From an interview on Massively, the interviewer asked Bartle about his thoughts on Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, leading into a short blast…
I’ve already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft.
…which immediately segued into a somewhat more nuclear explosion:
Age of Conan – that’s PVP. Wow, gosh, PVP – it’s pretty hardcore, PVP, isn’t it? No. When you played [older MUDs] you got killed after three months of playing, your character was gone. Yeah, hardcore PVP – yeah, we’re hard, aren’t we? We’re evil. No. You don’t know anything.
But of course, if you fixate on the explosions, you miss the interesting bits.
I might have a look at it from a point of view of seeing what things – the class balances are like, seeing how they’ve implemented the – I really ought to write up a book on how to read a virtual world so that I have a vocabulary in order to explain it to people. But there are a number of things you can do with player versus player, and I want to see the way they’ve done it not because whether it’s cool or not but because of you chose that way. Now, why did you choose that way?
You chose that way because you’ve got a particular vision for your virtual world. Your particular vision for your virtual world is saying something. You made this the center of your virtual world. That tells me something already in advance. What it tells me is you want to compete with the games that don’t have it so that you’re carving your niche. But why did you choose that niche? You chose that niche or a particular reason. How did you implement it? You’re trying to rip off Dark Age of Camelot?
Well, that probably was a motivation, but there were a number of things you could have done. EVE Online, for example, was player versus player, and it’s got player created units or guilds. You’re doing it that way, and now you’re saying things that way. But when you create it, you’re actually saying something through the design. What is it you’re trying to say? Why are you trying to say it? How are you trying to articulate something? This is from the designer’s point of view what I really want to know. What are they trying to say? Why have they done it this way? Did they know about the other ways?
They’re designers. They’ve got millions. They must have known about the other ways, but they didn’t do it the other way. They did it this way. Why did they do it that way?
My immediate snarky response, from working on several MMO teams now, is that assuming that designers have any knowledge of games that came before their current favorite is not a safe assumption, and that what the designer may be saying is simply “I really liked Everquest” or “City of Heroes seemed fun, let’s nick those bits”, or more regrettably, “Yeah, World of Warcraft, make it more like that, because we like money hats.”
But of course, Bartle has a response to that too:
Did you know one in 100,000 people are psychopaths? Well, you do now. So figure out how many psychopaths there are in World of Warcraft. I don’t want any of them actually coming around to me in the belief that I am saying dreadful things about World of Warcraft.
Methinks someone received some blistering email…