MMO Legacy

IGN articles interest me more for their ideas than their content.  There is a clear disconnect between their reviewers thoughts and the material that is posted on the site.  The gents are smart and thoughtful but the reviews (Colin especially here) are clear shills for vendors.  Their entertainment (movies/tv) sections are different though since the entire basis of that medium is subjective.  Not everyone likes Michael Bay and a review won’t help you decide the value.  What they do provide is ancillary material for people to comment on, like this LOTRO Legacy article, which posits that the series as whole changed the way cinema moved from that point forward.

The thing about MMOs that drastically alter them from any other entertainment format is that they are fluid.  You can say that King Kong did X to cinema because of when it was made.  Same with XCOM.  You can’t say EQ is a benchmark  because that benchmark no longer exists.  You can say it was a pathfinder or trailblazer or some such, but every MMO has evolved from its humble beginnings to something else.

Take EQ’s raiding scene.  When it launched, it was a zerg-fest and content was balanced against maxing out the zone population.  They eventually put caps on the amount of people raiding, which helped with balance issues.  Everytime they tried to bring the number down, in order to further provide some semblance of balance, the community resisted with massive outcry.  EQ’s inability to innovate internally is the main driver for the development of EQ2.  While at a high level, they operate under the same concepts, EQ2 is clearly a different take on the “Vision(tm)”.  Which part of EQ’s raiding scene will be legacy?

WoW’s leveling method used to focus on spending 8 or so days from 1 to 60, focused primarily on grinding with a few quests thrown in.  BC cut the leveling time down a fair amount and increased the amount of quests – you barely needed to grind at all.  LK and on, leveling was a small hurdle and everything was 100% quests.   Today’s leveling experience is but a shell for the end game, providing cut scenes throughout.  It’s practically on auto-drive.  Which part of leveling will be legacy?

Star Wars Galaxies is two games in one.  It launched as a PvE sandbox then was rebooted after a short while to be a PvE themepark with some sandbox elements.  People will always remember the NGE.  Few remember the Beast Handlers or the perma-death Jedi.

MMOs are reflective of the time, more of a zeitgeist than an actual thoughtful game.  WoW today could never have succeeded when it launched just like WoW of 8 years ago would be a massive failure today.  What MMO’s have left as a legacy is the popularization of gaming, the breakout of the “geek” mold.  No game made today will be able to succeed without some multiplayer online component.  The actual mechanics – phasing, raiding, crafting, grouping, collecting, automated tools – are all by-products of this need to break down social barriers and achieve mainstream success.   The true legacy is that we are now able to share gaming experiences with new and old friends, under nearly any terms we can come up with.  That’s a pretty good legacy.

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