Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Should we stop blogging until Cataclysm?
While I share Larísa's opinion that the MMO blogosphere is in a bit of a rut, I find her suggestion that both bloggers and blog readers should take a break until Cataclysm comes out a bit strange. Yes, World of Warcraft is definitively in a phase of "between expansions boredom", where many players basically finished Wrath of the Lich King and are waiting for Cataclysm to come out. And there is also a conspicous lack of other great new games coming out this summer, unless you count Mortal Online. But does that mean we can't read and write about games any more?
If I understood her correctly, Larísa thinks that if you can't write anything nice about a game, you shouldn't write about it at all. But as she labeled her link to me as "the clashes", she obviously thinks that I have a very different opinion about that. Nevertheless I don't think she really understands what I am blogging about, nor do quite a number of my readers, judging by the comments I get.
The thing is that I am not really blogging about World of Warcraft, about EVE, or about any other specific game. I am not promoting this game, or bashing that one, even if some people obviously think I do. What I am really blogging about is the perfect MMORPG. Perfect for me, that is, obviously different people have different preferences. I am blogging about the perfect MMORPG by looking at existing MMORPGs, and writing about my personal impressions on what features work for me and what features don't.
Thus if I'm writing about lets say real-time offline skill training, that isn't a post about "bashing EVE Online". It is a post about the disconnect I feel between me playing a game and my character advancing in the game if character advancement is in real-time and also works offline. And the same is true when I write about the fast reaction times required in raiding: That isn't me "bashing WoW", nor is it, quote Larísa, the "seasonal Curse of Boredom, Burn-out, Bitterness, Lost faith and Godknowswhat that strikes again". Instead it is me pondering that in the perfect MMORPG the end game should use game mechanics which are similar to (and advanced from) what the game taught you during leveling, and not simply make the skills and abilities of the characters we spent hundreds of hours leveling up secondary to a newly introduced jump & run game mechanic.
I simply have no interest at all in promoting any specific game, or discouraging people from playing another. First of all, I don't even think my blog matters that much; I can get a hundred people to play a Facebook game, but as MMORPG subscription numbers are often discussed in terms of how many hundreds of thousands players a game needs to be a success or failure, I don't think anything I say about MMORPGs is going to have a measurable influence.
Having said that, I also insist on my right to state what I think. Some games simply aren't for me, and in other cases I don't like what some players do in games. I don't see why I would be required to not say anything about the things I dislike. I sometimes get accused of being too sensitive, but that accusation more often than not comes from people who apparently got terribly hurt by some random blogger saying something not nice about their favorite game. Who is the emo if some fanboi starts frothing at the mouth and calling me names because I said I don't like his favorite game or game mechanic, and I delete that comment?
I don't write deliberately controversial stuff just to get comments. Actually I don't even like the sort of comments I get when I write controversial stuff, because most of them aren't about perfect game design, and only deal with stupid turf wars and pointing fingers at the "blasphemers". But getting a good conversation about game design going is rather hard. A typical post of "I did this and that in this or that game, and I liked it" barely gets any comments at all. To get anyone even remotely interested, it appears that instead of writing about a feature that works for me in one game, I have to write about the opposite feature not working for me in another game.
Thus while I do agree that it might be a good idea to play less World of Warcraft until the next expansion (or at least pre-expansion patch) comes out, and I do exactly that, I don't think that this means we have to stop blogging or reading blogs until Cataclysm. Instead there is an opportunity here to play some other games, something radically different, and write about that. Because even if we end up liking that radically different game a lot less, it is by comparison that we learn what we think is missing. And there is a chance that we get acquainted with some feature that the radically different game has, and end up wishing our favorite game had that.
So if I may make a suggestion to Larísa and everybody else who is struck by the "Curse of Boredom": Why don't you go and try out A Tale in the Desert? It is a great game, radically different from most games you know, and it is a true sandbox. It even *has* sand! What it doesn't have is PvP, nor does it have PvE, not in the traditional sense of the terms, so it might challenge your notions about what a MMORPG is. And that can only be a good thing.