Mythic and Blizzard go at it. Round one review!

To borrow a quote: “Shit just got real”

Seems it did not take long for the gloves to come off, and for Mythic and Blizzard to go at it. Lum has a good collection of the relevant quotes (like him, I’m too lazy to gather them all, and since he has done so already, I’ll just Blizzard him and borrow here), but I would like to focus on the original interview with Jeff Kaplan that got this all started. Similar to an earlier post found here, let’s break this down a bit (comments in bold):

“I tried to get into the ‘Warhammer’ beta, but I didn’t try to sneak in!” Kaplan said with a laugh. (A laugh because he is not part of Blizzards biggest department, the Center for Game Design Borrowing) “I became friends with [Mythic creative director] Paul Barnett at Leipzig two years ago. Paul, [Mythic executive producer] Jeff Hickman and I were hanging out because we were all stuck in a small booth for three days straight.” (Those three days of notes paid off too, have I told you about our all new focus on our ‘core’ Horde vs Alliance gameplay?)

Kaplan explained that he and Barnett became such good friends that he invited him to Blizzard’s offices several times. (How else can we fix WSG stalemates and give AV yet another unsuccessful remake?) And when the beta for the “WoW” expansion Wrath of the Lich King” was ready to go, he asked Barnett for a list of Mythic staffers to send beta keys to. (Come check out Lake Wintergrasp and tell us how close to an RvR lake we are, and what we need to do to get it just like WAR. Seriously now, RvR lakes, Lake Wintergrasp… why not just call the zone Lake Warhammer and get it over with) “And then I’m like, ‘Hey if you got any beta keys for ‘Warhammer,’ that’d be awesome,'” Kaplan said. (Kaplan is correct, beta was indeed quite awesome, as is release. Can’t be wrong 100% I guess) “But [Barnett] said that Mark Jacobs wouldn’t let me into the beta.”

I asked Kaplan why he thought he and other Blizzard employees weren’t allowed into the “Warhammer” beta. “That’s a great question,” he said. (Haha yes great question captain obvious, I wonder why you would want to keep features that sell your game away from the developer who has made a business out of copying other products) “I’m always fascinated by betas in general (and so is the Center of Game Design Borrowing) and [non-disclosure agreements] and how tight-lipped they tend to be. It’s Blizzard philosophy that if you’re really confident in your game, then you have nothing to worry about. So I guess that would be my big take away from that.” (Glad that he restated Mark Jacobs approach to beta’s and their NDA timeline, even more relevant now that WAR has launched and delivered)

When it comes to other games’ betas in general, Jacobs had told me that his employees are not allowed in betas if it violates the terms of the non-disclosure agreement. Kaplan explained that Blizzard is the same way. “We don’t prohibit our employees from joining other games’ betas unless it violates that beta’s rules,” he said, “but we don’t really prohibit other developers from being in our betas.” (How would Blizzard operate if they stayed out of other MMO betas? We would get one expansion every 5 years at that rate. Now if only someone had made a game with a shaman and a paladin, one on each side, and shown Blizzard how to balance that, we would not have BELF Paladins and gnome Deathknights. I blame the MMO community, how can Blizzard improve WoW if we don’t solve the issue first!)

Now that “Warhammer Online” has been out for almost a month, I wondered if Kaplan had gotten a chance to try it. Even though he’s been busy working on “Wrath of the Lich King,” he revealed he has spent a little time with it. (I wonder what he has done more, played Lake Warhammer-grasp or done RvR in WAR?)

“My character is like level 13 right now, and I’m playing Destruction on a server that’s imbalanced,” he said, referring to the factions in the game. (If only WAR had the awesome balance that Horde and Alliance had for all those years. You know, that great balance that lead to cross-realm queues, server transfers, and certain launch servers taking months to become playable. Let’s also not mention the 2 hour+ login queues months after release, the hours long queues for AV, and the amazing balance that comes from a 14 hour AV game. You guys NAILED balance!) He also said leveling his character has been going a bit slowly. “I’m at the point where I’m thinking about quitting because it feels like the best way to level up is in the battlegrounds,” he explained. (Quick, someone refer a friend, skip the best content, buy farmer gold, and start raid grinding. Oh wait wrong MMO…)

