Shintar of Going Commando has an interesting blog post about ‘clones’ in Star Wars the Old Republic, meaning here NPCs that are copies with the same look and name. It’s a common enough problem in MMORPGs, once you get used to moving around a given area you may start to notice similarities between the faces, clothing or even entire look of different characters. Some modern MMORPGs have moved beyond the very limited character model choices of earlier games but the developers still face the same pressures of rapid content development and the copy-paste model of NPC creation must save a lot of time.
I’ve noticed a number of characters in Final Fantasy with an almost identical face to my own character and in a game with such a powerful character creation system I do find this noticeable and somewhat disturbing.
The topic can extend beyond the repetition of character models however as Final Fantasy 14 was justifiably criticised before its relaunch as having “copy-paste” landscapes. I remember the old version of La Noscea and it wasn’t very varied compared to the current version. World of Warcraft had a fair amount of repetition in world if you cared to look, for example the same small cave system was re-used many times for different areas. The same “clone” issue applies even more for combat encounters in SWTOR and many other MMORPGs I have played. Shintar talks about this in her post, in the Heroics missions you might find multiple groups of identical make-up. Not only the design of individual NPCs has been copy-pasted but even the combinations of those NPCs has been copy-pasted also. Having used the Neverwinter Foundry I can see why a developer might do this to save time, it’s much quicker placing a group all as one than positioning and linking individual characters. As a player though, how many times in the open world or in a dungeon have you thought “please not another group just like the last one!”?