In the TV franchise of Star Trek, it is said that the early Star Trek had great writing and laughable special effects and acting. But in the later shows, it can be said that the writing became laughable yet the special effects and acting was top notch. This is a generality but you can see the point. I feel something similar is happening with Blizzard games.
Blizzard’s cup of tea is multiplayer. The single player campaigns in the RTS games were, largely, a glorified tutorial for multiplayer. People didn’t play Warcraft 2 or Starcraft for years because of the single player campaign.
All multiplayer used to be local multiplayer. The editors that came with the games were also largely used for local audiences.
There was Internet multiplayer. But it was used in a local way. Let me explain. Kali, which shipped on the Warcraft 2 CD, was tricking the LAN packets to be sent over the Internet. Battle Net, with Starcraft, the Diablos, and Warcraft 3, was still used in a local way. It was not about ‘playing against the world’ except for a few people.
When you played Warcraft/Starcraft/Diablo multiplayer, who did you play with? You played with friends. And if your friends were not on, you played with other people. The ‘other people’ on the Internet was a substitute for your friends not being online at the time.
The reason why people invested so many hours in these maps was because of their local friends. In fact, this is how the very first video games were made. They were not made ‘for the world’. They were made for their own friends.
People keep holding a nostalgia candle for Vanilla WoW and cannot pin down why later WoW is so not fun. Blizzard ‘analyzes’ vanilla WoW, and they say the gameplay has been improved. This is correct. The gameplay has been improved. But none of that matters. The game feels too lonely, too ‘not local’.
I’ll try to explain it as simply as possible:
In past Blizzard games, you could just play with friends and have a grand old time. Today, you CANNOT DO THAT.
Blizzard: “Yes, you can…”
No, you can’t.
Blizzard: “Actually, you can…”
Listen, you super giant entity. You. Cannot.
With Warcraft 2, I played with friends and friends I made (on the Kali Compton server). When I played a Warcraft 2 game, my teammates were friends and my opponents were friends. We were all friends.
Today, when you play a Blizzard game multiplayer, your friends may only be your allies. You will never have your opponents as friends. If you try to play custom matches with friends on Starcraft 2 or Heroes of the Storm, YOU GET NO REWARDS. It becomes the antithesis of gaming. Worse, because of MMR, you may not want to play with your friend because his MMR is too low.
In the games in between, there has been slight evolutions towards the freak show we have now. I remember going on Battle Net for the first time with Starcraft and being amazed Blizzard would record the times you win and lossed. How dumb that was. This artificially altered the behavior of the gamers. Games would be set up where it would be 7 humans vs. 1 AI so people could pump up wins on their ‘record’. Toxicity began to creep in as people became concerned about their ‘record’.
In Vanilla WoW, there was no ‘system’ for PvP. People simply had fun doing PvP. There were no rewards. There was nothing. Yet, that did not stop people doing wars and taking over towns or the infamous Southshore vs. Tarren Mill of Hillsbrad. In lower level areas, when a lowbie was getting ganked, higher leveled characters would come in and help defend because they wanted to do so. There was no reward and no recognition of doing so.
Do you know why, dear reader?
It is because it is a fucking video game.
Video games have no real rewards except enjoyment. Video games take time out of your life and money to be bought. They do not add time. They do not add money. They offer nothing in terms of real value to your life except fun.
Blizzard did ‘systems’ with various rewards. This taps into a type of addiction of achievement. It becomes contrary to the prosperous life since a person’s ambitions are now directed toward ‘the game’. Hamster wheels stacked onto hamster wheels. But did any of this actually gain fans? The more ‘systems’ they added to WoW, the less popular it got. The ‘loneliness’ spreads within Blizzard games.
Do you know what was really great about the original DOTA? It did not exist in a system. There was no ladder. Maybe there were ladders made for it, but there was no company wide system for it. Most DOTA games were played with and against friends. Maybe that changed later on, like it did with Brood War, but there was no system for it.
One of the reasons why people want to be top ranked in Blizzard games is that they get to play against their friends. You cannot do that currently except in custom games (where there are no rewards).
What the fuck is the point of a multiplayer game if I cannot play against my friends?
Blizzard still makes very nice games. The problem is that the actual ‘meta’ is not who is balanced or imbalanced, the meta is the hamster wheel where you are crucified, spinning around and around, seeking stupid rewards.
I thought Blizzard was beginning to realize their error by removing achievements from Heroes. Instead, they are transferring it to portraits and portrait rims. Do X, Y, and Z and get a new portrait or portrait rim. It has NO GAMEPLAY value. Yet, it is more carrot for the hamster.
“But Malstrom! Warcraft 3 had portraits too awarded based on your games won.”
This is true. However, these were temporary and based only on a Bnet account (Bnet accounts were made all the time).
Everything I loved about Blizzard games are being removed. I’ve always enjoyed RTS single player campaigns. After Starcraft 2, they will be completely gone. They may make new ones, but they will be only for the hamster wheel of DLC. “Beat the new mini-campaign and get a new portrait!” See how that works? I’m so fucking tired of it.
Many Diablo players have complained about Diablo 3 (at least initially). Why was Diablo 3 so bad? Diablo 3 did many things right. It has fantastic visuals, sound, and crunchy combat. Yet, it was the business systems that completely wrecked vanilla Diablo 3. The real-money auction house was such a glaring example.
“The focus of a business is to make money.” Bullshit. You can make money in many ways, many of them sleazy. A bank robber makes money too. No. The actual focus of a business is to make sales. Since no game company seems interested or capable of focusing on sales, they are trying to squeeze as much cashflow from their ‘dedicated fanbase’ as possible. DLC everywhere! Buy all these new skins and ornaments! Why not make new games instead of making us play the old ones forever?
I’ll keep playing Heroes of the Storm until the end of the year. Then, I think I’m hanging up on Blizzard games. Forever.