From ABBA to WAR

For my money, the best film of the year so far isn’t one that is going to be winning many Oscars. It’s not one that’s tearing down the boundaries of film making either. In fact, all it did was make a lot of people very very happy.

Waterloo – promise to love you for ever more

Yup, it’s Mamma Mia, a film which did everything right! Every single aspect of that film is note perfect (apart from possibly Pierce Brosnan’s singing but hey … James Bond sings ABBA. is that cool or what?) and totally focussed on realising the director’s vision. It’s fun, it’s happy, it’s true to the original stage play and the music, and the acting is great, in a way that doesn’t distract from the flow of the film. It’s funny and smart, and doesn’t treat the audience like fools. We all know it’s a musical and musicals have daft sequences where people burst into song and dance for no reason. We all know that comedies are based on silly misunderstandings but end up with people getting together in the end. And that’s exactly what the film delivers.

Everyone in the cinema when I saw it was laughing and singing and having fun. And maybe, just maybe, that’s just as valid a film experience as an edgy Arthouse film. (I like edgy arthouse films too, but it doesn’t stop me enjoying Mamma Mia for the perfect gem that it is.)

You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life…

You can probably see where I’m heading with this. What Warhammer can learn from Mamma Mia is that sometimes it’s all about the fun, and being true to your mission. Even if that means you are doing things that other people view as uncool. It’s all about the fun. There’s no harm done in pandering shamelessly to your core audience. It’s better than trying oh-so-hard to be edgy and disappointing everyone.

Reading reviews around the blogs and internet, it’s clear to me that Mythic have their focus and have stuck to it. People who enjoyed the game (like us) will tell you that we had fun. In fact, I’d be amazed if the word ‘fun’ doesn’t feature in most reviews, even the not-100%-positive ones. They’re kicking the basic MMO design around old-style and having fun. And I think that as long as they stay focussed on the strengths of their game as it is now, it’ll be a great success.

There are some revolutionary features in there. I agree with Tobold that the way the game encourages people to play together is really something new and exciting. And it may not be immediately obvious to beta testers, depending on the beta community. I do believe that in a few months we’ll really see how the community is forming up in game and have a better idea of how the PQs, open groups, etc really affect people. And I look forwards to that, because Mythic are putting the Massive back into MMOs, and that’s one of the big reasons that I like them.

Mamma Mia, here we go again! My, My, how can I resist you?

Now, there have been dissenting views and I think they warrent some consideration. People like Brent at Virginworlds complain that the game isn’t revolutionary enough for them. While I don’t think this is really a fair thing to criticise in a review (you’d laugh at a reviewer who criticised Mamma Mia for not being sufficiently revolutionary), It’s a useful point to make for people who haven’t been following the game for months.

Anyone who had read the Mythic website and the class descriptions would know from the start that there was never any claim to be getting away from the tank/healer/dps style MUD combat setup. It was never their goal. But for sure there will be people who just know ‘Oo, new MMO, what’s it like?’ This is useful information for them. I just don’t think it’s fair to say ‘this game is rubbish because it’s not revolutionary enough’. (Although saying that will certainly get you lots of hits.)

But why would we want a MMO to be revolutionary? Why tinker with a formula that works?

Now here I do sympathise. There are lots of things about MMOs that I love. I am hooked on the whole concept of a persistent world and RPG-style character development and have been since MUDs. And I think all of us were drawn in by our vision of what this type of game could be. The customisable avatars and the notion that they exist in a virtual world has been so appealing in itself.

But even though WAR is a polished example of the type with some cool new ideas to get people playing together (and I do actually think that it is revolutionary in that respect at least), MMOs in general still fall far short of the virtual world we were enticed with. The MUD-style combat system and the tank/healer/dps class setup were not necessarily part of the vision. And right now, they may be getting in the way of the ‘perfect’ sandbox virtual world game that a lot of us would love to see.

I think this is why so many fans really want the genre to keep moving. It’s because we know it isn’t there yet. WAR, like Mamma Mia, is tremendous fun if you like that sort of thing, but I wonder if the next huge MMO may not even be presented as a game at all.

[I personally find it hilarious when the Internet Heroes go on about how Warhammer Online (or any other MMO) isn’t revolutionary. I love it when they tell us, in their oh-so cool way, that we’ll still have to “Kill ten rats”. Why? Well, MMO quests tend to boil down to three types; 1) Kill Ten Rats, 2) Talk to Person X, 3) Find Object Y and take it to Person Z.

Come on then, find something new, something revolutionary that we can do, that doesn’t boil down to one of those three types. It’s easy to knock something down, so why not show the game designers where they’re going wrong? Tell us what we’re missing? Because by doing so, you can be making games more fun for everyone… – Hawley]

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3 Responses

  1. Exactly! How do you prove someone wrong if you don’t have the solution? Because I said so that’s why?

  2. I loved Mamma Mia! Most fun I’ve had at the movies in ages.

    I think you’re right that it is a great corollary to the current debate about whether WAR is fun. It’s fun if you find it fun. Just because it’s not fun for you doesn’t mean it isn’t fun for me, and vice versa.

  3. Very nice take on the whole issue, and one I echoed at my own site.

    I sympathize with Brent though. It’s REALLY got to suck to not be able to enjoy what’s on the market now and instead be waiting for something new to come along. He could waiting a really long time.

    Personally, I wait and eagerly look forward to EVERY MMOG that comes out, even those that end up less than great (AoC and Auto Assault are two recent ones in my memory) because with EACH successive take on MMO platform the genre IS being pushed forward (even if a bit slowly).

    But that’s just how evolution happens. It takes time. Brent knows this, but methinks he’s growing impatient.

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