Tobold's Blog
Friday, February 08, 2013
Take off your nostalgia-tinted glasses!

MMORPG discussions on the blogosphere this week included such highlights like an argument whether vanilla WoW was really the best version of World of Warcraft ever and the Blizzard developers spent 8 years and countless patches just to make the game worse, and the news that Mark Jacobs is planning to make Camelot Unchained. Obviously people believe that Dark Age of Camelot also got worse with every patch, because they greeted Camelot Unchained like the promised land in spite of the fact that DAoC is still up and running.

There is some serious distortion of reality by nostalgia going on here. If today a game released and got 250,000 players, it would be considered a failure. There were "WoW is dying" posts in response to the news that WoW was down to 9.6 million players. But Dark Age of Camelot, which only ever got 250,000 players at its peak, and is now well below 50,000, is by some still considered to be the holy grail. And that was for a mixed PvE / PvP game, while Camelot Unchained will only have the PvP part. Does anybody really believe this is going to be a huge success? Especially since Mark Jacobs previous attempt to make a new DAoC-successor, Warhammer Online, was such a big success ...

Ask anybody who played MMORPGs over the last decade or more what the best MMO is, and the answer will invariably be one of the first games they played. For the real veterans of the genre that might be UO or EQ or AC or DAoC. For millions of people it was World of Warcraft, often the vanilla version. Everybody thinks that at the time where he started MMORPGs the genre was producing its absolutely best games, and from there on it went downwards. But as everybody started at different times, the timing of this mythical peak is different depending on who you ask.

To me that is pretty convincing proof that there never was a time when MMORPGs were "best". There has been continuous improvement, because every new game built on previous games, and every patch fixed bugs, added content, and made things better. But this continuous improvement is a rather slow process, the perception of which is tainted by the fact that MMORPGs get more boring the longer you play them. Your first virtual world is a wondrous experience, and from there you burn out over time. And people burn out a lot faster than games improve, so the overall impression is one of decline.

Waiting for the game that brings back that wondrous first-time experience is a fool's game. You can't get that first-time feeling back. And the developers know that, although they might be willing to relieve you of some of your cash via Kickstarter by playing to your nostalgia. Throw in a few catch-phrases like player housing and player-owned economy, and you can be sure to get a couple of millions in crowdfunding from nostalgic players who don't know better.There's a sucker born every minute, and Kickstarter is the ideal way to find those suckers.

It depends on what you want out of a game. Many of the "improvements" in games have actually destroyed what I enjoyed most about the older games. I liked non-trivial travel. I liked player run ad-hoc bazaar-style economies. I liked slow combat. All because, most of all, I liked text chatting with people.
"You can't get that first-time feeling back."

Sure you can! But only if you take the game on it's own merits, and don't hold it up to some kind of nostalgia template.

So I like housing in games. I don't think that makes me a sucker for casting a fond eye towards games that feature THAT MECHANIC, because I'm interested in the mechanic, not some "it has to be THIS WAY as game X did it in the past".

If a person is looking to recapture that feeling SPECIFICALLY because developer X is making a similar game, or because it has a bullet point list similar to the bullet point list of a game from the past, it won't happen, but it doesn't mean that it can't spawn a NEW nostalgia.
At the same time, don't fear comparison so much that you refuse to see that some games really do lose quality.

Games like SWG genuinely became less enjoyable for many players after significant game changes. That's not nostalgia, it's not players just getting older, it's the game changing away from the model and style many players preferred. It's possible other players prefer the new version, and even can be a net growth in subscribers. Doesn't mean that the people who genuinely preferred the old version are wrong or just feeling nostalgia for the old version. They aren't necessarily deluding themselves about the old game being better, for them the old game really was more enjoyable.

And I have to put in my own opinion. :P I started playing wow in vanilla. I feel it peaked in terms of my own enjoyment of the game first when black temple was released in burning crusade, and then again when ulduar was released in wrath of the lich king, and nothing since has passed either of those.

I honestly don't know what the problem has been lately in WoW. But for me the difference in quality among parts of the game is very noticeable. In the latest expansion, I found everything very tepid and boring, and then I walked into Dread Wastes and suddenly I was back in Wrath again. Best questing experience since Zul'Drak and Storm Peaks. The contrast from DW to any other new zone is staggering, and I don't know why. o.O
I have gone back and played Vanilla WoW and it was just as good as I remembered it. The only reason I didn't continue to play was that the population was so low. The game was everything I remembered though.
"you" -> "your" in title

Just a typo, not a grammar error. Because I know that grammar is the difference between feeling you're nuts and feeling your nuts. :)
I never played DAOC, but am fascinated that gaming discussions frequently talk about crafting and "that guy in SWG who could make" and the PvP in DAOC. So many people talk about DAOC PvP now I am surprised it failed.


