TOR Might Wind Up a “Clone”– Why Is That Bad, Again?

It’s been interesting to watch how the public interpretation of The Old Republic has changed since it was announced. It went from godsend, to F2P (oh noes!), to godsend, to the current point of “It’s a WoW clone” disappointment. On one hand, I empathize with people that want something new and are tired of the same, rehashed diku tropes that have dragged the industry into the Great Stagnation of 2010. Then again, I have to wonder if people really know what they want at all. The cattle call is “different.” As in, “give us something different” and “I already played WoW, I want something different!”

Yet, the majority of MMO players began their MMO careers with WoW and have only fleeting tried other games, if at all. These players, bitter as some may be, expect new MMOs to be like WoW, if not in form than in function. I hate to generalize like that but it’s human nature, isn’t it? We compare to what we know. If we like one MP3 player, we expect our next to be pretty much the same with a little extra shine.

But, that expectation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, WoW is a little basic, but can we really argue that it’s a “bad” game? What’s not worth copying there? Alright, a carbon copy wouldn’t be a good idea – there’s always room for improvement, after all – but there is a core of a very good, addictive experience there. Copying the WoW formula would be the smartest decision Bioware could make if they want a successful game.

Say what you want about the endgame, but how many hours does the average player spend chasing that eternal carrot through instance and raid dungeon? 100? 1000? You don’t get to be the market lead – and stay there for five years – by making a bad game. I understand that people get bored and sometimes feel burnt when it’s time to move on, but most of us can admit to having enjoyed WoW at some point. Could it be deeper, look better, stand a change of pace or a few more options at the level cap? Of course, but that doesn’t negate the hundreds of hours and millions of XP we’ve earned over the years.

So, when people knock on TOR for coming off as a WoW clone with an added fourth pillar, I can’t quite say I agree or would be upset if that turned out to be the case. If TOR turns out to be half the game WoW is, it will be doing alright. That means quality PvE, fun dungeons, and a long life past the level cap. That’s exactly what a PvE game needs to be.

Let’s not forget that even if it takes its cues from WoW, it’s only a starting point. Add in story, add in depth, add in all of the originality and polish that’s given Bioware its name, and you can see the Blizzard Approach in practice: take what works and make it great; make it your own, and add to it. The playstyle of WoW may not be what every MMO player wants, but it seems to be what the mainstreamer enjoys, and that’s what Bioware is after.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need SW:TOR to reinvent the wheel. I need it to be a fun game with a great story. I think they’re on track with that. Maybe you don’t like WoW. If the millions of hours we’ve spent there, and the millions more others will spend there, say anything, it’s that most people do. It’s easy to forget that the playerbase of WoW more than likely outnumbers those of every other major MMO combined. Building from there, targeting the highest density of players, and expanding on the familiar, how is that a bad thing?

Maybe you can enlighten me, though, as to why I’m wrong. The rocky reception of FFXIV can be attribute to a clunky interface, but I think another part of it is just that’s is so starkly different from what we’re used to. Is that the direction we’d want TOR to go? Action bars and well thought out dungeons are no reason to disregard a potentially fun game, IMO.

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