The Double-Edged Sword of Expectations, Brought to You by Blizzard

So I’m not going to even link Richard Bartle’s post, but I will link to Darren because he’s the one that ultimately spurred this thought. Here goes.

Blizzard Entertainment clearly raised the bar on expectations of MMO’s mainly in terms of polish. Their game was so crisp and clean upon its arrival that MOGers are no longer going to accept a game that doesn’t award xp for a quest or has 7 f/p/s in towns or 30 seconds of rubberbanding with three mobs on you. People just aren’t going to give it a fair chance. One of the main arguments against WoW though is that “It’s a very polished game that did a lot of things right, but it doesn’t offer anything new.” Do you know what this means? Well, this leaves the all those other MMO companies scratching their heads, trying to figure out how they are going to find $50 million in funding for a game as polished as WoW which also incorporates new elements into their game that players find interesting, but still upholds that level of Blizzard polish. It’s simply too much for the vast majority of these companies to live up to. No matter how much “cool stuff” they put in the game, if it doesn’t look nearly perfect, then players call it quits, and we all know how tough it is for a game to recover from a poor launch…

It’s very easy to say “take some risks, push the boundaries, open new doors” but its a whole different story when you have the publisher funding you telling you that they want WoW numbers (most likely without providing anywhere near WoW-type funding numbers) and are willing to pull funding if they don’t like what they see. So then when the game releases, promises from the dev’s are broken, the hype dies within a couple weeks, and it’s deemed another “not-as-good WoW clone.” While I enjoyed two years of WoW and I think its a very well done game, I’m also frustrated that it’s not allowing these companies to spend money on creativity, but rather on what’s been done already and making it look just as good. That said, it’s also not fair to bash Blizzard because of their immense pocketbooks that they created a quality product with. So this begs the question what is it going to take to break out of this train of thought? Is it going to be the next Blizzard MMO, or will one of the new games on the way (WAR, AoC, Spellborn, PotBS, Tabula Rasa, etc.) figure out a way to break out of this funk? I don’t know that we can say for sure until they are all out. I really hope that the term “WoW clone” will be firmly behind us within the next twelve months, though.


P.S. One good sign is that other genres are quickly expanding, but will the gameplay (quests/missions, grouping, raiding, skills, UI) be virtually the same even outside of the fantasy genre?


1 comment so far

  1. Bildo on

    I think for the most part we see companies toying with the wrong aspects, namely the UI and controls. Eff that, to put it bluntly. What needs tweaking are things like timesinks, disguising or getting rid of grinding, figuring out a decent elder-game that doesn’t leave sects of players high and dry, in general… Blizzard started polishing many of the aspects of the MMO. Other companies, I feel, need to keep it rolling. Polishing what Blizzard has shown us needs more work.

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