My first MMO was EVE Online. The first MMO often (though not always) shapes expectations of what MMOs are all about. I tend to compare just about every MMO to EVE Online. Most people do this in one way or another – SynCaine keeps comparing everything to Ultima. My second MMO was World of Warcraft, and one has to look pretty hard for two MMOs that are further apart on the themepark/sandbox spectrum than those two. Sometimes opposites attract, but in this case it has caused more than a little aggression between the two.
There is a David vs Goliath quality to this – plucky little EVE players with their slings defending their gamespace against the gigantic philistine. No doubt EVE players, consciously or unconsciously, have felt threatened by the WoW giant which seemed to so totally dominated the MMO gaming space. Four years ago when folks not part of MMO gaming heard of an MMO, they heard of WoW. Trying to explain EVE to colleagues or friends was often a frustrating and thankless task.
A common response to being a part of a minority is to create an idea that there is something that minority somehow “better” than the majority. Something that sets them apart in a positive manner. EVE has created a very effective mythology in its playerbase in this fashion – one I am happy to subscribe to even as I see the dynamic at work. There really is something quite different about EVE to everything else. On the other hand in my life I have seen precisely the same dynamic in player amongst fans of heavy metal music (in the face of the larger pop scene) and fans of “artistic” films in the face of big-budget blockbusters. In the book world fans of fantasy fiction used to be able to feel this way compared to literary fiction – though I am less certain of this now. Rugby enjoys a similar self-image when comparing itself to football.
Where I will claim to depart from EVE’s self-image is, though I believe EVE to be in some respects a “better” game than WoW (though that defines on the criteria one uses to determine a game’s quality), I fortunately never fell into the trap of just dismissing WoW out of hand. Perhaps this was because my brother turned to WoW after trying EVE and finding it not to his taste.
WoW and EVE are very different games, and I found I was able to enjoy both the sandbox and themepark, though overall I prefer LOTRO’s iteration of the themepark for reasons I may write about at some point in time – though naturally the fact I read The Lord of Rings by the age of ten is certainly a non-trivial factor. However, I have had two time periods in WoW which I far from regret. The first time – during Burning Crusade – I admittedly struggled. Looking back I just didn’t click with the class I was playing. The second time I played though, during Wrath, everything seemed to click. I had a very great deal of fun, until looming around the corner came Cataclysm. Cataclysm sucked the fun out of WoW for me. The idea of breaking old Azeroth entirely, rather than having the Cataclysm through some form of phase technology, made me very unhappy. Also the rumours I had that levelling had been accelerated left (and leaves) me cold – for me the journey has always been more important than the endgame. The Real ID mess was basically the last straw, and I unsubscribed before Cataclysm launched. My primary character was left, iirc, half-way through a quest chain in Zangramarsh.
Mists of Panderia, of course, launches next week. Perhaps it is the increase in news articles about this, perhaps it is the fact my brother is playing again, but I am starting to wonder if I should make a return to Azeroth. I am uncertain. The break in continuity that Cataclysm created in my mind still exists.
Ultimately sitting here right now, I just do not know.