All the Ways WoW Changed Me… and other MMOs, too
Syl recently discussed on her blog the ways in which WoW changed her perceptions of games and MMOs in particular. Even before I reached the end, I knew I wanted to continue that discussion, and lo and behold, she suggested that we all do so. This correspondence, then, is both a response to hers and a broadening of the topic beyond just WoW, because, while I fully believe WoW’s had the largest impact on me, I think my recent disenchantment is due to all the MMOs, not just WoW, and their inability to get it “just right.”
World of Warcraft
This game I’ve played more than all the others – probably combined – so it stands to reason it would have changed me the most. I suspect I could never identify all the ways for better or worse it changed me, but we’ll see what we can do. First, it opened my mind to the possibility that a subscription plan was worth it. I was vehemently against the idea prior to WoW, and while I still don’t like it, I like a sub plan more than the free to play plans I see in a lot of other games cropping up.
WoW also taught me that being good at MMOs requires research. The corollary to that, though, is I no longer want to have to do research to be good at a game. I did so much of it for WoW that has ended up a pointless waste due to changes in the gameplay mechanics, social issues with guilds preventing my from being able to raid, and the overall acceptance of moronic play that I just don’t see a lot of research into my classes as a valuable investment any more.
Like Syl, WoW has permanently damaged my oooh shinies! reward system. I haven’t cared about loot in any game in years now due to both the drama it causes and the knowledge of the constant grind one has to maintain to keep up to date with the loot. It’s gotten to the point now that I simply pass on everything that’s not an upgrade and usually only roll need after I’ve verified that no one else needs it, and if they do, it’s theirs.
WoW also burned me out to raiding, though I admit it may not be a permanent burnout. Right now (and for the last six months), I’ve had no interest in raiding whatsoever. I actually have so much interest in not raiding that I politely turned down my guild leader when she asked me to raid last night. I simply don’t have it in me any more to deal with the heartbreak of seeing half the raid make repeated and constant errors that make the other half of us have to work twice as hard to prevent failure.
I’m no fan of achievement hunting any more, either. I realized when approaching my 150th pet and 100th mount that I just didn’t care. Seeing that banner flash across the screen really just didn’t do anything for me any more, and that’s fully bled over into other games. Now, that’s not to say I’m not interested in challenging myself. The dungeon and raid achievements that are particularly difficult I still am interested, but for the challenge of it, not the 10 achievement points. I’ve found that more and more achievements are given out for nothing, and it’s watered down the value of those that meant something.
Dungeons and Dragons Online
DDO gave me a taste of more action-oriented and somewhat tactical combat, which I vastly preferred. I remember how refreshing DDO was after years of just mashing rotations, and I appreciated the game for it. I remember having a hard time going back to the WoW model after the DDO model, and only because I got into a guild that allowed me to raid lead and I got to see the end-game content as it was relevant was I really motivated to return to WoW.
DDO also taught the me peril of forced grouping. In what would be its eventual downfall, even my group of 4 (and eventually 3) had to pick up other players, which was increasingly difficult as the game shrank to a sustainable size. There were no individual dungeons above level 5 back then, and though you could do the dungeons with fewer people than necessary, the higher level you got, the harder that became.
DDO also taught me about the need for retries. The final failure of the game was that you only got one shot at the first raid boss of the game, a giant red dragon. If you wiped, that was it. You didn’t get another chance for several days. That was foolish, and from that point forward, I appreciated the repeated attempts WoW provides to try, fail, and hopefully eventually succeed.
Lord of the Rings Online
LotRO gave me a perspective of better customization. The “specs” were far more malleable, and you had to earn your ranks in them. While I never ground out 1000 goblin kills to get rank 10 in virtue (I just made that combination up, so please don’t expect that to be accurate), I got to rank 9 in all of them before quitting the game. I liked that you had to earn your way in that game, and I enjoyed the greater ability to customize my character through those “talents” as well as in appearance.