You are probably right about kickstarted, especially for nostalgia games. But let me give you the "Silicon Valley" analogy. If you invest in, or work for, a "Californai" tech startup, the assumption is 90% of the businesses will fail. Ah but the tenth makes it very worthwhile. So in my naive world, if 50 games are funded than a couple will be fraud, the overwhelming majority will be varying degrees of incompetent, But a few can show ideas that other game designers will see and absorb and perhaps one "goes mine craft" and another gets "bought" (where the employees end up with a larger studio/budget. But yes >90% are junk.
Think of the leveling process in WoW past TBC, and especially past WotLK. Do you think that it has become better?

I mean, professions are out of sync with levels, it is extremely trivial, the story told does several time jumps that no new player could possibly understand .. etc.

Do you honestly think that it has become better?
I have to completely disagree with this article. I played DAOC, EVE, then moved to WoW at launch, and have played numerous others since then including the WOW expansions.

For me the best MMO is based on when I was having the most fun. For PVP experience I had the most fun in Vanilla WOW. For PVE experience I had the most fun in WOW: WOTLK. It really has a lot to do with the people you are running with at the time.
"You can't get that first-time feeling back"

Sure you can, or at least you can get an equally intense feeling with a slight variation.

Would you say the enjoyment, the excitement, the thrill you get from each new movie you watch , each new novel you read, each new song you listen to is a lesser experience because it isn't the first? I have added new contenders for my favorites of all time in each of those fields throughout my life. I still love the things I loved when I was sixteen but I don't *only* love those and I don't believe I will never find things I love more, and so I do find things I love more.

Why would MMOs be any different? The best MMO I have ever played may well be the next one.
I think innovations will happen slower over time. Like the move from 2D to 3D was huge, not just for MMOs, but all games. That's never going to happen again. There will never be that big of a change again. Okay, maybe if the holodeck becomes a reality, but I can't see that in my lifetime. So when MMOs were new every year there was a ton of brand new features. Now, it's really hard to come up with new features that the average player actually wants, or the game budget is too low to justify it.
Jason: I liked non-trivial travel for the first 10 times I had to spend 20 minutes getting to Dire Maul. Once I starting keeping a book on my desk just for flights, I was done with that.

Nils: while I agree that the expansions did create some rather obvious seams in the game (half the point of Cataclysm was to retcon it), on the whole current WoW is better all around. Hell, I actually had mild amounts of fun going from 80-85 in Cataclysm, and I always despised leveling so much that people wondered why I even played the game.

I would put it this way: I think that if you busted out the Delorean and released the WoW of today back in 2004 (and it was playable on those computers) as a competitor to vanilla WoW, vanilla would be crushed like a tin can being run over by a train.

The problem today is that pretty much nobody is having any first time experiences. They've seen it all before, a thousand times. The magic is gone. You aren't going to be impressed.

Is there some nostalgia affecting people's ability to see what is actually good about these games? Sure, there always is. Does that make them inherently wrong? Absolutely not.

I am one that believes that vanilla WoW was a better game. So much that I stopped playing a few months after Cataclysm came out. I did not enjoy the modifications made to the game, or the planned obsolescence of the expansions, and thought that most of what was added to the game made it a worst experience, so I left. Anecdotal, sure, but that's where these comments come from.

The problem with your argument is one you made before a few times: having more players equals being a better game. Until you figure out that quality and popularity are different things, your point about this particular subject will continue to be moot.

Unless you actually think that something like Gangnam Style is a better music than Mozart, just because Psy's video on Youtube is more popular than any video with the classic composer's musics on them.
So you think of yourself as this all-knowing, totally objective guy who can tell exactly which one of two items is objectively better, and who is not at all influenced by burnout or getting bored with a game or style of game? Sorry, you are just deluding yourself.
For me, mmorpg's are defined by the most social fun I have in the game. I think our nostalgia is for games that req'd social interaction as a core mechanic, instead of the current single player game with a chat lobby functionality.

