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I've been playing a lot of "modern" MMORPGs recently and it seems like many game developers don't know what made the genre great or even what the fundamentals of an RPG are. So, I want to highlight some of them here to open for discussion. Let me know if you agree/disagree with any of them, or if there are things that you think are missing!

Leveling Systems

Many modern RPGs seem to make the leveling experience fast and streamlined. It's either A) you can buy a level capped character, or B) the leveling is so streamlined (often because people complain it takes too long) that people reach the level cap within a few hours of gameplay. What is the point of that? So that everyone in the game is at the level cap? If that is your mentality, why not do away with the leveling system altogether and just give character classes "base stats" and skills that they can directly go into dungeons with? Part of an RPG is leveling and achieving new skills and building a character, and that is grossly diluted with a basic or non-existent leveling system.

The thing I really loved about old school RPGs was seeing someone at the level cap with badass gear walk by while I was at level 10. The feeling you get of wanting to venture out into the world and obtain that was a core part of the RPG experience. Speaking of badass gear...

Transmog

I like of transmog on paper, but I don't like the idea of transmog in practice. While it's nice to be able to make that crappy gear you got on look like that set you loved from TBC, it removes the satisfaction you get from completing a new set and displaying it proudly in town or in raids. Seeing a complete new set of tier gear on a given class character was awesome back in the day, but now everyone has a particular set on at any given point in time. I'm not opposed to being able to modify gear slightly though, like being able to dye pieces you have equipped certain colors.

Convenience

I have a huge issue with this. Most games have catered to casuals in recent years, and while I don't mean that in a negative sense (hey, people have lives, families and jobs), the conveniences provided to people in MMORPGs kill the MMO experience. Let's take LFD/LFR for example. It used to be that you had to form groups yourself and travel to the areas that you wanted to run, but now you can just sit in town and click "que" for whatever you want and magically teleport wherever you want to go. The thing I used to love about World of Warcraft was running from place to place, exploring, and feeling like you're in a totally different world. When you allow people to teleport to dungeons, various maps, raids, or towns they don't explore at all. Maplestory 2 suffers from this extensively right now, because you can travel to any map in the game world for free, and as a result, there is no point in exploring (all the maps are just ghost towns). Teleport to complete quests, and teleport to dungeons.

I get it, it is convenient. But it kills the "world/MMO" feel. Hey, if I could teleport in real life to work and back home you'd never see me on the street.

Skills

It used to be you had to earn your skills (complete quests, go to trainers, fill out skill trees) but now everything is homogenized. In retail WoW, you no longer need to bring X class because they have a certain skill you need, everyone has everything now. Sure, you still need to bring healers, but it's not like you're bringing a druid along specifically for a battle Rez anymore or a shaman for bloodlust. Also, they completely removed skill trees, and in games where they still exist, you often can "cap" all the skills. A true RPG makes you test different builds, and which combinations of certain skills at a particular level allow you to perform slightly better given your rotation or taste.

Some of these things are why I think a lot of people want to play WoW Classic again. There's a LOT of more reasons, but I don't want to give you all too much to read. What sort of things do you think drive people to want to play WoW Classic again? What problems do you think RPGs of today suffer from?

   QuillboarTol0thTheZhevracouchatron
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First of all a great post and touches on so many themes that we have discussed here so far.

Brokenshield wrote:
5 months ago
If that is your mentality, why not do away with the leveling system altogether and just give character classes "base stats" and skills that they can directly go into dungeons with? Part of an RPG is leveling and achieving new skills and building a character, and that is grossly diluted with a basic or non-existent leveling system.
Also, they completely removed skill trees, and in games where they still exist, you often can "cap" all the skills. A true RPG makes you test different builds, and which combinations of certain skills at a particular level allow you to perform slightly better given your rotation or taste.
I think that these two points are one in the same - elaborate decision making trees don't feature often in modern MMOs for the reason that designers are afraid of 'punishing' players who take slightly sub optimal (yet still enjoyable) routes or play styles dictated by their talent or skill choices. Or at least, that is what instant gratification players who whine will clamor for and receive.

