Posts Tagged ‘wow’

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Taking Up The Fanboy Mantle

June 19, 2008

Big hubbaballoo this week over EA’s CEO John Riccitiello declaring plainly, that “I don’t think [WAR] will rival WoW”, with the follow-up of “But it is a strong game that will get our returns for us. We’re proud of it.” You’d think, after watching the blogosphere fallout, that this was a divine revelation sent by archangel Gabriel himself. I personally was of the “no DUH” reaction, but when major blogs call you out as one of “Warhammer’s most dedicated fans”, it’s easy to become bullied into taking up a fanboy mantle and defending the virtue of a game I haven’t yet played.

Or… not.

You see, I’m not the most dedicated Warhammer fan. I’m a fan, to be sure, but what I am is a dedicated MMO fan. I go where the action is sweetest, where the fun is waiting to be tapped, and where my personal playing style is best served. To be sure, I’m throwing in my chips with Warhammer, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t played and enjoyed other MMOs in the past, nor does it mean I’m on a personal vendetta to besmirch the games I’ve lost interest in. What will that accomplish?

“Blog visitor numbers,” my WordPress stat tracker tells me. Over this past week I’ve learned that if one says something even slightly controversial or extreme, it brings in the people along with rabid, foaming fanboys (on all sides). Nobody’s interested in sane, balanced viewpoints — what people want is a shiny crusader of all things WAR taking up the fight against big bad WoW. It makes a sick sort of sense: when you see someone voicing your viewpoint as the correct, infallible one, you tend to gravitate toward their side… whether they’re being reasonable or just mouthing off. It’s how news media works (and media in general), and blogs are no different.

So I can see Mr. Riccitiello’s brief statement as being fuel for the fire of both sides: the pro-WAR anti-WoW crowd, and the pro-WoW anti-WAR gang. The first group is going to say, “Ha! We enjoy being the underdog! And even if our game doesn’t topple WoW, we never meant to in the first place!” The second group responds with, “Just give it up — even the head of the game’s company says you don’t have a chance!” Hence, controversy; hence, lots of views and angry trolls.

Nearby, the third — and I daresay, biggest — group sits watching both sides. This is the pro-WAR pro-WoW (or at least ambivalent-to-WoW) people, the ones who aren’t exactly concerned with one game “winning” or “beating” the other in terms of subscriber numbers or the popular mind share. This is the group that wants a good game, period. Two good games? Why, even better! Then more players win!

You see, it’s all about the players, not the company. While I don’t think either Blizzard or Mythic are devil spawn, I also know they don’t care about me, personally. They’re companies. They do what they can to make a good profit. It’s like that romance/baseball movie Fever Pitch, where the Red Sox fans look at the team and mourn the fact that as much as they care about the team, the team doesn’t care about them (personally). So my view is, whatever benefits the players the most is a win-win situation.

Blizzard’s good people; nobody can accuse them of making crappy, slap-dash games, and while they will never be lauded for innovation or risk, they satisfy a lot of their customer base and provide a great service. Mythic is fine as well; they’re making a game that won’t be everything to everybody, but they’re willing to be a bit more selective and risky in order to make a specific group of people extremely happy. They both have virtues, they both have flaws, and they both want our gaming dollars. I’m taking mine to Mythic as long as they can keep me happy, as it should be.

Cutting past the WAR vs. WoW analysis of Riccitiello’s comment, I think we can take away what he means to say — which has been backed up by what Mythic’s been saying all along:

  1. Nobody, not even Mythic or Blizzard, expects WAR to topple WoW as the subscriber king of MMOs. By some freak of nature and a whole lot of word of mouth that it does happen, then goody gumdrops for Mythic.
  2. That said, EA and Mythic expects that WAR will do well, very well, in terms of reviews, critical opinion and (most importantly) subscriber numbers. I don’t know what they estimate, but 500,000 to 2 million is not a stupid number to guess at this piont.
  3. EA is proud of WAR and stands behind them fully. This statement wasn’t intended to cut the legs out from under Mythic before they got a chance to showcase their baby, but instead to offer them a bit of perception insurance — head off the people who view this upcoming release as a head-to-head battle between the two titles by saying, “No, it’s really not. And we’re not approaching it that way.”
  4. Warhammer Online will be its own beast and release on its own terms, without fear or intimidation on the part of fans (either side) or Blizzard. This, I think, is the most important point to realize. Mythic’s been saying it all along, and some have ignored this message because they want, really really badly, for there to be a major showdown so that some fanboys can crow that they were right. If it’s a great and polished game, WAR can release whenever it wants without being bullied, and it will succeed.

So, how’s that for being a fanboy? Did I disappoint?

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Lazy Saturday

June 14, 2008

So if you couldn’t tell by my recent WoW diatribes, I’m pretty much burned out on the game, and when that happens all you have left is a bucket full of cynicism and complaints. And rather than force myself to play and let my frustration seep into this blog, I’ve gone ahead and canceled my WoW account. This most recent stretch of WoW gameplay dates all the way back to a full year ago, when I returned from LOTRO to enjoy leveling up a hunter from 1-60.

