Stop Copying Our Totally Original Designs!

It’s a widely known fact that Blizzard invented the achievement-based fantasy MMO, and one of WoW’s producers has given an interview to PC Zone magazine explaining why copying this unique blueprint is a bad idea.

When World of Warcraft sprang wholecloth from the minds of Blizzard back in 2004, there simply had been nothing like the game at any point in history. Anyone daring to trod down this same path is doomed to failure!

Okay, I get the point that some companies are indeed specifically trying to make knock-offs of WoW, and agree that such a strategy in and of itself is flawed. However, to imply that WoW represents originality is ludicrous. The game launched as an evolution on an existing title–the main innovation being a dedication to polished and fun gameplay. It has certainly moved in its own direction over the ensuing five years, but let’s not forget that it started as an upgrade to the EverQuest experience.

Despite what some naysayers claim, the achievement-based Diku MMO is a popular style of game with many directions it can grow. While games that don’t venture far from the established core are likely doomed to mediocrity, those that innovate key aspects of the experience have huge potential for success. As ever, it comes down to execution.

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Steve Danuser, also known as Moorgard, is a a writer, editor, and game designer.

11 thoughts on “Stop Copying Our Totally Original Designs!”

  1. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. You are saying that World of Warcraft didn’t invent the MMO genre? You’re trying to suggest that Blizzard didn’t event the whole market? Sir, you need to check your facts again!

    In all seriousness though this attitude always makes me laugh and also sad. Considering Blizzard hired EQ1 players to help make their game… I think it is safe to say they borrowed some (ok almost all) of their unique ideas from another game. Blizzard is great at taking a good idea and making it better. They are not the fountain of all MMO inspiration though.

  2. I feel so much anger in this post, I never thought I would say this but you should set the pen down for awhile and go play something original like Torchlight.

  3. If you came away from that piece with the idea that the WoW producer was claiming WoW to be the initiation of the Fantasy MMO universe, or even representing WoW as originality, you were reading something very different from what you linked. I can see nothing that implies that in the piece, so I am not sure how you inferred it.

    Of course, even the guy writing up that tiny piece didn’t seem to get what was being said, given his own comment about Blizzard’s message being, “stay away from Blizzard’s profits, you thieves!”

    Saying knocking off WoW isn’t a likely path to success seems to be a pretty uncontroversial statement, given how often I’ve seen it written in the blogosphere.

    @Cyanbane – now that was just mean. :)

  4. “Players that have invested time in WOW don’t just want to do the same thing in other game – they want to try something completely new and different,” he argues.

    Does he mean how all those EQ1 players were looking for something completely new and different, and so they went to WoW? Or how because people are so interested in completely new and different games, games like WAR and Aion sell a million boxes while the actually different games slowly build up their player base because they have to convince every player that not quest grinding and collecting pets is actually fun?

    Bonus points for mentioning CoH, a game that even by non-WoW standards has been a minor title it’s entire lifespan, eclipsed by WoW-clones like LotRO.

    That interview is either Blizzard lying, or they are truly delusional about what they do. The next original idea out of Blizzard will be the first, and their entire success is based off taking something someone else pushed and basically doing the same thing, only with a mainstream focus and a bigger budget. They would be out of business if they actually followed their own advice and tried to make something different (SC:Ghost and WC:Adventures, how’ed those work out for them?)

  5. As wilhelm says, Blizzard’s producer isn’t laying claim to having invented the diku model or fantasy MMO’s in general. I think most everyone understands Blizzard has made a business model out of polishing existing ideas into best of class games and I don’t see anything Dabiri says contradicting that notion.

    However, It’s easy to see how Dabiri’s comments would rub people the wrong way. Dabiri: “Yes, I know we have a hugely successful game and you want to make buckets of money with a game just like ours. But don’t bother trying to recreate our product. Players won’t be interested in anything else even remotely WoW-like, they’ve already had the best possible experience with our game. Your only hope is to not compete directly with us. Look at City of Heroes, at least they wisely avoided having elves in their game.”

    We all understand that Blizzard is very good at what they do, but it rankles a bit when you see their representative basically implying that they alone are entitled to make derivative works and everyone else should get busy innovating — perhaps so some new ideas will be available for Blizzard to polish up and incorporate into their next game.

