You can play WoW in any MMO.

2011-05-07 13:15

There’s an old saying among programmers: You can write FORTRAN in any language. What this means is that, while many languages allow you to write much clearer and more expressive code than is typically produced in FORTRAN, none of them force code to be better. Even the ones that claim they do. It just can’t happen. You can’t make a bad writer good.

World of Warcraft enjoys, to some extent, a similar position in the MMO world. Many, many, people have played World of Warcraft. Some liked it. Some disliked it. However, because it’s so well known, it is easy to end up with several players in another game who have all played it, and thus, it is easy for them to fall into the same patterns and behaviors.

This, of course, results in angry players who declare that they were promised a game which was different from WoW, but this is exactly the same. And they’re sincere, but they’re wrong. The problem is not that every other MMO is like WoW; the problem is that people are choosing to play WoW in other MMOs.

A central theme of WoW’s design is the fairly traditional MMO gameplay model called the “holy trinity”; this is that each group needs a mix of tanking (characters who are good at taking hits and compelling mobs to attack them), healing (characters who are good at curing damage taken), and DPS (“damage per second”, that being characters who are good at doing a lot of damage, but typically can’t heal significantly or take many hits without dying).

WoW players tend to view the world through this filter, and often do not realize this basic truth:

Not every MMO is based around that design.

In City of Heroes, basically any group can probably do nearly any content. You don’t need a tank. You don’t need a healer. CoH has a category WoW doesn’t, “buffs/debuffs”. This category focuses on many and varied ways of making fights go better, which may include healing players, but also may not. (The central reason this works is that CoH characters continue to heal in combat the same way they would out of combat; thus, if you can reduce incoming damage enough, you do not need a “healer”. Note that killing everything quickly reduces incoming damage enough.)

In RIFT, things are closer to the WoW paradigm, but there’s still a “support” category. WoW players tend to think of “support” as being some kind of mix of DPS and healing, but this is not what support is. Support is buffs and debuffs; improving the performance of your group, disimproving the performance of the enemy. Support characters are more valuable in larger groups, but even in traditional 5-player content, they can be a huge asset to a group.

There’s more, though. RIFT encourages hybrid builds, combining aspects of two roles to make a character who can perform either acceptably. In WoW, you are now prevented from even attempting this by the mechanics, which is just as well because it almost never actually worked; the developers simply didn’t consider it a viable or relevant play style. By contrast, in RIFT, a hybrid DPS/healer may well be able to heal well enough for most content, and DPS well enough for most content… and thus able to switch roles during a fight. Similarly, the much more aggressive promotion of quick switches between preset builds or “roles” means that groups are encouraged to, say, completely switch composition from one fight to another.

A friend of mine put it quite well:

WoW’s design and culture encourage you to ask the question:
What job do I want to do today? Okay, what tools do I want to use to do it?
City and Rift have a design that encourages you to ask:
What toys do I want to play with today?

The weakness, I think, is that WoW players come to RIFT or CoH and apply their previous model. They go looking for a job that needs accomplishing, then try to figure out how to do it. People who have gotten the hang of playing City or RIFT, though, will come to the game looking for something they enjoy doing, then do that and figure that some sort of positive outcome will result. There’s no “job” you need to do; you can focus on whatever interests you at a given time, and it’ll be something you can do. You have a broad array of things available that you can do or play with, and whatever you pick, the game has some mechanism in place to produce some kind of accumulated benefit for doing so.

This gets into an idea I’m still working on. One of the traditional criticisms launched at people who find content in an MMO difficult is “learn to play”, by which people mean “learn to effectively use game mechanics to achieve goals”. The real goal, though, should be to learn to play; to do the thing which is unlike work that children do automatically and adults seem to mostly forget. Playing remains one of the most fundamentally important things human brains do, at any age, in any context. If you want to be happy and understand your world, learn to play.

(Edited May 24: Added link to l2pnoob, my site on learning to play.)

Peter Seebach

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Comment

  1. I really enjoyed this. You are speaking my language. I have constantly been noting how people have come into Rift (or ANY new MMO) and start to play it like WoW…heck even I did that..

    But, you need to stop and say…“Hey, how can I do this different”.

    Rift offers a smorgasbord of entertainment, if people would just stop playing WoW and play Rift.

    Added you to my blogroll…CHEERS!

    Elementalistly · 2011-05-13 11:13 · #

  2. I couldn’t have said it any better. I will have to show this to a few of my friends. Thanks for taking the time to write this in a language I think just about anyone can grasp.