I’m a familiar friend to Old Man Burnout, that is for sure. I suppose the fault lies with me somewhat — I love the leveling game, I vastly enjoy 5-man dungeons and getting new skills, but when the game stops at a point after you hit 70 and demands that you grind in whatever fashion you like for new items or gold, then I get bored. Here’s a thought: why can’t there be special skills at the end game that you have to work just as hard to get as an epic flying mount? I had a blast working to get my druid’s epic flight form, and couldn’t help but wonder why there wasn’t more skills like that in the game.

I’ll greatly miss both of my guilds and the friends I’ve made therein. Some of them visit WAAAGH! — hey guys! Some might even come over to WAR. And who knows, the craving might set back in later this summer, but with the relative dearth of new content in the foreseeable future, there’s little temptation for me to return.

So, with the summer stretched out in front of me like a big yawning chasm, what to do? There’s Mass Effect, which I’ve been puttering through, although it hasn’t seized me like KOTOR or other Bioware titles. I think it’s the combat, which is more console-y and far less RPG-y than I’d like. I also resubscribed to City of Heroes (again), determined to level a Mastermind to 50, then explore the two new villain epic archtypes that just came out in the last book.

And who knows? Fingers always crossed for open beta in August. That’d be swell.

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The Comparison Curse

May 26, 2008

As the upcoming months start slamming into us like the seasonal typhoons they are, I can guarantee you one thing: we’re going to be hearing a LOT more rhetoric about how Warhammer Online looks (and presumably plays) just like World of Warcraft. Recently, Tobold went so far to say that WAR will be more or less a new coat of paint over the same-old, same-old gameplay, which might indeed help with subscription numbers (since players familiar to WoW would apparently be comfortable in a familiar setting) but will ultimately relegate WAR to the ugly title of a “WoW Clone”.

So let’s sound the trumpets and horns, and scream our battle-cry from the mountaintops right now. Are you with me? Let’s go:

“WARHAMMER ONLINE IS NOT A WOW CLONE!”

Let’s push aside, for a minute, the fact that Blizzard heavily “sampled” the Warhammer universe when they made Warcraft (because we don’t want to end the world), and instead investigate whether or not the WoW Clone claim is true.

The two biggest comparison points here are the stylized graphics and the core gameplay. Graphically, both titles prefer to avoid the uncanny valley by giving us colorful and stylized, although Warcraft definitely skews more cartoony, whereas Warhammer is striking a balance between realistic proportions and artistic license.  Gameplay, sure, the two titles share a lot: quests, auto attack-plus-special skills, experience, loot, etc, etc.  The fact that these are present do not point to any specific theft on Mythic’s behalf — after all, these have been the staple of MMOs for the past decade, long before WoW took them and polished them to an inch of their life.

I think what most people fear is that WAR will “feel” too similar to WoW and thus be subject to gaming fatigue incurred by that other title.  There’s the rub for Mythic: they want the game to feel familiar and as easy to pick up as other MMO titles, but at the same time they need to incorporate enough unique elements to make their baby stand out from the pack.  I don’t think Mythic even minds the numerous community comparisons between WAR and WoW, because they know it can only help to bring vastly more players into their game than push away.  Their hope is that when people do start playing WAR, they’ll quickly realize the game has a lot more than just a fresh coat of paint.

And I think they have good reason to be confident of that fact.  With the Tome of Knowledge, Realm vs. Realm conflict, Keeps warfare, the Vegas loot system, 24 classes, tactics/morale/mastery character specializations, Capital City captures, and — let us not forget — the eschewing of the /dance emote, WAR stands poised to break from the traditional MMO pack and forage down its own path.  Will it be 100% unique or completely different from WoW?  No — but in today’s MMO landscape, I don’t think any title can claim that unless they’re setting up a title that will present a huge difficulty barrier to the average gamer (such as EVE Online).

Let us remember: WoW was often referred to as an EverQuest clone, back in the day.  What WAR will be, will be.

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Stop Following Me

May 11, 2008

This isn’t strictly Warhammer Online related, but since it ended up being one of my top 10 moments in MMO gaming, I had to share.

I asked my wife yesterday what type of leader I was — made, born or had it thrust upon me. I asked because I, for some reason, end up in leadership roles in almost everything I do, even though I tend to be an introvert and quite content with following other (much better) leaders. This was kicking around in my head ever since my other WoW guild asked me to be an officer the other day.

I said yes, sure, mostly because it was a very small group of friends recovering from a guild split, and I have the free time right now to help out. They know I’ll be moving on to WAR, and that’s okay. So as I assume a new leadership role, I was asked to take a group of guildies to Blood Furnace.

One of our guildies, Mouse, is my eternal foil in the game. We’re always sniping and barking at each other, out of friendship and a constant desire to one-up each other. She’s never been to BF, so she asked to follow.

Keep in mind: me, leader. Me, not always responsible. Me, a druid.

