Post-NDA Day Two: The Empire Strikes Back

August 20, 2008

Ah, the trendy, quick-to-judge backlash. How I’ve missed you so! Are you doing well? Wife and kids good? Great. We knew you’d be coming out the second the NDA dropped, because you just can’t let a thousand happy, joyful people celebrate without trying to pee on them from your superior rooftop, can you? I mean, after all, you are a man (or woman… nah, man) of discerning tastes, you rise above the common rabble and lower your big stick of Not Fun so that you can feel justified in ignoring a certain title for the next few years while you return to your substandard game or wait in vain for that revolutionary messianic MMO that, frankly, will never arrive.

Okay, maybe I’m being a bit too fanboyish here — everyone is entitled to forming their own opinion and voicing it, even if it goes against mine or the popular opinion. But there’s a difference in my mind between “constructive criticism” or a “dissenting opinion” and flat-out “backlash”. The latter is there more out of a reaction to the fan community that really does love something, but because the author does not, it becomes an odd lopsided struggle to try to convince everyone else that, no, they’re not REALLY having fun, or if they are, they’ve lowered their standards and are enjoying the gaming equivalent of pigswill. If they didn’t like the game and presented a list of rational, thoughtful reasons why, more power to them. But when they start needling the community, shifting criticisms onto fans of the game itself, writing statements that are obviously designed to inflame — that’s backlash.

And maybe it’s a good sign for Warhammer, eh? Ironically enough, whenever you’re doing something well and successful in the gaming world, you “earn” your fair share of backlashers as part of that reward.

I read a couple statements this morning that rankled — not because they were critical of Warhammer Online, but because they clearly settled into the role of backlash blasters (Ooh, that sounds like a name for a cool shmup) and presumed to speak for myself and others. Here’s a couple of choice quotes:

“It sounds like everyone thinks it’s a good, solid game, built on established mechanics with some new twists and its own collection of relatively minor flaws… but nothing more than that.” (from Random Battle)

This comes from the “it’s merely more of the same” camp, but adds a nice juicy layer of speaking for everyone’s experience and opinion in one fell swoop. RB? I think Warhammer’s a LOT more than that. So do quite a few other people from the blogs, forum posts and reports I’ve read. That’s a condescending comment — I don’t presume to speak for you, so don’t for me.

“Is WAR trying to be a WoW killer?” (from Massively)

Is it me, or does this question, every time it’s stated, come across as troll bait? I’ve yet to read a WAR fan’s opinion stating this to be a hopeful reality; instead, most people, myself and Mythic included, have never taken this position. Asking this question is pretty much just opening up Warhammer for criticism that it doesn’t deserve and didn’t ask for, but what else do you expect from Massively?

It offers us nothing aside from one standout evolutionary concept, the public quest, that moves the genre forward.” (from Virgin Worlds)

Brent’s review — not impressions, or a beta review, but his final say-so on Warhammer — stems from the notion that it isn’t fun for him. Fair enough. But as you read his review, you realize that every single thing he takes WAR to task over applies to every MMO out there, including AoC or whatever he’s playing. It’s the “this game sucks because it has features like the game I’m playing!” rant. It’s not just a bit hypocritical, it’s comical.

Some MMO critics these days have placed themselves into a weird place where a game is instantly condemned if it isn’t “revolutionary”. Applied to any other form of entertainment, this type of criticism would be laughable — imagine, for example, if film critics casually dismissed new movies because they’re merely “old concepts done with some new ideas, but nothing revolutionary”. We’d end up waiting decades for the next truly “revolutionary” movie to meet their approval. And yet these certain MMO critics are trying to hold this genre to a completely ridiculous standard, where anything remotely similar to something in the past is call for immediate rebuff and dismissal.

Make no mistake: taking something old and proven, and then doing it in a new, exciting way is how people have been writing stories, making movies, composing music, and constructing video games for years. And people love and appreciate it.

