Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime laments World of Warcraft’s social unraveling

    
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Do you miss Blizzard’s Mike Morhaime, yet? You just might after watching a new interview in which the previous president of the company took a hard look at the state of World of Warcraft and the state of MMOs in general.

His verdict? The drive to make WoW increasingly casual-friendly eroded its social glue. “I would also just observe that as World of Warcraft evolved over the years, it actually kind of became less social because in an effort to achieve more accessibility, we removed some of the reasons why you need to play with the same group of people over and over,” Morhaime said. “I think that it takes away some of the reasons for some people of why they play, and why they might want to continue to play.”

The retired co-founder of Blizzard also hedged big on the future of MMOs in general: “I wouldn’t say that MMOs wouldn’t have a resurgence in the future, but maybe there are other types of games that are able to capture the social experience even more.”

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Fenrir Wolf

I can make friends by myself, thank you???

I’ve always been baffled by this. If I want to play in a multiplayer environment then I will do so. I’ll do it with my partner, a couple of other friends, and sometimes even the odd random unit or two.

I couldn’t stand the way MMOs used to do things because it put very ASD (sociopathic) people in charge. You couldn’t really say no to their whims or desires, or you didn’t get to play. I didn’t enjoy that. Guild Wars 2 is the only MMORPG I feel that’s really broken away from that. Even The Elder Scrolls Online still does their balancing based around guilds.

I’ll play these games as I want to play them.

Here’s a few other factors to consider, though:

* There aren’t any games I can play which feature certain things that MMOs do, point me at any game with a decent amount of content that allows me to play a non-human anywhere near as awesome as the charr;

* In fact, on that note, point me at a game where the current impetus of my character is to help a sparkly girl horse fantasy beacon-of-hope dragon (Aurene) get to power, because I am all about that;

* It turns out that due to having too much time for gaming, the people who want this don’t tend to have money, this is why developers aren’t catering to them any more (or to white supremacists, hardcore medieval fans, et cetera).

The truth is is that aside from World of Warcraft, it just isn’t profitable to make a forced grouping MMORPG. Just as it isn’t profitable to make an MMORPG that has only human races. The problem is privilege.

The MMORPG player who grinds as part of a guild often sees this activity as a job, they think that they’re doing the MMORPG a favour by being there. It’s the MMORPG developer’s purpose to serve them. I mean, if the dev doesn’t then they can just leave and go to any other number of games that caters to them, right?

It’s just the same as how human players may make up a lot of the playerbase but they generally aren’t the ones showering a dev with money. This is because they have plenty of choices, they’re spoiled for choice. Literally spoiled. So why pay a developer when so many are just begging this group to play their game? Just move on, play another game. That’s what they do.

The people who’re loyal tend to be the altaholic, casual roleplayers who tend to not play human characters. They’re the ones buying houses, outfits, and the like. This tends to keep the developer afloat.

Guild Wars 2 is all the evidence I need for this.

Guild Wars 2 was: Smack dragon with phallus until dead. Do it again. Again.

Guild Wars 2 is: Be frans with a baby dragon to help fight the brain parasite dumping invasive thoughts into her grandpa dragon, to help said baby grow up to be a sparkly girl horse fanasy beacon-of-hope (I will not stop saying this, I love Aurene).

ArenaNet knows who their profitable demographic is. It’s us, basically. Anyone who can relate to this knows where I’m coming from.

It’s the same reason why animators can quit their job at Disney to be kept afloat by the furry community. See, underserved demographics know the value of money and they’re more than happy to shower anything that caters to them with much of that money. There’s a lot more money to be had there than gambling on the audiences developers used to gamble on.

And not just furry, either. There’s a lot of underserved demographics out there. Furry was just my example beecause it’s a big, obvious, undeniable example of what I’m talking about here.

Aaaaalso…

World of Warcraft never had a good community. It was a toxic heckhole for the most part back when I used to do addon development between alpha and sometime after the Burning Crusade.

If anything, WoW has become a more welcoming, friendly place since then because it’s being less of a horrid, forced grouping operant conditioning chamber now than it ever was in the past. By not encouraging toxic people to play you end up with a community that’s far less toxic.

Imagine that!