So, where did I have the most social fun? Rift and W:AoR. Am I playing either right now? ummm, no...because I don't have the time to raid anymore. Post downturn, all of us lost free time.

The challenge facing mmorpg's today is to provide Meaningful social content with a minimum time commitment in a f2p environment. But how do you build meaningful relationships w/o spending any time on them with a cash shop that generates revenue without creating imbalance? I have no idea, which is why I'm glad I'm not a designer.

Good luck industry folks!
Tobold, you are having problems that many of these people think you are saying ALL changes have been good and that NOTHING has ever been a mistake or changed a game for the worse.

Certainly, they will be able to find some examples of things that they hated, and some things that changed the game for the worse (to them).

But for the most part, you are right. Overall, games have gotten better with time, not worse. Camelot Unchained is going to be a massive flop, it will not get anywhere near the 250k the original DAoC got.

I still have yet to hear from people about the EQ legacy server. Why hasn't that been a huge success? Why haven't they had to open 20 more legacy servers due to popularity?
It's not nostalgia. Back then there was game in WoW: success or defeat depended on your actions. Developers spent patch after patch to turn it into a Skinner-box: press button, receive candy.
Gevlon-- I recently tried the Pandaria trial. I died on a level 2 quest. I admit I am rusty, but I was shocked. I hadn't thought that could happen.

My go to metaphor for everything is cycling now, so I'd compare it to the first time I went mountain biking. I was going down a trail screaming like a little girl. The trees seemed so close, the trail so rough and steep that it scared me to death.

Now, I ride that same portion of trail and think it's easy. It is easy for me now. By the same token, your first run through of WoW was a mystery; you didn't know where everything was, you hadn't done the quests, you didn't really know how to play. It was a lot scarier. What I remember was more or less a crappier version of what is there today, except I have 100+ days of experience with it. Of course it looks easy to me now. But then again I got iced on a quest at level 2 because I was rusty and I was overconfident, so maybe it's not as easy as you think.
Unless you actually think that something like Gangnam Style is a better music than Mozart, just because Psy's video on Youtube is more popular than any video with the classic composer's musics on them.

This is an argument that it's put up often. To bad it's completely wrong.

1) you're comparing the number of people listening to Gangnam style in the last month with the people listening to Mozart in the last month. If you look at the big picture, people have been listening to Mozart for a whole lot longer, and will keep doing this for a whole lot longer. Gangnam style will be a forgotten wikipedia entry in 1 year.

2) When all you want is some quick laugh with friends, Gangnam style *is indeed* a lot better than Mozart. People should stop treating MMOs as if they were the ultimate reality replacement thing, where you prove your worth as a human being: they are games, like farmville or bejeweled or any other. They're designed to be a light and "simple" pastime which can be taken and dropped easily. Last-generation MMOs (WoW in particular) excel at this.

Ah and a total +1 to Tobold for this blog entry, which is spot-on.
If you're a newcomer, WoW is a blast. I guess no other MMO can compare to it. Things to do/see. lore, areas, npc's, ... It's really deep and engaging.

Of course if you're an old WoW gamer it's absolutely "normal" that you eventually get bored, after 8 years.

There are no miraculous patches for nostaligc people. They wish they could travel back in time and feel the same sensations they felt when they were "virgin" mmo players.

It's not about the game: it's about us getting old and changing over time.
1. Yes, I am comparing the number of "impressions" on those last X months, which is what you do when you're talking about popularity, and by consequence was my entire point... a point you seem to have completely missed.

2. The word that describes what you are talking about is "adequacy", again, not the same thing as "quality". It means it satisfy a need or requirement.

Let me put it like this to see if you can grasp the idea:
* Bram Stoker's Dracula is a vampire movie of higher quality;
* Twilight is a vampire movie of higher popularity;
* Dracula: Dead and Loving It is a vampire movie more adequate if you want to laugh with your friends.

"[MMOs] are designed to be a light and 'simple' pastime which can be taken and dropped easily."

Have you ever played MMOs? Because from your description, I don't think you have. MMOs are games designed carefully to retain players for months and months, and require hours of daily gameplay to reach anything close to a "victory state" players can accept. Isn't it strange, some people enjoy playing games for endless hours. Who would have thought that?
@Tobold: I apologise for double posting, I didn't pick your response on my first read (I'm assuming it was for me).

No, I don't think of myself as all-knowing, always objective, or unable to be influenced. My opinions will always be subjected to my own personal bias which are many. They are not, however, biased by sales numbers.

