Matlock: The MMO!September 6, 2008
If MMOs were present in a court of law, would they be tried under the assumption of “good until proven guilty” or “guilty until proven good”?
I notice that there’s two major camps out there who watch developing MMORPGs like hawks, yet with radically different mindsets. The first — “good until proven guilty” — assumes the title is going to be good, no, GREAT, and cannot be dissuaded otherwise until it actually releases (gotta wait for that miracle patch!) and is tried by a jury of peers. This first group gives extreme benefit of the doubt to any promises devs make, assume perfection will finally be attained with this game, and have a pathological blindness towards criticism.
The second group — “guilty until proven good” — begins with the assumption that this game will fall into the wider margin of crap MMOs that the genre attracts, and statistically has a higher probability of letting the player base down, being a subpar game, and failing to meet its promised feature list. Or being playable at all. They tend to be jaded gamers from previous MMO failures, or sometimes people who had a great love of their first MMO but have been let down ever since.
The first group sneers that the second group is too cynical. The second group jibes that the first group is comprised of hippie flower-huggers. The first group responds that, just because games have failed in the past, this one looks different and we should give it a chance. The second retorts, promises and feature lists don’t put the fun on my screen until I actually play, test and evaluate it.
We all have a tendency to fall into one of these camps, or even flip-flop between them (I know I have). But the real problem is that both camps are wrong.
You heard me. Wrong.
They both start out with a base assumption that cannot be proven or disproven until the game is released and played. Yet by taking sides with either camp, they start to mentally marinate in that philosophy until they’re completely and truly biased. It doesn’t matter HOW the game ends up being, they’ve already judged it. It makes it completely impossible to evaluate, test, review and criticize a game without being prejudiced toward a pronouncement before the first word is written.
I guess that’s how people are, when they look forward to things. I’d like to think I’m not so mired in the first camp that I wouldn’t demand that Warhammer Online live up to some pretty high standards I set for my gaming experience. And even though my reputation is on the line in a very public forum, if this game was far less fun and enjoyable than I’d previously assumed it would be, I would not sink future monthly subscription dollars into it just to save embarrassment.
It’s not a bad thing to be critical of MMO development and to demand that MMO devs live up to a standard instead of getting free reign to make complete turds (Vanguard anyone?), but by giving devs the benefit of the doubt and cheering them on, you’re encouraging them to do even better. Maybe there’s a middle ground here. Maybe.