Richard Bartle Interview Triggers WAR

As the guys over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun have noticed, the original MUD creator Rob Bartle is taking some flak for a comment he made about Warhammer Online during a World of Warcraft-related interview on First, the interview comment in question:

Are you planning on playing games like Age of Conan and Warhammer when they come out?

I've already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft. 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. 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?

Notice the underlined portion? Not exactly innacurate, though it comes off as if Rob might be suggesting that Warhammer is cloning World of Warcraft's design when in fact the Warcraft universe has always been influenced by the much longer-running Warhammer game.

Anyway, here's how RPS explains what happened next:

Over the months, we've had a couple of Angry Internet Men turn up in comments here to yell at other readers for drawing comparisons between WAR and WOW, but poor Bartle's really getting a roasting from the WAR and wider MMO community. Here, here and here, for instance. He's (stupid), he's (crazy) and he's (senile), apparently. Strong arguments from the WAR defence there, then. I can't work out whether the key problem for the Angries is that he's dissing WAR specifically, or that the guy who essentially created the MMO as we know it said something that suggests he could be out of touch with the MMO as we know it. Plus, of course, someone observing that two games share a similar art style and theme and so they'd rather play something entirely different is the worst of hate crimes.

So I don't think he's crazy, stupid, or senile - I just think he's made an unwise snap judgement, as every gamer in the world has done at some point, and unfortunately it's within the context of a public interview. I feel for the guy. It was a hasty comment to make, and phrasing it as a complete dismissal rather than a genuine argument was never going to go well, but he's got a right to say to say he hasn't seen anything about the game to enrapture him yet.

He's since been defending himself at length all over the shop - key to his argument is the claim that (I wasn't saying that WAR was just a knock-off of WoW, I was saying that the Warcraft universe was a knock-off of the Warhammer universe.)

Personally, I think it was all blown out of proportion. I'm sure Warhammer Online will be a great game as far as MMORPGs go, but Richard is definitely right when he suggests that these games really need to start evolving.