Chinese MMOs: Ripping Off WoW?

With the newly-announced World Of Fight looking like a copy of World of Warcraft, Sam "azerian" Maxted asks if Chinese MMO developers are just copying the west.

For those who missed it earlier this week, Chinese company "The9 Ltd" announced a new MMO called World of Fight. Some of you may be thinking "so what?", but if you look deeper into things, the whole situation starts looking dodgy. You see, The9's contract to run World of Warcraft in China expires next month, with rival company NetEase set to replace them. It was only after this was revealed that The9 announced World of Fight, which has an almost identical URL to WoW's Chinese website. Only one letter separates the two URLs, which it might have been possible to say was coincidence if it wasn't for the other available evidence.

If you take a look at World of Fight's website, one of the first things you'll notice is the font it uses. It looks a lot like the title font for World of Warcraft, doesn't it? Also, as reported by WoWInsider, The9 won't be transferring its WoW servers over to the new operator. This makes me wonder what else they have planned for them. Rather than take over the existing servers, NetEase will need to set up its own, making what would be an already-difficult transition even trickier.

However, it's not just World of Warcraft that World of Fight seems to be "borrowing" from - Warhammer Online has also been targeted by WoF. If you look at the image below, you'll see that the game's website appears to feature a Chaos Gate from Warhammer Online. The evidence looks pretty damning for WoF and The9, doesn't it?


Top: A Chaos Gate from Warhammer Online. Bottom: World of Fight's website.

However, The9 isn't the only company to take its inspiration from western MMOs. Although it has plenty of ideas of its own (and is a decent game in its own right), the Taiwanese-developed Runes of Magic also borrows from WoW. Blizzard's vendor interface, quest interface, mini-map and auction house have all been transplanted into RoM, but is that really such a bad thing? These parts of WoW's interface just work - redesigning them would be like re-inventing the wheel, with any real changes making the end product worse than the original.

It's precisely because Asian MMOs have ideas of their own (with RoM's extensive crafting system springing to mind) that it would be unfair to say they're just ripping off western products. In many ways, Asian MMO developers are ahead of the curve and acting as pioneers in places where western developers fear to tread. A lot of Asian games also owe more to Lineage II than they do to western products, which is at least partially due to the series' popularity in the Far East.


Runes of Magic borrows from WoW, but no more so than western MMOs.

To be fair to Asian developers, western games developers "borrow" a lot from each other too - it's how the games industry works. One developer has an idea that's heralded as unique and blows everyone else away, only to have it copied by their competitors a year down the line. Just think: how many times has "bullet time" been copied since Max Payne's release in 2001? MMOs are just as guilty as single-player games with this sort of thing, too. For example, would Dungeon Runners' quest interface or the yellow exclamation marks over quest-givers' heads look as they do if WoW didn't exist? Somehow, I doubt it. What many developers do is give players games that feel similar to the market leader, to make them easy to pick up and play. At the same time though, these games try to build on what has gone before and surpass the original with their own unique features.


Dungeon Runners might not play like WoW, but elements of the game look similar.

In short, games companies will always take inspiration from each other, regardless of where they're based. After all, how much was truly original about WoW in its early days? If you asked me that question, I'd have to respond with "very little". When it was released, WoW took the best elements from the other MMOs on the market and put them in a single product. In some ways it's inevitable that elements from WoW are being stolen by western and Asian companies alike. Elements of WoW just feel right in an MMO setting and it's this feeling that its competitors are trying to recreate. For the most part, any ideas taken from WoW tend to stand out more in Asian MMOs simply because they're from that part of the world. For a long time Asian MMOs have had a particular style to them, and when one deviates from the stereotype and plays more like a western game, it's pretty noticeable. It's simply not as noticeable when western-developed games borrow from each other, as we've come to expect certain styles of gameplay from them.

So does all this mean I'm defending what The9 has shown us of its new project so far? Hell no! In my opinion and with the evidence currently available, it looks to be one of the most blatant rip-offs of a pair of existing franchises that I've ever seen. If you're going to base a new MMO around one already on the market, don't make what you're doing obvious to everyone else. At least some of the ideas in there need to be your own and it's these that you should be showing the public - not what you've stolen from elsewhere. The least that a game can do is to stand on its own two feet and turning it into a copy of someone else's game is both shameless and shameful. The9 might be giving Chinese MMOs a bad name at the moment, but there's no reason for us to look down on other Chinese developers or publishers unless they follow suit.

The editorial you've just read contains views that are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views of ZAM.com

SAM "azerian" Maxted
Editor
ZAM.com

Comments

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Really?
# May 10 2009 at 7:10 AM Rating: Default
I must say I am a bit disapointed to see such an article so full of double morale on Zam.com of all places.

It's pretty commonly known that very little innovation have happend in the MMO market since EverQuest 1 came out. Well there used to be a lot of innovation, until wow came out and outsold every other mmo out there a hundred times over.

Regardless why make an article about how these asian games steal from wow, when wow is just one big collaboration of features from other mmos. I know there are a lot of people out there that think Wow is the first mmo in the world, which is to be expected when prior to wow the most users any mmo had was barely over 500 thousand. But an article on Zam? you guys are considered to be experts.

I do also understand that this article is more about how eastern developers are starting to take influences from the western developers, but I think that should have been the focus of this article. Not ripping of wow, as that is like saying Saint's Row ripped of True Crime, when everyone know they ripped of GTA. I mean do you really believe that wow was the first game to use floating exclamation marks? You would be hard pressed to find an rpg of any form without this, and that includes games before wow as well.

