Warcraft 3 and it’s expansion pack, The Frozen Throne, are on the top of my list of favorite video games, but it’s only after more than ten years of retrospective exploration that I discovered just how important they were to the evolution of gaming as we know it. I can now say with certainty that gaming would not be anywhere near what it is today without Warcraft 3. While many aspects of Warcraft’s influence were beneficial, there are a few potholes in gaming’s history that were oddly predicted by the classic Blizzard RTS and the community surrounding it.
5. The Birth of the MOBA (or ARTS/AoS)
As many people know, games like League of Legends, Smite, and Heroes of the Storm were based loosely on a game called DOTA (Defense of the Ancients). What they may not know is that DOTA was originally a custom map for Warcraft 3, and a pretty shitty one at that. Back in the mid-2000s, there were tons of games like DOTA, such as Tides of Blood, Eve of the Apocalypse, and Advent of the Zenith, that all fought with DOTA over a piece of the AoS (Aeon of Strife, the original name for the genre before big-wig marketing experts decided they wanted in) pie. Defense ended up garnering more of an esports audience, especially overseas, which helped boost it into becoming the phenomenon it is today, but it had much more humble roots than the games it helped inspire. If only I knew what I know now back when I was making Warcraft 3 maps like DOTA in my parent’s basement.
4. The Popularity of Games That Play Themselves
Although Tower Defenses and mindless Farm Simulators (we’ll talk more about that later) seem common place today, they really came into their own during the era of Warcraft 3 Custom Maps. Players would spend hours watching their peons gather crops and their towers obliterate waves of oncoming enemies without doing much more than click their mouse once every few minutes. This puzzled me at the time, but these games seem to have tapped into a subconscious zen state that no other entertainment medium, beyond Golf as a spectator sport, has been able to reach. A mad genius decided that it would be a great idea to create a piece of entertainment that limits interactivity as much as possible in the one truly interactive entertainment medium. He ended up starting a gaming phenomenon that rakes in millions of dollars in cash each year through the mobile gaming market and Facebook. GG. No re.
3. The Death of Warcraft
I seriously doubt that Blizzard knew that they would be murdering their most beloved franchise with the creation of its spin-off title, World of Warcraft. WoW started as the half-baked idea of a few Blizzard employees that enjoyed Everquest and ended up forcing Blizzard into an endless love/hate relationship with itself that generated millions of dollars in income. It also subsequently caused any further development into the Warcraft RTS franchise to be completely irrelevant. Knowing that Warcraft 4 isn’t coming is only made worse by the fact that Warcraft’s adventures in the MMORPG market butchered its already established lore to a point of no return. Here lies my favorite game of all time, may it rest in peace.
2. The Rise of the Everything Simulator
We live in a post-Goat Simulator world, where the creation and subsequent success of a game called I Am Bread isn’t even ironically humorous. If only we knew that playing games like Life of a Peasant and Island Troll Tribes would result in the living hell we’ve created. Among many other games, Warcraft 3’s Custom Maps list was full of simulated experiences, albeit with the caveat that every in-game model was either an orc or an elf and every virtual world was some slight iteration on a screen still from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You could pretend you were a gangster in the 1950s, a medieval king, a drug dealer, you name it! The nearly endless creative potential of Warcraft 3’s World Editor was wasted almost entirely on the kind of bizarre online role-playing that is now relegated to Neopets chat rooms, the “Miiverse” and Tumblr.
1. The Collapse of Mobile Gaming/Steam Greenlight
I’m so, so sorry for whatever part I may have had in the destruction of gaming as we know it, but not everything can be blamed on one Warcraft 3 Custom Map maker. The sheer volumes of garbage that spewed into the map making scene through its golden years needed an army of angsty twelve years olds with a precursory understanding of basic programming to manufacture it. Although my dislike of DOTA is well documented at this point, it stands as a golden pillar of game design when compared to a majority of its competition at the time. Games like One Piece vs Bleach Ultimate Anime Battle v3 littered the custom game queue and heralded not only the death of quality assurance, but also the rise of a complete disregard for copyright altogether. These two qualities make up the first two entries of the new ten commandments that stand etched into a statue on the front lawn of the Apple App-store, the Googleplay store, and Valve’s Steam Greenlight page.
The moral of this story is simple: don’t let just anyone create games, and create strict standards for games that are made. Without these rules, or at least any meaningful attempt at enforcing them, the mobile gaming market and online indie-outreach program called Steam Greenlight have successfully died before having their day to shine, full of blatant breaches in copyright, a complete lack of design, direction or passion, and sometimes, an abundance of downright offensive material. Apple, Google and Valve opened the flood gates too quickly, before realizing just how low the average game developer’s standards of quality and ethics are. If only they had listened to Old Man Blizzard, he would have told them just how awful shitty game developers can be. Now they must reap what they’ve sown, which is mostly just copy-pasted versions of popular games with copyrighted characters plastered over everything in a vague attempt at cashing in on gaming fads from five years prior. I hope I speak for the entire Warcraft 3 community when I say that I am very, very sorry.