The Fallacy of MMO Innovation

Sean Sands | 23 May 2008 21:00
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A few months ago, I spoke with EA Mythic's Mark Jacobs about the MMOG industry, and he was both optimistic and realistic about the industry. "We're on a down period," said Jacobs. "Name one game that's been really successful since World of Warcraft came out. People are looking to Age of Conan and Warhammer [pictured, right] to be successful and prove that someone else can be successful besides WoW."

None of this is meant to imply that World of Warcraft has killed the MMOG industry, a point of view to which some leap. In fact, Jacobs himself said in our conversation that blaming WoW for the struggles of the MMOG developer is a special kind of folly. "No online game has ever killed another online game," he says, stating it not as an opinion but a law. While it can make things more complicated, in the final analysis, blaming WoW for killing a game, much less a genre, is nonsense.

As for Age of Conan, the supposed innovations that will in the long-term define the distinctions between this game and others will have their opportunity to shine and be judged, but those aren't nearly as important to success as players would have you believe.

The great triumph of WoW is in its absolute polish. The functionality of the interface, the client, the server and the game mechanics are ultimately what sets the foundation for creating a great game. WoW, from every angle, screams attention to detail, from the way the combat works to the depth of the original content to the smoothness of the UI. Ultimately, the basic mechanics of the MMO G re fairly bland, even boring, and streamlining every process while developing a polished gameplay progression that keeps the player engaged is the biggest key. In the end, give me a smooth client and a polished gameplay and you're halfway home.

Sean Sands is a freelance writer, one of the co-founders of Gamerswithjobs.com and runs a small graphic design business with his wife near Minneapolis. When not writing about gaming, he can often be found playing videogames and pretending to call it work.

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