WoW's evolution has changed the course of both MMO game design and the landscape of the MMO player base in dramatic ways. By exploring the road most traveled, WoW has led the way from the roots of tabletop pen-and-paper RPGs and early MMO tabletop simulations into MMOs as virtual RPG themeparks.
Despite WoW's fantastic success on many fronts, in its evolution toward catering to the most common, casual style of play, it's removed much of the human interaction that made early MMO experiences special. Today's WoW is slick, seamless and streamlined. There is nothing one player can achieve that another player cannot also relatively easily achieve. Yet while players in today's WoW maintain that this thinly clad, egalitarian experience is "best," in reality, what we see is a continuous striving for distinction free from the confines of the game design itself. The ever-present GearScore sniff test has streamlined the need for player interaction to the point that interaction is barely needed at all.
In fact, it might be this very streamlining that has caused this MMO behemoth to slide away from the real magic of the early MMOs, to become a sanitized gaming experience that only barely acknowledges its need for virtual face-to-face gameplay. I miss the real interaction with my fellow players that speaks to the oldest traditions of what spawned MMOs: tabletop RPGs. I want player interactions to drive the game experience, from raiding to crafting to questing. The biggest villains and heroes of an MMO should be players, not pre-scripted heroes and playerless cut scenes. The next big MMO, I hope, can make this happen.
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