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Theme Park MMORPGs: More Diabolical Than You Think

I was previously confused when comparing WildStar and FireFall.  The crux of my confusion was not that there was two successful methods of accomplishing the same aim, as obviously life is full of such examples.   Instead, it was that I could see how various methods being employed by either game would seem to actively oppose the other.  I was not only confused as to how gravity was being defied, but also whether I preferred to be on the ground or in the air.

But now, I have compared WildStar to ArcheAge, and it has done the opposite of confusing me.  It has granted remarkable clarity on a very important front as to what these games actually are.  The juxtaposition of putting a theme park game next to a virtual world game made me think a bit about how easy it is for a game to jump genres with just a little bit of a difference.

So where do these games land?  As it turns out, into the middle of a bit of an identity crisis where neither game seemed to realize what it has become.

I realize now that WildStar is a great game in the vein of Diablo, and that this was essentially what World of Warcraft was.  World of Warcraft created an advanced version of Diablo, lets call it version 2.0, by introducing a bit of genetics from EverQuest's genome.  The result put the perspective closer to  the ground, no longer isometric, and brought hundreds of players to the same server.  However, the soul of the game (the questing and the RPG mechanics) still had a whole lot more in common with Diablo than it did EverQuest.

A question mark was
all that was missing.
No more is this evident in the quest hub model that could be found all the way back in DiabloDeckard Cain was a quest giver, he did not have a yellow question mark above his head, but what did he send you to do?  Kill this mob, retrieve that item, speak to this NPC.  Then what would you do?  Go back to Tristam, which was built identically to the modern MMORPG quest hub!  The staples of what can be found in the modern theme park MMORPG was here, in Diablo, first.  Or close to it... this was a game that was released approximately around the same time as Meridian 59, late 1996, a full 3 years before EverQuest.

No wonder this World Of Warcraft was so successful, Blizzard already had a big audience of millions of Diablo players just waiting to pounce on their next game, and World Of Warcraft was a whole new dimension of Diablo.  Talk about shooting fish in a barrel!

Along the vein of being the best damn Diablo there is, WildStar excels: the telegraphing combat mechanisms have upped our proverbial Diablo version to 2.5, and this game provides simply the best kind of experience in that genre.  All those Diablo clones, even Diablo 3, were comparatively a step back.  Why go back to isometric perspective when you can be in the game?  Why play with 4 other players when you can play with an entire server? Why ditch the telegraphing mechanic when it adds a whole new level of satisfying interaction?  A gamer could only wish their average Diablo clone played half as well as WildStar. realized this, I just resubscribed to WildStar.  It's strange that I am being charged $15/mo to play the best online, massively-multiplayer Diablo there is.  But, as a finicky gamer who wants to get the best entertainment for his time, it would be a waste of my time to play anything less.  This time, I ditched the roleplay server and stopped taking my character and the world as seriously.  Suddenly WildStar was better, I just had to take the right perspective about what I was playing.

Where WildStar misleads those who perceive it as a virtual world (instead of what it is, Diablo v2.5) ArcheAge would appear to be doing the same from the opposite end.  Upon starting a new character in ArcheAge, the player is put on a path that will lead them from quest hub to quest hub; the theme park approach that WildStar does far better.  Yet, ArcheAge is not a theme park, it is a virtual world.

If ArcheAge is so infested with Diablo quests, why does it get to be called a virtual world, while WildStar does not?  I previously described many features that elevate ArcheAge into that definition but, while doing so, I found myself foundering a bit.  I think this is because, if you look at each and every feature in the game, you won't see it.  The answer is not in the trees but rather the forest; the developers' intent while making the game is what makes ArcheAge a virtual world

This intent is pretty clear in the overall geography and flow gameplay in ArcheAgeInstancing is kept to a minimum, a technical requirement for dungeons and castle sieges to work.  As a player, you will soon find that you spend more time in game homesteading, performing trade runs, or warring than performing the quests.  The basic quests in ArcheAge are only something you do at first, when getting started with your character, and later only when you find yourself with nothing better to do. grudgingly admit that, even in a virtual world, quest hubs are better than having nothing to do at all... but this is not without cost!  When you are not questing in ArcheAge, the quest hubs are a vestigial appendage, perhaps an organ intended to purge the players' World of Warcraft habits from their system.  All those monsters idling around waiting to advance quest counters look grotesquely out of place, marring the virtual world, sort of like seeing a tacky old theme park installed in the middle of a nature preserve.

Now, I have a fairly clear goal of what to do with my procrastination.  ArcheAge is not out yet, and I am not so desperate to play an imported January 2013 South Korean release that I am going to dump $150 on a founder's pack that would let me play it now.  So, between now and ArcheAge's release, I am going to try to get to the top level in WildStar.

It does not really matter what class I play anymore; why balk over the difference between a Diablo II Barbarian versus a Sorceress?  Thus, my current plan to achieve this is with a Medic, and maybe a Stalker if I am unable to resist the temptation to play a tank as well.  I care so little about the class now that the only reason why I chose those two is because they are the only combination of healer and tank that can wear the same armor. 

Then, after I get level 50 and have seen the top content in the game, I'm going to unsubscribe to WildStar completely, and probably not play it again until it inevitably goes Free2Play.  Because exactly how much do you expect me to pay for Diablo v2.5?
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