Is it me?

Or is everyone having a nostalgia attack lately?

Sweet zombie Jesus, people. I’ll be the first to admit the last couple of years have been mediocre, but have some perspective. It’ll get better without the need to look back. We’re not going to be the first generation to destroy gaming. The guys in the mid 80s already did it.

Sometimes the sky is, indeed, not falling.

(this post is half tongue in cheek, but I’m not telling which half)

25 thoughts on “Is it me?”

  1. I don’t know if it’s nostalgia exactly, perhaps it’s just a return to what the original ‘vision’ behind the MMORPG genre was. In the last five years or so the focus changed from making the best and most interesting virtual worlds to what’s the best way to guide a single player from one ride to another in their own protective bubble. While initially fun, it’s a rather shallow experience for those who were drawn to the genre originally, and after seeing a few rides with different turns or shiny colors, people are waking up and realizing they would rather walk around and just explore whats around them with the rest of the community than buy yet another ticket to a similar park of rides.

  2. Good point Syn.

    Although I still maintain that some of us (myself included) sometimes err too much on the side of aggrandizing the genre for the heck of it. Way too easy we fall into the trap of thinking MMOs are the definitive something or other, when I reality I think they’re not the second coming of anything.

    They’re a genre like any other, with things it does very well, things they get by with, and things they can’t do. I don’t know how much this mostly unconscious thought of putting the genre above what it can and should do is responsible for the last 2-3 years of mediocrity.

    I’m sure WoW played its part. The industry back then needed a huge shot in the arm like that, but at the same time it set things back at least 5 years. But WoW only played a part; it’s not responsible for everything.

    We’re so fixated on chasing the perfect MMO experience ™ that we forget it can’t do everything, and in most cases it shouldn’t even try.

    I’m perfectly fine with the idea of a more fragmented market, in which a lot of truly different MMO variations are able to exist, albeit each with a reduced playerbase. Unfortunately, most investors aren’t.

  3. Nah, its just that you and I and the circle of blogs we read are all getting old and past it. We are left reminiscing dodderingly about the “way things used to be better” while the un’s who were hardly born when Ultima Online came out first are now the real movers and shakers!

  4. There have been a handful of mediocre high profile MMOs aimed at the mass market in the last few years. Any product aimed at a mass market will tend to be mediocre, middling, . . . safe. And so must it be if it is going to appeal to an “average” consumer.

    At the same time, that’s hardly the MMO genre as a whole. There are still plenty of odd experiments and titles aimed at various niches coming out. Just because no-one has happened to target your favorite niche recently doesn’t mean the entire genre is stagnating.

    And hell, if you you are really convinced that something is missing..fire up Metaplace and build it. If a hardcore FFA PvP take on My Little Pony is what you think will set the world on fire, start working on it.

  5. Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

    Every time I start feeling nostalgic, I sit back and make sure to remember what EQ was really like ten years ago. Then I don’t feel so nostalgic anymore.

  6. I have let Nostalgia get the best of me a few times and resubscribed to my first love, UO. I patch log in run around and log out realizing that it was not as great as I remember there is a reason I quit playing.

  7. It’s not limited to games, people say the same about movies, music, about every single art or entertainment or product throughout history. How often did people cry Hollywood was killing good independent movies? Of course the ease of making independent films came hand in hand with lowering the cost.

    Maybe the same will happen for games, as tools improve and become cheaper, more people will be able to make games. Just like everything 70%-90% will be crap (the same holds true for professional writers, they just don’t show you the other 70%)

    Innovation that people want will be rewarded in the end. Sometimes people can’t see the forest for the trees, they can’t get funded, no one they know can get funded. Maybe they are using the wrong business model to start with? who knows.

    Yet eventually something happens, because of the very success of the 900 lb gorilla eventualy defeats it. It has to cater to existing customers, and can’t go after new customers or gain back old customers quite as easily. No bureaucracy can adjust as fast as a smaller group. It’s why central planning fails every time.

    Games will change and get better, just like everything. What they won’t ever do is go backwards to what they used to be. what exactly will happen? Don’t ask me I’d be pretty rich if I knew that.

  8. Nostalgia is the first reaction when something feels wrong. “I remember the good old days…” someone says because it’s easier to regress to a good memory than to focus on the present and try to figure out how to move forward to better times.

    I don’t think anyone’s really saying we need to regress to the “good old days” that aren’t quite as good as we might remember. People might think something is missing, like a sense of adventure. It’s easier to look back and point to a game that gave a person that missing element; the job of a good game designer is to identify the missing element and figure out how to put it into contemporary games.

