Anti-Aliased: We put the no in innovation

So, yesterday I was browsing our site, and I was happy to see that our community interview with David Allen had gone up, as I didn't get the chance to read it. We had lots of great questions sent in, and I think the ones that Shawn chose were really some hard, direct questions, that I felt someone really had to ask.

Reading David's answers left me thinking, however. David is a person who I certainly admire, as he was the brain behind Istaria, and he really presented some very innovative gameplay mechanics in that game. Alganon, however, is not innovative nor is it cutting edge. It is, quite frankly, another World of Warcraft. Something that, in my opinion, this genre does not need another of.

David's rationale as to why Alganon looks and plays like Warcraft is the part of the interview where I was left in thought. While I understand he wanted to make a game that players could easily adapt to... did it have to resonate of Warcraft so strongly? Furthermore, are we, as a genre, stuck in a rut?

Editor's Note: (As always, if you wish to comment on this edition of Anti-Aliased, please do so on page two of the column. Thank you!)
Players love me 'cause they know where mah menus are

"What they did not do, was take a further step to infuse Alganon's character and theme into the UI."

Allen's point is a solid one -- why not design a game with a similar UI to World of Warcraft? It is, of course, the most played game in the genre and a great reference point for UI design. It's simple, it's smart, and it works. If it didn't work, we wouldn't be looking at such a huge amount of people playing and enjoying the game. The map feels at home in the upper right, the action toolbar at the bottom is where it should be, and the character portrait in the right is a staple to the genre.

Beyond that, he's still right when he says that something like a keyring and achievements system isn't unique to World of Warcraft, and is just a good idea in general. User accessibility should always be at the forefront, and we shouldn't go out of our way to make things different just so we can make them different.

But what he said wasn't without a good case of spin on the situation, with all due respect.

It doesn't mean you can't be creative

Taking Allen's position head on is easy to do. Sure, you shouldn't make the minimap into a triangle -- that's just a stupid idea. But it doesn't mean that you can't infuse your own sense of artistic style and theme into your UI. It can still be simple, effective, and inspired by Warcraft. If you want examples, just look at, oh, I don't know, any other game on the market. Lord of the Rings Online, Champions, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, and others have Warcraftian influences that aren't exactly hard to spot. But each game also offers twists to the formula, even if they are as subtle as LotRO's UI repainting.

I have no doubt that the artists of Alganon made their assets exclusively for Alganon. That's easy to see. What they did not do, was take a further step to infuse Alganon's character and theme into the UI. They didn't make it feel like it could stand on its own. They made it feel like Warcraft, their primary inspiration.

This article was originally published on Massively.