In Defense of Azeroth

Occasional guest writer davew was last seen here writing the guide to WoW Level 80 Endgame Play. Recent discussions about EQ2 and Darkfall, though, have brought him out of the woodwork to write about World of Warcraft again.

So, reasons why EQ2 is better than WoW. Yeah, I'm one of those worst-nightmare players. Bar some brief dalliances with LOTRO and WAR, the only MMO I've ever played is WoW. Hell, I've spent way, way more time playing WoW than I have any other game since the 80s. I'm the Windows User of MMOs, who'd no doubt have a much better experience elsewhere, if only he knew what he was missing.

So what do I see in the reasons why EQ2 is better? Guild housing. Okay, that's cool. Deeper economy and crafting. Sure, I can get behind that. Guild amenities. Fair enough. Different kinds of quests. Different flavour of talent systems. Okay. Collection quests? Wait, what?

Are these really the reasons that you prefer EQ2 to WoW? It sounds an awful lot like the big lists of things that were better in WAR. Public quests - a different kind of group quest. Yep, pretty neat. Queueing for battlegrounds as you quest. Yeah, nice feature. Darker setting. Hmm, possible to overdo that, actually.

On paper, WAR should have eaten WoW's lunch and stomped all over it. What happened? The problem is that that list of reasons doesn't make the game. Picture this - if everything in the above list was copied into WoW, would it make WoW as good as EQ2? Really honestly? Some of them have been copied outright (I'm looking at you, insta-battleground-queueing and collection achievements) and more are coming in Cataclysm (hi, guild levels, sit down there beside Path of the Titans.) But while they make for a better game, I can't see any of them triggering the avalanche of players.

WoW just gelled with me better than WAR, and EQ2 gels better with you guys than WoW. The features matter, sure, but they're not convincing because they're not the reasons - or not the whole of it. They're just the trees, they're not the wood. You wouldn't have EQ2 without those features, but they're not what makes it cool.

I don't know what makes it cool. I've not played it. And I'm not going to try and convince ye that WoW could do it too, because I've no idea what it would take to really give you that feeling that this is the game you're meant to play. Neither do the WoW devs, and I suspect the EQ2 devs have a vision, but only a vision. A bare feature list will never be satisfying enough.

Sorry. I hate that too. I guess we'll just have to play different games. Which is really annoying, you know that? Because it means we can't group up, or duel, or even just chat in-game while we're playing.

That right there is why we get so exercised over this. When we can all chat and interact, we get all the good network effects. When some of us leave to play another game, we're diminished by more than the sum of those who have left

If that annoys you, it annoys me too. The only tool we seem to have to try to "fix" it is to try to cajole each other into playing the game that we like most, so ours becomes the irresistible hub of players. (And there's always one hub, and only one, whether it's MMOs, operating systems or search engines. But neither are they immortal in that position.)

It's the only tool we've got, so of course we all end up getting defensive over it. Every player "lost" to another game is a threat to our own enjoyment.

That's the wrong battle, though. Here's something to feel defensive about. Blizzard have plans that are going to make it far easier for them to defend their networks of players and make it that much harder to leave their ecosystem. is getting unified in-game contact across realms and even across different games. You'll still be able to keep in contact with your WoW guildmates and play any game that you like - as long as it's by Blizzard.

There's only one organisation that can pull this off, and it's the organisation that already has a user base of 11 million paying subscribers. No one's going to be able to beat that by cajoling players to their own game. Even if you sign up your entire street, they'll one by one drift off to play with the guys on the next street over. And the guy in the house at the end will go first. Yeah, him. That tall blond dude that the chicks fawn over. I always knew he was a traitor.

The only way out of this is to make an open cross-game communication system with the support of lots of games - and make it so slick and popular that the games have a fighting chance against the weight of

Now, sure, it won't convince everyone to go perma-Blizzard. It might not even be that big a deal for many of the current playerbase of WoW, never mind other-than-WoW MMos. But I really hope that someone can pull off an alternative. Because for people like me, philistines who just log on to a game that they like well enough in order to play and chat with their friends - I can see that it would be a bad thing to stay in a big Blizzard-flavoured rut. But Blizzard are going about making it terribly easy for me to do so. And making the barrier to entry for any other game that much higher.

Posted by Drew Shiel at November 27, 2009 9:44 AM

AddThis Social Bookmark Button