“But it takes me 30 to 45 minutes to get in the battleground queue. (No, that’s been fixed, within a month of release. How’s that WSG balance issue going?) And then when I’m not in the queue, I’m trying to do the Public Quests. But I find that I’m either griefing (griefing, really? WTF are you talking about…) other people in the Public Quests to try to get influence, or that there’s just nobody there.” Kaplan said he’d switch servers but all his friends were on that server. “I just feel like we picked wrong, unknowingly.” (So wait, all your friends are on the server, but when you try to do a PQ, you are solo? What are you playing, WoW? At Rank 13, you can get help in a PQ from almost anyone rank 10-20. How dare an MMO feature group content that requires a group!? Quick remove all elite mobs and dumb this whole game down)

I also wondered what Kaplan thought of the game’s user interface; it’s undeniably similar to (the player made mods in) “World of Warcraft.” “I think game developers just want to evolve systems, and people take a lot of inspiration from other games that have existed,” Kaplan said. “The ‘WoW’ (community) interface did a lot of things, and I think people would be silly not to learn lessons from it. (Like not implementing obviously good ideas like scrolling combat text, raid party interfaces, enhanced mailbox options, etc for months/years into your game, and breaking all those mods with each patch, letting your player base re-download everything each time) Any savvy game developer is going to play a lot of other games and pick from the best. (We just happen to focus our core business around that) It definitely looks very familiar.”

With “Warhammer Online” now up to 750,000 subscribers, was Kaplan concerned about losing throngs of “WoW” players? “We would obviously be concerned with losing people to [“Warhammer Online”] but at the same time, the game stands to bring new people to the MMO market,” he (quotes Mark Jacob again) said. “I think if anything, we can stand to benefit. If you happen to come into that game as your first one, and you’ve never played ‘WoW’ before, I think ‘WoW’ is going to be really exciting when you try it out and feel how different the combat is (everyone loves getting one shot, or stun locked, or fear locked. Have you seen how fun it is to bunny hop across WSG? You can’t find that level of amazing PvP just anywhere) and just the general [Player Vs. Environment] systems of the game.” (Which we are not focusing on anymore, since we are going back to our ‘core’ gameplay of Horde vs Alliance, right? Plus at the stupidly increased XP gain, you won’t even notice that annoying 1-79 gameplay we have tried to bury.)

He added, “We don’t want a scenario where there’s no other MMOs and ‘WoW’ is the only kid on the block. I don’t really think that’s healthy for games in general.” (And would be disastrous for us. What will the hundreds of people in the Center for Game Design Borrowing do if they don’t have other MMOs to leech off of? We have expansion promised to break (one a year, we swear) you know.)

A little competition certainly couldn’t hurt “WoW,” could it? (Hurt, ha. That’s how business gets done!)

This should be interesting to watch. Clearly everyone knows which side I’m on, after having played the raid treadmill for 3+ years before finally waking up, but even with my highly bias view, I don’t understand what ground Blizzard has to stand on here…

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in beta, Combat Systems, Mass Media, MMO design, PvP, Rant, RvR, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Mythic and Blizzard go at it. Round one review!

  1. Wilhelm2451 says:

    Yes, of course, because it is quite obvious to all that most of the effort in the soon-to-be-two WoW expansions has been content ripped off from other games.

    This line of reasoning was funny a couple of times but, dude, if you’re promoting WAR by declaring Blizzard to be nothing but rip-off artists, you’re living in a glass house.

  2. Rumor Control says:

    Your comments suck.
    Just so you know.

  3. syncaine says:

    So wait DAoC was a rip of what? I just don’t get the glass house line.

    Look at Blizzards game history, from Warcraft to Diablo to StarCraft. Each has a very well known history of ‘borrowing’ from other games and Blizzard polish. The Blizzard polish is part of what makes them great, and they get full credit for that. But in terms of originality vs borrowing, that has always been very one sided, and now with WAR/WoW its beyond blatant and in the forefront. Blizzard employees trying to downplay that history is what I find amusing.