This all said, I’ve read quite a few great posts that take WAR to task for questionable features, faulty implementation or future fears. They’re not done in a Final Judgment sort of way, but in the hopes that a good game will get even better, and it’s great to read them. I’ve read scores of highly enthusiastic reviews that do, indeed, find WAR to be a leap ahead of the current pack, and those are encouraging. And if the worst red flag that backlash posts can latch on to is “it’s just more of the same” or “it’s not 100% original and unique”, then I think Mythic ought to call themselves lucky. Vanguard, Tabula Rasa, even LOTRO didn’t have it so good when their NDA popped.



  1. It’s like comparing an expensive wine with some wine you buy in a box at the grocery store.

    There are going to be many people that insist they’re pretty much the same because they both get you equally drunk. But in the eyes of the enthusiast or the connoisseur there’s a world of difference.

    I feel the same way about WAR. If you really feel that WAR contains only one minor evolutionary concept, you either don’t care much about MMORPG’s, or you don’t know much about MMORPG’s.

  2. I stopped reading Massively along time ago. Their posts are bland and robotic. As you said, they are trying to draw out the attention of trolls. When I read Massively (month ago or more) I had one thought, *YAWN*.
    1 question I would like to ask Massively is: Why doesn’t your WAR staff have the passion your WoWinsider sister sight has?

  3. Is WAR trying to be a WOW killer? That is the most insipid question I have ever read. I wonder how long it took them to come up with that.

    OF COURSE Warhammer Online is trying to be a “WoW Killer” if not, then they shouldn’t be doing it. If they are not going to strive to be the best MMO out there, then I really have no interest in playing it. Granted, this only holds true if you think of WoW only as the top dog MMO out there right now. I don’t think WAR is going to try and replicate WoW’s PVE endgame raiding, so in that case, I guess the answer is no.

  4. I’m glad you commented on Brent’s review. I read it earlier today and it looked to me that he had already judged the game even before playing it. Like he had started playing thinking “This is just WoW with more classes”.

    Another thing is that he says AoC is better than WAR. Ok that’s his opinion but I’ve played AoC and it sucked. I’m hoping the guy just has a really weird taste in MMO’s.

    Oh and by the way, have I totally misunderstood the general gameplay of WAR or isn’t it the only MMORPG where you can roll a healer and level to 40 just by casting heals? (by playing RvR)

  5. I agree totally. I don’t understand why people criticise the game NOW for not being more revolutionary. Everything Mythic has said about it on their website has made it pretty clear what they were trying to do. The class descriptions were all up there!

    It makes no sense to criticise the beta for not being something that a reviewer invented inside their head. Judge it for what it is, and what it was advertised as being.

    I’m as keen as the next guy to check out more revolutionary games but it doesn’t stop me having fun with the existing ones. I think it’s actually a pointless comment from a reviewer.

  6. “this game sucks because it has features like the game I’m playing!”

    Great Quote! I see way to much of this. Yeah, it’s true that almost every feature of WAR is lifted directly from either DAOC or WOW. But you know what, both of those were really great games played and enjoyed by lots and lots (and lots) of people.

    That being said, there actually is one thing that’s truly revolutionary about WAR. Never in an MMO has it been so easy to meet up with random people and have a productive and fulfilling group experience. The unique thing about WAR is that “ordinary” players don’t spend 90% of their time solo’ing.

    Now maybe the “expert reviewers” don’t notice this because they’re the kind of players who have a “LEET” set of guidemates who make grouping easy and painless. However, for the vast majority of MMO players, finding a good group is a tedious and often painful process.

    Forgive me for making up statistics, but in Warcraft 80% of the players solo 80% of the time, and that’s not true in WAR. Yes, there’s solo content, but in WAR ordinary anti-social gamers stumble into group content (be it RvR or Public Quests) and have a great time. Now that, my friends, is revolutionary!

  7. Well, the post was kind of intended to be an analysis of everything I was reading around the web filtered through my experience. Sorry if it rankled.

