Thursday, June 30, 2005

(Supposed) Game Pro article about WoW

Thought you all would like this. I find it to be so true

Posted: 06/28/05

Who is the average MMORPG gamer, and what's the stereotypical image? An Avante Garde hipster humming A Love Supreme? A social #&%&erfly getting in a couple minutes between going clubbing? The average blue-collar, white-collar Joe? Nope, you probably think up of a socially defunct, greasy-haired recluse that wears an old freebie T-shirt won from signing up for a credit-card. (But of course I'm not like that. Other video game journalists may be dorks, but not myself.) Many stereotypes exist because at some level they're true. So what's true about the overwhelming majority of MMORPGs?
They're not for the meek, light-hearted gamer.

Part of it has to do with the conventional pricing model. With a game demanding $15 a month, you can't afford to just casually log in a few hours on the weekend without feeling jipped. So the casual gamer's MMO has to be a game entertaining enough to pull people away from their usual games (let's face it, most MMOs are boring), and rewarding enough in a 1-2 hour timeframe so it doesn't require you to neglect your daily routines.

After being traumatized by Star Wars Galaxies (20 minute of traveling, 30 minutes waiting in line for buffs meant 40 minutes of downtime before actually grinding), I thought my MMORPG days were over--but eventually I was drawn into the casual friendly-ness of World of Warcraft. Blizzard seemed to be the first to take casual playing elements to the next level--no forced grouping at early levels (say Final Fantasy XI), or tediously long exp grinds from furry fuzzy animals too cute to be called mobs (Lineage II). It seemed to offer fill that void of a casual gamer's MMO.

But the dream lasts only for a couple months (or 10 /played days if you grind). Unfortunately, you hit the end-game and it turns into any other MMO: a long grind. Unlike Diablo II, which spewed phat loot rewards in a span of 10 minutes, the instances are long and unrewarding. Enduring mammoth 4-5 hour runs of Scholomance a couple times, and I've discovered that watching paint peel is more fulfilling. Strat is a great length at 1.5-2 hours, but the low drop rates mean you can go on 50 runs and not get that piece of set gear you need.

The much anticipated Battlegrounds turned out to be just as un-casual, especially the half-day events of Alterac Valley. Best way to win AV? Log in at the wee hours of the morning, wait for the other side to get tired and log off so you win by default. Of course, unless you're on a more Horde-heavy server like Illidan, this mostly works only for Alliance. Honor system, even with the recently announced change in the reward system, is still a grind, forcing you to repeat Warsong Gulch till you get queezy of the phrase, "He's on the roof!"

This isn't to say that MC should be trivialized to quick 2-hr excursions. But what's the logic in offering casual gaming elements from levels 1-59, then focusing only on hardcore gamers at 60? Why not have casual game experiences at 60? Keep appeasing the hardcore with carrots dangled on a distant stick, but add more content catering to Saturday night gamers.

1) Instanced 5-on-5 PvP battlegrounds similar to what Guild Wars is doing. Have hundreds of instances available to remove those annoying and unpredictable queues (Estimated Wait Time: < 1 minute. Current wait time: 3 hour 45 minutes). When your 5-man group wins, you go on to a different map rather than staying in the same trite level for eternity. Escort/destroy objectives that don't involve the ubiquitous gear icon. 5-on-5 would be especially beneficial for Rogues, who are nothing but fattened cattle waiting for slaughter in Alterac Valley.

2) Quests/Dungeons that give stackable upgrades: Have stackable minor upgrades that can be mixed and matched with different combinations, offering more customizability of weapons (or armor). Make it require you to go into a five-man instance that's 1-2 hours long.

Of course, it can't screw up Enchants, so have it separate from those. As a simple example, maybe have a dungeon where you need to retrieve a rare mineral, and each time it gives +2 max damage to your weapon, for a max of +10. Or mix and match so you get +5 damage and -.2 speed to your weapon.

Power gamers will zip through them, but casual gamers will spend only a couple hours and still leave feeling a sense of accomplishment. Plus, customizability is sorely lacking in WoW as it is, and it'd be nice to be able to trick out your favorite weapon (cus let's face it, Earthshaker's minimalist aesthetics are far from earthshaking when compared to a Doomsaw).

3) Solo instances: Class-specific instances that are long (10 hours), but progress in couple-hour increments where you can log off and continue later. They could be given from a class trainer, and provide class-specific perks as a reward.

Well, there's always hoping--but in the mean time it's back to ninja-looting corpses in Alterac to hit exalted ...only 1500 more quests to turn in.


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