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Sunday, April 29, 2012

No Holy Grail.

No really, there isn't. This is only a model ^^

Last night, one of my oldest (and most liked) blog friends failed to quit Warcraft. He did try, bless him, and he'd been building up to leaving for some time, but in the end... he made an important discovery. Sometimes it doesn't matter what you do, it's more about the people you do it with that matters. Everyone has their own Holy Grail, the 'thing' they are looking for that stops life being just that and makes it something else, something special. In a gaming context, this elusive quality is what everyone else keeps searching for but Warcraft still has an overriding command of, and that's people.

I have a Guild Wars 2 beta invite this weekend, and the brief time I've been able to play (when servers were actually up and everything worked) I was presented with a very different experience of gaming. It is easy to grasp why so many people are excited about this, in the same way I understand why so many people now have a home in The Old Republic. Backdrops are everything, conducive environments for people to immerse themselves and to enjoy an experience which is as much entertainment as a trip to the cinema or a football match. I can see myself enjoying GW2, and The Secret World when it finally appears, but (as I have said before) my heart belongs in Azeroth, even (I suspect) when many people have packed up and left.

The game itself is a particular aspect of enjoyment, but the people that play with me don't need to be there to make it a comfort. They are there to make things special, and they do. I also understand that lots of people who played Guild Wars will be hoping that they can return to the game and recapture some of the feelings and emotions they had on the franchise's first run: that's why movies have sequels, after all. You identify with characters and situations, you want to see them react in a bigger world than just one event. For gamers, they don't just identify with the worlds, they grasp an individual importance of their place within them, and the relationships they formed with other players in order to defeat foes or gain rewards. This is the particular Grail that developers are trying to find, to wrench the dominance of MMO's away from Blizzard. This is the angle news and bloggers constantly focus on: how many subscribers? How many people prepared to put their money where their hearts are and commit? Is this really the key to success?

I know a lot of people who read this Blog play Warcraft to make virtual money. Gold is big business, and the Gold Community is one of the most fascinating and compulsive sub-communities within the game. It's a testament to the architecture of the client, the desire for people to equate wealth with success (which is a completely different argument for another time) and the fact it is possible to do this and not lose out on any of the other aspects of the game. The same goes with the Mogging community, a pursuit you can engage in with no adverse affects to anyone else who is playing the 'Raiding' version of the game, or the 'Dungeon' version, or the 'Achievements' variant... you make of this what you want to be happy. The key comes in identifying what that is, and what is becoming apparent in the last year or so is that Developers are listening to the desires of gamers. Town Hall meetings, beta weekends, it's not just stress testing the code. Everyone's looking for the Holy Grail, trying to identify the one thing it is that's going to repeat the success Blizzard had... and that's the problem.

You see, there is no Holy Grail. That mythical quest is different for every single person. There might be a bit of overlap here and there but really, everybody has a different idea of what they Need to be Happy. Warcraft's entire success didn't come from years of careful planning, of doing surveys and demographics, it happened completely by accident. If you subscribe to Chaos Theory, which I am finding increasingly fascinating, you could argue that there was no point in trying to make a game that covers as many bases as possible, you just need to create something that is fun, with the potential for lots of diversity, then release it to the general public and just hope. You don't go looking for the Grail, it will find you. Ask Indiana Jones about that, he grasped that significance after all.

Above all else, never forget that to enjoy yourself is one of the most satisfying things you can ever do.

1 comment:

arcanewordsmith said...

Very well written and so very true.