And is it not a good thing that we are seeing the east getting influenced by the west? I mean come on before they were all Lineage 2 clones, now we at least have Lineage 2 Clones AND WOW clones (oh man I miss the times when games had to be original to sell).


Edited, May 10th 2009 11:12am by RabbitFly

Edited, May 10th 2009 11:15am by RabbitFly
Really?
# May 10 2009 at 4:40 PM Rating: Excellent
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1,577 posts
Rabbitfly,

I think you missed the main focus of this article. It was to expose The9, who used to work exclusively with Blizzard to provide World of Warcraft service in China. From the initial marketing campaign, it's easy to see that its likely to be a total WoW rip off.

Additionally, as azerian mentioned, you're the opinions you expressed are addressed within the article. Might not be a bad idea to give it another read! :)
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Really?
# May 10 2009 at 8:15 AM Rating: Excellent
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52 posts
Much of what you mention here is included in the article itself. Western developers using each other's ideas, WoW containing few original features at launch and the recycling of ideas sometimes being a good thing are all discussed above.
deja vu all over again
# May 09 2009 at 2:27 PM Rating: Decent
You know you've arrived when you're being copied...although from the screen shots it doesn't look like Blizz should be too concerned - looks like a very low budget piece of work.
Lie down with dogs ... Get up with fleas
# May 08 2009 at 5:19 PM Rating: Decent
Does this surprise anyone that has actually traveled out of the country to places like China, et al.? It certainly does not surprise me. I have seen every video, DVD, CD, book etc in the world knocked off over there. I have actually seen people take hard to find books to people and in like a week or two have an exact duplicate of that work. Trust me, these people have no intention or capacity to honor intellectual property. I don't feel for Blizz any more than I do for the thousands of others these people have ripped off, imprisoned, or made to disappear.

itz a cold cruel world out there make sure u have yer long johns on.
Lie down with dogs ... Get up with fleas
# May 09 2009 at 7:57 AM Rating: Excellent
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52 posts
When I lived in Hong Kong a number of years ago, it was easier to get pirate versions of games / software than it was real ones. Things have got better since then, following a crackdown by the government / customs officials on that sort of thing.

However, fake versions of other things are still on sale, with everything from t-shirts to toys and designer handbags being copied. To be honest, I wasn't surprised when I heard a Chinese company looked like it was producing a copy of WoW, I was just disappointed.

Edited, May 9th 2009 11:58am by azerian
Lost toons in translation
# May 08 2009 at 3:56 PM Rating: Decent
Quote:
The9 won't be transferring its WoW servers over to the new operator. This makes me wonder what else they have planned for them. Rather than take over the existing servers, NetEase will need to set up its own, making what would be an already-difficult transition even trickier.


Umm..that sounds bad for the people playing wow on those servers...
If they aren't copperating, does that mean people that don;t transfer out in time will lose their toons?
Lost toons in translation
# May 08 2009 at 5:43 PM Rating: Excellent
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1,577 posts
Probably. Who knows what will actually happen though. There may be legal checks in place to prevent that from happening.
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Lost toons in translation
# May 10 2009 at 6:59 PM Rating: Decent
Since when have Chinese pirates or the Chinese government itself cared about legalities that arise from American companies trying to sell goods and services over there?
Lost toons in translation
# May 10 2009 at 7:17 PM Rating: Excellent
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1,577 posts
Touche!
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Whats up with their logo?
# May 08 2009 at 1:50 PM Rating: Excellent
35 posts
I must say their logo looks like they hacked together the letters in photoshop using the Warcraft letters in the WoW logo.
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Whats up with their logo?
# May 08 2009 at 2:31 PM Rating: Excellent
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1,577 posts
At least the name is creative! I mean come on, World of Fight is amazingly creative. Wait a minute ... nevermind.
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Not the 1st
# May 08 2009 at 8:13 AM Rating: Default
Isn't the 1st to steal idea and make it their own wont be last. Hear it everytime MMO comes out wow stole from EQ,Warhammer stole from WoW,EQ stole from blah blah.
On a side note that Runes of Magic UI looks alot better then wow so maybe they should steal that.

Edited, May 8th 2009 11:17am by Bokgo
Not the 1st
# May 08 2009 at 1:00 PM Rating: Good
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101 posts
Bokgo wrote:
Isn't the 1st to steal idea and make it their own wont be last. Hear it everytime MMO comes out wow stole from EQ,Warhammer stole from WoW,EQ stole from blah blah.
On a side note that Runes of Magic UI looks alot better then wow so maybe they should steal that.

Edited, May 8th 2009 11:17am by Bokgo
It's one thing to "borrow" "steal" or "use" certain aspects of other video games, and quite another to basically "clone" a whole game, or rather than make a game around a few popular things, take a game and add a few things of your own. LOL at saying the RoM UI looks a LOT better than wow. It's almost exactly the same except for the triangle shaped thing in the corner with a bag and something.
Not the 1st
# May 08 2009 at 4:40 PM Rating: Default
Actually that UI is 100x better much more streamlined and not cluttered as wows is. XP bar, bag bar, minimap, and player window all look better. An can't say they stole wow yet as nobody has seen the finished product only speculation and hearsay as to what people believe by a website logo. Lots of aspects of wow was blatently stolen most the UI changes they have done was stolen from player made addon's, are they giving them people credit or money nope they put them in game as their idea with no "thanks to so so and for creating an addon that we stole.

Edit I suppose if you keep every actionbar open and dont keybind things this UI would look same but myself I love min. crap on my screen so I always appericate a nice clean UI never did care for fact I had to download ton of addons to get something small like it looks like this game does from the start.

Edited, May 8th 2009 7:52pm by Bokgo
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