We all know how everything gets compared to WoW. It’s a given. It happens. It’s probably unavoidable now. When I posted about Rift, and when I post just about everything, there was a big debate over whether it’s a “WoW clone” and what exactly constitutes being like WoW. It stood out to be yesterday that there seems to be quite a variety of definitions for a WoW clone. Some people call games WoW clones because of the graphics or the instancing.
On one hand you have a game that took what worked in the years before it and then streamlined it all. That’s the 2004-2005 WoW. This era of WoW was about the world and adventuring within it to find the nuances that Blizzard created for players to find and appreciate. Yeah, it streamlined games like EverQuest and DAOC, but there wasn’t much to complain about the game given how it was polished up compared to what we’d played prior.
Then came the era of raid progression from 2006-2009. This is where the treadmill of getting gear to get gear came into play and it all became about doing raids. This is where the raiders vs. the casual arguments gained momentum. From Burning Crusade and into WotLK Blizzard clearly identified their game as a game of raiding content.
2009-Present could best be categorized as the “Era of Convenience”. This is when everyone sits in Dalaran and just warps out to the instances. No one leaves the capital cities for anything. Leveling is done quickly and without thought. Raids are easier, streamlined, and no longer just for the hardcore audience. Everything feels easy and carries with it little meaning or importance. It’s still fun, but missing that spark of life.
When someone says that a game is a “WoW clone”, to which version of WoW are they speaking? I would say that all of them have their pluses and minuses. My favorite would be the original era or “vanilla” pre-MC/BWL raiding. The world was emphasized more, things felt simpler but were more difficult in their simplicity. I do not believe that one can look at a game that shares similarities with the original releases of WoW (or other versions) and start talking about it negatively or even positively as though it shares commonalities with all versions of WoW — the game has just evolved way too much to make a generalization without specifying.