Thursday, July 06, 2006

Why Copy WoW?

If you played more then one MMOG within the last couple of years you have most likely noticed a trend among the genre. Once a change or feature is released in World of Warcraft it somehow magically starts showing up in all the MMO games. It's like every other developer out there reads the WoW patch notes and uses it as a design document. The one notable exception is the Vanguard beta which seems to exclude features based off the WoW patch notes.

While its nice to see useful features like in-game maps and the ability to link items become common among online games, we do not need the majority of WoW features to be copied. Some features are uniquely tailored to the rules in World of Warcraft and do not work as well in other games. Still other features are bad ideas but are copied simply because they exist in the most popular MMOG.

One example of a bad feature being copied is the Auction House and how it encourages spam. A staple of MMO games at this day and age is to incorporate as many money sinks as possible. This cuts down on the eventual inflation of their online currency. The Blizzard developers in a moment of cluelessness decided to make the auction house take a percentage of every sale done through them. Thus on high level items sellers will lose anywhere from 25 to 75 gold per sale. These people are often the raiders who are strapped for cash the most. Raid instances don't drop very much money and often cause 5-20gp repair bills on a single night. Thus because of these reasons people will spam any channel they can get into looking to avoid the auction house cut.

Overall they're much better systems of allowing players to sell items but I am seeing more and more games adopting the auction house cut system. It even seems as if EVE Online is adopting the auction house though they already have a thriving player trade system. In fact EVE Online is going through several feature additions in the next few months which can be linked to World of Warcraft. Read the Cesspit article link if your interested in the specifics.

Blizzard's success is partly because they integrated and improved so many other game mechanics from previous games. Yet their success is more then the sum of their parts. When other games copy their UI or game mechanics all they are doing is limiting the uniqueness of their own game. It's a lot like what happened to television. We have hundreds of different channels with thousands of different shows, which all somehow manage to bore us with their similarity. The only really interesting shows are on the niche markets like Adult Swim, TLC, Discovery and G4TV.

Cesspit Article on Eve Online changes