Tobold's Blog
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!
Comments:
The problem with MMO's is that the developers themselves get caught up in "trendy" development cycles where things stagnate innovation wise.

Things will trend a certain way for a while, and then a new direction is found and we're forced as players(paying customers) to follow the lead of the developers and the vocal minority of gamers who follow in tow.

Look how long it has taken for the casual WoW gamer to finally get notice with the addition of the Achievement system in the upcoming expansion. With less than a few percentage points of WoW's subscriber base ever experiencing the end game content, one has to really wonder why it has taken almost 4 years for this kind of shift to start taking place.

Blizzard, Mythic and all MMO developers are in a race now to create and/or advance their own IP branded entries into the market share. So I think it's a pipedream to think that some kind of "Developer-Utopian-Lovefest" is going to occur anytime soon. I think the absolute best that we can hope for is exactly what we're seeing now: Each entry will bring a little bit something different to the table, and sales and sustained subscription numbers will determine what is copied or improved upon in future releases.

But, in overall terms, I agree with your sentiment that it's just plain silly to point the finger of plagerism at any one developer in this continually shifting genre.
 
I have no problem if games copy from each other the good things (and leave out the bad ones ;) ).
Some things are just good and there is no reason for exclusion in other games. It's like Paul Barnett's genius test; it's obvious, it's simple, it's "why haven't I thought of it?!" followed by /facepalm thing ;)

WoW BG will now get more convenient to join, but this will imo not change the way PvP works in WoW and therefore I will feel more comfortable in WAR and enjoying the PvP/RvR stuff there.
 
Gameplay and Functionality are closely related but often they do not go hand by hand.
For example, i thing Dungeons Dragons Online has great gameplay and it is a lot of fun, but the functionality of the mail system and auction house is pure crap.
So it is true that functionality should be copied more often but that invites another question: what about intellectual property.
If a clever designer creates the ultimate auction system/interface and all the games out there start to copy it should he settle for what his company payed him when lots of other companies are implementing the very same design?
Of course i acknowledge the advantage of the free flowing of ideas, but doesn't it feel like a rip off of the creator?
 
Nevertheless, it's a good thing that WAR is scaring Blizzard into making something decent of a tired old game. They were being complacent for too long.
Of course, for me and for a lot more, it is too little, too late so I will be giving WAR a shot but i will never go back to WoW.
 
What's annoying is the things that are stupid and pointless, serve no logical or fun-enhancing purpose, but still get copied from game to game because 'that's the way things are done'.

Like how auction refunds and buyouts are attachments to a mail message, instead of going directly into your bank.

Quests that have to be abandoned and got again from the NPC when your (small) quest log is full, while you have a book that lists every quest you have discovered.

Chat channels that are per-region, whether or not a region is vastly too large or much too small for a community, instead of being per-city, per-level range, or 'guilds-for-the-unguilded'.
 
You missed the best post of the day on this topic over on Hardcore Casual. He summed it up the best. Less Blizzard blah blah and more getting around to improving how stale WoW is please
 
I agree completely.

If you have the time and inspiration to create a great new game mechanic, create a great new game mechanic.

If you don't have the time and inspiration to create a great new game mechanic, copy somebody else's great mechanic.

Remember that the goal is not originality -- it's great games.

(--boatorious)
 
Missed Hardcore Casual? Huh? I linked to that post, it's the starting point for my post. I didn't think it was "the best", only the snarkiest on the subject. If we start blaming companies for implementing good ideas, just because we've seen those ideas somewhere else already, we'll get the opposite of continuous improvement of the genre.
 
My immediate thought is this is like trying to get Microsoft and Apple to work together...
 
@Tobold: blame != criticism ;)

Blizzard should be doing "better", not "me2". If that wasn't Syncaine's point perhaps it should have been.
 
My immediate thought is this is like trying to get Microsoft and Apple to work together...

Which they do.
 
I can only see it as a good thing. Having Mythic "beta testing" a feature for Blizzard before it goes into the WoW game helps them out. Same with many of the features that WAR borrowed from prior MMOs.


Many of the changes should have been a long time coming for WoW but were just never pushed. The xp from PVP alone should slowly push the twinks out of the brackets and hopefully make lower level PvP actually enjoyable for the average leveling player.


In the end the games that we all enjoy to play will be made better and who really cares who thought of what first.
 
Only one issue with the borrowing when we have a 800 pound Gorilla in the market.

A smaller ape can implement a great idea. But due to size limitation that idea will reach a limited number of users.

The 800 pound Gorilla takes notice and mobilizes all his resources to adapt, improve and polish the idea.

The ape goes bankrupt.

It worked with Microsoft and we all lost with that, so carefull with what you wish for...
 
I think Syncaine's issue more was how Blizzard is categorically incapable of giving ANYONE credit for their work, with the exception of Blizzard's own work.

EA/Mythic when talking to the public, can mention games like EQ, WoW, and CoH. Anytime Blizzard puts out a press statement or anything from their dev's, it seems that anything that mentions anything non-Blizzard IP has been edited out of the post.

I don't think Michael minds the idea of Blizz updating their IP to be more competitive, nor that they're copying from other companies to improve their IP; it's that Blizz never gives credit where credit is due.

"Blizzard looks at the current project from EA/Mythic, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, and see several features implemented that would be beneficial to the land of Azeroth, such as the implementation of being able to queue from anywhere for Battlegrounds, new and exciting battlegrounds, and the ability to gain XP while PVPing"

vs

"We will be implementing the following features:

-Battleground Q from anywhere
-More new Battlegrounds
-XP gain via PVP"

Give credit where credit is due, Blizz. I understand why they can't give credit with the mods, but I think they've gotten too full of themselves in this case.
 
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