    — Azyurel · 2011-05-23 17:07 · #

  3. Very true. If the whiners turn Rift into WoW (possible), I will be a very sad man; WoW is about limitations, not options.

    — Laef · 2011-05-24 06:47 · #

  4. very interesting read. Added to tumblr links. I need to spam my guild with this. o/

    Irinir · 2011-05-25 02:21 · #

  5. I agree! I don’t know how many times while I’ve been playing Rift and thought that it’s a bit like COH which was my first MMO. =)

    — MK71 · 2011-05-28 06:02 · #

  6. You obviously know nothing, you and your writing are shit my friend, lets hope no women is drunk enough to get taken advantage of by you and breed, cause we don’t need anymore noobish morons like the poster of this page

    — Nonya · 2011-05-28 20:52 · #

  7. Lol screening your comments just goes to show how insecure you are about all the negative comments you get, and everyone with a brain cell knows you edit out all the negative comments, which makes you a failure.

    — Nonya · 2011-05-28 20:54 · #

  8. No, screening my comments shows that blogs get spammed otherwise.

    No, I don’t edit out negative comments. And it wouldn’t exactly be hard to find this out. I never have; all I do is not approve spam posts, which outnumber merely stupid posts like yours by about 100:1. Feel free to browse the archives; you’ll find plenty of negative comments.

    Heck, I have to approve MY comments before they show up. :)

    I’d respond to your points about the substance of the post, but you didn’t actually make any; you just threw insults around to cover for the lack of any actual argument.

    seebs · 2011-05-29 19:38 · #

  9. I think it’s kinda funny how people are willing to throw insults and claim that Seebs is an idiot, moron or something like that. If you can’t find an actual fault with what he says and just say that he is “stoopid” then I think that you are one of those immature people that need to learn how to have fun playing a video game that Seebs is talking about. Seebs good job pointing out the fact that these are GAMES they are meant to be fun not work, and we are meant to have fun PLAYING them not get all competitive and make people feel like they are not good enough. Keep up the good work man.

    — Otawo · 2011-05-31 20:57 · #

  10. This has been by far the most intuitive post I’ve read about the similarities between WoW and other MMO’s. The fact that people stop having fun and work on a game is what makes them burn out and is the same reason that they shadow over other players with hatred and disgust when some one else doesn’t follow the linear path of proverbial “greatness” that they took.

    Me and a hand full of people took a group of Role players ( some of the more FUN group of players IMHO) and during the Beta 1-3 phase of Rift’s Beta time helped build the community of Role players through multiple platforms. I think that’s the ONLY work I’ve done with Rift… LFRP Channel, LFRP.net Shadefallen.net and a few RP guilds on Shadefallen… outside of that, it’s been nothing but fun fun fun and I fucking enjoy the SHIT outta this game because I’m not sat in a sandbox and given a fence that restricts me to one corner whilst the rest of the sandbox looks at me with eagerness to be played with… Ex: WoW.

    Sorry, I rant ^^ Enjoyed the post, keep it up mate.

    Khaz · 2011-06-01 11:21 · #

  11. Very interesting article. Thank you. :)

    — Malyngo · 2011-06-03 01:27 · #

  12. It’s an odd thing that I happened upon your site when I did. I’m currently having some minor issues in the Rift guild that I run regarding many players coming from WoW and refusing to adapt to a different game.

    I see Rift more like the old EQ I loved way back when. Not because it’s like that game as far as mechanics, but because I am enjoying myself so much. Which is the only reason I would take it upon myself to run a large guild again.

    It’s been quite a battle so far and it’s far from over yet. I’m hoping more of my guild members, and Rift players in general, begin to enjoy themselves more and stop worrying about the small stuff.

    Anyway, I wanted to comment and say I enjoyed your article. CoH is a great game, too btw. I have a few servers full of chars and several 50’s there. :)

    Keep on writing.

    — Acidon · 2011-06-03 03:49 · #

  13. I think I get what you’re saying. I used to log into WoW and HAD To farm all this crap just to max my character and have consumables to do what I needed to do. It was totally a job. I’ve just been taking it easy in Rift and really enjoying everything. I don’t do dungeons anymore, but I don’t HAVE to! As soon as they add more interesting pvp options I’ll decide if I’ll stay for a long long time or not. Right now rifts and crafting have me pretty busy and I can do/not do whatever I want!

    — Holden2 · 2011-06-03 11:52 · #

  14. You are wrong if you think that WoW ist just about the classic Roles. The average Content (normal Instances) work this way (but dont have to) but if you want to do high level raiding you will have the same buff/debuff scheme than anywhere else.

    loran2 · 2011-06-09 08:09 · #

  15. WoW had buff/debuff roles once and removed them because people found them boring. They were called Paladins in Classic WoW.

