When I speak to people who have been lost in an online role-playing game for a long time and ask them what fascination the genre has held for them, what the highlights were for them or what things they particularly like to remember , then the following anecdotes can always be reduced to one point: the community.
Sometimes the answers revolve around difficult challenges that one could master with the guild as a community, and even today the cheers from the voice chat echo in the ears. Sometimes they remember boozy guild meetings, established friendships or even relationships that last to this day, or rivalries with other core groups or guilds. Or it was just the joy of it and the pride in having achieved or achieved something after a long time and with a great deal of effort that hardly anyone else had been able to achieve or achieve up to now.
What makes a good MMO?
The essence of the fascination of the genre emerges from all these points: You embark on an adventure within a persistent world with thousands of other players. You join a community, take on a role in it, develop a reputation and master challenges together. Eventually friendships and rivalries develop. You feel that you belong within this small ecosystem, you are emotionally connected to the world and the other players.
A good online role-playing game is aware of this fascination, which only exists in form and form in an MMO, and strengthens it whenever possible. This includes the game systems on the one hand, but also framework conditions such as the server structure or the payment model on the other.
The problem with modern MMOs
If you look at the various modern, large Themepark MMOs, you quickly get the feeling that they are only too happy to emulate a Witcher or Dragon Age, only with optional multiplayer. There are great in-game sequences, elaborate script events and, increasingly, dialogues with full audio.
A big focus of the games is that you can experience and master as much of the content as possible solo, or at least without being part of a guild or having to communicate with other players – thanks to several levels of difficulty and automated group search tools. Find a group, join an instance, knock everything down, distribute the loot, leave the group – all of this works without having to exchange a word with the other players.
In order not to take too long, the developers serve most of their content in small bites. But what happens when the challenges are minimal, the time investment is low, the comfort is high? The reward loses tremendous value emotionally. It is arbitrary. You just haven’t done anything for them, everyone can “win” the booty that way.
But developers have another method to radically torpedo the value of earned rewards: in-game shops. Even if they only offer cosmetic items such as costumes, mounts or companions, the offer has a noticeably negative effect on the rewards that can only be earned. Because with a shop like this, it no longer just matters how much you invest in the game, but also how much money you pump (and can pump) into the shop.
Another problem from Shadowlands, FF14, TESO and Co .: They rely on huge, continent-wide mega-servers or cross-server constructs that have grown larger and larger over the years. You are an anonymous gamer in an anonymous community. The character and guild names hardly play a role because you normally won’t run into them a second time. In addition, there is the language barrier that slows down the fun of the game for many players. You cannot team up with every potential comrade in the world or converse in your role (keyword: roleplay) because your English, French, Italian or Russian is not good enough for it.
WoW Classic exudes old-school MMO air
Blizzard also wanted for WoW (buy now 14,99 € ) Classic to offer EU-wide servers first. The subsequent shitstorm impressively showed that many fans are actually not interested in language barriers in an MMO. Blizzard gave in, provided us with language servers and thus laid the foundation for the success of WoW Classic.
The self-contained server communities of WoW Classic enabled and enable every player to earn a name or reputation on the realm over time (positive as well as negative). At the same time you can at some point assign most of the guilds on the server. You know who to go to when you need certain enchantments or other services, with whom you can successfully visit raids and dungeons and which black sheep have ended up on the blacklist in the server discord.
Speaking of which: In the absence of automated tools, you have to use the existing chat channels or those set up by players and established on the server to find other players for group content, or you have to organize yourself on the server discord. Really with communication and such.
At the same time, WoW Classic revolves around group content such as dungeons, raids, battlefields, crisp elite areas such as Jintha’Alor or elite quests. In addition, the professions are important and you always trade with other players, compete for raw materials and make a server-wide name for yourself in this area as well.
And last but not least: WoW Classic is only available with a mandatory subscription, at the same time the developers fortunately did without the in-game shop that is available in Shadowlands. And the transmogging feature has not yet been implemented either. So you can see straight away from each character which challenges they mastered and which loot they were able to earn.
Thanks to all these things that WoW Classic does differently than the modern competition, the new Vanilla edition exudes more of the MMO fascination with which the genre blew me away many, many years ago than Shadowlands, TESO and FF14 to do.
It’s actually sad that what is currently the best MMO for me has been around for a long time. I am just as sad that we may never again see a Themepark MMORPG with a fat license and a decent budget behind us, which aims to exploit the great potential of the genre while fully building on its inherent strengths. The development is too expensive, takes too long, there are now much lower-risk, more efficient, more profitable ways to implement Games-as-a-Service in a video game.
But I also have good news for you: The Burning Crusade Classic will bring all of the aforementioned strengths of WoW Classic to Outland and at the same time iron out some of the major weaknesses (such as class balancing or item design). So there is still the chance to fully indulge in the fascination of the genre (even if an “old MMO” has to be used again).
If you want to know what my dream MMO of the future would look like, take a look here:
How does it look: Do you agree with Karsten’s statements in the column or do you have a completely different opinion (and why)? Let us know in the comments!
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