(EDIT: Jan 17, 2012. If you came here from Massively’s article, here’s my response to both this article and that one.)
I don’t mean to pick on Melmoth here (lest I myself be killed by a smile in a way that looks very much like an accident) however I have seen this very mentality posed by most of the blogs I follow of late, and so I’d like to address it now. Here’s the pitch:
“As much as I admire the conversation system, I do still find it a little ponderous in a world where you’re essentially being asked to kill ten womprats most of the time.”
This follows a pattern. The pattern is frequent across the blogs I read. The pattern is, roughly, this:
“As much as I like or loathe [this aspect of SWTOR], it still doesn’t make up for the fact that it’s just [a pretty wrapper on the same game].”
Now, I’ve gone on and on about genre and how the entire concept seems to completely escape MMO bloggers and players…but really, I think I’ve been wrong. This concept does not escape the players. They are very much aware of what genre means and that MMOs should all be expected to be similar (within their sandbox or theme park pastures) but they chose to completely disregard it. This isn’t restricted to TOR either; it’s universal. The question that has been digging at me in recent weeks is Why?
At first glance I suspect it’s for the reasons Elder Gamer lays out here. In short, punditry is cyclic, easy, and we don’t learn from it.
“The problems are that 1) MMO punditry is basically saying the same things over and over, but, 2) nobody really knows the secret to making super amazing awesome games.”
He goes on to comment on how WoW – by all common understanding – should’ve died just out of the gates due to the massive instability issues it experienced. But it didn’t die, it got better. So now we say “Of course it did.” Hindsight bias, 1; Reality, 0.
The way I see it, the issue is not that games are lacking in innovation or that they’re plain not good. Skyrim, the Fallout series, Mass Effect, Arkham Asylum…I’m sure you could list out games that you had a great time with. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how imperfect the controls are or how stupid the AI is. Sometimes a game is just fun. If you’re not willing to forgive MMO mobs for pathing issues, Evade bugging, and respawning until the end of time, then why are you playing? If you’re going to play Skyrim, say “I really enjoyed this, but…” then what are you doing? Why are you playing? I’m just going to come out and say it.
IT IS STARTING TO COME ACROSS THAT YOU DO NOT LIKE VIDEO GAMES.
I’m serious. Every day I read about a dozen posts saying things like:
- I really enjoy TOR, but it’s not perfect.
- I really love Skyrim, but it’s flawed.
- I like TOR, but I don’t like TOR.
- It’s just WoW with Star Wars painted on it.
- Skyrim is too simple.
- Skyrim’s UI is almost unbearable.
- I hope it dies so everybody will see that EVE is a superior game.
I’m not saying your feelings are invalid, but they are (at least, I hope) grossly misleading. Of course it’s not perfect. Of course it’s a theme park MMO and shares a lot in common with its genre. Sure, if you really enjoy EVE, you may find that a theme park MMO is not the game for you.
Is it the case that you actually like the game(s) but you feel that you have nothing to blog about if you’re not coming down on it with a big ass hammer? Well, speaking as a guy who’s all about hammers, may I encourage you to set yours down. Because, and I mean this sincerely: the MMO Blog-o-world is becoming a rather depressing place.
I read these blogs and I wonder if anybody actually likes TOR, which is funny, because I am loving it. Not only is the Jedi Sage the most fun healer class I’ve yet used (and after my ill-fated love affair with the Archmage in WAR, the really cool Chloromancer from Rift, and healing with everything but the Shaman in WoW) but all of the trimmings are just fantastic. The environments are spot on and fun, customize-able gear is all I ever asked of WoW and NEVER GOT, the little space dog-fighting mini-game is a blast, and Qyzen Fess is a truly remarkable character. The story is engaging, the Force is my ally, and my Jedi looks the way I want him too. I have four light sabers that I can plug my current set of mods into, depending on what hilt I want my avatar to wield in combat. TOR gave me this out of the box.
Of course it’s not perfect. It’s new and part of a genre that has been forever molded by Blizzard’s ludicrous success. I’ll never forgive the guy that thought a 40-man raid was a good idea, nor the guy that said “Let the players sort it out” when a boss that took forty players to kill drops only two things. Screw the guy that decided the upgrades for my paladin would change her from an epic steel-armored hero to a weirdo covered in leaves and tree bark. Seriously. I hope he knows what a big jerk he is. But you know what? I enjoyed my time in WoW, right up until I didn’t anymore. And, in that very human way, I naturally look back on WoW with disdain as it helps me to cement my decision not to play anymore. And here I am, slamming it in this blog, falling for the same trap that I’m trying to light up for us all.
When we were all writing for WAR leading up to its launch, spirits were high, people were hopeful, and the blog-o-sphere was a fun and happy place. Of late it is a remarkably different place. Everybody is very careful about saying “I like it” and heavily, heavily hedging that statement with BUT HERE’S A WHOLE BUNCH OF STUFF THAT SUCKS ABOUT IT.
And that stuff is often trivial. It’s stuff that every single game is guilty of. Sure, TOR’s auction house interface is clunky and annoying. Yes, the space-combat-on-rails is not as cool as the old X-Wing vs Tie Fighter games that it is meant to be reminiscent of. I am aware that the melee combat with a light saber is MMO-esque and not the active and complicated sword play of the Jedi Knight series. Those are all different games that each had their own problems and short-comings.
All games have short-comings.
All of them.
Pointing them out serves little purpose; we all see them and nobody knows how to fix them. It’s basically a mud-slinging campaign and, just like in politics, it’s devoid of merit.
You are all better than this. I know it. I remember.
This changes nothing, of course. SW:TOR is big news and people are all waiting to be the first ones to say “I told you so” when it doesn’t succeed. Of course, whether it does succeed or not, in five years time everybody will be saying “Of course it succeeded/failed; it’s Star Wars.”
Think about it.