Where did MMOs go wrong? A reflection on the rush to serve casual players
Red 5 CEO Mark Kern is the sort of person you should really listen to when it comes to MMO design. Not only is he currently leading one of the biggest MMOs on the horizon, Firefall, but he was also part of the original World of Warcraft team.
In this opinion piece on MMO specialist site MMORPG.com, Kern traces the historical line to the moments when the MMORPG genre started to lose its way. Interestingly, he ends up partially blaming himself.
World of Warcraft was one of the original catalysts of the current casual-crazy genre. Warcraft was far from a casual MMO when it launched, we'd consider it quite hardcore by today's standards, but it was the beginning of a march toward being friendlier to many different types of play styles.
There's some great points made here, but given that tens of millions of players have enjoyed World of Warcraft over the past decade it's hard to fully agree. I'm a former WoW player, and there's an interesting phenomenon that's easy to notice when speaking with MMO players: everyone seems to know the moment when the genre went soft.
Not surprisingly, it usually corresponds with their own play time. You're not likely to hear somebody say, "I stopped playing in 2006, but the game was great until 2010." You're far more likely to hear, "I stopped playing in 2006 because the game just wasn't fun anymore. They took out all the challenge."
I find it hard to criticize the MMO genre when the changes that have been made have allowed for millions more people to enjoy their style of gameplay. Even if the difficulty crash has personally alienated a vocal minority of players like me.
That said, I would love to see more variety within MMOs. It would be great to see the return of semi-hardcore games to complement the EVE Online's and the World of Warcraft's that have bound the genre to farthest ends of the difficulty spectrum.