I remember my first MMORPG with rose coloured glasses. Being online in a world with other people and being able to team up with them to fight big monsters was exciting. I was entranced by the whole idea. In retrospect, it seems like a fluffier, happier age when everything was fun and nothing was a grind and no one ever whined at you to respec your fury warrior into protection.
This of course is not true. (Except about the warrior because it wasn’t WoW and I didn’t play one.) The games were terrifically grindy. Just I was so taken with the game that it didn’t matter to me. I remember we had some ‘endgame’ guilds on my server and found them utterly incomprehensible. It was a long grind to max level and I hadn’t thought about what might come next. We also spent a lot more time exploring and sharing what we found with our guilds.
Back then, raids weren’t in a great hurry to share their tactics, in fact keeping them secret was a big deal. You also couldn’t rely on being able to look online for quest or drop information and find a professional quality site serving up what you wanted to know. The player base, as it learned these games, has gotten more cooperative, has learned how to make money out of good quality websites, and has become more hardcore.
If you look at proto-guild adverts on the community forums, you’ll see a lot of promotional posts for hardcore endgame guilds already. Players who have already learned the genre and basic mechanics of MMORPGs know before they start a new game if they want to play hardcore or not. Even newer players are able to take a more critical eye to the different classes and dungeons and PvP scenarios, comparing them with other games they have played.
I was thinking about this when I read Massively’s interview with Richard Bartle last week, and he discussed how he decided which class to play in WoW based on a designer-type analysis (ie. what was this class designed to do? what kind of playstyle was it aimed at?). Even though we aren’t game designers, experienced players analyse classes in a similar way. Which class has the best buffs? Which class will be needed for PvE? Which class looks more simple to play? Which class is most similar to one I have had fun playing in the past?
I think it’s inevitable that the player base becomes more sophisticated. It’s not enough to just be in a persistent world. We have a better idea of what we want out of the game and actively seek guilds and characters that will let us accomplish it. We’ve learned tactics from previous games also. eg. In DaoC, everyone at the start used crowd control in PvE because that was how Everquest had played. Later on, AE pulls took over because the game and classes supported them.
And now, players will apply what they have learned in more recent games to Warhammer Online too. Some, of course, will have burned out on being hardcore and will be looking for a more laidback game experience and guild. But we can never be new to the genre again. And games have to adjust to this faster learning curve. Players do enjoy the learning curve, but that means there has to be something new out there to learn.
One thing I’m really looking forwards to in Warhammer is the sheer variety of scenarios. Why? Because each one will have its own set of tactics and …. we’ll be able to go discover them for ourselves.