Rant time Ho ha-ha!

Well, maybe not a full on rant so much as my normal rambling with a disgruntled slant.

But first it’s story time!

Way back when I was a wee little Tiger… wait, no, not that far. Back in 2004ish or thereabouts I was a bright starry-eyed wet-behind-the-ears Animation student in college. Like most liberal arts schools, a large percentage of the attending populace had no compunctions about tagging themselves as ‘gamers’. I was one of them.

Even farther back, when I was a wee little High School student I became hooked on one of my first ever computer games (barring King’s Quest and Lode Runner) Can you guess what it was? If you guessed Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness then you’d have guessed right. I played human more often than not and after the liberal application of Glittering Prizes I managed to beat the game… I think… maybe… actually I can’t remember if I ever finished it, but it was darn fun to play and, according to my parents, was less evil than Diablo II so was allowed in the house.

(I bought Diablo II and barely managed to get it installed before my parents told me to return it despite my protests that your character was fighting against the devil for the forces of light… but cest la vie)

And so, I merrily played my RTS until about college time when Warcraft III came out. I was dating a real winner at the time who wouldn’t let me buy my own copy, nor would he allow me to play on his, claiming the game was too hard for me and I wouldn’t have any fun. Me being the sweet-as-milk obedient girlfriend I was I contented myself with occupying a chair behind him and watching the pretty graphics as he spread Arthas’ teachings far and wide. I would ocassionally wander off to boot up my copy of Diablo II when the boredom became too much. (I was in college now, and no longer under parental surveilance, har har har)

Whilst in college, World of Warcraft was released. The only knowledge I had of it were haughty remarks and flippant gestures handed down from on high by an art school’s version of the ever-present Jock. You know the kind, I’m sure. They call themselves “Hardcore Gamers”. The kind of people that know more than you, are better at playing than you, and have been playing a hell of a lot longer than you no matter you’re ten years older and they think Atari is just a company that makes software.

Anyway, yes, I have a point here. I didn’t get in to World of Warcraft until much later because I was so put off by these people. I tried very hard to strike up conversations comparing various games but they would have no critique of their beloved game of choice. So, curious about what this whole MMO thing was all about I began trying other things. I pre-ordered and played in the Guild Wars Beta, tested out Star Wars Galaxies and even dabbled in the test copy of D&D Online. All were good games and all had their strong and weak points.

Finally, I decided to try WoW. It was a lot of fun. It’s very easy when leveling to just turn off your brain and go, relaxing and easy. While I have found WoW to be fun, addictive, and relaxing, I have not, however, found it to be a particurlarly brilliant, witty, or original game.

Oh noez stopp the presses I haz offended ur deliket sensubilitiez!

Oh please! Let’s be honest here, ok? I’m not going to go into a full-fledged anti-WoW rant because, frankly, I abhor hypocrates and have no desire to become one myself. I’ll say I enjoy the game, why else do I play it? But I also won’t hold it up to the light and worship the creators like they’re some gift from on high.

After a number of employees left Blizzard to found Arenanet, Blizzard has not had a track record for being either fresh or ground-breaking. The are, however, very good at looking around them, at competing games, and picking out good qualities and implementing them into their own game.

At first this infuriated me. Here I saw these jocks of the game world lauding WoW as the best and most original thing since sliced bread and all I have to do is open my eyes and look around to see that WoW is very good at copying others. I fought this fight when the WoW in-game voice chat was introduced. That nifty little feature, my friends, was pioneered by Valve and Counterstrike. Its first use in an MMO (as far as I know) was with the release of D&D Online. Shortly after the release of DDO saw the implementation of WoW in-game voice chatting.

