How WAR Can Win

June 13, 2008

Over the past year or so in the USA presidental election campaign, we’ve seen numerous articles written by so-called “experts” about how so-and-so can win such-and-such. They’re fun articles. Completely speculative, you understand. Almost stream of consciousness. And yet, people love reading them.

You’re people! And I’m a so-called “expert” in managing my quotation marks!

So instead of trying to predict what WAR’s subscription numbers will be in a year, or whether it will dent WoW’s dominance in the industry, or how it will be perceived by the public, I wanted to make a list of how WAR can ultimately put its best foot forward — that if WAR is going to win (“win” whatever), this is how it’s going to happen:

1. Warhammer Online will launch smoothly, giving the public a polished, highly playable game right from Day One.

This is pretty much common sense. No matter how good the game *might be* six months from now, it WILL be remembered for what kind of launch it had, and whether or not it grabbed the gaming public by the throat at the beginning or squandered an opportunity.

2. WAR devs will continue to be communicative, attentive and enthusiastic.

In a way, it’s easy to showcase excitement when a game has yet to come out — it’s all about hype on something we can’t fully see yet. However, after WAR launches, Mythic will be graded for whether or not its publicity machine keeps chugging happy juice for us, and whether its devs go into reclusive hiding from the millions of passionate — yet unbalanced — fanboys who demand answers why Fist of Justice has a 2% coefficient instead of a 2.5%.

3. WAR looks great and will continue to remain competitive in the graphics department for the next few years.

While we all wring our hands and fret about Age of Conan and Lich King, it’s easy to forget that WAR will be bumping heads with many, MANY more MMOs in the next few years, all of which will be looking for their own hefty slice of the subscriber pie. The first sign of an aging MMO is in its looks, and as shallow as that might seem, if Warhammer starts looking like “yesterday’s” MMO, players will jump ship to the better looking sister.

4. EA pulls out all the stops in promoting and publishing WAR.

EA needs a huge MMO hit the same way a hobo needs a drink. They’ve been less than stellar in the MMO market, and after investing so much money and time in Mythic’s baby, they absolutely need a hit. For their part, Mythic needs to make a great game — but past that, EA’s responsibility is to use its considerable muscle in pushing WAR into the face of every gamer, journalist and media outlet out there.

5. WAR generates a strong, vibrant and positive community.

Please note that last adjective: “Positive”. A game’s community says a lot to undecided purchasers — are they about to leap into a game where they’re paying a monthly fee to hang out with the virtual equivalent of juvie hall, or does the community seem supportive, encouraging and welcoming? What WAR’s community does between now and release will have a huge bearing on those undecideds.

6. WAR will grow exponentially through word-of-mouth.

Look at it this way: there will be two groups of subscribers to WAR. The first group are the ones who already know about it and will be there on Day One, Hour One. The second group doesn’t even know they’re going to play it yet — they’re the ones who will “discover” the game at a later point, mostly through positive word of mouth testimonies of friends and co-workers who play the game. If people like the game, they’ll encourage others to play it so they can enjoy the game together.

7. WAR impresses us with regular content updates.

MMOs that can do this, and do it well, are very respected by long-time gamers. Sure, all the content is shiny and new when we first start up the game, but no dev should ever underestimate how fast players can chew through content. We’re an insatiable beast, and regular meals are one of the best way to keep us from turning our slavering hunger on the devs themselves.

8. Classes, masteries and itemization will be balanced, not broken.

24 classes, 72 mastery paths and thousands of items are a heapload to manage and balance, especially in a PvP-heavy game. It’ll say a lot about WAR how fast the devs respond to obviously overpowered classes, skills or items — and how tactfully and diplomatically they nerf and buff when the need demands it.

9. It’s accessible to newbies.

New players hate feeling stupid trying to figure out a game, and MMOs are more complex than most genre titles. WAR needs to be tuned to a point where someone can jump in, be guided if need be, and figure out what’s what relatively quickly.

10. It’s just fun.

At the end of the day, you can ignore all the sparkly graphics, the billion feature list, the rabid hype and the fanboy ravings — what will matter most is simply how fun it is to play. We’ve seen pretty games that sucked, we’ve seen titles with a depth of features that utterly floundered, and we’ve witnessed countless disasters as game devs thrash about trying to find the sweet spot that will draw in the most subscribers. The bottom line is “fun”. If it is, people will play. Period.

What would you add to this list?



  1. Great stuff and I have to agree, Mythic should be getting on the ball about now to start a heavy promotional campaign to spread the word about WAR.

  2. You are pretty much on the money. The keys will be polish and completeness. When it comes out, it should not feel like a beta. All major selling points of the game should be in and good to go. A full game experience should be there from 1 to the end game.

    It is time to set a new standard for MMO releases. We, as consumers and gamers, deserve better.

  3. Somewhere between your 9 and 10, I think the game has to strive to be over inclusive and not under inclusive. What I mean by this is that the game cannot only appeal to the hard core pvp’er. Take WOW for example. WOW appeals to the casual gamer and to people who would never typically play video games. In my former WOW guild we had high school students, college students, mothers, fathers and even a grandmother who played. And the guild was/is fantastic. And you know who was the best healer? The grandma!

    I think WAR needs to have broad based appeal. It doesn’t only have to be pvp madness. Not everyone, even hard core pvp’ers, want to pvp all day long. So a balanced game that has good raid content and meaningful crafting content helps attract more than just the person who wants to kill everyone on the server. I know a lot of people who played WOW who either hated the concept of pvp or were just afraid of getting ganked.