    In Classic there were lots of unique buffs and such that people brought to the table, but then the theorycrafters found that the DPS people were worth more than the buff and the person was left behind.

    This isn’t a game design issue this is a player issue. The same thing is and will happen in RIFT. When people want to work on the efficiency of their class/group/raid they look for the biggest gains. This means complaining about underpowered classes and in the extreme not taking players who knowningly gimp themselves by taking a known underpowered class.

    It’s then up to the game developer to either ignore the concerns or address them. Again this is nothing unique to WoW, its just game balance in general.

    So you’re idea of the class ‘roles’ is not a game stricture it was developed by the community and Blizzard just calls it what it is.

    In every game you will have someone who soaks damage, someone who keeps people alive, and someone who kills things.

    That’s not a WoW concept that’s a pretty basic concept. Just because those roles are shared between multiple people now doesn’t mean its better or worse. In fact for the casual player they may find it extremely confusing and hard.

    Hardcore players don’t like the fact that they aren’t being catered to anymore. The “old school” player is no longer the main demographic of gaming. So therefore what they want is irrelevant even though they are the ones that “created” this genre/market/field whatever you want to call it.

    — Jaerin · 2011-06-15 13:52 · #

  16. Heh, I just have to chime in, here. This is almost EXACTLY what I’ve said to folks who complain about “the grind” in several MMOs I play, or have played previously: CoH, LotRO, STO, Aion and now Rift. In short, the grind is in your head, not the game. If you’re running the same raid/instance/trial/dungeon several times a day, every day, for weeks on end… you’ve forgotten why you play the game.

    Many of the folks I’ve explained this to reply with some variation of “This is how I enjoy playing the game!” To which, rather predictably, I respond “If you’re enjoying playing the game that way SO much, why are you complaining about ‘having to’ play the game that way?” This… is usually where the conversation ends, or proceeds into disgruntled name-calling.

    Truth hurts.

    — JohnT · 2011-06-19 04:43 · #

  17. This is fantastic and makes perfect sense to me. I am so, so, so tired of reading about people complaining on Rift forums that the game isn’t enough like WoW.

    RIFT doesn’t have to be WoW. I am a firm Rift fan now and was the first day I played. It is innovative and close enough to the WoW formula without being it’s twin and having vast improvements.

    Well said.

    — Fox · 2011-06-20 01:05 · #

  18. I’ve encountered some of the “player based” aspect of the counter-arguments above. I’ve seen guilds advertise “looking for members, DPS warriors need not apply”, because they’ve simply decided that they want to get the maximum efficiency out of each member, so if you arent playing the optimal build of your class, you can be replaced by a more efficient player. Sux, but its player choice. It makes sense though.

    — Kaltara · 2011-06-22 16:02 · #

  19. Interestingly, the WoW playstyle has had a more insidious effect than expressed in your article. The “holy trinity” pre-WoW was Tank, Heals and CC. DPS were the common plebes who depended on having the Trinity about in order to group.

    It’s a curious aspect of the post-WoW MMO universe: everyone is part of the “Holy Trinity”, everyone is special.

    — Tarkadal · 2011-06-28 11:21 · #

  20. disimproving – reducing

    One of those two words I typed doesn’t have a red squiggly line under it…

    lol, just bustin ya bawls. Very nice read.

    — Murff · 2011-06-28 21:46 · #

  21. Nice read!

    Come check us out at the MMO Development community! Artifact Radar, fly mode, no collision and more!

    (URL of malware site helpfully removed)

    jay · 2011-07-01 09:44 · #

  22. Seebs,

    Refreshing read. I had some long comment about how each game builds upon what came before but I hit backspace by accident.

    My view is when given a hammer, a box of nails and 5000 pieces of lumber, yes of course you can build a house. But if you wanted you could build a boat, a treefort, a racecar, a wooden friend or even a 5000 piece lumber square if you really wanted.

    — Daxius · 2011-07-06 12:12 · #

  23. just a bit of perspective. The “Holy Trinity” was not introduced by WoW. That was around way before, even in EQ. However as EQ grew they saw the NEED for support roles (buffers and debuffers primarily slowers and CC)

    BTW, in EQ I was one of those support roles (Shaman) and in Classic WoW I started off as a support (Paladin). You are 100% correct that WoW moved to a Tank/DPS/Healer game. For a large percentage of my WoW time I was a healer (prior to TBC the pally class was a buff-bot + healer, then just a healer). In late TBC and WotLK I became a tank and then DPS. No longer was the class required just for the buffs.

