The latest patch demonstrates the problems with an online game like World of Warcraft. The main problem is that the game forces you to upgrade, whether you want to or not. If you don’t buy the latest expansion, you’ll be screwed because you’ll be behind. And if you do not want to partake in the expansion, you have no opportunity to just stick with whatever patch you want to play. For a game that has involved millions of fans, World of Warcraft makes me believe that allowing Blizzard to retain this much control over the game is dangerous considering the time investment for players.
A bigger question becomes: what happens the day someone pulls the plug on the game? What happens to all that effort? I dislike the notion of the “cloud” because you’re putting your assets in someone else’s hands. For some services like Facebook, you end up losing control over your data and always run the risk of others stealing or manipulating it without your permission.
So with regards to games, the effort you put into a game ends up being the property for these gaming companies. Essentially, you’re renting out the time for a game. This model is completely and obviously biased towards the publishing company, which is why I only have subscribed to one such game. That said, this recent patch demonstrates the mentality that Blizzard is moving towards, which I call the “Greedo Shot First” or “George Lucas” mentality. Meaning that the game and their makers have gone into denial and can’t see how badly their shit stinks.
In the South Park episode where the boys attempt to rescue an unnamed movie from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Stan Marsh says that the work of an artist eventually becomes public domain. I feel that there is definitely a point in that statement where the community develops a huge emotional stake that has helped define and support a subject. Star Wars is one of those cases just as World of Warcraft because of how big of a pop cultural phenomenon they have become. In short, these artifacts to a degree have exceeded what the creators are capable of at this point.
I think with World of Warcraft, the survivability of the game and culture is linked to Blizzard’s eventual need to allow the community to exert more control over the game. Just like DoTA, the game needs to spawn its own ground by open sourcing the code so people can run it on private servers without fear of persecution.
Right now, the community and game at large are at the mercy of a few select people who are making rather unpopular decisions. These decisions though affect everyone in the community for better or worse (mostly worse) and there’s no real feedback loop until everything is too late.
If this continues along with the continuing drop in numbers (which Blizzard attributes to the age of the game as well as the inability to reach Chinese markets early), the game will continue to spiral downwards. However, Blizzard does not seem to see the repercussions of these few developers until much later when subscription loss clarifies everything.
More than likely though, Blizzard, in the CEO’s utter greediness, will never release the game to the public. So what can we do to save it?
Quite honestly, I feel that the game in the long term has little hope for being saved. The only thing saved are transient non-digital memories. Instead, what needs to occur is a new project that is not controlled by a massive corporate entity but it supported by the community and run by a community.
I do have a small side project that I’ve been working on from time to time. It’s at a non-coding stage and just describes the rules for the game that I’m envisioning. One thing I will need to do is develop the world, culture, history, geography, etc. But I hope to develop it more one day.