Tobold's Blog
Thursday, September 25, 2014
 
Does mini-golf ruin the sport of golf?

This week the blogosphere is full of posts discussing whether World of Warcraft "ruined" MMO gaming. The argument is that there was a certain style of forced grouping with strong social interaction in MMORPGs like Everquest, and WoW "ruined" that by making a solo-friendly game in which social interaction is largely optional.

What this argument overlooks is that we are talking about two very different populations of very different size here. Everquest peaked at around 400,000 players, World of Warcraft at around 13 million players. If the MMORPG genre would have stuck with the strong forced social interaction model of players being dependent on each other, the overall market size would never have passed even 1 million players. The other 12 million players entered the market *because* it was now possible to solo.

At worst you could say that World of Warcraft "diluted" MMO gaming by providing an accessible alternative. There might have been a few EQ players who hated forced grouping and switched, but honestly those players wouldn't have stayed in the genre for long anyway if there hadn't been the accessible version.

There are a lot more people occasionally playing a round of mini-golf than there are people playing golf seriously. But it would be silly to claim that mini-golf ruined the sport of golf. Mini-golf just provides a more casual and accessible alternative which somewhat resembles golf. World of Warcraft provides a more casual and accessible alternative to hardcore MMORPGs. That is all there is. It is stupid to think that in some alternative universe 13 million people would have ended up playing a MMORPG with forced grouping and strong social interaction, if only WoW hadn't existed.

Comments:
It is possible to play both golf and mini-golf. Very few people can dedicate the time to get fully involved with multiple MMOs.
If you have to choose just a single MMO most people will go to the their friends play. That means people gravitated to WoW leaving other games underplayed and more likely to fall into a death-cycle due to lack of subs.
Alternatively, WoW has also massively raised the profile of MMOs and undoubtedly introduced many new gamers to the scene who have then moved to other games.
I don't know if WoW has caused the increase in non-WoW MMO players. There are probably some games that are winners and others that are losers.
I would argue that 10 years ago there were 1m non-WoW MMO gamers. Today number is unchanged since nearly every game contains WoW-like elements.
 
I think your figures are a little suspect, WoW too high, Everquest too low. But as the gap was more than 12 to 1 your argument still holds up. Most of those early WoW players had never played an MMORPG before and never would have without WoW launching.

What attracted those millions is a matter for speculation, but solo play is as good as any of the other reasons that have been advanced.
 
On top of all of these, forced grouping has nothing to do with social interactions. It forces you to group and cast proper spells and not to chat. If your groupmate is a bot doing its job, you probably wouldn't notice.
 
Oh, was -that- the argument?

WoW "ruined" MMO gaming because:

- It focused on exponential vertical stat progression where a max level character could off a lowbie without any effort whatsoever, encouraging bullying of newbies by veterans.

- It used the bait-and-switch model of making the endgame completely different from the leveling game, creating conflict between subsets of players who prefer one or the other.

- It placed raiding on the pedestal of 'most respected and rewarded thing to do' as opposed to potentially rewarding other activities equally well, fostering and encouraging elitism, which leads to insularity and toxicity

- It brought in a very diverse mainstream / casual audience, which equates to more differences in opinion and playstyle, and conflict and debate

- It encourages an addictive / OCD personality to overindulge, with the time and monetary commitment required

- Insert plenty of other random reasons here, based on whatever your perspective is.

Disclaimer: I neither espouse or believe all the above statements. Some, yes. But mostly just pointing out that the definition of ruination can differ from person to person.
 
Aren't all of the things on your list already true for Everquest or other pre-WoW games? If you say WoW "ruined" MMOs you can only use the characteristics of WoW that were actually new. EQ already had vertical progression, a raid endgame, and people playing way too much. WoW didn't invent any of these.
 
"If the MMORPG genre would have stuck with the strong forced social interaction model of players being dependent on each other, the overall market size would never have passed even 1 million players. The other 12 million players entered the market *because* it was now possible to solo."

percentages source?
 
The problem with every one of these posts I have read so far is that they pick some very specific aspect that they feel is now gone from MMOs (and which I would argue, in most cases, is actually still there) while ignoring all of the downside to the way things were and the reason MMOs changed. And change was coming regardless of WoW. Part of DAoC's mantra was "removing the suck" if I recall right, and it eased up on things like death penalties. And even EverQuest was putting in instancing and the like before WoW. Lost Dungeons of Norrath came out a year before WoW.

