While yesterdays post was done more for humor than anything else, the reaction has brought up an important point I would like to talk about here today. The overall idea that ‘borrowing’ ideas from other MMOs can only be a good thing is a bit misleading, and often results in disaster. There is a massive difference between borrowing an inventory layout and borrowing game focus.
For instance, I don’t think ANYONE would really mind of Mythic ripped the mailing system from WoW and put it into WAR, as only good things can come from that. It’s a simple feature, it should work smoothly, and we should never think about it. Same goes for improving the auction house UI, or chat interface, or general UI customization. All of those are the nice trimming that goes around the MMO core, and for all I care, it might as well be standardized at this point.
Now if Mythic took a look at WoW, and started ‘borrowing’ WoW’s end-game raiding, or even considered throwing in a few raids ‘just for variety’, I don’t think that would sit well with people. Actually if you followed the development of WAR, you probably remember the instant nerd rage that flamed up whenever the mere thought of a raid in WAR was brought up. Even if it was completely optional, MMO veterans can image what would happen to WAR if Mythic decided to toss in a few raid (see Trials of Atlantis in DAoC, something Mythic is still apologizing for).
Which brings me back to yesterdays post; if I was still playing WoW, and I was playing it for it’s strength (PvE), news that development focus has shifted to ‘borrow’ WAR’s RvR model would leave a bad taste in my mouth. In 2004 WoW featured exactly one PvP element, PvP servers. No BGs, no honor, no PvP gear, no rankings, nothing. Day one, ground up, WoW was built for PvE, and clearly it delivered on that promise in spades, and continued to deliver with each patch bringing new raids, more fleshed out questing, and other PvE enhancements.
Slowly (and I mean slowly even by Blizzard standards) PvP was tossed in, first with an ultra-elite ranking system that made raiding look casual, and itemization that while nice, was still far below raid gear. At some point (TBC?), it was decided to shift balance and itemization split 50/50 between raiding and PvP, and WoW was divided into those who hate the honor grind, and those who hate the raid grind. Arena fans complained about imbalance due to raid-function skills, and in turn raiders complained about nerfs related to Arena balance. The entire system was/is a giant clusterfuck of tokens/ranks/honor, and any move made for one side pissed the other side off. Problem was, it rarely pissed people off ENOUGH to quit and go to another MMO, and so Blizzard had zero motivation to actually focus and solve the issue. Why balance shamans/paladins when you can just take the easy way out and give them to both sides, right? Yay ‘hero’ Deathknights and all that…
The point is, sometimes NOT borrowing ideas leads to a better game than trying to be the jack of all trades MMO. PvE in WoW has lost a great deal of what made it great due to Blizzard trying to appeal to PvP fans, and by trying to force a PvE engine to play nice in PvP. In LoTRO, does anyone really care for the PvP? Do people even know it HAS PvP? A game that is almost exclusively focused on story and PvE, and you have to wonder how much development time/money was wasted to include a ‘We have PvP’ bullet point on the back of the box. What if EVE added raiding, would that be viewed as ‘great new content’?
Going forward, I hope Mythic stays away from the ‘me too’ model of patching/updating, and instead remains focused on what makes WAR great, RvR. Yes, clean up the little stuff like the mail system and the auction house, but stay overall focused on RvR and continue to improve that. WoW had great PvE in 2004, and my guess is if they stayed focused, they would still have that same great PvE in 2008, rather than two separate games vying for attention. Here is to hoping we have great RvR in 2012, and not Trials of Atlantis-hammer™!