In 2004, World of Warcraft was released and changed the face of the MMO-genre as we knew it. Millions of people flocked to the game, driven by Blizzard’s brand and reputation and the now almost legendary streamlining of the genre. At the same time, some critics say, the genre changed for the worse and the “virtual world” became a thing of the past. World of Warcraft was easy, too easy, and by now everybody want a piece of the cake that they set the table for.
From that criticism comes the term “WoW-clone”, a term that describes a game as nothing except a lazy copy of the WoW-formula. Just like the idea of the “WoW-tourist”, a WoW-clone is a derogatory term that has been used against more or less every MMO released since. While World of Warcraft itself copied shamelessly from games that came before it, like Everquest and the DIKU muds that EQ itself took its foundation from, but it is the streamlining and the sudden ease of play that is important here.
It’s an interesting term. Perhaps it is because I’ve taken one of the most hated MMOs to heart that I’ve started to see things differently. For a long time, I had the same ideas – that MMOs were killing my interest in them by too much streamlining – but lately I’ve tried to take what I think is a look at the bigger picture. Is WoW actually killing innovation in our genre? Do developers constantly play it safe?
To find out, I’ve decided to compile a list of some of the most important MMOs that has been released since World of Warcraft was released, including events that happened as a reaction to its sudden popularity (the SWG CU/NGE). Will such a list point towards the end of the virtual world that certain critics seem to believe is happening?
I’m not a fan of the direction Blizzard took the game after Wrath of the Lich King, don’t get me wrong. If there’s one MMO right now that I have no interest in playing, it’s World of Warcraft. I will return in Cataclysm, there’s no use denying that, but I feel that the game as it stands right now does not cater to my tastes at all.
Despite this, the list and my take on these various games will be tainted by a pretty positive outlook. It is not objective. It’s as much an examination for my own sake’s, as for anyone that actually bother to read it through. Also, even if an innovation “failed”, I will try to bring it up – after all, ideas can be a lot better in theory before thousands of real players are released on them.
So, without further ado…behind the cut are the games (in no particular order):