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Competition: It’s Good, Really. Really Really.

October 7, 2008

I, Syp, solemnly swear that I am done, now and forever, with World of Warcraft bashing, attacks, belittling or griping.

Believe it or not, past mentions of WoW on this blog weren’t coming from a complete “hater” perspective, but rather a player who truly loved that game and, in the long run, became unsatisfied with the direction it took — and wanted it to return to the source of what made it great in the first place. But you probably don’t come to WAAAGH! for WoW-bashing (you come for the potpourri, thanks, I made it myself), and since I’ve made the oath up there in the first sentence, you now know that what I post next isn’t an attack on Blizzard, but an observation as to the connection between the Blizz and the Myth. Ic.

Massively linked to this post by Blizzard CM Tigole about upcoming changes and plans for their PvP system, including this interesting little quote:

We’re also planning on improving some Battleground and PvP features in general. For example, we want to give you the ability to queue for Battlegrounds from anywhere in the world. We’re also going to explore EXP gain through the PvP system as well as low level itemization to support that.

Of course, my initial kneejerk reaction was “Warhammer much?” But that’s pretty much like beating a dead horse at this point, and since I’m a new post-oath man, I wanted to look at this from a different angle. What if, I thought, what if what Blizzard and Mythic and all these other MMO companies claim is actually true: that competition is great for the lifeblood of the entire industry? What if that isn’t just a line they spew when trying to look magnanimous toward lesser titles or “buddy buddy” with the big boys?

I mean, it’s obvious that Blizzard owes a huge past debt of inspiration/plagiarism to Games Workshop and the whole Warhammer IP. And unless you’re truly blind, it’s hard to deny that several of the planned changes coming in Wrath of the Lich King are specifically designed to answer the call of competition put out by Mythic: the achievements system, the open-world PvP zone, and now this quote concerning leveling via PvP XP and anywhere-anytime battleground queuing.

It’s also pretty obvious that Mythic owes a huge present debt of inspiration to Blizzard for being the “iron that sharpens iron” in urging them to try harder, think bigger and polish like a madman with Warhammer Online. Mark Jacobs even said so, especially following the Burning Crusade’s release, when Mythic further delayed the game to make sure that it met the higher bar that WoW set in 2007. I won’t deny that several of the innovations and streamlined features that WoW made so prominent are liberally present all over and through WAR.

The axiom of “when companies compete, consumers win” appears to be proving true here in the MMOscape. As the bar is set ever-higher by MMOs and single-player titles alike, players demand more for their buck, refusing to settle for what was “pretty good” in 2000 or 2005. Despite the high frequency of developing MMO failures, companies keep trying their hardest to produce that hit product, because it really does turn into a cash cow that they can milk monthly for a decade, two decades, or even more.

No MMO is a 100% original work; they borrow and build on what came before, and add on what they feel will push their game (and as a byproduct, the industry) above and beyond. If a feature from another game would be appreciated by a company’s playerbase and would fit within the framework of their title, really, why wouldn’t they want to implement it? It doesn’t take the feature away from players of game #1, and it has the potential to please players of game #2. Sore feelings only come into play when either there is true intellectual property theft (which is hard to prove in this industry) or when players get in the mindset of wanting their game to “win” at competition against other titles.  I’ll admit it — it’s easy to feel that way, much like rooting for your favorite sports team (the Ny Mets are my favorite squadron) and glaring daggers at the opposing team, even though without that tough level of competition, your team would be nowhere near as good.

My greatest hope for Mythic is that they’ll never stop looking at the competition — ALL of the competition — and trying their best to challenge themselves to cull the best features and ideas out there that would work well in WAR.  Some of these have become the industry standard, some are a little more cutting edge, but I think we all would agree that WAR has room to grow, especially if it’s not too proud to look at the field and say “Hey, that’s a pretty dang good idea… maybe we should look into it.”

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29 comments

  1. Ya, i mean if customers dont have any idea o what they want.. and then a game comes along that has neat stuff.. you can go back to your old game and say hey why cant we have that??

    or be a dev playing game x and say “you know what our game needs.. this”

    we’ll see how it all pans out.. im still going to play both of um.. tho i havnt since war came out asside from a few raids..


  2. Well put.

    This goes deeper though. The entirety of the fantasy genre is built upon borrowing and adjusting. We all have an idea what dwarves or vampires are, because they are part of this greater fantasy mythology. Now, they do change a bit from one setting to the next, but in general Dwarves are short, hairy, live in caves and drink beer and vampires sleep during the day and drink blood.

    The point being, the liberal borrowing of ideas is not new to MMO’s. It’s been around for a very long time in the fantasy world, and it just happens that most MMO’s (at least, the more succesful ones) live in a fantasy universe.

    And yes, in a free market world, I think competition is great. I still think WoW is one of my favorite games I’ve ever played, I was just bored with it and done after 3.5 years. Now it’s time for a new, also fun experience in WAR!