    I’m not saying it’s not a great game and I’m not saying it won’t be fun. If you’re having fun, that’s all that matters, right?

    Based on what I played and the impressions posted around the web, I think that my summary which you quote is pretty accurate. I think you can make an argument that the improvements WAR brings to the genre and the unique IP make it a fantastic game that will be really, really awesome… for you. I can’t disagree. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is, essentially, more of the same.

    Whether that’s a bad thing or not is up to the individual. I’ve been playing and enjoying the same thing for ten years, I guess (as Brent was saying), so I can’t really fault it too much.

  8. Re-reading that, you’re right. I shouldn’t be speaking for everyone with that statement. I went back and changed my wording to read “many people” instead.

  9. This game is better than WOW in every aspect of it except the PVP and that will hopefully be fixed.
    most people playing wow have never even made it to the end game content b/c u need a good guild for that and most guilds are not capable of doing the end game or they require many many things from you to let you in. when u play war on the other hand u are just simply having fun. There is none of that stupid grinds for gear or mats or crafting skills so that one day u might be able to see end game content. you simply join a warband and ur on ur way to do whatever u want. you can do everything in the game without a guild. most of the end game stuff is a mix of PVE and RVR. I tested the lvl 40 instances yesterday on closed beta and they offer alot of fun without the stupid stat calculations of wow (theory crafting and charts and all that crap). In terms of armor and detail of weapons u can not even comapre this game with wow. this game is using the same engine as Oblivion so go figuer how high the graphics can get. The character modeling is very nicely done. Let me put it this way your lvl 1 gear in WAR is equivalent to lvl 70 wow epic gear in terms of detail. The end game PVE for WAR is not easy either. It requires alot of coordination and comunication, but u have to RVR first to get to the open world PVE end game or u can just try the instances in your own town. The PVP however is not as in depth as wow is. player skill doesnt really matter u just have to smash buttons and bring the guy down. u cant kill 2 ppl unless they are the squishy classes ( healers are not one of them btw. need a raid for healers). the only thing killing the fun of RVR for me was fighting healers other than that its alot of fun although it doesnt have much depth. it offers everything that WOW offers in a better way and with a better look. tehy took out most of the stupid drings of WOW. grind for money, mats, repairs, raids, even armors. I have been playing wow for 3 years now, have 2 accounts and a handful of 70s, tried end game, arena and all that stuff. I got into WAR closed beta when they started it first a while ago and played it for a day after that I just could not put up with the crappy look and mindless grinds of wow anymore. Play the game for a day and you will see you simply can not go back to WOW after a day of playing. WAR does offer a the same stuff (there are alot of new stuff too) as the other games but it offers them in a better and more fun way. Its very simple to get into the game no matter what lvl you start at. you could start at 40 and still manage to do end game PVE and RVR.

  10. Particularly in the case of Massively, where bloggers get paid according to page views and comments, and so are encouraged to post troll-bait, I’d remove the link. I wouldn’t send them the traffic.

    I saw that article in my RSS feed and almost clicked over to rant at them but then realized I’d just be putting money in the author’s pocket by doing so.

    As for the Virgin Worlds dude, I’ve never read him before and don’t understand why he tries to cover this genre. Sounds to me like he just doesn’t enjoy MMOs.

  11. People just love to sound smart so they turn into snobs, just ignore them.

  12. Great point Lepinski, you hit it right on the head. If the reviewers just look at the graphics and go kill some npcs then of course they are going to say its more of the same, but once you go dig down deeper to the PQs, open parties and keep sieges then the game really comes to life you think “Thats an awesome idea” or “Why hasn’t another MMO done this before”

  13. I’ve been mostly reading forums after NDA has been lifted, and I have to say that there are a few of types of complainers: 1) people complaining about how WAR is going to suck even though they have not tested it; 2) WoW players who think WAR is just like WoW yet somehow it sucks; 3) and DAOC players who think WAR is just like WoW and therefore sucks. There also seems to be this propensity to think that every bug in beta will inevitably make it to release. They seem to be pretty good about working out the kinks, so I think this game will only get better and better with time.

