Monday, May 5, 2008

Guild Wars: Whitewater Strategy

See, this is why I think Tobold's at his best when he stops talking about which dungeon he's running in WoW and starts talking about other games. He gets much more into more general issues of design and implementation that I actually care about. Then again, my level of care for WoW has to be measured in imaginary negative numbers because it's strongly apathetic enough to have broken several physical laws.

But, anyway, the gist of his post is that it's really dumb to try and replicate WoW's success by replicating WoW's basic formula. Players already have that game and they like it (And, I'd argue, a big part of the appeal of WoW is how inclusive it is. You can run it on age old computers and it still looks nice. We're past the point where a new graphical engine is a huge selling point for games now, I think, so making WoW with better graphics just means you've made a WoW that fewer people can use and limited your customer base out of the gate.). And that it's better to follow a blue water strategy of seeking out unexplored and relatively inexpensive territory to grab for yourself instead of coming up with another clone.

It strikes me that this is exactly what I don't like when I learn more about GW2. It seems like the developers are doing everything possible to take what I like about Guild Wars and junk it in favor of making it more like WoW. But, as Tobold says, Guild Wars is actually WoW's biggest competitor. And they got there not by copying an admittedly successful and excellent game but by being different. But rather than capitalize on their position as the un-WoW and reinforcing those elements that make it different, make it special, they're instead trying to make yet another clone. A clone that's going to have no subscription fee and probably be miles more different than AoC or WAR but still nothing more than the same game with a fresh coat of icing on the top.

Look, it's like this. A bluewater strategy seeks out fresh territory but what copying a proven juggernaut is doing is to not make things easier on yourself but, instead, to raise the bar of difficulty. Like the difference between paddling your canoe out into a calm, blue ocean and trying to slalom your way down the biggest, fiercest whitewater rapids that you can find. There are dangers and pitfalls at every turn because you've set yourself up for failure. It might seem like striking out for parts unknown is the riskier strategy but trying to mimic someone else is anything but the safe option - it's only the cowardly one.

The strength of ANet has always been in their strong ideas. They've just been marred by mediocre implementation - as the saying goes, it's that last 10 percent that's the hardest to obtain. It's just sad to see that they're heading in the wrong direction (At least, as far as I'm concerned. I'm sure plenty of people will be happy with the game. I'm just worried I won't.) from the concept on down.


caninerobot said...
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endofhicks said...
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