August 20, 2008

WAR Isn't Fun

"I’ve already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft." - Richard Bartle
Bartle was right, he did play WAR already, and it was WoW. Just like Bartle, many players will try to play WAR as they do WoW and then wonder why they aren’t playing WoW or state they are sick of playing WoW. That’s fine. No one can force them to change their mind on how to play MMOs.

Unfortunately, Bartle gave validation to many “WAR is just WoW” viewpoints. However, many seem to have missed the part where Dr. Bartle admitted that he played a lot of WoW and had fun doing so. So, if he already played WAR, and it was WoW, then WAR is probably going to be fun to some degree. Bartle was simply burned out.

This brings me to a post at Virgin Worlds where Brent asserts that WAR just isn’t fun. Sadly, Brent uses Dr. Bartle’s quote to defend his position. That doesn’t add up, as WAR has to be fun by Bartle's assertion. Brent's view shows the effect that Bartle’s ill-fated quote has had on those looking for evidence to indict WAR as a failure.

I don’t dislike Brent and I’m not going to start throwing hypocrisy around again. I want to look into why Brent views WAR as a foregone failure. It starts in the recent Virgin Worlds Podcast #127, where Brent spends a lot of time talking about the “next generation” of MMOs and how games coming out currently are “last generation, nothing new to see here, move along please”.

It is evident that Brent is not interested in the current generation of MMO games and it is unlikely he would view any of them as “fun”. I wish Brent would just come out and say that, instead of looking for validation to prop up his opinion in misguided quotes and propaganda.

Unfortunately, Brent makes the argument that Sony Online Entertainment has a slew of upcoming next generation games, while reporting from a SOE-sponsored fan-faire. That absolutely dumbfounds me, because SOE has absolutely no games on tap that we haven’t seen versions of before.

Free Realms is an online world filled with mini-games that runs on micro-transactions.

The Agency is an online, class-based and multi-player shooter with persistent world aspects.

DC Universe Online is a super hero MMO that focuses on action and offers a peak at physics based game play.

None of the listed games offers anything new other than the fact that SOE is putting huge development dollars into them. Puzzle Pirates, released in 2003, does the online game world filled with mini-games and customizable avatars already. Doom, released in 1993, not only invented the first person shooter genre, but took it online as well. Planetside, another SOE game that happens to be a persistent online shooter, has been around since 2003. City of Heroes, a super hero MMO, has been around since 2004. Physics-based games have been all-the-rage for the last few years.

It is absolutely SOE fanboy-ish to argue any of them are next generation. I’m sorry, but that invalidates Brent’s criticism of WAR. Brent likes SOE and despises WAR. He is entitled to that opinion, but he needs to stick to it as an opinion, not try and use it as evidence that WAR "is just another WoW" and therefore will fail.

The gaming industry has shown a complete lack of ability to innovate quickly. Change occurs slowly, over time, from release to release. There is never going to be a mainstream game that suddenly changes the playing field in terms of players and mechanics. Some games, such as WoW, will storm in and take over a genre, but not through innovation.

The next generation is going to come slowly over time and those waiting for it will never find it. Every time they look at a new game, they will see something from the last game and claim that they are going to “sit this one out” in anticipation of the next generation.