  6. You can take many of today’s MMO game designs and in some way or another they’re going to have comparsions to the MMO’s of the past, but they can be improved upon in a way that the player base will recognize their work as the developers own particular style. The most popular game designs from WOW that I see copied are that talent trees, solo questing leveling, and the interface. I agree with some of the statements in the article that people don’t want to reinvest their time in a game that’s copied from WOW, and some games try to make changes but they are either too subtle or not really improvements. These designers will fail to distinguish their game from WOW and will be considered to be a WOW clone.

    I’m am sick of hearing that MMO’s need to break the mold of using the fantasy setting. They’re a lot of MMO’s out there not in the fantasy setting but people just don’t seem to want to recognize that. Fantasy is ideal for MMO’s it’s universal, you can have many different themes that will work into the fantasy setting. I would really like to see MMO’s get back to their roots.

  7. Blizzard didn’t invent the MMO, but they did perfect it. Kinda like how Microsoft created the perfect OS with Vista (why even come out with Windows 7, Vista is perfect). Huge market share means the product must be great in every single way. It had nothing to do with Blizzard’s large following, or that they made it run well on everyone’s pc, or that it was accessible to the average Joe and his mom. It was all those innovative features of WoW. No wonder every company tries to copy it. They need to shout out like Eli Manning in that commercial – STOP COPYING US!

    Unfortunately, what the guy is saying about other games copying WoW is true. It seems like alot of MMO designers think that WoW set the standards in every way. Why try to improve on that when you can just copy it. I haven’t seen an MMO since WoW that doesn’t have some type of mini-map, or WoW style questing complete with flashy icons above NPCs heads. Can nobody come up with something better than these? To me, there is alot of room for improvement in these designs. Maybe “improvement” is the wrong word – how about creating new designs that are refreshing and unique to your game and that may appeal to the players who are fed up with WoW and all of its copy-cats. You know, the players that could potentially play your game. The ones who love WoW the way it is aren’t switching.

  8. Blizzard didn’t invent the MMO, and they certainly haven’t perfected it. If Blizzard has perfected anything its how to make a ton of money with an MMO. I refuse, however, to believe that is the zenith of MMO potential.

    WoW is appealing to lots of people all over the world. It penetrates into many demographics and styles of play. It runs an attractively cute-looking world extremely smoothly, and requires very little hard-ware power from the consumer to do so.

    I hope somewhere, however, that game designers (i.e. the talented people using their art to produce MMOs) care more about their craft then their money. Yes, MMOs are business, which by definition will always strive to make a profit. But they are also a source of real art.

    Imagine the loss to our common cultural identity that would be lost if musicians, authors, movie directors, etc only cared about making money. To me, this is what WoW (and its clones) represent.

    I won’t deny that there is a place for things in our society, and MMOs are no different from anything else. I am, however, not looking for the MMO equivalent of a generic action summer movie (you know, the one that makes big money even though it is a formulaic clone of what has come before). I want something fresh and exciting. Something that genuinely recaptures the imagination euphoria I haven’t had online for a long time…something that makes me feel like I’m in another universe that I’ve never been to before. WoW and its clones aren’t ever going to do that for me.

  9. If the implication is that more companies should go in a completely different direction that WoW because of WoW, and the example provided is City of Heroes… well, as I recall CoH was out before World of Warcraft, so there’s no legitimate reason to say they went for superheroes instead of swords and sorcery because of the juggernaut.

    As others have already stated, the simple fact that mediocre EQ/WoW-style MMOs are getting 1 million+ purchases is a testament to the fact that players are looking for a new, better WoW-type game. World of Warcraft’s hubris entering the market when the perfect game, EverQuest, already owned it was ridiculous. Really? Part of WoW’s success was that EQ players were looking for a similar game that had evolved beyond EverQuest. That’s what WoW players are doing now.

    Despite claims/beliefs that World of Warcraft is the best possible execution of the DIKU style MMO is laughable. WoW has plenty of bad ideas in it. If only a company literally cloned WoW and executed it to the same level but made better decisions where Blizzard made poor ones (and executed those well), a lot of people would disappear from Azeroth. Heck, if even they made a few different decisions in key areas, it would be a success.

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