Sunday, July 25, 2010

MMOs and how change can wreak havoc

 Dragons and fire. Classic combo.If you asked me if a game could be changed for the better by altering its core, I’d say certainly. If you said the game was already out, I’d point and laugh. Titles like Star Wars Galaxies and Gears of War 2 are prime examples of forced adjustments and indecision before and well after they shipped. Once a game is being played by the people, modifying the central experience can be detrimental to the longevity of any title, no matter how popular it is. Cataclysm isn’t doing this.

Star Wars Galaxies went wrong by changing mid-drift to try and reclaim much of the user base that abandoned it. Skills changed, Jedi status was easily attainable, and it basically ignored its faithful users. Gears of War 2 was broken out of the box and relied on constant patching to fix and the unfix changes to the multiplayer. After six patches, the experience still wasn’t up to par and the result was a very different game than the one that shipped during the holiday season. Blizzard is certainly guilty of altering talents and other small quirks incessantly, but with Cataclysm it looks as though they’re breathing new life into the game instead of vice-versa. 

I’ve been out of the World of Warcraft loop for some time now. Actually, having left after Wrath of the Lich King hit I never really missed my adventures in Azeroth. I only say this because when it came to playing, my morbid interest was fixated only on playing excessive amounts of time and nothing else. But having looked at recent screenshots, talent and skill changes, as well as observing the facelift of the old world, I’m excited again. 

         Capital cities like Stormwind here have changed and, oh yeah, you can fly in the old world.

One of the craziest things that immediately garnered my attention was the complete revamping of the talent system. Now instead of going here, there, and everywhere you can only proceed down a single path until much later in the game. Some would argue that this ruins customization, but for me this shows the attention Blizzard has paid to making their already streamlined experience even better. As a warrior, I hated picking up five point talents and other little things like Two-Handed Specialization. Talents like that were just unexciting, passive numbers instead of something more dynamic. Granted, it is a numbers game but there’s no comparison when discussing present talents and ones of the very near future. 

 Reenactment of the multiplayer on launch day.Even better was seeing the old world, my favorite part of the game, getting a facelift. Having played the game so much, I could never endure the leveling process again. But now that the scenery is new and the quests altered, I want to explore this familiar yet oh so different land one more time. Why is this though? The game is still the same quest and gear grind it always was. It’s just been refined into a shinier quest and gear grind and maybe that’s why I find it intriguing.

Accessibility means something but paying attention to your core means a bit more. Blizzard may tinker around with things here and there, but their changes have yet to utterly reconstruct the way World of Warcraft is played. That’s why the core of this game will never change, and probably why it still is the most popular MMO to date.

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