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Gab Bag: Mark’s Response To Feature Cuts

July 15, 2008

The Gab Bag is a community roundtable discussion, where we take a current topic and chat about it for a bit. For each Gab Bag, I pick a couple other WAR blog/site writers to join me — today, Snafzg, Regis and Arbitrary joined me to look at some of Mark Jacobs’ responses to the recently announced feature cuts (capital cities and classes). Do we agree? Disagree? Have our own thoughts beyond the pale?

Special Note: Because of the “emotional” nature of this situation, Snafzg asked me to preface his remarks by saying that they were written in the heat of the moment. Or it was his time of the month. I dunno, I wasn’t paying attention.

Mark Jacobs: “We did just that and the consensus from the players and the development team was that pulling the careers was the way to go. This is precisely the type of stuff that happens during a beta test.”

Snafzg: This is the kind of statement that really bugs me because he’s allowed to put words into the mouths of beta testers, yet they’re not allowed to speak for themselves due to the NDA. This is the stickiest point I have with the class removal, yet I’m bound by contract to keep my mouth shut. That’s fairness for you.

Syp: Either take it at face value or not, and since I am not privy to the beta boards, I’ll accept it. I was wondering out loud to Snaffy last night as to whether or not there are two sets of beta testers, divided and testing different features of the game — the second set being a smaller, more focused team.

Arbitrary: I agree this happens during beta tests, but I’m confused when the last time the classes cut were in beta and what kind of consensus was taken from the players – did they agree the classes were boring or broken, or did they agree that pulling the careers was the best thing to do?

MJ: “We believe that with the careers with have in there and our Mastery lines that no race will be at a disadvantage. If, during the next few weeks of beta we’re wrong, we’ll make the decisions we need to do to ensure that we launch the world’s next great MMORPG.”

Arbitrary: I want to believe. I’m trying to gather all my common-sense that disappeared this weekend and perhaps agree that there may not be any huge disadvantages, small ones perhaps – unless you wanted a single-race guild in which case.. I am a little worried about the second-half of this though. What decisions might they need to make? Cutting down the 4-career races? Or something else? I’m on-edge about this, and hoping that the next few weeks of beta are very revealing all round.

Syp: We’re going to see a lot come out of the next few weeks, especially as the guild beta roars forth. If there is a massive imbalance, guilds will be all over that like peanut butter on an elephant, and additional changes might need to be made.

Snafzg: I don’t know the context here. Does that mean they are throwing the rock paper scissors balance model out the window or are they just saying that as mirrors, certain classes won’t be weaker than others? I’d love to see how the former would actually play out. I think it would ultimately fail because being strong vs. some classes and weak vs. others really adds individuality and strategy to classes. With great skill should a rock be able to beat paper some of the time? Sure. But balancing all classes as paper paper paper would be stupid imho.

MJ: “As to the future of these careers, I would love to say that they will be put into the game at some point but I can’t. We will continue to look at them and if we feel we can make them great, then we will put them into the game. If we can’t, then we will put in other classes to take their place.”

Snafzg: I personally don’t care what you call the classes, as long as there is something there that fills these missing roles. Without them, I think balance will be a nightmare and the racial pairings will have little meaning.

Arbitrary: This opened a whole can of worms in terms of speculation about classes that could take their place, since I personally think that we won’t see some of these classes, if not all. If we could have seen them, they should have been able to get them right by now. But how long does it take to create a class from scratch, how long are we talking about? And what will people who wanted to play those do in the meantime if they don’t really want to alt much?

Syp: I think it’s a double blow that not only were these four classes pulled, but that we might never see them at all. It’s a consoling thought that those four races will be getting a class to fill those gaps, at some point, but Mark has to know that lots of players had already formed attachments to the ideas and concepts of those four classes. There’s no good way of selling this.

MJ: “If I believed that some extra time would have allowed us to both get in the removed classes and the other cities, I would have made the call to delay the game and I believe EA would have supported it. However, neither I nor the team believed that some extra time would have changed the situation.”

Syp: So… if the game was delayed another four to six months, they still wouldn’t be able to get the last four classes ironed out? It’s not like they would have to start from scratch, here. You’re talking existing models, animation, skills, armor sets, tactics, mastery trees and balancing that was rolling along, although not up to Mythic’s standards. This statement does not bode well for the timing of any of the future four classes, especially in 2008.

