The title and focus of this post is a reference to something Gevlon wrote recently. I read his blog quite often, but do not comment. Regardless, the full quote is this:
"To understand the problem we have to recognize two basic points. At first, every endgame is PvP. The PvE players want to get higher on the charter. Even the pet collectors try to show off their rare pets, what are rare because others don't have it. You can dampen the PvP aspect, you can help the ones behind, you can add more content to explore, delaying the endgame for the more casuals, but eventually in all games the player will have to encounter the endgame that is PvP by nature and runs below the slogan of "gtfo noob" (or trivial and people leave in boredom)."
I was reminded of a post I had made previously on individualistic communities. The average WoW player does not need to cooperate with anyone else to achieve his goals. The Dungeon Finder, and soon the Raid Finder, will allow him to gem and gear up while only needing to rely on himself. Gevlon even recognizes it in his latest post, saying,
"The problem of Cataclysm from the community viewpoint is that the difficulty comes from the "dance" that can't be helped. I can't give you dance, I can't carry you over the dance, I can't even help you learn the dance. I can only give you meaningless advices as "watch more videos", which is a solitary activity."
Without these elements; without needing other players to progress, you have no reason to socialize. So we have to give people incentives to be in guilds. Though this might seem like a great idea, look at it from another light: WoW has to give people a reason to be in a guild, because being social isn't a good enough reason.
Where is my Massively Multiplayer game? SWTOR devs promise to keep their queues within the server, but also say they will evaluate the impact this has on the game. Sound familiar? How about RIFT? The players of MMORPG's are far too used to the convenience this brings to be willing to give it up. Once again, social interaction is neglected. There is a much larger focus on the game part of MMORPG than the multiplayer part.
But then again, how can a company create reasons to be social? Removing the Dungeon Finder is a popular response to this sort of thing. Or making it server-only. However, the second option there would damn small servers, so it may be simply more merciful to remove it altogether. I don't believe removing it from games is even possible at this point though. People love their conveniences, and removing them would cause a tremendous outcry. Imagine if you had to collect your mail at your town's post office instead of at your mailbox. It is a longer trip to accomplish the same thing, and though you are being more social, you don't realize what a hassle it is until you have a mailbox. Then, suddenly, you never want to live without one.
While we are blaming the players for these design choices, let's pick a quote from Game By night which has been popular in the blogosphere* recently.
"As husbands and wives, careers, kids, bills, and mortgages enter the picture, gaming time tends to slide until it either disappears or the classification on your gamer card changes entirely. MMOs are becoming more casual because, you guessed it, we’re becoming more casual."
Big thanks to Bio Break for featuring it in a big, bold place where I could find it easily. This quote puts some things into context. Most avid gamers are aware of the statistic that most gamers are over the age of 30. WoW is 7 years old, and the free time that college kids and early 20-something year olds had to play this game is now gone. The same audience they have held has changed in a big way, and WoW evolved their game to try to keep them. It's only natural to create the Dungeon Finder for people who are starved for time to play and see content, right?
Except they are suddenly no longer designing for the crowd that made their game popular in the first place: The 20-something year olds with disposable income and a lot of free time. Sure, 30 and up may have more income and those who choose MMO's as a hobby will appreciate the design choices, but they are also the ones who are less likely to pursue new social connections in comparison to the 20 year olds. 30's and up are likely to already have established family and friend circles that investing in those connections online is no longer worth the time. Yet, they enjoy the game and may also enjoy the fact that there is an established community to talk with when the desire arises. The community is there when you want it, but you never need it.
And so we bring this full circle. How exactly does this make endgame PvP now? We seemed to have ridden the Tangent train all the way to the middle of No-Longer-Relevant, New Mexico. The word of the post is rewards. It is one of the reasons the badges system was developed, and it is the reason why every endgame is PvP. Because despite not needing the community to gain your rewards, everyone else in the community wants your rewards too. Raid drops, dungeon drops, and even the guy who is camping you in Warsong Gulch and preventing you from gaining honor (before they handed it out like aggressive free-sample marketers at a food stand in your local mall. You know the ones.) are all in the way of you getting rewards. You are no longer competing against a game challenge for your items, you are competing against your guild and PuG mates. Badges help alleviate this, yes, but since they do not replace loot they still do not prevent this from happening.
Your teammates want your loot. Your teammates are preventing you from winning Tol Barad/Wintergrasp/Random Battleground. Your teammates keep screwing up on the Sapphiron fight because damnit, how hard is it to stand behind an ice block? And you can't help them in any way. It is you against the World of Warcraft. Or Middle Earth. Or whatever the world name is in Warhammer.
*I refuse to believe that "blogosphere" is a real word.