Nostalgia is an insidious mistress. In the current gaming climate it is all too easy to convince oneself that things were definitely better sometime in the past and if only developers did X, Y, and Z then we could all return to that merry land of happy times and sparkly meadows of gaming fantasy fun. Of course, this isn’t going to happen any time soon. The only way that it could happen is if the money completely falls out of the gaming market. Mind you, after the fun times of SWTOR and Copernicus, or whatever the fuck that game was called, perhaps the money-men have gotten just a little bit spooked. Well, we need them to be more scared than that; we need them to be earth-shatteringly-oh-my-fucking-god-get-me-out-of-here scared. Where the mere mention of funding an MMO sends them into fits of nervous tics.
WoW would have to die first though. As long as WoW keeps shambling along making money without the developers having to do anything at all, then business-types will still have hope. And if they have hope then they will keep trying to get our money by offering us total shit dressed up as sparkly ponies.
If you want a good analogy of what times we are living in then take popular music as an example. From 1962 to about 1973 the tunes were controlled by the artists. The medium had changed so quickly and so radically that the money-men took a while to catch back up. In that time the overriding concern was to make great music, which as a direct consequence then made pots and pots of cash. Finally however, the money-men caught back up and got on the bandwagon, and when they do that things turn around. Now the whole point was to make pots and pots of money and the music was an afterthought. And music went to shit, comparatively speaking. Is there still good music around today? Sure there is, but there isn’t the same magic associated with it. It’s not even close.
Same thing with MMOs. Back in the day the games were made for the sake of creating an online fantasy world. We were begging for this shit. The joy of participating, the thrill of playing with other people, of making your mark, was the overriding reason why people were playing and paying. And the money followed, lots of it. And then Blizzard glossed it all up and stuck it into a quite devastating package, and it all went ballistic. And from that moment the point of a game did a 180 degree turn. Now they were being designed to make money first and foremost. And the easiest way to achieve that was to copy WoW.
The next inspired step was to sell it to housewives, and here Zynga strode up to the breach like a colossus. All of us smug bloggers sneered and jeered, but what we didn’t realise was that they had just made the equivalent of family friendly pop music. However, they too are now finding the going a little rocky.
And where do we find ourselves now? Stuck in the endless loop of desperate hoping that the next release is going to save us from all this horror. Which it inevitably will not due to the fact that the designers just want all the money. To break the cycle we need MMOs to fall off the proverbial fucking cliff. So that in the future they will be viewed by investment types as being equal to tulip bulb investing. And then we might get a few small game designers going back to the roots and putting out great games for the sake of making a great online world. I’m not holding my breath though.