For those blessed to have one nearby, Chipotle is a “Mexican” fast-food eatery. The menu is sublime. Customers choose a base (taco, burrito, salad, etc.), a protein (steak, carnitas, chicken, etc.), a salsa, and a few more condiments. Compared to many Mexican-food eateries, including Taco Bell, the choices are simple, but the comparatively few things that Chipotle offers beats most of said eateries hands down. In-N-Out Burger and Chik-Fil-A are two more food chains that follow this principle of few offerings that can’t be beat. This is not a new concept by any means. America is one of the anomalies in the world that has the restaurants that serve just about everything one could want from pizza to steak to tacos to salmon. If I had a choice I’d rather go to a hawker court and buy from three separate stalls, and receiving a food item of mastery from each cook who has dedicated his or her career on that one item.
This post brought to you by my tinfoil wrapped carnitas burrito.
I thought about how so many MMOs seem to want to be an Applebee’s. Combat is central, but not always refined. There is crafting. Player housing. Pets. Solo PvE. Raiding. Quests. Missions. Stories. NPC’s. Titles. Traits. And, all manners of PvP. They are all over the place trying to dip their hands in to a bit of everything in order to keep your interest (read: subscription). What if we had MMOs that would rather be like Chipotle?
Take Warhammer Online, for instance, a game which has the crown jewel of RvR. RvR is an amorphous PvP concept of owning battlefield objectives for your side throughout the entire world rather than a balanced e-sport. It seems like a great start to making a focused MMO. Most people bought the game in order to play RvR. The released RvR was okay, and although I haven’t played it this year, I have heard some great additions and modifications to RvR. Let’s just assume that RvR is really good now after over half a year’s worth of development.
Warhammer Online also released with crafting, arena-like PvP, and public quests to name a few other menu items. I, for one, was excited about RvR, but I was absolutely drooling for public quests. They turned out to be a disappointment. At most public quests were a generally solid start for a great MMO mechanic. Crafting at release was fairly horrible especially in conjunction with an eye-gougingly frustrating auction house and turtle-speed mail system. Arena-like PvP was pretty good. It had it’s problems with balance and bugs, but the point of Warhammer Online was RvR, and all arena-like PvP did was take away players from RvR. To put it simply. Mythic decided to put a lot of developer time in to things that did not help RvR.
What if Mythic had decided shirk crafting, arena-like PvP, public quests, and so many other condiments in order to focus on RvR? In an alternate universe, Mythic decided to eschew all the entrees aimed at the whiny kids that just want hamburgers and fries regardless of the restaurant and put that development time in to RvR. Would it be better? I think it would. There would be no question as to why I am playing Warhammer Online. I would not have to dabble in anything else. Granted the choice on how to play is always there, but at the time I was playing the polish was not. The direction for the players was not, and in many cases, the rewards were aimed for people to eat condiments instead of the huge RvR steak.
I have already commented on how I (and likely others) pull up a gaming library each night instead of that one game. On nights I want to play some RvR, the choice would be simple. There is a game dedicated to RvR. It has the focus of a 60-year old Thai man with his apprentice of 5 years making the best pork-noodle bowl on the planet. When I want that, there is no other choice.
So many other video game genres seem to understand this focus. Look at the popularity of Wii Sports or the sales numbers of Diablo 2. The problem, in my opinion, always comes back to the business model. The marketing/business curse that stunts the growth of my favorite genre. Paying $15/month for a game solely dedicated to the greatness of RvR might be a bit steep, but when the developer adds in McDonald’s pizza, Applebee’s tacos, and Arby’s turkey sandwiches the value seems to appear. The value is sometimes a superficial one.
the sign, cookie monster, look at the sign