It has been awhile since I played an MMO. I quit playing WOW a couple months after Mists of Pandaria dropped and I haven't touched the genre since. Hobo was trying out the Wildstar open beta this weekend though and I figured I should give it a spin and bash some monsters with him. I remember the fun times at the start of WOW and I thought maybe I could be a tourist for a short time and recover some of that magic.
Wildstar has some things going for it that I really like. The character appearances were cool stylistically, real enough to be compelling but silly enough to be fun. It is set in a futuristic, space travel type setting but with a wild west feel to it - I can't help but compare it to Firefly - and I quite like that sort of setting so it had a few things going for it right off the bat.
I sat down and played it for a little while, maybe an hour or so, and then I was done. No interest at all in continuing. I wondered for a bit what the issue was. The interface felt weird, but that is almost certainly due to me being so used to WOW and certainly it would have settled down. The thing that I really hated was that I never once got a decision. Every quest led to every other quest, every path was preset, and everything I did was utterly trivial. Moreover nothing I did made any sense at all, even in the context of the world. Why, when our spaceship is apparently under attack, are there random enemies with swords just standing around on our spaceship for me to stab? Why are there medical robots wandering around loose waiting for me to beat them up and take their juices?
There are many things I can get from a game. One is challenge, where I work hard to see if I am good enough. Running raids in WOW fits that description since obviously killing Nefarian every week makes little sense story wise but was difficult to accomplish. The other is immersion. If I can be in a world with options where I can carve my own path and find interesting solutions to problems I can really get into the character's head even if there isn't much actual challenge there. A world where I have no choices, everything is trivial, and all I am doing is clicking the buttons in the precise order required has nothing to draw me in at all.
Probably Wildstar has more interesting choices later on, and perhaps I would even get invested. Unfortunately that experience of simply doing exactly what the developers dictate in an environment completely devoid of challenge, thought, creativity, or innovation is the introduction I got and it turned me off immediately. Much like the Cataclysm expansion of WOW this new trend towards clicking through a badly written story that makes no sense in other games leaves me completely uninterested.
I won't say that 2004 was the good old days, but I will say that WOW back then grabbed me like an alien face hugger and wouldn't let go. The games now are better looking but they just can't make me care. Maybe I am not the target audience, maybe I am just old and embittered, or maybe they just aren't much good. I don't know which, but in any case my money is staying safely in my pocket.