Disclaimer: All opinions here are my own. I don't expect you to agree and if you do, great! State why in the comments below. If you don't, great! State why in the comments below. A healthy AND FRIENDLY discussion never hurt anyone.
A lot of new MMORPGs that get announced are automatically compared to the giant that rules this genre, World of Warcraft. Naturally, up until release of any said game, it is constantly analyzed, tested, and reviewed in the shadow of the Giant. It seems that every vlog, video or text review, and even in the comments and threads of content related to any new game that there are constant comparisons and contrasts between that game and the Giant.
Now I don’t think that this is a bad thing, but I feel that the majority of posts that I read are always in the wrong state of mind. People always ask "what is similar?" and "what is different?" but they don't really think of HOW it should be similar and HOW it should be different. Some do, but most don't. And even the ones that do don't go in detail enough.
These games, the ones that are seemingly try to "beat" the Giant, try to do so by playing by the Giant's rules. They don't make up their own. This discourages me. How can you beat someone at something they've perfected and you have not? Typically you can't. Typically this results in people trying what you have to offer, shrugging it off, and then going back to the Giant. Many times this has happened over the past eight years and yet people still try in vain.
Instead of being dependent on the “themepark” idea, perhaps these companies should just try something completely different. You aren't going to beat the Giant by trying to be the Giant. You're just going to get laughed at and called a copycat. Sure, you may go more in-depth, you may have a few features that set it apart in some way, you may promise certain things that the Giant has yet to offer, but in the end, and as we've seen, the Giant will always come out on top because it will just take your ideas and put it into their own game. Not only that, but they will be able to use you as an example and perfect something that perhaps you didn't the first time around.
Let's name a few examples. Games came out with guild leveling, the Giant added guild leveling. Games added the ability to level through PvP, the Giant added leveling through PvP. Games came out with achievements, the Giant added achievements. Murderball became a popular instanced PvP style (Mourkain Temple in Warhammer and Black Garden in RIFT), the Giant is adding it. There are classes and abilities that other games experimented with that ended up being successful and well-received, the Giant added it to their classes and abilities. Other games added wardrobes (that replace what your armor looks like), the Giant added transmogs.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with the Giant taking these nuances that other "themepark" MMOs have and adding it to their own game. Actually, I think it is smart from a business stadpoint. They take things that are popular in smaller or newer games, add it to their own, and re-acquire some people that may have left for those new facets. Not to mention there are other reasons that people return.
People have time and dedication put into the Giant. They have tons of people they know that have played. It's easy to pick back up. I wanted to find a game to play with a lot of my guildmates and WoW was the unanimous decision because everyone had a character in the game and most had a one that was max level. All they had to do was server transfer and (maybe) faction change. It was pretty easy to get started in Azeroth again.
So how does a game actually beat the Giant? By not trying to be it and not trying to beat it. Simple as that. Come up with something different. It can still be, in a roundabout sense, a themepark... but try a new theme in a different park. A lot of gamers are getting really, really tired of WoW version 2.0 with new graphics and some minor nuances that make it appealing. Perhaps that's why MMOFPS games are the in-thing at the moment with quite a few MMO gamers.
All this being said, I do think the industry is starting to pick up on this. There have been some releases that vary: Guild Wars 2 and Tera being two examples. Now if we can just continue in this trend and get more and more away from the standard of copying what's old and more towards trying something new, I think gamers will slowly find their faith in MMOs again. Of course, and I could write a completely separate article on this (in fact, I might) that this comes at the cost of accepting the fact a new kind of game will probably be a niche game.
TLDR? MMOs "fail" in their own right because they try to beat WoW at their own game (no pun intended). You can't. You won't. You'll fail. Instead, start coming up with a new game for people to play.
Stay tuned next week to hear my thoughts on questing, and why it sucks.
Hillary "Pokket" Nicole