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The WoW Killer Redux

Joseph Sanicky Posted:
Columns All Things Warcraft 0

You all had wonderful comments last time about what constitutes a “WoW Killer,” and as a writer I greatly appreciate input from all sources and of all types.  While some of you took a steadfast approach and seriously discussed the merits of the definition of the term others duked it out fisticuffs-style while still others like punchrx made me spit out coffee due to their hilarious ingenuity with the written word.  

Further yet HurricanePip made a post that truly stirred up my emotions (typos and misspellings are the posters’):

Is next week's column going to try and dissect the casual / hardcore arguments or try to put those terms to bed? (1)

A more interesting discussion would be why people continue to use the term wow killer.  For example, mmorpg.com tends to write a lot of words about current and past mmos and how they differ from WoW, yet each mmo is basically a clone or very small variation on WoW's general hotkey gameplay. (2)

My personal opinion is that the community continues to use WoW killer in hopes of someone designing a non-hotkey mmo that is fun to play, has some depth to it and is polished at launch (AoC and DCUO being examples of good ideas and half baked games). I enjoyed WoW through TBC and played through LK.  I played Rift to the level cap and it's all the same.  I've enjoyed MMOs, but mind numbing, hotkey mashing, time = accomplishment has gotten very stale and it's been that way from almost 6 years for me and a lot longer for EQ veterans. (3)

When is the MMO genre going to progress into something new and interesting? (4)

A forthright and earnest question if I have ever seen one!  Mr. Pip raises a good many points that have thus inspired this edition of the WoW Factor – why do we crave a killer of the WoW?

First and foremost propriety begs me to address the grievances of one Mr. Pip, which I will do in an outline format below.

  1. No, Mr. Pip this week’s column is actually answering your questions and concerns!  I have already addressed the casual/hardcore dynamic in a previous article. Fancy that!
  2. We shall see if the “why” of the WoW Killer is actually more interesting presently! Your analysis about our fair site and its copious amounts of verbiage dedicated to the comparison you mentioned are more or less a product of the industry and less any such authorial intent.  WoW being at the top of the perch essentially necessitates comparison to it whether writers or players like it or not.
  3. Hope, yes hope, may very well be at the heart of the matter.  The stricture World of Warcraft vicariously imposes on the entire industry seemingly creates a strangle-hold on both creativity and innovation within the genre…seemingly being the key word here.  In all reality new and exciting things are being done every day within the genre albeit in rather imperfect forms!  The perplexities of continued use of “hotkey mashing” and the use of prolonged play sessions aren’t something that can be discarded nonchalantly Mr. Pip as they are actually core tenets of the MMO faithful.
  4. Why Mr. Pip, when courageous individuals such as yourself rise up to topple the authoritarian regime of the old-world MMO developers and create a new era of unassailable, resplendent MMO development philosophy, of course!

There we have it!  Having answered all of Mr. Pip’s retorts soundly and succinctly this week’s WoW Factor can thus be wrapped up…say what now?  Further elaboration is required?  How…inconvenient. Very well then!  Expanded explanations shall ensue below!  Let us again follow Mr. Pip’s flow of thoughts, starting with:

Why I continue to write about tired old arguments and meme-tastic subjects concerning WoW.


Why everything is the same and action bars and hotkeys exist and everything takes so much time.

I liken this complaint to something like complaining about how all the cars everyone drives have a steering wheel, four wheels, and windows.  It is a broad generalization that stresses the supposed inequity of staples of a genre while proposing no alternatives or expounding upon the why of the matter.  The most obvious reason for these mechanics being used ad nauseum is the success of WoW and its forerunners.  Just like Google copying Facebook with high hopes for getting a piece of the pie with Google+, new MMOs know there is a large base of consumers who enjoy WoW gameplay conventions. The success of games like Rift further the image that imaginative and well-done clones of the model can be extremely successful in their own right.  When gamers vote with their wallet developers listen, bar none.

Ah, the MMO with “True Action Combat” that also includes action-bars!

Why MMOs are all copy cats and nothing innovative ever happens…ever.

Innovation is hard.  Even games like TERA and Vindictus can’t escape classic MMO trappings like using action-bars, hotkeys, and questing.  Vindictus was essentially a simplified quest running bonanza and TERA has dynamic combat that still uses hotbars and typical abilities.  Even though you move in real time and combat has escaped the archaic interactions of standing around watching numbers fly everything still hinges on either repetitive skill rotations, staying out of the fire, and/or gear.  Sure you might be able to dodge basic attacks now if you have a bit of finger dexterity but you’re still in the same crater and under WoW’s shadow of influence.  Even players disregarding the fundamental MMO framework of these games will still get the sense that the gameplay feels a bit stale, unintuitive, and unrewarding compared to true action games (ala Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, et cetera).  Short of putting a controller in my hand or literally making an action game with a tremendously deep fighting engine  within the context of an MMO framework the ultimate product is a combination of genres and gameplay that isn’t really innovative.

Then at the end of the day even when developers do create something mildly innovative or new or exciting it will be ignored by a large portion of the gaming world.  Things like World of Tanks and Wakfu and League of Legends all are “hybrid MMOs” because they don’t work like a traditional MMO yet they do much to further the genre’s mindset.  Wakfu is a turn-based strategy game that is very reminiscent of a Final Fantasy Tactics (at least to my eye) and it looks really awesome!  It probably won’t be an enormous hit though, nor will it be a mover and shaker within the industry, which is a shame considering all of the great features it has that players always beg for from AAA MMOs.  Some might not even deem it worthy of being called an MMO while others will praise its merits while not playing it because it doesn’t have traditional combat…the very combat everyone seems to hate lately.

How perplexing!

Why the community yearns for a WoW Killer.

My last column concluded with an evasive definition of the term WoW Killer that essentially balked at the idea as being utterly invalid and imaginary, which explains why online communities everywhere want one so badly! A WoW Killer is an imaginary entity and humankind yearns for nothing if not the impossible, fantastical, and the imaginary (point-in-case there is no MMO floating around where you go to an office and wage a crusade against some paperwork while your boss yells at you).  As Mr. Pip so eloquently stated though hope is the key to it all.

Gamers hope something will come along that dethrones the tyrant.

Gamers hope that a game will demolish genre conventions.

Gamers hope for a reinventing of the wheel despite the utter absurdity of the idea.

Until some messiah-like figure emerges with the holy grail of this generation’s MMOs the chances of escaping hot-bars, cooldowns, and WoW itself are exceedingly slim.  Even if this saviour descended from the heavens with the perfect MMO we must needs ask ourselves: What would this game entail?

Answer with complete honesty and find that it is by no means a simple endeavour.

Or just chalk it up entropy, chaos, and change.  Change is a constant and we all yearn for it, so on and so forth.  Pick your poison.

Now dear readers I must leave you to your thoughts, criticisms, and comments before the editor personally hunts me down for using the word “why” so much.  Why, if I had to explain to him why I used the word why so much I might just end up writing a 1500 word article on the merits of answering the whys of any valid comment made about why I write what I write.

*looks over shoulder fearfully*

Author’s Note: This article is very much tongue-in-cheek, yet all of my arguments are based in sound logic and intent.  Reader beware, misconceptions may abound.


Joseph Sanicky