Thursday, February 28, 2013

WOW ruined everything

While I quit WOW awhile ago I still find it necessary to come out swinging to defend it from its many detractors now and again.  I just saw a video bashing WOW for ruining MMOs entirely and while the video was amusing and made some good points I think there was far too much silly misinformation there.  There are lots of things people criticize about WOW legitimately but here are some of the more common but incorrect ones:

Hotbar Based Combat

Hotbar based combat has two primarily components.  First we have the mechanic that hitting a button does something.  You hit R and your character casts Divine Shield.  You hit 2 and your character casts Judgement.  This is NOT a WOW mechanic, it is a 'using a computer' mechanic.  The second component of hotbar based combat is having these linkages between keystrokes and game actions represented on the screen for player reference.  Is anyone really upset that there is a small corner of the screen devoted to letting me know which buttons do which things, or are they upset because hitting buttons does things?  Either answer is ridiculous.

Quests and Quest Hubs

Saying that WOW quests suck and aren't interesting is fair.  Most of them are 'Kill 10 Rats' or some variation on that theme.  However, we aren't comparing WOW quests to some undefined game nirvana but rather to other realistic options.  WOW tried in depth quests with tons of story, cinematics, phasing, etc. to make quests less about killing rats and more about saving the world in Cataclysm and guess what... they sucked worse.  How about removing quests entirely?  Then you get endless hours grinding the same mobs over and over, which was a constant complaint about the games before WOW, and also about WOW at launch.  People want quests, they don't want quests that are too cinematic / interesting / hard, and they want to be able to easily find those quests.  Oh look, we are back to 'Kill 10 Rats'.

Player Freedom aka The Sandbox

People talk about wanting extremely freedom to build their own world - the sandbox experience.  The trouble is what they actually want is freedom for themselves and no freedom for other people.  Note what happens in Eve, the flagship of sandbox games:  People nearly all hide in perfectly safe places doing missions and mining that barely ever interact with other players and build nothing of consequence except a bankroll.  When they aren't being boring and they go out into the dangerous part of the world they get scammed, PKed, and their stuff gets stolen or destroyed for lols.

Do you know what happens in a sandbox where there aren't any adults protecting the kids from each other? Bullies run around smashing everybody's castles to bits just for fun.  Imagine if WOW let people build things.  The first thing they would build is giant walls to block off the newb areas so new players couldn't escape.  Then they would wall off class trainers, blockade cities, and do all manner of other disruptive things.  That is, of course, unless player built things could be destroyed in which case everything that was built would be torn down by others in a fit of spite.  Sandbox type gameplay combined with Massively Multiplayer results in endless griefing and (surprise!) no subscribers.

An Ill Defined Paradise

My challenge to all those who claim WOW ruined everything is this:  Come up with better alternatives.  Precise alternatives.  Not "I would do things better." because that is just mental masturbation with a hubris sauce.  You don't like quests?  Cool, tell me how exactly you would run things.  It is nearly certain that your solution would be either completely impractical or straight up worse.  (Worse for the majority, of course, since you can find a couple of people who will sign on to any damn fool thing.)  Is WOW perfect?  HELL no.  However, the claim that WOW ruined everything is spurious at best.  Games copied WOW because of its financial success and failed because they did it worse.  The reason so many games that are kinda like WOW get made and so many other games don't get made is because investors want to get paid and WOW clones, sad as it seems, are more likely to make money than MMOs that try something completely different.


  1. I'm not sure I buy your assertion about quests in particular here. I do think WoW ruined non-quest based MMO play. It's popularity and existence forced other games to adapt if they wanted to keep a reasonable market share, and any game with a faster, quest-based way of leveling is going to find people doing that because it's faster and easier. But faster and easier doesn't necessarily mean more fun or better.

    FFXI used to be all about camping a single spot and grinding mobs for hours on end, and people did enjoy it. But you need a critical mass of people willing to dance that dance in order for it to work, and as they added in more and more experience quests it became less and less likely to get that critical mass.

    I assert that the general mass of people will take the shortest route to power even if that route is less fun. And that WoW, by popularizing that shorter route, did ruin the possibility of the longer routes. Good luck convincing a bunch of people on the internet to slow down on purpose! Without commenting on if the slow or fast route is more fun or not, you have to acknowledge that much is true. People will take the path of least resistance.

    I had more fun leveling in FFXI back in the day than I did recently where all I had to do was sit in an 18 man raid grinding the quests over and over with no thought given to playing well. I would like to play the old FFXI style again, but doing so would require enough people to actually have mob grinding groups exist, and people crafting the appropriate gear, and a lack of faster/easier options. And those things aren't going to exist anymore. Because of WoW. Not that MMOs aren't necessarily in a better place now than they were before WoW. I'm not saying that. I am saying WoW ruined grinding mobs for MMOs in general even the people who liked doing that.

  2. Well, it is certainly true that people gravitate towards whatever is faster for progression, no doubt. They will definitely take the path of least resistance. Thing is, I remember doing mob grinds in WOW both solo and in a group. I found it very boring and I liked it much better when there were quests to do so I had a good reason to visit lots of areas and try new things. I think that is the essence of quests: Provide concrete rewards for exploring and doing lots of different things. Without that people know that the best way to level up is to do the same thing over and over and then they complain. It is, in my opinion, a core part of game design to make sure that the 'optimal' way to play is also a fun way to play for as many players as possible.

    I question that WOW ruined things by offering a faster way. Other games could just as easily increase the experience reward of killing mobs and decrease the reward from quests and people would respond by grinding mobs over and over. They would just hate it! (By and large). The thing WOW did was offer a reasonable quest system and once people had tried that they had very minimal interest in grinding in a circle again. That, to my mind, is an improvement in gameplay; doing things better rather than making them worse.

  3. I don't think people will do whatever is fastest to level up. That is an idea that comes from forum posters, blog writers and people who will take the time to make videos about video games they don't even like.

    People like quests because they give the game structure and give you an idea of what to do next in a world that might otherwise be overwhelming. People who hate quests hate them because they wanted the world to be overwhelming - that's the whole reason to play an MMO. But WOW had such great success precisely because it attracted so many people who would not have ever played an MMO. The majority of the MMO market don't want to play a game that the people who complain about WOW want to play - they want structure, they want a game that tells them what to do, or asks them to choose between options.

    If people take the fastest route to leveling then why was I alone so often on top of Legion Hold grinding cloth and levels? It's because there wasn't an NPC with a golden mark over his head saying, "Hey, did you know that there's a spot in Shadowmoon Valley where there are twelve high level, low health enemies whose spawn locations are within 40 yards of one another and of whom four are guaranteed to be alive at any time? Let me mark it one your map."