WAR is not a good MMO
November 19, 2010 8 Comments
But it is an amazing GAME.
Okay, so the title was intentionally sensationalist, but that doesn’t mean my point is wrong. I want you to reread the title of this post, and that first line again.
When I think of what an MMO is, or is supposed to be, I think of a virtual world. An electronic location created with rules and systems in place that continues in motion regardless of my participation. A series of interconnected systems that influences one another to create a place where players LIVE a second life. This is a topic that has been getting bandied about the last few months by some well-known bloggers as well as some industry people, and various other folk.
The gaming genres were historically broken into very distinct and separate categories. RPGs had levels, stats, character progression, classes (black wizard anyone?), and lots of dialog. Shooters were first-person view, with all the gore they could muster, and roaming monsters that begged the player to blow them into juicy meat-morsels. Except now, we’re seeing a bleed across genre lines. Dead space was gory (and scary) as hell, but there were methods of leveling up, and progression, as well as numerical stats to follow. FPSs are going the same way. Every modern FPS game in the last couple years have had progression elements, with different kits, or jobs, and ranks that unlock new gadgets, weapons, or peripherals. The same bleed is happening with MMOs.
While the term MMO used to be synonymous with “virtual world” that is no longer the case. Looking to games like Guild Wars, Global Agenda, and yes, even WAR, we see that what is commonly called an MMO is not also a world. Most of those listed games are good GAMES, but it’s important to keep in mind, that is what they are. When coming to them, you shouldn’t walk into them expecting a world. Even some games that have created a world, aren’t interacted with in that way. EQ2 and WoW are great examples of this, to various extents. The practice of playing WoW is very much the same reality as playing another RPG, only with a longer view in mind. You follow a path, and obtain goals, defeating bosses. Elements from other genres are being called in where developers find them appropriate. Battlegrounds for PvP are matches like an FPS. Matchmaking systems are a tool that you see across almost every ranked player competitive games.
When Raph interpreted Dusty Monk’s message as such:
He’s describing a future where the market has retreated away from MMOs themselves, from their intrinsic nature, because the market couldn’t crack the problem.
He’s accurate in a round about way as I see it. The term MMO, by definition of its letters, means “Massively Multiplayer Online”. Two of those words are objective, one is subjective, ‘Massively’ being the odd-man out. So for a game to qualify to be called an MMO, it needs to be multiplayer and online first and foremost, then you get to quibble over whether it’s massive or not, and that goes into a whole slew of qualifiers and quantifiers. The Diablo games could easily be called ‘MMO’, the makers of Guild Wars have even said they don’t consider their game an ‘MMO’, yet the moniker persists. It’s because of the perception of what an MMO actually is, no longer matches what they started out as. Ultima Online, Everquest, and some of the others were worlds, the market sense then has skewed strongly towards games, and I don’t see that changing.
So, when I say “WAR is not a good MMO”, what I’m REALLY saying is, “WAR is not a good virtual world”. That doesn’t make it bad game, because as a game, I love it. It’s got a lot of the things I look for in online gaming: competition, progression, personal persistence, community. However, I don’t fool myself into thinking that what I’m playing is a world. What I play is a series of connected arenas and battle-royales, with some side games and a safety box if I need a break. I absolutely believe that to be worth the subscription fee, because those arenas and a side games a lot of fun, but I don’t expect my participation in those portions of the game to have any long-lasting impact. Because WAR is just a game.