My point is that you keep making these observations that WoW is a better game than other MMOs because unlike all of them, it had +10 million active players. That's popularity, not quality.

There are many historical, social and technological reaons to why WoW got to have that many players, and most of those have nothing to do with its intrinsical value as a gaming experience.

I don't mean I believe WoW to be a bad game. I did play it for 3-4 years, and there are many things that I like about the game. But I still left it because they changed the game to a more basic, brainless, empty and pointless gameplay that could not hold my interest. To say WoW is a better MMO because of its popularity makes as much sense as saying Modern Warfare is the best FPS ever made because of many units the publisher managed to push into the market.

High exposition marketing, brand recognition, budget size, celebrity endorsements, audience, all of that means popularity, not quality. But anything can be bad (or just plain garbage) and popular at the same time. Just look at things like Jersey Shore, Honey Boo Boo, Rebecca Black, Psy, McDonalds, and so on.

I've noticed the "rose tinted glasses" effect with a lot of players - and even with myself. I've caught myself doing it a few times, and when I really look back and honestly at the game in question, I can see that nostalgia accounts for at least 60% of my opinion about that game.

I think it's a bit like people who enjoy Arcade shooters - to someone of my generation they look dated and playing them feels like a chore. But to those for whom they were the first games that they ever played, they're the holy grail.

As you say, MMORPGs decay over time. I'm always tempted to say (and indeed have said) that MoP was a mistake and damaged the game - but what actually happened was that my guild dissolved, I was no longer raiding, I lost contact with my in-game friends and I wished things could go back to how they were before the expansion. Nostalgia, not objectivity.
If you were to say that single-player games got unequivocally better with time, I would have to agree with you. Sure, there is nostalgia for the old games. Sure, I will never personally get the same experience on a new game as on its more primitive forebear. Sure, single-player games are subject to changes that cater for the market - things like the experience level of users, casualisation etc. are taken into account.

But in my opinion, this process is much more extreme in MMOs, because of their nature. Designers can't really target niches in the same way. Everyone has to enjoy the game in a similar fashion. The user-base has to move together when it comes to the way groups form and people communicate. And there is a loss of things that would not be lost in a single-player game.

Those of us who experienced those things will never be fooled by those who try, for whatever reason, to brush the losses under the carpet. We are not just being nostalgic. It is not just us that can never go back, nobody starting now can ever go where we were.

My point is that you keep making these observations that WoW is a better game than other MMOs because unlike all of them, it had +10 million active players. That's popularity, not quality.

What other measure do you have? The argument against popularity as measure is always based on stupid comparisons like "Mozart vs. Gangnam Style". But where is the Mozart of MMORPGs? There simply isn't one. Thus the correct comparison would be "Gangnam Style vs. some lesser know K-Pop song". And yes, in that comparison, Gangnam Style is strictly better.

To me those popularity vs. quality arguments always come down to somebody being so full of himself that he believes that if he likes something less popular more, it must be him who is right, and the 10 million WoW players who are wrong. That is just elitist balderdash. MMORPGs are all too similar to each other, there isn't one with more artistic value or other outstanding quality.
I logged into DaoC recently, was considering playing through the 14 day trial and writing it up. I couldn't bring myself to do it.

The graphics and UI were just so difficult to use compared to games I've played over the last 2-3 years. Even if the new version just cleaned those up, it would immediately be better than the original. (Shame Mythic weren't able to keep it updated.)
@Kemwer: spare me. As usual, you're the type of guy who feels entitled to define what is "quality" and what isn't. Guess, what, for games there are no hard rules to define "quality", so your "vanilla was better" sounds very very empty.

MMOs are DESIGNED to be a quick and replaceable pastime, they are easy to pick up and require minimal investment (like all games compared to any real-life activity). Nobody ever designed them to be the Mozart-equivalent of anything. Just because you're not able to retain perspective, and treat them as the *games* they are, does not turn them into anything different.

And yes, I've played and I play them. And, believe this or not, the moment they stop to be fun I dump them and move on without a second thought.

Vanilla wow was better and TBC was the best game/expansion ever. I don't need my nostalgia glasses to tell you can also watch the numbers, wow had its pick time during late tbc.

