I could go on for a long time about the things I like and don’t like about Massively Multiplayer Role-playing games like EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided, and maybe someday in a post I will. They really are hard games to play and horrible time sinks, and personally, for me, the return on investment in terms of actual fun (and I’m talking fun here, not achievement) is pretty low.
All that said, I just got to play in the World of Warcraft open beta. I think I had more fun in a single night of playing that game then I had in a week of playing one of the others. That’s not to say it’s a reinvention of the genre. It’s pretty much the same old create a character, bash monsters, collect phat lewt, lather rinse, repeat gameplay. But, what sets it apart has a lot to do with the fact that it was made by Blizzard.
Blizzard are the folks that made Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft. These games were all addictive, and all big hits. They have really never had a failure, I think. (Did Starcraft: Ghost ever get released for the consoles? Can’t remember.) They are, quite simply, excellent game designers. Yes, many of the people who founded the company left during the Vivendi nastiness, but the company is still pretty sound as far as I’m concerned. And I think many other gamers agree, since 500,000 people signed up for the open beta of WoW. That’s more subscribers than EverQuest currently has.
Thing about the game is, it’s simple to play. You don’t have to think about creating a character, you just pick a race and class and you’re on your way. You grab some quests from a helpful townsperson and then you’re on your way. As you level up, the game adds more choices about abilities and skills you can get, eventually leading to the Talent system, which is a lot like the skill system in Diablo II — it’s a sequence of skill trees that determine what kind of warrior, cleric, or other class you are playing. So you might be a defensive specialist warrior, or a bashing-focused cleric, depending on how you spent your talent points.
The game is also not very graphically intensive, so it doesn’t drag down your system to play it. SOE made some very conscious decisions to make SWG and EQ2 truly next generation games in that there is not a system in existance today that can run them with their graphic options turned way up. While they can both be played otherwise, my experience with SWG is that it feels sort of bloated and clunky to play because of that. It’s perfectly playable, but it doesn’t feel fast. And if you mess with the graphics options you can easily slow the game down to a chunk.
Ultimately, I think WoW is going to crush the competition. If you’re into MMOs, I recommend this game highly. It’s got a lot going for it. I won’t be playing it on day one (my reasons are fodder for another post sometime), but I might play sometime in the future. But I do highly recommend it.