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Spurned Chinese Publisher May Create WoW Knockoff 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the poor-losers dept.
Earlier this year, Chinese game publisher The9 lost the rights to operate World of Warcraft in China. Now, it appears they are trying to solve their financial troubles by making World of Fight, which bears a suspicious resemblance to World of Warcraft. Others have noted similarities between World of Fight and Warhammer Online. Quoting Eurogamer: "According to the China Journal report, Chinese industry observers 'wonder whether The9 is launching a "shanzhai," or knock-off, World of Warcraft in hopes of keeping WOW players,' with iResearch analyst Zhao Xufeng noting that 'with the topic staying in the centre of attention, The9 can easily attract attention by doing this.'"
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Spurned Chinese Publisher May Create WoW Knockoff

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  • by andyn (689342) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @12:50AM (#27841975)

    Oh, come on. We all know the fact that that most MMORPGs are practically clones of each other anyway...

  • Haven't played in a while, but I didn't know about this. Now, hopefully the inflation hell that is gold farming will settle down prices and make it worth the time to farm.
    • by Camann (1486759)

      This will not affect them at all. The version which was distributed by The9 was China only. The accounts and items/gold associated with them were not transferable to the US, EU, etc. servers.

      The gold sellers always have and still will continue to play other versions of the game NOT distributed by The9 in order to water down the in-game economies in these other regions. So they're most likely pointing and laughing at The9. The gold sellers don't care.

    • by Daravon (848487)

      American WoW in China has nothing to do with China in American Wow.

  • Dethroning WoW (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @12:54AM (#27842001)

    A lot of people have made the observation that it's basically impossible to raise the capital and perform the beta testing required to dethrone WoW. But all these factors aren't valid in China. Especially with their copyright laws. And the source code of WoW's servers...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MLS100 (1073958)

      Where'd you get the idea they have the WoW server source code?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        they did chinese language localization for WoW. they ran WoW servers on chinese hardware. they censored some parts of the story for WoW. they sent chinese programmers to the usa to custom fit parts of the story to chinese audiences. they were paid a shitload of money to partner on WoW. what makes you think they dont ?

        • Re:Dethroning WoW (Score:5, Insightful)

          by goodmanj (234846) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @03:00AM (#27842635)

          they did chinese language localization for WoW

          Localization that requires source code is bad localization.

          they censored some parts of the story for WoW

          Censors don't need to see the source.

          they sent chinese programmers to the usa to custom fit parts of the story to chinese audiences

          Story design that requires source code is bad story design.

          Every US corporation that isn't led by total idiots has figured out that if you make your widget in China, six months from now you're going to be competing against the factories you outsourced to. So if you don't want to be shot with your own pistol, you'd best keep your trade secrets out of China.

          Either that, or make a product with a 6-month lifetime. Blizzard, as it happens, does both. Paranoid control over IP, *plus* new expansions which render stolen IP obsolete.

          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            This all assumes that the coders:

            1. Knew what good design was.
            2. Weren't told to ship ASAP and screw 'design'.

            • Re:Dethroning WoW (Score:4, Insightful)

              by mooglez (795643) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @04:48AM (#27843099)

              This all assumes that the coders:

              1. Knew what good design was.
              2. Weren't told to ship ASAP and screw 'design'.

              We are talking about Blizzard here, not a random software house.

              they are famous for shipping late because they weren't happy enough with it yet.

              • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                by ildon (413912)

                Not to denigrate their programmers' skills, but in Blizzard's case the "shipping late because they're not happy with it" thing generally refers to gameplay, not necessarily to the portability or maintainability or extensibility or whatever of their code.

                Granted, not having easily extensible code for an MMO would be pretty stupid, and I'm pretty sure Blizzard is not stupid.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Yvanhoe (564877)
            If the Chinese company is willing to completely disregard IP laws, a good reverse engineering, a good hooking of the various needed libs, even if only in binary form, could provide them with enough tools to make such a game. They probably already have the tools to modify every graphical part, every text part and every story from the game. All they have to do is change some menu screens, some IP addresses and to make "different but oh so similar" models and textures in the inimitable Chinese style.
            • Why would you reverse-engineer WoW when you can simply write your own?

              All these arguments intimate that WoW has something worth stealing other than look and feel. It doesn't.

              • by jedidiah (1196)

                This is all especially funny considering the fact that WoW is ultimately a knockoff itself.