  3. I went back to WoW for a night just to clean up my auctions I had left going. I felt dirty…

    on a side note:

    You think theres some guy(s) at Blizzard getting paid to sit and play WAR all day so they can look at things they can implement in WoW? (and if there is people like this, are they secretly saying, “this game is freekin cool!…oh wait, shhh boss is comming…”)

    ?


  4. I just think it’ funny Blizz is doing these changes now. Many, many players have been asking for this for a long time. War comes out and gives them to us and we leave and Blizz decides that yes I guess this is what players would like. Thanks for listening Blizzard. Hopefully I’m done with you.


  5. […] not going to compare how WAR and WoW have copied features from each other, and I’m not going to dissect the post to point all the hidden sublime messages. All of that […]


  6. You beat me to the punch on posting this very thing. This is why I’ve been such a cheerleader for WAR. Would we have seen such changes in WoW without WAR’s competition? Doubtful…


  7. I beat this dead horse yesterday, though much less eloquently(http://bravepidge.wordpress.com/2008/10/06/how-mmo-competition-benefits-players/).

    I like your take on the issue. It may be accurate to point out that this game stole that idea from [insert your favorite game here], but it’s not very useful since almost all the games we play are derivative in some way. It’s more helpful to see how game companies’ competition and the constant cribbing of each other’s ideas actually benefits their players.

    I don’t think that this is any kind of altruism on the part of the game companies. Despite what they say in interviews, I’m sure they’d love to dance on the graves of their competitors and swim Scrooge McDuck-live in vaults of cash from their game’s earnings. But when there’s competition to get there, the best ideas percolate to the top, and, in a kind of evolutionary fashion, become the standards for the next generation.

    As an enthusiastic player of both games, it’s nice to hear you’re not into bashing WOW just because it’s a competitor of WAR. It’s a shame some people can’t love one thing without feeling the necessity to rabidly hate everything else. Still, constructive criticism that points out problems and offers ways to improve things isn’t the same as automatic mindless bashing, and I hope you won’t give Blizzard or WOW a free pass either.

    (Plus I hear repressing critical thought makes people cranky – http://commonsensegamer.com/?p=913).


  8. This topic is going to be hot today around the INTERWEBZ. I have linked you off my blog. You say it much better than I sir.


  9. its amazing how much you hate on wow and blizzard. you wouldnt have warhammer at the level that its at, if it wasnt for wow.


  10. Glad you have seen the light Syp. This should make better games out of WoW and WAR. What more could gamers want?


  11. I just wish they (Blizzard, Mythic) would steal the Mentor/Exemplar mechanic from CoH/V. That way, no matter what level, you can group and play with your friends/guildies/lifemates/monkeysinKenya. The auto-leveling mechanic is already in place (ala scenarios) so it would just be a matter of a) quick and easy – make the ability only for instanced dungeons or b) better in the long run – make the ability usable where/whenever.


  12. One of Blizzard’s biggest problems is that the success of WoW has turned them from a company that builds upon great ideas to make them better, into a company that’s myopic and resistent to change.

    WAR may just be exactly what they need to get their shit together. I’ll be waiting for their next MMOG though… 4 years of WoW was enough, despite the memories I have.

    Why? Because newer memories are being forged in Mythic’s game, and rightfully so as it’s a hell of a lot of fun.


  13. […] Syp, over at Waagh, takes the high road. […]


  14. no Duron, you wouldnt have WAR at this level if it werent for WoW. I bet, we would have a better game because Mythic felt the need to tone everything in WAR with a familiarity for those who played WoW.


  15. Wait till they pull out a Starcraft MMO. Hopefully its not as cartoony as WoW.


  16. I don’t know about you guys, but I relish the day in the all-to-near future, when I can look at the ‘lolz, WAR is a WOW clone!’ posters straight in the eye and say,
    “Who is copying who now?”
    Not that I have anything against WOW, but I like when those loud-mouthed forum posters are proved horribly wrong!.


  17. As much as I like to throw occasional jabs at WoW, it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s really a fabulous game, one that I played since it’s launch and still have a soft spot for. Much of the magic or vanilla-WoW was lost with BC, and I’m still debating if I’ll go back and play through the 70-80 leveling game and come back to WAR after I hit 80. It’s the story more than the game itself that keeps me going back, and I mostly just want to see the new areas and new quests.

    It’s not really an either/or situation… you could easily play both if raiding (in WoW) or reaching RR 80 (in WAR) isn’t that important to you. While part of me wants to go “CHEATER!” when I see aspects of one integrated into the other, it’s actually good that the competition is there. And truthfully, a really innovative addition (like PQs) to the MMO genre is rare… at least thus far. New competition will hopefully revitalize the genre and force designers to think outside of the box for a change. 🙂


  18. Well said!

    I respectfully acknowledge Blizzard’s perogative to improve their aging game, as it is just as much Mythic’s. I think as long as the titans battle for subscriptions everybody benefits. Nothing quite like a little upstart mmo to light a fire under your butt. 😀


  19. WoW is a fine game, but it was designed for a different era.

    I think the truly revolutionary thing in WAR is that its the first major MMO that I am aware of that doesn’t appear to be designed with a glass ceiling for the casual players.

