Do you remember patch 1.10 in World of Warcraft?
Do you remember when they announced that 1.10 would bring weather to WoW?
Try to think back to your original reaction to the news or if you weren’t there, try to imagine what would be your reaction of your favorite MMO announced that the next big item on the patch would be the addition of rain and snow to your game? Would you be pleased? Would you be angry?
Patch 1.10 was one of the latter patch of the original WoW and had two big items in it. The first was the addition of tier 0.5 armor for the more casual players who couldn’t raid and the second and focus of the patch was the addition of weather. In fact, the patch is called Storms of Azeroth and you can watch the little preview they did back then if you’re feeling nostalgic. For my part I remember me and my friends being real excited at the idea of having weather in our game. It was one of the most exciting things to ever happen to the game for us because back then, we weren’t so focused on stats and mechanics and we only wanted to enjoy a great world.
Virtual worlds or game systems?
I’m using 1.10 to showcase the switch in mentality that gradually happened over the years in MMOs. Back when WoW launched,MMOs were as much about exploring a virtual than it was about raids, instances and all the other mechanics that are now the focus of the game. If today, Blizzard was to announce that an entire patch was centered about adding weather effect to zones it would probably generate a storm like we’ve rarely seen. Blogs and gaming sites would jump on Blizzard to ask why they would waste precious time when there’s so much else that needs to be fixed and you could probably melt the ice caps with the flames from the forums. Of course, there would be a minority glad to see the changes because they still enjoy living in a virtual world but they would be the minority.
I feel like we have lost something important along the way. You can argue that WoW 10 millions plus subscribers are proof that you need to focus on game systems but WoW popularity and name was built during a period where the focus was still on a living world. In the very beginning, most people thought WoW wouldn’t last especially since EQ2 was just around the corner but WoW rose to the top simply because people found it to be a better crafted world. People didn’t come over to WoW for the raids, they came because they enjoyed Azeroth.
So I’m wondering, could it be that the secret to the holy grail of MMOs, the WoW-killer, simply be to craft an interesting virtual world? To not care as much about the systems, raids and mechanics but simply to craft a believable world where players would enjoy spending time. In short, would I enjoy filling my screenshot folder with awesome looking scene and would I stop running simply to marvel at how great the village looks?