Compare and ContrastAugust 3, 2008
It’s been done to every fantasy-themed MMO released since 2004 — and most other MMOs as well. And for anticipatory fans or current fans of those games, it’s the one thing that absolutely drives them bonkers. Yup, we’re talking about comparing each and every MMO to Da Big Daddy, World of Warcraft.
I’m sure you’ve seen pretty much every WAR blog or site talk about this in some respect, but I was thinking on why, exactly, this compare-and-contrast scenario bugs the heck out of the WAR community. Maybe it doesn’t for you, maybe it’s a non-issue. But it’s dug away at me from time to time, as you probably can tell — even though I have great respect and fond memories of WoW, if I hear someone saying the whole “WAR is just trying to be WoW and it’s just the same”, I want to grab a large tuna and start slapping them, punctuating the wet smacks with “No! It’s! Not!”
So here’s what I came up with as to why comparisons — which, let’s face it, will happen endlessly whether you want them to or not — bug WAR fans:
1. We want Warhammer to be able to stand on its own merit, for good or bad.
“Life is pain,” the masked man in The Princess Bride said, “Anyone who tells you different is selling something.”
If life was fair, Warhammer Online would release when the dev team thought it was 100% ready, without any external (or internal) pressure whatsoever. If life was fair, players and critics would evaluate WAR by itself, in a MMO vacuum. But life isn’t fair, is it? You can’t review movies without knowledge and experience of other films impacting that review, and comparisons are often inevitable. Likewise, for better or worse, other MMOs are out there, and they are measuring sticks (if faulty ones) that people will stack the new kids up against.
2. Because saying that WAR is “pretty much like WoW” might keep potential players from ever trying it out.
This one is my personal “biggie”. I feel that WAR will be good enough for other people to give it a go and see if it’s for them, but there are forces in the world that work against that notion. When your average, casual MMO player first hears about WAR and goes, “Hm, looks interesting, might have to check that out!” and a WoW fanboy intercepts that comment and says, “No you don’t! It’s pretty much the same game anyway, except it sucks/lacks features/lacks 4 years of release/what have you!”, then Joe Casual might shy away altogether.
By lumping in WAR with WoW, it’s giving potential WAR players no reason to ever see the game for themselves. Why should they? It’s pretty much the same game, right?
3. Because it demeans or belittles the innovation and advances that WAR is making.
A lot of WAR fanboy anger (mine on occasion as well) is unleashed at writers, bloggers and game critics when they’re apparently dismissive of WAR based on advance articles or quick demo sessions. People are used to making snap judgments, but when it’s over something as complex and involved as a MMO, there needs to be an appropriate evaluation period during which the reviewer puts behind them bias to truly see the game for what it is.
We obviously believe that WAR is pushing the MMO genre forward, doing some great new things as well as taking older features and making them even better. Quick, negative comparisons to WoW are great ways to easily dismiss the game with a definitive judgment so that they can keep on playing WoW with a guilt-free conscience. Reviewers in particular should know better than this, even in advance articles, and when they belittle any innovations or great aspects just because, to their brief experience, it seems WoWish to them, then they don’t deserve your patronage. Seriously evaluate and test without biased preconceptions, then give your review (good or bad)… I’ll respect you a lot more then.
4. Because people honestly hate WoW and don’t want to believe they’re buying WoW 2.0 — more of the same.
I hate to say this, but at the end of the day, if you hate WoW then chances are you’re not going to be sticking with WAR for a long time to come. If you’re expecting WAR to be completely different, a shining savior in the dark, then it’s time to disillusion yourself quickly, so you can approach this rationally. Most all modern MMOs use a level treadmill in coordination with gear upgrades, PvP combat, talent/skill/mastery builds, and so on. MMOs are all in the same family, and if you completely hate one, it’s a good bet that some of the things that irk you about that title are going to be found in the next one.
Don’t get me wrong, WAR is not WoW, not even as a twin or descendant or what have you. People liked WoW even after playing EQ and UO, not because it was a completely new revolution of the genre, but because they took what worked, made it better, and added more greatness to the mix. Likewise with WAR — you take the good, chuck the bad, and there you have the facts of life.
I can sympathize with this sentiment, however. I personally don’t want to believe I’m buying into the exact same game (with minor tweaks) that I was hooked on for four years, and I don’t think that’s what this is.
5. We want to see ourselves as fans of the scrappy underdog of the MMO world, the Rocky ready to deliver a stunning blow to Adrian. No, wait, that was his wife. Apollo. That’s it.
While nobody believes that WAR will dethrone WoW or even come close to matching subscription numbers, for the first time in a long time we have a serious challenger with a skilled dev team and a powerful publisher who’s ready to take on the title defender. WoW was once an underdog, and I remember when people were just full of glee when it overtook EQ, EQ2, AC and the rest to be the victor (in terms of subscriber numbers). Although WoW didn’t have anything nearly as powerful as what it’s become today to challenge it, it was still a scrappy little guy trying to prove himself in the rough and tumble world of MMOs.
Likewise, WAR, which is setting itself up to the strong, capable upstart that might potentially make large waves, has a way to go to prove itself. And as we are attracted to underdogs in fiction and real life, this makes it an attractive side to be on. Therefore, it’s a bit disconcerting when the underdog is said to be two sides of the same coin with WoW.
6. Because it’s a pissing contest, and people can’t resist defending “their side” to the death, all for the honor and glory and epeen.
And isn’t this the truth about every passion and interest and hobby and religion and political party in the world? People love to be right. They love to be on the side of right. And it can make them a bit blind to the real facts that flow around them.
The truth is that for all your impassioned, four-letter-word-riddled rants to WoW fanboys on various forum posts, whatever you or I say about this game really has little impact in the bearing of it. People tend to make up their minds on their own, and ardent defenders of one position isn’t going to just up and switch sides just because you yell at them loudly enough. Sure, you can reason calmly, provide solid examples, invite them to try, and just let it go at that. But some people can’t do that — it’s all about the length of the stream of their pee, to the point where they can’t see anything else.
I think I could go on to make a few more points, but these are the biggies. The hard fact of the day is that comparisons will be made, there’s nothing you can do to stop it, and if WAR is good enough it will hopefully overcome even the most slanted of prejudices to win over players that will get a kick from this gameplay.