Now how can you say it is just nostalgia?You refuse that are people out there who don't like fly mounts and want to travel distant lands?People who actually prefer a simulation over a complete themepark? When I throw a fireball in the fire lord and damage him I laugh..when I shot arrows from my bow without having any arrows at all, it feels very stupid

yes I am the guy who wants to constantly buy/craft arrows, find better quivers, collect fire resist gear to fight the fire lord, farm materials and create my poisons to apply to my weapons, I want to travel by feet with my team from Ironforge to scarlet monastery and nobody complaints about it. Just because YOU don't like it, you think that we don't know what we want or that we speak through nostalgia.
What other measure do you have?

Are you kidding me? You made your entire (nick)name from analyzing the gameplay quality of MMOs, their innovations (or lack thereof), how much they differ from basic Skinner Boxes, what do they offer as long-term rewards, how do they manage internal economies, every little detain that comes into crafting long-lasting experiences, and you're asking me what other measure you have to define a game's quality other than sales numbers?

Tobold, this elitist you're trying to offend me as, that's YOU. And unlike you, I don't mean that as an insult. I appreciate your over-analysing of game mechanics, it's what we come here for. It's what all game bloggers do with our own personal channels: we discuss what makes a game better or worse. Those are discussions about quality, this other measure you don't seem to be able to find anymore. Sales numbers don't belong to this conversation.

Do you feel that we have nostalgia-tinted glasses? I think your case might be more a problem of myopia. You are really missing out the big picture.
Yes, and in all that analysis I haven't found a single game that does MMORPG better than World of Warcraft. So if you name me the judge, then WoW is the best game out there, and oh look, it is also the most popular one.

If all the contestants are just K-Pop with no Mozart anywhere, then yes, popularity equals quality.
If from all the games that came out you didn't see enough innovation to make WoW seem like a relic from the past, then I rest my case.

I guess you, you Tobold specifically, really can't get that first-time feeling back. Just don't make the incorrect and somewhat presumptuous assumption that the same is true for everyone else. Some of us are busy playing games that feel new just like WoW did at first, and looking forward to other similar experiences from upcoming MMOs.

As Bhagpuss said: "The best MMO I have ever played may well be the next one". Heck, I'm playing the best MMO I have ever played right now, and it isn't WoW. It's not perfect, there's a lot of room for improvement (there will always be), and it's definitely not Mozart, but it sure as hell ain't Gangnam-craft Style.
It was the monotonous, seemingly never-ending PvE grind of Trials of Atlantis that killed DAOC.

Prior to that expansion, even crappy players could contribute meaningfully to RvR. Once artifacts were introduced, the gulf widened between the haves and the have-nots that killed the fun for the average player.
Kemwer: While there are people out there who seem to find the MMO genre infinitely interesting (see Bhagpuss), for most gamers that isn't true. In the whole subset of humanity, people who like MMOs are a small subset, and guys who will always like MMOs are a tiny subset in that subset. Basically not worth even considering when talking about MMO gamers as a whole.

Having tried my hand at UO, EQ, WoW, AoC, and War, plus maybe I don't even remember anymore, I gotta say that it's all more or less the same shit every time.
20 million people (a very gross estimation of players on all current MMOs) buying boxes, paying subscriptions, purchasing from cash shops every month, with industry-wide revenues of billions of dollars is not a small subset, no matter what metric you decide to use.

And to say that "most gamers won't find MMOs always interesting" because you find them the same every time is anecdotal at best, absurd at worse.
I think you misunderstand me.

The 20 million people currently playing MMOs are not the same 20 million two years ago, or 5 years ago. There is a constant inflow and outflow. Most gamers will play for a few years then peter off as their lives change and they are no longer interested in it. I know my friends list, which was pretty full during the BC era, had a whole lot of "logged in a year ago" "logged in 9 months ago" when it could even give a time.

20 million people out of 7 billion: .0028% of the human race. That's a small subset. 20 million out of the 2.5 billion with internet access: .008%. Yep, it's a tiny tiny subset.

When you are into MMO's the suggestion that they aren't REALLY important is upsetting (I know I was there once), but the reality is these games are not rich enough to be a permanent lifestyle for all but a tiny percentage of the already tiny percentage of people who even tried an MMO in the first place.
I understand you just fine, all you're saying is still anecdotal. "I did it, my friends did it, my neighbour's dog did it", all of that is nothing but hearsay, and hearsay is not an statistic.

Of course some players won't be the same, but "some" is not "most", and is definitely not "all". If what you have to offer as evidence is "I know a lot of people that did that", or "I read many post saying that they did it", then you have nothing at all as far as evidence to support your claims.

