Comparatively, no other genre of game has the feeling of character progression like MMORPG's do, because you can spend years with one character upgrading gear and perfecting skills, there's a social hierarchy within server communities and you have the top guild or top pvp'er that you can be in total awe of. It's inspiring and really feels like a journey. I mean, I've been playing the same character since 2010, needless to say I'm attached (I've also painted her a fair few times- see right.) But hey! It's OK to feel inspired and WoW really gives you that epic feeling and I'm a true culprit of armor hoarding because things looks awesome. Perhaps not graphically, but design wise Blizzard keeps dropping these gorgeous bombs of aesthetic goodies.
Now you might say, 'but other games have cool armor too' but the beauty of MMORPG's is- as shallow as it sounds- in a world filled with players, you get to show it off. Its prestigious and that's a really great feeling.
So after my previous blog posts, I've been savoring this, because a history of MMORPGs warrants a post of its own. MMORPGs really started in 1997 with Ultima Online. It was new and fresh and had the staple of mmo games- a consistent world with guilds, interaction and economy. The MMORPG genre began to grow but it wasn't until Everquest in 1999 that the genre got any real attention. A noticeable development change is it went from a top down strategy view, to a third person perspective that became the norm all for any proceeding mmorpg. Everquest biggest influence on current day mmo's was the multi user dungeon system which was first experimented with in the 70s and 80s. In the meantime another MMO called Asherons's Call was making major progress in creating an open world that is pivotal to the huge feel that the world needs to create. They managed to achieve 500dq. Miles without a loading screen. Too put that in perspective:
(2010) World of Warcraft -- 80mi2
Asheron's Call --500mi2
Guild Wars:Nightfall -- 15,000mi2
The Lord of the Rings online -- 30,000mi2
So yeah, for it's time, that was pretty huge. Both games had what was considered a ridiculously large amount of subscribes with EverQuest capping at 225,000. Another titan in MMORPG history is Dark Age of Camelot (2001) that placed it's stake in having huge scale pvp wars and a global economy. People often call MMO's grindy, and to be fair that's true, even with these very early mmo's. However the well respected Asherons Call 2 shot itself in the foot with it's overall grind oriented game-play and the release of EverQuest 2 and WoW, it couldn't compete and was the first MMORPG to shut down it servers in 2005.
These days, whenever you get a new MMO announced, you'll get a band of people every-time claiming 'this game will kill Wow!' Seriously. Every time. Well that's not a new thing because when WoW was announced in 2004, people were greatly anticipating a new game, though in this time no-one had been able to de-throne Everquest so people were somewhat cynical that WoW could.
It did- 3 weeks after EverQuest 2's launch Blizzards' World Of Warcraft hit the market, and it exploded. Shortly after release at the end of 2004, it had sold over a million copies, which is over double the number of top MMORPGs of it's time. It only got stronger from there, peaking at 12 million subscribers in 2011.
Now comes the obvious question 10 years later- why hasn't anything enraptured the mmorpg player base yet? We've had our contenders; Guild Wars 2, Starwars the Old republic, and recently Wildstar and Elder scrolls online. Most fall under the stigma of 'WoW-clones' or 'reskins', and while I feel partially that it's true the problem is also with us as a fandom. WoW took years to grow into what it is and had that change because the market at the time was somewhat stagnant, yet we download a new mmo hang around for a few weeks or a month then declare the project a failure and go back to what we know on love. We have such high expectations of what we expect from an MMORPG and for the most part, all we have to compare it with is WoW which has literally had 10 years to become what it is. We're comfortable in WoW, we know what to do, where to be and how Blizzard works; so if there was going to be a big change in MMORPG hierarchy- what would it take?