I like Dobablo's comment above about the break-out of MMO players versus WoW MMO players, as this whole thing seems to have some roots in the old idea that people who started with WoW would want to graduate to more challenging MMOs and that we would end up back with EverQuest style play again. We won't.

I am as nostalgic for the good old days as any blogger out there, but I also know that EverQuest's success was as much a product of its environment as anything else. It worked in 1999 because it was new and there were few other choices.
 
Mm, I never played everquest. The first real mmo I tried was FF11, because I always enjoyed the single player FF games. But I gave up on it after a couple weeks, because I couldn't do anything after level 10 by myself.

When warcraft came out, I could spend half my time grouping and and the other half soloing, and always feel like I was making progress, and I stuck with it for years.

Now I play almost any mmo that comes out that doesn't have open-pvp. WoW made me into an mmo player. So fwiw, from my perspective WoW saved the mmo genre.
 
The MMORPG genre is the only genre that argues something this ridiculous. You don't see Starcraft players claiming the campaign mode ruins the game and should be removed.

WoW HAS grouping, and in fact HAS forced grouping. You can't do Heroics or raids solo. And while this wasn't true at launch, you can now level entirely through the dungeon finder, which is even regarded as the slightly faster method.

This entire discussion stinks of the same old basic conflict. The very small minority of hardcore players are upset that their massive over-representation in content isn't the monopoly it once was.
 
The problem here is that there is no MMO equivalent of the PGA Tour.
 
"Aren't all of the things on your list already true for Everquest or other pre-WoW games?"

My interpretation is that WoW copied from the Everquest model, and basically popularized and established as a concrete entity many of these things in the minds of many players, such that when we say "MMO," people immediately think of these things as being representative of the genre.

So no, I don't -have- to only use the characteristics of WoW that are "new." How do you define "new" anyway? Innovation is generally built upon an existing idea regardless.

But basically, WoW helped to define the Everquest model as what an MMO "should" be. Everquest itself built upon the DikuMUD model, and one of its progenitors was the SMAUG MUD Realms of Despair which I played and burned right out of.

Thing is, after that, when I went MUD hopping, there were -many- many other MUDs using other systems (sort of like tabletop roleplaying diversity, and d20 ending up popularized due to D&D variants).

Ultima Online was one such precursor "MMO" that took ideas from a slightly different branch of MUDs, that at least made it to fairly well known status, as opposed to others that just died out or remained niche.

One could argue that WoW destroyed a lot of that potential MMO diversity due to its popularity, spawning a generation of WoW clones trying to capitalize on the wave.

Anyhow, that's one devil's advocate argument of ruination. There can be more. I just enjoy being a WoW contrarian (though of course, WoW can be perceived to have done many things right as well, in its long lifespan.)
 
My interpretation is that WoW copied from the Everquest model

You can't "ruin" a genre by doing exactly what everybody else does. The complaints that A) WoW wasn't innovative and B) it ruined MMOs are mutually incompatible.

In reality World of Warcraft was far more innovative than most people care to admit. It fixed tons of problems with the EQ model. And by fixing the problems it made the genre far more accessible. So for the elitist jerks it "ruined" the genre by getting millions of less hardcore players into it.
 
In reality World of Warcraft was far more innovative than most people care to admit. It fixed tons of problems with the EQ model. And by fixing the problems it made the genre far more accessible. So for the elitist jerks it "ruined" the genre by getting millions of less hardcore players into it.

I wholeheartily agree with the first part of this statement. But I think that WoW offered an avenue, for a good portion of borderline hardcore-casuals, to become elitists themselves. Let's face it, you cannot have the (still) large number of raiding guilds without an even larger pool of some decently dedicated players. In that regard, WoW is still definitely doing something right with the "end game" content, regardless of how "elite" somone is considered to be.
 
"You can't "ruin" a genre by doing exactly what everybody else does. The complaints that A) WoW wasn't innovative and B) it ruined MMOs are mutually incompatible."

In your interpretation.

'Nuff said. I'm done.
 
Sorry Jeromai, I am with Tobold here. Easily the biggest thing differentiating WoW from other MMORPGs at the time was running solo quests was a viable (and in fact the most efficient) way to level.

I also think Michael is on to something. Rather than two groups of players, I think there are three:

1) Players who only want to solo.
2) Players who only want to group.
3) Players who want to group sometimes, solo sometimes.

I think group #3 is FAR bigger than either of the other two groups. I think most people want to play with their friends, but often their friends will not be playing. If the only options at that point are play with strangers or quit, most people will quit.
 
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