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Bruno Brito

I still wonder why GW2 doesn’t have housing yet, considering a huge slice of theit pop would play way more actively if the game had more sandboxy systems in place.

Techno Wizard
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Techno Wizard

When the random dungeon finder was launched in Wrath, a lot of guild friends left the raiding and PvP guild I was in. Later on, they left the WoW game completely. It was around that time I started looking around at other games.

From there onwards I noticed a decline after decline in WoW’s population post-WoTLK. True story, yo.

But before all of this happened, WoW had a golden age of guild friends being super friends to me and other guildees, and there were many. It’s no wonder Classic is more popular than BFA, IMHO.

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Zero_1_Zerum

Are you social in elevators, or do you stand there awkwardly while you wait for your floor?

I mean, sure, if you don’t want to ride the elevator with other people, you could just take a walk up the stairs.

But, what if you’re in a skyscraper and need to get to the 47th floor?

You really gonna walk up all those stairs?

Nope, you’re gonna take the elevator.

And, you’re gonna stand there awkwardly while you wait for your floor.

Or, maybe, you’ll wait until you get lucky and the elevator is empty, closing the doors before anyone else can get on.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were elevators that were designed for just one person?

But, that’d be impractical. That’s what they’d say, anyway. It just wouldn’t make sense to build individual lifts. You just gotta ride that elevator. Or, you can take the stairs.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

And it wouldn’t make sense for those same elevators to work only when you are talking to the person next to you, who probably has no interest in what you are talking about anyway!

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

If the hardcore players had been willing to do their thing for the thrill and accomplishment it wouldn’t have been a problem in the first place, but because they were elitist jerks who insisted their playstyle set the definition of what represented skill and investment in an online game they continually lost out to people who could no more compete with them than they could compete with some kid who could complete a Rubik’s cube in ten seconds.

Minecraft proved their paradigm false. Most people are not interested in competing with each other. They want to cooperate. They want agency without the crippling restrictions imposed when the world must be balanced around a zero-sum PVP game.

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EmberStar

I think it might be a lot of fun to be part of something like Hermitcraft, where a bunch of friends get together to build things and create adventures. Sadly, I don’t know anyone who even plays games. Let alone people I’d want to share something like that with and who have the time to invest in it. :(

mosselyn
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mosselyn

While there’s some truth in what he says, I think it’s a little disingenuous. I play other games that are casual friendly with far, far more friendly/less toxic communities than WoW has, like GW2, Lotro, and FFXIV.

I think part of it is that Blizz never made much of an effort to moderate their community, either in-game or on their forums. And part of it is that the game’s design encourages competition over cooperation in many situations. Or used to, at least.

Also, let’s be honest, the sheer size of the population is also part of the problem. The more people you rub shoulders with and the larger the linked community, the more likely you’ll bump into a jerk.

Alyn
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Alyn

Maybe this has been discussed, we are seeing some mildly hyped, up and coming mmo’s that boast forced grouping in a manner that hearkens back to the neolithic age of computers/technology and 3 D gaming. Really? This is the beginning of the 3rd decade of the 21st century. Looking back in history is fine and we can learn from our gaming history. However, for this gamer, I prefer to move forward. I do not have a simmering desire to play an mmo that looks like it is struggling visually. Forced grouping, welp seems it is felt by some folks who want their gaming experience to recede back to either 1998 or 2001 and express a rather tiresome inclination that forced grouping is somehow more “hardcore”.

There are truly some problems with any style of mmo that declares that the best experience may only be had in a group of four, five, or six. Nope, not really. Just think about this for a bit. Really stop and think about the long term problems with groups. Are you guys close buddies from back in the day in high school? Did you and the other four major in the same thing in college? Or possible share a calculus class , or something? Probably not. Basically it will be a “pick up” group. Now, continue thinking critically. Will this group manage to be a group you will log onto game and wait for everyone to get home from work, knowing that there might be 3 or 4 different time zones to consider. Do you dare join another group after leveling with your previous group? Yeah, this is quite possible, but not necessarily a case, just a possibility. Are you patient enough to withstand certain “quirks” some members of your weekly play group has? We are human and there WILL be disagreements from time to time. Might these arguments become too dramatic to continue with said group?

