a (Low/High)Fantasy MMO sandbox with a player driven world and economy…

      • LexW1 says:

        That’s not really a very accurate list, Richard, because many of those games are from BEFORE WoW, and others (like E&B) were actually very much in the same standardized mould as WoW. Sticking a fiddly and ineffective combat system, lots of a blood and a bit of nudity on WoW, like AoC did, doesn’t make it not-WoW.

        The problem MMOs suffered really is that they abandoned true innovation in favour of sticking to some very basic and boring precepts, and more importantly, they abandoned the “world”, the sense that you were actually in a place, in favour of the theme park – I’m not even talking theme park vs sandbox – but they’ve become such an extremely guided experience that they’re just not interesting in the same way any more.

        MOBAs are entirely different thing, and they’re on the way out too – innovation and novelty are dying or dead there, polish has reached it’s maximum level and so on. We’re almost as late in their lifespan as we are in that of MMOs, now. Just because RPS was a bit late to the party doesn’t mean they’re actually still gaining much popularity.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      There was only one innovation there – massive persistence. It’s all the players playing a single Diablo level together. Beyond that, you have genre-specific tropes (borrosed from non-MMO games), polish, features which some have and others don’t have implemented (public quests, respec, adjustable roles, active dodging…) and so on. But beyond “everyone playing the same level at once” innovation, everything else is just development.

      And that innovation stopped being innovative. Now it’s a staple. And most games don’t know what to do with it.

      • Apocalypse says:

        Most games actually even dropped the whole massive persistence all together. Everything gets instanced, splitted apart and even the zones itself become phased into a dozen instances, etc

        Persistence was never truly reached, not even in EVE-Online, which might be the closest thing to it. No, actually I think Planetarion was the closest thing to it, because they had the guts to design their game that after about 3 to 6 months someone actually conquered the universe, destroyed all opposition and won the game. After that they just reseted the universe, but those 6 months every action of every player in the game had persistent and could influence all other players in that few hundred thousand player universe.

        What we get today is the illusion of persistence with progress bars and that illusion is included even for no apparent reason into all of our games, even FPS come with this meaningless fake persistence.

        Personally I think eve would be so much more fun if you increase skill training at least factor 10 and remove concord after 12 months of running the game. Set some victory conditions and once the game either stalls or the victory conditions are met, start enough instance of the universe, this time with all the new and fun stuff of the new expansion.

        Would it be more fun? Hell yes. But it would not get subscribers to pay as long as they do for eve, because those progress bars seem to be a way to keep players invested into your game because they already have invested so much into it in the past. It simple is bad game design but good business.

        • Dawngreeter says:

          Crowfall might be the game you’re looking for. It seems to aim for exactly that sort of gameplay, and I find it interesting. Not interesting enough to back the Kickstarter but, eh.

          Anyway, yeah, with instancing, sharding, parallel servers and all that stuff… no actual massive persistence is to be found anywhere except in EVE. But there’s the implied promise of kinda-sorta massive persistence which might be enough for most people. It’s certainly enough to get me to care what sort of gear my Guild Wars 2 character is wearing, in terms of aesthetics and difficulty to attain it. I’d never care that much about how my Diablo 3 character looks like, so it’s accomplishing something.

          But, still, there’s no real use for it in most games. And I don’t need Crowfall-like victory conditions, rule the world type gameplay. The only reason I’m sticking with Guild Wars 2 despite the glaring issues is because it’s actually doing something with the fact that you’re playing with hundreds of people near you. Most of the time in MMOs, though, seeing other people only makes you wish you weren’t seeing other people.

          …which is why I think we’ll see a wave of games in the coming years that’ll be closer to Guild Wars 1 formula. Persistent city hubs and everything else instanced. So you can play your game in peace.

  3. airmikee says:

    I don’t like something so that something is in decline.

    /rollseyes

  4. Herbal Space Program says:

    Solid article, I’m quite curious to see the successor to dota-clones. Maybe 2 players RPG ?

    • misterT0AST says:

      Hard to beat mobas.

      Enough allies to witness cool plays (unlike fighting games).
      Enough allies to bring a friend or two over to play with you (unlike fighting games).
      Not too many allies that forget you exist/don’t care (PvE MMOs/team shooters).
      Most satisfying, well-programmed, impredictable enemy (humans).
      Everyone has to look at everyone, allied or enemy, or else the game is lost.
      The perfect arena to show off, the perfect arena to feel satisfied. Levelling up, progression based solely on knowledge. The formula is almost perfect.

      • Likethiss says:

        I’d say Diablo 2 was perfect for a whole lot of hours and years. But the magic will fade eventually and then we will want something fresh. Of course there will be the dedicated few who will stick with MOBA’s long after everyone else has burned out.

      • P.Funk says:

        You could say the exact same thing about multiplayer RTS games, particularly those that involve more than 2 players. RTS games lost their traction despite being the corner stone of the earlier mostly forgotten experiments in esports.

        • rabbit says:

          Yep, his “almost perfect” formula, taken out of context, could very easily be a description of multiplayer RTS games.

          They’ll fade.

