A post from Wolfshead turned up in my reader yesterday. I subscribe to his feed as he does often talk about design. Then I started reading through it and it was a rant about WoW. Specifically about how the WoW community is shallow, overly conservative because it hates change and does not want to be inconvienced and that this is all the fault of Blizzard. Tobold picked up on this and went on his own rant about WoW.
This all conjured up an image in my head of an onionesque article that could be summed up as “Area Man rants that latest big budget, special effects blockbuster does not conform to his art house film tastes. Is hopeful that next big budget, special effects blockbuster is different“. It also made me recall the now defunct RevolutionG blog and podcast and the authors’ rants. Everyone loves to rant about what is wrong with WoW. Except that nothing is wrong with WoW. Mind you that I have never once played WoW, not even the free trial. A few years ago, I created an evil character on a hardcore roleplay NWN1 server, discovered intrigue, backstabbing, good GM work and the joys of actually being able to impact the world; which is something you can do on a community run world with a small (< 100 players at peak hours) world that you will never, ever, in a million years be able to do on a big commercial world that is not explicitly a sandbox.
For me, the idea of WoW and just about every other commercial MMO embodies all the parts about PWs that suck; but without the really cool parts. Millions of people appear to disagree with me. I have art house tastes and I accept that. High budget, mass market, games aim for the lowest common denominator. The problem is that most of the MMO blogging sphere also has sophisticated, art house tastes, but doesn't appear to accept that. It's almost as if movie critics – who invariably love art house films and loathe blockbusters – had never heard of the smaller films, or had not been willing to view them because they did not have expensive special effects. I saw the film Battlefield Earth a couple of years ago, during a transatlantic flight. I was in the bulkhead row and did not have my own monitor, instead I had the overhead and whatever was the default. It made me want to pop the emergency door to end the pain. The funny thing is, when I was twelve, I read the book from cover to cover, TWICE; and loved it!
Obviously, my taste has improved in the past quarter century and I don't much bother with the Battlefield Earths anymore. I don't obsess about them and how they could be made better. I simply ignore them. Battlefield Earth was a horrible film, but someone liked it. It grossed $100 million; far more than some of my favorites. There is nothing wrong with WoW. It is giving millions of people what they want; which contrary to Raph Koster's "theory of fun" hypothesis; does not seem to appear to involve learning. (For the record, I sometimes fire up Unreal 3 in offline mode and play the same Torlan map against the same bots on easy mode that I've been doing this for years with. I obviously don't do it for the challenge. I just do it to relax, sit on top of the tower and headshot bots – Charles Whitman style – for 10 minutes before getting back to work)
So guys, accept that your tastes have become arthouse and start checking into those indy and community run worlds that you have been ignoring until now. If you can't find what you are looking for, get Realm Crafter, one of the NWN versions, the SL client or go to the metaplace website and try your hand at actually creating what you want. Even if it is on a small scale and you only ever get five players, it beats pontificating about how horrible WoW is. Plus you'll learn firsthand if your ideas suck in practice or not.
Or you can pontificate until someone in "the industry" hires you, if that is what you are really after.