Rage Against The MMOachineOctober 17, 2008
I was starting to wonder when the gloves would come off in the MMO genre between game designers, who up to this point have been more or less following the same script in interviews:
INTERVIEWER: So, you’re developing Game B and it looks pretty cool! But what about Game A, which has been out, like, forever and is slavishly followed by hordes of players?
GAME B DEV: Well, Chuck, we at Game B Company have great respect for Game A, and feel that it has done a lot to further the cause of MMOs. Of course, we feel we have something new and different to offer, but it can only expand the field, and there’s room enough for all of us to play and hold hands and make daisy chains after the daily bonfire.
Then you flip on to the other side:
INTERVIEWER: So you’ve been running Game A for five years now and you’re still going strong. What do you think about this new game, Game B, which is coming along? You guys scared of it?
GAME A DEV: [condescending laugh] Well, Chuck, we at Game A company are obviously very good at what we do, but we respect what Game B’s devs are trying to accomplish. Why, this is a growing market and there’s room enough for all! I even braided Game B’s lead dev’s hair last week while we talked about boys and makeup and My Little Pony.
Of course, the veracity of these interviews are nowhere near to what actually happens in these people’s heads, unless they’ve told themselves these statements so many times that they’ve begun to agree with them. It smacks of phoniness on the level of competing politicians complimenting each other, or if Wal-Mart suddenly did a newspaper article about how much they admire and respect Target. They’re competitors. They each want to win, because winning nets them dollars, and they like those things quite a bit. But for some reason, this seems to be par for the course in video games, and especially MMOs, where there’s a wary dance of compliments and respect and backhanded insults mixed together and spoon-fed to gamers who just, y’know, want to play a good game.
I’ve never understood why smaller MMO companies seem to always suck up to Blizzard in every interview where the interviewer makes the inevitable “So what do you think about World of Warcraft in relation to your game?” remark, because Blizzard, more often than not, doesn’t give a rip what the other companies think, and are quick to dismiss them. It might be a more interesting world if these devs grew a pair and someone went, “Hey, our game is WAY better than WoW, and here’s why!” without tiptoeing around the interview out of fear that they might — God forbid — offend their competitor.
I guess that day has come, because this week we’ve seen the gloves come off, the talk grow smack, and the words be trippin’. It’s a lengthy series of back-and-forth quotes and interviews between some of Blizzard’s devs and Mark Jacobs (which Broken Toys organizes for your reading pleasure), which I guess started when a Blizzard dev got a bit too smarmy about his competitor’s product, and Mark Jacobs, lovable mad uncle figure that he is, was not going to take that sitting down. Seeing as how a dance-off wasn’t possible due to geographic locations, we have to settle for a bit of “Well, YOUR mama!” between the two companies.
In a way, this is good. It’s good for these two companies (and the others should follow suit) to come out and say, “We think our product is good, better than our competition, and you should play us and forget those losers.” It’s not because we want negativity to abound, but because companies need to stop living in Blizzard’s shadow and just be themselves, be proud of what they made and not be ashamed to promote it above WoW. It’s good because it actually produces a more competitive environment that can only benefit players, whether they be sending their subscription dollars to Blizzard, Mythic, Turbine, NCSoft or elsewhere. And it’s good because it’s entertaining to watch Mark Jacobs be ticked off at someone who isn’t you, and because he strikes me as one of those WWE wrestlers who get the mike before they go into the ring and start going, “I’MA GONNA DESTROYYYYY YOU! I’MA GONNA EAT YOUR BONESSSSS!”
End result: Syp is entertained.