      • Synesthesia says:

        It’s pretty tight, isn’t it? I’ve thought about this for a while. It even condences a full rpg progression, full with caracter build and items, in 40 minutes. It’s so fucking ellegant.

      • malkav11 says:

        “Most satisfying, well-programmed, impredictable enemy (humans).”

        I see this sentiment a lot from fans of PvP. And sometimes that’s true, I suppose. But equally humans can be some of the jankiest, most frustrating and “poorly programmed” enemies, and/or incredibly unsatisfyingly challenge-free, and the most unpredictable part, in my experience, is which version you’re going to get. I’d rather a consistent experience that I can learn, adapt to, and ultimately demolish, puzzle style. One that will never harass or berate me. And one that doesn’t require a thriving population of players, either. (Although, to be fair, MMOs do that too, if only to keep the servers on.)

  5. blastaz says:

    Doesn’t really explain why wow is still the king of the genre. Being new worked wonders for ultima online but it was eventually surpassed by other games that were mechanically/graphically more interesting.

    It may be impossible for an mmorpg to be more culturally important than wow was. But it certainly isn’t impossible for a game to be better than it is today. It’s not just nostalgia that keeps the juggernaut chugging along…

    • satan says:

      It wasn’t nostalgia that kept me going back to WoW, just a solid build. SWTOR took me away from WoW for quite a while, but in the end the broken (swtor) engine just kept sabotaging the game over and over and over.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Success breeds success and Blizzard is good at making awesome expansions that bring people back even if they don’t stick around for the long term like they might once have. The question would be if WOW2 could land the same level of success that Everquest and Asheron’s sequels couldn’t copy from their originals,

      • blastaz says:

        So no one has made a wow killer because Blizzard keeps on making the best game? Scintillating insight! :)

        I agree that the magic (the cultural zeitgeist) has moved on from mmos. But it is probably important to note the difference between cultural importance and commercial success. Wow was probably most culturally relevant in the tbc era, but kept on growing through wotlk. I would say the same thing has happened to Minecraft today: still making money hand over fist but you far fewer “look at this amazing thing” moments, if only because we have come to expect it.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          “So no one has made a wow killer because Blizzard keeps on making the best game? Scintillating insight! :)”

          Uh, no. Blizzard has made a game that draws people back to a world they have a stake in, and none of the others have offered a sufficient pull for more than the hardcore audience that flits around from game to game.

          “But it is probably important to note the difference between cultural importance and commercial success”

          Well, you can, but the lack of MMOs on the horizon despite the supposed success of F2P re-releases kinda speaks against it…

          • blastaz says:

            On my cultural v commercial point I was agreeing with your general thesis. That magic, the buzz, the cultural zeitgeist, call it what you will flits around from series to series, genre to genre. In the 90s it was fpses -doom, quake hl1 made all the headlines and sometimes crossed out of gameing and into mainstream culture. Gta managed it. Wow managed it for a few years. Minecraft had it last year. I think it’s more to do with what is hip, than it is necessarily to do with breaking new ground, although that is an important part of it…

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            Ah, okay! Sorry, was replying on my phone from a train :-)

    • P.Funk says:

      Coke is coke. The first big success is always going to be the lasting one. Its about carving out a part of the market when there was a weakness in it for exactly what it was and having the power to retain that position entirely based on posterity. Keen business sense is important though. Blizzard knew how to use what they had to stay on top, but you simply cannot beat the sheer magnitute of the singificance of WoW.

      Ask an average schmuck to name an MMO, he’ll name WoW, and if that average schmuck wants to play an MMO one day he’ll go for WoW first.

    • malkav11 says:

      It kind of is impossible, though. For an MMO to be better than WoW it would have to either 1) take every innovation, refinement, and mechanic WoW’s built up over the years (or at least everything remotely relevant), while riffing on all that still further with new twists, improvements and mechanics, -and- providing the equivalent of ten years worth of accumulated and highly refined content out of the gate, or 2) be as much of an evolutionary leap beyond WoW as WoW was beyond Everquest and the other MMOs of that era.

      No one has even tried, really. Most of the competition have produced a product that’s similar to WoW as it was X number of years ago (usually at minimum however many years said MMO has been in development, sometimes much longer than that) but with a few improvements and one or two Big Ideas, plus a different theme, and about as much content as WoW had at launch, if that. Hardly any of them have even bothered to implement what now seem like basic prerequisite features like group finding tools, at least out of the gate. There certainly haven’t been any evolutionary leaps. And it’s not surprising. To do 1) would require an insane budget with little hope of recompense and chasing a moving target because WoW will keep adding and refining while the competitor’s game is being rolled out. And to do 2), well…I don’t even know what that would look like. And it’d be a huge risk. And the companies with money, they don’t like risk.

  6. Palor says:

    Some great ideas, and I generally agree. The wonder of a virtual world filled with thousands or millions of people from around the world has become been there done that.

