Every industry has its Wild West period. Seemingly crazy folks move forward with what turn out to be not-so-crazy ideas. They work together (or in competition) to usher in something totally fresh and new. Some of them stumble. Okay, most of them stumble. But some of them create something so inspiring it births a whole new industry.

If you played the early MMOs, you know that it was an exciting frontier. But in recent years the industry has settled into a groove. Yes, it's been a turbulent groove, but it's impossible to deny that in terms of design, most games these days are following a similar formula. This formula -- introduced by EverQuest (well, Dikus, actually!) and refined by World of Warcraft -- is used now because it works. It makes money most of the time -- more often than the other formulas or the wild-eyed ideas, anyway.

But since the genre has settled on this formula, has it lost something? Has the massive success of World of Warcraft replaced the exciting frontier with a commercial empire that's short on inspiration and character? Put another way: do you feel like the new games are so focused on commercial appeal that there's no trace of love or passion for the endless as-yet-unimagined possibilities of virtual worlds left over?

This article was originally published on Massively.
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