Boathammer : Age of Bloggening

July 6, 2008

WAR and the Formalization of Games in Games

Filed under: Theory — boatorious @ 3:28 pm

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I wish I remember who said it, but in the past year I read one of my favorite descriptions of video games.

It is not really a primary definition of video game, but more definition from an engineering standpoint. (I really wish I could find the quote, but all I can remember is that some developer said it.) The quote was that “Video Games are collections of smaller games.”

WoW as a collection of smaller games

Being really into WoW at that time, you could really see that WoW is the “video game”, but there are numerous fully supported smaller games. Levelling to max is a game. Each available reputation is a game. Making money is a game. Getting better gear is a game. Each individual PvP battleground instance is a game, and getting the honor from PvP is another game. Arenas are a game. Quests are games. You could go on and on.

There are also a number of “unsupported” games. For example, you can collect as many non-combat pets as you want, but the game does not recognize this or reward you for it. The most famous unsupported game in WoW is probably the most famous game, period : PvE progression. While you do get gear and rep, WoW does not have any sort of formal recognition of PvE progression. There are official no scoreboards for it, even though end-game progression is considered by most players to be the most important aspect of the game — the biggest small game.

This always bewildered me, honestly. The guys at Blizzard are quite smart and I never understood why they didn’t implement this basic feature.

(I didn’t realize it until later, but I wrote a mod that formalized part of the existing game of WoW. It was a mod to show you missing recipes called FGTradeLacker*. This made a semi-formal game out of an informal game. And at least one of my guildies then religiously played the ‘recipe collection game’ after I created the mod, which I thought was really cool.)

Mythic and innovation in small games

Mythic is making two big moves to formalize existing “small” games in WAR. With the Tome of Knowledge they are adding trophies and logs of past accomplishments. This is not totally new even in a massive game, but WAR’s dedication to this mechanic via the Tome of Knowledge is staggering. This is not some tacked-on achievement system : the devs have clearly put a lot of work into the Tome and it’s a major part of the game.

The second way WAR is formalizing the smaller games is the Guild system. Not only do guilds gain XP, they also gain their own trophies and (allegedly) have their own point system. This advances far beyond even what Mythic did previously in Dark Age of Camelot. It takes an existing small game (guild achievement) and makes it much more fun by formalizing it.

I think that this mechanic is a major innovation of WAR. In fact, I believe that in time that these formalizations will be seen, over PvP innovations, as the major innovation of WAR.

* In fact if you use one of the current recipe mods they tend to use my original data — although so far none of the subsequent mod authors who “requisitioned” my data have fleshed out the acquisition info for the cooking recipes, which irritates me to no end. If I can do the research for like 1600 recipes, surely somebody who filched my db can cover the remaining 300!


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