    Though at least for me and I think for others there is something else that drew me into the world. It was a world I was already familiar with. Having played the RTS games knowing a good bit of the back story, the characters, locations and such it made the world that much more enjoyable to experience. Seeing the Dark Portal was exciting because I was already familiar with it but had never seen it (not like that at least), finding the grave of Uther, doing the Strat dungeons. All of these were new experiences in a familiar world. Obviously not everyone that plays WOW played the WC games, but I think enough did to create a player base. From there people came and stayed because it is where their friends were.

    It is something that any other MMOs I have tried were missing. They tried to introduce all these characters and locations I was suppose to care about, but just couldn’t. Why do I car which angel army wins in Aion, or random NPC 312 in TSW? In my experience MMOs are generally bad at telling stories due to pacing reasons. Being invested in the world (of Warcraft) before eve playing was probably it strongest strength to me.

    • Rizlar says:

      It ties back to points made throughout the article about WoW feeling like an actual world that exists online rather than a succession of cool things being thrown at the player, in contrast to most post-WoW MMOs. It seems that the history just sitting in the background contributes to this (want to write a comment going into more detail about all the other ways WoW evokes a world but I’m meant to be working).

      I never played much Warcraft before starting WoW but having that real (fictional) world existing in the background definitely sold it as a place, partially just knowing that it all has a history you are not told about, the past being the past not having to be made immediately relevant to the present, but also in so many incidental details. I remember thinking it was really interesting that Varimathras was a demon willingly serving the Forsaken Queen, it goes against pretty much everything else they establish about demons but it’s the sort of unexpected detail that would happen in reality!

    • P.Funk says:

      As someone who experienced MMOs pre WOW I find the entire concept of how you view it completely unengaging. Not to say you’re a tit for it, just that I was there for the Ultima period, though I was playing Tibia. What that meant was a totally player driven world with none of that story line stuff or the persistent universe stuff. There was a veneer of the world, basic boilerplate fantasy setting and the rest was the players.

      I still remember being into Tibia when it was massive, and in fact being into it just before it became bigger and hit its high water mark (I started when there were only 2 servers, then they added the premium server, then they got huge and ended up having like 50 servers). To the players that world was entirely player conceived. It was about the population of players in it. You knew the highest level players by name. You talked about what they accomplished. You discussed hunting grounds but it was not this shard bullshit. Thats what made the world so real to me, it was that on my server I was always able to be around everyone wherever I went. If I was in depot at the centre of Carlin I would see the same people every day.

      Every day in Carlin you’d see some of the high level guys hanging out in the streets training with each other, knowing nobody would dare attack them, meanwhile the lower level guys would be more sheepish staying mostly in the depot knowing that it being such a big target meant that it would be easy for someone to go after you. All in all it was so beautiful because it was specifically an open player world.

      For me all this persistent universe based on not the players but a lengthy back story is so ass backwards. Perhaps thats why I am so incapable of understanding the contemporary MMO culture and bounced off SWTOR very quickly (never got into WoW beyond a few sessions at friends’ places).

      • chris1479 says:

        Logged in just to answer your comment re. shards. I couldn’t agree more, I really couldn’t. True persistence is the beating heart and soul of what an MMO is to me. Logging in, seeing the same players, old friends, sometimes meeting new ones, beats the shit-stained pants off of thousands and thousands of drones engaged in sharded quests completely ensconced in their own little world.

        This is no an MMO, people, this is a glorified offline solo-rpg with some online multiplayer tacked on to it. That’s what killed SW:TOR for me, as well as several other MMOs, and why to this day i still drop in and play Everquest from time to time because that is one MMO that instinctively understood that.

        Then again maybe it’s a generational thing, a trending towards people becoming more and more isolated into tighter and tighter cliques.

  7. latedave says:

    Really liked this article. I do think there’s something to be said for critical mass though, once enough of your friends start playing something it’s hard to turn to something else. F2P was a good way around that as it didn’t require a commitment as such but it also lacks the ‘I must play to make my subscription worthwhile’ effect.

  8. padger says:

    Far more interested in what follows Eve than I am what follows WoW. That lineage can end, gladly. Bring on the player-powered persistent worlds.

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    Harlander says:

    Ah, Ultima Online. Such a noble experiment. Shame Shroud of the Avatar is shaping up to be pretty naff.

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    Neurotic says:

    Ah, Ultima Online. Such a noble experiment. Good job Shroud of the Avatar is shaping up to be pretty damn good.

  11. Creeping Death says:

    “even if many of us were still suffering along on 56k modems at the time.”

    You lucky devil. Circa ’99 I was still on a 33k modem and had to watch how long I had been connected, so that I could disconnect within an hour and avoid the ridiculous charges that would come if I went even 1 minute over.

  12. fdisk says:

    Fantastic article and study on MMOs. I never thought of Minecraft as the WoW killer but it absolutely was/is. I unfortunately think that EQ Next will not be as successful as we all initially thought; I think a lot of it is the hype from the magic vs. the thing and the thing will not live up to it. Hype is the biggest game ruiner these days, for the last year or so I have tried to stay the hell away from game trailers, previews, etc. because I noticed that experiencing everything for the first time on my own rather than reading about it is vastly more enjoyable and magical :)

    As for MMOs, FFXIV was my WoW killer; I know it’s not THE WoW killer, but it was mine. I stopped playing FFXIV for a couple of months to play Warlord, then immediately jumped back on to FFXIV. Part of the reason I love that game is not just that it hits all the MMO marks flawlessly, but I’ve found the best guild I’ve ever been in and made long lasting friendships with its members that I expect will last a lifetime.

