Tome of Knowledge vs. Player Achievements

July 17, 2008

Well, I guess it’s official. Over a month and a half ago, I reported on a World of Warcraft beta leak in which an “Achievements” system — which eerily echoed Warhammer Online’s Tome of Knowledge — was being tested. People’s responses to the news ranged from “So what, it’s not like the Tome was original anyway” to “All Blizzard does is copy others! Bah!” to “Blizzard is just being business savvy, tacking on whatever they can to retain customers”.

So what does World of Warcraft’s “Player Achievements” system look like?

  • A list of 500 achievements
  • Achievements include PvP, world exploration, PvE, character development, weird stuff.
  • Achievements will net players rewards, such as vanity pets, tabards and titles.
  • Achievements are comparable with others.
  • You can view achievements off-line as well.

Does this sound, um, just a tad familiar? Or, to put it more bluntly, a complete and total ripoff of WAR? I think so. I know I’m approaching this issue from WAR’s side, but as a previous WoW player, I’m intimately familiar with how much and often Blizzard shamelessly cribs ideas and features from its own games, other games, and even its own players (such as when player mods suddenly become integrated features). A lot of people have, and will continue to look at this as a non-issue: “So what? Players get more features in both games, win-win, no big deal. Again, it’s not like Mythic created this idea out of the blue — it’s entirely possible that both companies drew inspiration for their systems from the same sources (XBox Live, etc.).”

Bullcrap. No, really: bullcrap.

It’s not win-win, because this is Blizzard recognizing that their title has a limited shelf life and is starting to taste a little stale to its consumers — and they really will stoop to anything to keep people hooked on their product. Wrath of the Lich King isn’t about innovation at all; it’s more of the same, coupled with features that other MMOs (current and in development) have been working their hearts out on getting right. Of course Blizzard saw what WAR was doing, scratched their chin, and thought “Ayup, it’d work right good here, too.” The timing of this all is far past coincidental and into the realm of just plain insulting.

It’s not win-win, because one of WAR’s most highly-touted features now has a copycat brother who’s there to say, “Why do you want to try that game? We have whatever they do! And if not, we’ll be willing to throw it in.”

Turning it around on Mythic, hasn’t WAR taken huge cues and ideas from WoW and used it in their title? Sure. Yet despite what many people think, WAR isn’t going out of its way to copy WoW’s model, but to forge their own. The difference here is that I’m seeing Blizzard being reactive to Mythic’s features, and Mythic being proactive in creating their own without leaning hard on WoW as a template.

Agree or disagree with all of that, we as players are going to be boiling down the question into this: which will be better, the Tome or Achievements? Or better yet: what is fundamentally different between the two systems?

As far as I can tell, the biggest difference is that the Tome is integrated into the WAR experience from top to bottom, in and out; Player Achievements are a piggy-backed system long after the game has launched. On a superficial level, they both look similar — they track stats, offer up rewards, and track many of the same things. Yet Carrie and others at Mythic have talked long about how the Tome is more than just an XBox Achievements roster — it’s all about the emotion, the story, the connection to the player.

WoW’s Achievements are going to be another “to do” list, fun and polished no doubt, but not in a way that speaks to the players. I’m sure some WAR fans will approach the Tome as just another grind-worthy checklist, but when it integrates your character’s story, the lore of the surrounding area, interacts with the game and player on a meta level, and offers substantial rewards that give your gameplay an edge, it shows itself to be so much greater than another progression bar.

Of course, I’ve yet to get my hands on either system, but as despairing as this may be to some WAR fans or Mythic devs, I think it’s okay. Most players are smart enough to see through obvious company manipulation, and the ones that aren’t… well, do we want them playing WAR anyway? People see and respect quality and substance, and I’m not afraid that the Tome will win this little spat hands-down.



  1. Keep in mind the WAR’s Tomb of Knowledge sounds an awful lot like LOTRO’s quest and deed logs, which AFAIK was in the game when it launched in Apr 2007.

    So it’s not like WAR innovated here. I don’t know offhand if there was another game pre-LOTRO that had a similar concept.