  4. Loire says:

    Most of your posts are great man but these non-too-subtle WoW rips are getting boring. WoW sucks, and Blizzard hasn’t had a creative development since Rock N’ Roll racing but thats over now. Warhammer is out, were all having fun, we can forget about Blizzard.

    I’m also an EVE player, if anything, we have the greatest hate-on for WoW but you can only take so much, Blizzard and their take on a “MMO” is ridiculous but all the more reason to forget about them. Here’s hoping for a return to solely Warhammer centric posts.

  5. Flaime says:

    Dude, if you hate wow so much, why do you spend so much time talking about it?

  6. Hudson says:

    I actually loved this. Pretty funny if you ask me.

    Most bloggers like us don’t even raid in WoW so I still have to ask, why punish yourself with more of the same 10 level garbage when you know you won’t do anything at level 80?

    Yet we all give Blizzard our money for the same trap. 10 shiny levels of Willy Wonka looking zones ending with raid grinding.

  7. AW says:

    I found the interview interesting for the same reason syncaine did. Going beyond the who borrowed who from whom argument, the answers about WAR itself come of as inaccurate and somewhat hypocritical.

  8. tenfoldhate says:

    It does seem like Kaplan uses his veiled “praise” of Mythic as a chance to take some passive aggressive shots here. He mentions server population imbalance, queues for scenarios, and quitting because he doesn’t want to level up through PvP. Well, that explains why Blizzard has been spoon-feeding us kill 10 rats quests as the primary way to advance your character for the last 4 years.

    I try to hold back my venom for Blizzard by reminding myself that they did grace us with one of the first truly user friendly UIs in an MMORPG, though all else was lifted from EQ with visuals “inspired by” Games Workshop. But when they climb down from their ivory tower (that our subs helped build) to play friendly and dumbed down for us gullable consumers like this, I just can’t help but sneer.

  9. Brast says:

    I enjoy your blog and like hearing a variety of opinions on various MMO’s, but have never commented before. In the last month, however, your blog has deteriorated into a highly bitter, anti-WoW diatribe with no semblance of rational objectivity. I will still read because bitter is entertaining too, but your posts lately have become:

    [WAR is so perfect in every way]

    [WoW sucks and steals all its good features from WAR]

    [WAR does everything perfectly and any criticisms are from stupid people who don’t appreciate its greatness]

    It seriously sounds like you are more anti-Blizzard now than pro-WAR. Any game could have come along at this time and it seems you would have jumped on its bandwagon as an opportunity to bash WoW for making you play it for 3 years.

  10. Anjin says:

    It seems to me that Jeff Kaplan is having the standard reaction that a WoW newbie would have upon first arriving in WAR and expecting more of the same. Unfortunately, everyone’s reactions to all the Blizzard interviews are reminding me of the presidential campaign. Why do we all assume malice to comments that could be attributed to an honest difference of opinion. We all know there is little new to be had in MMOs and that developers will declare those to be “INNOVATIONS!” It’s the nature of the system.

  11. Zelmor says:

    Ah, you’re so full of shit and raving fanboyism that I cannot continue reading this blog of rantings from a twelve years old.

  12. Cirosmar Narinhil says:

    I LOVE THIS! SOOOO TRUE BTW…oh…and STFU you idiot WoW fangirls!

  13. sid67 says:

    I’m finding myself more and more distant from WoW as time goes on. i still think the game is good but I no longer like or respect most of the Blizzard employees. I’m anti-WoW not because they copy features but because they treat players like cattle.

    I’m actually of the opinion that the game peaked sometime shortly after the first expansion. Everything since that point has mostly been riddled with either outright bad ideas or poorly implemented rip-offs.

    It’s like they caught lightning in a bottle but never truly understood what made the game good.

  14. Grimjakk says:

    I LOL’d. ;)

    No seriously… great take on Kaplan’s attempt to spread a little FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) about Warhammer’s future.

    This tool just tried to do a good old-fashioned hatchet job on the competition, and is getting called on it.

    Well, done.

  15. Cecilia says:

    I agree with everyone who’s said your blog has deteriorated into a place where ‘WAR good, WoW evil’ drivel is posted. Seriously, did Blizzard burn your house down? The bitterness is just astounding.

