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.”