  9. For me, I’m missing what I thought the potential of this genre could be. I’m mentally going back to the fork in the road, and trying to see where my wishes diverged from the current state of design, and trying to see exactly what happened, and how to take that “road not taken”. I don’t call that nostalgia so much as wishing to be on a different road. *shrug*

  10. But that’s part of what I’m saying Tesh. Just what exactly is this huge potential of the genre I keep hearing about? To do what? To accomplish what? Can it even be something else than what it generally is, realistically?

    The way we talk sometimes (myself included again) sounds like we’re talking about wanting these enormous, sweeping experiences that are supposed to change everything, put together all the pieces in the big puzzle of fun, etc. Maybe we need to accept that we’re merely talking about games and stop trying to burden all these games with the responsibility of each trying to be The Next Best Thing(tm). Maybe it’s just fine for games to be the best they can realistically be, accept their virtues and pitfalls and if one doesn’t tickle our fancies, we move to the one right next to it.

    Us gamers have -a lot- of blame when it comes to games costing tens of millions of dollars and a small army of people to make. Maybe we’re consciously or unconsciously trying to make this genre do way too much.

    1. Absolutely it can be different from what it is. Some of the changes are technologically unfeasible at present, some are just too expensive. Still, there are way too many devs churning out “me too” derivative designs instead of questioning what they can really do with the genre. I’m not looking for One Game To Rule Them All, I’m looking to get out of the rut that the current path has found itself in.

      Smaller games are definitely part of this exploration of the genre. Puzzle Pirates is a good one, and Love looks very interesting. Wizard 101 does some great stuff, and even Darkfall is a good experiment (despite being a game that I won’t ever play). I just see too many “big boys” trying to cash in on the WoW mentality, rather than asking “what can we do with the genre that would be fun, interesting and profitable?”

      I think it’s fair to question the status quo.

  11. I think as developers AND players, we are sick of watching MMOs release with all sorts of fanfare and then slowly fade and die in 6-18 months.

    That’s the source of this discontent. The industry has lost its way by trying to clone WoW, and needs to get back to its roots.

  12. I don’t want to overly romanticize Everquest, but I think there are ways in which MMO design has objectively changed over the years.

    In the old days there was an expectation that an MMO would be, at some level, a virtual world. In Everquest, I always had the sense that the game was trying to be as immersive as the existing technology would allow. The world was large, non-linear and uninstanced; NPCs could fight monsters and be killed; there was a rudimentary interactive conversation system; the faction system was detailed and allowed you to change your faction alignments; and generally players were free to do as they pleased.

    For people who played games like Everquest and other first-generation games, I think the expectation was that with advancing technology the worlds would become even more detailed and immersive. I remember envisioning huge worlds, player-run cities, political systems, economies, and so on. And instead, MMOs have mostly turned into themeparks and minigame collections.

    It may be that virtual worlds are too expensive or risky to make in today’s market, and if so, obviously we can’t ask the impossible. But it does mean that a certain market is going unserved.

    1. You’re not romanticizing it, but Everquest usually gets mentioned as the sort of “point in time” to which all these looks are going. And it’s fine. It was the big one of its time.

      But if you look at things from a design perspective, later on you see WoW which, in many cases, was designed to correct what was perceived as mistakes in EQ.

      – The world was more compact, with content packed much more tightly.
      – It was (at launch) instanced to hell and back in comparison with other games to avoid camping and all its assorted, accompanying nasty stuff.
      – It was hugely streamlined in comparison regarding pretty much everything. Most notably, questing.
      – Grinding was greatly reduced and so on.

      By getting rid of all that stuff, it naturally took some good things with it. There’s no denying that. And since most games since WoW are following on those footsteps, it does seem a bit that those good things are gone for good, so we look back for them.

      The problem is not WoW. The problem is that in order to correct all the junky stuff from the EQ model and era (which was there, and was plenty) we’ve gone off the deep end to the other extreme and we seem largely unable to recover its good stuff.

      Don’t wanna sound like a Jedi here, but the next big one could very likely be the one that manages to bring some sort of balance.

  13. Personally, I think we are on the brink of a golden age of online gaming. Public Quests, mirco-transactions, indy mmo’s coming good. Bah, keep the old times, I’m looking forward to the future!

  14. I’m old enough to remember the Soviet Union and Moscow’s Olympic Games but my first MMORPG was WoW. So for me WoW was sort of a starting point. I loved the game and played for a little over 2 years finally quitting when it became just a MMORP.

    I now play 2 games: Darkfall, where going to the bank can be a deadly challenge and Champions Online, for a quick fun.

    I’m just waiting for the game where i can have both.

  15. Oh god, yes. People are starting to idealize a mythical past of MMOs, and it’s not good. Its mostly because nostalgia has zero to do with the gaming experience, and all to do with the personal one. Even if they released a picture perfect copy of original everquest, you aren’t 16 anymore, and you can’t recapture how you felt while playing it.

    You have to accept that each generation is a mixed bag of good and bad.

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