    IMO this is lazy development. They use being able to have a raid move in a certain way as the challenge, not if there is a certain debuff or buff to make the challenge. Good raid leaders should see the overall benefit of good support players in the raid. If one person can increase the overall DPS of ten people by 2-3% they will know that the support output is actually worth TWO DPS people.

    WoW forgot this. It was (and is) dumbed down to the most simple way possible. That is why I quit WoW. Everything isn’t Tank/DPS/Heal.

    — Gabbath · 2011-07-15 11:17 · #

  24. I enjoyed this read as well. Interesting take on things. I too have been guilty of essentially trying to “play WoW” in games like Rift as I’m sure all of us have been guilty at one time or another.

    The main reason this happens, I believe, is because we come to a new game with a “pre-installed” idea of how it “should” be played (such as the holy trinity group play as one example) as a result of having played the other game (WoW in this example) for so long.

    As Seebs pointed out in the article it’s very likely that a hybrid heal/dps class in Rift can effectively play in virtually all settings as either a healer or dps. I think the tendency for veteran players of EQ and WoW is to view this hybrid as some sort of gimp that is really not good at either one (healing or dps) and only acceptable when you have a “proper” holy trinity setup with a couple of free spots available.

    To escape this thinking you have to realize that the new game you are playing (be it Rift or otherwise) may have been designed with wildly different mechanisms for achieving goals.

    — Mimsi · 2011-07-15 13:50 · #

  25. The content drives the requirements of group makeup. If you’re running around killing non-elite mobs, or even some elite mobs in open world, you don’t need a healer and might be able to get by without a tank. In a dungeon, particularly the expert dungeons, you NEED a tank, you NEED a healer and on some boss fights you NEED a tank, healer, support and DPS. Have you even ever run through a T1 or T2? Want to try without the “Holy Trinity”? You’d fail on the first trash pull.

    — Ripoff · 2011-07-18 05:44 · #

  26. I must say, this is an interesting read. I just recently tried the Rift trial and while I never did purchase the game, I’m still very interested in trying out Rift without the trial.

    I was super excited to see that as a mage, I could spec into a healing tree(which I did) and I hadn’t had as much fun with a trial as I did with Rift.

    Now, if I could convert some of my friends to play, it’d be easier to switch but most of my friends either quit MMOs all together or still play WoW.

    Hopefully, I can link them to your blog posts about Rift and maybe get a few to bite.

    +1 internets for using Textpattern. :D

    — Petercheese · 2011-09-26 23:39 · #

  27. This actually displays something that is wrong with the MMORPG community: looking down on WoW players as if they are somehow beneath you.

    The games really arent that fundamentally different. Adding the potential for a buff/debuff slot isnt a game changer.

    What does a Rift player have at his or her disposal that a WoW player doesn’t? Sure, it might take the WoW player 2 characters to do what the Rift player can do in one, but the fact remains that the WoW player still has options.

    In both games you are either going to set a goal and accomplish it, or try to have fun with the role, spec or character you want to have fun with at that time.

    Both play styles are completely valid, but you imply that one is weaker and its because of WoW’s design. Rift’s flexibility is a welcome addition to the choice, but it ultimately doesnt change things. Neither game encourages one over the other any more than the other game does.

    — anonymous · 2011-12-02 01:29 · #

  28. Hey

    Just dropping a few lines…

    I don’t really understand what you are trying to say with this post. Are you saying that rift is more dynamic with its different specs? Well your right but the “trinity” is still there thought. Its just the trinity +1.

    The post also get a bit philosophical at times about play style, how people with a “WoW” – background comes to Rift-
    “looking for a job that needs accomplishing, then try to figure out how to do it”. I’m not sure of what you mean by this. As you follow up the next sentence with:
    “People who have gotten the hang of playing City or RIFT, though, will come to the game looking for something they enjoy doing”.
    Are you saying that people who comes from WoW doesn’t play to enjoy them selfs?

    Lastly I hope you realize that some people do play the game on a more serious level but thats how they like doing it. They enjoy doing that. It seems like you shove people who’s goals in the game reach a special level of commitment you take it as not enjoying the game, or “not Playing the game”.

    Ive might have misunderstood what you are trying to say here and if thats the case I’m sorry :P

    Now I have to finish up work and go home.

    Peace o/

    — Akos · 2011-12-14 09:21 · #

  29. This post made me like Rift more.

    I was doing it all wrong!

