Well, if you’re going to clone World of Warcraft, you could do worse than listen to the guys who cloned Everquest. Jeff Kaplan gave an opinionated talk that will probably have WoW players posting furiously for weeks.
“This is the worst quest in World of Warcraft,” he said. “I made it. It’s the Green Hills of Stranglethorn. Yeah, it teaches you to use the auction house. Or the cancellation page.”
“So I’m the asshole that wrote this quest. My philosophy was, I’m going to drop all these things around Stranglethorn, and it’s going to be a whole economy unto itself… It was horrible.”
“It was utterly stupid of me. The worst part… one of the things that taxes a player in a game like WOW is inventory management. Your base backpack that the game shipped with only has 16 slots in it. But basically at all times, players are making decisions. For a single quest to consume 19 spaces in your bags is just ridiculous.”
“So it’s a horrible quest, and I’m the only who made it, and somehow I am talking to you guys today.”
Most of Kaplan’s points boil down into the following:
People don’t like Lake Wintergrasp
You’ve played that shooter, that shooter that is fucking awesome… and then it’s got the one gimmick vehicle level, which you can tell they didn’t know what they were doing with vehicles, and it felt all floaty and things didn’t shoot right. The same mistake happened in World of Warcraft.
Lots of these vehicle quests, they’re more fun for the designer than they are for the player.
People don’t like delayed gratification
It’s a quest that starts at level 30, it spans 14 levels. And it ends with you having to kill Myzrael there, who’s a level 40 elite mob. So it’s basically like putting a brick wall in front of a player. Here you go, just bang your head against the wall for a while…
The reason that this is bad — it’s cool to have quest chains that span a lot of content, and feel kind of expansive and far-reaching. But the reason that this particular case is bad is because the player [loses trust] in the game.
People don’t like solving mysteries
We can unveil a mystery story, but at the end of the day, in the quest log it needs to say, ‘Go kill this dude, go get me this item.’ The mystery can’t be what to do [on the quest]. We wanted the action in WoW quests to be in the gameplay, not in figuring out what am I supposed to do.
People like choices. But they’re wrong.
…You show up to a quest hub, and your minimap is lit up like a Christmas tree with quest exclamation marks.
The weird thing is, if you ask our fans, they love this. This is to them a good quest hub… They go in and vacuum up the quests. But we’ve lost all control to guide them to a really fun experience.
People don’t like to read
I think it’s great to limit people in how much pure text they can force on the player. Because honestly… if you ever want a case study, just watch kids play it, and they’re just mashing the button. They don’t want to read anything.
Basically, and I’m speaking to the Blizzard guys in the back: we need to stop writing a fucking book in our game, because nobody wants to read it.
World of Warcraft has 12 million more subscribers than you do.
Seems like everyone’s talkin’ about Warhammer these days. Including, you know, those wacky guys who work on the most popular MMO ever made. Jeff Kaplan in particular had a few things to say:
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.
“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. 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.
Hmm, sounds kind of familiar. And you’d think it would make sense for the Lead Designer of World of Warcraft to keep himself aware of the state of the MMO marketplace, right? However, the interviewer decided to poke Kaplan a bit about Mythic’s somewhat draconian beta/NDA policies:
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. “I’m always fascinated by betas in general 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.”
WELL then. That’s a pretty diplomatic way to say “O SNAP”, I thought. Surprisingly, Mark Jacobs disagreed.
Frankly, what got me steamed is a piece at MTV where the guy talks a bit of smack about WAR, our Beta policy and stuff like that. My reaction to that was, interesting.
You don’t say.
I’ve always said nice things about WoW as I thank Blizzard for expanding the market, bringing more attention to this space, most important MMO of this generation, etc. But for Kaplan to shoot off his mouth about our beta policy, lack of confidence or criticism about WAR is just BS and it’s wrong. And so, I deviated from my long-standing policy of not criticizing other developers, especially on subjective issues. It will be an interesting read.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I remember one interview with Pardo prior to WoW’s launch where he saud that WoW’s PvP system/realm point/honor point/etc. would be, unlike DAoC, useful. Hmm, how many times have they redone that system? Developers should stick to worrying about their own games and companies as none of us are perfect. People who live in glass castles and all that.