And to say the percentage of MMO players against the entirety of humanity is small is a pointless and laughable argument. We were not talking about humanity, we're talking about the importance of MMOs inside the gaming industry (where, ironically, revenue IS an adequate metric). I would think that the fact that one of the largest gaming publishers of the world, Activision, is being kept afloat by only two major franchises, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, the latter responsible for almost a third of the company's total revenue, makes the importance of MMOs for the gaming industry pretty self-evident.

These numbers are pretty easy to find, unlike any statistic about the industry-wide retention of MMOs. I can tell you that I know at least 100 people from many of my past guilds that have been playing MMOs for 8+ years without any desire to stop... but that would still be nothing but anectodal evidence.
If from all the games that came out you didn't see enough innovation to make WoW seem like a relic from the past, then I rest my case.

You are putting words into my mouth. Of course every single game after WoW added one or the other tiny new feature to the genre. Graphics evolved. And after 8 years WoW definitively looks like a relic.

But name me ONE game that is less popular than WoW but undisputedly better in quality!

You can't. You daren't. Because any single game you would name would be criticized by many others as being derivative, or just catering to some niche. And then you still couldn't explain why if your chosen game was so much better in quality, it was so "misunderstood".
20 million people (a very gross estimation of players on all current MMOs) buying boxes, paying subscriptions, purchasing from cash shops every month, with industry-wide revenues of billions of dollars is not a small subset, no matter what metric you decide to use.

Didn't you just tell us that number of players is no indication whatsoever of quality? How can you in the same thread argue that 20 millions playing MMOs shows how great these games are, while the fact that of these 20 millions half are playing WoW has no meaning whatsoever?
"But name me ONE game that is less popular than WoW but undisputedly better in quality!

You can't. You daren't. Because any single game you would name would be criticized by many others as being derivative, or just catering to some niche. And then you still couldn't explain why if your chosen game was so much better in quality, it was so "misunderstood"."

wow is the most popular game the last 8 years but not because of its better quality. Vanilla and TBC wow had a lot of quality and in the same time no competitors or very low quality/quantity of competitors. That made wow to become popular. Since then is the justin bieber of MMOs. We have seen wow on series(big bang theory, south park) and generally it became a "pop star"

now lot of people still play wow for many reasons other than being the best in quality right now...

-feeling comfortable(thats very big)
-have devoted many times and being connected to their characters
-popular and very casual friendly. even the grandmother of my grandmother can play it

One poster someday in the past said "WoW is like the only thing left of my childhood and I simply refuse to let it go :)."

Not even the wow developers would support their game based on popularity as you do...
So one game company makes a lot of money from MMOs, and a couple make some money, and most lost a fortune.

MMO's are not a terribly important source of revenue for the game industry either. WoW is less than one percent of the total video game industry. So again, not really a big deal overall.

But what are we arguing about again? I thought we were arguing about the players experience making it impossible to recapture the original experience they crave so much, and instead of dealing with that reality of life how some people come up with increasingly pedantic arguments about how they are totally fine, it's just the games suck these days.
Graphics evolved. And after 8 years WoW definitively looks like a relic.

And who's putting words into other's mouths now? I said "make it seem like a relic" (it means "feel like"), not "look like". I was talking about the entire gameplay experience, not graphics. WoW's graphics are fine (considering its age), the problem is with its gameplay.

Name me ONE game that is less popular than WoW but undisputedly better in quality! You can't. You daren't.

I can, and I would dare... if it wasn't poinless. First because I have already mentioned that I'm currently playing an MMO that is undisputedly better than WoW, but I have no intention of turning this into an argument over the merits of such game once you already said that according to you WoW is the best thing evah.

Second, because it doesn't matter, since as Gianni mentioned, WoW's success was a case of a good game being released during a vacuum of anything close to the same level of quality. Today the size of its audience is a matter of social inertia, not quality. Just like despite Google+ being a better social network on its technical merits, people won't leave Facebook because it's what all their friends use. WoW is an anomaly that happened because of very specific situations at the time of its release, the right game to the right audience at the right time. No company can replicate those events, not even Blizzard.

You also seem to forget the any MMO of moderate success today has more players than any largely successful MMO prior to WoW. There are many successful MMOs out there, you're just another person measuring it according to "How many players compared to WoW?", instead of how THEY measure success: "Is it profitable?".

Didn't you just tell us that number of players is no indication whatsoever of quality?