Snafzg: Wow, that’s confidence inspiring if you were hoping to see these classes patched in any time within the first 2-3+ months after release (the average release delay we’ve seen so far in 2008). /sarcasm

Arbitrary: Well, they’re the developers and I know so very little about stuff like this. I wonder if time could have saved something though. And I think perhaps it all comes back to weighing up what the effects to them, would have been of delaying vs. the effects of cutting some stuff out. I don’t really have a comment on the EA implications, because I’m guessing that by now, both Mythic and EA need to get the game out.

MJ: “If we had made the decision to keep in all 6 cities, the chances of things going horribly wrong at launch and post-launch would have increased tremendously no matter how long we worked on them.”

Arbitrary: Perhaps, but that goes the same for 6 dungeons vs 2 also, surely.

Snafzg: And they figured this out when? Sounds like an awesome reason to delay for more polish! I guess I can’t fault them for poor planning because nobody’s perfect but I do think they bit off way more than they could chew with their plans for each of these cities. I can’t wait to hit tier 4 by questing as a Greenskin in a Chaos/Empire city. That’s some great lore right there.

Syp: I’m confused… I thought this was exactly what beta was for, especially large-scale beta, like the open beta phase. By this line of reasoning — and I’m projecting here — why not just limit the classes to six? The more classes, the more potential balancing problems, right? Just because something is hard, difficult and complicated doesn’t mean it’s not doable. This is a very weird argument to make for cutting four cities, almost out of left field.

MJ: “Having in all 6 cities would mean that the focus of each side could have gotten distracted, the player base more spread out.”

Syp: Disagree, because this is an argument based on a “what if?” line of thinking. If the game was built from the ground up to be RvR, to focus on the final conflict between the six cities, then by what reasoning do we now just assume the players’ focus and conflict will suddenly be diluted? If this was an issue, why not just make the game about the two cities as an end game focus from day one?

Arbitrary: I do kind of agree with this one, but surely that was brought to the dev table a long time ago. And having more than two cities does allow the playerbase to decide which to go for and have some multi-front battles where one is under attack at the same time as another. Also, to have the focus on two ‘central’ cities really means the realms have to pull together, and that’s assuming they will initially be able to and want to do this. At first everyone will feel quite in touch with their race and career, the inter-mingling would have come a bit later, but now dwarfs and high elves are forced to care about Altdorf immediately. I’m still not sure it’s a bad thing, as long as this means I won’t be bored by only having the PvE stuff in one city at endgame.

Snafzg: Again, when did they figure this out? And again, I can’t fault them for poor planning but they’ve been pumping us up for so long on these epic city sieges, when apparently they didn’t even know whether or not it would work. And again, I’m extremely disappointed my capitol won’t even be in at launch. A huge amount of immersion went straight out the window.

MJ: “Regarding the concept that everything was in the game and working great and that we only delayed the game for polish, sorry but that is not true. When we announced the delay for Fall I said: ‘…that the game would benefit from additional iteration time as well as adding a layer of polish or two.’ Iteration time + additional polish time. Here on WHA I also talked about iteration time and polish time as two separate things.”

Snafzg: “Iteration: The division of a project in which functionality is provided to the users in a series of phases. Also, repeatedly applying a series of operations to progressively advance towards a solution.” Isn’t it fun arguing semantics in English where there are several proper definitions as well as those we make up for ourselves? I don’t think the public definition of iteration means adding or removing several core features from the game, but maybe that’s the “shop” lingo.

Syp: If I wasn’t a lazy, lazy man, I’d go back and pull all manner of quotes of reassurance and positive spin when the March delay happened. It wasn’t spun as “We might very well be cutting huge chunks of the game to make it work”; it was “It’s basically there, we just need to keep tuning, polishing and testing.”

Arbitrary: I won’t dispute the words, but I didn’t take it that way, which may be my own fault. I took it to mean that things were basically working and they wanted to make them work better or prettier.

MJ: “While the capital cities were parts of the end game, a city capture is only supposed to happen once a month and even when you take out 4 classes out of 24, somehow this doesn’t add up to a huge content change. All the starting areas, PQs, quests, zones, etc. that were not city-based are still in the game.”

Arbitrary: Surely the ones this is saying that the ones that were city-based are now not in game, and that’s a pretty big content change (except they weren’t in beta so maybe he means it’s no change from beta), but having three cities to explore was something that held some appeal to me, especially with all the depth of the PvE content within, as well as the RvR stuff, of course. Will city captures be more often now there’s only one city to concentrate all forces on?

