Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why is World of Warcraft a good game?

I know that this admission might make me a pariah in the Eve blogging community, but I am a long time World of Warcraft player. Allow me to be perfectly clear. I am not a reformed WoW player. I am not a converted WoW player. I still maintain an active World of Warcraft account. I have a level 80 character who is in a sizable guild that has completed most of the end game content including Yogg-Saron, Trial of Champions, etc. Before a server transfer with friends, I was a guild master in one of the oldest guilds on my old server. I still enjoy World of Warcraft and try to attend one or two of the three major raiding nights each week.

Now I am ‘less of a player’ in the eyes of some citizens of New Eden, and I can live with that. I have seen the trash talk of WoW in the Eve Radio channel and among various people in the more populated Local Channels as well as people within my own corp. However, I think that both games deserve a great deal of credit for what they have created, and I wanted to expound a bit on what I think Blizzard has done right with World of Warcraft and what I think CCP has done right with Eve Online.

Over 11 Million Served
Yes, numbers are not everything, but let that number sink in. 11 million people shell out $15 per month for World of Warcraft. This is compared to the much smaller number of approximately 250,000 Eve subscribers. Perhaps it is the type of game, perhaps it is the accessibility, perhaps it is superior marketing, but World of Warcraft is doing something right. Now, many people say “McDonalds serves billions of burgers, but it doesn’t mean they have the best burger in the world” and they are right. However, most people try to compare a McDonald’s burger to a steak house burger and miss the issue of price point and scope. No other business than McDonald’s serves as many $1.00 cheeseburgers daily, so in that regard they are doing something right. In comparison, Eve is like Wendy’s, similar product, similar price, not as popular. That does not mean that Wendy’s is bad, but they are definitely not the same corporation as McDonalds.

Responding to the Wishes of the Players
This is something I think both Eve and World of Warcraft have done rather well. I have not played Eve as long, but it seems to me from the developer blog and from the forums that the people down at CCP maintain a very bidirectional flow of communication. This is something that Blizzard has perhaps done too well. The belief of many in the WoW community is that he who complains most gets buffed. There are exceptions to this, the paladin class had issues for over a year before it was addressed, and warriors still have problems.

Nevertheless, no one can rightfully accuse the Blizz developers of not adjusting and tweaking their game to put more shine on it. Final Fantasy 11 failed because it was too slow to adapt and change, Everquest never really changed at all. Yes, there are things to be said for consistency, but it takes a much braver set of developers to release something that may have issues and then fix them afterwards. This development style is actually something that another “evil” corporation is famous for, and that is Microsoft. They would knowingly release a version of Windows before it was 100% tested and then just patch the bugs afterwards. This is predominantly becoming the norm in the industry as evident by Apple’s latest OS release.

New Content
Yes, World of Warcraft makes you pay for expansions. This is often cited as a “sin” of Blizzard and hailed as something that makes Eve better than all. I am going to be direct and make a few more enemies by calling bullshit on this count. The average expansion costs about $60 and lasts for about 30 months. If you play the game regularly that comes out to about $2 per month, it really is not a huge additional cost when you think that the average player is dropping $180 on subscription fees a year for either game. The people who it hurts the most is those who maintain multiple accounts, however WoW is not a game that is designed around the idea of players having multiple accounts while in Eve it seems more the rule rather than the exception.

Even outside of the expansions, Blizzard is constantly adding new content in terms of Festivals, new Dungeons, New Quest lines with every major patch. Wrath of the Lich King has had 2 entirely new Raiding Dungeons added since its release. The previous expansion saw several raid Dungeons that were approached in a systematic order as well as the addition of a new raid dungeon right towards the end of the expansion.

With each expansion and patch World of Warcraft is not only creating new content, they are fundamentally changing the nature of the game. Here is just a short list of things that have been added to the game since its original release.

  • Hard Mode Encounters
  • Arena Teams
  • Battle Grounds for PvP
  • RP PvP Servers (originally all RP servers were PvE)
  • Tier Tokens
  • Raid and Dungeon Instancing (huge idea that made WoW better right off the bat)
  • 10 Man and 25 Man dungeons to make end game content more accessible to different guilds.
  • Vehicles
  • Flying Mounts
  • Duel Specs
  • Two New Player Races (soon to be 2 more as well)
  • Death Knights as a Heroic Class
  • Glyphs
  • Two New Professions – Socketted Gear for Gems
  • Over 10 different season events
  • Duel Spec Sheets to allow for more character versatility
  • Badge Gear
  • An Honor system and Honor Gear

I’m sure I’m missing quite a few, but you can see why I find it somewhat foolish for people to say that we have to pay for expansions. To me it seems similar to complaining when you go to see Rush Hour Two that you have to pay again, because you already  paid for Rush Hour. Personally, I think we get our money’s worth.

To Wrap it All Up
I don’t think that World of Warcraft, or any other game, is perfect. There are plenty of flaws with WoW. The level gain can be a grind. The loot system is very arbitrary (though they’ve worked to improve that with Badge and Honor gear.) The reputation system and faction grinding can make you want to punch kittens (not that Eve players would know anything about that.) However, at the end of the day World of Warcraft is one of the most successful MMORPGs ever both in terms of player base and financial success. When you are at the top of the heap you tend to draw a lot of hate from smaller groups. For examples of this look at rabid Mac users get towards a PC user or how a Linux user scoffs at someone running Windows. Watch how defensive people who feel they belong to a niche group can become towards others. Eve is a tight knit community that is vastly different from World of Warcraft, but to say WoW is a terrible game is just very narrow minded

Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll share with you some of the things that I really think Eve has done well – it probably won’t be as detailed as this, I’m a vet player of WoW and a newb in Eve, but I hope you enjoy my perspective.

3 comments:

  1. I've also been playing WoW for almost 4 years now, but now I found EVE I lost the urge to play WoW, maybe again in the future.

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  2. I definitely agree that the urge to play WoW is less than my urge to play Eve at the moment. I'm not sure if that is the result of burn out in a position of guild leadership or because of the differences between the games. I know in the summer I prefered Eve while taking grad classes because I could do my work on one monitor and play Eve on the other (something that you could never really do effectively in WoW.)

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