For me personally a good analogy of this is comparing Diablo II and Diablo III:

In D2 you selected talents and stats every level, and these decisions were permanent (until a very, very recent patch that allowed for skill tree resetting). Did people quit the game after they realised their build sucked? No, they just re-rolled and did better the next time - iterating on their previous knowledge, experience and information to build a better character. When a build did work out after this kind of experimentation the reward was immense, because it was you who realised where you went wrong and improved - gaining a greater knowledge of the game's mechanics and opportunities.

In D3 I think they adopted the mentality you mentioned - it released with a design in which levels had absolutely no significance whatsoever other than unlocking certain spells in a linear fashion. Sure you could combine and re-combine keybinds for these spells, or alter each spell itself for a slightly different effect, but the final result was exactly the same - a completely diluted, flat and two dimensional character building mechanic that led to no diversity in the long run. Stats auto adjusted as you 'levelled' and beyond the token 'choosing' of spells, the player's control over their build was minimal.

This 'no build left behind' philosophy - a fear of cookie cutter builds and players being 'left out' for making the 'wrong' choices is toxic to challenging, satisfying gameplay that RPGs should provide. Games don't punish people any more. If there is no challenge to surmount then where truly is the enjoyment in playing at all This is why EvE: Online was such a resounding success for its first ten years of running - it was the only real MMO out there that would hurt you anymore - you played for weeks to earn enough money for a ship, then in one lapse of concentration or betrayal you would lose it all, never to return. Did people rage and quit? No - they got better at the game so that wouldn't happen again.

Discovering an efficient build should be something you must work towards, not something you are fed with a silver spoon from the beginning. If I wanted that I'd play some shit AAA game like Assassin's Creed where you're basically just watching cut scenes and letting the game play for you. Or for that matter, I'd play retail BfA, where the only meaningful character building decision you can make is uninstalling the game.
The thing I really loved about old school RPGs was seeing someone at the level cap with badass gear walk by while I was at level 10. The feeling you get of wanting to venture out into the world and obtain that was a core part of the RPG experience. Speaking of badass gear...
While it's nice to be able to make that crappy gear you got on look like that set you loved from TBC, it removes the satisfaction you get from completing a new set and displaying it proudly in town or in raids.
Another prime example of just giving the player everything they want. Sure you look dope in the Justice Armour but how did you earn it - 40 manning BWL with a dedicated guild or soloing it with a level 120 character and a few tip offs from wowhead? It's just not the same - it devalues the set. It only looked awesome because you had to be awesome to get it :grin:
Hey, if I could teleport in real life to work and back home you'd never see me on the street.
:lol: Yeah, this has been mentioned many times on these forums and I am in agreement. There is no feeling of a world out there unless you tread its paths. Instancing dungeons and having a queue to get into them creates a geographical disconnect that, in turn, makes the world feel much much smaller. There was a topic a while back that was similar - talking about how organic PvP areas arose due to travelling routes between instances and questing areas, and their significance to mid-lifetime vanilla wow.

In fact, I remember when WoTLK was the active expansion and LFD really came into force - I can't even remember for the life of me where those dungeons were actually located on the world map, or know where to start. On the other hand, I can instantly recall going to the south of Westfall to enter Deadmines or Blasted Lands for BRD, and what those entrance areas looked like.
What sort of things do you think drive people to want to play WoW Classic again?
Well, to repeat and maybe rehash what you have already said:

  • Incremental and diverse character progression with flaws that gave it depth and replayability
  • A return to socially driven cooperation gameplay as opposed to queuing for instances
  • The immersive game overworld in which you are actually given time to explore for yourself and not be rushed through
What problems do you think RPGs of today suffer from?
  • Spending huge budget on embarassing voice acting and scripts
  • Spending huge budget on graphical fidelity and not art direction
  • Refusing to beat the player

Elwynn Forest
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Yeah, I remember where all the raid instances were for WotLK because there was no raid finder yet, but I don't know where half of the dungeons were.

