World of Warcraft is Stealing Souls
by: Tony RadarX Jones
World of Warcraft, it's all you hear about these days. I see it frequently in magazines, and it has had it's own aisle in most stores that sell PC games. "Oh they are getting new mounts," or "Oh they are finally making an expansion, or Oh Radar gets tired of people whining about other games not being like WoW.. With 7 bajillion players, it's not hard to see why many companies are looking at this phenomena and trying desperately to imitate the more successful aspects. Gods and Heroes seems to be pushing the envelope of gameplay, but is far from immune to the effects of WoW.
First you can take a look at the solo play Gods and Heroes will provide. The ease of soloing is one aspect of gameplay WoW is widely known for. There has been statistical research done into how people play MMO's and most players stayed solo until the upper tiers of gameplay. Now I could counter this with my own research, which consisted of myself and Coyote at Hooters during SOE's Fan Faire. We asked 4 people at the table next to us if they soloed more than they grouped, and they said no, so there you go.
The minion system GnH will be putting in is the perfect answer to people who enjoy soloing. Standing around, afraid of people, your healer have a tendency to pull extra creatures instead of healing? Enter minions. You can build your own party, and kill things to your hearts content. No it's not exactly a mechanic WoW institutes, but it fits along the same lines of ease in soloing.
Another big similarity is the Feat Tree which will allow player versatility in how they specialize their character. While WoW pretty much took the Alternate Advancement system from EverQuest and made some hefty improvements, it's still a popular mechanic. This means you can expect certain tier skills that can be unlocked by putting enough points of a previous tier.
This also brings up another interesting question, will their be builds in Gods and Heroes? You know what I mean, there is that uber specification that you have to put X number of points in a skill or you just won't be good to enough to raid EVER! I never saw the fun in this, I'd figure if you weren't set up for what you were trying to do, it'd just be more challenging. Raid leaders never saw to eye with me on it, although telling them what they could with their DKP might have something to do with it. Hopefully the feat tree system will allow players to individualize their skills to match a certain playstyle.
Instances, bane to all those who demand everything be contested. While WoW doesn't use as many instances as say, EQ2, it does make frequent use of them in dungeon settings. This provides a group/raid the opportunity to enjoy an adventure at their own pace. It also removes any chance of griefing and other sorts of general drama that come with contested content. If you don't know what I mean by drama, then you haven't seen any forums in a very long time. Just look for the threads that use the word sux and noobs the most.
Instances are easier on the servers, provide a closed experience, and seem to par for the MMO community. While everything being instanced would segregate your community and feel like an Xbox game, when it's done in a careful manner it augments normal overland areas.
Finally, a mail system. While I personally can't remember which game started this (I remember it in Star Wars Galaxies), a good mail system allows players to exchange items, communicate, and have an equal opportunity to receive plat sale ads. While I think the mail system kinda spoils people a little bit, I have a hard time complaining about it. I love getting stuff in the mail that someone sent me while I was offline.
World of Warcraft has influenced every MMO in development and even some already released. It's plans for world dominance continue, and it would continue to try and acquire Starbucks, Walmart, and Microsoft. So next time you see an ad, or hear about WoW, just be thankful they haven't purchased your soul yet.