So I am finally going to do something that maybe is in my small way thanking KingIsle for building an awesome game despite my continual change requests. I'm going to compare it to other MMORPGs in general and detail what makes Wizard101 stand out.
Top 10 reasons why Wizard101 is better than other MMORPGs
1) The inventory and chat dialogs are simple and clean with little clutter.
I can only really describe the virtues of Wizard101 by pointing out the vices in other games so pardon the bashing of other games I've tried. (and I've tried a lot) All of the MMORPGs that I've played have had a cluttered and difficult to navigate UI. I'm not saying that you can't figure them out or work them, just that they generally are very similar with a lot of large dialog boxes with multiple buttons, lots of fine print. Most notable are the inventory dialogs which differ only slightly from game to game. Inventory dialogs typically are packed with row after row of icons with tiny signs of indicators. Chat windows are large but typically presenting a small font making it difficult to read quickly while concentrating on killing monsters.
Contrast with that the clean obvious fonts of the Wizard101 interface. Inventory is simple to navigate through. Takes no learning curve whatsoever and scrolling options are obvious and accessible. Names are provided which makes it easy to differentiate rather than peering a small icons and a simple mouse hover indicates the inventory item versus what you have equipped. Private messages appear visually different and pop their own window on the screen versus showing in line on a cluttered chat window. Wizard101 chats are small and twitter-like. This presents a slight difficulty in getting a long point across but encourages one to be a) brief and b) to not spam comments. The chat window shows your friend private chat versus open chatter. Group chat is simple, intuitive after you've tried it once. Chat bubbles are a nice way to talk to other players and are visible when people are nearby. These give the game an air of friendliness that is dramatically lacking in most other MMORPGs.
2) Camera angle and presentation
One cannot underestimate the overall effect of proper versus bad camera position and camera follow mode. Most MMORPGs like to offer their players the ability to adjust their camera angle on the fly. This is probably the most frustrating aspect of MMORPG play. It's a small detail but a good camera placement that doesn't stick by accident in some weird angle while you're fighting monsters is a make-or-break detail. Also annoying to many western players is the high dramatic camera angle of many of the Asian designed games. This is probably a cultural preference or artistic preference but it has a huge correlation to the immersion factor in the game itself.
3) Clean quest lines and impressive NPC characters
Other than a few notable hiccups quest lines are well tested and complete. Many other MMORPGs NPC quest masters refuse to give you credit for basic early quest lines. NPC characters communicate via quest windows with only a Next button versus many other MMORPGs with mysterious buttons, unused buttons that confuse the reader or at very least a back and next which Wizard101 wisely did without. If you care to go back and reexamine your quest instructions you can review it in full in the quest section of your magic book.
4) It's easy to keep track of your quests
Your quests accumulate in you magic book so you can easily review and resume them and even have dozens going at the same time without fear of losing track.
5) The Wizard101 quest helper makes the game perfectly suited to kids
Wizard101 built in a quest direction tracker which shows you where you can resume your quest no matter where you are. No more pouring over maps, following vague hunches or running though thousands of miles of barren wasteland only to find you're headed in the wrong direction.
6) Teleporting makes it all worthwhile
Many MMORPGs allow you to travel by walking, by riding a beast of some sort, or by limited teleport ability. Wizard101 includes all of these and makes them ultra easy to access and use. The plethora of teleportation methods lets you focus on the doing rather than the finding.
7) Interface Interface Interface
Easy to navigate book-like control for all inventory, equipping, and preparation. Tabs and simple icons make navigating the setup of your character's gear and cards easy and intuitive even for kids.
8) Something other than blob shooting
99% of other MMORPGs have you immediately killing some kind of silly plant or other thing that's running wild around the fake NPC town. The plot is generally you desperately trying to gain a more powerful sword or magic spell to wildly throw in the direction of your mouse cursor.
Wizard101 forgoes this tired blob shooting, or stabbing as the case might be, altogether. In Wizard101 you match wits with, and play a game of skill and chance with the monsters using card-based spells. Your future really is in the cards. Certainly you strive to learn new spells and gain new powers and resistances and get better gear but you don't have to be wildly driving your player with the mouse while pushing numbered keys to lash out in different directions. In Wizard101 you chose to confront a monster when you want to, and you are immediately transported into a battle circle with rules of engagement. This setting takes on a life of its own with an absolute rather than hap-hazard strategy to win. This mode also provides a feeling of safety and lower stress than other games which kids find comforting and reassuring.
9) A polished social aspect
While other MMORPGs encourage you to gather a mob of like minded soldiers to attack a creature or other players, Wizard101 encourages coordinated teamwork and thinking rather than furious mouse clicking and number pushing to win. I acknowledge that other games have their strategy and teamwork elements however Wizard breaks away from the shooter genre and puts people together in turn based battle situation where chatting is free and easy between spell casting. Wizard101 keeps it clean too with filtered chat for the young players, and the nasties filtered out even for those with open chat. Wizard encourages it's players to keep the talk kid-friendly. Wizard also makes it possible to indicate which friends are close list and which are not. It goes further and allows you to connect with real world or trusted friends using friend codes for a special indicator and more free chatting ability.
10) Kid friendly visual appearance
The visual appearance of Wizard101 has two factors that endear it to families and kids.
a) It's a bright and safe world where even the "scary" things don't seem scary.
b) It keeps players outfits and abilities to a family friendly minimum. In a gaming genre where other games are speeding toward PG13 or even R rated outfits and R rated character actions, Wizard keeps things basic, simple and friendly. While everyone looks cute or handsome as the case might be, the clothing is modest but still cool and provides a lot of style and individuality.
So that's it. That's my 2 cents on the current state of MMORPG. Props to KingIsle for a well polished game with lots of fun to be had for all ages. I think other vendors will be incredibly hard pressed to compete against a game that's so friendly in it's design and feel.