Hammer Time
Feb 05, 2008 02:40:30

hammertimeI considered starting this article several ways - all of which seemed appropriate for the article. Not being able to decide I will regale you with each of them - you can consider this the "director's cut" of the article.

1. I would point out that I had an old NCOIC (non-commissioned officer in charge) in the military who once said that "if I soldier couldn't complain she wouldn't be happy. Substitute the world "journalist" and you have yet another truism. Complaints about MMOs are the grist which grinds under which the mill of gaming journalism.

2. I considered having all of my readers who were looking forward to Warhammer Online raise their hands - and watch (through the miracle of dramatic license of course) nearly every hand shoot up. Then I would have asked how many of those people had actually played Warhammer and read the books before it was electronic in any form. In other words, how many people spent endless hours painting the small figures for tabletop gaming - and watch the many hands which went back down again.

3. Whether or not I used either of the beginnings above I would have pointed out, as I have in the past, that "hell hath no fury like a gamer scorned".

There are many reasons why journalists complain about a game - some are legitimate. Sometimes a game is just bad. Sometimes it just stinks like a skunk that was just run down in the middle of the road - I have played a few of them myself. But lets face it friends, nothing could be truer than to say that one gamers' trash is another gamers' treasure. But if you happen to insult a game that is someone else's treasure watch out! Recently blog.wired.com featured an article by Earnest Cavalli entitled "Warhammer Online Video Looks Suspiciously Like Warcraft." In the comments section one of the readers asked "If you say this, 'I realize the Warcraft universe is functionally lifted wholesale from the Warhammer...', then why would the Warhammer video 'Look Suspiciously Like Warcraft'?" The original answer the author gives is a rather amusing one I must admit:
"... because I didn't think kicking a puppy in front of a train would upset people enough?" - Earnest Cavalli

As Mae West used to say, "You can say whatever you want about me, just spell the name right." There is nothing for getting attention like espousing an opinion that, like as not, would result in a public stoning. A bit later in the comments, the author expounds a bit on his reason for the article:
"I mentioned that Warcraft borrowed heavily from Warhammer to illustrate the fact that I realize the series' art styles are going to be similar and the similarities between the two games go far beyond what would be reasonably expected based on that. The fighting mechanics looks the same, even most WoW players would be hard pressed to tell that cityscape from the interior of Stratholme and despite the inclusion of scripting and hordes of characters, the whole thing looks very similar to WoW's Battleground combat." - Earnest Cavalli

My initial thought after reading this reaction was to offer to update the author's eyeglass prescription, or buy him glasses in the first place, so he can see the computer screen more clearly. It is certainly true that Blizzard Entertainment...pardon me, "Activision/Blizzard"...lifted parts of the game design for World of Warcraft (wow) from Warhammer. But that, my friends, is where the similarities end. If there is one thing that that EA/Mythic has managed to do, that is create a game design that accurately reflects the art created by Games Workshop. Not only does the artwork done by EA/Mythic not resemble World of Warcraft - what I have seen isn't even close. If one must draw an analogy the artwork resembles hyper-realistic claymation than anything else. It looks to me as if the figures that I spent hour painting had come to life; and no doubt that is the point.

Do the combat mechanics in Warhammer Online resemble that of World of Warcraft? Only a fool ignores the success of one's direct competitors. But perhaps Rob Pardo should do something about it - like suing Games Design Workshop for allowing Blizzard to "borrow" from their work. But if you are looking for an indication of the difference of game mechanics between the two games you need look no further than the concept of "public quests".

When in comes to innovative game play public quests are nothing short of genius.
"Public Quests are one of the unique ways that Warhammer Online integrates the PVE content with the PVP content. Completing these zone-wide quests results in faction boosts and loot for those who contributed to the overall progress of the quest, and Carrie noted that rewards suit a player's contributions." - Associate Producer, EA Mythic, Carrie Gouskos (arstechnica.com)

"The public quests (PQ's) are one of those things that passes my genius test. My genius test is simple: if you see something, and upon seeing it you go 'my god, that's blindingly obvious,' and yet you had never seen it up until that moment, then whatever it is that you've just seen was probably genius."
- Jeff Hickman, Senior Producer, Warhammer Online

EA/mythic starts by solving some of the problems that makes WoW get old fast when it reaches the "end game". Gone are the days, the days of waiting for group quests to start, the days of spamming for particular classes, all while someone decides if they want you in their group or not - all that nonsense is over with.