I fought this fight down in the trenches, wailing like a banshee (the irish kind, not the Sylvannis kind) when Warhammer Online was announced. Less educated parties laughed and derided the new game, calling it World of Warhammer. I’d like to refer to this Penny Arcade comic and accompanying article on the subject to let you know my feelings. I played Warhammer Fantasy, the TABLETOP. I fielded an army of Lizardmen the likes of which had only been seen in the vaunted Games Workshop display cases. When my two Stegadons thundered onto the field and charged through my rank upon ranks of Saurus warriors all backed up by the chillingly blank stare of the Venerable Lord Kroak… the world trembled. Oh yes, did it tremble. I loved Warhammer Fantasy, I loved the lore (in warhammer, it’s called fluff) I loved the rules, and I loved the models and the painting. I had also done a research paper my first year in college about Warhammer and Mage Knight, comparing the two games and which was a more worthwhile money and time sink. So when the accusations began to fly about how Mythic was stealing all their ideas from Blizzard I was ready. Ooooh yes I was ready with months of research, publish dates, and copyright information. Games Workshop was alive and kicking before Blizzard was even a glimmer in Michael Morhaime‘s eye. Blizzard was founded in 1991. Games Workshop was founded in 1975, I rest my case.

The point I’m trying to make here, is that when I logged on last night and saw the information on the new Wrath of the Lich King’s Player Achievements… that old flame to fight was reignited. Why, you ask? Well, simply because Blizzard is doing what Blizzard has done best, taking some of the most successful aspects of Other Games and assimilating them. HA! I just made a Borg pun, lookit me lulz!

I think I’ll stop here. I’m going to concede. While Blizzard’s lack of innovation saddens me, I know such paltry things as facts will do nothing to sway hard-core fanatics and, at the end of the day, practices like this is really just good business.

So, tonight, I’m going to go home, boot up WoW, and run Karazhan with only a small twinge on my conscience marring my simple enjoyment of the game.

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  1. World of Warcraft is a lot of fun. I enjoy the social aspect. I enjoy roleplaying. I enjoy raiding. I love playing with the numbers, theorycrafting and exploring the game with the intent of minning and maxing to get just the results I want. With a broad interest in the game like mine, there’s always something new to learn or puzzle out.

    However, very few things that are in World of Warcraft are unique.

    That doesn’t mean that the game isn’t good. Hell, I still think it’s an exceptional game. They’ve borrowed ideas, polished them up a bit, and then put them in game. Many of the things that they’ve implemented are because the community asked for it, often pointing out what they liked about other games and how there was a dearth of those features in this game. And Blizzard would frankly be stupid if they didn’t watch their competitors or listen to their playerbase.

    I think a lot of your complaints lie with the community and not Blizzard. Blizzard has credited in the past where they got their ideas from. Hell, the whole idea of high fantasy, orcs versus humans, magic-based system hasn’t been a new idea for decades and even longer. However, the rabid spectrum of the fanbase — your jocks of the gaming world — is the one that persists in claiming that the game is unique and new and that Blizzard is infalliable.

    As an aside, I’m a fellow Warhammer fan, though I spent the vast majority of my gaming career playing 40,000. I had an awesome Eldar army (it was the only race left at the time, since one brother was Space Marine, another was ork, another was Imperial Army, and our friend was Tyranids) and got really involved in the universe. I even designed my own craftworld, wrote up a history, decided their colors, and had fun fleshing that out. And my carrying case? I sculpted a replica of my craftworld around a carrying case and gussed it all nice an’ purty.

  2. It is true that Blizzard, and World of Warcraft itself, are not completely original. You are right, they take the best things of other games and mash them together… but what exactly is the problem with that? Sure, creating things that are brand-spanking new, that have never even fluttered in the minds of others is a great thing. But what can you really say has done that recently, in gaming or not?

    Using your own example, do you think Warhammer is completely original? They have done the same thing – taken the best of other people’s ideas and mashed them together. Historical wargaming is an old concept, but most notably was popular in recreating and inventing battles of the civil war era. The Fantasy world the game is based in – the world of elves, orcs, goblins – was also not envisioned by the creators of Warhammer. However, the creators of Warhammer saw these things, and thought they could put them together and create something fun. And it worked, and was successful.

    The world (of gaming) is no longer about coming up with completely new ideas, even if it ever was. It’s about evolution, it’s about selection. It’s about picking out the best concepts and mashing them together with your own, to produce something more.

    In the end, you can’t fault Blizzard for taking inspiration from others and fitting them to their own game. That, in the end, is really how things are invented.

