Bargain Bin Posts Week: What If World of Warcraft was Delayed Until Late 2005?

I never did get this speculation column off the ground, but I’ve chewed on this particular topic quite a bit over the years.  What if Guild Wars and EQ2 didn’t have to compete with WoW in 2004, but had more time to establish themselves — not that they did poorly in the first place?  What if the industry didn’t have to react to WoW for another year — what games might have come out in that time period, and what older systems might have seen continued life?

Today I’m kicking off a new, somewhat irregular column here at Bio Break entitled “What If?”  In it, I’ll be engaging in speculation of the highest order to conjecture how MMO history might be different if something went a different way.  Consider it alternate gaming history, if you will.  It’s just for fun anyway.

So today’s What If? is one I’ve really wondered: What if World of Warcraft didn’t launch in 2004, but instead was delayed until late 2005?

It’s not terribly hard to imagine how and why this may have occurred.  After all, Blizzard was and is the king of “when it’s done” releases, and the development for WoW took years and years.  After spending $60 million on the project, they may have gotten jitters at some point in 2004, worried that they were lacking suitable end game content, and a bit jittery at the upcoming release of EverQuest 2.  So, after a long and heated board meeting, the powers that be at Blizzard decide to delay for one more year, to add more of that distinctive Blizzard polish and work on adding more end game locales and dungeons.

Bargain Bin Posts Week: Playing Against The System

I actually liked this article a lot when I rediscovered it.  Basically, I was taken in with this Cracked post that painted MMO systems in a bad — but pretty true — light, and formulated a strategy as to not be taken in by the “unfun” aspects of MMO addiction.

It’s no secret that, above and beyond other video games, MMOs are specifically designed to get you hooked and addicted to their games.  This article over at Cracked.com is both enlightening and disturbing as to how it happens, and even for those of us who have legitimately good reasons to enjoy MMOs should take a pause after reading this to reevaluate what we’re doing in the game and why.

Addiction aside, I agree with their assessment that the very definition of insanity is doing something you hate over and over again expecting different results (in this case, that it’ll suddenly start being “fun” once more).  We all-too-often get sucked into the systems of these games without realizing just how they’re manipulating us, and there grows the danger of doing things that aren’t fun but deluding yourself that either it is fun (and you’re just not seeing it) or that by doing that task, it’ll somehow lead you to fun things in the future.

I wrote an article a while back on how it becomes more and more difficult for veteran MMO players to enjoy their pastime and new games because they’ve long since started to see through the system and lost the joy in playing.  I guess I want to present a counterpart to that article saying that sometimes it’s necessary for us to at least understand the system how how these games pull us in and keep us playing, so that we can take a stand against the unfun aspects and free ourselves to enjoying these titles once more.

Step One: Realize How These Games Work

The above article to Cracked is as succinct as any to opening up the basic skeleton of how MMOs work and why they’re addictive, and no matter how much “meat” you may wrap around it, it’s still the same thing.

Step Two: Give Yourself Permission To Skip “Chores”

You don’t HAVE to do anything in a game.  I repeat, you don’t HAVE to do anything in a game.  Part of the joy of MMOs is that, by and large, you have the freedom to set your own goals and go about attaining them in your own way.  Sure, the game tries to direct you and nudge you in a direction (and sometimes hem you in), but if the reward of a task isn’t worth the dull effort, or if you feel like your activities are merely a chore, then just drop it.  Do something else.

Step Three: Re-Align Your Gaming Worldview From The Destination To The Journey

Here’s the truth behind MMORPGs: You will never, ever “win” the game.  You may master large chunks of it, you may consider yourself lord and master over the virtual universe, but there’s no end credit screen, no final denouement, no final stopping point except that of your own making.  The “end game” is a misnomer, because it’s not an “end” of any sort, except the cessation of leveling.  So I’d recommend getting out of your head the idea that you have to fervently work toward a great destination that, in reality, does not exist.

While some MMO players claim to love the end game and raiding and everything at the max level, I think if they’re truly honest with themselves, they’ll have to admit that the first time leveling up a characters through new zones and new content was the most fun they had in the game.

Step Four: Introduce Variety To Your Diet

There’s a lot to be said for sticking with one MMO — you can level cap characters, establish yourself in a guild, build relationships, and see quite a bit.  But sooner or later burnout will happen, and there won’t be anything new under the sun — unless you spread your gaming love around some.  Even when I have a main MMO, I try to spend an evening or two a week in a different game entirelly, just to add variety to my diet.

