One of the most derogatory statements that can be made of a game these days is that it is nothing more than a World of Warcraft (WoW) clone. Hidden in this statement is the fact that WoW is considered to be a rather original game and nearly every similar game is one that came after it and borrowed successful ideas. While WoW certainly isn’t completely original, it actually breaks the traditional stereotypes of massively multiplayer online games (MMORPGs) in a lot of ways. Presented are some of the most impressive ways that WoW breaks these stereotypes.
Good vs. Evil – At first glance, WoW seems to have a traditional good vs. evil paradigm. The Horde is evil and the Alliance is good. This assumption, while sensible based on the names of the two factions and based on the creatures that are part of the factions, is not so obvious once you start playing. Neither side is clearly good or evil. In fact one of the most vicious organizations in the game is actually part of the Alliance side. Even assuming Alliance is good and Horde is evil, WoW breaks the classic stereotypes again by having the dark skinned elves as members of the Alliance and the light skinned elves as members of the Horde. It is very intentional that the lines between good and evil are constantly blurry in this game and it makes for a strong difference between WoW and games like Lord of the Rings Online or City of Heroes.
Gnome Warriors – Gnomes are short humanoids that are classically depicted as thieves or magic users, and almost always inept with any kind of weapon. Yet, oddly, due to unusual circumstances, the stereotypical gnome in WoW is actually a warrior. From the start gnomes have been able to choose the warrior class. Originally underpowered, players actually “protested” with a “Million Gnome March” and now gnomes are just as proficient warriors as their larger compatriots. This is a significant difference from the average MMORPG where a gnome can’t even be a warrior.
Add-Ons – The average EULA for a MMORPG includes a clause that basically says that if you install any sort of third party add-on you can be permanently banned from the game. WoW has a very different approach. Third party add-ons are actually encouraged. The WoW experience is generally considered incomplete with multiple third party add-ons and many guilds actually require these add-ons for players to join and maintain status within the guild.
Password Authenticator – Password authenticators are devices that produce a new random password every minute or so, in order to create nearly perfect password protection for sensitive information. These devices are common for government workers or people working for multi-million dollar research corporations. Blizzard, in a fit of genius, started selling these devices for WoW accounts. To players of the game, accounts are basically as precious as top secret information and these devices sold very well. It is a giant leap into the future for WoW and truly original.