Post-NDA Day Two: The Empire Strikes BackAugust 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.