Step Five: Take Breaks

You don’t have to play all the time.  In fact, if you feel compelled to play and simply cannot take a break, then you have a serious problem and need to get help.  For the rest of us, it’s a good test of will and self-control to step back from gaming every so often, and just do something else.  I’ve gotten burned out on MMOs too many times, and now I will gladly put one down for a while — a week, a month, several months — until that feeling goes away and the excitement returns.  I think it’s quite healthy to not focus all of your spare leisure time on just one activity anyway, no matter what that might be.

Bargain Bin Posts Week: The Future — Smaller and Better

Ravious from Kill Ten Rats suggested that I preface these posts explaining why I didn’t finish/post them before now, which is a great idea.  In this case, I probably wanted to add a bit more to it but never go around to it, and before you knew it we were LONG past the GDC period.  I’m still looking forward to titles like Black Prophecy, which may go a long way to raising the legitimacy of browser MMOs in the eyes of hardcore gamers.

Spending the past week helping the Massively team write up GDC was an intriguing experience.  If nothing else, it actually made me pay attention to a conference that I would’ve otherwise ignored.  I have to admit that I was disappointed that they trucked out Copernicus’ R.A. Salvatore to talk about everything under the sun except this mysterious game that — if the hype is to be believed — will be the Fountain of Youth for our generation.  It’ll also come with a USB Slurpee attachment.

The absence of “big” game news meant that I spent a lot of time looking at the smaller stuff, those little upstart MMOs that don’t have the budgets of their AAA brethren, but are trying to succeed by doing one or more of the following:

  1. Having minimal development costs
  2. Heavily promoting a free-to-play business model, supported by an item shop
  3. Appealing more to “casual” MMO players
  4. Aiming for very low system specs, such as playing it in a browser or on Facebook

Everyone has their own opinions on what the future holds for MMOs, but honestly, it’s a crap shoot.  Nobody knows, because these games really still are in their infancy — maybe we’re up to the toddler years — and there’s no one highly proven way of doing things.  We don’t know what the technology is going to be like in five, ten years, we don’t know if big-budget MMOs will eventually topple or endure and grow, we don’t know if these little upstarts will be nothing more than a momentary distraction.  All I can say for certain is that, as a whole, the MMO community has been expanding steadily, and the demand for these games is not lessening, it’s increasing.

Bargain Bin Posts Week: Killing the Economy

In a not-so-recent episode of the Multiverse podcast, the gang was discussing some of the root causes of gold selling and buying (a currently hot subject that I cannot muster the will to debate right now).  Ferrel, I think, suggested that if MMOs really wanted to combat this plague of sellers, buyers and hackers, they should cut them off at the source and have a currency-free game.

Hold on a second, I think he may have something here.

Game economies, much like hit points and mana bars, are one of those deeply-rooted staples of MMORPGs that we never question any more — we just assume they are in the game and get all bristly at anyone who suggests otherwise.  Some folks really love “playing the auction house” and accumulating financial wealth as sort of a metagame, and would be upset if it wasn’t there.

But today, I’ll ask, why do we NEED to have a real game economy?  I mean, I understand the good parts — connects players, gives them another avenue for persuing goals, etc.  Yet I’m wondering if we haven’t reached the point where the bad is outweighing the good by a significant margin.

Bargain Bin Posts Week!

Like many of my fellow bloggers (I assume), I’ve started far more posts than I ever published in my career here at Bio Break. Sometimes I just haven’t found a way to finish the thought, but most times it’s because I simply lost interest in the topic halfway through.

As a result, I have a staggering four pages’ worth of half-finished articles that have been stuck in limbo for months, if not years at this point.

That ends this week.  This week I’m going through all of my drafts and either applying a quick finish to the articles and then posting them, or deciding that they’re best never seen by human eyeballs at all (and then deleting them).

Of course, this comes with a huge disclaimer: You’re going to read a lot of crappy writing this week.  I’m sorry.  It’s not my best, that’s for sure, but it may be interesting.  I don’t even know all of what lurks in this draft folder, but I’m interested to find out.  So take my hand, grab your emergency towel, and let’s find out together.  Tallyho!

/AFK: NES Edition

Welcome back to /AFK, where I count down (count up?) the top 8-bit articles and topics that caught my eye this past week!

  1. Systemic Babble revels in nostalgia as he lists his favorite NES games.  Meanwhile, Game By Night takes us into the SNES generation.
  2. We Fly Spitfires is, like, totally in love with MMOs.  Get a room, you two!
  3. Free doesn’t mean failure,” No Prisoners No Mercy proclaims.
  4. MMO Gamer Chick is worried about the individuality of TOR’s smuggler
  5. TOROcast.com examines just how dark good Jedi can get, and vice versa.
  6. ETCmmo.com has a total crush on LOTRO!
  7. Happy 2nd Blogaversary, Blue Kae!
  8. Pink Pigtail Inn hocks a loogie.