Like WoW

Describing Aion as “WoW with wings” caused one commenter to conduct a whole review and ranking system comparing, in his opinion, which MMO was most similar to Aion.  As was to be expected, it was differentiated from World of Warcraft at every possible instance.  Comparing an new MMO to World of Warcraft is a pretty common occurrence throughout the MMO blogosphere and game forums.  It is damn near the MMO locus.  Yet, there is much to differentiate even Runes of Magic ffrom World of Warcraft.  So what does WoW-like mean?

Well, I don’t know, but I know what it means to me when someone says an MMO is like World of Warcraft.  It’s all about the PvE mechanics.

Most MMO players know how World of Warcraft PvE works.  In solo play at “even”-level challenges, a player watches the roaming mobs trying to pull, or agro, only one (maybe two) at a time.  Then the player tries to fight the one pulled mob without drawing adds (more mobs) by auto-attacking and using a variety of skills.  When that is over, the player recovers, and after some amount of down time repeats the process.  Group play is not much different for trash mobs.  Things are pulled, adds are avoided, and the party recovers when not in-combat.

A lot of MMOs follow this “slow” feeling of PvE, and World of Warcraft was not the first.  It’s just everybody, at least reading MMO blogs, knows about World of Warcraft.  Everquest PvE felt like this to me.  Lord of the Rings Online PvE felt like this to me.  Warhammer Online’s PvE felt like this to me.  And, Aion PvE definitely feels like this to me.  There are plenty that don’t.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but when most MMOs are so focused on PvE, it’s kind of hard to not call a kettle black when it follows the same road as the pot.  So when Aion’s PvE focuses largely on this pull one mob carefully, use skills, refresh, and repeat, it’s easy to say it feels like World of Warcraft.  Then when the comparison includes class-based system, levels, kill ten rats and fed ex quests, etc. it’s even harder to not call it as being spawn of the MMO locus.

If developers feared that their game would be WoW-like, they should have gotten away from the boring comfort that the aforesaid systems provide.  Now fans (read: zealots) will want to focus on the sheer mass of differences that make their new, favorite game “not WoW,” but for those that want a 2-minute review, starting out by saying it’s “like WoW” gives us a pretty good idea of so many of the core systems, especially PvE combat, that make up the MMO.

which ones are the malefactors?

18 thoughts on “Like WoW”

  1. I would have to agree. PVE always usually seems to be the same, especially in the more well-known games.

    You mentioned that you knew some that didn’t feel that way, could you name a few good ones? I’d like to try something different.

  2. Well Guild Wars really doesn’t. DDO mostly doesn’t. Wizard 101 and Dofus definitely don’t. Age of Conan I have heard is more of fast pace where fighting multiple enemies is pretty normal, but otherwise I think it “feels” pretty similar. And of course, EVE and A Tale in the Desert are as far from WoW as possible. There are some “combat-oriented” F2P MMOs as well that have a faster pace. And (/bowhead), Tabula Rasa and Hellgate:London felt pretty different too.

  3. It depends somewhat on your scale of reference. In all of MMO space, EQ II, EQ, LoTRO, WAR, FFXI and all the other Diku MUD style MMOs are damn near identical to WoW. Wizard 101, EVE, or any sports MMO you care to name are all highly divergent from that formula. That’s not even to get into the really weird MMOs like Endless Forest or Tale in the Desert.

    However, within the Diku MUD space(or EQ/ WoW space…whatever you like to call it) there is a fair bit of variety. Crafting systems vary quite a bit from one game to the next. How PvP is implemented varies wildly from one title to the next. How classes and races are handled (what variety is available, does race determined class options, are there any true crowd control specialists, can healers solo well, ect.), the extent to which you can customize your appearance (both at character creation, and through appearance slots from then on), whether housing is available or not (and how housing is implemented) are all quite variable. The setting and “tone” of these games also varies pretty wildly.

    So most popular MMOs are WoW clones, or you are an ignoramus for even suggesting that they are, depending on the scale that’s important to you. If you hate the Diku MUD design, than none of those MMOs will appeal to you. However, if it’s a design that you enjoy, there are real and important differences between them that will determine which ones you enjoy.

  4. See, I disagree. Diku-MMO’s do not require the “pull one mob carefully, use skills, refresh, and repeat” that I tried to describe above. Tabula Rasa was Diku and it does not feel like WoW. When combat is so critically core to most MMOs, that’s where I begin comparisons. I don’t think you would call WoW’s combat system Diku… only the enemy progression. But, I had assumed “even-level” anyway.

  5. Doesn’t it really break down either to the “pull one mob carefully” model (which I would call the EQ model, rather than WoW, since EQ was the first game I encountered it in) or the “pull many mobs and survive” model, which I also first encountered in Guild Wars?

    Even a game like Wizard 101, which limits how many mobs can add, is still a “pull one mob carefully” game underneath. I’m playing FFXI right now (posting in the so-2003 downtime) and that’s very much “pull one mob”.

    Are there any MMOs (not MMORTSs) that are neither “pull one” nor “pull many”?

  6. Sorry, just to clarify, I meant traditional combat-based MMORPGs, not social experiments like Endless Forest, Wyrm or ATITD.

  7. I understand that people get passionate about games, especially new ones when they are burnt out of one (or some). But, there is nothing inherently wrong with a game being described as “WoW-like.” I think it’s important to have a reference of what part of WoW it is like… (UI, PVE, controls, classes, profs, PvP, raiding, etc), but having solid points of reference that -many- of us are familiar with can help us decide if we want to try something.

