Anjin over at Bullet Points put up a great post yesterday that struck a nerve with me. He points out that, having raced to the cap, a lot of MMO commentators are now bored with Cataclysm and suddenly turning on it; some even going so far as to call it the "worst expansion in the history of WoW." More generally, he points out that for some bizarre reason many MMO "fans" consider a game that fails to hold their attention for years a failure; an expectation which is hardly realistic. I think he's dead on.
Why is it that so many commentators that would be perfectly happy with an offline game that lasts them for a week or two consider an MMO that lasts them a "mere" two or three months an abysmal failure? If you have gotten bored with your current MMO and find yourself bitter about it, ask yourself these questions: (1) Before you hit the grindy annoying endgame (or whatever it was that put you off of it), were you having fun? (2) Did you play it for at least as long as an average offline CRPG? If the answer to both of those is yes, I would argue that you got your money's/ time's worth.
I think some of this bizarre expectation comes from the games that many of us cut our teeth on. In launch era EQ it could easily take a week of grinding, sometimes in the same spot, just to get a level. And the levels themselves were often pretty meaningless, with new abilities coming along maybe every four to eight levels. Some MMOs like Anarchy Online were even more glacial. I can't imagine how long it took to hit the level cap of 200. I think I made it to 20 or so in a month when I tried it. If you had the patience for it, you'd be playing for something like a year just to get to the level cap in many games back then. In EQ, even at the cap there was the whole AA system that could keep you grinding even longer. Players expecting that kind a snail paced grindfest would be put off by a game that they can blow through in a "mere" hundred hours I suppose.
Yes, being stuck in molasses for a solid year just to be able to see all the zones on offer did give players a lot of time to get to know each other and build up relationships. Judged as a social experiment, you could argue that old school MMOs were rather successful. However, judged as "games" I'd argue that they were largely failures. The moment to moment game play tended to pretty much suck. Launch era EQ was slow, repetitive, and demanded the sort of spare time that only a single college student is very likely to have.
More to the point, what really mystifies me about some MMO commentators is that once they decide they don't like a game, they can't seem to get past it. They act like a jilted lover, or the victim of a war crime. For ever after whenever a particular MMO is mentioned they can't help but pipe up about how "sucky" it is. If the MMO that burned them happens to be something popular like LoTRO or WoW, they may even concoct all sorts of unlikely explanations as to why a game that "obviously sucks" can be entertaining to so many players. Often, these theories boil down to something along the lines of "I simply have much better taste/ am a much better gamer than the mentally deficient masses that inhabit that shallow carnival ride." So endearing, not at all arrogant...
I think it's a good thing to let people know what you didn't like about a given game when you stop playing. It warns off players that might have similar taste, and potentially provides feedback to the developers. However, at some point you need to move on. Let the players that like the game (often some tens of thousands even in the case something like WAR that hemorrhaged subs after launch) have their fun. Move on to something you find fun. Spending months (or even years in some cases) attacking a game and the players that enjoy it says a lot more about you than it does about the game.