The larger issue here is that the trend for writers to use WoW as a measuring stick by which all other games must be measured is getting old fast. It's one of those buzz words like "polish" that are starting to stink like the same dead skunk in the middle of the road mentioned above. As a gamer and a writer, innovative game design isn't the only thing I would like to see - I'd like to see a bit of innovative writing as well.

See you online,

Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Feb 05, 2008 02:40:30 CST (comments: 22)


'...' by Heartless
Submitted on 2008-02-05 10:48:33 CST
Three cheers for another person that gets it. I've been wading through so much blog trash copying the Wired article that I am literally drowning. Of course, I am not nearly as nice about it as you, but that allows me to give my readers a chance to come here a read a nicer version of my arguments.


Thanks for a great post Julie.

'Must I write a title?' by ecavalli
Submitted on 2008-02-05 20:29:38 CST
Well at least you read the whole piece. You get double points for that.

That said, I think the issue is that most people have taken my comments out of context. Obviously that happens from time to time and maybe it's my fault for not going on for pages and pages as to why I had that particular opinion, but knowing the Internet, I get the feeling most people just read the headline and pissed themselves in anticipation of flaming a journalist that they suddenly hate.

Normally I wouldn't respond to detractors simply because it's unseemly, especially on the 'net, but since Julie went to the trouble of writing out such an excellent counterpoint, and I have some free time, I'll respond.

Let me point out that my comments were purely localized to that video I was posting. I'm looking forward to WAR and even included it in my Top 3 MMOs of 2008 preview that I wrote for Wired (http://www.wired.com/gaming/virtualworlds/news/2008/01/mmos_2008).

Despite the differences in WAR and WoW (which, you must admit, are nuanced to anyone not mired in the genre), that video bears a striking resemblance to Warcraft's gameplay. If a writer who gets paid to play and evaluate MMO games sees such striking similarities between a promotional video and a prior title, don't you think the average gamer might have trouble differentiating?

Obviously my opinion was an unpopular one and I did warn my editors of the danger of upsetting a group with as much free time and vitriol as the tabletop/MMO gaming cadre, but our audience isn't strictly those who have memorized what level Druids learn SoW at. As such my allegiance is to the common gamer who by and large either doesn't care or agrees with me.

As a final point, that thing about kicking a puppy under a train was a joke. I'm pleased that Julie got it, but I'm waiting for the inevitable deluge of touchy puppy fans who'd like to tell me I'm a terrible writer for my theoretical canicidal tendencies.

'...' by Heartless
Submitted on 2008-02-05 20:47:26 CST
Honestly, to anyone outside of the situation, reading your article AFTER watching the video, they would laugh at how off-base your analysis is. I would bet that they would then turn and ask if you had actually watched the video, because your little write up sure reads like you didn't.

You talk about being disapointed in the video for showing scripted gameplay and graphics that look like WoW. Even though the video is introduced as scripted gameplay. Plus, as noted, you admit that WAR's look is fundamentally responsible for Warcraft's look.

If you ask me, you posted it just to get a reaction. Well played sir, but don't believe for a second anyone mistakes that for "journalism". Blog trash in, blog trash out.

'/sigh' by ecavalli
Submitted on 2008-02-05 20:53:28 CST
Thank you Heartless for providing an excellent example of why deigning to respond to criticism is generally such a terrible idea.

'Oh please...' by Julie
Submitted on 2008-02-06 08:43:36 CST
"... If a writer who gets paid to play and evaluate MMO games sees such striking similarities between a promotional video and a prior title, don't you think the average gamer might have trouble differentiating?" - Earnest Cavalli

I wasn't going to respond until I read the sentence above - so while Mr. Cavalli is busy tooting his own horn, perhaps I should give a small toot on my own. Back in undergraduate school - before BOTH master's degrees and before I GOT PAID FOR WRITING (albeit in another field) who would have pointed out the following.

The arts, of any sort, be they video games, a painting on a wall or a movie in a theater is not done for a professional reviewer. They ARE done for the "common man" (a figure of speach I use only to make a point for there is nothing common about each of us).

Having to resort to the phrase "..if a writer who gets paid..." is nothing short of the same response a politician gives when he or she says "I don't think you understand all the issues involved." I see this all the time in MY PROFESSIONAL field. Phrases of that sort are used for one reason and one reason only and that is a cheap last ditch defense that is tantamount to a journalist who, lacking any other sufficient arguement, stands in his own virtual back yard and yells...