My main character, Scribner, a runekeeper, ran around in a Scribe’s outfit,with a dashing hat and a (IIRC) quill in hand. It was a lot of fun to find just the right appearance, and I think LotRO did it first, best. I’ve never felt engaged in dressing my toons in other games, but LotRO made it so simple I just couldn’t resist.
In Fallen Earth, I learned what a crafting system should be like. Everything was craftable, there were tons and tons of materials, you could learn to craft just about anything, and your character, if parked at a workbench while you were offline, was truly persistent and kept working while you were gone. I realize that EVE’s skill system is what informed FE’s crafting system, but I think FE did it the best, and I’ve pined for a crafting system like that since then.
FE also maintained the more action-oriented combat, like DDO, and I really enjoyed it. I never PvP’d and heard it could be very frustrating if you were working against a well-practiced and hidden sniper, but I, in turn, enjoyed shooting my enemies in the head with my early-game crossbows and nearly one-shotting them. In other words, FE continued to turn me off of WoW.
Rift’s soul system built on the LotRO concept of play customization, further showing how limiting and constraining WoW’s class and talent system was. The ability to swap between specs and roles at almost any time really spoiled the players (in a good way).
Rift also showed me how grouping should work: instantaneously and smartly. Unless you said otherwise, any time you and another person were in a similar area doing a similar quest, you’d simply group up and work together. No LFG necessary, no begging for help. You just went and did your thing, and if it happened, it happened.
Vindictus’s combat system was so smooth and fun that I consider it the pinnacle of action-oriented MMO combat. I don’t think Tera’s combat system was better than the free-to-play Vindictus’s, but Vindictus suffered from being super repetitive and boring (as many F2P MMOs do). The combo system built on top of weapon styles and alongside cooldown abilities (like in WoW) created a very interactive and fast-paced combat system that was a lot of fun to play.
I’ll mention Star Wars because I did play it, but honestly I’m having a hard time thinking of anything it taught me other than how not to do story.
I suppose it taught me about cutscenes, but I already knew about cutscenes, and it taught me about conversation repercussions, but really the light and dark side were just another grind. I know a lot of people still swear by SW:ToR, and that’s fine; I’m not asking them to dislike it, but it just didn’t do much for me, to be honest, but try to build a fourth pillar with extremely shoddy materials.
Lastly, it taught me that playing with others was worthy of punishment, as the story dungeons became exponentially longer the more people you played with.
Star Trek only gave me one great insight, and while I started it well before most of these other games, it was only recently I found this feature and used it to much enjoyment. In Star Trek, you can give away missions to many of your officers, giving as many as 20 away missions at a time. Like the Star Wars “crafting,” where you send your minions to do your work (presumably because you’re too busy (or stupid) to put together a lightsaber, but the lizard man slave can), in Star Trek, you can send your crew out to do tons of little collections or negotiations or trades. I would really like to see this feature in other games, as you build your own castle (in a fantasy game) or cabal (in Secret World) or the like. I think it may currently the best under-utilized feature for an MMO.
So if we take a gander and summarize, what I’ve learned is really a lesson about what WoW did wrong. It’s not a complaint against the devs, because they were before all of these other games, so the other games could look and improve on what WoW did, but it is still a retroactive admonition to what we now know is poor design. Hindsight is 20/20 even in the gaming industry. Here’s a summary of what I’d like, then, that WoW doesn’t really provide:
Action combat designed smartly that’s fast paced and skill-oriented
An intelligent crafting system that uses a multitude of parts that can all be collected from the game world
A mission system for followers that’s superior to Star Wars’s and more like Star Trek’s
Better story telling with more valid repercussions and consequences, even if it means more phasing
More customization of characters both in game play and appearance
Smooth and intelligent grouping that facilitates playing with other instead of penalizes it
At any rate, thanks again to Syl who got this conversation started, and I look forward to seeing how others have responded.
Stubborn (and realistically optimistic about the future of MMOs)