  14. I read this one guy’s livejournal because he always has really interesting political posts. Once in awhile, in between his political posts, he’ll talk about MMORPG’s, and through experience, I’ve come to think of his seal of approval on an MMO as the Kiss of Death. If he likes it, that MMO is going to fold within a year. He loved Neocron. He loved Tabula Rasa. He loved Pirates of the Burning Sea. Et cetera! He’s a really smart guy, brilliant even, and I respect his opinions. But when he talks about MMO’s I have to laugh. Anything he puts his seal of approval on goes down in flames sooner than later.

    That’s how I feel about the guy at Virgin Worlds. I read his entry on why WAR sucks and my only reaction was the feeling that maybe we had played two different games. How could I have been having so much fun, while he thought the game was a pile of dogdoodie? I tend to suspect some hidden bias, but I’ll give the guy the benefit of the doubt and just put him into the “kiss of death” column with my buddy . 🙂

  15. Well said, Syp. I wasn’t in beta, but I wrote something similar about Brent on my blog:

    “I know I personally am experiencing WoW burnout, but I never played DAoC and experienced RvR. So while Brent makes the supposition that the only evolutionary new thing in WAR is public quests, that is not really true from my viewpoint because RvR is a major aspect of the game that is entirely new to me. AND, simply by comparing subscriber numbers, it’s not much of a stretch to say that most WoW players didn’t experience RvR either. So while it’s not new or entertaining to Brent, it’s new and entertaining to many of us.” (Serial Ganker)

  16. Massively bloggers don’t get paid by page views or comments. They’re paid by the post, regardless of traffic.

    And while Brent might be getting a little jaded, as many of us are, saying he doesn’t like MMOGs is laughable. He runs the VirginWorlds collective, which hosts and helps to run a series of podcasts dedicated to a very wide variety of MMOG titles. He also does a regular news podcast on the MMOG industry. He does all of this for free, in his spare time. I know of very few people as dedicated or interested in MMOGs as Brent is.

    He was just calling it like he sees it.

  17. What irks me is reading multiple page “reviews” that do nothing but say bad things about the game and then say and cite things that aren’t true and show they haven’t even played long to understand how the simplest of mechanics work (such as Action Points, Public Quests, Loot, etc.)

  18. /what Cameron said
    (Except I don’t get paid at all)
    And I know a boring game when I see it.
    I think I’m allowed to jab Warhammer squarely in the head and say “Not you again…sheesh”

  19. Ok,being a multi-year WoW player who is tired of constant grinding to get over a hill and see only more grinding ahead…

    I agree with the above where one day of Beta was more fun than the last two years of WoW. Don’t get me wrong, I loved WoW. It was the closest to what I wanted to play. Someday we will all look back and laugh at everything that happened before we could play with characters as detailed as the 3D Cinematics.

    In just a short time I was able to identify many ways Warhammer is unique. They WANT you to PVP/RVR and have plenty of ways to encourage those that normally don’t. I hated PVP. Now I love it even when I lose.

    If you don’t have time to spend hour-upon-hour-upon-hour doing instanced areas, this game is for you. It is designed to jump in, cause havoc, and jump out. Tons of the people I knew in WoW never saw the large instances because they couldn’t ‘live online’. That is what raiding guilds want from you.

    Kill quests make sense. “Oh, you already killed that? Here is your reward.”

    There are plenty of quests everywhere and they don’t have to be done linearly. They also can be completely ignored for RvR if you wish. PVE and PVP both level you.

    Public Quests are easy to join and easy to leave. No LFG for days on end. I once spent a week in WoW just trying to get a small group together for a short takedown. I ended up having to spend a large portion of gold to buy off a crappy PUG. Nothing like getting jack for your money.

