When Blizzard released World of Warcraft (WoW) back in November 2004 the world was taken back and it shot to Number #1 in the PC sellers charts. By the end of the first day all servers were completing filled and extra servers were needed to fill this ever growing phenomenon. Most people know this story and know the success of WoW and I’m not here to repeat it. What I am going to offer is my opinion on MMORPGs as a genre and why I cannot get back into them since leaving WoW in 2014. I’m hoping this may resonate with some of you out there and the need of a completely fresh and innovative MMORPG to get the genre back on track.
Now some of you may be thinking, wait! MMORPGs are super popular and WoW is still here and there are plenty to choose from? Yes, is the short answer, there are plenty to choose from but they are, generally, all the same!
I remember my first experiences within World of Warcraft and I will tell you now, no, I didn’t start out in Vanilla WoW, being the launch phase till the first expansion, and I really regret it. However, I was just 15 and still in full time education, I was playing the original Xbox and Diablo 2 on my rubbish home computer. I joined WoW at the end of ‘Wrath of the Lich King’ and by this time I had a few friends who had already been playing.
I won’t bore you by going into too much detail, but this game was absolutely amazing! I remember not really understanding how to play, but being able to create an Orc, or a Tauren (Horde being only the way to go), then choose my class (Shaman) and level up by killing wolves and Kobolds to gain experience and new skills, was truly eye opening. This is how, predominately, all MMORPGs start out. But this being my first experience of a MMORPG all I could say was: “WOW!” (Excuse the pun) Thinking back to the time that I was totally engrossed in WoW, brings back so many nostalgic memories more than any other game, perhaps except Pokemon Blue. Running through Goldshire and into Westfall (now experiencing Alliance) and first seeing the Golden Fields of wheat or barley, still resonates with me today, whilst driving through the countryside in England.
You did not just make a character, you were your character. You put your personality into those digitalised pixels that made up your Orc Male Warrior or Undead Female Hunter. I felt for my character! It is mainly down to the fact that the amount of time and energy spent inside this vast Universe of Warcraft, had become part of my life. Outsiders, non-gamers, might think this a bit sad. But it transcends from a digital game into a culture. The game is filled with Lore (back story of the game), everywhere you turn, you can read about past events or past characters that shaped the Warcraft Universe. And it is precisely this that makes the game.
Warcraft: Orcs and Humans came out in 1994 for MS-DOS, 10 years before the launch of World of Warcraft. It was a real time strategy game not an MMORPG. But with the first Warcraft game, came the start of the Lore and for the next 2 games to follow, this would only increase. By the time of WoW, true followers and fans already knew the Universe and were itching to explore Kalimdor or the Eastern Kingdoms.
Once leaving WoW I had this urge to seek out a fresh, new MMORPG. But I had expectations. I had HIGH expectations. 2 years later I am still waiting to be fully satisfied with an MMORPG.
I could quite easily blame the genre. “MMORPGs are dead! Long live WoW“. Through all my searching for the next big MMORPG using YouTube for reviews or perhaps Reddit etc, the amount of people that have compared that particular game to WoW was, and still is, staggering. “It’s a WoW clone”. For the most part, yes, they were right. But that is only because most of the people were doing the exact same thing as I was. Looking for an alternative experience and wanting so badly to match the time we had spent in that vastly filled game with so much depth.
The list of games that I have played, to try and immerse into, is vast. From the likes of; Aion, Tera, Wildstar, Elder Scrolls Online, Black Desert Online and Archeage. Now there were definitely hopefuls in that list. Wildstar was an amazing experience. Slightly different in the fact that it was a futuristic MMO with quirky characters and great visuals. The game play was also different as you had to actually aim at the targets you wanted to hit, not just click and press buttons. However, as I hit level cap the game just couldn’t draw me back in. The game was new, as I had started out at launch, and perhaps with any new game, the end game isn’t nearly thought about enough. PvP is what normally drags me into the game further at end game, but this was poorly developed.
Archeage was FUN! I remember waiting around on launch, which was poorly done due to the volume of players trying to log in for their first encounter with this amazing looking MMO. Twitch had gone crazy with streamers getting their hands on BETA codes and ‘US’, the watchers and waiters, in the background counting the days till release. Archeage had already been a huge success in Korea and so it followed to the West with, at first, success too. There were many races to choose from and the world was absolutely huge. Archeage did some great and innovative things.
- Housing – everyone could acquire a house and you actually had to labour over materials and time in order to achieve this. There was also another realm that was literally an IKEA for Archeage.
- Sailing – the best part for me. You could a free rowing boat to begin with and could also make a huge ship to sail around the islands and trade with NPCs for money.
- Glider – A double tap to glider mode! Enough said.
- Skills – Instead of just choosing from one class, you would eventually unlock a second and third skill slot and once achieving the third, you would then get a name for the entire class. E.g. By putting points into Battlerage, Defense and Shadowplay, your occupation would be a ‘Blighter’. There were so many combinations of characters. This was a great idea.
- PvP – World PvP was back! Gliding into battle to face enemies and being rewarded with points in doing so.
I could honestly go on, I did spend a lot of time and money in Archeage, however in the end, it was it’s Patron system and its model for payment that annoyed too many players, including myself. One could purchase Patron status that enabled offline Labor to fill up. Labor was used like energy, everything you did, from mine ore, to collect timber to build a house, used up Labor. If you didn’t purchase Patron and went free-to-play, you could only let your labor bar fill up whilst being online. In the end, this game ended up being Pay-to-Win. It took too much dedication and effort to simply want to enjoy playing this game.
Many games coming from the East to the West suffer from cultural differences. Asian players are well known for their love of ‘grinding’ through games and spending a lot of time in a game that they are dedicated too. Over in the West, players tend not to enjoy this level of grinding as we switch between games more often. I have played a lot of Eastern MMOs and like Archeage, they hold my interest for 6 months, maybe longer until something better comes along. They are not made for the casual player, even when we do spend money on the game, it takes a lot of effort to achieve the end goals.
Another problem with Eastern MMOs is the fact that the game was made perhaps 3 even 4 years before a Western release date and by this point in time, graphics have changed and got better. For myself, graphics are an issue. I do not want to pay for something that already seems outdated and ‘old’. Unlike Archeage and Black Desert that have worked and achieved some success and player base, most Eastern MMOs just seem lacklustre and money grabbing, as little effort seems to have been placed to change the format.
To end this article, I will explain why MMORPGs have failed to maintain my attention in just simple points:
- Lack of lore or background story
- Most MMOs cannot break out of using the same gameplay as WoW has and being labelled a clone.
- Payment systems put off players and the lack of rewards vs effort, to keep them coming back for more.
- No innovation
- Taking too long for Eastern MMOs to make it over to the West.
There are some games that we may see in 2016, from Crowfall and Camelot Unchained to the highly anticipated Star Citizen. I hope that games to come have upped their ‘game’ and we see more innovation and differences to hook the player and keep them coming back for more. Until then, I will keep searching to see what this genre has in store for the future. VR-MMORPG?