"Nyah, nyah, nyah - and so's your mother..."

And while Mr. Cavelli is busy responding to Heartless with "Thank you Heartless for providing an excellent example of why deigning to respond to criticism is generally such a terrible idea" I will respond in kind...

Thank you Mr. Cavelli for such a trite and meaningless response and "deigning" to respond to us all here - you didn't hurt yourself when you climbed down off your pedestal did you? I might also thank you for a response that proves to US the lack of originality in the article you wrote - surely a journalist who deigns to responds to us poor downtrodden masses is worthy of more originality in his work.

I will end with a phrase my dear departed grandmother was wont to use...

Mr. Cavelli, if you can't take the heat - get out of the kitchen

And yes, I will see you on line...

again, and again and again.

p.s. the hours spent on the figurines were for the grandchild of a board member.

'heh' by darrenl
Submitted on 2008-02-06 09:59:37 CST
Julie...you go girl.

Very well put.

'Bravo to Julie and Heartless' by James
Submitted on 2008-02-06 12:59:13 CST
Dang it. Just typed a lengthy response that was somehow wisked off into the nether. So here's a feeble attempt at repeating what I said in that post.

Kudos to Julie and Heartless. The implication that a "paid writer" has some added insight into the gaming world that your average gamer does not is downright silly. The sheer fact that someone who writes for Wired online would snub responding to criticism on the net is downright upsurd. If it wasn't for the Internet, you'd be writing copy for a plumbing supply catalog, bub. Peppering your retort with $5 words from your master's thesis isn't going to dazzle anybody when there's no content behind it.

As Heartless pointed out, there's nothing suspicious about Warcraft's striking similarities to Warhammer. Sure, you want a headline that'll draw people in, but if you're gonna try to stir up a sh@tstorm, be professional enough to support your statement rather than briefly glossing over the fact that one IP clearly borrowed heavily from the other. Where's the suspicion here?

And as far as the subtle "nuances" of MMORPGs go, let's face it. Screenshots of EQ2, WoW, LoTRO, GW, and V:SoH side by side would probably look terribly similar to your average non-gamer even though to MMO heads its like comparing apples and oranges.

'Still...' by bildo84
Submitted on 2008-02-06 13:14:02 CST
Am I the only one, who while accepting the similarities, thinks this video was "bleh"? It would have been better off not in the newsletter at all, as the podcast did a much better job at articulating the game than the One Minute of Glory.

I appreciate the work of whoever put it together, but I would have rather seen One Minute of Substance. I'm still dreaming about my Orcapault. :)

'You're Not the Only One' by James
Submitted on 2008-02-06 13:51:15 CST
I didn't necessarily think the video was bleh--but I felt they could have used it to show off some of the features that will (hopefully) make WAR distinctive from the rest of the pack. Orcapults would be nice. Or a massive siege. Or a witch hunter being pursued by a battalion of squig herders.

As a fan of the WAR IP I'm just pleased to see the races of Warhammer brought to the screen--so I may be too easily satisfied. Some of the clips that showed the cities were downright beautiful, IMHO but it was curious how they opted to show orcs and dwarfs battling it out over snowy terrain--conjuring up thoughts of Dun Morogh or Winterspring in any WoW players' head.

I have yet to play an MMO where PC orcs look anything but shitty--so needless to say, I'm very happy to see the classic Games Workshop look rather than resembling Blizzard Shrek-and-Gumby models or the stiff SOE Ken dolls with green gourds for heads.

'Really? That's really your argument?' by ecavalli
Submitted on 2008-02-06 14:10:00 CST
You guys have this amazing tendency to pick out the tiniest details to argue me on.

Would you have preferred that instead of pointing out the fact that my job is to evaluate these games that I had instead said I've been playing them since pre-Ultima Online MUDs? What anecdote could I have used that wouldn't have resulted in you completely focusing on that particular, meaningless sentence instead of my assertion that you guys blew my comment regarding a single video wildly out of proportion and took it to apply to my feelings regarding the entire game?

'End of Argument?' by Brent
Submitted on 2008-02-06 14:46:21 CST
When I originally read the article on Wired I made a slight jab at its obviousness and then dismissed it as the "non-gaming press" that is catering to a less fanatical (and more heavily populated) audience than the one found here (which I am clearly part of. Guilty!) Seeing as the article was published on Wired, that is to be expected. No harm there.