Is it even a possibility that in most cases you will be constantly “searching” for your groups as you level up? How common will permanent groups be in these “up and coming” throw back mmo’s? Will there be guild design that incorporates some type of group dynamic for new players as time passes? How might farming for materials look in hunting groups? How might game design take this into consideration if at all? How will “drops” work? I would say since we are stressing hardcore, “git gud” old core/hardcore mechanics then, drops will be decided by the ol’ RNG gods of plenty. Right? No? Then what?

I could go on, however I think by this point in my screed you “catch my drift”. A powerful, meaningful mmo includes many facets of the human experience when it is mixed with a 3 D environment. There is nothing wrong with going back and studying what made some of our favorite older mmo’s so wonderful for us. Borrow from the past and improve upon them, updating them for gaming now. I have always believed that a masterpiece mmo is a work of art, both in the visuals as well as the story/lore. It is ok if we create a gaming environment that invites both the sandbox and theme park models. I mean, why the hell, not? Yes, pvp is just fine, as long as we aren’t encumbered by “in-your-face” murder hobos. Take a look at one aspect of World of Warcraft that I actually agree with. That pvp is absolutely a wonderful way to make it a choice. Crafting is so damned important and should be considered equally as important as dungeon running or raiding. Take a look at the old EQ 2 or today’s Final Fantasy 14. You know what? Both of those were, for the most part, solo content. It is true you can’t please everyone all the time. However, you might be able to create a type of balance wherein most are happy with the choices they make and even, from time to time, cross over to experience the equally wonderful aspect of the cooperative gaming experience! Yeah, make a damn fine game please. Just do NOT narrow the range and future of your designed game.

Thanks for taking the time read this post and considering my words, thoughtfully. I leave you wonderful folks with these words, not my own;

“Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.”

Stephen Covey

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Utakata

You know…after today, I’m gonna continue to play MMO’s as solo much as possible. Because I know it will annoy the Hell of some players to which I will now take a degree of pleasure and satisfaction in…

…so thanks Mr. Morhaime for putting that foot in it. >.<

Edited: For something…er, less inflammatory.

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Vincent Clark

No one, myself included, will actually care if you choose to play MMO’s “solo” as much as possible. That has never been at the heart of the argument. It’s sad that you actually think it was. But, oh well.

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Utakata

And frankly and francesly, that’s likely a good thing. Because folks who play their game do because they enjoy so are unlikely going to give 2 flyings about whether it “aids” their socializing or not for the most part. I suspect it’s not what most think about when choosing their game. So why would anyone care what you and I choose to do as long as it does not infringe upon their as for mentioned enjoyment?

…kinda makes this whole argument pointless really. >.<

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Bruno Brito

You really don’t get along with the concept of moving on, do you?

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Ellerian_

Argh I hate this whole MMOs were so much more social in the good old days thing. Being forced to be social so much is not necessarily a good thing! There are times when people want to just do their own thing and instead of going to play other games for that they are still able to play WoW or whatever MMO in some way. People can be as social or not as they want! Surely that is a good thing. Still plenty of communities and friendships being forged while playing. It’s just not forced.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

There is this notion that somehow things were much better in the good ole days of the MMO. That doesn’t just mean the accessibility issue that we are discussing here, but the business model side of things as well. What the rose-colored people fail to realize is that the good ole days of the MMO would be just that – a footnote in gaming history had those two primary issues not undergone the paradigm shifts that brings us into the modern age of the MMO. The concept of being more accessible to a wider range of people both in terms of content and from a monetary perspective are the reasons why we still have MMOs to play and talk about today.