But yes, people traveling along the same typical routes led to some pretty interesting encounters. I also remember running past a much higher level on my mount in the silverpine forest only to see him following me closely behind. Had to duck into the trees and find a spot to hide. Never happens in games where you just teleport from safe zone to safe zone lol. Honestly, this is why I think they had to invent world quests, just to get people back into the different zones.

And I wholeheartedly agree with you on the D2/D3 point. Honestly, that is part of the reason D3 became too dry to play after a while. You just hopped into rifts and ran randomized maps over and over again, with only one set of stats worth anything on gear. Your build also had to pretty much be only 1 of 3 builds to be viable. Led to really dull gameplay and no creativity.

One last thing I forgot to mention about the leveling system was also that if everyone is basically handed a level capped character, that also helps foster lower level zones being ghost towns. Why would there be a reason to play through ANY area below level 100 in retail WoW right now other than for nostalgic purposes?

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Brokenshield wrote:
5 months ago
One last thing I forgot to mention about the leveling system was also that if everyone is basically handed a level capped character, that also helps foster lower level zones being ghost towns. Why would there be a reason to play through ANY area below level 100 in retail WoW right now other than for nostalgic purposes?
Well transmog did help to bring people back into old instances I suppose, but other than that no, not much point, besides achievements.

Like you say the emphasis is on the ‘endgame’ and people rush past places like this, which is a shame because there is so much enjoyment that could be had just by slowing down and appreciating a bit!

To answer your original questionI think the main issue I have with modern MMOs is feature bloat. Any new xpac or IP is always trying so hard to be innovative or pioneering and really what ends up happening is you get a half assed frankenstein which doesnt get anything just right.

Classic takes it back to basics - back to something that doesn’t have to try hard to be a good fucking game. It doesn’t need bells and whistles and gizmos.

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I think this is something a lot simpler and it applies to most new games today - developers have lost the art of giving a game true spirit and character.

There’s just no love in modern MMOs - it feels more like some fucking suits sat down at a table and analysed what they think are the most attractive mechanics and features and gameplay sections and then build around that.

Its not supposed to be that way.. people need to relearn how to build worlds again. Build an intriguing world and people will want to explore it no matter how sophisticated the gameplay actually is.

No Mans Sky is a good example where they just missed the mark - they focused their design on the world and less on mechanics, which was a good direction, but fucked up by making this world totally bland, generic, and procedurally generated to the point that it was simply too dull.

In wow classic people will rediscover what it is to just enjoy the atmosphere and world space - hell you can have a good time just chatting shit in stormwind and dancing with a group of spanish-speaking gnomes who are in the guild Despacito.

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Quillboar wrote:
5 months ago
First of all a great post and touches on so many themes that we have discussed here so far.

I think that these two points are one in the same - elaborate decision making trees don't feature often in modern MMOs for the reason that designers are afraid of 'punishing' players who take slightly sub optimal (yet still enjoyable) routes or play styles dictated by their talent or skill choices. Or at least, that is what instant gratification players who whine will clamor for and receive.

For me personally a good analogy of this is comparing Diablo II and Diablo III:

In D2 you selected talents and stats every level, and these decisions were permanent (until a very, very recent patch that allowed for skill tree resetting). Did people quit the game after they realised their build sucked? No, they just re-rolled and did better the next time - iterating on their previous knowledge, experience and information to build a better character. When a build did work out after this kind of experimentation the reward was immense, because it was you who realised where you went wrong and improved - gaining a greater knowledge of the game's mechanics and opportunities.

In D3 I think they adopted the mentality you mentioned - it released with a design in which levels had absolutely no significance whatsoever other than unlocking certain spells in a linear fashion. Sure you could combine and re-combine keybinds for these spells, or alter each spell itself for a slightly different effect, but the final result was exactly the same - a completely diluted, flat and two dimensional character building mechanic that led to no diversity in the long run. Stats auto adjusted as you 'levelled' and beyond the token 'choosing' of spells, the player's control over their build was minimal.