    LOTRO did a good job implementing theirs IMO. It adds flavor to the game while tracking what you’ve done. There are title earned by completing deeds like getting 500 killing blows in the Moors. I’m working on my 2nd character for that title.

    LOTRO’s an excellent game overall (very refreshing compared to WoW), but I am very much looking forward to WAR.

    Waaagh! 🙂

  2. Think you summed it up pretty well with the integrated vs. piggy back thing. I suspect this will be exactly how it feels. The ToK appears to offer a much more in depth experience than either the WoW achievements (afaik) and LotRO.

    I love the LotRO deeds and traits – it’s an excellent addition to a game I thoroughly enjoy. The WAR ToK looks like a step up from this. The WoW achievements look like a bolt on. Guess we’ll see.

  3. Star Wars Galaxies had something similar years ago, still exists today if I’m not mistaken though it may not be as robust as WoW’s or WAR’s version of the idea. But it’s still arguably the basis for the idea.

    In SWG, you got recognition and titles for professions, places you’ve been and pvp ranks, etc. Sounds like both WAR and WoW ripped off the idea to me. And I’m not even going to go as far as saying SWG was the original think tank behind it (not a big SOE fan anymore) – so who knows where the idea originally came from.

    I think comparing the Tome to the Acheivements is really pointless, who cares which one is better in the beginning? They will both no doubt rip off eachothers ideas anyway. It’s just a pissing contest.

  4. WAR did innovate, for sure. Listen to ChaosCast #4 and the interview with Carrie Gouskos. There is a LOT of content packed into and tied into the Tome. It sounds to be a vast improvement on all other systems of its kind.

    Syp hit it on the head with this article; I agree with every word.

    And I hope as many WoWfanboys stay with WoW as possible; I don’t want any of there kind in our new game.

  5. Interesting to see this confirmed.

    As for “ripping off”, well, art and engineering are different. “Ripping off” or plagiarism or what have you is a valid concern in art, music, writing, etc., but not in engineering.

    In engineering the goal is to create a working object. You don’t want your local bridge to be original – you want it to hold the roadway and cars without collapsing. In fact, the engineer that designed the bridge really has a professional responsibility to make the best bridge possible with no regard to “originality”.

    Games are a combination of art and engineering. Ripping off someone’s nice game textures is art theft. Re-using someone else’s good game mechanics is just good engineering. After all, the goal of game design is to make something fun.

  6. WoW should have done this a long time ago. I think WAR’s system will be better, since it will be there from the start while the WoW system is being tacked on in an expansion.

    As far as who stole what from whom, I don’t care. I just want a good game. Even if WAR fails, at least it is succeeding in improving WoW (I don’t think WAR will fail, nor do I want it too).

    I intend to play both games so no one is losing any revenue from me over this.

  7. Well, as I said on my former blog, I hope WAR borrows, rips off, or whatever you want to call it, other games. Why not take the good and cull out the bad?

    Is WOW going to rip off WAR? Why not? It doesn’t really bother me as my WOW account ran out and I have no intention of going back to Azeroth.

    Here’s the dillio. WOW has been out for a long time. It is getting very tired with respect to game play and graphics. Most of us who played it are done. Yes it was great, but it’s time to move on. So I don’t care what WOW does. In the end, it will be the same old grind, gather, grind and grind. I am glad that WOW has ten million subscribers. It was a great game. So let Blizz rip off WAR. It doesn’t bother me a bit. Because now. . . it’s WAR time.

    Meh, maybe it’s just that I had a margarita for lunch and I don’t know what I’m talking about. But like Charles Barkley said, “I may be wrong, but I don’t think so.”

  8. From what I’ve read, WoW is copying LOTRO’s Deed systems. I play LOTRO, and I’m in the War beta. Obviously NDA is in force but I’ll crack it enough to reassure you that the Tome is a much, much richer experience than the Deed system in LOTRO.

