Wednesday, August 20, 2008

MMOs are like Pizza

The NDA dropped for Warhammer Online yesterday and seemingly 90% of gaming blogosphere participated in the closed beta and has been pretty vocal on their thoughts about the game. Most of it is positive and even the negative stuff is not so much negative as the “nothing new to see here” variety. Cameron at Random Battle even had an interesting commentary directed at the reviewers rather than the game. Out of all the blog posts, the one I thought most worth commenting on is Brent’s over at Virgin Worlds.

Brent wrote: “I can say with complete confidence that this game might as well have been released 4 years ago as it offers us nothing aside from one standout evolutionary concept, the public quest, that moves the genre forward. […] What makes a game that works just like every other historically fun MMO, not fun? The timing. The timing is horrible. It is way too late for a game that plays like this to be emerging on the scene. Repetition is decidedly not fun. As players, we're no longer grinding mobs, we're grinding MMOs.”

The post is quite a bit longer than that, but that is 98% of the message. The message is really that WAR offers nothing so remarkably new that it feels any different than any other Diku-based MMO like WoW, EQ, AoC, or LoTRO.

What’s interesting about this sentiment and others like it is that it doesn’t really disparage the game directly. The game itself, as even Brent points out, is a quality game. Brent’s issue is that he’s just tired of that particular style of game and WAR doesn’t offer enough variety to him to warrant playing it over something else.

The problem with Brent’s logic is that he is making a hasty generalization that all MMO players are just like him. It’s a pretty common mistake to believe that everyone else is just like you, but how often is it really the case? Do most MMO players think like Brent?

My wife likes to eat a steak dinner, but never more than once a week. I, on the other hand, could eat a steak dinner every single night and enjoy the hell out of myself. My wife also likes pizza once a week. I can’t eat pizza more than once a month or I hate it.

It doesn’t really matter if we prepare the steak differently or try different types of pizza, the fact of the matter is that it is too similar to what we have already eaten recently. Entertainment can follow the same pattern.

Watch one hour of Seinfeld in a row and the second half hour show is as funny as the first. Watch eight hours of Seinfeld in a row and that sixteenth show is not very funny at all. And of course, if you just sat through eight hours of Seinfeld and now I want you to watch three hours of Friends – well, you just might want to shoot me in the head for suggesting it.

I think that’s where Brent is at – he just watched his eighth hour of Seinfeld and doesn’t really care to watch another sitcom like Friends. Maybe he would enjoy a drama, or maybe he would just rather not watch TV at all. Either way, the last thing he wants to do is watch Friends.

But that’s only Brent’s own personal measuring stick. Just like my tolerance for steak and pizza is different than my wife’s preference. We also don’t really know how long Brent has been playing compared to other players. So while it’s OK for Brent to describe the burnout he is experiencing, it’s more than a bit unfair to call a game unfun just because he’s tired of playing.

I know I personally am experiencing WoW burnout, but I never played DAoC and experienced RvR. So while Brent makes the supposition that the only evolutionary new thing in WAR is public quests, that is not really true from my viewpoint because RvR is a major aspect of the game that is entirely new to me. AND, simply by comparing subscriber numbers, it’s not much of a stretch to say that most WoW players didn’t experience RvR either. So while it’s not new or entertaining to Brent, it’s new and entertaining to many of us.


Silo said...

I too have that WoW burnout and AoC only made things worse :( I have been in the beta for a week and can say the RVR is really an exciting part which the other lacks, especially the open-world RVR which sits in the middle of a PQ.

I just always seem to be on the losing side (whichever realm I choose to play at the time)

Thallian said...

best go read a book I think... Excellent analysis

John M. said...

I think Brent, Bartle et al want a game that is more worldy than WOW and less worldy than Second Life. Something like EVE with human avatars, less grind and more combat underpinning the economy, and a user-friendly interface.

Despite open RVR and shifting battlefronts WAR is not that game. To make a game that is polish-competitive with WoW costs ~$100m, and making it a FFA PVP player built game is a risk that none of the players who could put up that kind of cash is willing to contemplate. Which is kind of a bummer even though I probably would never play a game like that.

Anyway, the RVR is novel for me and the grouping innovations sound like they will make casual grouping far easier and more enjoyable so that I don't spend 95% of my leveling time solo like I did in WoW. That's enough to get me pretty hyped for the game.

Matthew said...

You've hit the nail right on the head, warhammer may be what the rest of us want, its just not what you or Brent want, because you're all burnt out from the staples of MMORPGs.

Take a hiatus from mmo gaming XD ? You sound like you need it.

Anonymous said...

Very well done Sid.

I think it also breaks down a bit more too. You can have WoW burnout like you have (or whatever other MMO someone has played), or you can have MMO burnout, like Brent has, where all traditional MMOs begin to look similar and nothing does it for you.

In terms of the market, I think most are in camp one, with Brent and a few others holding down camp two, waiting for that 'revolutionary' MMO.