This 'no build left behind' philosophy - a fear of cookie cutter builds and players being 'left out' for making the 'wrong' choices is toxic to challenging, satisfying gameplay that RPGs should provide. Games don't punish people any more. If there is no challenge to surmount then where truly is the enjoyment in playing at all This is why EvE: Online was such a resounding success for its first ten years of running - it was the only real MMO out there that would hurt you anymore - you played for weeks to earn enough money for a ship, then in one lapse of concentration or betrayal you would lose it all, never to return. Did people rage and quit? No - they got better at the game so that wouldn't happen again.

I think there is a big difference in single player games and multiplayer/MMOs. When I play a single player game I just want to play the game and not worry about anything else. I'm looking for a more relaxing experience and not a huge challenge to overcome. Not worrying about stats, builds, or whatever is something I like about Diablo 3. I can switch skills on the fly and use what I like, when I like. I can just play the game and enjoy the story and easy gameplay. And honestly if I accidentally leveled up a character that sucked and made the game overly difficult there is a good chance that I'd quit the single player game right there. That is only if I couldn't change the build. I just don't want to worry about this kind of stuff when I'm playing by myself to relax. (I've never played Diablo 2) Another thing about D3, I just cannot find myself looking at it as a multiplayer game. It just feels like a singe player experience. Maybe I'm just too nit-picky about this stuff, haha.

Multiplayer/MMOs on the other hand I take much more seriously and truly try to become good. And I should probably say I enjoy multiplayer games that have competitive elements. And I see these kinds of games as more of a competition, be it against other individuals, teams, or guilds. I go into multiplayer games with the expectation of losing a lot and eventually improving with effort. I actively try to improve for the gratification and the reward of it. This is probably because I feel accomplished if I am able to be victorious against another live player. Its just so much more substance for me. I just don't get the same feeling in single player games. And with multiplayer games I expect a more punishing game. I expect to do dumb things like making a terrible build that I might have to reroll or spend time and resources rectifying. I see it as part of the learning and competitive experience.

I don't play many multiplayer/MMO-type games because if I do I'd want to take it seriously and invest enough time into to get better.

You argument is definitely well written. I just wanted to say this to put another perspective out there. I get it, some people want their games to always be a challenge. I'm just not one of them.

   teebling
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I think MMO:s did a better job in the past to bring the players together. These days, the content is made in a way that does not encourage overcoming obstacles as a group.

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CallMeDara wrote:
3 months ago
I think there is a big difference in single player games and multiplayer/MMOs. When I play a single player game I just want to play the game and not worry about anything else ... Multiplayer/MMOs on the other hand I take much more seriously and truly try to become good ... You argument is definitely well written. I just wanted to say this to put another perspective out there. I get it, some people want their games to always be a challenge. I'm just not one of them.
For sure. Although to be fair to diablo 2, making that "punishing gameplay" of not being able to reroll stats and whatnot is what I think helped enhance its replayability. You would sometimes reroll the same class just because you saw and spoke to someone on closed battlenet that ran a badass pet build you wanted to try out.

And I also understand not all MMOs should be like what was described above. For some people, they want to be able to que and teleport places and grind for gear. When I que for dungeons, however, I find that half the time people don't even talk to each other except to say "sup" at the start of the dungeon and then "Thx all" at the end. I just find I have way more enjoyment out of a challenging game that fosters a diverse multiplayer and social experience.

   CallMeDara
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The main issue I have it's that 90% of those MMORPGs are only MMO right now. The RPG elements (aka inconvenience) are usually pruned out pretty early as soon as the community of the game itself starts complaining about them. In fact, even the so hated LFG in WoW was added because a big part of the community asked for it.

It would need a publisher/developer with balls of steel that ignore the 90% of what the community complains about and proceed in the artistic/design direction they have in mind.

But since MMORPG are probably the worst game from the side of development done/income earned (it takes a big team for a very long time and you would earn 10 times doing some silly mobile game) that no one is risking on that way.

I'm really happy that they are bringing back WoW Classic and I can't wait to finally relive an old-style MMORPG, but the new gamer community would hate a game like that :D

Ish-ne-alo por-ah (May the days ahead be guided by the elders of long ago)
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fendor wrote:
3 months ago
It would need a publisher/developer with balls of steel that ignore the 90% of what the community complains about and proceed in the artistic/design direction they have in mind.
A large part of what makes it hard to ignore community complaints is that games like MMO's today as classified as a "game as a service". The most problematic part design-wise being that the player views the game literally as a service and as such should be tailored to their individual liking.

Don't get me wrong, the consumer's feedback is important but MMO's are so niche they shouldn't and don't have to appeal to everyone.

   fendor
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fendor wrote:
3 months ago
But since MMORPG are probably the worst game from the side of development done/income earned (it takes a big team for a very long time and you would earn 10 times doing some silly mobile game) that no one is risking on that way.
This is a fair point - after all studios are in it for the money! If their investors see a drop in users due to some punishing feature or otherwise inconvenient mechanic per say they will pressure developers into making the changes they need to bring player numbers back up.

Thank god we have Blizzard/Activision who are big and successful enough to take on Classic and make it into a playable piece of MMORPG history without having to worry about crybabys in the community!

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forthehorde wrote:
3 months ago
This is a fair point - after all studios are in it for the money! If their investors see a drop in users due to some punishing feature or otherwise inconvenient mechanic per say they will pressure developers into making the changes they need to bring player numbers back up.
There's an interesting book I read quite a while ago about MMORPG development that really shattered my dream of creating one :D It takes a big team for a long time spending a lot of money, and you never know if you will profit from it...

   teeblingQuillboar
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I’ve always wanted to build a game... maybe one day I will do it. It’s just so much work! I have lots of scraps and ideas for gamedev on my computer and even started building some UI/art assets and stuff but yeah just totally overwhelming.

Barrens.chat I suppose is my ‘game’ that I am building - it satisfies my creative outlet and the best bit is all you guys coming here to post. Gives me a really good feeling.

Welcome to all the new people by the way! ♥️

   fendor
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teebling wrote:
3 months ago
I’ve always wanted to build a game... maybe one day I will do it.
I've been in the same boat. I've worked on a bunch of smaller 2d stuff but mainly stick to modding Source engine games or things like Skyrim and Fallout because I'm into world/level design. I've always wanted to design a basic MMO with run of the mill Classic-esque professions and systems and just continually and slowly just keep expanding the game world. No deadlines, no quotas, just slowly expand and build in a early access frequent update model. I just love worldbuilding haha.

Teldrassil
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fendor wrote:
3 months ago
The main issue I have it's that 90% of those MMORPGs are only MMO right now. The RPG elements (aka inconvenience) are usually pruned out pretty early as soon as the community of the game itself starts complaining about them. In fact, even the so hated LFG in WoW was added because a big part of the community asked for it.

It would need a publisher/developer with balls of steel that ignore the 90% of what the community complains about and proceed in the artistic/design direction they have in mind.
I agree with the fact that most of the MMORPGs are rather more of an MMO. On the other hand I don't feel like the community asking for pruning is the problem here. There have always been people complaining about some inconvenient aspects of a game but the game designers should know better and have an insight into how would such change impact the overall experience. I believe the reason we get these changes is not because they think it is for the good of the game but rather to hoard as much money as they can. Not that there weren't any passionate game developers/artists, but in many cases these people are not behind the final decision making, and cannot argue about what they dislike about it under a risk of getting fired.

Some companies or projects are led by people who are trully passionate about their games and didn't get consumed by the greedy trend of modern gaming, but I feel like ''Blizzard'' is not one of them anymore, not for a long time already.
fendor wrote:
3 months ago
But since MMORPG are probably the worst game from the side of development done/income earned (it takes a big team for a very long time and you would earn 10 times doing some silly mobile game) that no one is risking on that way.
I agree with that.
fendor wrote:
3 months ago
I'm really happy that they are bringing back WoW Classic and I can't wait to finally relive an old-style MMORPG, but the new gamer community would hate a game like that :D
Regarding what I said above, I don't believe that Classic is being brought by trustworthy company so I am very sceptical about what we are gonna get as a result.

They claimed I didn't but I did...
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Faendor wrote:
3 months ago
Regarding what I said above, I don't believe that Classic is being brought by trustworthy company so I am very sceptical about what we are gonna get as a result.
I really hope you are wrong here, otherwise, I would be very sad :-( The demo was amazing for me, even with all the minor imprecision, I really had a blast (finally all the rare in the correct position!). After Diablo Immortal everything is possible :D But the team working on WoW Classic seems genuinely in love with the game and all the blue response to some silly questions (like the reward in retail if you earn them in classic) still let me have some hope!

Ish-ne-alo por-ah (May the days ahead be guided by the elders of long ago)
Teldrassil
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Yea there certainly still is some hope for it but with increasing number of comfirmed changes, it wavers.
Either way I'm still hyped for it, just in a weird way I quess.

They claimed I didn't but I did...
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My biggest annoyance with MMO's today are usually the convenience aspect. Both things that are put into the game (like World of Warcraft) and others that you can buy through cash shops (Guild Wars 2, as en example.)

World of Warcraft got a huge amount of convenience, with flying mounts, portals, hearthstone cooldown nerf, teleports, and other menu-teleports, as well as other removal of items to make people reach a gratification need much faster.

Guild Wars 2 pushes a lot of stuff in their cash shop. Bag space, bank space, regeant stack size increase, teleports, whatnot. It's a "Pay-for-time" or "Pay-for-convenience" which companies picked up rather than "Pay-to-win" because it looks better.

   teebling
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Firelord wrote:
3 months ago
It's a "Pay-for-time" or "Pay-for-convenience" which companies picked up rather than "Pay-to-win" because it looks better.
Yes, and then rephrased as 'Quality of Life', which sounds even more innocuous!

Also welcome back FL ! :)

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Teldrassil
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Retail WoW is a joke. The only thing that holds it together is the brand and the people too weak to realize that.

They claimed I didn't but I did...
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teebling wrote:
3 months ago
Also welcome back FL ! :)
A Call to Arms!

Faendor wrote:
3 months ago
Retail WoW is a joke. The only thing that holds it together is the brand and the people too weak to realize that.
Can be a lot of people who prefer that sort of gameplay, but I know I am not one of them, and it seems like a lot of people are feeling the same these days with the amount of thread popping up on other websites about their dislike of the game.

Not to mention Asmongold himself who (I personally can enjoy watching every now and then) have voiced his opinion about the game and its poor state, and he is a huge fan of the game still.

Teldrassil
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If he wasn't streaming wow for living, he would've probably quit as well.

They claimed I didn't but I did...
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Faendor wrote:
3 months ago
If he wasn't streaming wow for living, he would've probably quit as well.
I really don't know. I mean, he is streaming Dark Souls at the moment and will focus on other games as well that is not World of Warcraft.

He usually says that World of Warcraft is still the best MMO out there, even if it is bad at the moment. It sorts of saddens me that he believes that himself, because he really is losing out on so much to actually believe that this is the case.

As much as I enjoy watching him, I really think he's far too deep in the rabbit hole to let go of it. He can't quit.

Teldrassil
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Might be true.

They claimed I didn't but I did...
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It's not the mechanics or things like that which keep it together in my opinion. Objectively, there are so many MMOs out there with more engaging combat systems, classes, and so forth. In my opinion, it's legacy and lore that keep it together. No other game has that sort of good story-telling and legacy.

My biggest problem with most MMOs on the market? Apart from a boring story with no legacy, they're either P2W (every Asian MMO) or too casual (GW2). It's hard to find that sweet spot of engagement, especially with people's expectations being what they are right now mostly due to WoW.

Onwards, sons of perdition!
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