I just saw a glimpse of a possible MMOG future, and it concerns me a bit.
Preface: My old DAoC guild, the people who helped shape my best MMO experience ever, have fairly mixed feelings about WAR. They’ve been in the beta for far longer than me (good to have friends in high places), and none of them are as excited as me about WAR.
I can’t talk too much about the specific reasons why, but I’ll be talking about it when the NDA goes down. It’s certainly nothing that will stop me from playing; I see a lot of positives in the direction Mythic is taking. That said, the glimpse of the possible MMOG future came from this Richard Bartle comment on Syp’s blog.
Another point: when I said I didn’t play MMOs for fun, I wasn’t saying that MMOs weren’t fun for players, I was saying that they weren’t fun for me. I envy players, in a way, because they get 18 months of fun from an MMO whereas I only get a few hours’ worth. When you’ve looked at play for long enough, you grok the concept. If you think you’re going to play the same kind of way 20 years from now as you do at present, think again: you can’t help but pick up on the patterns, and you can’t help but learn from them, and then you can’t help but lose the desire to run through those patterns time and time again every evening.
My DAoC guild has been together in one form or another since UO. They’ve put countless hours into most of the major MMO’s ever released, and quite a few of the minor ones. That’s halfway to Bartle’s 20 years of playing, and I have to wonder if their lack of enthusiasm has something to do with what he’s talking about. I know I’ve felt it from time to time. I really liked LoTRO, but I couldn’t grind out the levels. I wonder if WAR will be the same. Will I feel connected to the other people in my realm like I did in DAoC? Will it feel less like leveling and more like hanging out with friends every night? Will the server come together to fight against the enemy, and will that realm fighting be more exciting than grinding levels is boring? Will I be able to level up an alt if I don’t like my first class choice? I mean, will I be able to stand leveling up another character?
I come to WAR weary of the grind already. I’m in the midst of my longest MMO break since I started EQ in ’99, and I still don’t feel like I’d want to level a character in any game but WAR. LoTRO definitely suffered from the many hours I put into EQ, DAoC, SWG, WoW, and Eve (although Eve hardly counts, it’s the least grindy MMO I’ve played). When I mount up for the WAR treadmill, I’ve got miles of MMO trail already behind me. Is there going to be enough game there to keep me pre-occupied? Will there be enough old friends saddling up to play alongside? Will I have the energy and enthusiasm to make a new set of friends?
I tend to think that, after playing the WAR beta, I’ll be ok for a while. It seems like it’s going to be immersive enough to help me push through the grind again, but I do think that Bartle’s right, and there’s going to come a day that a game has to be something quite different for me to put leveling time into it. I suspect some of my old friends may have already hit that wall. Same treadmill, different game. Somebody going to come up with a better way of advancing characters in MMO’s one of these days? Eve’s model? UO and SWG skill-based games? I don’t think I can level forever.