The Lameness of Fanboys
Nov 22, 2006 17:12:21

A recent article on Slate stirred up some buzz on the internet last week. WoW players responded in disgust and even the MMO blogging elite pooh-poohed it. The article entitled The Lameness of World of Warcraft, by Chris Dahlen, didn't offend me or raise any suspicion regarding the author's competence. In fact I found his facts to be accurate. His opinion is his own, but that's another matter altogether. Shall we take a look at what he said?

Not everything in the article is negative, but the fact that the article opens as follows is simply a device to set up a straw man to tear down.
'Technically, Warcraft is fantastic. It sports some of the most polished, attractive graphics of any game on the market. You can also play for days and still come across new sights, like a vast coral reef or a gigantic stone bridge crumbling over a chasm. And the game constantly feeds you achievements and rewards, minimizing frustration by neatly color-coding every monster and mission.'
True. All true. No problems there as far as I can see.
'The color-coding also illustrates the game's defining ethos: the lowest common denominator. To reach everyone from casual to obsessive players, Warcraft strips its controls down to a handful of choices and tactics.'
This is where Chris started to lose some fans. This past week on The Instance, Scott and Andrew expressed considerable discontent with this particular statement. In fact, the WoW population as a whole seemed rather upset by this particular notion. My question to anyone nay-saying this article would simply be, 'How is that statement untrue?' That statement is absolutely true. Allow me to lead you down the path of discovery.

Q: Do you think WoW's entire player base was extricated from the existing pool of MMO players?
A: Of course not, they introduced a new audience to MMORPGs.

Q: Do you think all the people experiencing WoW as their first MMO strayed away from its predecessors due to a combination of machine requirements, game play complexities, and the intricacies of min-maxing?.
A: Yes! Gaming PCs are a massive investment and WoW runs on your average Best Buy Box just fine, and gosh, EverQuest was a complicated game with far too much D&D-nerdiness attached to it.

Q: So WoW allows your average PC owner and Legend of Zelda veteran to enter into the MMO realm with ease?
A: Yes, exactly!

Q: And how do low machine requirements and accessible gameplay not equate with 'lowest common denominator'?
A: Hey wait you tricked -

Q: -Oh and remember that Rob Pardo keynote where he talked about the doughnut?
A: (yes)

Q: So we agree then that Chris Dahlen was actually speaking with some facts behind him?
A: I guess so...

Great. Now that we've cleared that up, let's see what else Chris has to say in his article.
'Warcraft strips its controls down to a handful of choices and tactics. Winning a fight turns into a basic numbers game. If you're bigger, you'll win. If you're smaller - well, you should start running. As a consequence of Warcraft's simplemindedness, you end up doing the same thing the same way hundreds of times.'
Once again, the tone of the writing drips with bile, but the facts seem to be inline with the game-play experience. BUT, we should note that the 'big guy wins' doesn't apply only to WoW. It applies to virtually every game. Chris's apparent detest of this fact leads me to believe he likes skill based games like FPS, RTS, fighters, or checkers a lot more than RPGs. That's fine. Either way, his statement is true. The second part of the statement preys on the repetitiveness in WoW. In the same vein as the previous statement, that comment might as well be applied to every MMO. There are varying levels of grind in each MMO but the history of the genre going all the way back to text MUDs has circled around repetitive slaying of mobs to the exclusion of other game play elements. No question about it. Once again, Chris's statement rings true.
'With little at stake, your quests feel less like Frodo and Sam's trip to Mordor than a night shift at Hardee's. Every new level brings more of the same, and fatigue sets in the 10th time you've run through the same high-level dungeon, or when you're trying to crack level 38 but can't bring yourself to kill another goddamn swamp jaguar.'
Chris is starting to sound more and more like a casual console gamer here. He clearly doesn't like the design elements of MMOs at all and his detest for a game that is as un-grindy as WoW screams the fact that he's never laid eyes on the likes of Lineage 2. Chris is entitled to his opinion of course, but once again we should take a critical look at the words on the page and note that he isn't lying.
    1. The quests in WoW have no consequence or importance. (True)
    2. Fatigue occurs when you grind instances. (So very true.)
    3. Sometimes I'd rather pull my fingernails out than grind another swamp jaguar. (Extremely true, but I still do it.)

    Let us move on to Chris's next point.
'The MySpace generation expects a personalized experience, yet Warcraft's avatars come in only a few stock models. The men are brawny, the women are lithe. Although you can choose the details, you can never change your look once you've made your initial decision - you can't even get a new haircut. You can't post a profile or write a bio and, unlike in online worlds like Second Life, you can't own land or even rent your own space.'
All facts that point to Chris wanting to play a different kind of game.

