For the intent and purpose of this first post I will begin with a short play. The characters in this play will be named...
"Hardcore" - A 40 year old man who has been playing MMO's since their inception. He still has a box full of paper and pen "D&D" scenarios under the ping-pong table that now holds his computer and he hasn't seen the light of day since Tuesday when he called out of work.
"Newton" - A 20 year old college student who plays from his dorm room along with several other guys from his floor. They have formed a very large guild and have been very successful in raiding the upper levels of a couple of games.
Our play begins when the two of them meet.
Hardcore - So you're a gamer...really? So am I! What game do you play?
Newton - Well, we used to play "World of Warcraft" but now we play "EQ2".
Hardcore - Yeah? I've played EQ2! How'd you like Nektulous Castle? Was that place crazy or what?
Newton - We skipped that place man, it wasn't worth the effort. Our entire guild is epic 2 though!
Illustrated to make a point. There is a huge curve that is growing daily between the MMO player of today and the MMO player of yesterday and it is becoming more and more difficult to program any game to fit it. The MMO player of yesterday came from a background rich in fantasy, lore, and expectation. They were an adventurous lot of people who had been lingering around outside of cyberspace dreaming and waiting for the day that they could all come together in a computer generated fantasy world and show their ability to be heroes and champions, people of great valor and wisdom or people of base and craven desire. In any respect, everyone had an idea. The idea was basically role-playing based and they were hungry to share it with the world. By the time the "M.U.D." hit you could have fed a lot of them dog food and called it an MMO and they would have accepted it.
No pictures, no graphics, just words on a screen and some random "DOS" based menus and the RPG community was playing it in droves. This was the spirit of that age. The age before there was anything. I'll call it "The Age of the Hunger". So of course when games like the graphical "Total Entertainment Networks - Dark Sun Online" came out there was a rush that could be felt at the prospect of a graphical representation of ones RPG character in a computer simulated environment where they could play simulaneously with complete strangers. That is where it all began to decline however.
Since those old days of "Dark Sun", "Everquest", and even "Dark Ages of Camelot" many of the old paper and pencil gamers have moved on, got their fix and got on with their lives, or simply found that it was not their cup of tea and returned to their smokey apartments and basements for a weekly session of a much more social and friendly game of role-playing. The community that would have once eaten anything placed in front of it has been replaced by an ever growing population of picky eaters. New players who have come via word of mouth, personal exploration, and some still through much tamer and less complicated paper and pencil backgrounds are swiftly becoming the majority and following not the path of the most adventure but more so the path of least resistance.
Newton - Stats? What the hell are stats? My sword has the highest DPS on the server!
This is what programmers and developers are up against before any of the other layers of grief are added to the equation and they are challenged between the decision to teach and the decision to ignore it and keep making money. The result, unrest. No one is happy, at least not for very long. The old schooler can't pay for a group that actually wants to role-play, challenge early or mid-game content, or act in concert with one another to achieve a set of goals. Of those who have not banded together there are thousands of floaters walking the earth like Cain meaning little to the worlds they live in and getting little meaning from them. Meanwhile the younger crowd has grown discomforted by the lack of fullfillment of their expectations from products that release with too many bugs, do not offer enough raid content, or are not pretty enough. They are not at all happy with the table scraps that the old schoolers would have sopped up with a biscuit and they know just enough about what is going on to feel as though they can make demands. Message boards are filled with gripes and groans from both perspectives with no visible end in site and games being programmed to suit both the basic level player and the advanced are failing to translate the language between the two and subsequently failing to impress or inspire either crowd.
Of course, some of the Newton's do come through, just as some of the Hardcores who have just grown weary of attempting to make the game anything other than a game have given in. But the curve has grown to an extent now that people no longer want to talk to each other or deal with each other because of one sides inability to tolerate the other and this is equating to exactly the opposite of the purpose for having an MMO.
If communities and developers don't all strive to get on the same page both inside and outside of these games, the curve will continue to grow until the genre itself can no longer support it. We all have to contribute to our own entertainment by looking deeper, and sometimes not so deeply at the way to enjoy these games. Don't be so greedy old-schoolers, we have been around long enough that we should not have to eat the slop anymore, but in the meantime, take the time out to teach these kids the merits of cleaning their plates. Developers, invest in us, recognize our factions and build accordingly. There is no reason we all have to exist in the same place for you to get rich. Diversify but at the same time unite those of kinship in a place that they can call their own. Do it soon or we all will suffer the penalty of becoming nothing more than really slow FPS players. That is, if we continue to play at all. At least that is in my understanding of it all.