  8. City of Heroes, in solo play anyhow, is usually a combination of “pull one boss”, “pull two or three lieutenants, but not four” or “no need to pull, just go for it” depending on AT, level and build. there may or may not be downtime, again depending on the powersets and enhancements at work. I had a very hard time readjusting when I did the LotRO trial after a year or so of CoX.

    In groups it’s pretty much “pull whatever you want and chances are it won’t be an issue” all the time, full throttle with downtime being next to non-existent.

    Rappelz (a free-2-pay korean-based MMO grindfest) has 2 types of areas, basically being field and dungeon.. you don’t normally solo in the dungeon (unless you have a very high level pet compared to yourself, and even then you only pull one if you don’t like XP loss), as the XP will be terrible for time spent due to toughness and power of the mobs, while the field is typically a “pull a couple, but be ready to run from a fourth or an elite” once you’re wearing better than the most basic un-upgraded gear.
    Other than that I have yet to try any MMO that isn’t in the “one or many” categories.

  9. Quibbling about the definition of “Diku” doesn’t really get at my main point. Whether a game can reasonably be said to be “like WoW” or not depends on your scale of reference. Yes from a broad perspective, but no not really from a more narrow one.

    From a very narrow perspective saying “Aion is like WoW but with wings” might be as nonsensical as saying a tiger is “like a cow, but it eats meat and is extremely dangerous.” Conversely, from a very broad perspective, cows and tigers are certainly much more similar than either is to a jellyfish. Damn near identical from a broad enough biological perspective.

    I certainly agree with you that the “feel” of combat in Wizard 101, Dofus (which I was inspired to download mainly because you mentioned it in your response…not sure if I like it but it certainly feels different!), and TR is much different from WoW, EQ, LoTRO, ect. However, I’m not certain that whether you generally try to pull a single even con is really the best distinction. Even in WoW there are several classes that can very easily handle even con (or even OJ) multi pulls by the mid to late 30s. And that’s before you get into kiting or anything fancy.

    TR felt different because the combat was semi real time. Wizard 101 feels different because it’s a card battling system (more MtG than typical CRPG). Dofus feels different because it’s tactical and grid based. The basic pulling mechanics are all pretty similar though. Some mobs aggro, some don’t. Don’t get too close to mobs that aggro if you aren’t ready to fight. And be aware of what mobs are linked and strategies for breaking up linked groups if you can’t handle all of them at once (in Wizard 101 and TR at least, only an hour in to Dofus).

    I can see your point that strategies for breaking up linked groups are extremely similar in EQ, WoW, LoTRO, ect. However, it seems like a pretty arbitrary (and somewhat uninformative) cut off for whether something is “like WoW” or not.

  10. @yeebo: Then, I think we agree… somewhat.

    @hudson: LOTRO is prettier than WoW too, but that doesn’t change the feel of the gameplay. If that was your point.

  11. I wonder if we’ll ever see a day when nobody understands or remembers what the name of this blog signifies.

  12. coppertopper: of course not. What gets measured gets done. And as long as there are games, many people will gravitate towards ones that give you progression and rewards in small steps.

  13. There are a lot of people heavily invested in their game of choice being better than WoW.

    Comparing their game to WoW inevitably makes them see red. I think it’s paradoxically one of the things that keeps some of WoW’s competitors back — they’re unable to realistically evaluate WoW’s successes and failures because their fans are so invested in how much they dislike WoW.

  14. When someone says WOW like to me it says easy or spoon fed in which there is no real skill to playing just a bunch of checks to mark off that any idiot could complete with time and money (for sub). I long for the golden days of mmorpg where things had consequences and were extremely hard. It got my pulse going and mad me happy, mad, sad, frustrated, elated and wanting more. All mmorpgs now are so damn friendly that it takes the emotional response out of them and tries only to give you the happy, elated without the sad, frustrated and mad.

    Without bad there can be no good. Without good there is no bad. If it’s easy to do is it really worth it? It’s the ying and yang that todays games lack.

    Sorry rant off


  15. “WoW-like” tends to mean that it’s actually like EQ (or rather part of the line of MMOs following EQs general style (as opposed to say, UO) like DAoC or most third person fantasy MMOs) but the person saying “WoW-like” is too ignorant to know this, because otherwise they’d say “EQ-like”.

    It’s pretty much like people will say that every single EQ Clone (as people that have been playing MMOs a bit longer would say I guess) “stole” from WoW.

    I agree with Woody that there’s usually an amount of “mass appeal” (or to be blunt “dumbing-down”) involved, usually because that’s really the only way to get the people that’d say things like “WoW-like” (i.e. not actual MMO players but WoW players) interested in the game.

    It happens in every “former” niche that becomes more popular: difficulty, challenge, complexity, entrance barriers that however allow for more options later on are removed, leading to a much more “streamlined” experience…. and the same bland crap every other mainstream game has.

  16. While calling a game an EQ-clone is more accurate, far far more people understand what you mean when you say WoW-like.

    That aside, defining WoW-like might be difficult, but I think we all ‘know’ what it means.

  17. While we’re noting different models, I’m still a fan of Puzzle Pirates.

    At some level, though, there’s also the whole “it’s not a *real* MMO” argument that comes up, often levied against Guild Wars, or more generally, anything that’s not like the writer’s preferred MMO drug of choice.

    It’s all silly. While some level of comparison is useful for shorthand communication, since the terminology is in flux, comparisons are almost useless. I get far more out of an article that describes the game in question without comparisons.

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