“Sure,” I say, as I lazily start running in circles to see if she’d follow (she did). Quickly, I banked right and jumped right off a cliff, falling a little bit before hitting my instant druid flight form. I spun around, hanging in mid-air as happy as you please, and there it was. One of my top 10 favorite moments:

Mouse, on her cat mount, jumping off the cliff and obviously realizing that it would be a bit more of a fall than anticipated. “$#@* YOUUUUUUUUU!!!!!” blasted through vent in my ears, before she hit the bottom, got swarmed by mobs and killed in record time.

I don’t think I stopped laughing for about ten minutes. Who says you can’t make great memories in these games?

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The Blizzard Blitz

May 9, 2008

It would be a dangerous assumption to view Blizzard as being naive and complacent this year. They know that while they’re wielding the single biggest MMORPG on the planet, their game is pushing four years now and has plenty of disgruntled players upset with the glacial pace of the expansions and the recent fixation on Arena PvP. While they’re in no danger of being toppled, Blizz has to know that they stand to lose a nice chunk of their player base to the fresh young MMO upstarts this year, what with their spiffy graphics, brand new content and promise that they’ve learned WoW’s lessons and have built something even better.

So today we’ve seen something I’m calling the “Blizzard Blitz”: a PR flood of information designed to divert attention from the upcoming MMOs and retain player interest in their product. Call it coincidence if you like, but you can’t deny these simple facts:

1. Age of Conan, a highly-touted and anticipated MMORPG, is launching in about two weeks.

2. As a result of being the only AAA MMO releasing in this spring window, AoC is enjoying a near-domination of the MMO news cycle. They want a huge launch, and they’re going all out with the publicity (as would any MMO, really).

3. Right as gamers are deciding whether or not to plunk down $50 and a fair share of their summer gaming time on Conan, Blizzard — who has been holding back info on their next expansion with an iron-clad grip — suddenly explodes over all the usual gaming sites with brand-new info, screenies, videos, interviews and revelations about Wrath of the Lich King.

Deliberate on the part of their marketing department (and I truly believe it is), this Blizzard Blitz is a brilliant counter-stroke to Funcom’s own marketing. WoW gamers have been eagerly anticipating new info on Lich King for months, and right as they’re at the point of possibly jumping ship, boom. Hook, line and sinker.

So why am I noting this? As WAR fans, we should be just as alert for this blitz when the fall rolls around. Both Blizzard and Mythic aren’t committing to a firm release date just yet, but I’ll put good money on the possibility that when Mythic comes out to say “We’re launching on [month/day] and here’s a gob of pre-release goodies”, then Blizzard will try to steal their thunder by either releasing Lich King in the same time frame, or (if they’re not at the point of launch), try to get the spotlight back with another surge of press pointed back at them.

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Da Newz – May 8

May 8, 2008

Beta Ticker: 684,885 (+17,567 from last week)

Quote of the Week: “Death! Kill! Custard!” ~ The slogan on the 8-Bit Paul Barnett t-shirt

Story of the Week: The dev team did a huge conference call with 23 WAR and game review sites last week, prompting a plethora of articles more or less saying the exact same thing. We here at WAAAGH! were not invited, and thus are drowning in a vat of bitter tears and tabasco sauce.

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A Conversation In /tell

May 1, 2008

So while we wait for WAR, I’m stirring up the leftovers of my WoW meal, which are increasingly unappetizing yet I hope there’s still a nugget or two of fun left.  Therefore I spend a half hour a day running a few dailies on my main, just saving up some cash and saying hi to my friends there.

Today I get a whisper from an old guildie — Azzkik the gnome rogue (yeah, it’s a juvenile name, but he’s probably the only rogue I’ve ever come to like and deeply respect) — whom I haven’t spoken with in a while.  We shoot the Charmin for a bit, and he asks what I’ve been up to.

“Oh, not much.  Work.  Writing.  I’m doing a Warhammer Online blog these days.  Kind of fun, actually, what with the vestal virgins and fresh fruit laid at my doorstep every morning by adoring readers,” I say.

“Warhammer Online?” Azzkik asks.  “That’s a game?”

Pause.  Gasp.  Pause.  /r “WHAT?  You haven’t heard of it?”

My friends, he had not heard of WAR.  This conversation quickly went from a casual catch-up to a full-fledged WAR evangelical speech.  To make a really long conversation short enough to retain your interest, I spent a good 40 minutes laying out WAR’s features until he was about salivating for it.  I didn’t expect to get all pushy about it, but when you’re excited about a hobby, you want to share that passion with others.  I want all of my good friends from other games to come try this out, especially the ones bored to death with the Arena/Raid/Rep grind of WoW.

Azz was especially fascinated with the capital city warfare, and I tried to answer all of the questions he had about it — what enemies could do in a captured city, how the defenders could get it back, statues, looting, dungeons, the whole nine yards.  By the end of our talk, he’d promised to check out the blog (hey Azz!) and look more into the game.

The moral of this story: word of mouth is THE best advertising money can’t buy.  If we’re all to help make WAR successful in terms of numbers of subscribers, we each need to do our part and educate our friends and families that there is something beyond World of Warcraft — something possibly way better.

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