MMORPGs or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games are an ever-growing segment of the video game market. They started off as very niche games that had a few hundred thousand players on the high end. Then came 2004 and the release of Blizzard’s juggernaut, World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft has, in the 6-ish years since it came out, pushed MMOs into the mainstream enough that you can find clothing, accessories, and even commercials on tv for them.
Looking back at the past…
When World of Warcraft came out, MMOs were, by today’s standards, very primitive and unpolished. Even World of Warcraft, in its first year, wasn’t anything compared to what it is now. WoW owes its success to timing and accessibility. Prior to WoW, most of the mmos were brutally punishing, horribly unforgiving, and very inaccessible. World of Warcraft decided to take a different direction, making the game accessible and comparatively easy to play. This allowed them to get a lot of people who had never played MMOsand introduce them to it. In addition, both of the two other big MMOs at the time; DAoC and EQ, were both waning, people were starting to get bored of them, about the time WoW came out. This meant a lot of existing MMO players were actively looking for something new which led to WoW’s success formula: 1 part experienced mmo players 3 parts first-timers and a dash of regular free content patches…
What has changed?
World of Warcraft has been growing for an unheard of length of time in the MMO world. It has 12 million active accounts and has broken 6 years. MMOs usually, prior to this, started to stagnate and then die within 2-4 years looking at the statistics. H0w have they prevented this from happening to them? Simple, by offering the accessible experience and polishing it continually, they have the most polished product on the market. And people continually leave WoW, try one of the other MMO’s, dislike the lack of polish, and come back to WoW. Several other MMOs have died to this. And it will continue to happen. We have two new contenders… Rift and The Old Republic – each trying to do something different to try to drag people away from WoW.
Rift has a promising concept. It sounds like a very fun RPG. It has a wide variety of really cool sounding subclasses and a lot of really neat concepts. The problem I see: These concepts aren’t going to work very well in an end-game pve or pvp standpoint. Having a class who is powered entirely by magical effects won’t work on a raid boss who uses only physical attacks. Having a class who is fed by his enemy’s strength is either going to be incredibly weak against weaker monsters or insanely strong against bosses. For a single player, or even a diablo style small-time multiplayer, having concepts like this works really well. And would be incredibly fun. But for an mmo, balance is going to kill the fun of most of these classes. And it saddens me to see that. Truly it does, because I really like the concept.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
This is the ‘big one’ that so many people have been talking about. And I don’t see why. If not for the license(Star Wars), I’m thoroughly convinced this MMO would bomb horribly. The last thing I want in an MMO is to have a quest experience that is SO dynamic that each individual will have their OWN universe with its OWN set of living/dead npcs dependent upon what decisions they make. Can you imagine trying to group with someone and you killed this npc but your party members are sitting their talking to dead air because that npc doesn’t exist in your timeline? How can you possibly have continuity into expansions if you have say 200 thousand players each with their own universe each with different npcs alive, different events having occurred, etc. It just seems like an unholy mess. Add to that EVERY character being voiced? God… that just sounds like torture. And then, having EVERY class able to do EVERYTHING, heal tank and dps. WoW is homogenized enough having 40% of the c lasses being able to heal and tank and all fo them able to dps. Imagine if you had mages with a tank spec or warriors with a heal spec? It just seems like a silly way of getting around group formation difficulties. But it still won’t work. Why? Because if people WANT to tank, they will roll a tank class; and if not, they won’t ‘respec’ to tank. Having the ability for, say, your bounty hunter to either dps or tank won’t make more people want to tank. It will just make more people say ‘nah, I’m a dps bounty hunter. I don’t tank’.
I’m sorry, but Bioware, stick to Mass Effect, because sinking 300 million into the Old Republic is going to bite you in the ass.