Monday, March 08, 2010
Outside the themepark
In the open Sunday thread a reader asked whether there was any connection between Tamarind founding a new guild for the blogging community and Gevlon founding a new ganking guild. Obviously the two guilds couldn't be any more different from each other, Single Abstract Noun is a social guild, while Gevlon posted extremely anti-social guild rules. But there is a common theme: Trying something different.
It is often said that World of Warcraft is a themepark MMORPG: Blizzard places a lot of content in the game, and provides you a lot of helpful clues on how to complete that content in the "correct" order. The obvious disadvantage of that model is that once you've done all the rides several times, you're getting bored. Running heroics is a classic example of that: The Dungeon Finder is a great tool to get people to use the heroic "rides". But now people have been doing that for several months, have been to every possible heroic many times, have collected all the rewards you could get from emblems of triumph plus some emblem of frost gear, and so the level 80 heroics are getting old. Some people just run one per day for the emblems of frost, others just abandonded them. Due to Blizzard being a bit too generous with the rewards for heroics, there is no interest in running raid dungeons like Naxxramas and Ulduar, which reduces the whole endgame to ToC and ICC, which is a bit thin. With Cataclysm still months away, people are getting bored. People simply reached the end of the themepark.
Now one possibility when reaching the end of the themepark is leaving it until more rides are installed. A lot of that will certainly happen over the summer, with people playing a lot less, or even cancelling their accounts until patch 4.0 and then Cataclysm. But other people realized a very simple truth:
World of Warcraft is not a themepark *or* a sandbox, it is both!
Except for the possibility to freely gank other players of the same faction, which as a form of human interaction is rather primitive anyway, World of Warcraft does not have any less sandbox possibilities than any other MMORPG that comes with a sandbox label. The fact that there are big neon signs pointing towards the themepark rides (and some of those neon signs haven't even been installed by Blizzard but been added by the player community in the form of addons and various guides on websites), doesn't mean that there isn't a whole virtual world out there in WoW. Yes, you *can* install an addon like Tourguide and play World of Warcraft completely on rails from level 1 to being fully equipped with epics at the level cap. But that doesn't mean you *have to*. People following the way of least resistance is a basic reality of humanity, and is not due to a lack of "sandbox features" of World of Warcraft.
Whether it is me fishing at level 7 in Northrend, or people engaging in roleplaying on a RP server, or Gevlon founding guilds with new rulesets like Undergeared or his new ganking guild, is all just part of the same phenomenon: People engaging in the huge possibilities of World of Warcraft *outside* the themepark. It is just silly to complain how boring the path of least resistance in World of Warcraft is, when you never even tried to step off that path. There is a whole virtual world out there, with near endless possibilities. You just need to go and look for them.