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Ten Most Misused Words in MMOs

Jon Wood Posted:
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Also not guilty of WoW killing.

#5 WoW Killer

The term WoW Killer has been thrown around for nearly as long as there has been a World of Warcraft around to kill. Not a single one of the most anticipated releases over the last few years has escaped the question: “Will Game X be a WoW Killer?”

Legend has it that the WoW killer will emerge from the ether, Sword of a Thousand Truths in hand, to topple the current king of MMOs from its throne.

That is the legend. The truth is that there isn’t likely to be a single game that topples Blizzard. There will be games that claim millions of subscribers. There may even be a game that surpasses WoW’s numbers, but the idea that a game is going to come along and destroy the juggernaut is more myth than truth.

World of Warcraft won’t live forever, but it is far more likely that time and the progression of technology will bring it down.

Just as WoW didn’t kill EverQuest, which continues to go strong a decade after launch, even if one or a dozen games eclipse those numbers, WoW will still be a strong and valuable property.

Never Google Image this word.

#4 Hardcore

Hardcore has traditionally been a term to describe MMORPG players that are truly dedicated to their chosen game, be they PvPer, Role Player, Power Gamer, Guild Leader or any other kind of gamer, hardcore used to be worn as a badge of honor by players of all stripes.

Most recently, the term “hardcore” has been co-opted to represent only players that enjoy the most brutal, free-for-all style PvP games. Not that there’s anything wrong with that play style.

The truth of hardcore is that it is about the amount of hours put in, not what people enjoy doing in those hours.

Mr. Miyagi gets polish.

#3 Polish

Some time ago, so the legend goes, a Blizzard developer said that the secret to World of Warcraft’s success was their ability to polish their game and its systems. This meant that the developers were and are given the time to fully develop, test and “shine up” their game and its features before they are launched. The result is a more complete and well rounded final product.

While it may be true that a “good coat of polish” contributed to WoW’s success, it seems as though the word, over time, has been taken by dev studios everywhere and used by Marketing and PR departments to blithely explain away any delay in production without having to go into any specific detail. “The team needs more time to polish the game,” has become such an often-used phrase that the word polish has lost most of its original meaning.

And not coincidentally, no game since has launched with anywhere near that level of polish. Who else wonders what they’re really doing during “polish time?”

Total Number of Porsches We Own: 0.

#2 Fanboi / Hater / Sell-out

Everybody these days seems to fall into one category or another. Either you are called a Fanboi, or you are called a hater (and on a good day, you might be called both).

Originally, these terms were meant to designate the most extreme supporters of, and the most extreme opposition to, any given game. Wherever there exists any entertainment product, there will be people who embrace them unquestioningly and there will be people who do everything in their power to tear them down.

Over the last few years though, as arguments over released and upcoming games has heated up, the label of Fanboi and Hater has been thrown around so much as to have changed meanings almost entirely. Instead of describing an over-enthusiastic fan who is incapable of recognizing even the smallest flaw in his or her chosen game, the term Fanboi is now being used to label anyone who expresses a positive opinion about a game or company. Similarly, the term that was once reserved only for people who steadfastly refused to see any positive points at all about a given game is now being applied to any person, fan or no, that dares to point out any flaws that might exist in a game.

For journalists, fanboi is replaced by sell-out. The quickest and most predictable response to any article about SOE that doesn’t outright attack them is ten posts asking where Smedley delivered that new Porsche. Just because the writer has a different opinion doesn't mean they sold their soul to arrive at it.

The over-use of these terms has not only rendered them useless for their original purpose, but has also created a divide within many MMORPG communities that makes rational discussion about any mildly controversial game a near impossibility.

First Dolly, now WoW?

#1 WoW Clone

By far the most over and misused word in the MMO dictionary. In theory, the term WoW Clone refers to a game that so closely resembles World of Warcraft that it could have been grown from its very DNA.

In recent years, this term has been applied to almost every single P2P MMO either in production or released. It is applied to any game, it seems, that makes use of: an RPG style user interface, quests, level progression, guilds, instances, zones, swords, the list goes on.

While World of Warcraft does indeed make use of all of the above mentioned elements and more, the fact of the matter is that they were not the first, and they will not be the last. Many of the elements that are pointed to as evidence of a WoW clone are rather fingerprints of the genre as a whole. Quests, for example, have been an integral part of not just MMOs, but of RPGs from the very beginning, the same goes for concepts like level progression, guilds and the fantasy setting. While Blizzard may have created a formula that improved the way that these elements are presented, World of Warcraft remains just a stepping stone in the overall evolution of the genre.

It is certainly easy to understand a desire, amongst players and developers alike, for change and innovation within the genre, but labeling each and every new MMO release a WoW Clone in the way that some people have been serves to do nothing but reduce the entire genre (both pre and post World of Warcraft) to a single game.

It isn’t necessarily a departure from the conventions of the genre that people are looking for so much as it is a bit of obvious innovation.

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Jon Wood