So what?
His statements are still true even if he misses the point by a wide margin. WoW is what it is. This is like saying, 'Resident Evil needs some more realism like Sims. When do I eat, use the toilet, get some sleep, and go to work amidst all this zombie slaying?' Chris is asking for something he isn't going to get out of WoW, but he isn't wrong for asking. He's just barking up the wrong tree.
'The citizens of Warcraft are like migrant workers - they get their marching orders, and they follow them to the letter. Players never face moral quandaries and never get to choose between an upstanding act and an evil one. Instead of just barging through every problem with a sword and a club, Warcraft should let players negotiate their way through conflicts. If someone pays you to run an errand, do you follow through honestly or steal their money? Should you betray one faction to win favor with another - and what happens if you pick the wrong side? Other commercial role-playing games, like the best-selling Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, are full of these types of decisions. It's time Warcraft gets with the program.'
Yet another example of Chris bashing WoW and upsetting WoW players worldwide while being completely factual at the same time. WoW lacks in intrigue and morality-plays. No doubt about it. This entire exercise is turning out to be one of those, 'It hurts because it's true' scenarios. It only gets more and more true from here on out.
'They don't tell a story so much as lead you through a theme park.'
'Key figures from the Warcraft mythology mill around like Mickey Mouse at Disney World, waving to visitors.'
Blizzard planned this. Funny stuff. True stuff.
'The giant war that's supposedly raging across the world seems to be stuck in a stalemate - neither side gains an inch of territory'
And so it shall remain. (Please don't' call me out on the one controllable city that may appear in BC, okay?)
'Blizzard has written new storylines before. Last winter, it challenged players to team up and fuel a worldwide war effort. As a payoff, it unlocked new territory. This was a good example of letting the users drive a story, but Warcraft needs more of them.'
More truth, and you can see here that Chris isn't saying the game is completely screwed, he's just saying it may take a little work on Blizzard's part to unscrew it.
'In a world that never changes, you can never make your mark.'
Well said.

For those of you that took huge offense at this article I'd ask you to think this over critically. Put aside impressions of Slate and your WoW-iness for a second and really look at it. All of what he said is fact. The opinions he pulled from those facts are his own, and not particularly controversial or heavy handed. It is a well written look at World of Warcraft. It isn't perfect and it isn't pretty, but by my read it is all true. Chris passes judgment on the facts, and while I can't say I agree with every point, he stated them well. Some of what he said falls into the 'master of the obvious' realm but it seems he played enough WoW to understand the game features (or non-features) that he is attacking. This is more than I can say for a large portion of the WoW commentary I see online.

Submitted by Brent on Nov 22, 2006 17:12:21 CST (comments: 14)


'I totally agree' by Sanctified
Submitted on 2006-11-22 18:25:54 CST
I dont think its a secret that Blizzard designed WoW to bring new business instead of feeding off of your average MMO geek (like me).

Much like the secret to making a pop song, Blizzard just watered down many great ideas that earlier MMOs came up with and sold it as this BIG GREAT NEW THING THAT YOU MUST HAVE!

I think its hard for most WoW players to accept that the game they love is pretty much the new Pokemon and of course not EVERYONE likes it and will take stabs at it.

'Yup' by Brent
Submitted on 2006-11-22 18:40:16 CST
Well summarized, Sanctified.

I should say, before I get people all riled up, this article isn't meant to say I agree with this dude regarding his opinions on WoW. While I do share some of his feelings, there are many shades of grey. Things he feels are failures are things I feel are strengths, or at the very least, "just the way they are."

My main objective here is to point out that he isn't saying anything radical or untruthful here. His opinions are clearly not shared by some 7 million+ people, but his facts are indeed facts.

'It is true' by darrenl
Submitted on 2006-11-23 11:36:01 CST
I agree with the majority of what the article is saying and I like your analysis Brent.

People are only concentrating on the "common denominator" part of the article. Once again playing the "I'm offended" over-sensitivity card so that the rest of the argument can be dismissed out of hand.

'Denominator' by Sanctified
Submitted on 2006-11-23 20:53:17 CST
The guy couldve definitely worded the article a bit better. Im sure he was looking to ruffle a few feathers.

'On the radar' by Sente
Submitted on 2006-11-24 13:03:45 CST
While I pretty much agree with your analysis of the Slate article, I think that Broken Toys would not disagree with your comments.
He does not say that Chris Dahlen is wrong. He just seems annoyed that mainstream media only pick up World of Warcraft and Second Life on the radar in the MMO space.

'True' by Brent
Submitted on 2006-11-24 13:46:14 CST
Sente, you're probably right about that. Scott likely would agree that the article itself was factual though biased. That's a good observation, he didn't really pick apart the article itself.

'...' by Heartless
Submitted on 2006-11-27 15:02:06 CST
Hmmmm where to begin.

I pretty much agree that the truth hurts and MMORPG gamers hate to admit that. Afterall MMORPG gamers live in a virtual fantasy world!
"Much like the secret to making a pop song, Blizzard just watered down many great ideas that earlier MMOs came up with and sold it as this BIG GREAT NEW THING THAT YOU MUST HAVE!"
That is just a flat out WRONG.