    As for MMOs in general, I still play them. I love RPGs, and MMOs give me something single player RPGs can’t give me, decent AI companions. Sure, it’s not really AI since there’s an actual human controlling my companions, but the bottom line is that delving into a dungeon and overcoming its obstacles with 3 other people is a ton more fun and rewarding than doing so with a clunky A.I. character.

  13. Planet9 says:

    Technically correct, the best kind of correct.

  14. The_invalid says:

    I’d emphatically disagree on Planetside 2 having the same kind of ‘magic’ as WOW or EVE. I still play the game, but after playing for a few hours, it becomes immediately apparent that, for better or worse, the entire environment is just one vast set of backdrops for a huge 3-way team deathmatch.
    Other than the rhythmic push/pull of attrition that constantly occurs, there is very little space to have any kind of lasting impact on the play-space like EVE does, and there isn’t any scope for questing or world-exploration like World Of Warcraft. It’s not in and of itself a bad thing – PS2 has a very different focus from those games, but that ‘magic’ is reliant entirely on the player-base, which can often be completely absent if you are in the wrong outfit, or worse, playing solo. There’s none of the intricate socio-economic simulation which defines EVE, nor WOW’s world-building.
    Unless there’s some fundamental part of the game I’m missing, I kind of think PS2 is entirely deserving of its current obscurity, because outside of the core game mechanics and vague metagame, there’s just nothing there.

    • Apocalypse says:

      Yeah totally, Planet Side is about the status quo. A never changing backdrop world, static., lifeless, boring wasteland.
      I keep playing it for a while because I at first thought I just have missed something, but it just that. Dead.

      The potential is there, but the guts are missing to develop a game in which one side truely can win and requiring a real reset of the world which could be used to establish all the changes that players have achieve and envolv the world further in a persistence way.

      A persistent world should not be a static one, because in a static one your actions become meaningless.

  15. aircool says:

    Good read :)

  16. P.Funk says:

    Fantastic article. Exactly the stuff I like to read around here. Yes I know the DOTA stuff is a big draw, but this is the kind of article that got me into RPS in the first place.

    Bravo.

  17. hawken.grey says:

    I thought that I was completely over MMOs until about a month ago. I’d tried everything to recapture to the old feeling – I even tried resubbing to WoW (last ditch total desperation) but nothing would give me the heroin back. Aaaaaannnd… then I tried Black Desert. I’m playing over a VPN and I am a complete and total JUNKY once again. The magic is back baby!

  18. Jenks says:

    MMORPGs have gone from being a resident in a persistent fantasy world with thousands of others, to playing a (bad) video game where you are the savior of the world while thousands of others play the same game.

    The genre stagnated because everyone saw how WoW compared vs its predecessors, and what it did differently: added tons of accessibility. In the 11 years since, every subsequent release (including WoW’s expansions) have continued that trend. Eve is held up as the game that shows that you can build a a virtual world and be successful, not even taking into account that
    -Eve is incredibly complex/hardcore
    -There is no area completely safe from PVP
    -Your avatar is a spaceship
    -It predates WoW
    -It’s a budget game (by MMO standards)

    No one is trying.

    Planetside 2 was certainly great for awhile, but it’s missing something. I don’t know what.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I’d agree with that.

      As to what Planetside 2 is missing? I personally feel that it is missing accessible and extensive social tools.

      • wengart says:

        I suspect that would help, but I don;t think it’s the real problem with Planetside 2.

        If you look at other large multiplayer games, although they don’t match up to PS2’s potential for large battles, you’ll tend to notice that there is generally high lethality and complex map design. PS2 lacks both of these and it causes problems.

        PS2 has generally low lethality except at very close ranges. This creates some pretty slow paced battles where it is hard for any single player to do anything, and in turn hard for a number of ungrouped players to do anything. Whereas if you are playing Battlefield or Red Orchestra lethality is high enough that a relatively small number of ungrouped players doing the tactically best thing will result in their collective success.

        PS2 also lacks complex map design. You have the infantry favored cap points and the vehicle favored areas between those. There isn’t interesting terrain that forces players to make tactical decisions. It favors creating slugfests and stalemates that ungrouped players have a hard time breaking.

        The whole thing has the feeling of an MMO raid. You get your group organized and you use the weight of your group to break the stalemates and make things happen. Without that group the game just isn’t very interesting.

        Compare the videos of BF4 and PS2.

        PS2: link to youtu.be

        BF4: link to youtu.be

        BF4 has a really high lethality in comparison to PS2 which lets the player have an effect on the battle even if he isn’t actively working with a large group. In addition to that the terrain is really complex. There are a lot of LOS blocking objects, there are a number of paths to get to any cap point, and there are constantly interesting choices for the player to make in a dynamic combat area.