    Best of all, this game WANTS to reward you. I can’t tell you how discouraging it was going 20 times into the same huge instance only to never have the boss drop the item you are seeking. It was just silly and I refused to do it anymore. Each dungeon was programmed not to drop for the char type you took in. How many dungeons have you taken your rogue into that everyone swears is littered with leather and none ever drops? WoW does not try to reward your every effort – Warhammer knows that doesn’t make sense.

    The game is very different in very good ways. No one should say ‘WoW killer’. They should just look at it as the next step to the ultimate submersive fantasy world that will come in 2024 🙂

  20. /agree with Halfwolf above.

    Ultimately, no game will work for all people. If other people don’t care for the game, that’s their opinion. My opinion may be different, and if I find that I don’t agree with them or are annoyed with how they wrote their review, I just write them off and don’t read them anymore. You ever have that movie reviewer that hates all your favorite movies, and you know that if he says a movie is the “best of the year” then you avoid it at all costs? Same situation here. 🙂

  21. Call me a fanboy, but I love this game.

    I’ve played Everquest(s), City of Heroes, Tabula Rasa and multiple years of Wow. I enjoy immersing myself in a fantasy world and accomplishing something, growing up as a character, etc. I’ve never been a really social player, I drop in and out of guilds filled with 14-year-old officers, and usually only end up grouped if quests aren’t doable solo. What I’ve always looked for in a game is just to HAVE FUN. WAR is more fun, even with beta bugs, than all the other games I’ve played.

    I really have no idea what character class will be my “main” once the game goes live. Maybe that term won’t apply, because EVERY one of the 12 classes I’ve tried so far has been fun. In WoW, some of the classes are pretty darn hard to level, at least up to level 10 or 20. I started priests and warriors multiple times, but always gave them up because the levelling was so painful without a group. I always gravitated back toward Hunters, Shamans and Warlocks since they weren’t dependent on a good group to level.

    My play style is to drop in whenever I can and play for as long as is convenient. Sometimes that means four or more hours (occasionally all night), but sometimes that means 40 minutes during my lunch hour. In WoW it is very hard to have that lunch hour count for anything, to get anything done. In WAR, I can drop in for 15 or 20 minutes and have a really fun experience in public quests or RvR. I’ve even enjoyed playing tank and healer classes because in WAR they are unusually fun. Healers don’t drop dead from a single blow and tanks don’t take an eternity to kill an equal level mob.

    RvR, public quests and keep warfare are all well and good and whether they are evolutionary or revelutionary with respect to the genre is debatable. But, what has pleasantly surprised this jaded MMORGer, is that even the “same old” aspects of this game are just better executed and more fun.

    I can’t wait for this game to go live. WAAAGH!

  22. […] Post-NDA Day Two: The Empire Strikes Back Ah, the trendy, quick-to-judge backlash. How I’ve missed you so! Are you doing well? Wife and kids good? Great. […] […]

  23. Honestly, you make some fair points in this post, but you may want to watch your temper unless you wish to make the same mistake that you’re protesting against. Not to say that you are, but I can tell by the middle of your post that only your civility was keeping your tongue in check.

    As for your point about the obvious “will WAR be the WoW killer?” I think it’s important to say that, while Massively did use that as the bait for their article, the article itself was pretty much the opposite of the statement that seems to have you all riled up. The Massively article handled the situation as well as can be, or should be expected.

    You are also correct in your statement that WAR does not deserve, nor did it ask, to be compared to WoW, but that’s the reality of the situation. WoW is the status quo and I find it a little silly when you, and other bloggers in the WAR community, get worked up over the comparison. They are bound to have similarities as both WAR and WoW are great games that take the basics of what makes MMO’s great and colors the game with a powerful story. Just as you said before, great works of literature are often great because of how they tell the story rather than the story itself.

    I understand your need to rant, but I thought I’d add a little bit of my own perspective to give you something to think about.

  24. Nice blog

  25. To like me this post…

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