I wrote a few years ago about the DPS Meters, Theorycrafting and what I thought their impact was on MMOs. I think it’s more true today than it was then. This isn’t to say that WoW doesn’t have a myriad of other problems because it does but I think this is a foundational issue with WoW. But I can’t help but think that Blizzard’s momentum of bad decisions might have actually started to overcome the community inertia that kept the game on top.
One grain of sand. That is all that remains of my once vast empire.
The Child-like Empress, The Neverending Story
One of my all-time favorite movies is The Neverending Story. The Nothing is one of the scariest villains ever. It was unknowable, utterly alien in its motives–like despair incarnate, the void. Towards the end of the movie, the Nothing had consumed nearly everything and all that was left was a single grain of sand.
Have you ever tried to go back and re-read the original Dragonlance Chronicles? It’s rough. I loved them when I first read them in middle school. They weren’t the first fantasy novels I had read (that honor goes to Magician: Apprentice), but they became part of my hook into the genre. This year, I went back and re-read them during a lull in the book release schedule.
This past Friday, we got some news that rocked many the genre–DayBreak Games cancelled what was supposed to be their flagship game, EverQuest Next. This move, coupled with several other high profile cancellations shows the genre is moving away from the box-office buster style of MMO development. As the behemoths of the genre lumber on, smaller independent developers who have more tolerance for risk will fill the gaps left behind.
When it comes to ‘balance’ in a game, everyone is an arm-chair developer. Reading forums, you’d think that creating class balance was the easiest thing in the world, and it would be so obvious when class balance is off. That rogue who can stock lock you for 4.5 seconds once every 10 minutes is clearly overpowered! Healers shouldn’t be able to heal themselves in PvP because it’s unbalanced and they can’t be killed. There are a thousand examples that anyone with keyboard and a tenuous grasp on the English language will give you, often whether you want them or not.
MMOs have gone through many changes over the years, both good and bad. But there’s been at least one change that I think has left us worse than we were before–DPS. DPS (Damage-per-second for the uninitiated) has become the bane of the MMO genre. We have become so obsessed with this one concept that it has changed the way MMOs are designed, consumed, and critiqued–and not to our benefit. Now before you start foaming at the mouth – hear me out and let me explain myself. Let’s look at beginning years, hopefully without the rose-colored glasses this time.
So, I received a few comments on Part 1 and Part 2 that I was being entitled, elitist, pretty much a general asshole–all these things that I really wasn’t intending and definitely don’t think of myself as being when I was trying to talk about Accessibility in MMOs. My bad. So I decided to write a 3 part to this series to hopefully clear up some of the concepts that I didn’t do a good job of communicating the first time. Continue reading “Accessibility in MMOs – Part 3”→
Update 4/1/2013: So, it sounds like I might not have correctly conveyed me intent with this second half of the piece. I’ll write a follow up that will hopefully clarify my thoughts, and make me look like less an elitist bastard.
This is Part 2 of a 2 Part series on Accessibility in MMOs – read Part One here.
What WoW attempted to do to offset the accessibility swathe was to create different tiers of difficulty for gamers corresponding to how much effort they put into the game. For the top tier there was Hard mode raiding, middle tier was regular raiding, middle lower tier was heroic dungeons (generally speaking, of course). But this tiered approach misses the mark in that it still assumes the lowest common denominator. You have to turn on the heroics in the dungeons, or the hard modes in the raids. The core game play is still geared towards the player wants the lowest common denominator. You have to essentially *ask* for things to be harder. Continue reading “Accessibility in MMOs – Part 2”→
This is the first part of a two part series on Accessibility in MMOs, using World of Warcraft as the critical piece. The second half of this piece will be published next week.
I stumbled across this video from Preach about the evolution of World of Warcraft, and more importantly the concept of the Journey in MMOs. Preach makes some valid points about the direction of WoW and accessibility in his video, and I don’t want to rehash them–you can just watch it, and I think you should. So I’ll let you do that.
OK – I’m sure you heard a little bit of whining in there about accessibility and the evils therein. I think preach oversimplifies the situation in WoW’s case because he doesn’t mention things like Deadly Boss Mods, QuestHelper, Carbonite as mods that make the game VASTLY easier than what it was before. Last I checked, things like DBM and Omen and similar addons were required to raid. Add in the fact that most of their betas are open, encounters well documented, and boss’s challenged hundreds if not thousands of times before the actual content even hits live servers and most players just have a cookie cutter model of following instructions. Sites WoWhead, WowWiki, and Thottbot show every aspect of the game down to the most minute detail and are only a google search away. Is it really any wonder, even apart from increased accessibility, the players complain of the game “dumbing down” or too easy? Continue reading “Accessibility in MMOs – Part 1”→