If you read through my commentary on this site and elsewhere, you might think I worship at the alter of Blizzard. There is no question I admire their revolutionary approach to MMOs, and the changes that World of Warcraft has wrought upon the genre, and I enjoy “WoW Clones.”
However, there is one side effect of the technology developed by Blizzard that is perhaphs the most unfourtunate and dangerous degredation of the MMO genre since its inception.
Blizzard killed community.
In the infanthood of the genre, (MUD, NeverWinter Nights, Ultima Online, Meridian, EverQuest etc.) server community was everything. You felt a part of a living, breathing social and economic system. Server identity mattered, attitude and aptitude mattered and the choices you made every time you logged in, had a lasting effect on your position within the community.
Perhaphs most stark of these examples was the concept of PK vs. Anti-PK. This was born in Ultima Online, and flourished in EverQuest. It was a decision each player made for themselves that defined who they could associate with, their access to guilds, alliances, gear, groups… even cities, towns and npcs.
This was foundational to server community and this epic and ever-present struggle between the forces of Good and Evil added a flavor to the game that has been lost in recent years.
I played on Rallos Zek in EverQuest. Rallos Zek was a vibrant, open PvP Server with several distinguished (and now famous) guilds. Notably Wudan and Curse. Wudan were champions of light. Defenders of the people. Heros in the progression endgame raiding scene, and vehemently Anti.
Curse on the other-hand, stood in stark contrast, as the most feared and hated of Guilds in any game I have ever played. Even the rumor of a Curse player entering a zone would get zone chat buzzing with frenzied calls for help, and perfect strangers would find one another and group up for protection. High level players would race to the zone as their guildmates called for support. Perhaphs the Curse villian was there and a great battle or vile gank might ensue, perhaphs not, but community was created!
Now as it stood, my friends were present in both Guilds, and many of us played both sides of the fence, but we stayed true to the roleplaying of the fact and there was never collusion. It felt real, it felt geniune and every choice, every action, even your name, mattered.
To illuminate that fact, my PK alt was a Troll Shaman named Lootzu. Let me assure you, in EverQuest if you saw a Troll Shaman named FluffyBunny you ran like hell, but when the name all but screamed PK you didn’t even wonder. The first 40 levels, I played Lootzu as an Anti, and tried to convince people I was just roleplaying a good natured Troll who abandoned his tribes way of life and was seeking redemption amongst the Antis. I never got a single group in 40 levels. Every choice mattered.
So what does this have to do with Blizzard you ask?
Blizzard developed some very clever tools over the years, which have essentially destroyed MMO community. Cross-Server Ques, Looking For Group, and now I have read, even Looking For Raid.
Remember Leeroy Jenkins?
Jokes aside, everyone remembers those players who trained the zone or aggro’d adds non-stop, or dropped heals a half second after the party wiped EVERY pull… You also remember that Pally with no guild, and no friends who managed to off-tank mobs, heal everyone and do some decent dps without saying a word or hitting the spacebar the entire run…
We kept mental notes of the first so we never had to suffer that pain again, and we added the second to our friends list and pursuaded them to join our Raid Guild.
Well now Leeroy is Cross Server LFG and no one knows he sucks. He can keep wiping raids day in and day out and no one will be the wiser.
You never met that quiet Pally because he was Queing Blackrock Depths with players from four other Servers.
You haven’t made any real friends, you don’t have any enemies, and the economy doesn’t change much because its cross-server now. No one can corner the Ore market by buying out the AH and relisting it at a premium.
The tools that Blizzard has created work like a charm and are very ingenius. They don’t make broken toys, but sometimes they work in mysterious ways, and Blizzard has unwittingly destroyed the single greatest commodity in the MMO genre…