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Reader Comments (16)

Posted: Jun 29th 2010 10:36AM Audacious said

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The one thing I like about Square Enix's games more so than most other companies is that, while they do lift concepts and ideas from other sources, their 'inspirations' are very well researched and often times very obscure. I've learned alot of interesting tidbits about various cultures and religions just by having a browser open while playing Final Fantasy XI or XIII and googling half the names I come across.

Posted: Jun 30th 2010 7:55AM (Unverified) said

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To be fair, they DID have over fifteen games and almost three decades to do their research. If there's one thing that Square is familiar with, it's using the same elements over and over in slightly different ways.
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Posted: Jun 29th 2010 10:44AM (Unverified) said

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MMOs are usually not the type of entity that generates new content in the literature sense; something which we all used to. Why not leave those background-building to the popular culture and just use them as fit? To me, the innovative elements in MMOs are to look at competitors, take what works the best, mash them up, and create an experience that is healthy and unique in the macro level.

Yet the reality is: innovation != profit, which is the reason, I assume, that "-clone" to be the most-used term when talking down an MMO.

Posted: Jun 29th 2010 11:08AM (Unverified) said

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I feel that I have been through all of the stages listed above but for me it was with tabletop RPGs and not MMOs. MMOs as we know them today are just a permutation of MUDs, which in turn were a permutation of computer based RPGs, like Baldur's Gate for example, and these computer RPGs (CRPGs) are originally based on tabletop RPGs like D&D and others. Is this a bad thing? Definitely not. But everything takes ideas from something else and puts it through its own filter. Most fantasy elves are based off of Tolkien's elves, which are based off of Norse Mythology.

I remember playing D&D, thinking how cool it was and how original etc. Then I realized that its all based off of Tolkien's works. I became very disillusioned with the game and then started to see this in nearly everything, from books, movies, TV shows, and other games. I grew apathetic towards what I perceived as a lack of originality. D&D was a Tolkien-clone, Tolkien was a Mythology-clone, and everything else was a something-clone. After that I accepted that everything was in some way based on something else, it was ok. It wasn't ok to just plagiarize things, but it was ok to be inspired by something and put it through your own looking glass. Finally it dawned on me that this is how storytelling works, someone hears a story and they tell it again, but put their own little twist on it. The story grows and eventually it becomes huge, this is how old legends were created.

Today, we take a concept like elves. Not unusual in fantasy, but how similar are they throughout the genre? Not very, sure a lot may have pointy ears, long flowing hair, live in trees, etc. But they all don't. Blizzard has their own take, as does D&D, as does Tolkien, as does TERRA, as does Norse Mythology, as does Shadowrun, and any other fantasy work that uses the concept of elves.

I believe that a good story is worth the retelling, how you retell it is the key. Copy Tolkien, then they aren't your elves, put your own spin on them and BAM!, they are yours. So take those old stories and retell them in your own way.

TLDR version: Everything has "copied" something else. Get over the idea of originality and enjoy things for what they are.

Posted: Jun 29th 2010 2:58PM Bigglesbee said

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Just felt like pointing out that MUDs came long, long before Baldur's Gate.
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Posted: Jun 29th 2010 11:25AM (Unverified) said

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Even the idea of nothing being new isn't new!

Ecclesiastes 1:9 (New International Version)

9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

Posted: Jun 29th 2010 11:41AM Ocho said

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Even the 'hobbit' or 'dwarf' or 'gnome' or what have you as a name for a smaller version of a human, has evidence of existence recently found on the island of Flores. Below is the link to the PBS Nova special and an article detailing it. I highly suggest checking it out.

It is very true... nothing is new...

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/beta/evolution/alien-earth.html

Posted: Jun 29th 2010 12:28PM LuxAurumque said

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I have never really understood the need of some people for everything to be "new". MMOs as with writing or any other creative pursuit builds off of the work of others. This is not plagiarism or uncreative, but the way of progress. It is by understanding what came before and building upon it that true masters perfect their craft. We all stand on the shoulders of giants.

On the other hand your ascertainment that the Lord of the Rings is "one of the greatest Western fantasy epics of the modern world" might be a bit contentious. There are many who rightly fault Tolkien's prose for being grandiose and overly done. I think there is a very good case that his impact upon literature and MMOs has not been a positive one.

Posted: Jun 29th 2010 1:45PM EdmundDante said

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I'm not sure how one can criticize Tolkien's writing as "grandiose". Nothing could be further from the truth. In some well written chapters, Tolkien reaches literary quality.

IMO the Lord the of the Rings does stand as the monumental fantasy classic of our time, and likely for a long time to come.