        Meanwhile you have PS2 where you have these super long range firefights where you have no impact and have no interesting choices to make.

      • aepervius says:

        I dunno. I would say in addition it lacks objective and permanence. If it was some sort of planet conquering with season or objective similar to a real tactical war… maybe. But the feeling it left me with is giant clusterfuck map with local battle which makes no sense of permanence and the next day it might be the same place with team reversed.

        *shrug* maybe it was because I was in a small outfit and was more forced into the current flow, rather than lead the current flow.

      • Jenks says:

        I just wanted to say I wholly agree with all 3 of you guys! I feel like any one of those 3 answers could be what I feel is missing. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to put my finger on it, because it’s all those things – no real social hooks, mechanical problems with balance/terrain, and a lack of a rewarding victory state.

        Well done fellow RPS commenters /tip of the cap

    • malkav11 says:

      For values of “success” that don’t include 12 million people paying $15/mo + $40-50 every couple years for an expansion, or anything near that. Which is not to say that Eve isn’t successful, because it most certainly is and is probably a much more reasonable level of success to be shooting for, but I don’t think it’s hard to see why everyone took WoW as their model.

  19. drewski says:

    The next WoW turned out to be LoL and DOTA2. Now everyone’s trying to be LoL (nobody is really trying to be DOTA, because that’s insane) and someone, somewhere, has got a great idea for what will be next after MOBAs.

  20. Simbosan says:

    Here’s another angle: Later MMO’s including WoW broke the fourth wall.

    And they didn’t just break it, they decapitated it, eviscerated and danced on it’s grave.

    I was an old school EQ1 player, and the thing that really captured me was that it was a virtual world. That which happened in EQ, stayed in EQ and apart from your subscription, what you achieved in EQ was all that you got in EQ.

    This made it ‘real’, the fear of death and the resulting corpse retrieval, the long long journeys across continents by foot, the long and hard fought camps, where almost all mobs required a group to kill all conspired to make it a true virtual world.

    The look of your armour, your weapon were all achievements ‘in game’. There was no marketplace where you could reskin your sword to look like some absurd Cloud9 style hunk of metal. You would see someone in full Velious armour and you knew ‘Wow, check out that uber guy’, or you would spend days getting groups to get that awesome looking 2h sword. It was in game, all in game.

    I think the breaking of the 4th wall has been almost totally ignored in it’s undermining the immersiveness of a world, now they are just throwaway games, a bit of lightweight online cosplay. Which is all well and good and bit of harmless fun and I’m getting some mild enjoyment from GW2 building my little fantasy doll. But we have lost our virtual worlds, never to be regained and for me, that’s why MMO’s have really missed the target and will never quite recapture the magic.

    PvP also turns any world toxic, but that’s not the point I’m after today =)

    I also understand that most players don’t give a flying ferk about the 4th wall, but I think anyone that played MMO’s before the disease of microtransactions will understand a little of what I describe.

    • chris1479 says:

      Beautifully put viz the 4th wall. I too played back in 2000 or so, I still play EQ today sometimes since it’s f2p. It’s kind of heartbreaking to see MMOs get eviscerated like that and turned into what could best be described as Skyrim-but-online. To a very large extent other people are basically dispensable and superfluous in these games, I find the modern MMO experience utterly isolating. I mean, it’s funny but there’s nothing like playing a really modern MMO to feel totally and utterly alone, what with everything being instanced into a million tiny fragments.

      It’s sad.

    • Wings says:

      Excellent points. I want to staple your comment underneath Mr. Cobbet’s article.

    • malkav11 says:

      Conversely, I never felt like Everquest was a world because it was so relentlessly partitioned into little chunks with loading screens between and no real environmental continuity.

    • Jenks says:

      Just to piggyback (because I agree with you 1000%), this is often referred to as “the magic circle” and it is all but gone in MMORPGs today. Much has been written about it and you’d be surprised at how many people with no taste don’t think it is a good thing.

    • Cragwell says:

      I would say a resounding yes to this point. My experience was Asheron’s Call from release and they slowly broke the fourth wall and a vital part of the gaming experience broke with it.

  21. Lobotomist says:

    Good Read. But unfortunately very far away from truth.

    I was obsessed MMO enthusiast and hopper since Ultima Online. And without a doubt the thing that killed MMO is the WoW bandwagon.

    Game development companies have seen the success of WoW and in singular goal decided to copy every thing it was. Next generation of MMOs that came from this movement came to establish WoW gameplay and interface as standard. Third generation of post WoW MMOs had this standards enforced as only possible thing ( by players themselves) … MMO became equal to WoW

    Problem is nobody actually wanted another WoW. They allready had WoW and had no need for same game with different “texture”.

    Fifth generation of MMO , at least in AAA form will not happen. No investor does not dare to make them. Since almost unanimously , all have proven to be train wrecks ( they even broke the back of Bioware )

    So now the brave game industry is on next Plagiarism quest , next target : MOBA

    • malkav11 says:

      I’m not saying I necessarily would shy away from something that substantially diverged from WoW, depending on how it did it, but I would actually have been quite excited to play other games that are basically WoW but with different themes. Slightly SF-tinged fantasy is all well and good and I enjoy the Warcraft world plenty, but getting to quest and explore far future worlds, cyberpunk worlds, superheroic worlds, urban fantasy worlds, etc with all the things I enjoy about WoW would be a nice change of pace. The trouble is, nobody’s ever done that. Instead we’ve gotten a parade of games that would really like to be WoW but don’t live up to that example.