                Nevermind the "pirates". You need to worry about the competing game studios.

            • by Daravon (848487)

              If this is true, I can finally play my Night Elf Mohawk on my Sorny computer system?

          • by Andy Dodd (701)

            I think many people have things the other way around.

            Content is king. Creating an alternative engine for existing artwork (and likely in WoW's case, scripted content) is a lot easier than creating new artwork from scratch for an existing engine.

            Even if they don't have server/client engine source, the sorts of things The9 was doing would require them to have the *content* and that's far more important than the engine source most likely.

            • by naubol (566278)
              I disagree that "content is king". Unless code == content.

              No other RTS plays quite like Blizzard RTS's, and some of that has to do with code at least.

              So much of how wow "plays" and how polished the mechanisms are has to do with excellent coding.

              The best games have good artwork AND good code.

              How do you think all that art gets animated and rendered, anyway?

              N

            • Remember that the content, the artwork, lives mostly on the client. To run an MMORPG you're passing messages back and forth that essentially provide location and status such as keypresses. You're passing messages back and forth, not graphics (except during updates of course). So most (if not all) of the artwork is indeed generally available.
          • by kyliaar (192847)

            Thank you.

            For once a post that said exactly what I would said... only better.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by cheetah (9485)

          Mainly because you wouldn't need any source code to do any of the localization. Not to say they wouldn't have access to development tools built for WoW or that they wouldn't have a very good idea how the game was put together internally.

          They might even be able to take the WoW engine and mod it heavily into a new game... but the core would still but the same under all of those changes. I doubt they could even change game mechanics. But maybe they don't want to... It would look like a new game but have the

        • by Jugalator (259273)

          what makes you think they dont ?

          That they aren't Blizzard Entertainment?

          None of what you mentioned need source code, and would just introduce huge risks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Narpak (961733)

      A lot of people have made the observation that it's basically impossible to raise the capital and perform the beta testing required to dethrone WoW.

      Now Blizzard might have more capital than most; but I wouldn't underestimate the resources of Bioware and their partnership with LucasArts. Given speculating about how good Star wars - Old Republic will be is pure conjecture at this point; though if anyone is going to "dethrone" wow in any near future I reckon Bioware is as likely a candidate as any.

    • But all these factors aren't valid in China. Especially with their copyright laws. And the source code of WoW's servers...

      Either they have seen the source code and may violate copyright laws (unlikely),
      OR the haven't so all that cloning would violate are software patents (if blizzard even had any) which aren't valid many places outside the US!

  • A terrible idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShooterNeo (555040) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @12:55AM (#27842011)

    This is about the worst idea a Chinese firm could have. It's one thing to knock off a physical good where you have access to the factory that makes the goods, and the manufacturing process is well understood. See knockoff chinese cars, watches, etc.

    But, World of Warcraft is a gigantic software application. It probably has as many or more lines of code as any computer game ever created. It's been through years of testing and refinement, and has god knows how many hours invested into the artwork and graphics.

    Recreating all that from scratch, even if you have a working example to clone, is a huge financial blunder and a waste of resources.

    Note : I don't play WoW. My statements about it's internal complexity are based upon the fact that an MMORPG project is the biggest game project there is, with 5+ million lines of code. And WoW has a stupendously large budget, given the fact that the game charges customers over a billion dollars in subscription fees per year.

    That's more money than any Hollywood movie has ever taken in.

    One wonders what Blizzard does with it's cut of the revenue : in theory, they could use that money to create a WoW sequel that would be the most technically complex game ever made, with the best graphics and most sophisticated AI ever put in a computer game.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by magarity (164372)

      Remember that Chinese programmers can be hired for less than $400/month. The labor-hours part of your argument becomes worth a lot less after this factor is added in. And it doesn't have to be 100% as good as the real thing to steal a significant part of the customer base if priced accordingly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by seifried (12921)
        Having a high volume of programmers won't necessarily result in a good product (or indeed any product at all). This isn't like building the 3 Gorges dam where you can overcome poor engineering and construction practices by simply using way more concrete.
        • by magarity (164372)

          Having any given number of programmers doesn't result in a good product; it is assumed there is proper project management in place if this copycat effort is a legitimate threat. Otherwise nevermind the entire article.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      One wonders what Blizzard does with it's cut of the revenue : in theory, they could use that money to create a WoW sequel that would be the most technically complex game ever made, with the best graphics and most sophisticated AI ever put in a computer game.