  16. Melf_Himself says:

    Honestly, there was a lot of truth in what syncaine wrote. Blizzard have released public statements that are outright lies / exaggerations / focusing on things that were fixed by Mythic within 2 weeks after release and are no longer an issue. The statements were also extremely hypocritical as syncaine pointed out.

    The whole thing came off quite desperate on Blizzard’s part, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kaplan gets a good slap on the wrists behind closed doors.

    The point of anti-Blizzard posts such as this is to open people’s eyes to the fact that there are other game mechanics that we could all be enjoying rather than the massive gear grindfest that is WoW. The more people voice such sentiments, the more that game developers and investors will hear, and the less chance we have of future games being basically WoW 2.0 (and the less chance of actuall SEEING WoW 2.0, shudder)

    Bring on the WoW bashing.

    “Any game could have come along at this time and it seems you would have jumped on its bandwagon as an opportunity to bash WoW for making you play it for 3 years.”

    This is sarcasm? The thing is, WoW is highly addictive. In many ways, people *are* made to play it for lengthy periods of time. Yet are they having fun doing so? For the first couple of weeks, sure….. and then, diminishing returns until the eventual “burn-out”. Me, if I’m playing a future game for 3 years, I want to be having fun the entire time. I’m not saying WAR is that game (I’m tossing up whether to renew my subscription now the month’s up), but I want to see better games in the future.

  17. porky says:

    Wow -_-

    Nerd rage

  18. Tachyon says:

    Sarcasm or cynism is good, I’m all for that, but this article is neither but just another foam-in-mount rant. I want the old Syncane back! :-(

    The WOW vs. WAR debates gain more and more of a religious momentum, and you’re not the only blogger who now writes pamphlets instead of critical analyses.

    The latest articles I read on your blog leave the impression that you think game design is a creationistic act. It’s not the worshipping to the WAR deities (Barnett & Jacobs) that leave this impression, but moreso the complete denial that evolutiuon in game features (where WoW now starts to learn from WAR, which has learned so much from WoW) can be valid.

    To me it’s all natural that people in the MMORPG industry should love the genre (and thus also like to play and analyze their competitor’s games) and also seek inspiration from other people with the same job. How can that be bad, especially for us customers, we who only profit from an evolving game genre?

  19. Kwak says:

    This constant bitterness and bile is starting to get old, and a little ridiculous to boot. I think you are forgetting something – Blizzard is a business, and the primary goal of a business is to make money. It would appear that you think that MMO companies have some sort of moral imperative to provide innovation above all else. Do you honestly believe that approach would be in the best interest of a company’s bottom line? Do you think that automakers or fast food resteraunts don’t borrow ideas from each other, in order to attract as many customers as they possibly can? A smart company will discover what is making potential customers choose the competitor’s product, and assimilate those features into their own. It’s foolish to try to play the “X stole from Y” game. Do you complain that humans stole their opposable thumbs from chimpanzees? That’s just how evolution works, whether we are talking about biology or MMO design – the best features get incorporated and carried forward, to improve the species as a whole. Why get upset with Blizzard for trying to improve their game? Rather than get angry, why not look at it the other way? Blizzard sees the innovative features that WAR added to the MMO landscape, and thought that they were so good that they wanted to incorporate them into their own game. To me, that is a huge compliment to WAR – immitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

  20. Mordiceius says:

    I just want to echo everyone else here in saying I agree that it seems the more recent postings are less ‘level headed’ and more ‘foaming at the mouth xenophobic.’ I too want the old Syncaine back. :-(

  21. mavfin says:

    Yeah, I’m not sure what he feels Blizzard did to him, but he needs to get over it. They didn’t *make* him play for 3 years. He sounds like one of the e-peen teenagers that I was glad to see gone when WAR came out. What I’ve seen of Warhammer looks pretty nice, but I’ll never know. They didn’t make a port for my platform. WoW runs on wine just fine, and it’s delivered dual-platform. That’s the way Blizzard did them all.

    WoW vs WAR aside, you’ve got issues, buddy. Maybe you don’t have enough life outside gaming to get some perspective? Not sure what it is, but you really need to get out more.

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  23. Mobius says:

    The way Kaplan answers the questions are entertaining. Great take

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