      • Lobotomist says:

        Unfortunately yes they did.
        Wildstar is as close to WoW as it can possibly be, yet set in SciFi setting, and also featuring very refreshing innovations.

        If anything was ever hand crafted for “I love WoW, but I played it for years so i need a change” crowd. It was Wildstar.

        Yet, it failed too.

        • malkav11 says:

          It isn’t, though. It’s WoW-for-people-who-really-missed-launch-era-WoW, complete with very few of WoW’s subsequent improvements or refinements. Which is very similar to the mistake everyone else made, except Wildstar tried to use it as a selling point. Also, perhaps it gets better later, but man, they did not seem to be making any attempt to create a believable, coherent, or narratively/thematically interesting world in the little I played. WoW makes a lot of jokes, sure, but Azeroth is all of those things.

      • Jenks says:

        “I would actually have been quite excited to play other games that are basically WoW but with different themes.”

        SWTOR, TSW, DCUO off the top of my head.

        • malkav11 says:

          Again, no. Those games (and many others) all share a similar basic architecture to WoW – quest oriented gameplay, instanced multiplayer dungeons, some sort of nod to compartmentalized PvP, etc – but none of them replicate, much less build on, all the many disparate pieces that make WoW as successful and incredibly refined as it is. Frequently, WoW has adapted those pieces from innovations those competing games brought to the table, but those other games pretty much all ignore what anyone else is bringing to the table. And of course, none of them have anything like as much content.

          Some get closer than others, or innovate more substantially, but nobody’s ever had the complete package. So you get games that are generally based on WoW’s design but are fundamentally worse. I think the most common and glaring example is quest design. You get a few contenders like The Secret World and Elder Scrolls Online who are doing enough to give narrative context and gameplay variation to the basic MMO quest structures (kill X, collect X, interact with this environmental thing, talk to this person) to be competitive and sometimes actually better on that particular front (TSW’s Investigation missions are phenomenal), but a lot of games seem content to present them bald and unaltered, like the sidequests that make up the bulk of SWTOR’s levelling experience, or Warhammer Online’s entire questing experience. Often the world is boring or bland and the writing poor as well – that’s sure why I bounced off games like TERA and Aion, and seemed to be the case with Wildstar. And then there’s other niggling things – like the fact that MMOs have routinely launched without any mechanism for gathering together a group to do the theoretically multiplayer content in these theoretically multiplayer games, over a decade after City of Heroes nailed it out of the gate and was mysteriously never copied. (WoW, I will grant, was one of those MMOs. But it isn’t anymore. And although there are ways their Group Finder and Raid Finder tools are problematic, they’re probably an expectable standard at this point, which hardly anyone meets. But there are still games where people spam fucking chat channels to get a group together. That’s like trying to make a fusion reactor by banging two sticks against each other!)

          And hey, some of those games are close enough to the things I like in MMOs and particularly WoW but different enough in theme that I still dabble with them from time to time – The Secret World, most notably – but they certainly aren’t “WoW, but with a different theme and maybe a few improvements”.

  22. frymaster says:

    Apropos of nothing, I remember watching a video with a Quake dev explaining how it was going to be an MMOFPS (which wasn’t a term that existed at the time) with an emphasis on melee combat and how you’d be able to ambush people because you’d see their shadows from around the corner

  23. Carlos Danger says:

    I will wait till we get an MMO that breaks the Theme Park/PvP paradigm. Hand holding players on one side and being forced to balance every class against one another have turned all MMOs into 50 shades of blah. Nothing on horizon though, EQN will just be a re-skin of DC Universe with destroyable terrain.

  24. Artist says:

    I cant really agree that the lack of “Magic” is the reason for the decline! Static Theme Parks, Grind and shorter attention spans (aka ‘casual gaming’). If WoW wouldnt have turned everything into the theme park direction instead of open-worlds and the inclusion of user-generated content maybe a Minecraft-like would have been that big MMO.

  25. Danarchist says:

    MMO’s were my lifeblood for a long time. The one thing that killed them for me however was aging and the amount of time you need to invest to even be moderately successful in them these days. Half of this for me is simply knowing what is going on. If you hop into a dungeon crawl and everyone starts shouting at you to PCM the E5! WTF? PCM!!!!! it detracts for my enjoyment….hugely. When I was younger and playing everquest like it was my real life and everything else was a distraction I had time to stay on top of things. Now there is so much theorycrafing involved you have to basically do research to even communicate with others. I have a yard and a wife, both need regular maintenance.
    My rule of thumb these days is if I am going to play it I have to be able to pause it.

