Brad McQuaid (Aradune) is kickstarting an MMO. Fellow EverQuest veterans will know exactly who Brad is and the type of games he makes, but the younger generation probably has no clue. Brad is one of the big names behind EverQuest and Vanguard. He is known for a certain style old school games.
Something Brad said in a recent tweet soliciting questions for the upcomoing Kickstarter campaign got me thinking.
The game is high fantasy and if you’ve played EQ 1 and/or Vanguard, you’ve got a general idea of what the game’s about and what kind of questions to ask.
— Brad McQuaid (@Aradune) October 31, 2013
That’s a powerful statement. Brad is implying that EverQuest and Vanguard were so memorable that they imprinted a definition on their players that lasted 10-15 years. He’s right!
If someone tells me “This game is like EverQuest” then I know exactly what they are talking about. Tell me a game is like Lord of the Rings Online and I’ll probably stare at you blankly while trying to figure out which part or in what way.
What makes a game definable like that?
For a long, long time someone could say “That game is like World of Warcraft” and most of us would have a good idea. I don’t think that’s really the case anymore. The definition of “WoW clone” has become a little more fuzzy over the years. The reasons are simple: (1) WoW itself has changed radically over the years, and (2) So many games copied WoW just enough that it felt like 50 versions of the same game were all diluting what it meant to be a WoW clone.
I’m learning that consistency in the MMO industry matters a lot. Good game or bad, niche or mass appeal, an MMO has to have a clear identity. The formula is just as important. MMOs are the sum of their parts; The good parts add and the bad part detract, but the entire game wouldn’t be the same if any piece went missing.
Going back to the dilution of the WoW clone, I blame the fact that games continually try to emulate what they perceive as the good and strip out the bad, failing to realize that the bad parts may have actually been making the good parts better — if nothing else, they add depth.
To Brad and MMO developers at large, I urge you to take into consideration whether or not the game you are making is refined enough that it will be memorable in 15 years. I hope Aradune remembers that ‘why‘ he is able to solicit former players matters just as much as ‘what‘ he gets from them.