And I don't want to build a better Warcraft
This leads me to the larger issue at hand, which goes beyond David Allen, beyond Alganon, and is targeted at the MMO genre as a whole. Why are we trying to build a better Warcraft? Why do games today seem to all try to encapsulate the spirit of Warcraft instead of trying to develop their own themes and evoke different feelings?
Designers keep telling me, "We're building a better MMO." No, you're not, you're trying to build a better Warcraft, and it's consistently failing. Stop trying to do it. Most other genres figured out to stop trying to put the square peg into the exclamation point shaped hole, yet we still keep trying to jam it in there because "We know it will work this time, guys!"
There is absolutely nothing wrong by being inspired by another game and no one is asking anyone to completely reinvent the wheel. Not everything has to change in a game for it to be brilliant and effective. But there are gaming ideas out there that no one has even touched. Or, ideas that have been touched and have failed, but are certainly open for someone else to try again.
"Most other genres figured out to stop trying to put the square peg into the exclamation point shaped hole..."
Mechanic wise, what ever happened to turn-based combat? Toontown Online and Wizard 101 utilized it, but they're about the only examples. What could happen if a large budget game decided to run a turn-based style system and put effort into cinematic battles? Puzzles are another mechanic that everyone seems to ignore. Same with directionless exploration. I remember getting lost back in EQ1 so easily.
We use to be inventive and unique in the genre. Asheron's Call and EverQuest certainly had their share of mechanics, but both were clever enough to execute them in their own unique ways. Asheron's Call had a very dynamic combat and magic system, while EverQuest was keen on the "use skills to level them up" method of gameplay that was inspired by Ultima Online. Still EverQuest played differently from Ultima, even though EQ was very much inspired by UO. EQ and Final Fantasy XI are also two games cut from the same cloth, but both still came out with different and unique executions.
This is one of the main reasons I'm so excited about the MMOFPS games coming on the horizon, like APB, MAG and Global Agenda. Or, if you want to stick with the MMORPGs, The Secret World and Star Wars: The Old Republic. These games don't have a main game to rip off, which means they're going to execute their ideas and bring fresh air to our stagnant genre. And that's all I'm asking for, really. Just a little bit of fresh air (and less exclamation points.)
Seraphina Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who just wants something uniquely new and interesting to play. When she's not writing here for Massively, she's rambling on her personal blog, The Experience Curve. If you want to message her, send her an e-mail at seraphina AT massively DOT com. You can also follow her on Twitter through Massively, or through her personal feed, @sera_brennan.