Picture it: 2004.
Blizzard’s just unleashed an exciting form of gameplay featuring dwarfs, gnomes, humans and night elves combating orcs, tauren, trolls and the Forsaken. It wasn’t the first MMO—games like Island of Kesmai and the 1991 Neverwinter Nights hold that honor—but it was definitely the first one to see 12 million subscribers long after its release date. However, I would be remiss to not point out how quickly this number’s been dropping for Blizzard lately, prompting them to promise new players a free 20 levels and incredible gear after losing hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
We used to figure World of Warcraft would fall apart once a new hot commodity came out and one-upped Blizzard’s game, offering something new and innovative to the table, but everybody just tried to copy the formula instead. Even now that World of Warcraft finally seems to be falling apart, it’s not because something new and spectacular has come out; it’s because the same old formula is getting stale.
When players are leaving the king of multiplayer games and are looking for something else and something better to play, MMOs are failing to deliver. Most gamers can remember two of the games that were supposed to knock Warcraft out of the park: TERA Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic. One of the things that TERA Online is notable for is its innovative combat that requires some actual precision and skill unlike the standard button mashing that everybody is used to, but it falls flat when you realize it’s still 90 percent Blizzard’s game with better graphics and a worse UI. Quests are nothing more than “kill this” and “gather that.” Oh, and the “go talk to this person” chain.
SWTOR was one that truly offered something innovative, placing an enticing story unique to all eight classes with voice actors and plenty of real effort, but it too fell flat with extremely poor optimization, a severe lack of endgame content and allowing some of their B team writers to focus more on mirroring movie characters instead of a good story (I’m looking at you, Smuggler storyline).
Fortunately, there’s a light at the end of the dark and repetitive MMO tunnel: Guild Wars 2. This game is the last hope—for me—to throw out the rules of MMOs and do something that we as gamers can truly enjoy. No grinding, no ganking, no boring and dreadful quests that you swore you just completed on the last two MMOs you played. While I can’t say for sure that it’ll be the greatest game in the world, ArenaNet’s proven so far that they understand what gamers are tired of doing and what they’re looking for.
It’s with great hope that the hype and positive previews hold up. At the very least, I’m really looking forward to being a Mesmer without having to restrict myself to healing.