Clone love: My own little pocket of hypocrisy

I like to be honest fellow whenever I can.  Not because I think divine forces will smite me for my dishonesty, but rather for the most legitimate reason: because one can logically reason that being an honest fellow is simply a better policy in accordance to forwarding the agendas of the human race.

So it is with some concern that I notice I tend to lie inadvertently.

For example, I say I’m absolutely sick of EverQuest clones, over and over again for months or perhaps years.  I notice I can’t stop wanting to try out those new EverQuest clones when they’re released – that should have been an early warning sign.  Finally, I play Warhammer Online, a game which (despite its many advances) is essentially another EverQuest clone, and (currently) feel it’s fan-freaking-tastic.

Forgive me.  After all, the more you learn about life, the more you realize you don’t know.  Thus, any learning person is fated to become their own little pocket of hypocrisy in time.

What is it that WO:AR has taught me about game design that makes me feel so pensive, anyway?

WO:AR: What is it good for?

I’m not sure what it is about Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning that makes it so worth playing to me right now.  All the old answers cycle through my head with unsatisfactory answers.

Is the grind (leveling up time) reduced?  No, the grind is actually quite protracted, though at least the quest mobs are always available. Is the gameplay mechanic unusually entertaining?  It’s well done with a novel balance (in that no character class has an outstanding weakness while maintaining their unique strength) but nothing new.  Is it Mythic’s trademark realm versus realm expertise?  I’m honestly not an open PvP fan.  The closed PvP scenarios, then?  A good distraction, but nothing the average Counterstrike clone hasn’t done better.   What of the new features, like the public quests or the looking-for-group system?   Nah… they’re genius, but more in an efficiency sort of way than what would constitute fun.

In the end, I’m left with only one half-satisfactory answer: WO:AR appeals to the burnt out MMORPG gamer within because it brings together the sum of its parts better than the games that have come before.

It’s as though I was never really bored of MMORPGs, only those little problems they have that (over time) eventually mentally built up into big problems.  I’m sure we’ve all felt that way before.  (Not that WO:AR doesn’t have its own little problems, ranging from graphical to balance, but lets move on.)

Game design meditation

Again, what WO:AR does right is bring together the sum of its parts well.  That’s easy to understate.  Perhaps the most difficult part of any game design can be sumed up in one word: implementation.  WO:AR’s implementation is exceptional, and (surprisingly) this alone makes it worth playing.

I would prefer to reinvent the wheel just because I believe that games with reinvented wheels are more interesting to play.   Consider Raph Koster’s Theory of Fun, which asserts that we enjoy games by learning and grow bored when confronted with what we’ve already learned.  Several of Jesse Schnell’s lenses, such as one of Flow or Interest Curve, can be defeated by a player confronted with a string of identical games.

Inventing new games would seem to be the moral imperative of a player who is bored of the same old games and wants to play something new.  However, inventing new games is hard many of the cutting edge games we play today can be considered evolutions and recompilations of centuries old games.  Given centuries of gaming history, inventing a game from scratch would seem to defy human capability.

Fortunately, what WO:AR demonstrates is that there’s an alternative path to gaming excellence other than completely reinventing the wheel.  That alternative is simply to make the wheel better, essentially reinventing parts of the wheel that the designer(s) can reasonably (through experience and skill) determine can be reinvented.

Thus, people who still enjoy wheels – deep down, despite loudly voicing how bored they are with wheels – can apparently once again enjoy wheels in their newer, more advanced form.

Blasphemy!

This extends beyond EverQuest clones and into all of clonekind.  What I’m venturing to say here is that clones – copies of games I may have already grown bored of – are good… just so long as they’re good clones.   If this is true, all my clone hating over the years was really based off of one thing: the implementation was not improved enough.

BYOND development thoughts

I think the novelty of the new computer has worn off enough that I may soon restart my work on BYOND.  This time off has given me enough mental food for thought that I think I can at least isolate my key goal as essentially encapsulating the following: Emergence on the outside and Flow on the inside.  It seems like an admirable goal, but how to pull it off?

Thanks to WO:AR, I now know that perhaps I don’t need to reinvent the wheel after all.  (At least if the implementation is good enough.)  This certainly makes the job easier, but (as with all things) moderation is called for.  More often than not, the true answer exists not as one extreme or the other, but somewhere in the middle.

3 Responses

  1. Is this a repost of a previous entry?

  2. Same entry, I just changed the label a bit.

    Was: “My own little pocket of hypocrisy”
    Is now: “Clone Love: [old title]”

    Though, earlier, I was saying something about WO:AR being a subtle innovation. That’s a part of this, but what I’m specifically saying in this entry is that it’s interesting that a notorious hater of clones like myself seems to be enjoying one, and exploring how that could be.

  3. […] I blame derivative design.  If MMORPGs were something more than grinds, perhaps they could have been something great.  It’s this desire for them to be something more that causes me to keep trying them, long after I knew better. […]

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