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Something Old, Something New

William Murphy Posted:
Columns Bill Murphy 0

As I watch these forums daily, and as I see so many games come and go, I begin to wonder: do we really want something new, or do we just want what was once new to be new again?

There are about to be three released subscription-based MMORPGs in 2011 alone. Each of them has its own merits. DCUO is an action-packed experience ripe for PVP. Earthrise is an independently made science-fiction sandbox. Rift is a traditional theme-park MMO with a nice take on dynamic content. Surely each one has rough spots, but by and large there’s a lot of value in each title. And yet, with one released and the other two just around the corner and no longer hidden by the shroud of the NDA, I can’t help but notice the same old song and dance among the vocal.

Now I’m not calling anyone out in particular, and I’m not trying to start a riot. I’m just curious as to why we seem to be growing to an age where we’re no longer satisfied by anything in this industry. We clamor for innovation and new ideas, and yet when we get them we turn our noses up and scoff that it’s not good enough. Then, and I am most certainly oversimplifying here, I see a lot of us keep bringing up the “ol’ days” and how we wish we could get back to that. In this way, we’re like our grandparents in how they felt about our generation. We can’t seem to let progress happen, even if it’s not the kind of progress we imagined. I don’t think that if we disagree with the state of things we should simply roll over and take it (that’s what she said), but rather I do believe that it’s in our best interest to let our expectations be malleable.

Everyone has different ideas of what should be the ideal game. And even if a sect of people shares similar tastes, there’s still a cornucopia of individual likings layered in between each of them. It is highly unlikely that any game will ever make its way to release which somehow magically encompasses everything everyone wants. It won’t happen. But we need to understand that just because we don’t appreciate something, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hold merit for others. I am having a blast in DCUO, but I understand why others may not feel the same way. I used to play PotBS with a lot conviction, but fully grasp that it too wasn’t a game for the masses. I see the value of EVE Online, even if I have never been able to truly sink my teeth into the game.

But more than the issue of a lack of empathy amongst gamers, what I find more troubling is the trend to which we seem so committed: “build up the old, and tear down the new.” Was SWG really that great? Does Ocarina of Time really hold up today? Was Dune II really that exemplary of the RTS genre? Was Ultima Online really reason enough to put Richard Garriott in space (chortle)? Like all good memories, it’s easy to immortalize something and cast it in gold with our minds as something that had few if any faults. Our brains work that way. Similarly, if there’s something we’re not fond of we tend to exaggerate immensely its many missteps.

Now, I’m not really sure what the point of all this is. As I read back over it, I get the feeling that I’m ineloquently stating the obvious. But I do have some goals of my own for the coming year of releases and beyond.

  • I will withhold judgment on any game until I play it myself.
  • I will not begrudge anyone their personal tastes because they don’t meet my own.
  • I will remember that different is good, even if done badly, because at least it’s an attempt.
  • I will also remember that different doesn’t excuse poor design. If something stinks, I will not be afraid to say so.
  • I will remember, once again, that what “stinks” is always subjective.
  • I will make my decision on a game and I will let it lie, not to harass those who enjoy it.
  • Basically, I will try my best to play and let play because there’s about to be plenty of choices out there.

These are my six rules for new games and old. I’ve played, in my work here and in my personal time, around 100 of the games on our list. Of those, only a very few have really captured my interest. One may challenge the validity of some games being called MMORPGs, while others may challenge the validity of some titles being called “games” at all. It’s a wide and varied list. Much like food, clothing or music, games are designed to cater to the needs and wants of many. Diversity is therefore absolutely necessary. Let’s try to remember that while we may find some new game abhorrent our opinion on the matter doesn’t equal law. And in the future, let’s try to always remember to play something before making a call on it and then let the issue lie when we’ve said our peace. After all, though we may never find perfection, at least we keep getting studios who try.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.