The progress we’ve made these past years is astounding to say the least, with my personal favorite advancement taking the form of the MMORPG. Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games: the single greatest gaming achievement, I’d like to think. Playing a game of “Unreal Tournament” over an Internet connection is one thing; creating a character and fighting alongside (or against) thousands of other players in a virtual world is another entirely. Do you remember the first time you played a MMO game or MMORPG? The wonder and awe that washed over your body the very first time you created a character, or the fear that consumed and controlled you in that first PvP encounter? I do, and I mourn their passing, too.
The days of such fond memories are dead. Beginning a new MMO RPG in today’s world is somewhat like walking from your bedroom to your bathroom in the dark; you can do it with your eyes closed, because it’s always exactly the same as the last time you did it. Occasionally you trip and stumble over a toy car and hurt your foot—a lot like that occasional innovative feature you discover in a new game—but the pain only lasts a few seconds before you’re back on your feet and headed back down the same path.
Cloning, as it’s called in the world of online MMO gaming, is the practice of taking something you like, and shamelessly copying it so that you might steal some of the profit. It happens in every industry in the world, so it’s no surprise that it’s happening in games, too. However, with games it often yields more dire results, such as … oh, I don’t know, the death of the industry as we know it. Why is it different with games opposed to everything else? Why could it lead to the death of the industry? Well, for the same reasons that I mentioned above: cloning discourages innovation and growth, and the result is what you see today—a world filled with hundreds of games based off one or two game models. Stale, overused, cheap imitations of more successful games that do little to entertain, and exist for the sole purpose of making a quick buck.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at the MMO “Shaiya” and compare it to MMORPG “Lineage 2,” or “4Story” compared to “World of Warcraft.” They’re blatant and obvious copies. Hell, the lack of subtlety used in these examples is damn near insulting. They’re so similar that it can often be hard to tell them apart in screenshots, and the same can be said for hundreds of other games on the market.
In practice, this alone doesn’t impact the industry in any severe manner. Players will soon get tired of playing these clones and move on to the next one. However, from a development standpoint, the situation couldn’t possibly be any worse. Games have succeeded in progressing further and further with each passing year due solely to the developers’ aspirations to be better. To create something new, to be innovative in every way possible, and to provide the best gaming experience imaginable.
Console games have continued this trend, and as a result game series like “Metal Gear Solid,” “Resident Evil,” “Zelda” and “Mario” have all survived the years, arguably getting better with each new installment. But MMORPGs have stopped. No longer are they looking to achieve greatness and evolve; instead it’s all about making the game that produces the highest profit, regardless of quality and void entirely of dignity and respect.
And it has to stop. Soon, too, if we are to have any chance of playing new and exciting games in the future. We can’t survive on “WoW” clones forever. Surely our beloved developers know this? Perhaps they do. Or some of them do, at least. Adventurine, the developers of the new MMORPG “Darkfall,” have taken a new shot at MMO gaming and created an experience like none other before it. It’s not a great game—not at the moment—but the simple fact that it’s different is enough for many of us to play it anyway. Imagine what the future might hold if other developers follow a similar trend. Imagine how fantastic MMOs could really be, if everything you had ever dreamed of had been successfully implemented and fully realized. Wouldn’t you want to play that game?
Of course you would. And I would, too. I do, in fact, and thankfully we’re going to do everything we can to ensure that day comes. Under our new editor, if we see a game blatantly copying another, we’ll mention it. Hell, we’ll probably even call some out from time to time.
You can do your part to help, too, and it won’t cost you a thing. If you begin playing a game that you know copied another, or appears as though it had been created for the sole purpose of generating a profit, simply stop playing it. Do that, and we’ll be playing masterpiece MMORPGs again in no time. I guarantee it.
Posted by Cody Hargreaves
April 16th, 2009
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