I did take the time to look at the video and I saw exactly what I've been seeing for years now: a game that has a clear resemblance to World of Warcraft. Source material and chicken-or-egg battles aside, the two games have an art style rooted in the same source material, the same conservative polygon counts and the same easily digestible aesthetics. I do not believe this can be contested.

I also didn't really see a problem with Earnest's presentation of the fact. I am indeed tired of hearing every game compared to WoW, but guess what? I'm rather certain Mark Jacobs and the entire staff at Mythic secretly smiles every time someone makes the comparison. It is EXACTLY what they intend. It is EXACTLY what they want. In the basement bunkers of Game Workshop, I'm sure that they are praying that their plan to overthrow those who "borrowed" from them is discussed at length. (When they're not kicking themselves for not suing Blizzard years ago when the Warcraft art style was 'created'.)

In summary, this argument, which can't seem to be boiled down to anything other than "It's looks like WoW vs. No it doesn't", seems to be a fruitless pursuit.

It looks like WoW, case closed.

'WAR looks like WoW is soooo 2007' by darrenl
Submitted on 2008-02-06 15:27:07 CST
Didn't we already have this debate...like a year ago?


Why, oh dear gawd why, are we going through again and stating the obvious?

a) I don't really care if it looks like WoW.

b) WAR would be stupid not to incorporate gameplay mechanics that make WoW successful, and so would every other MMO from this point forward…so that shouldn't be an issue.

THE strength, and the only deciding factor that will make WAR differentiate itself from WoW will be it's RvR implementation.

...but again, we've had this discussion already, so welcome to 2008 Earnest.

'...' by Heartless
Submitted on 2008-02-06 15:28:01 CST
I think this whole debate has gotten sidetracked. The real debate is how the Wired Game|Life post is written.

1. He admits that WAR had the look first, but still criticizes the video for looking just like WoW.
2. He admits the video, without some "youtube like" changes, doesn't look like WoW, but then states that WoW players wouldn't be able to see the difference between the burning city of Altdorf in WAR and the burning city of Startholme in WoW.
3. He starts out by stating the video is to showcase Mythic's RvR, but as noted in the ACTUAL VIDEO, it is not. I'm not sure if he noticed, but that is COMPLETELY CONTRADICTORY TO HIS OPENING SENTENCE! I quote: "Alongside the January issue of their newsletter, EA Mythic tossed out a link to a video clip that demonstrates the hectic realm vs realm combat in Warhammer Online" - Earnest Cavalli

Now, if we want to have a discussion about whether the video best showcases WAR, we can, but it is completely outside of the argument that has grown to fruition here.

'Missed the point...' by Julie
Submitted on 2008-02-06 16:50:58 CST
"Would you have preferred that instead of pointing out the fact that my job is to evaluate these games that I had instead said I've been playing them since pre-Ultima Online MUDs? What anecdote could I have used that wouldn't have resulted in you completely focusing on that particular, meaningless sentence..." - Earnest Cavalli

Mr. Cavalli, like a poor marksman you have missed the point - I could care less whether you like Warhammer Online overall or not. Whether or not a particular video looks like World of Warcraft or not is also not the point. It is a side issue that could be debated endlessly and meaninglessly.

The objective of the article is to point out the lack of originality in the article entitled "Warhammer Online Video Looks Suspiciously Like Warcraft." Like your responses, the article was simply trite and meant to do nothing more than inflame your readers. Would I have preferred that you pointed that you have been playing games since pre-ultima online muds? No because that too would be meaningless - put the readers who have those same credentials in a room with you and it would be difficult to close the door afterwards.

Whether or not a given game looks like WoW is a tired over done argument - think of something original. If journalists spend all their time holding WoW up as a measuring stick all we WILL get is wow clones.

Although I didn't agree with Richard Bartle at first when he said the following, I do now:

“I'd take over World of Warcraft and I'd close it. I just want better virtual worlds. Sacrificing one of the best so its players have to seek out alternatives would be a sure-fire way to ensure that unknown gems got the chance they deserved, and that new games were developed to push back the boundaries.” - Richard Bartle

As Darren said above "THE strength, and the only deciding factor that will make WAR differentiate itself from WoW will be it's RvR implementation." and THAT my friend is exactly what I will begin discussing in my next article.