    — IMReader · 2012-01-05 13:30 · #

  30. Case in point to support this: NEVER ask for advice on a sabotuer build in the Faeblight shard. You get a bunch of ex-WoW players treating it like Vanilla WoW Pyromancers. Instead, track down a sabotuer in a Warfront. Even if they’re on the other team. WATCH THEM WORK. We might not put out the best damage, but half speed for eight seconds and stuns for five help everyone ELSE kick some serious butt. Plus, the pure satisfaction that comes from utilizing high explosives in rapid succession.

    — z3r0gamer · 2012-03-26 00:56 · #

  31. I tinyurl’d this article a while back, been showing it to guildmates. Now I’m showing it to people in TSW as well. I’m sort of glad games have gone back to this style of play, it just takes a while to break people of bad MMO habits.

    — Ashley · 2012-06-05 08:32 · #

  32. You’re acting like you’re writing an article about something other than WoW bashing, but that’s pretty much all you do in the end of the day. Bash WoW.

    This article is full of things you don’t need to read an article to know. It’s stating the obvious.

    >WoW players tend to think of “support”-
    stop right there. That’s a generalization, nobody walks around Rift thinking that unless they lack the data to disprove it, which is normal – that is to say, it’s normal to think something is an analog of something you’ve encountered before in a similar setting. Why does this need to be stated here? It’s obvious.

    — anon · 2012-12-03 09:10 · #

  33. Great stuff, and true. Not only does this and your other page apply to video games, but life itself. People tend to put themselves into roles and try to fill them. They get all bent out of shape when they perceive someone trying to force them out of their chosen role….but in truth, it’s merely that those people have forgotten how to play. Relax. Stress less.

    Kudos to you.

    — Mercy Killing · 2012-12-13 16:34 · #

  34. Seebs my friend you make many valid points but unfortunately, Rift is starting to go down that dark path that was originally carved out by Actiblizz with wow.

    As much as I loved wow: vanilla, tbc and wotlk, I had to finally leave as they killed it with cata and then completely obliterated it with panda land; which by the way was so much better in the beta until blizz pulled a fast one on us and screwed us over – ah, the joys of panda beta…

    So today, I found a nice tbc and a nice wotlk private server to play on and can pretend that blizz never destroyed the game…

    As for Rift, SL (Storm Legion) is complete crap – I have buyer’s remorse :o and I’m going to let my sub just run out and then maybe come back after a while or find a nice Rift private server and play in a time before the nerf hammer fell and the game turned into a redundant grind fest.*

    *Side note, and yes, I do play asian mmo’s so I’m quite familar with the “asian grind nightmare.” :)

    — Arthas · 2012-12-26 14:05 · #

  35. Biased.

    If Rift would have mirrored WoW, it would have killed it. Instead it catered to all the WoW haters like seebs here , ultimately cutting off its flow of newcomers by a large margin.

    Rifts community is full of whiney babys, crying about half naked woman and cuss words in chat. The community crys about Rift dying while it severely hinders the games ability to grow by demanding it to stay extremely casual in terms of pve and pvp.

    The devs have no idea how to play the game in most cases. Watching Rift streams are a joke. Overloadut and dahanease are PR monkeys jumping through hoops ignoreing legit requests.

    The PvP is still dreadfull after 3 years of bad. All completely ok with the type of players Rift harbors.

    How to fix Rift? Cut the community demands off, and make a game that will grow. Stop catering to 20, 000 people and start thinking about how you can turn that into 5 million people.

    Its like claiming my 1983 junk ford pinto is a great car because “I like it” the damn things about to die soon and all I can do is sit here and say “my car is great herp derp”.

    I recently read a thread about “how rift can be made better”
    The thread consisted of your average self entitled, self demanding, Rifters asking for personal gains rather then things that can bring Rift back to life. Its funny.

    WoW vs Rift? Dont be stupid, Rift is a fun game sometimes but its extremely under developed. It needs to be sold to a company with ambition.

    — rodney · 2013-11-03 16:51 · #

  36. The funny thing is that I wasn’t exactly a WoW hater; I actually really enjoyed WoW. I just had problems with Blizzard as such. The things that people blame on “WoW” are really nothing to do with WoW, and the same point I make here about being able to play differently applied even in WoW.

    seebs · 2013-11-03 20:07 · #

  37. Oh how I miss City of Heroes. (Deadboy from Champion server). I also play Rift (Harkonin@Faeblight)

    — Deadboy · 2014-02-15 21:22 · #

 
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