Ten Ton Hammer has ranked the MMO’s of the Decade. Inevitably, I have things to say about their choices, although I think they are mostly on target. Ish.
Best Community: EVE Online
Runners-up: EverQuest II, The Lord of the Rings Online
It’d be almost impossible to argue against this choice, although LotRO’s community is certainly “nicer” than EVE’s. But nobody has CCP beat for community investment. EQ2’s community I’ve kind of soured on; there’s just too much incessant complaining for my comfort.
Best PvP: Dark Age of Camelot
Runners-up: Shadowbane, Lineage
No argument with Dark Age of Camelot, although the heyday of Shadowbane was before my time and Lineage is just a rotten piece of ass. One has to wonder what exactly happened during WAR’s development process that it ran so far off the rails, given Mythic’s proven track record with PvP. I still have no plausible hypothesis. I would love to see a DAoC updated for 2011… the game that WAR was supposed to have been.
Best Art & Animation: Age of Conan
I can’t quibble with AoC’s excellent art design, but how is EVE not here, even as a runner-up? Granted, ‘animations’ per se aren’t among the game’s graphical strengths, but it’s unquestionably one of the best-looking games out there, not just in raw graphics but in design. Maybe it’s the lack of avatars, which I think everybody acknowledges is a problem at this point – albeit one that’ll soon be addressed. Aion? Point to any of dozens or hundreds of Asian games with the exact same look, and then tell me again about how great Aion looks. With a straight face.
Best Sound & Score: Guild Wars
Runners-up: Age of Conan, The Lord of the Rings Online
For my money, Age of Conan has the best score in any MMO, and sound at least on par with anything else as well. However, there’s no question that Guild Wars’ soundtrack is very good. Personally, I think LotRO’s is pretty flat, imitative of the movie soundtracks in a lackluster way. Funcom went for the exact same thing when scoring AoC and hit the nail on the head. I wouldn’t say LotRO’s soundtrack is actually rotten, but it’s nothing special.
Most Innovative: D&D Online
Runners-up: Guild Wars, Warhammer Online, Anarchy Online
A not unreasonable choice, although it’s hard to say of two broadly similar games, DDO and Guild Wars, which is the more innovative. Personally I’d say DDO based on the depth of the mechanics, which is unmatched in anything except EVE, but I can see the opposite case, as GW has a broader appeal (i. e. it’s more approachable by the common jackwad on the street,) and it made innovations in the financial model before DDO did. But Warhammer Online? The greatest failure in the history of MMOs? Innovative? For fuck’s sake, how? Based on the one laudable feature that we hadn’t seen before in that exact form?
Best Expansion: The Planes of Power, for EverQuest
Runners-up: City of Villains, Wrath of the Lich King
I can’t honestly offer an opinion on Planes of Power – it was well before my time. I’m prepared to accept TTH’s judgment that the choice was made on the strength of the raid zones. But it’s hard to imagine a single expansion adding more to a game than City of Villains did. Lich King… Lich King was impressive and frustrating for me in about equal measure. On the one hand it was mostly well-executed, but on the other it limited WoW’s gameplay to preset paths (or – more correctly – it continued a trend that was already established.)
Editor’s Choice: EverQuest II
I can see it… I mean, it’s not a real stretch. Except for a couple of big holes, EQ2 is full-featured, and many of those features (housing and guild management in particular) are second to none in the hobby. But the lack of decent PvP really hurts it in a crowd of games all of which do that better than EQ2, and the heavily zoned and instanced world fragments what ought to be a more visibly contiguous environment. As TTH’s “Editor’s Choice” I can’t argue with it, but my Editor’s Choice would probably be Age of Conan, with EVE, DDO and LotRO the runners-up.
Best Game: World of Warcraft
Not a surprise by any means, but it’s kind of a cowardly choice. Sure, WoW is the most popular game, by a lot. But is it really the best? TTH seems to think it is, based solely on that criteria (the only one given.) But it’s a mistake to pay attention only to WoW overwhelming popularity – sweeping its many failures under the rug. Most importantly, it failed MMOs – by undercutting the potential of the genre. And its many imitators followed suit, setting MMO development back five years. Its very success has stifled both it and the rest of the hobby. Among major studios, only CCP ignored the WoW model and went and did their own thing. Only CCP stretched what an MMO could be, rather than contracting it, whether through progressively narrower and narrower development (WoW) or by truncating their MMO during the design process and giving us part of a finished game on release (WAR.) I say epic fail on Ten Ton Hammer’s part, and give the title of “MMO of the Decade” to the game that deserves it: EVE Online.