My first true delving into the MMO arena came with Guild Wars. My leap into the game came about from three primary things. I had finally found a game that looked to recapture the type of gameplay that I was looking for from my days of playing Wizardry and Eye of the Beholder. Arenanet provided an option to people who didn’t or couldn’t necessarily find a group of people to play with in the form of the Henchmen system. The game would forgo the subscription fee and could be played rent free ad infinitum. Had it not been for those latter two elements in particular, I never would have started playing the game. I am glad I did, because I finally found a game that I enjoyed playing as much as Wizardry and Eye of the Beholder, and that lead me to be able to start to open up to the idea of being more social in the game as well. I still played the game primarily as a solo game, and the addition of the Hero system enhanced that experience. But that still didn’t stop me from being social around the player hubs, and grouping up on occasion with others as well. From that experience, the game made me more interested in looking at other MMOs and finally trying out Vanguard as the graphics (at the time) were unparalleled and I was interested in the Diplomacy system they implemented in the game. Unfortunately, Guild Wars pretty much sucked up the majority of my free time, so I was never able to delve into Vanguard as much as I would have liked. However, that changed as Arenanet shifted development to GW2 and Free to Play began to take hold of the genre. Now, with so many other MMOs dropping that barrier to entry and implementing more casual friendly elements, including their own takes on the companion system a whole new range of options opened up. I have to say because of that, most of the friends I interact with now on a regular basis are my internet gaming friends whom I have met through various MMOs, and throughout this time, I have taken on positions of leadership in clans and guilds as the need arose. None of this would have been possible had accessibility in MMOs not been shifted from the closed door policy they held in the good ole days to the casual and accessible open door policy they have today. I am definitely more social in and out of games than I ever had a desire to be prior to Guild Wars being released. I can also say I know a hell of a lot of other people who feel the same way.

So those bemoaning the fact that MMOs are antisocial or too casual now, think on this. There are more people playing this type of game now than there ever were in the past. Nothing about accessibility or casualness prevents people from being social in the games in any way, shape, or form. Those 20 people grouping up to raid a dungeon have no barrier whatsoever preventing them from doing so in a game that is more casual or solo friendly oriented. I know this from firsthand experience. If you find it more difficult to find people to group up with or be social with when a game is more casual and solo friendly, perhaps the problem is not the game but the face that looks at you in the mirror every morning. Had it not been for MMOs opening their door to the masses, there would be no MMO genre of any significance to speak of today.

Snax
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Snax

Blizzard killed the social/Mass Multiplayer aspect of WoW the moment they added Random Group Finder and the rest of the “Quality of Life improvements” that followed.

They have only themselves to blame and I feel no sympathy for them or for the game anymore.

All current games like Retail WoW and ESO are just SPORPGsSingle Player Online Role Playing Games, since you no longer need other people to play and feel accomplished in the game.

Classic WoW, all the Vanilla private servers and all other old MMOs and their private servers prove that the old philosophy is still relevant, only the biggest games are catering to this casual demographic that creates a false image that all MMOs are now antisocial single player experiences.

If a big company like Blizzard creates a new MMORPG and creates in the style of EQ1 and Vanilla WoW, as long as gameplay is fun and polished, people will play it no matter how hard and punishing it is for casuals and noobs, and if Blizzard doesn’t kneel down to those whiners complaining that the game is too hard for them and maintains their philosophy, the game will remain good and well respected forever, it will probably have a smaller playerbase, but it will be dedicated and will never decrease as long as the developers maintains this philosophy. In fact, if it’s successful, even noobs and casuals will go and play it and eventually suck it up and get better when they see that the developer has no intention to cater to their idiotic needs. … Except such a game will never release in the foreseeable future and only more casual games will flood the market.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

Wildstar disagrees

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Bruno Brito

Beautiful.

Snax
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Snax

I don’t know exactly what you mean by that, I also don’t really know why Wildstar shut down either, but I remember trying to play it on a few occasions and felt somewhat bland and boring, I also couldn’t come to terms with the fact that there is a sword-wielding class in a sci-fi game where people use space ships and have interplanetary travel. It just felt like a mishmash of tropes all poured into a melting pot into creating the most mediocre (theme/aesthetics-wise) game.

I hear some people here and in other places praising and lamenting the shutdown of Wildstar, but I just don’t know why it shut down. My guess is that people never found it to be fun enough to play it. Also I know some former Blizzard and WoW developers made it, but that doesn’t warrant it’s made by a big and influential company, also the game’s aesthetics felt way too similar to WoW so I can imagine people not liking it because of that similarity.

And to add to that, this whole “made… by the people… that brought you… WoW… SWTOR, GTA, etc…” is nothing of significance, it’s just a marketing ploy to get people hyped. There was a game called Breach that played something like a Co-Op (like Dragon Nest, Kritika, KurtzPel and the other one lobby, many instances type of games) made by people who worked on SWTOR and that game tanked massively and shut down within months.

So I don’t know what exactly are you trying to say… maybe try being more specific next time?