Gordon had a post up yesterday that asked whether modern day MMO players were lazy or if it just seemed that way since games are more accessible these days. I felt compelled to respond, which I did in the comments section, but I think that the topic of my response bears a little more hashing out. In my opinion, MMO players aren’t so much lazy as they are entitled.
Entitlement, really, has its core in accessibility. After all, if some new game didn’t come along and set a precedent for, let’s say, grouping, there wouldn’t be anything to compare to and nothing to feel entitled about. Comparing it to laziness, then, is the same as comparing “would players do something if it wasn’t easy” to “players want something to be easy but will make due if they have to.” That’s a pretty important distinction and where my thoughts stray from the topic Gordon brought up (and thank you for that interesting nugget of contemplation!).
As I mulled this over, I came to a central question of “do the noobs have it right?” No offense there, because what I’m referring to the newcoming generation of WoW players just now cutting their teeth on the wider array of MMOs available. In truth, there are more of these players than those of us who got started pre-WoW with MUDs and EQ. When these players come to a game like Fallen Earth, they’re shocked by the rusticness of it. , last time I played, one player, couldn’t help lamenting the fact he couldn’t respec his character in region chat. Whether he was right or wrong to expect such a thing (and any FE fan will tell you he was wrong), it’s a prime example of how World of Warcraft has set a bar in player’s minds.
So, to return to my original question, is it wrong for players to feel entitled to these eases of play? If we cut the MMO-sphere down the middle into “mainstream” and “indie” I would say no, it’s not wrong. Unless you’re playing a fledgling game, like Darkfall, any AAA MMO coming into the scene should have a basic understanding of what players are used to and what they would be wise to deliver.
Take Aion, for example. Fun game, but horrible grinding. Players coming from WoW aren’t used to that and, more importantly, don’t find it fun. The result? Look! We sold a million boxes last month. Subscribers? Well… we don’t want to comment on that. Anyone with the notion to check out the various blogs and forums will tell you that the grind is one of the biggest reasons people are becoming frustrated with the game. Scratch that. Their next patch tells you that, since its main focus is reducing the grind.
Anyways, where was I? Right, entitlements. Look at WAR: crap PvE. Funnily enough, PvE fans coming in from WoW noticed this immediately and left the game in mass. If that didn’t do them in, waiting hours for a scenario pop probably did. The list goes on.
Now, a lot of people might consider these trends to be an example of SynCaine’s “WoW Tourism.” I would make the point that these players, with all of their entitlements, are the lifeblood of the MMO industry as we know it. More
importantly, those big numbers are what investors care about. This generation, tourists or not, is important and will drive the industry whether the grizzled vets like it or not. These are the players the biggest and most feature flush MMOs get made for, whereas niche games, not delivering on the new wave of entitlements, cater to the older, content-specific, crowd.
I’ve come to look at it like this. My great, great, grandfather would probably be annoyed with the fact that I expect running water and proper plumbing in my house. Does that mean I’d go without it or not expect it in a new house? No. In that same way, the “WoW generation” of MMO players are the wave whose expectations will guide development. In short, don’t expect the next AAA MMO to cater to the older crowd over the newer. My great grandpappy might have wanted a hand pump out back but it doesn’t mean the water authority will give it to him. The majority wants what the majority wants and, for better or worse, they’re the target audience.
SynCaine, we’re the old men here. At least we have our rockers to keep up content while the youngin’s run around blaring their “easy XP” and “respecs” at all hours of the night. *Shakes his cane at the whippersnappers*
In a way, entitlements drive the industry forward. They say, here’s what we expect and encourage developers to provide it better than the last. Granted, I’d agree that it might discourage initial innovation, but once the bells and whistles are in, you have a game better suited subscriber-wise to take risks and make a real dent in the industry. No offense to games like Darkfall and EVE, but they’re not pushing the industry anywhere right now, maybe showing that niche games are a little too forgettable to most MMO players. WoW, LotRO, and EQ2 on the other hand, are far better suited to take that challenge on.
That’s my two cents heading into the weekend. Have a good one everybody!
PS: For the record, I’m a niche fan, but I seriously doubt big game companies will take low-subscriber games as any basis for what they should do in their own. Most players won’t know or care what a game like Darkfall does because it doesn’t have X million subscribers. Is it right or fair? Probably not and it’s too the wider industry’s detriment. Yet, I don’t see it changing unless one of these indie games becomes a mass success.
PPS: Gordon’s original post was specific to grouping, just to be clear.