Syp: Overall, I’ll agree — in the grand scheme of things, if you remove bias and subjectivity, these cuts are not the majority of the game. But they are substantial and noticeable. It’s not crippling the game, but it does look like it’s giving it a bit of a kick in the shins. The question is, how much will we notice the loss of something we never played in the first place when we get there?

Snafzg: Removing 66% of your cities IS a huge content change. Removing 4 of 24 classes isn’t a huge content change, it’s a huge balance change (potentially, which is really what we’re mostly worried about). Then again, for those whose main class choices have been removed, it IS a huge content change because that is what they wanted to play. As customers, we want to get what we pay for. “Here kids, take the blue one instead of the red one. It’s not the same, but you know, it might be just as good if you give it a try!” Sorry, but it still doesn’t make it red.

MJ: “I’ve always said here and elsewhere (multiple times), that while we’re in beta, things are set in mud and I’ve also said that we weren’t afraid to cut things that weren’t great.”

Snafzg: I won’t argue this. It is beta and things have been cut, as he said. Unfortunately, they’re cutting things a bunch of people really gave a crap about. I guess we’ll just have to see how this pans out for them. To me though, it doesn’t sound as though the release date is set in mud anymore (more like stone) because talk of another delay is simply off the table.

Arbitrary: True, but I guess I wasn’t expecting such wide-ranging cuts.

Syp: Yes, this has been stated, and I’ve always appreciated the straight-forward comments that give me reassurance of the hard truth over the easy lie. Maybe we as a community are guilty of forgetting past comments concerning possible content cuts if they weren’t working, and made gross assumptions as we looked at the game with tunnel vision.

MJ: “We didn’t make these moves to avoid delaying the game again. Frankly, I think another delay announcement would have had a dramatically worse effect on the community than this announcement.”

Syp: There weren’t as many WAR blogs or forums or sites back in March (and even less for the first delay last year), but… egads, this is as bad as I’ve ever seen it. Period. I can’t imagine a delay announcement being worse, especially to a group of people who have weathered past Blizzard delays until they “got it right”. I guess the new axiom is “We’ll release when we get what we can right — nay, fantastic!”

Snafzg: Well, I guess we’ll never know… unless Guild beta doesn’t turn out as well as they hoped it would. I’m not saying I want it to be this way, but if the next phase doesn’t sit well, I wonder if they’ll delay again or if they’ll release it anyway. Only time will tell. Cutting content AND delaying again? Now that just might be catastrophic.

Arbitrary: I’m not sure a delay would have had that bad an effect, or a worse one. But it might have, and that was the gamble. And Mythic are the only ones who know how far away fixing the cities and those classes (or replacement ones) would have taken. A short delay is one thing, a delay till summer ’09 wouldn’t have been cool, I agree.

MJ: “We are keeping our promise and that is to make a great RvR-centric MMO with Warhammer. We never promised that we would have in 24 careers but just that is what we were working on and hoping to put in.”

Arbitrary: And that is what I’m expecting come launch. A GREAT RvR-centric MMO. If it’s not great, I’ll want to know why.

Snafzg: Just because you didn’t come straight out and make promises, a lot of the language that has been used in the past could have been interpreted this way. Regardless of promises or perceived promises, it really doesn’t matter. They’re doing something that has their fan base in an uproar (substantially larger than both previous delay arguments from where I’m sitting). I’m happy they are still dedicated to making it the best game it can be, but really, I’ve known that all along. At this stage, it just sounds like appeasement.

Syp: Kudos to the first part — we’ll hold you to that, and I think you won’t disappoint. The second part? I don’t know how you define “promise” these days, but when pretty much all of your official press, podcasts, newsletters, interviews, website, etc. states these 24 classes and six capital cities as key, core features of your game… if that’s not a promise, then it’s just as official as anything else you’ve claimed. And once you kick a brick out of the wall of promised — er, highly-touted, often promoted — features, what security do we have for the rest of them?

MJ: “As to how it’s all going to work going forward, more details coming. Once things settle down we’ll go into great detail about how it’s going to work. Same game, some slightly different mechanics to make sure that people who do not have a Capital City yet are not put at a disadvantage but it’s the same game.”

