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This started out as a response to a post about why Blizzard was the most succesful gaming company as far as MMO's were concerned. But, it morphed into something else so i thought i'd make a new thread.
All of this discussion and its all one really VERY simple answer.
Blizzard made an MMO that was ACCESSIBLE.
To elaborate, they used a graphics engine that even at release was not strenuous and could be run on systems that were 1-2 years old, this allowed people who weren't hard core PC gamers willing to invest hundreds if not thousands of dollars into their rigs, to play the game. EverQuest 1 took a big risk at release by requiring a 3d card at a time when only the most dedicated gamers even had 3d cards in their systems. Blizzard made the game mechanics very casual in so much as leveling was absurdly faster than any current MMO, the world and leveling methods were very focused and linear (and don't even try to play the non linear card, questing was far and away the quickest way to level and people followed the quest hubs wherever they were told to go).
What blizzard did was open a gaming genre up to a much broader audience. A genre that beforehand was VERY niche, and had about 1.5mil players split between 3 major games which all catered to a very different style of play.
I still contend that the vast majority of the MMO community are not MMO gamers. What i mean by that is there are people who are RTS fans, or FPS fans, or sports games fans. Do they occasional cross over and play other games, yes, of course, but they are no representative of the fan base of certain types of gaming. For example, the group of people who like flight simulators like them BECAUSE they are brutally realistic. For most people a flight simulator is unfun, boring, has a steep learning curve, and even after you learn, its still boring.
The MMO gamer prior to WOW was attracted to this style of gaming because it was an RPG set in a huge, unforgiving and dangerous world. It actually felt like a world, not a theme-park as everyone likes to call it nowadays. The Pre WOW mmo'er knew and accepted that it took a long time to level, that death penalties were severe, etc. MMO gamers pre wow were made fun of by other gamers. It was like being a LARPer, you knew it was a socially unacceptable activity, so you still did it, but you were careful who you told, etc.
Now, Blizzard releases an MMO, and all of sudden all the people who are very casual gamers, or cross genre gamers, decide to come try out an MMO. These people never knew what an MMO was before WOW, so they assumed WOW was representative of the MMO genre. These people have different ideas of what gaming is about. They're the type of people who are more instant gratification. The type of people who would have fun in an arcade, where its about the short term, right now, action. So, what they did and what Blizzard ultimately facilitated was the equivalent of turning Flight Simulator X into Dog Fighting Game X.
People wonder why so many of us EQ vets and UO vets, etc, are so pissed about the current state of the genre. This is why. Blizzard took our favorite style of gaming, and for all intents and purposes shit all over it and turned into the computer gaming equivalent of a Britney spears pop record. No substance, no dignity, just designed to make money.
And on that note, i really, REALLY can't wrap my head around the fact that people think that just because something is popular, that its inherently good. I know its a normal part of human psychology, but are people really so shallow that the only way they can enjoy something is if 10 million other people "enjoy" it too? I listen to and enjoy major big name rock music artists just as much as i enjoy listening to some very eclectic, underground darkwave or EBM groups. How many records they sold or how many people know about them is literally of zero concern to me.
All i care about is whether the company, musician, artist, whatever, releases a quality product that they put their hearts and souls into making. And though you could argue WOW may have started that way, it certainly hasn't ended that way. All WOW now is a money making machine specifically directed by accountants and investors ensuring they receive maximum profits off all the (IMHO) idiots who still subscribe and play the game because they're too attached to their accounts and characters and the thought of losing all of that invested time and effort is unacceptable. Its like the friggin gaming equivalent of Stockholm syndrome. Yea, we've all been there, even us old school EQ'ers and such. We understand, But its time to let go and realize that your time is better spent pursuing and supporting games that actually deserve your $15/mo.
"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."
- Friedrich Nietzsche