h1

WAR’s Launch: A Retrospective

July 8, 2008

Part of the fun of blogging is casting mindless speculation to the wind, often on what might happen in the future. But today, let’s do something a bit different. Let’s imagine a parallel world, where the only thing that’s different than our own is that Britney Spears actually became an accomplished singer and drug-free mother. Oh, and Warhammer Online went ahead and released in early June, without the decision to delay.

After looking at the books, EA put the pressure on Mythic to get their title out of the door well in advance of World of Warcraft’s next expansion, even though Mythic and the beta testers asked for more time. It was good, they said, but not quite done yet.

Get ‘er done, said EA. Pronto.

Guild and open beta were rushed into being during the month of May, and the devs scrambled to fix the most show-stopping bugs as well as patch in content to cover some serious holes in the game. The decision was made to hold off on cities and the massive city sieges at launch — a highly toted feature, but one that was impossible to deliver properly by the launch date. The NDA dropped, and beta testers, old and new, churned up the waters of public discussion with spirited debates over the many good and bad points of WAR. There was a good game under the hood yet it needed more work, was the general consensus. The devs, in full crunch mode, got more than a bit testy as they came under critical attack for what the fans perceived as failings.

Even with some serious worries and hesitation on the part of both Mythic and the players, the game went gold in mid-May, right as Age of Conan hit the store shelves. A huge firestorm of a debate over which game would be better — AoC or WAR — raged back and forth between the two games’ fans. Age of Conan shipped an impressive half million units, but many players vowed their loyalty to WAR, and held back from purchasing it. The WAR Collector’s Edition sold out in a few European countries, but remained purchasable throughout the month of May in North America.

Giddy with glee over getting their mitts on the game, fans counted down to the June 10th launch date even as Conan suffered through a very rocky launch. EA threw gobs of money into advertising WAR across the internet and in various print ads, helping to contribute to the hype as best they could. CE and regular edition pre-orders numbered in the high 500,000’s, especially in Europe.

June 10th came and WAR opened its doors to all, weathering the standard launch day problems of server stability as a glut of new players tried to log in. A serious authentication code error kept a sizable portion of players from getting into the game until the 12th, which angered the group and soured others. Game journalists had their hands full, dividing their attention and coverage between Conan and WAR. By mid-June, most review sites raised WAR up as the superior of the two titles, offering a far greater range of content and new innovations, although far less in terms of nudity.

However, journalists and players weren’t blind to the numerous problems of WAR — extreme lack of end-game content (which, ironically, Conan was suffering from as well), a small handful of classes unavailable at launch, bugged quests and population balance. Servers often found themselves lopsided, some heavily favoring Order, some Destruction. Mythic continued in crunch mode for most of the summer, issuing weekly or bi-weekly patches to help improve the game’s performance, stability and features.

Even so, with Conan falling behind as a credible threat to the new kid’s top spot, WAR picked up steam over the summer. Guilds formed, RvR raged, and the subscriber population doubled from the first month by August. In late August, crafting was patched into the game, and by September, so were the much-anticipated cities, city dungeons, and city sieges. That was good news, as a sizable chunk of players had hit 40 by mid-July.

It was a good launch, but not perfect. A good game, but not a classic. That’s how the WAR launch will forever be remembered by those who lived in that parallel world.

Or… not. Too many variables to predict “what might have been”, but considering how much they’re working on WAR’s polish and features and content as of this moment, we do know that the decision to delay was most likely on the money. We’ll just see how the REAL launch goes this fall.

Advertisements

8 comments

  1. Hehe, reading the first few paragraphs I could have sworn you were writing about AoC. Patching in content before players get to a level that they can experience it lol. Problem is, the loudest critics of games such as these are hardcore players who will reach 40 or beyond much faster than the normal player.

    When they see nothing there waiting for them they are going to hit their blogs and scream bloody murder, such as it was in AoC. I’m glad WAR decided to postpone realease but I’m guarded, AoC postponed it’s release many times as well and look how finished that game was.


  2. I don’t think WAR will have a bumpless release. Hell, I don’t think it’s even possible for an MMO to have a flawless release. As long as they can quickly fix the issues they have at release, they’ll do fine.

    If the core aspects of a game are enjoyable, easy to pick up and learn, and dynamic enough to keep people entertained then even a crappy launch will be suffered for what players “hope” the game will evolve into.

    Think back to WoW’s craptastic launch if you don’t think that is still the case. Database lag so horrendous the game was virtually unplayable for the first week…

    Lets just keep our fingers, toes and ears crossed that the game stays on schedule and that when it is released the majority of the major bugs/glitches/exploits are fixed.


  3. How I would love to comment on this… but you know. Three stupid letters. ๐Ÿ˜›


  4. Great story of past speculation! So much of WAR would have been left out to crunch the June release I am glad they took the time to polish. Now they need to stop the perfectionist polish and give me the game. I feel like exploding with excitement.


  5. Syp, man, tyvm for the welcome. =) This is a great community; it’s served to get me very excited about WAR. Excited enough to the point that I decided to try and write about it @_@

    Your blog is one of the best, man; thanks for providing my every morning with WAR goodness.


  6. Well, I am always in favor of getting critical elements into a game but I never expect flawless launches. World of Warcraft, the 800 pound gorilla game, did not have a flawless launch. It did not have much good end game content either, they patched that in later. It did not have Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, Zul Gurab, Molten Core, Maraudon, Silithus, blah blah blah. It had server issues and so on and yet people consider it a classic now after what it has become. I think we in the blogging community and gamers in general are unrealistic in expecting fully fleshed out features on launch day. Nobody has ever, ever done that. If Warhammer has them, and more power to it, it will not be bug free because NO software known to man has ever been or become bug free ๐Ÿ˜›


  7. It seems you left off the part where EA had been taken over by Larry the Cable guy. ๐Ÿ™‚

    If things worked out that “well” in the alternate universe, then some exciting times are surely ahead with the extra time afforded EA Mythic by the delayed launch.


  8. Very Nice story, reminds me of AoC. AoC, the game with all the hype and sales, yet so many bugged quests and lack of content promised to the subscribers that I suspect the game will have less than 200,000 subscribers come October, In comparison to its 1 million copies sold.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: