Striking A Balance
The Internet notoriously polarises opinion and reflects everything in either black or white, often with little or no room for the grey in-between. We see this a lot in how MMOs are reported and commented on by fans and it’s why we have those big debates such as “casual vs hardcore” or “WoW does/doesn’t suck”. The games themselves also try for one strong audience in particular and we end up with either ultra-hardcore, better-off-punching-yourself-in-the-face, games like Darkfall or super-easy-breezy, I-heart-carebears casual ones like World of Warcraft. It’s all very strange though because real life isn’t a single extreme but rather a combination of lots of factors , good and band, all mixed together. So why can’t our MMOs be more like that?
People talk about modern MMOs becoming too simplistic, too accessible, not challenging enough, not rewarding enough, not risky enough etc and, yes, they are absolutely right. But a return to the dark ages of MMO design in which every action has an equal and opposite masochistic reaction is not the answer either. But why do we have to go down one path or the other? Why can’t we cherry pick all of the best aspects from across every MMO ever made (I’m taking innovation out of the picture here)? Why not combine the hardcore qualities of Everquest with the casual ones of WoW to makes some sort of, oh I don’t know, well balanced MMO?
I like harsh death penalties (death should sting, it is the ultimate end after all), wide, vast worlds that beg to be traversed and large, sprawling dungeons open to anyone and everyone. But I also like the intimacy of instance dungeons, the safety of sanitised PvP in battlegrounds, and the convenience of a Looking For Group tool. Do these things have to be mutually exclusive though? I don’t think so.
Maybe I’m in the minority of players who like a little piece of every game and enjoy the newer, more casual MMOs as well as having appreciated the older, more time-consuming ones. I love some of the new mechanics as much as I miss the old and I would be ecstatic to see the best of each combined into a single game. I don’t think a MMO needs to be labelled as either ‘hardcore’ or ‘casual’ and the developers shouldn’t feel like they need to streamline every mechanic to fall into one of those categories. Surely each gameplay device should be examined and merited individually and not just dismissed or added because it fits in with the theme and style of the game.
Of course I’m assuming that combing all of these different mechanics into one game would actually work and not render the entire thing unplayable or unappealing to everyone. Maybe the notion of having a harsh penalty just wouldn’t gel with a game that offers accessible PvP, for instance… or maybe it would and it’s just waiting for someone crazy enough to give it a shot. I’d happily volunteer.