With every new MMOG generation there are always heated discussions about whether the game has been dumbed down, if it has been reduced in difficulty to the point of silliness. Its a debate that has raged for years and continues to be renewed with each new major MMOG, one that Red 5 founder Mark Kern was right in the middle of starting as the World of Warcraft lead, when he set the goal of making the then niche MMORPG market a thing that can be a double-edged sword, more accessible for casual players, something Kern also calls the "creeping casualness that permeates all MMOs these days."
Whether you like modern MMOGs or deplore them, if you were around in the older days of the genre to experience games like Ultima Online, EverQuest, and Dark Age of Camelot, you know all too well how things have changed. Leveling is much, much faster, raids and groups are both smaller, death has virtually no sting, accomplishments mean very little, grouping is often more of an inconvenience unless you're running an instance, and gear is only relevant for a couple of levels given that loot pops out of chests, quests, and mobs like a piñata. Its something Kern reflects on in a recent article over at MMORPG.
Kern's early statements in the story as he reflects on the successes and consequences resulting from his work on WoW that did much of what was mentioned above by adding faster and faster leveling to encourage players to blow through old content to reach the new, and adding new quest gear in expansions that negated previous raid gear, and quite a bit more.
"Players came in droves, millions of them," Kern wrote. "But at what cost? Sometimes I look at WoW and think what have we done? I think I know. I think we killed a genre."
At that point Kern delves into what gets lost when you oversimplify things in your design such as the feeling of achievement and satisfaction, a lack of quality content given that nobody stops to admire it on their blazing fast trip to level cap, and the cookie-cutter development that can result. So how do you change that way of thinking? Kern explains what Red 5 is doing in their upcoming MMO shooter, Firefall, to try and avoid this sort of pitfall by creating dynamic events and quests that scale with the players, never out-leveling a zone, and tuning combat more towards a skill-based gameplay.
What do you think? Have MMORPGs become too easy? Check out Kern's full story over at MMORPG and tell us what you think below.
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