Heck, I'll even give you the title of the article in hopes you can use it to come up with an original article to counter mine. The article will be entitled "Back of the Bus"

'And in conclusion...' by Julie
Submitted on 2008-02-06 19:00:51 CST
Might I add how incredibly fun this discussion has been.

'Acting immature will get you nowhere' by JonathanI
Submitted on 2008-02-08 13:20:48 CST
I start by saying that i don't like WoW and i think Blizzard perverted the original Warcraft spirit and storyline (if you don't know what I'm talking about don't ask, you'll make a fool out of yourself) they did it because they saw the potential of a childish, "politicly correct" (no, I'm not talking about the Middle East, I'm talking about the way they tried to make everybody feel well, wrap everything in pretty colors and as it happend it encouraged the "care bear" phenomenon) game that might (and has) attract a lot of people to play.Yes WoW is succesfull, yes it brings millions of dollars and it's more popular than pie (I see Julie has problems understanding jokes so let me say this now...the pie thing is a joke) but the only thing that means is that people play it, the opinion of many never equals value, just like there are millions thinking that the earth is still flat and that after they die they will go to pardise where armies of virgins await them...just like them there are millions of people thinking WoW is the best thing since pie and the fact that they can handle a keyboard and mouse does not make them intelligent in any way. I say all this why because i want you all to understand how much i would like a new MMO like WAR to succeed but let's be realistic, I have seen the screenshots, the movies, the interviews, I know how corporate minds think (not because I'm a genius but because I've been alive for some time and it's not realy that hard) and right now they have millions of reasons ($) to turn WAR into the next WoW.I understand you don't like it, you don't agree with it, hell I hate what is happening but that will not change a damn thing.The moment they decided to turn WAR into a teen rated game instead of a mature, that's the moment you should realize that these guys will cut their grandmother's throat for an extra buck.I'm not saying that WAR won't be a decent game or that there won't be a number of things that make the difference between it and WoW but at the end of the day, for Warhammer to copy in any way WoW (who we all know is derived to say the least from WAR) that's just PATHETIC (and i played more Warcraft in my life than i played Warhammer and i consider this).So Julie baby, don't pick on E. Cavalli just because you (and other's of course) can't face the fact that game companies are not even trying to be original, why would they when most gamers are so stupid to say "let's face it, it's hard to make a better game than WoW" or "I'm sure the Mythic people are doing their best to bring the WAR universe to life".What i find amusing is that game companies don't even need to lie to you anymore, you're lying to yourselves.

'Julie baby huh?' by Julie
Submitted on 2008-02-08 17:20:57 CST
"Julie baby" huh? Hey, that's kind of a compliment...like the time I got carded when buying liquor and I was 45 years old. heheh.

Joke? How's this...

A guy walks into a bar with a frog on his head. The bartender looks up and says "hey where did you get that thing?" The frog says "would you believe it started out as a wart on my butt?"

p.s. I appreciate all compliments but...*glances around* psst -come 'ere. See comments above. Missed the point.

Have a great weekend all. See you online.

*big happy smiles*

'You are right...' by JonathanI
Submitted on 2008-02-09 08:25:24 CST
Yes, you are right, i see the error of my ways now, there is no point in talking with a person who starts a topic about another topic just because it's not "original".You probably consider yourself a pro so let me tell you something, poets need to be original, novelists need to be original, husbands who cheat on their wives need to be original, jurnalists just need to call things by their name and say it how it is.I’m not a jurnalist but I’ll show you how it’s done “Julie baby”:You are hypocrite, you start a topic about E. Cavalli’s lack of originality and then you say “the article was simply trite and meant to do nothing more than inflame your readers” when the only purpose of your article is to turn a few heads while you’re throwing mud at Cavalli for saying something that even if it is “sooooo 2007” like somebody here said that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people need to hear it over and over again until they understand that if you buy and pay the fee every month for games like WoW or WoW clones game companies will understand one thing, “this is what they like, this is what we will give them”.If you are so desperate for readers try writing an article about immature jurnalists who think jokes like “A guy walks into a bar with a frog on his head…” are actually funny and why they need to do humanity (and the gaming community) a service and quit their job.

'HELP us Brent' by AlikSteel
Submitted on 2008-02-09 13:24:01 CST
kill this post. it is going down hill fast..... sorry it went down hill a long time ago

'Confused' by Eli
Submitted on 2008-02-13 13:00:20 CST
I can't see what this post is about. Is it an entry about WAR or an entry about what it's like to be you writing about WAR?

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