Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Please copy more
Tigole recently announced on the World of Warcraft official forums that Blizzard wants to improve their battlegrounds. Syncaine thinks Blizzard is just copying from Mythic, because "queue for Battlegrounds from anywhere" or "EXP gain through the PvP system" sound very familiar. But Syp has a better theory: "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?"
The thing is that there is a pool of features that has been created over time by all companies involved in developing MMORPGs. Some of these features are thought of as being mandatory, other optional, but that assignment can change over time. And while every company that makes a new game borrows heavily from the existing pool, it also adds all their new ideas to it. And it isn't just ideas, every game also provides a test bed for all those features and combination of features. What works, what doesn't work, and if we do this differently than everyone else is this going to be better or worse?
And in the end that is a good thing. WAR fans fighting with WoW fans who stole what from whom is silly. Both games learning from each other and improving their games is great. Yes, of course I want WoW to have the feature that I can join a battleground from everywhere. Why wouldn't I? Why would I want to say "WAR already has this feature, so WoW shouldn't copy it"? I very much enjoy how I can do a scenario in the middle of a kill ten foozles quest in WAR, and get right back to killing the remaining foozles afterwards. It's an extremely useful feature for integrating PvP better with PvE, instead forcing people to deliberately stop PvE, go to a city, and click on a war master every time they want a quick battleground PvP.
And there are still lots of features of World of Warcraft, where I would wish that Mythic would learn from, for example the mail system or the auction house system. My dream: The WAR and WoW devs take a "mail and auction house design workshop" together, and WoW introduces things like WAR's separate auction house mail tab, while WAR learns from WoW how to make mail more user friendly and design an auction house sorting system that actually works. Once they are there, they could study other options, like the blind auctions of Pirates of the Burning Sea and Final Fantasy XI, or the buy orders from EVE. Or they could invent new features, like an "take all auction mail contents" button. There are better ways to do things, and I'd like all games to implement them.
That is not to say that all games should be identical clones. The important thing is to have differences in fundamental gameplay. As I repeatedly tried to explain, WAR doesn't play like WoW, unless you force yourself to do only what you would do in WoW. But just because I want different games to offer me choice, and to play differently, doesn't mean I'm against best practices. A mail system isn't something that offers a huge amount of creative freedom, it either works in a user-friendly fashion, or it doesn't. Auction house systems can have fundamental differences in design, but again there are best practices for the user interface. When I put the same item up for sale twice it is just nicer if the program remembered the price I just entered for the first item, instead of me having to type everything again. So if one game already has that feature and another introduces it, I'm certainly not complaining about plagiarism. Hey, I reprogrammed the WAR keys so that the same keypress does the same function as in WoW, because having to press different buttons for the same function was driving me crazy. Keep your creativity for the development of gameplay, and please, copy more of the best practices of user interface design. All of you devs!