  9. Blizzard once again playing the ‘low-risk, low-innovation’ approach. I’ve watched as various good new features sprung up in MMOs across the globe, then, a patch or two later, they appeared in WoW. Titles for characters, I saw in CoH/CoV and LOTRO, quest indicators on the mini-map, even the Armoury is stolen from Mythic in the days of DAOC. WoW’s starting to look, to me, like a generic old MMO with all the bells and whistles simply nailed onto it, tacked on in any old place where they’ll fit, then scrubbed repeatedly for 4 weeks with ‘ActiBlizz Good Ol’ 2 in 1 Polish – It keeps your game fresh, and produces such a sparkle that it blinds your players to the world outside that of Warcraft!’.

    And where WoW is the generic MMO with the features nailed on, WAR has a totally new core, with the features implemented in the essence of the game. And that’s why I’m excited.

  10. “the connection to the player”

    This, is what WoW has lost and is trying to get back rapidly. They know there is no real reason to PvP, unless you are a top seeded PvP’er.

    There is no reason to PVE unless you can find a guild that meets your time allotment, runs a raid on your hours and can get you epics on demand.

    Exploration in WoW is a joke, there is none.

    Lore? gone out the window with the last expansion.

    Blizzard isn’t worried if WAR is the MMO to kill them, they are worried that WAR might be the MMO to take that sizable chunk of their player base that has either canceled or is on the verge of cancellation.

    So what is the obvious step? Take some of the touted features of that game and implement them into your next expansion.

    I bet you right now, in WoTLK, there will be a “Public Quest Type” feature as well to help retain some of their casual player base.

  11. For the first time, I must disagree with you.

    At the end of the day, the MMO industry is a business and the games are the industry’s products for the consumers. This always happens with products in our “real world” as well. The Big Mac and the Whopper, Coke and Pepsi, etc.

    While the Tome itself may have very unique features, it basic format is that of Xbox Live, LotRO, etc. So while it may have revolutionary features, the system itself is not revolutionary.

    If Blizzard is able to make their achievement system as good as or better than Mythic’s Tome, then they deserve to be able to put their system in place without being called “copycats”, in my opinion.

    Just my two cents. Good article.

  12. Whether or not they’re copying this from WAR, or if they’re doing it as a preemptive strike against WAR’s features remains solely my opinion, sure. I think they are, I think it makes sense in the timing of it, but as some of you have pointed out, there’s certainly good ways to deflect that line of reasoning. I’m going to choose to be a bit cynical in this respect, because I’ve seen how Blizzard works, for good and for worse, and this is right up their M.O.

    Anyway, the more relevant question is if this announcement will halt any more WoW-to-WAR player conversions, if the system will give the Tome a run for its money, and how it’ll be perceived by players in both of the games.

  13. I desperately want Hello Kitty Island Adventure to take-off so that Blizzard is forced to copy aspects of it.

  14. […] any means but I for one am glad WoW is including it in the game.  Syp over at Waaagh! wrote up a rather lengthy post stating his disdain for Blizzard ripping this idea off of Mythic’s Warhammer Online upcoming […]

  15. Since I’m not in the beta and haven’t truly seen exactly how the Tome works, it’s hard to say if it’s really better. However if the hype is true and it’s fully integrated into the game, providing not just unlocks but also lore and other “fluff”, then it’ll be better. To be honest, the LotRO version didn’t impress me much, it always felt like a separate mini-game rather than part of the big picture. I imagine that WoW’s version will be similar. It’ll appeal to some, but not to others, and the ones in the know will likely prefer WAR’s version.

    As for killing WoW-to-WAR conversions… meh. I’d like to see a nice solid playerbase in WAR but I don’t want it to be a WoW-killer. I’d rather WoW keep their fanbois.

  16. […] snowball. They’re shamelessly stealing sucessful features from other MMOs (that’s where this whole discussion stemmed from) – as a result, WoW is losing it’s originality, starting to look like some sort of inbred […]

  17. Here’s a recent quote from Shingeru Miyamoto regarding M$ ripping off Nintendo’s Mii avatars:

    “To see that a company like Microsoft has taken something we’ve done and kind of looked at it in a way and brought it out on their platform to kind of show that we’ve done has become the standard, I find quite flattering.”

    “But on the other hand, I think probably the basic ideas behind perhaps those two different systems are different and because of that I think they will probably develop in different ways.”

    The tome is obviously pretty near and dear to your heart, so I can understand why you’d be so riled by this. I was pretty annoyed to hear of AoC pilfering the keep siege idea from WAR as well… that is until I heard it was a complete failure.

    Piggy-backing features onto your game is in no way going to bring the kind of holistic, part-of-the-package feeling you would get if it was fully integrated from the start.

    I will be really interested to see what Blizzard brings out in their next MMO. More of the same copycatting and polishing? A little innovation? My guess is the former.

  18. I’ve posted my views about this on my blog: http://vvwar.blogspot.com/

    In response to your blog entry (somewhat) and my own thoughts.

  19. Somewhere in the world Carrie Gouskos is punching a wall…

  20. I hope they do play because they pay money just like everyone else and Mythic needs money to continue putting in good innovations 🙂 No need to pretend this is an exclusive club anyways. That’s what guilds are for.

    p.s. Snafzg and co., plz come check out my blog and give me and Anton suggestions on the tactical game were making. Ty

  21. *meant Syp and co. but it amounts to the same thing, all y’all

  22. Syp, why are you demeaning the ToK by comparing WoW’s achievements to it? I do not see this in any way like the ToK, especially after your interview.

    We could accuse WAR of copying LoTRO and SWG, isn’t that the case? No, the ToK is more than that, they took an existing concept and improved on it. Hmm

  23. I think players love titles and achievements, so I’m not really surprised to hear this.

    But the WAR tome of knowledge sounds fun! It will have thousands of achievements to discover and unlock, and lots of lore as well from how it sounds.

    WoW achievements will be simple titles with some tat attached, there will be 500, and they will be listed all over the web very shortly after the expansion is released. Plus lots will be grindy.

  24. Any game designer would be remiss not to try to include something like achievements. The questions is, can Blizzard do it well?

  25. Blizzard seems to be going overboard in their attempts to modify & rush WOTLK out the doors. They are instituting an entire zone based on PvP, with vehicles etc to try to win their “world pvp” players back. They’re making all 25 man raid instances doable by 10 man raids as well; to try to keep the more casual/smaller guilds satisfied and paying. Now they announce they are adding achievements for players, pve, exploration, pvp etc. I’m wondering if the 47K HK’s I already have will count for anything, or will they be as useful as they were when the battleground system was revamped completely.

    Bottom line, the more crap Blizz adds on to their game to “enhance” the experience, the more they are drastically changing they way it’s played. If you don’t believe me, compare not just Battleground fighting, but A.V. specifically, as it is now to how it was before they took out the NPC’s.

    I hope Blizz keeps borrowing ideas from other games and tacking them on haphazardly to theirs. More half completed code with barely thought out consequences will lead to more people getting fed up with giant monster that WoW is and the more that smaller games/developers will benefit.

  26. Syp, Yes WoW Ripped this feature right out of the manlihood of WAR but really, how can you not see Blizzard as what it is?
    Blizzard, just like Warhammer Online, is a profit-seeking business. They strive to make their game a good product that will pull in the cash. If another game has a feature that is really innovative and new, Blizzard would be foolish not to “rip-it-off” and put it in their own to keep it competitive. That is the way of all things. If I own a deli, and the deli down the street just started offering a new feature, like free bread mondays, Would not I want to add an even better feature to keep my business alive? Like Free Kid Teusdays, Where I give away a child to every customer on teusday.
    Incorporating previously thought ideas into a companies business model is the way of profit, Syp. I assure you WAR has done it, and it won’t stop with WAR or Blizzard. All games that seek to turn a profit will incorporate new and innovative features (not necessarily their own) into their game in order to turn that ever so precious profit.

  27. WAR isn’t the only game to have an achievement system, there games before it that had an achievement system so this entire article is flawed.

  28. Blizzard have a fine track record of seeing good ideas and tweeking them to make them more accessible and… well better.

    But on this one no way!!! I just don’t think they have the humour for it.

    I truely believe the Warhammer tome will at times border on Monty Python… think Black Knight scene in The Quest for the Holy Grail, where-as Blizzards will be… You had a Hair Cut!!

    I like some of Blizzards attempts at humour but I think on this battle they will be totally outclassed!!!

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