Genre.

7 04 2011

RIFT is allowed to copy any game in the MMO genre that it wants to. Not only is it allowed to, but it should. It should blatantly rip off (and it kind of has) any functional quality from other MMO games that work well: raid frames, on-demand PvP, auto-populating public groups for public quests, multiple forms of currency for rewards, mounts available early, familiar crafting mediums, familiar gear types, familiar interface, etc. Now, before you get angry and claim that “RIFT is doing nothing for the MMO-genre if it’s copying so much”, allow me to carefully explain why you are wrong. I will do this with examples.

Last time I mentioned FPSs and how nobody got on Halo’s case for copying any of the innumerable FPSs that came before it. Its features include reloading (but you don’t lose stray rounds if you ditch a clip early), zooming in with scopes, a melee attack (pistol whip), headshots = instant kill, vehicles that can carry multiple players, and “Mu-mu-mu-mu-Monster Kill!” announcements regarding how effectively a given player is scoring kills. Oh yea, and standard game types like King of the Hill and Capture the Flag. None of these are unique. In fact, they are all pretty standard now in the FPS genre.

Here’s another one. Mario. There are more than a half dozen of these titles and they are all the same game. People always buy the next Nintendo system so they can play the next Mario. In each game they’re still saving a Princess and Bowser is still a megalomaniacal jerk-bag and the only way you can stop him is by jumping between conveyors and platforms, bashing blocks with your fist, and defeating enemies by landing on their heads. Yes, each one adds different kinds of elements and puzzles (Mario Galaxy adds multi-directional gravity, Mario World added a mount, Mario 3 added flight and different ‘suits’, Mario 2 added picking things up) but at the core the games are still the same. There are several worlds and you need to complete most of the zones in each world before you can storm a castle to learn that Peach the Toadstool Daisy isn’t in there.

Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Lufia, Ultima…games with turn-based combat which are half-spreadsheet management, half watching beautifully rendered cut scenes, all came from 2D humble beginnings where dialogue was all static (and poorly translated into English). These games all introduced status effects in RPGs (poison, sleep, mute, blind, berserk, etc.) which MMOs have all “sampled”. All of them have tons of different named equipment you can stick on your characters with varying stats that modify the wearer’s stats.

My point is perhaps too obvious to drag this out any further: for a game to fit into a genre, be it MMO, FPS, platformer, or RPG, it has have certain attributes fans of said genre expect. Some things don’t stick, like Unreal Tournament’s Transponder (the one you could teleport with rapidly and repeatedly…I mean, they still have a transponder, but they added a hefty cooldown to it), grappling hooks, or those really annoying things you could make your avatar say in Rise of the Triad by hitting the function keys. (Laaaaaa la la la!!!) But other things DID stick: reloading/clips, limiting the firing rate on ordinance (missile launchers), accuracy loss when in motion, and built-in VoIP.

WoW redefined the MMO genre by introducing a lot of very good ideas and opening it up to a larger demographic. There is no mystic hump that MMO design needs to get over now where people stop copying WoW. Expect all up and coming MMOs to have public quests, leveling guilds, achievement systems, multiple currencies…the works. When features work in a genre, they stay with the genre. I fail to see how MMOs are different. They are a genre, and we want that genre to grow. Growing doesn’t mean everything changes. It means some things change. Sometimes the changes are small. I think RIFT’s major contributions so far are the soul system/class customization (other MMOs have done this, like EVE, but this is far easier to understand than that), and a seamless merger of many good MMO aspects from other games. But then again, even a game that’s just a reskinning of an older, popular game has some merit to it.

  • Doom and Rise of the Triad
  • Mario and Bonk
  • Defense of the Ancients and League of Legends
  • Every single WWII FPS
  • Every baseball/football/sports-based video game title ever (sorry, but flaming basketballs don’t count as a solid contribution to the genre).
  • Master of Orion 2 and Galactic Civilization
  • Mario Kart(s) and Chocobo Racing
  • World of Warcraft and CircleMUD

The defense rests, your Honor.

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