By now pretty much everyone knows what World of Warcraft is but pretty much no one knows what it really is. Many look at it as another video game for the uneducated, grade school drop-out or entertainment for those kids who end up victims of the local school bully. Not every gamer getting into MMOs is the typical video gamer though. People forget that Facebook games are online multiplayer games, that some iPhone games are online multiplayer games, and that many of these require social interaction through an online network of some sort is required for these games to be enjoyed. Still, when one mentions the word “MMO”, all one usually thinks about is the typical online RPG where you create a fantasy based character and roam around killing beasts and running fetch quests.
To get things straight, an MMO and an MMORPG are not totally the same. The latter is a subgenre of the prior and it is this fact that most people forget. Not all online multiplayer games need to involve a player creating an elf with a +6 magical bow to kill orcs. Some MMOs, like Cityville, involve players visiting each other’s simulated city and help each other gather resources like store supplies and rent. Basically the first problem faced by MMOs is that most people associate them as MMORPG’s.
Now let’s move on to MMORPG’s. Where is the big problem here, one might ask. Take a look into any video game website or just watch videos of these games on YouTube for a good five or ten minutes. Pretty much all of them are World of Warcraft clones. It is no doubt that the success of Blizzard’s game is a factor in this but when you consider that none of the competing clones even make a tenth of what Blizzard is making, what then is the point of cloning a successful game without even trying to change the game mechanics a little bit?
Pretty much every MMORPG out there involves the player making a fantasy character with typically three choices: strong, fast or magical. They start out with fetch quests to serve as a tutorial and they all involve the player talking to NPC’s (non-player characters) to start and end other quests. Pretty much every MMORPG has a hotkey menu where they can use skills or items with one press of a button, most MMORPG’s involve potion abuse (players buy numerous potions and use them crazily to fight stronger monsters), and then it’s all rinse and repeat.
Why hasn’t anyone tried to take the risk to change something or add new flavor? It’s mostly because producers don’t want to shell out money for decisions that haven’t been tested in the market yet. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of attitude makes them feel that the money they’re pouring out for developers is in safe territory. Yet it still boils down that no one will buy these games or play them for long because World of Warcraft did it first and did it better than anyone else. Producers need to start thinking out of the box if they really want a chance in the game.