  26. ScubaMonster says:

    We need more sandbox mmo’s or ones that don’t focus on quest hubs. And using a skill system, I’m so sick of classes. I’m still waiting for Asheron’s Call 3 modeled after the first one and updated for a modern era, but alas that is a pipe dream that will never come true. I’m not saying mmo’s should just be about running around grinding mobs for exp with no questing at all, but I’m really tired of theme park mmo’s. Give me Asheron’s Call with some questing tossed in and I would be happy. That was the only problem with AC. There were some quest items you could go get, but for the most part the entire game was just about killing mobs over and over for exp, which wouldn’t fly in this day and age. I’m a huge AC fan and I don’t think even I could stomach doing solely just that anymore.

    • Danarchist says:

      Actually AC is the only MMO I can honestly say I was never bored playing. Think about what question is really in modern MMO’s: you talk to someone with a giant symbol above their head, they give you some bland flavor text (now with full voice over!) and your off to kill 10 of something, or right click 10 of something on the ground that is guarded by something you have to kill. All this just to eat time and keep you subscribed. Talking about Wildstar recently with a friend, the one thing that killed that game for me was the constant running back and forth through the same areas.

      In AC I would just start running in a direction and killed anything I came across. There was very little difference in gameplay or experience between level 56 and level 216, and I was fine with that. I had a few more points each level to make my life magic or archery slightly stronger, and I was golden. There was literally no endgame and that was fine. I could happily spend a full day helping out a vassal (I would get a percentage of their experience earned, they didnt lose any, reason to interact much?) or just go to the subway and get in a fight for giggles.

      There were allot of fun things in that game. I remember a guy named “Naked Mage” that I would run into out in the dires allot. He would completely sell off all his gear and head out adventuring with just some spell mats, end up decked to the nines the next time you saw him.

      Nowadays most MMO’s seem like long, thinly disguised, corridors you are pushed through until you come out the end and step into the new set of corridors (raiding). I think the guided path is a hell of allot more boring than giving someone a set of tools and rules and letting them find their own fun

  27. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    That was an excellent article! My first MMO was Star Wars: Galaxies. I played it pretty much non-stop 2004 and 2005 up to the dreaded wow copy revamp.
    I jumped between a whole bunch of MMO’s after that, including WoW, but that feeling of magic during my first year in SW:G never really returned (I’ve tried the SWGemu project a couple of times in the past years too but I just can’t get back into it like 10 years ago). Instead I just got cynical about that whole MMO game design and went back to “regular” games that didn’t go out of their way to annoy me and where the fun per hour is an order of magnitudes higher.

  28. Erithtotl says:

    I’ve always felt like niche sandboxes are the way to go. Genuine quality games about Pirates, Football Management, new world colonization, ghost hunting, whatever. Some have been tried but didn’t have the focus or the tech. Capture your hardcore group, give them the tools to really make the world go, and charge a sub. A well made niche sandbox can afford to charge a sub the way mainstream WoW clones can’t.

    I feel like MOBAs might be a good replacement for raiding/PvP obsessed MMO players, but hardly seem interesting to those who want a virtual world and worldbuilding.

  29. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    Heh. I still remember reading about Ultima Online and how it completely blew my mind that there was a game in which all the other characters were played by real people.

    Later, when I actually got to try it out (with a dial-up modem and a trial account – it was unthinkable to ask my parents to pay money each month just so that I could play a video game) it felt a bit like an IRC chatroom in which you could walk around and were occasionally killed by a fox.

  30. r0ck03 says:

    Still I have some hope that Everquest Next can help perfect the genre. The biggest problem of current MMOs is a lack of meaningful creative impact from the player. If you can take the creativity of Minecraft (in a lesser extent of course) and expand it by putting it in a fully realized world, you’ll get what I consider to be the pinnacle point of MMO.

  31. vorador says:

    The problem, at it’s core, its that the genre is overpopulated. You have so many choices that either you’re content with the one you’re playing with, or you’re hopping between games every few months with the hope of finding the one that clicks.

    It also doesn’t help that almost every MMO released focuses on WoW. Boast about “going to kill WoW” when you just cloned the core mechanics changing some ingredients to the formula. You don’t overtake something by copying it and just add a twist to it. WoW has been around for so long, the amount of content and stuff to do it’s overwhelming, and its userbase is massive so you can always find someone to play with. It’s a labor of 10 years of constant work.

    You can’t just beat that by trying for a bit, like most “WoW killers” do. Always the same pattern:

    10 Boast about how you game is better than sliced bread, and that is going to destroy the competition or something (always, always mention WoW)
    20 Release.
    30 People try it, find it’s another WoW clone and leave. Subscription plummets in less that a year.
    40 Go F2P, subscriptions increase and stabilize. Game becomes another failed contender.
    50 GOTO 10

    So what the genre needs is a game that changes how MMO are played, like WoW did.

    • Apocalypse says:

      But wow did not change the way mmos were played. You could claim that wow was a good and very streamlined everquest clone ;-)

      Just like heroes of the storm is a streamlined approach in the moba genre that removes most negative team experiences of the game.

      • malkav11 says:

        The shift from camping groups of mobs for optimal XP and loot to actively being propelled through the world by heavily narrative quests was a huge paradigm shift, and that’s just one of the many revolutionary changes WoW made.

