You know, I never thought to write this up when it happened at the time but, the more I think about it, days later, the more it niggles at the part of my brain which is reserved for conversations that aren’t allowed to run their full course and leave me with more questions than answers. You know the kind… you start thinking about them just before you have to go to sleep and the like.
So what’s behind this rather angsty introduction? Well, you see, in a recent thread on the BioWare forums, I pointed to an earlier – and extremely popular if the amount of Diggs was any indication – MMOCrunch editorial I’d written which ran, in part:
MMORPGS have been dumbed down to the max and someone, somewhere, needs to show that this need not be the case for people who want something more from their gaming than being pushed from quest to quest, zone to zone, doing EXACTLY the same thing everyone else is doing, ad infinitum.
Next thing, BioWare employee James Henley (who has identified himself in other posts he has made on the forum as “World Designer, Unnamed MMORPG, BioWare, Austin Studio”) shot back a pithy one-liner at me, just 18 minutes after my post:
I’m almost positive that, one day, people will learn to tell the difference between a fact and their opinion.
To me, that came across as a rather snappy – and kind of unnecessary – comment in general, but also suggested that he disagreed with what I’d said. I mean, people only tend to take what I like to call “the snappy route” on a forum when they disagree with you. Does that seem like a fair assessment to you, dear readers?
I replied, asking for more of his thoughts because I was genuinely intrigued why he would make this comeback. In asking, I pointed out that today’s MMORPGs are a conveyer belt of quests; have levels that are, seemingly, an arbitrary number, rather than meaning something; that people are sick of “the quest grind” in MMORPGs, especially when the quests are variations of “Kill 10 monsters” and “Deliver this letter” and there has been a real void in the market for an intelligent MMORPG, post Ultima Online and the original SWG.
Do they seem like valid complaints from the MMORPG community at large? I thought so. So I naturally wanted James’ thoughts.
Later, the thread was closed altogether because there is currently a catch-all thread that BioWare uses for its MMORPG discussions (whether they relate to its MMORPG project, or not), so the chance for James to reply directly to the thread disappeared entirely.
Now, why does the exchange still bother me? Primarily because I was talking about a games developer needing to go out there into the marketplace and take a stand by creating a sandbox MMORPG to counteract the plague of MMORPGs that are currently out there, all offering exactly the same thing and all of them, you will note, boring the pants off users, faster and faster with each new release.
(Heck, it’s no lie to say that people were sick of Age of Conan’s end-game within weeks of launch. That’s patently ridiculous, and definitely not what you get when a game has sandbox options…)
Yet here was James, sprinting off the line, with his slap down.
I could be completely wrong… wouldn’t be the first time and certainly won’t be the last… but the way James got snappy with the ideas in my post sort of suggested to me that BioWare is making a game that does have levels; does have a quest series that keeps people on rails and doesn’t have the kind of intelligent crafting system that made the original incarnation of Star Wars Galaxies so damn great at first.
Because you’d think that if BioWare WASN’T making such a game, the likes of James could sit back, smugly confident with proceedings and if he DID need to make a reply it would be more along the lines of, “Well, just you wait and see…” instead of being all snappy about it.
It makes me rather sad, actually, that if BioWare’s new MMORPG is Star Wars-based (and all signs certainly point towards that, although it’s not 100% confirmed), that it could be a shadow of the original Star Wars Galaxies when, five years on, it should be SO MUCH MORE.