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All the Ways WoW Changed Me… and other MMOs, too

June 20, 2012

Dear Reader,

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.

Fallen Earth

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

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

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.

Star Wars

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

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.

Conclusion

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.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and realistically optimistic about the future of MMOs)

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2012 9:51 am

    Interesting needs. I think you will find that parts of this can be found in many MMO’s out there. Just not the all encompassing one. I too have played several MMO’s out there, and see parts of them really shine while other parts epic fail. Take for instance, Age of Conan…Yes dear friend I am still addicted to it lol.

    Things wonderful:
    – High customization of character look and feel. With the vanity tab, it made it so you could have all the relative power stat gear still as “under armor” so to speak and vanity over clothing to give you the look and feel of an immersive character.

    – Guild CIty – Damned I love this feature! I have really enjoyed slowly building our Guild City into something to be proud of.

    – Melee Combat system – Bar none hands down the combo action sequences, along with positioning attacks to best effect…W00T, not another game out there comes even close.

    – PvE Content – Solid without being over bearing. Much like any MMO, the endgame is the game when looking for group functions but the fights are interesting and pretty fast paced. Very few Trash burn grind houses to get to the bosses. All Tier 1 Raids can be pretty much cleared in an evening of 4 hours with a crew that knows the fights. The tactics of bosses can still slam even the best geared crew though if they aren’t careful. Raiding is fun here, not work per se. Also, the 6 man instances and now epic solo dungeons are pretty cool too.

    – Fatalities – Its a bloody world in Hyboria…love every minute of it.

    – They finally got the hint and gave us duel speccing…Finally.

    – They will be revamping our crafting system this summer to make it much more like the old SWG system which is good. The current system blows complete chunks.

    Things I wish they would steal from other games:

    – Player housing that can be decorated.

    – Bigger bank space…for the love of Crom, I hate the guild bank space as it is so damned minimal!

    – World PvP objectives that actually mean something once areas are controlled like what DAoC had done.

    – More than one beginning area when toons are first created. While Tortage has got to be one of the best story lines ever…after about the fifth toon you run through it, gets kinda stale.

    – A dynamic instead of static world. It’s sad that the Noble District in Tarantia is still filled with Nemedian agitators. I would think after 4 years something would change lol.

    -As you can see, Ive ripped off a few ideas that I like from other MMO’s. It’s not that I don’t like AoC. I in fact love the games even with it’s quirky bugs. But if I had the choices and had the ability to add from other games into the genre I like…well you see the possibilities?

    • June 25, 2012 10:52 am

      Sounds like it’s improved a lot since I first experienced it. While I credited DDO for “action combat” since it was my first MMO that had that feature, I’d agree that AoC certainly improved upon DDO’s model. If the second island had, at the time I played it, been as fully realized as the first, I may have stuck with it at least a while longer, but I felt like Funcom had pulled a bait and switch, having a beautifully developed first zone and a pretty shoddy zone after that.

      You mention player housing with decorative options. I really liked in LotRO that bosses often dropped trophies off their corpses that you could put up in your house. That was one of my favorite elements of the housing and decoration in that game. Having a boss’s suit of armor or skull or the like added a lot of flair to the old hobbit hole.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Tesh permalink
    June 25, 2012 12:24 pm

    STO has another quirky little feature I wish I’d see more of in other MMOs. You can replay any of the story missions, and they will scale to your level, in challenge, in loot, even in experience. It keeps those stories relevant to whatever level you happen to be playing at.

    Nice article!

    • June 25, 2012 1:52 pm

      That’s true; I’ve returned to some of my favorite missions when I’ve picked up the game from time to time. I particularly like the missions that mix space combat elements with land elements in the large, open regions (none come to me right now, but I haven’t played in a while, either). DDO has a similar feature, and I appreciated that because if you learned complicated boards (The Pit being a maze mixed with a long list of objectives intentionally designed to cause backtracking and confusion), you could act like a guide and get really good groups to play the mission with you because they’d appreciate your knowledge and reward you with their good play and fair behavior. I enjoyed that a lot.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. June 26, 2012 8:32 am

    Stubborn,
    Yes the game as far s PvE has improved exponentially. Questing all the way to 80 and then more after. A lot has been improved since the launch days. Unfortunately like most MMOs, the real potential of the game isn’t realized until perhaps the second year of it’s existence. Usually I have seen the first year gets you to around Lv 40ish and then becomes a grind to the cap. This often has to do with investors wanting returns on the profit margin for the initial sales and then dumping and running afterwards. That again is strictly my opinion based upon gameplay of several MMOs.

    Yes, the whole idea of the Housing decorations originated for me back in the days of SWG. There, just about anything in your inventory could be “mounted” within a house. So it wasn’t hard to fill your home with all kinds of trophies. I wish AoC would do the same or really any serious MMO these days.

    • June 26, 2012 11:39 am

      Yeah, I had a good conversation with my buddy the other day about this trend regarding D3. I was complaining about D3 being terrible, and he made an argument that it’s constantly being improved. I pointed out that by the time the game’s at it’s peak of quality, the best it will ever be, we’ll be through playing, so that means that we’re really just beta testers who paid 60 bucks for the privilege. He didn’t have a response to that.

      I’m afraid you’re quite right about that being the trend for games nowadays. Since gaming is becoming more of an ongoing service than a final product (as Gaz described on his blog a few weeks back), the early adopters – those most excited about the IP and hype – are being punished by being guinea pigs to an unfinished game instead of rewarded for being early adopters and fans. This is creating a lot of rifts in the market, turning love into bitterest hate, and I suspect damaging the MMO community as a whole. It’s certainly driven me back to familiar ground (WoW).

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