Doctor Who, The Simpsons and MMOs

I thought it was a good title but it actually stems from an Observation Deck post about the Simpsons.  The theory, and one that applies more so to Doctor Who, is that any show of long duration isn’t actually a single show but rather a multitude of shows using the same basic premise/characters.  And really, if you spend a minute to think about it, this applies to nearly every single movie in the past 10 years.  Sequels and reboots.  But those get a clean slate.  Serials (TV shows) do not.

Doctor Who has had “clean breaks” because you know the Doctor dies and is regenerated, they can put in a new actor and a new spin on the character.  Eccleston was brooding, Tennant was like a brother, Smith was a nutter and Capaldi is aggressive.  All sharing the same name, all in the same setting, and all without a break between them.  So you end up with people having a favorite Doctor, one they identify with.  “Eccleston was great!” I can hear someone say.  “Sit down, you’re drunk.  Rose ran the show and you know it” I reply.

Any show that hits the 5 year mark is likely to go through this shift.  Actors change, plots close and open, people grow older.  The Simpsons is different as it’s animated.  Actors have been pretty much the same since the start, none of the characters have grown old.  It’s never been off the air.  26 years now.  It’s still shifted somewhat, with changes in writing staff, which has had a rather drastic impact on the storylines.

MMOs, the Change and the Reboot

Very few MMOs ever get a reboot and succeed.  Very few sequels ever succeed either.  FF14 is really the poster child for this since it was both a sequel and needed a reboot.  Most MMOs just putter along for years and years, hoping to find the right combination of people and fun.

But they change over the years.  Each patch by definition changes something.  Players won’t ever consider something an expansion if there isn’t some new mechanic or thing to do.  And it can’t really be more of the same all the time because player tastes evolve, technology evolves and the market evolves.

I think most would agree that expansions are the obvious point to look for change in direction within a game.  UO had the Trammel split.  SWG has the NGE.  EQ had PoK.  DAoC had Atlantis.  SWTOR had the swap to F2P.  There are more examples in each game and more games than I could list…

WoW… well WoW is delimited by each expansion plus the advent of LFG, LFR and Flex Raids, which were all mid-expansion changes – all affecting the social aspect of the game.

I mean, let’s take a high level look at the WoW expansions and the mid-strikes between.

  • Vanilla – This was more or less a solo-friendly version of EQ2.  40 man raids.  8m peak players.
  • BC – An integrated vision with a tight focus on raiding and achievements (without actual achievements).  All the systems worked together.  Flying introduced but only at max level.  10 and 25 man raids (mostly the latter). Gain to 11m players.
  • WotLK – A split in many of the systems with the introduction of catch-up mechanics and heroic raids.  The best and worst raids were here: Uldar and Trials of the Crusader.  Flying at max level. Gain to 12m players.
  • LFG introduction – this was a few patches in to WotLK and had a few iterations.  Dramatically changes the social aspect of the game and forced a simplification of many mechanics.
  • Cataclysm – Gutting of the talent system, rebuild of the 1-60 experience/world, increase in overall difficulty, healing triage was introduced.  Flying from the start.  Most would see Cata as a major shift in direction for the game, where it tried to please the raiding and pro-difficulty crowd, when the market was heading another direction.  F2P MMOs were all over the place.  Also introduced Cross-Realm servers to address low pop zones.  Loss to 9m players.
  • LFR introduction – Firelands raid notoriously had less than 1% of the players complete heroic.  LFR put in so people can play the raids, see the story and Blizz’s dev time on raids isn’t wasted on 20 people.
  • MoP – Pet battles.  Daily quests everywhere.  Story that had zero links to any previous lore.  Farmville.  Many catch up mechanics and simplifications.  By this point, most systems had limited (if any) ties to other systems, meaning a player could do near every type of content without talking to another soul.   Merger of servers (connected realms).  Loss to 7m players.
  • Flex Raid introduction.  In my opinion, the biggest positive change to MMOs in 10 years.  Removed many of the limitations for group sizes and benching people, allowing social guilds to raid successfully.
  • WoD – Break of all ties to previous content/structure.  Sale of level 90 characters.  Garrisons which make most players self-sufficient and bypass most profession requirements.  The largest player boost since WotLK too.  Flex Raid for everyone!  No Flying.  Focus on world exploration and “dynamic” content.  As close to WoW 2.0 as we’ve seen so far.

Each person is likely to identify best with a given version of WoW.  You can read forums or other blogs and people will proclaim “BC was the best!”, “LFG killed WoW”, “AQ rules” (no one says this).  Rose colored glasses abound and few people, for any given form of media, will proclaim that today’s version is the best.  It takes time to digest what you have today and when it’s fresh, you really see the good and the bad.  When you look back on any memory, you tend to see the good in it rather than the bad.  If it was bad, you wouldn’t be thinking about it right?

Which I guess makes most of the 10 year anniversary MC runs look hilarious.  It’s pure chaos, with maybe a half dozen people running the whole show.  The difficulty is half of what it was once you’re in the zone and there’s no roster boss (actually finding 40 people to do it, getting them attuned and then having them travel to the instance).  It’s so different from what it was yet still people find it hard to get through.

Moving Forward

And honestly, in today’s market place of MMOs and games, you are at a great buffet of options and all sorts of price points and all sorts of mechanics.  If you can’t find something out there that pleases you, across hundreds of games, then maybe it’s not the market that’s the issue.  Maybe you’ve just graduated to grumpy ol’ bugger, sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, complaining about loud music the kids are playing these days.  We all know how much attention and credence those get.

Once people start to accept the fact that an MMO cannot be static and that a return to the past isn’t possible, maybe they’ll be ok with the fact that they are allowed to move on to another game.  Players tastes change with time.  Their schedules as well.  You finish school, get a job, then a career.  Maybe get married and have kids.  I read some of the guild invite spam and there’s always one that goes

Casual raiders wanted.  Schedule W-T-Su, 8-11.  Attendance is mandatory.

And I think to myself, I used to do that but I can’t anymore.  And when did that become casual?  I’ll try something else.  And I’ll have some fun.  ‘Cause that’s the reason we game in the first place, to have fun.

4 thoughts on “Doctor Who, The Simpsons and MMOs

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