Syp: I’m willing to wait. But it better be good! 😀

Arbitrary: It’s the right decision not to go into specifics right now I think, we’re all a bit overwhelmed and taken aback with these announcements, and not entirely ready to listen to details about how things will work. I do look forward to hearing these though, I hope it settles some people and gives us more to talk about.

Snafzg: I think we’re all so pissed off right now because we DON’T have any answers from them yet. One would think this would have been a lot easier to take if they actually told us up front about how they were going to manage this. Once things have settled down? Is this more marketing strategy at play? Whip us up into frenzy, make it to the front page of all the game media, and then tell everyone your master plan? Wow, I really need to read that Browncoat article again. You know, I’m sorry if I came off negatively in every single comment above, but that’s just truly how I feel right now. They’ve put us into a situation where all we can do is speculate amongst ourselves, so why don’t I just point out all the negatives? I’m beginning to feel like another pawn on their chessboard. It’s easy for them to deny it with words when no-one but contract-bound testers have played their game, but I truly wonder if they are simply pulling rabbits out of their hat.

Regis, breaking all the rules of space and time and the Gab Bag, just consolidated his response into one mini-post:

Regis: Although the game is in beta, and everything in it is object for change, you don’t simply pull major features out of the game. The war with multiple fronts and three capitals to defend and assault has been just such a major feature, and same thing with the careers. Different classes are a big thing about MMOs, and pulling four of them means a big part of the players suddenly are without their career of choice. And it will be something Mythic are aware of, they more than us probably, and it would also be the option of last resort.

A lot can be read in that they pulled capitals and careers out entirely for the launch, and not just patched them up and covered them in baby oil to look shiny. It’s such an easy solution, and it’s used everywhere, so why not? It all comes down to quality, to their ambition of making a great game, even in the face of losing potential subscribers.

Maybe pulling out the four capitals at launch is even a good thing. MJ says “Having in all 6 cities would mean that the focus of each side could have gotten distracted, the player base more spread out.” It certainly sounds like something that could happen. But as I don’t want to seem to positive about all this, it also seems a bit like a excuse they just figured out. Yes, the player base would have been spread out with six capitals, but wasn’t that the point? WAR is everywhere, as they say. The lack of two tank careers could also hurt some races; as a future dark elf Disciple, I’m a bit worried about healing aggro 😉

In the light of Age of Conan’s complete disregard of delivering what was promised, Mythic’s decision shines like a bright star for all developers to look up to and follow.

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15 comments

  1. I love the new Grab Bag! About the cities being taken out, by the sound of the size of the cities, if the was 6 it would have taken too long to take the cities. In the back of my mind tho, I believe they were not even close to finishing them. you would have thought they figured out 6 was too big before they announced it.


  2. I have to go with Regis on this. It is hard to hear. It is tough to swallow. In the end though, is it enough to make you want to not play the game. No MMo has ever had a problem free beta and release. what makes Mythic so different?
    Is it because we have so much invested into the game or that it was said these things were going to be in the game, but now they are not?

    I loved this articla and all the reading from all the bloggers I am still catching up on, but seriously, don’t you think it is time to finally let the dust settle and see what comes from the game instead of continuously stirring the pot?

    I had my articles and said and tried to convey my peice, and I loved this article on how you get everyone’s opinion in one place…


  3. We actually worked this up on Sunday, but posts kept coming up so I held off on putting it up. You’re right, it is time to kind of move on 🙂


  4. Iteration: In software engineering, an iteration is a series of steps through the core part of the development cycle. I don’t know what model they’re using specifically, but in general an interation would be at best “analyze, design, implement/code, test, repeat” (i.e. pro software shop style) and at worst “code it, fix it, repeat” (i.e. college freshman programming project due tomorrow). That is, during an iteration, *real* hard work is being done. They look at what they’ve got, draw up how they can fix it, try to do so, test it, then do it again.

    I really am convinced these changes are for the best. Nobody knows Mythic’s game like Mythic does: if they think something isn’t going to work, then I respect their decision to axe it. I respect it a lot more than the more common decision to “make it shiny” and hope nobody notices.

    Also, I was visiting with friends on Sunday who are all going to play the game but *none* of them follow this community (they’re not casual, but pre-game they are). I told them about the changes, and without the huge and terrible spin-machine of the doomsayer fanbase, they nodded and said “Cool. Whatever. *shrug* When does it come out?” To them a few content drops weren’t as big a deal as a delay would’ve been. That was a refreshing dosage of “Hey, it’s OK”, at least for me.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, guys. =)


  5. I don’t really see how they could just leave out classes permanently. I have faith that they’ll be added in eventually — not necessarily quickly, but eventually.