      • Jenks says:

        “You could claim that wow was a good and very streamlined everquest clone”

        People used to claim that, yes.

        11 years later, we are getting WoW clones like Wildstar and ESO. The difference between them and WoW is minuscule compared to the difference between EQ and WoW. We now know better than to claim such things.

  32. Kalimashka says:

    As one that have undergone long harsh, absurd, beautifully vain literature studies, one thing stikes me : the sheer nostalgia for the golden eve of MMO works as an excellent substitute of the “mal du si├Ęcle” of past centuries for me.
    Ah, before !

  33. The_invalid says:

    I’d also just like to say that Phantasy Star Online 2 is the best MMO I have ever played because, paradoxically, it’s focused on not being ‘massive’. The most you have in any quest is twelve characters, i.e. three parties of four, and it makes the experience absolutely shine. No zerging, every player has an important role in any given quest or battle. Everything strictly instanced.
    This also drives the social aspect of the game. Being sociable is much easier and people are friendlier when there are only four players in a given quest.
    It also helps that it makes no attempt to copy WOW’s steez at all. It’s totally its own thing and all the better for it.

    Although all the dancing in the lobby SICKENS me.

  34. Emeraude says:

    Something I’ve been thinking about a lot in the past and reading this piece threw me back at it: the thing, is most MMOs were not really anymore massive than a big multiplayer game. In truth, apart from the economy, and really does it matter that much ? – your significant interactions with other players ended up focusing around a relatively “small” amount of people (20-30 seemed to be the sweet spot I don’t think I saw guilds that went beyond 60+ members that actually splintered sub-groups to keem things humanely manageable).

    Some guilds could get big, but really I don’t think I ever witnessed social and more importantly gaming interactions going beyond what a good multiplayer game could offer.

    Which is really what killed the genre I think, why bother with such a costly set up when one more affordable one can offer just as good results ?

  35. Sin Vega says:

    Gamers sucked the wonder out of MMOs long ago, as they do with everything.

  36. Cragwell says:

    This is a subject that has been on my mind lately as well. Having played two MMOs at their highest levels (WoW and AC) and experienced all of their content for at least 4 years each, I have looked back on the experience and come to a few conclusions. First conclusion is that Asheron’s Call was a far superior experience than World of Warcraft. What it lacked in graphics, polish and raids it made up for in story and a sense of purpose. That particular experience I have not been able to find again.

    The second conclusion is for the experience to have meaning to non-sociopaths it needs to be shared with others and there is where you begin to touch on a catch 22. You need a gaming world attractive enough to hold onto people long term, that offers expanding content and delivers it in a meaningful way to your player base. This requires an enormous investment for a genre that is going in a Free to Play direction. It also requires online policing of the player base to prevent the ruination of the gaming experience for normal people. This all equates to long term employment of people who need to get paid.

    The third conclusion is that when the content is explored by above average players, its dead content. The sense of challenge has to be hard enough that only the dedicated and good players can initially access it, with the experiences they learn by hard knocks eventually filtering down to the above average player base. Once this occurs, there must be new content available for this elite player group. The challenge has to be present for these elite players to keep the above average players striving to get access to the same content. WoW did a fairly good job of this initially as new content was rolling out on the heels of old content becoming common place. When your top 10% raid groups are sitting around staring at each other, you have lost your way and so too did WoW when the content was not matching that pace.

    The fourth conclusion is that Minecraft has hit on a great idea for player longevity and that is private servers. Yet how can you maintain a persistent online experience on private servers? The only way I see this kind of experience being recreated is if somehow the concept of these sandbox worlds can be mirrored and allow character crossover by choice. With the availability of this crossover being left up to the major guild leaders on each server? Giving real meaning to the leaders (think EVE) can cause a serious amount of investment in the gaming world.

    Here I also think of Asheron’s call and wonder how it would have been if each server could genuinely effect their story path? What if the choices of the questers could actually change the direction of the story on your server? This is daydreaming more than anything as I can’t conceive of how this is financially possible, but if characters could pass between mirrored worlds with different content based on how each world followed its story line, that would allow for a lot of added exploration.

    Anyway, to close, nothing has ever come close to AC in my mind’s eye as far as engaging the player population in the storyline of game world. This was accomplished through great effort put into monthly updates funded by the monthly subscriber base. WoW has always had the best raid content and I can’t even think how that is an arguable point for anyone who can objectively look at the facts.

    Yes, a lot of raiding comes down to “Sometimes there is a fire, don’t stand in the fire”, but with the massive amount of encounters made available through WoW repetition of concept was inevitable. However, if you ever played some of the content as it was fresh, those encounters were mind blowing. So few players ever got to see content like C’Thun which I feel was a mistake. Your content should be developed in advance and released when the player base has shown you its time. Have the next expansion of content developed and tested, then wait a set % of your raid groups have beaten it. Then release the next content and you will get the most longevity out of your work as a business.

    Ah well, this post is too long. I will end it :)

  37. shabazoo says:

    a garbage article like that can only come from a casualfgt like OP