WAR Has Yet To BeginAugust 22, 2008
You see that up there? The title? That’s a maxim to keep in mind. Even if you’re engorging on all of this post-NDA info like a dog left alone with chicken pot pie, even if you’re watching videos until your eyes bleed, even if you’re currently in the beta… it’s easy to forget that, really, nobody has played Warhammer Online yet, including the devs.
Not the “real” version, at least.
All of the beta reports that you might be reading, mine included, come with one big honkin’ caveat — none of us are playing characters that have a lifespan beyond a couple more weeks. It’s like a sappy Lifetime/Hallmark movie where they have some terminal illness and friends or loved ones cry a lot yet learn the true meaning of life (it’s the machine that goes “ping!”) as whoever it is kicks the bucket. It’s a world of difference between playing some castaway, disposable character that hasn’t a chance in the world to survive, and one that you will (hopefully) keep throughout your entire WAR career.
In September, we’re going to meet our new best (online, virtual) friends — the ones that we agonize over a good name or look, the ones that actually care about their place in the world, the ones that you’ll scour the countryside for a good set of loot and bonuses, the ones that will hopefully make you rich, win the day, get the girl (or guy), storm the castle, join the guild, and forge a legend from humble beginnings. We can’t get that now, you see. What we’re doing now is, in many ways, a hollow mockery of the Real Deal.
This is why, even though I’m in beta, I am not overexposing myself to the game. It’s why I’ve rarely even ventured into the Chapter 2 areas of the newbie zones. It’s why I haven’t read Tome of Knowledge entries, gotten obsessive-compulsive with completing quests and getting all of the loot in the zone, why I haven’t tried gathering/crafting, or even jumped into an online guild yet. This is all trial, demo stuff, as fleeting as a morning burp over the breakfast table.
It’s really odd — as much as I’ve been looking forward to playing WAR, and how nice it is to be able to jump in the game almost anytime I want to right now, I’ve felt no urgency to do so. A little here, a little there, but the bulk of my excitement hits next month once the head start, um, starts. It reminds me of why I play MMOs, not necessarily for the mechanics or the features, but because I get to take a level one nothing, a pittance of a person, and march toward greatness over the span of months. It’s deeply satisfying to have a max-leveled character with an array of skills and gear and options at his or her command, knowing that it was all my doing and they’ll be around for (practically) as long as I keep playing the game. It’s just not something I can get out of the beta right now.
I guess that tells you a lot about the genre; I mean, if MMOs were like arcade games where you only had a temporary, disposable character that would be different for each subsequent play session, would anybody really play them? Not so much, methinks.
It’s easy to forget all this and get in the mental state where Beta = Release, with all the goings-on and lively stories. But really… it’s yet to begin. And I can’t wait.