Dec 8, 2007

[WoW's Great Weakness]

  As someone who loves the 'virtual world' and immersion aspects of MMORPGs, I feel World of Warcraft is weakest in these aspects. WoW is an awesome game, and improvements to the game mechanics are always coming. But in terms of making an immersive fantasy world, I personally think it's dropping the ball (especially with the addition this last patch, of making interactive quest objects in the world sparkle and have big quest markers floating over them, so you don't even have to pay attention to your environment to find things anymore. It's very platform-game-ish way of dealing with interactive items, which I personally think is antithesis to the 'immersion' aspect which should be a goal of an MMORPG. The world should feel like a world, not a level in a platform game where you run around looking for the bouncing, sparkly items to pick up. >=(

  It's the immersion in the world and community that keeps MMORPGers in our games, that makes us feel a connection to it. WoW is, to me, lacks the most in exactly those aspects.

  Lots of loving care is going into raid content that few people ever see. Rep grinds and loot grinds abound. But where's that sense of fantasy and connection to the story and world, the sense that you are an inhabitant of Azeroth? To me, that is the most important aspect of an MMORPG. But currently, WoW is too focused on loot grinds and scripted static content that is consumed faster than it can be created, or is not consumed by most people at all. The next MMORPG that's looking to take a bite out of Blizzard's share of the market would do well to study these weaknesses and be strong in the ways WoW is not. Because there are many players (me included) that would consider leaving WoW for a game that could provide those things better, even if they weren't as 'polished'.

EDIT: I just found this post on Girls Don't Game, thats echoes a lot of my feelings:

"Not to knock WoW or anything, since I still play it and don’t feel like being a hypocrite today, but I really can’t get over how they seriously have not planned on giving us player housing. This is a horse that has been so incredibly beaten, you can barely even recognize the corpse. But it’s true. While players whine on the forums every single day about the lack of player housing, Blizzard keeps continuing to raise the level cap and add more high level instance raids left and right. There is so much more that could be done, in my opinion.
...I would love a game where I could just log on and not worry about hitting 20 that night, or farming primals. I would just like to log in, maybe redecorate my e-house, kill some monsters for new items, hang out with friends and then log out at the end of the night.
I heard that Blizzard was thinking about revamping the fishing skill or something but I have yet to see some actual hard evidence on this. Fishing is actually one of my favorite things to do in World of Warcraft. When I was still playing with friends, I wound up hitting fishing 300 because I was sitting on the dock in Orgrimmar all the time in private messages with them."

 The open-endedness of MMORPGs is their strength -- it's what makes players feel like they're part of a world, and have many ways they can have fun in it. To run around in a fantasy world, with the feeling that you can find all sorts of different ways to make your place in it, is the main draw of these games. That is where WoW is lacking the most, in my opinion.


Game Dame said...

I completely agree with your comments about the (non) immersiveness of WoW. I for one play WoW as a silly game and don't get into the role-playing aspect of it too much. However, I would agree that it would be a lot more fun if the storylines meant anything to the gameplay. (For example, I'm playing Bioshock right now and the twist ROCKED my world! I can't wait to see how it ends.) Still, there are times that I am taken over by momentary immersion in the world of WoW. For example, when I cross into a new territory with amazing scenery or creatures. The first time I went into Un'Goro Crater, I felt like I was in the Land of the Lost. I really had that terrifying HOLY-MOLY-HERE-COME-DINOSAURS feeling. Same when the Fel Reaver was coming after me my first trip to Outland.

Can you give an example of a game that gave you the type of ideal immersive experience you're describing, even if it's not an MMORPG?

Pai said...

Hmm... Myst III: Exile was like that, for me (in my opinion, one of the best Myst games). I think that's the only game I've played that really grabbed me that way. The way the story and world were presented, the way you interacted with objects and the environment to find out more about everything around you, made it seem real.

Pike said...

My absolute 100% favorite part WoW is the ability to create your own character and imagine that character in the big deep fantasy world that is the Warcraft Universe. That is and always has been my favorite part... the questing and game mechanics are all secondary to the imagination, exploring, and occasional roleplaying that I do with the game.

That said I think Blizzard did a pretty good job. WoW is a very immersing game to me. Adding all the sparkles to herbs and stuff sort of bugged me at first, but now I sort of like it. I can't tell you exactly why, I think it's because it makes the questing/farming aspect go quicker so I can get back to the roleplaying.

Granted, the most random games will be the ones that really pull me in, regardless of game mechanics or realism... the Pokemon games were very real to me, so real that as I like to relate, I cried when my first Pokemon file was accidentally deleted. These were little pixels on a Game Boy but they were very real to then-15-year-old me. Today, I feel the same way about my WoW characters. To me, they are real and live in a real world. The world does not work the same way ours does, and in fact, it bends the rules a lot. But it's still a living, breathing world to me.

Anyways, not sure where I was going with that ramble! I just stumbled across your blog though, and wanted to share my agreement with the whole "playing the game for the immersion" thing.

Pai said...

Gawd, if anyone deleted my Pokemon, I'd totally flip out. I don't play anymore (since Leaf Green), but I used to obsessively breed them for stats and egg moves... I put a lot of time into them!

And also, I love the story behind it... just beacause I love monsters and critters and all that. >=)

I also loved decorating my Secret Base! That was a cool little part of 'em. Not sure if the new games have that still.

I think part of my problem with WoW, is that beacause I have three 70s already, that I'm tired of the dungeon parts of the game. And I'm not on an RP server, so there's none of that for me really, either. I wish there were other goals and other things to do besides dungeons. Maybe I need to get into a smaller guild with more social events and RP or something...