“I’m disappointed with the decision from a leader in the MMO industry to go down a path which in the past, has been an anathema to them and remains so to just about every other MMORPG company in the industry. I think that not only supporting the sale of in-game characters, items and currency, but also taking a ‘cut’ of those sales, is not only a mistake but one of the worst decisions in the history of the MMORPG industry,” says Jacobs.
They have made billions off WoW and they really don’t need Kaplan dissing, in any way, a competitive product. That’s just wrong, period. I didn’t diss EQ/AC/UO when we were developing DAoC and that’s always been a standing rule of mine. If another developer doesn’t want to play by the same rule, I reserve the right to respond, which I did. In Kaplan’s case, talking about “his issues” with WAR during it’s first 30 days is laughable especially since WoW had plenty of issues of their own at launch and considering that they spent 2x as long working on WoW as we did on WAR, some of their issues were just as bad or worse than ours. And his nonsense about our Beta is even more laughable considering Blizzard runs internal-only (NDAed by employment agreements) alphas at the same point where we would already be inviting thousands of regular people (under NDA) into our game.
I’m not normally a conspiracy kind of guy but within a few days of each other the COO and the Game Director of Blizzard both diss our game (though Paul did damn us with faint praise) does make me wonder.
Yes, of course the fact that, you know, Warhammer Online launched last month and garnered almost a million subs and people in the MMO industry might have opinons on that is besides the point: BLIZZARD IS GOING TO TAKE MYTHIC DOWN. Oh, if only a corporation with very large pockets stood behind plucky little Mythic.
Referring to Kaplan’s mention of the 30-45 minute wait times for battlegrounds (called “Scenarios” in “Warhammer Online”), Jacobs said that “World of Warcraft” also had long queues just to get into the servers to play the game when it first launched in 2004.
Well, yes, to a neophyte on online games (like, dare I say, the MTV reporter), sure, that’s a fair cop. Of course, Blizzard’s queue times (which were often far greater than 45 minutes) were the result of half the known world trying to access the game servers, and Mythic’s queue times are the result of, well, half the known world choosing Destruction. Note to Mythic: not buying enough servers is something your Ops team can fix. Making one side have heavy metal Vikings who can turn their arms into battering rams and the other side having poncy elves? Um, that’s not something Ops can fix.
Responding to the user interface similarities, Jacobs said that “World of Warcraft” wasn’t the first game to feature customizable interfaces. While he credited them for polishing it, he also said that it should be pointed out that “World of Warcraft” learned from Sony Online’s “EverQuest” and Mythic’s “Dark Age of Camelot.”
Again, Mark taking advantage of a credulous reporter’s lack of knowledge here. Actual MMO players would know that there is a WORLD of difference between the ability to skin an interface (seen in EQ and DAOC) and the ability to SCRIPT an interface (seen in WoW and Warhammer). Now, if Mark had simply said “Yes, Warcraft’s interface scripting set the standards for user interfaces, much as Everquest set the standards for easy UI skinning and the whole getting 40 friends to kill a dragon thing”, that would have been more accurate. As it is, I have to wonder if he’s been giving debate advice to John McCain.
“If you look at ‘Warhammer,’ there were so many points [where] we consciously made the decision not to be like ‘WoW’ and to try to push the envelope. I think you’ll find that if you’re actually going to compare the two products, I would say ‘WoW’ is certainly a more polished game now than ‘Warhammer is — of course they’ve had four years and billions of dollars — but if you look at the innovations in ‘Warhammer,’ you’d be hard-pressed to find as many in ‘WoW.’”
Billions? BILLIONS of dollars? Um, no. Bobby Kotick said it would TAKE a billion dollars to compete with WoW – which, ironically enough, Mark Jacobs quite correctly called him on. To date, the most expensive video game production has been Grand Theft Auto 4, whose budget is in the $100 million range. But that’s a side tangent – the point is that if World of Warcraft and Warhammer developers are going to get into a slapfight over which team was the most derivative, um… er… I think we’ll all laugh quite a bit. And then both developers can collapse, tired and beaten, into their HUGE VATS FULL OF MONEY.
For more cranky bastard commentary, see the relevant f13.net thread, where I ganked these thread links from (apologies for the inexact direct linking, but, hey, you know, Vault Network.)