      Or they could — and this is entirely blue-sky thinking, mind you — use said revenue to develop a theoretical sequel to StarCraft, an obscure RTS they made a few years back.

      And, unbeknown to many, Blizzard, back when they were a plucky, unknown company called "Blizzard Entertainment", put together a charming, though largely forgotten, duo of games under the "Diablo" name. Now, I know there's little chance you've heard of them (not many have), but from what I understand, they were sort of dungeon

      • by Kotoku (1531373)
        I used to remember a Warcraft...but I had a whole bunch of little characters, and I ran the cities! I wonder if I'm thinking of something else...
      • by ROBOKATZ (211768)
        Of course -- and I realize you're being sarcastic -- they are doing what you say, AND their job postings have made it clear they are also working on a "next-gen" MMO.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Unoti (731964)

      What you're saying is true. But do keep in mind that if everyone always did the reasonable, rational thing, we'd not get a lot of the progress we've made over time. For example, I could take what you wrote above, and substitute, say, OS/360 [wikipedia.org] in there:

      OS/360 is a gigantic software application. It probably has as many or more lines of code as any computer program ever created. It's been through years of testing and refinement, and has god knows how many hours invested into the [whatever]. Recreating all that

    • > Blizzard ... could use that money to create a WoW sequel that would be the most technically complex game ever made, with the best graphics and most sophisticated AI ever put in a computer game.

      As Joel Spolsky points out, the worst mistake a software company can make is to rewrite software from scratch. There used to be argument that new code was better code because the programmers were building on what they learned from their first version. But in practice, old code is *tested* *working* code, far supe

      • Maybe not a "empty compiler window" rewrite, but a major fork that stayed in closed developement for a couple years. Enough to advance the graphics system to near photorealistic levels, revamp the AI, etc.
    • Re:A terrible idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @02:53AM (#27842611)

      I doubt that WoW is particularly huge based on lined of code. The quests basically all come from 1 template, the AI is non-existent and the whole thing is based on repetition. When playing, I get the feeling they're aiming at creating as much content as possible with as little coding as possible. Keeps the bugs down and speeds up content creation.

      Same goes for the art too, actually. They're using plenty of color swaps and similar recycling methods.

      • by loutr (626763)

        Have you played WotLK ? They introduced "phasing" (zones change to reflect what you have accomplished during previous quests), and lots of quests are really different from the "kill X mobs" / "gather Y items" quests. And they also introduced vehicle fights.

        I agree that WoW doesn't have the most original or complex gameplay, but they really did try to enhance it for Wrath.

        • And all this while maintaining their compatibility - in at least the original content areas - with the hardware they originally wrote it for. Hardware that is grossly out of date today. (I should know, I have some of it...)

          Other companies (*cough* NCSoft *cough*) have made changes that make the game very much less playable with the original hardware specs. It'll *run*, but performance sucks.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "the AI is non-existent"

        How about you try programming pathfinding around multiple corners (it's many orders of magnitude harder than simple homing), a threat system capable of handling hundreds of enemies and a half dozen boss abilities? Just because it's not the strategic thinking chess-playing type of AI does not mean it's anywhere near easy.

      • I agree, but why reinvent the wheel?
      • by brkello (642429)
        You are obviously not a programmer. Just the UI alone is going to be a huge number of lines of code, just because they made it so modable. Let's just take the effects of food for example. Eating food can make you huge, make you tiny, turn you in to a skeleton/whelp/etc, make you spit fire, make you vomit, make you shoot fireworks, and even make you drunk (blurring your screen, making you unable to run in a straight line, and effecting the text you type). That alone would be many many lines of code. The
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Kumiorava (95318)

      I don't think WOW has any spectacular code in it, it's all about the game design, story, tools and polish. That's what makes knock offs appealing, the code is cheap compared to other aspects of the game project. Having example ready and being satisfied with minimal changes and feature reductions will make whole thing orders of magnitude easier.

      When I was selling the game projects myself it was always hard to explain the customers that source code is not the most valuable asset. We needed to be able to reuse

    • by hey! (33014)

      I'm not sure that the kind of things you can determine from an extremely detailed familiarity with the system behavior are so worthless.

