Thursday, October 2, 2008

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • I fired up World of Warcraft this morning with the intention of doing something Warcrafty. My human paladin (former main, long abandoned) has been looking more interesting as the expansion looms. So I loaded the game, loaded up on daily quests, and flew off toward adventure! I got through one and a half of those quests before I shut everything down and walked away.
  • This is not the first time a long beloved game has left me cold and it will not be the last. Over at Random Battle (one of my favorite gaming blogs), Cameron Sorden is feeling a similar ennui about Warhammer Online and MMO gaming in general.
  • As early as 2004, World of Warcraft was described as a theme park as opposed to Everquest's or Ultima Online's playground-style game. At the time, this seemed like a huge advance and it absolutely helped make a game that was more accessible to a greater number of people. Now it is time to strain and mangle that metaphor well beyond its original bounds.
  • World of Warcraft, as a theme park, is the Disneyland of MMOs. Perfectly polished, it is the destination of choice for many and the standard against which all others are measured. But like any theme park, you can only explore it so many times and in so many ways before you've wrung all potential enjoyment out of the experience. Disneyland has combated this over the years either by tearing out the old rides and replacing them or my opening a second park in close proximity to the first. WoW did the same with content patches and boxed expansions. However no matter what you add, you still get the same fundamental experience.
  • Sometimes a new park opens up (like Warhammer) and people get excited again. Connoisseurs of theme parks may savor it for its differences. People who had their fill of the first park will think it is more of the same and seek an entirely new adventure.
  • The problem with WoW and its descendants is that everyone is in the theme park business now. The more theme parks they build, the less they remember what it was they loved about that original playground and why their designs turned away from it in the first place. I would have to put a lot more effort than just this blog post into fully exploring what could be done. But there has to be more possible solutions to the problems everyone had with UO and EQ than the one we've settled on so far. It's time to build a new metaphor.

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