Yes, I did, and I made no reference whatsoever to those numbers meaning game quality, I was addressing one comment about MMO's importance to the gaming industry. This can be measured by revenue. Quality can't. Unless you think that freeware games have zero quality because they don't sell any units, or that independent games have lower quality because they target smaller audiences, which are direct consequences of your reasoning.

Something like... "A Game Review, by Tobold: the game has great graphics, gameplay is solid and intuitive, the story is intriguing and unpredictable, it has a great community and the best support. It is a great experience that I would recommend to any gamer, except... it does not have as many players as World of Warcraft, so it's garbage."
Kemwer, I find what you are saying extremely insulting and am considering to kick you from the comment section of my blog. I never ever wrote a review like that!

What you don't seem to understand is how the newer games are derivative of the games that came before. If somebody lived under a rock and has never played a MMORPG before 2012, he probably thinks Guild Wars 2 is the game with the highest quality. But any veteran sees a few new ideas grafted onto a large derivative body. People don't play the newer games as much, not because of social inertia, but because they feel they already played them before.

The achievement of WoW was to get millions of people into their first MMORPG. And THAT makes it objectively the best game, from a historical point of view. That doesn't mean I would still want to play it. I don't. But it remains the yard stick with which other games have to be measured: Did they bring in as many new players as World of Warcraft? Because your second MMO is never as good as your first.
I do not mean to insult you, but that line is the consequence of what you are saying, the measurements of your proverbial yard stick.

World of Warcraft is an incredibly important and influential game. Yes, many ideas created or improved for it have been continuously copied and rehashed by game after game. Nobody disagrees with that. But many of these features were also copied and rehashed by WoW from previous games, so unless you think that any game that follows the general MMO formula is a WoW-clone, it's obvious that there will be a great amount of similarity to go around, before and after WoW.

But the same is true for any game. There are many that consider Half-Life 2 to be one of the best First Person Shooters ever made, one that is highly influential on its own merits, but take a moment to consider how much did it actually create from scratch, and how much it was just another shooter. Excellence in execution is what made HL2 a better game, not by forging a completely new genre. The same was true for WoW back when it was first released. And yes, the same is true for Guild Wars 2.

Your generalization serves you little purpose, because it is perfectly possible to find a sense of "new and fresh" from MMOs, if one is willing to feel it. I flirted with UO and Everquest for some time, played WoW for 4 years until the fresh smell wore off and the broken mechanics could no longer be overlooked. Played Warhammer Online for another year, then tried many other MMOs that gave me the exact feeling you mention: they felt like the same formula again and again, and if I wanted to play WoW, I would play WoW. And then I played Guild Wars 2, and I finally found that new experience I was looking for, and I'm having a great time.

You disagree, and I accept that, I won't try to convince you that GW2 is the game you already made up your mind it isn't. But I will not accept your premise that one cannot enjoy MMOs ever again as something new just because you are personally feeling jaded. Your experiences don't reflect those of everyone else, and your yard stick only keeps you from seeing games for what they are, because you are expecting something they can never achieve, except by a perfect storm of factors no developer/publisher can hope to control.
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Ultima Online for me. Some of the modern games still feel like a step back in some of the aspects UO managed to handle.

I will never tire of your ability to provoke discussion (you should patent that: burnout-free blogging MMO™).

This "Mozart vs [pulp entertainment of choice]" debate thing is always fun to read, and there is nothing I can add to what was already said.

One thing kinda gets lost though. If you look at the reasons for WoW's perceived "decline" in quality it seems to me that many – if not most – of the changes that Blizzard have introduced were actually implemented to cater to the existing player base, the same players who later pointed to them as evidence of this decline. Instant travel, dungeon finders and yes, even daily quests: surely, all these were introduced to make sure that people stayed on, rather than getting new players to come in?

Travelling was great fun for a while, but it got stale. Corpse runs could be cool if you didn't know where you were going but sucked when it was just a two-minute autorun and life at 60, 70, 80 etc was not much fun if you for some reason weren't raiding.

It is not meaningful to deny that some people feel that things were better in the old days. Of course they do – of course you do. But it is interesting to note that those things that you came to hate were introduced to keep you paying your subscription.
But it is interesting to note that those things that you came to hate were introduced to keep you paying your subscription.

Yes, I agree. But I would argue that this is inherently a battle that is lost in advance. Nothing you can do to change a MMORPG is going to actually stop people from unsubscribing for very long, at best it can draw out the process.