      The biggest expense in any really complicated project is either (a) effort expended on things you don't need or (b) effort expended to get things you overlooked done by yesterday. Having a punch list containing exactly the things that need to be done is a huge money saver. I've never played WoW, but I doubt there's anything particularly special about the AI or physics sim

    • by garylian (870843)

      I would think that some older and more established MMOs would have quite a bit more lines of code than WoW. EQ comes to mind, with 14 expansions released, probably has more code. EQ2 may have more, since there has been more expansions released for it. Lineage II has been around for a long time and has had quite a few expansions. And there are plenty of Asian style MMOs out there that have had numerous expansions. And Vanguard, for all its crappiness, is a huge game.

      I don't have the latest EQ2 expansion

      • In the end, "lines of code" bears little resemblance to anything of any real interest.

        A lot of modern MMOs are media - sound, pictures, scripts to make things go. You compare Vanguard, EQ2, and WoW, but include the amount of space taken up by the media.

        You compare various games by the number of expansions. (A little Yoda voice runs through my head: "Expansions do not make one great".) But an expansion that contains "a new region, and the population and quests and all that go with it" could be almost enti

  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@nOSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @01:00AM (#27842039) Homepage
    You know, when you translate phrases from other languages you're allowed to make them grammatically sound. World of Fighting would have, presumably, the same meaning but actually not sound quite as ridiculous in English.
  • ... 'cause given the current state of copyright law in China, I'm pretty sure the Chinese government/legal system ain't gonna give a damn.

    • This doesn't matter unless they make the game actually fun to play. Will Chinese people be willing to pay the few cents per hour they currently pay for WoW for a shitty Chinese knock-off? I doubt it.
    • by Dunbal (464142)

      The Chinese interpretation of copyright is "you have the right to copy"...

    • How is cloning software a violation of copyright? or should OO.o developers be sued for violating ms copyright on producing an office suite that works with ms docs?

      • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @07:15AM (#27843605) Homepage Journal

        How is cloning software a violation of copyright? or should OO.o developers be sued for violating ms copyright on producing an office suite that works with ms docs?

        At least under United States law, there's a difference. Functional software like OpenOffice.org appears to fall cleanly under Lotus v. Borland. For entertainment works, on the other hand, U.S. precedents are mixed: KC Munchkin for Odyssey 2 [wikipedia.org] (clone of Namco's Pac-Man) was ruled infringing, but Data East's Fighter's History (clone of Capcom's Street Fighter II) wasn't. And I expect U.S. law to come into play once The9 tries to attract U.S. customers.

        • by edremy (36408)
          Why would The9 care about US customers? The majority of WoW's playerbase is in Asia anyway, and there are plenty of Asian MMORPGs with high subscriber numbers that aren't even on the US radar. They'll have plenty of customers merely by stripping out chunks of that and then they'll never have to worry about IP laws, trademarks or any of those annoying Western concepts like ideas having value.
  • If Blizzard pulls out of china we can finally get pandaren in the game, sounds good to me.
  • by Praseodymn (195411) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @01:49AM (#27842261) Homepage

    and those kids won't play a fake WoW.

  • by Bottoms (1548585) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @02:33AM (#27842495)
    WOF? World of Fail - "were u cum 2 farm teh gLOLdz"
  • Ooh! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @02:43AM (#27842537) Homepage Journal
    I can't wait to create a character over there to farm and sell glod* all day and night! Time to pop out and buy an English to Not-Quite-Mandarin phrase book!

    * The World of Fight currency

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @03:00AM (#27842639)

    This just in, yet another MMO mimicking WoW in the making. Film at 11.

  • But will the
  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @08:39AM (#27844073)
    Good luck with that. It's worked so well in the past for everyone whose games I've seen land in the discount clearance bin shortly before the servers shut down for good.
  • Come on, Slashdot!

    The first rule of World of Fight is that nobody talks about World of Fight.
  • Since they went so hard after Glider in the US. I'm pretty sure they realize that going into a joint venture with a Chinese company leaves them open to be totally screwed if they decide to leave them. It's happened many times with other companies. The Chinese don't recognize US intellectual property, and government officals are easily bribed to look the other way.

  • Still others have noticed the huge similarity between EQ/WoW/DAoC/AC/CoH/CoV/D&DO/FFXI/GW/LotRO/SWG/WAR ad nauseum. Many have proposed categorizing these "games" in some sort of genre [wikipedia.org].

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