Well, Maybe I am not quite there yet but I think I am getting closer. Perhaps I should explain. I spend a decent amount of time on MMORPG.com. It’s a slow time for the IT industry so I have to keep my self occupied somehow. While I read a good many posts I don’t really post ALL that often. Anyone who reads posts here knows there are certain groups of “people”. You have the SWG haters, The DF vaportrolls/rabid fanboys, The “WoW is the greatest game ever even though it’s the only game I have ever played” crowd and so on.
Then there is the group that I feel like I am unwillingly becoming a part of. While I don’t think they really have a established name I am going to refer to them as the “malcontents”. This group generally holds to the philosophy that the MMO market in general has gone to crap and everything coming out is just un-inspired rubbish (IE WoW Clone). Malcontents think developers basically just remake WoW because it is the safe bet and have no interest in innovation and moving the genre forward.
Now here is my problem. I started gaming when I was about 15. I am now 29. My first MMO was Anarchy online. I played it for about 3 years on and off. I followed this up with FFXI, WoW, EQ2, EVE (Which I still play) and most recently WaR. What I am trying to figure out is if I am truly becoming a malcontent or if I am simply out growing gaming (Or at least outgrowing MMO’s) Or if the industry in general is maturing and innovating but I as a gamer am just to impatient.
Anarchy Online was fresh and new. I had never played a MMO. FFXI was basically the same game but I think I didn’t notice as much because I have always loved the final fantasy universe. I played WoW for about 18 months. I think the reason it stayed fairly interesting is I had never really been exposed to PvP or raiding. EvE is just a totally different beast and more or less impossible to really describe but I can say without a doubt it was like nothing I had ever played before and why I still play it today. Then there is WaR.
With WaR I know have that “Been there, Done that” feeling. But I don’t really blame that on WaR. I really had the same feeling in EQ2 and would probably have it in LOTRO, AoC, etc. I liked WaR but it only held me for about a month. To be honest, I don’t really blame anyone. But I do have to question myself. Does a genre that is so ruled by fairly tight constraints because of it’s nature really have anything left to show me? Each game I have played other then WaR showed me something new. Whether that was the genre in general, raiding and PvP, PvP with a harsh penalty or the chance to play in a universe I have loved forever.
I look at the malcontents and I do agree that the genre feels stale and lacks any major innovation but I have to ask, Is the problem with the games or is it with the gamers themselves? Are we asking to much from such a young industry?
Take for example the car. The Ford model T was released to the public in 1909. It is now 2008 and we are driving the same car. Sure, over the years it has gotten better but at its core a car is still the same as it was in 1909. Four wheels, a steering wheel, seats, etc. Sure, the wheels have gotten better but they are still wheels. Seats have gotten more comfy but they are still just seats. The auto industry took a idea and improved on it but that idea is still the same as it was in 1909. It has just had almost 100 years of polish.
To some extent I feel that it is unfair to expect so much innovation out of the MMO industry in such a short period of time. While I know there were games that came before it I am for the purpose of this post going to say that the MMO genre got it’s real start in 1997 with the release of ultima online. That’s 11 years. In reality, that’s not a long time for a industry to mature and innovate.
Love it or hate it WoW was the last major innovation in MMO’s. They took PvE, PvP and Raiding and made it accessible to mass groups of people. That is a innovation regardless of how much you hate the game. So the MMO genre had it’s last major innovation in 2004. While I want innovation as much as the next guy I also have to look at the fact that 4 years REALLY isn’t that long.
In closing. I think everyone is both right and wrong. I think the industry does feel stale because of a lack of innovation but I think we as gamers are to impatient and to expect such major innovation from such a young industry isn’t fair.