There has been a lot of talk about WoW in this thread. But consider this: The same thing happened with EVERY content-based game. Only sandbox games can keep people for longer, just not as many. In every theme park game the rate of content consumption beat the rate of content addition.

And my point of view is that the discussion of which game is best is often overshadowed by where exactly it is in this content cycle. We tend to think of new games as better not because they actually are, but because we simply haven't consumed them as much. If WoW feels like a "relic" to Kemwer, that is a measure of its lack of freshness, not a measure of its inherent quality.
You'll get no argument against that from me, for sure.

I would say, though, that this probably is a good strategy. Blizzard, just like any other self-respecting multi-billlion-dollar-selling greedy corporation, surely understands that people are bound to tire of their product at some stage. Keeping us on a little bit longer than we otherwise would have stayed is just that much better than the alternative, i.e. losing us sooner.
Keeping us on a little bit longer than we otherwise would have stayed is just that much better than the alternative, i.e. losing us sooner.

Which is why, if you look carefully, WoW is the most friendly game to *new* players. Blizzard knows well that the only thing to expect from an old-timer is that he dumps the game, because any game becomes boring after a time. Tricks like the annual pass can keep people in a few more months, but will fail in the long term.

If WoW feels like a "relic" to Kemwer, that is a measure of its lack of freshness, not a measure of its inherent quality.

I would say it's a little bit of both, actually, the reason behind it being that...

those things that you came to hate were introduced to keep you paying your subscription

Which is why, if you look carefully, WoW is the most friendly game to *new* players.

Yes, I believe you guys just hit the nail in the head. WoW has always been a friendly game, it's one of the many reasons why it got to enjoy as much momentum when it was released back in 2004. Games like Ultima Online and Everquest were complex machines that required a lot of reading prior to ever setting foot on the game itself.

WoW lowered that barrier of entry and made things friendlier. The problem with each new iteration of the game is that Blizzard decided that the best way to get more players was to further lower this barrier of entry, and they did it by making the game shallower. It's strategy that works well, but lacks sustainability.

World of Warcraft today is a friendlier game, but that came to the cost of its depth and challenge. So you see, it's not nostalgia, we just liked to have some sense of accomplishment from games, a sense that does not exist anymore for those that knew Vanilla WoW.
I agree with Tobold. You really can't get that first time feeling back.

When EQ created a legacy server, which basically started at vanilla and added expansions at a pace similar to the original vanilla EQ, I created a character and I experienced the feeling of not going home. There wasn't that feeling of discovery anymore.

I didn't feel was that new Everquest feel. That feeling was looong gone. The idea of the long mob grind ahead of me didn't excite me. It filled me with dread. I don't think I reached level 10.

I guess the difference for me over some other people in this thread is that Mists of Pandaria is the best expansion so far. And I've been around since close to the beginning of Vanilla. Sure I miss some of the satisfaction of slogging through longer tasks. But not enough to bring those days back.

The quest mechanics are better. The story telling is better. There are now so many things to do. I mix it up on a regular basis. Dailies, Dungeons, Scenarios, Pet Battles, Farming, LFR. I join random groups when my friends aren't around. Join them when they are. Or knock off a few solo tasks when I'm doing chores around the house.

Hey, if I need a challenge, I'll join a guild that does normal or heroic raiding. Or work towards a challenge mode dungeon group (done the old fashion way.. in /2 or /gu). Or join the brawler's guild. Get back into PvP. Whatever I want

WoW isn't the best solo experience, or the best PvP experience, the best small and large group experience. It doesn't have the best collection of mini-games. It isn't the best social experience. It just melds all of those things together more successfully than any other game.
The key to most MMOs really is your circle of friends.

Sometimes, you might make some new ones, but invariably, you have the most fun with your friends from way back.

So for many people vanilla WoW is the best game, not just because of Blizzard's famous polish but also because with 5M+ subs there's a good chance at least some of your friends will be there to share in those "adventures".
Camelot Unchained makes me laugh. Jacobs has in essence announced a PvP sandbox that's also an indie MMO. We've seen how popular those titles are. Then he says, "Oh, and it's sub-fee based too" at a time when F2P so commonly available even in other PvP titles.

I'm looking forward to seeing exactly how much City State wants out of their Kickstarter. Jacobs is backing a horse called Nostalgia all the way here.
haha, Tobold calling out Mark Jacobs eh? i agree.
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