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Posted: Jun 30th 2010 12:18PM Valdamar said

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@Tempes Magus
Tolkien did go overboard on description though, due to his love of the natural world and past history and his dislike of how the industrial world was encroaching on his home town, further moulded by his experiences of war and the terrible technologically-led slaughter in WW1. He had several agendas and wasn't shy about pushing them. I'm probably biased as I did a literary degree at college that made me quite sick of his work by the end of it. Though even before that I found his writing quite turgid generally, especially when he could spend half a dozen pages describing an area's flora and fauna in intricate detail, but then give short shrift to the action and character development occurring there.

I like to think Tolkien probably spins in his grave every time someone describes Lord of the Rings as a "sword & sorcery" fantasy epic, when what he was trying to do was write something that would echo through the centuries in the same way as the Welsh see the Mabinogion, or English and Norman French folks view the Matter of Britain (i.e. Arthurian legend) and the French the Matter of France (i.e. Charlemagne). Tolkien undoubtedly got the immortality he wanted for his work, but when I look at the glut of eminently disposable fantasy media around now I can't help but feel that my generation and the previous one have made something tawdry out of it.

Oh and you can get epic fantasy that dispenses with detail in favour of action and intrigue - check out Steven Erikson's "Malazan Book of the Fallen" series. In fact my main criticism of Erikson is almost a complete lack of detail - he's more interested in character interactions and the overall mythos of his world than what it looks like (incredible really, considering that imho he has invented one of the freshest and most original fantasy worlds in decades - though admittedly he borrowed heavily from Glen Cook thematically).

I've read 9 Malazan novels and 3 novellas - over 10,000 pages worth - and I still have no idea what some of the main characters or races/cultures of the world look like, even though I know their personalities in depth, because there is such a dearth of detail in his spartan writing style. My other criticism is that he has a cast of thousands, many of whom have similar sounding names, but if you want a dark fantasy epic without much detail then Erikson (and Glen Cook and Ian Cameron Esslemont) is your guy. Imho George RR Martin is a better writer (or at least was before A Feast for Crows), but Erikson is a much better world-builder - in fact I think Erikson would be ideally suited to being head of lore for an MMO studio, where he'd have an art team worrying about the details he couldn't be bothered to fill in.
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Posted: Jun 29th 2010 2:48PM ChromeBallz said

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Biggest problem: You can't imagine something completely new. That's almost impossible, let alone implementing it into a book, movie or game.

Our imagination is limited to what we already know, all you can do is push it to the extremes and combine it with abstract theories, but ultimately, for anything to be immersive and believable it has to be rooted in reality, which puts a huge limiter on what you can do.

That said, i do agree that especially MMO's don't even seem to try and come up with something fresh. WoW was a rehash of EQ, and every game after that was a rehash of WoW.

Posted: Jun 29th 2010 5:38PM (Unverified) said

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I'm not sure where you found the connection between squid and hoofed digitrade draenei based on their neck appendages.

Posted: Jun 29th 2010 8:06PM jeremys said

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Squid-like alien, with a shaman class vs. a creature that is a squid: an "alien" of the deep and rooted in many shamanistic cultures throughout history.
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Posted: Jun 29th 2010 8:18PM jeremys said

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Actually it is a good point. The Draenei are pretty unique. I would nit-pick by saying your evidence of them being hoofed and therefore un-squid-like is as plausible as my connection to them being squid-like based on their appendages.

But I also make the connection that it is a very shamanistic race, and they are aliens. Two more points that I think mirror the squid.

But, really only Blizzard knows. Maybe we'll bug them about it one day.
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Posted: Jun 29th 2010 6:08PM ChaosInc said

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Love the article. I'm so sick of hearing " is a WoW clone!" that it makes me want to rip my eyes out with a mercury thermometer. I plan to link this from now in response to these posts.

As far as every game being a rehash of WoW, I disagree. EVE is no where close to a WoW rehash, nor is APB and FFXI was out before WoW was released. There are plenty of games out there that don't fit this mold, so the statement is rather flawed.

Posted: Jun 29th 2010 9:41PM cray said

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Jeremy,

Excellent article, and I'll be reading more of your postings if I havent already. The disillusionment you speak of, I believe it comes from a simple lack of awareness or knowledge of the source material. I think the biggest thing we can do to reduce these pointless discussions of originality is to have more access/awareness to the source material. In other words I think we just need better education in art history, world history, classical history.....anything history, we need more awareness of old folktales. The average American public high school art history doesn't go beyond old Greek myths. No Asian or African folktales, not even Native American folktales are explore beyond the surface.

If we can't have better education in our public schools, then we must take it upon ourselves to educate others when these arguments of originality comes up.

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