    If you have a more fully realized game, the people who might not typically play are more likely to join that game’s community. I find that a large, diverse gaming population makes the game a lot more fun. And when you have a lot of fun, you are more likely to keep your subscription going.

  4. The need to tell the community how positive they are about a fall release. People have put faith in them by buying a $80 CE. Those hardcore fans need to know their $80 is well spent this year. Mythic might like to say, ” We are very hard at work putting the final touches in to WAR. Fall 2008 is looking great for release. Unless we screw up royally this summer, WAR will be released this fall!”
    I know for sure I invested $80 in to WAR. I could have put that money in the oil company stocks and made millions. Mythic ( if you listening) WE LOVE U! Send us love and cuddles back.

  5. I’ll just quote Paul Barnett

    “It’s fun, fuckers!”

    @ Dave
    My old guild had a good Grandma healer too, when I retire, I think I’ll have to be a healer in whatever MMO people are playing then.

  6. EA needs an MMO hit like a hobo needs a drink. So it doesn’t really need it, and would probably be better off with some warm soup and a place to sleep(which in this metaphor will be a sports franchise and a lack of FTC approval for the Vivendi/Activision merger). But who will be the good samaritan to EA’s hobo? Can they convince them to try out a more settled life before they get on that next freight train(yet another corporate aquisition)? Find out all this and more on the next episode of “A Metaphor Taken Too Far!!”.

  7. […] on over and read the rest of the reasons. Posted in Community News, Fansite News, General News | on June 13th, 2008 by […]

  8. […] Jun 13 WAR For The Win! By BlackwingsAdd commentsMMO I just finished reading a post from Syp over at Waaagh about his predictions on how Warhammer Online will fair in the MMO market […]

  9. Wow, this post is awesome! 🙂 I’d say you’re pretty much right on the mark with 1 through 10.

  10. Nicely worded. I guess we’ll see how it goes down soon enough.

  11. I believe there are two aspects that determine the success of a game.

    1) The product itself. Can it stand on it’s own two feet out of the gates. Only proper planning and great beta testing can really determine this. From the information relayed about the game on its site and within the podcasts, I’d say this game has at least an 80% potential to be a great game right out of the door.

    2) The development team. Can they handle the problems that are thrown at them because problems will most definitely arise (usually with at least one critical bug within the lifespan of the game). A lot of this comes down to the culture within the company itself though and how they operate. Again from what I’ve seen of the podcasts, it truly looks like we have a winning development team here who truly put a lot of thought into the game’s preparation and even more so seem to actually care about their fan base. Therefore, I think they’ll be able to handle most problems thrown at them.

  12. Good article. I pretty much agree with everything stated. I hope WAR turns out to be great.

  13. I would add:

    #11: Community support – Mythic will enable and empower players to maintain good socialization via guild website support, alliance website support, etc.

    Some guilds or groups don’t have the technical gumption to create a guild site. It’d be great for EA Mythic to grant guilds a site for info and forums; perhaps opening up features and meg/gig size resources equivalent and evolving in line with their Living Guild system.

    Just a thought.

  14. WAR needs to learn the lessons of games like AoC, LotRO, etc. A stable technical launch is good, but if the game is not finished or polished all the way through, it is only a matter of time before players go back to a game that is.

  15. I agree with your whole list, especially #10. I’d also add a sense of immersion and “magic”, that at least WoW had for me back at launch. The entire world just felt enormous, zones seemed to correlate, and the quests rocked and told the stories well.

  16. Great post. I hope the hell EA Mythic reads this and complies.

    What Dave says above, too, is very important and should be added to amend the OP’s 10 rules for success.

    Heartless is correct about WAR being released as a polished game and giving AoC as the best example (well third best example, actually # worst was Anarchy On Line and #2 was Vanguard: Saga of Heros) …

    But Heartless was ‘way, ‘way off base lumping Lord of the Rings Online with those sorry MMOs.

    I did the Alpha and Closed Beta for LotRO and having played and tested dozens of MMOs since the early 1990’s, I have to say the LotRO had, by far, the smoothest launch in MMO history. Furthermore, LotRO had, and has to this day, the best community, the best development team and the best customer service of any MMO, ever.

  17. I hope they learn from Funcom’s mistakes. Your #2 point in particular is one where Funcom fell flat on their faces, which led to them failing at #5. That community is just awful.

    I love MMOs but tend to be a solo player, and I wonder if there’ll be end-game content for me. I’m not saying I’m entitled to it and I won’t pitch a fit if the end game is pretty much 100% guild-oriented, but to keep me around long term, I want to have something to do after I hit cap.

    Great news on the 10 characters/server though. Again tagging Funcom… 8 characters/account when there are 12 classes? Guess they don’t want alt-aholics sticking around leveling lots of characters, huh?

  18. I’d disagree on the balance point as it isn’t possible to balance player skill. In my opinion in WoW only the Warlock was overpowered but reading the forums every class was to someone.

  19. I’d add to #8 that faction numbers need to be balanced, also. I’m not entirely sure how they plan to do that, although I’ve seen mention of “encouraging” people to play the less populous faction.

    I’m sure forum warriors aren’t truly representative of the people who will end up playing the game, but if they were, WAR would be on track for about 95% of subscribers rolling Destruction and only about 5% rolling Order. That would hurt.

  20. […] for the Win” at Game Zig replies to my “How WAR Can Win” article — does he […]

  21. http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=30654

    This is why The WAR community will be better then the AoC community. I do agree with nearly everything on this post though good job. First time at this site and I likey.

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