    Let’s think of the person who invented the PB&J sandwich. Because, I’m hungry. “I have 2 pieces of bread. I like that peanut butter from over there… and that jam, that’s good stuff too! What if I put all these things together?” Would you say this person has invented something great, or that they have simply stolen from the creators of peanut butter and jam?

    If Blizzard were to have taken things and not put their own personal touch on them, and not made them more than what they were as individual parts, then I would say they can be scowled at. Luckily for us WoW players, this is not the case.

    I agree, though, that the community needs to recognize that Blizzard isn’t some pantheon of gods, pulling these ideas out of their butts. They need to learn to appreciate where these ideas came from… it really is the community, and not the company, at fault here.

    • Tigerfeet
    • July 18th, 2008

    Cynra, I think you’re absolutely right, which is why I’ve tried to tone down my opposition over the years. After all, sinking to blind rabid opposition would be just as bad as blind rabid support. Thank you for reminding me ^^

    Eldar are pretty cool I must say and that’s AWESOME how in-depth you went with it! I started out with 40K, fielded Tau (for the greater good!) I had a respectable-sized force of a little over 2,000 points. Had enough extra pieces to be able to adjust the army composition however I chose. Though I must say, fielding three full squads of broadside battlesuits was ridiculously fun xD

    • Tigerfeet
    • July 18th, 2008

    Woah Braj! sorry I missed ye, here’s a reply just for you!

    First – you’re absolutely right, hell, I think it’s safe to call Tolkein, or even Dungeons & Dragons the parents of traditional high fantasy (I think there’s been a lot of debate over who came first, I have no clue, so don’t quote me on that) And of course, everything comes from humanity’s deep-seated myths and desire to explain the unknown. Myth drives lots and there’s very few things that are directly original.

    I think the point I was trying to make in my original post (I do tend to wander around a bit) is that I haven’t seen much actual pioneering in World of Warcraft. Taking ideas from elsewhere and polishing them is a /good/ idea, and I’ve seen WoW evolve over the years and it is SO much more than it was, and much more enjoyable too because of all the additions. However, I haven’t seen many instances of the World of Warcraft developers trying something completely new. I know there are some, let me think… oh! The bombing run quests come to mind. Those are a lot of fun and something I haven’t seen much (though I haven’t played other MMOs as extensively as I may sound)

    Most likely I’m still sore about all the flack I got when I started to play Guild Wars, and flack I get whenever I mention it in WoW, invariably people will attack outright without knowing much about the game. I’ve got a lot of respect for Arenanet and what they’ve done. They created a game with a business model that doesn’t require paying subscribers, they created a game that’s almost entirely instanced and pioneered the district system, thereby eliminating the need for different servers to keep people apart from each other. I know when their business model was introduced it recieved a lot of attacks, but they’ve been able to work.

    Now, I’m not saying I don’t respect Blizzard for what they’ve done. They’ve managed to create a game with such a monumental following you can’t really go anywhere without finding someone else who plays, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. But while I enjoy the game I can’t understand idolizing a company that hasn’t shown as much of a willingness to take risks as some other companies.

    OH! I do have one more kudos to Blizzard! They listen to their community, but they don’t listen too much. I hear grim and gory stories from my husband about Star Wars Galaxies before and after it was changed, I think that’s an instance of a company listening too closely to what the community wants (I also believe there was a change of ownership in there somewhere). So Kudos to Blizzard, I think they’re very good at treading that line, and I know it’s not an easy thing to do.

    • Rusco Nendil
    • July 19th, 2008

    That was intense.

    It’s true. Blizzard does a great job of incorporating aspects from other games to make their own better. It’s not just Blizzard, everyone does it. It’s learning from the experiences of your peers and learning from them to avoid the same fate they went through.

    I can almost understand their lack of risk taking because I’ve seen and experienced other MMOs try something new or different and watch it fall over on top of itself. Blizzard is just cautious, granted it might be overly cautious though.

    I recently started playing Warhammer 40k, but one of my past roommates is pretty heavy into the tabletop version.

    PS. Awesome blog. :D I’ll be eating your feed for sure.

    • Tigerfeet
    • July 21st, 2008

    Rusco – Thanks man! That means a lot :3

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