    Regardless, this is pretty much why I’ve liked Mythic since I originally played DAoC — very upfront about their decisions. They COULD have just made an announcement that this is how it was and left it like that, but instead Mark is very forward about the decision and attempts to communicate the reasoning behind it, which I really appreciate. Because of that, I’m basically willing to accept whatever decisions they make because I trust they are doing them for the right reasons and will “make things right” if at all possible down the line.


  6. my only hope now, is that after all 6 cities are finished, and have been rotated in once (which it sounds like they’ve set themselves on this) I hope they put in all 6 at once, at the very least to try their original concept, before they just decide that rotating is the permanent solution.

    If they don’t at least test having all 6 in at once for a few months, i’ll be pretty disappointed.

    I still think the idea of rotating is just trying to put a silver lining on a shit situation, and then fervently throwing it at naysayers. If they really think it would spread the player base too thin, they would have made this announcement a long, long time ago. If this is really the best way, they would have designed it that way from the beginning.

    They made DAOC, they know how this stuff works.


  7. my only hope now, is that after all 6 cities are finished, and have been rotated in once (which it sounds like they’ve set themselves on this) I hope they put in all 6 at once, at the very least to try their original concept, before they just decide that rotating is the permanent solution.

    If they don’t at least test having all 6 in at once for a few months, i’ll be pretty disappointed.

    I still think the idea of rotating is just trying to put a silver lining on a s**t situation, and then fervently throwing it at naysayers. If they really think it would spread the player base too thin, they would have made this announcement a long, long time ago. If this is really the best way, they would have designed it that way from the beginning.

    They made DAOC, they know how this stuff works.


  8. argh, does wordpress allow you guys to add an edit post feature for posters? i just saw the awaiting moderation thing, and i’d take out the 4 letter word myself if i could, didn’t even realize i couldn’t use it in the first place.


  9. […] just posted a new feature over on his site called The Gab Bag, kind of like the Grab Bag, but different! This time around, he asked Arbitrary, Regis, and I to […]


  10. I’ve been following Warhammer for three years now, and although the concept is good, it’s just getting more and more watered down as time goes by.

    I read articles about smoke and mirrors on Mythic’s part; just publishing enough development info to get you excited, but never actually showing it working in-game. People can have amazing ideas, but implementation is something completely different, and I feel like Mythic is lacking on that front.

    I try not to listen to the people that say all we really have are some carefully-crafted screenshots and movies, easily rendered, but not necessarily implemented – and I wonder to myself: Is “War” really “Coming”, or are we just waiting for AOC all over again?


  11. Maybe it’s just me but I remember a lot of talk about WAR not being just a game, a MMORPG, but a hobby, in truest sense that the table top version is a hobby. I think this is a larger part of the backlash than anyone may realize and I’m not seeing many comments on it.

    From where I stand my greenskin isn’t going to be learning how to beat up on stunties so that in my end game I’m focused. Now my end game is a mash up of every possible Order class available, how hard is the only capital city of Altdorf going to be to take when the entire Order Army is there because there is no where else to go, and defence when every cap’d level character is bound to the target, is easier than offence when I have to gather people and organize a raid.


  12. […] Re: [FAQ] Cidades capitais – 1 Minuto Atrs Gab Bag: Mark’s Response To Feature Cuts Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog […]


  13. Take heart, Jay. I want a city to be packed to jamming with defenders when we move against it with a same-sized force. How freakin amazing will that big of a unified battle be?

    That’s what excites me, and it’s why I’m sticking around.


  14. I just found it funny for someone here to argue that the developers were doing a “what if” argument, when almost every single argument you use in this article is a giant “what if Mythic delayed/kept the classes/etc”.


  15. “It’s not like they would have to start from scratch, here. You’re talking existing models, animation, skills, armor sets, tactics, mastery trees and balancing”

    I’m running short on time here, so I skipped the comments. I wanted to respond to this point by saying that the above is not necessarily true. If the base idea that the class had been built around wasn’t panning out into a class they wanted in thier game, then you’re looking at rebuilding the class from the ground up, possibly under a different premise. While they coul possibly stick with the names/models/animations, the skill sets, tactics and such stuff would still have to be redone from scratch after coming up with a new vision for the class.



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