    Lets face it: If you want to be at a high level of play in WoW, you have to be willing to spend at least 20 hours a week playing the game, regardless of how good a player you are. And that’s the bare minimum to succeed in PVE. Minimum.

    To progress through the content you have to spend a lot of time. A lot of time for a video game is something that a lot of people aren’t interested in giving up; gamers are growing up and getting jobs and families and hey, they’d like to read a book once in a while.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t see a glass ceiling for the casual WAR player. Sure, he’ll go slower. But theres no glass ceiling past which he can’t realistically get past.

    And that is pretty revolutionary. It’s contrary to the core concept of WoW. It’s also why I think WAR has a very bright future ahead of it, as the internet Florida for WoW retirees. They get their gaming fix, without having to completely tamp down the competitive urge that makes people play games in the first place or give up their real lives.


  20. I don’t know that it is copying when the technology and the user expectations drive a new feature home in the games we love (or hate)

    The bottom line is that we ALL benefit when good features are implemented well, whether it be in WAR or WOW or KOTORMMO (wait for it)

    Each game must carve its own niche and be unique if it wishes to survive the Darwinian landscape of the MMO genre where resides the 600 Silverback gorilla that is WOW. Market tactics say that the gorilla will try to drive out any niche even close to its own so of course if WAR or some other MMO threatens it . . . changes will result. Why would we expect anything less?

    Enough analogy mixing, I am off to have a banana and play.

    D


  21. It’s been said that no idea is ever new. Someone somewhere thought of it before you did. Your job is to expound upon it and turn that idea into something great.


  22. […] would like to thank the post of Syp at WAAAGH!!! Blog and Hardcore Casual for their enties and eventually making me want to ramble, which ultimately […]


  23. Hudson said it right, this is the hot potato for some days in the blogosphere, and Syp wrote about it super!
    I think that however we look at it, we’re going to see more eye candy, less content MMO’s in the future, more emphasis on the social and contesting aspects. In a sense the hardware is passing the point on enabling this as the internet connections are getting faster all the time.
    The former such transition happened earlier when the games moved from 2D to 3D-esque era: the content diminished and the action became the norm. MMO’s slid that slider more to the social way, and WoW made the polished content the new norm.
    WAR is setting the next level of the play, it seems: less content to plunge through, more action and contesting to keep the casual players awake.

    Notice a pattern in here?

    Technology – content – eye candy – action – content…

    It will happen when the time is right. The time is right for WAR now. And with some tweaking here and there, WoW will evolve and change to stay alive until Blizz comes up with the next MMO.

    Copra


  24. Well said Syp, couldn’t agree more. It’s one of the unique and great things about MMO’s really – they can grow into a whole new game, adopt/steal good stuff from other sources of inspiration, and innovate to complete the circle. The end result for we players is fantastic gaming experiences 🙂


  25. Slurm, if Mythic could have made a revolutionary game that would be heads and shoulders above everything else they would have. warhammer is good, it copies a lot of stuff from wow, wow copied stuff from games before it, that shit happens. its amazing that wow is copying something back and everyones complaining now.


  26. Well if WoW starts allowing leveling thru BGs it will kill all those Twink players and guilds.

    They will be the ones crying against it.


  27. […] That didn’t take long. There have been a lot of blog comments about this — Syp thinks competition is great for gamers, syncaine wonders if borrowing too many ideas can water down the core of a […]


  28. Wrath has been in development for over a year now, how many of the things you say it’s copying from WAR were announced already? I mean the achievements system is more a rip off of the XBox than anything unique to Warhammer; world PvP has been something WoW has tussled with over and over (Silithus etc), and players have been asking for XP from PvP forever. Without knowing the timelines between an idea and its implementation I think there’s little basis to claim “copying.” I think all of the examples you mentioned are expected evolution off of existing content– whether this was spurred on by WAR or not I dunno, but it’s not like they started programming Wrath yesterday.

    Nevertheless as you say, none of these things are really unique, and if a feature is good in one game I think it’s a great thing for it to be implemented in others on demand. I like that better than the reticence developers have towards fears of being accused of copying; there’s awesome stuff in Warhammer that I wish Blizzard would steal: the lack of asinine drop quests for one. If I have to get ten bear tongues, I should only need to kill ten bears!

    Not to sound like a WoW apologist or anything as I’ve tried all of them; what turned me off of Warhammer was gameplay issues (there’s an epic thread on one of the forums about it: http://www.warhammeralliance.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1658154) that I haven’t heard anyone, you included, spend a lot of time discussing. But I did like WAR a lot, and I’m looking forward to coming back to it in a couple of months when some of those problems are ironed out.


  29. […] the fact that this kind of thing can only improve the experience for the players. Which is exactly what Syp came around to thinking too November 8th, 2008 in […]



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