Blizzard never advertised the game as something super great that is new and fancy. They have always sold it as a game that you play to have fun. Play... to... have... fun. It wasn't the Everquest killer. It wasn't the uber l33t better than Everquest game. It was World of Warcraft with your normal Blizzard polish, fun gameplay, and easy to learn hard to master mantra. They just had the cash and marketing department to get the word outside of the MMORPG community.

WoW was sold to NEW gamers in vast markets... not just sold to the already existing crowd. That is a mistake Everquest 2 made and is the same mistake Vanguard is making.

Next WoW is NOT WATERED DOWN! WoW FIXED WHAT THE FUCK WAS BROKEN! Everquest stole nearly the entire game from Diku muds and did a pretty crappy job of it. Every game since then has been stealing Everquests already broken and stolen ideas. WoW is the first and only game to actually fix and actually do something FUN with those mechanics instead of cut'n'pasting them into better graphics and a different world.

Blizzard never wins awards for innovation. They win awards for making solid games that actually work and are fun to play. They don't sit around circle jerking with the 3l33t crowd trying to please them... they make a game that works out of the box and is something that almost anyone with a PC can play.

So if that is watered down... give me it in every game that is being released! I am sick of buggy broke ass games that are nearly no fun to play for the first 1,000 hours.

Finally the problem with this guys attitude towards WoW is that he pushes it off as though all these truths about WoW are the end of the world... an opinion I think some 7 million people disagree whole heartedly about.

I suggest everyone re-read the first quote by Prognosticator and then realize this guy contradicted his opening statement the entire length of the article.

'...' by Heartless
Submitted on 2006-11-27 15:04:22 CST
Basically the guy can't have his cake and eat it too.

'I doubt..' by darrenl
Submitted on 2006-11-27 16:01:47 CST

I think the article reminds us how WoW can be better. I don't know about you...but hitting MC for the trillionth time is not fun. Grinding for rep...not fun. True, WoW took what worked from other games and made it argument there.

And I re-read Brent's first quote..and he's right. WoW is "technically" fantastic. However, when you dig deeper into WoW, many of the issues Brent and the OP bring up are true and if addressed can only improve the game.

D out

'Witness the Fanboy' by Brent
Submitted on 2006-11-27 18:33:42 CST
Heartless. Try as I might I can't seem to cull the point or meaning from within the raging depths of your post. Your thoughts basically echo precisely the kind of response which motivated me to take a look at what this fellow wrote.

I'm baffled by your claims that all other MMOs are buggy and broken, not to mention the claim that WoW did something special with said broken and buffy game mechanics. (I'm so tired of the DIKU references. DIKU wasn't as good as anyone likes to imagine it was.) I can't put my finger on any particular game mechanic that WoW fixed or improved. They just did a good job of not breaking stuff more than it was already broken (raids anyone?)

I can sit here and unravel his article all day, but in the end, he seems to have achieved his goal, that being: get a bunch of people riled up by rubbing Blizzard's nose in weak points of the game, despite the fact that Blizzard would hardly disagree with most of his observations.

The only reason he dropped in the complimentary portions of the article is to get it past his editor and avoid looking like a rabid jaded gamer ... which honestly and with all due respect, is a little more than I can say for your retort.

'Lame Fanboy' by Sanctified
Submitted on 2006-11-27 20:14:08 CST
I would argue that WoW didnt take other MMO ideas and made them better, but rather they took MMO ideas and watered them down to attempt to please everyone and added gameplay that a 4 year old could pwn with.

'Fixed What Was Broken?' by Wilhelm2451
Submitted on 2006-11-27 23:03:24 CST

Except for patch downloads, right? There they broke what was working fine in every other MMO.

WoW is great, deserves the player base it has, and is a lot of fun. It just is not as deep as games like EverQuest II.

The worry is that the game industry has taken the lesson of WoW to be "less depth" rather than "high quality."

If you bang the "high quality" drum, you can do no wrong. If you insist that WoW is all the depth in a game anybody should ever need, expect a revolt.

'The opinions in the article are completely valid EXCEPT..' by rick
Submitted on 2006-12-01 22:54:14 CST
"Warcraft strips its controls down to a handful of choices and tactics. Winning a fight turns into a basic numbers game. If you're bigger, you'll win. If you're smaller—well, you should start running. As a consequence of Warcraft's simplemindedness, you end up doing the same thing the same way hundreds of times."

Wrong, wrong and wrong. As a long time player of WoW, this simply isn't true for endgame. The high end raids take a tremendous amount of teamwork and execution and the strats are very difficult at times. Does good gear help? Of course. But the higher end raids: BWL, AQ40 and Nax require a tremendous amount of orginization, leadership and skill. No amount of gear can overcome that.

'Ummm gear and grinding matters in WoW' by darrenl
Submitted on 2006-12-02 16:48:07 CST
Rick...witha ll due respect, WoW is completely dependant on gear. Try doing MC with green and no FR.

And yes, WoW end game instances do require teamwork and leadership as well as strats. This however, is not really the case when you've hit BWL for the 100th time At that point, its not strategic, but repeatative.


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