Archive for October, 2008
Hm… (flips open the newspaper)
Oh, it seems that amid some bad financial news for EA, Warhammer Online’s sold 1.2 million copies and boasts 800,000 subscribers. Not too shabby! Of course, it remains to be seen if that number goes up or down by the year’s end, especially with WotLK and the Holiday Season approaching.
(turns a few pages… weather report, blah)
Despite what your parents taught you, Mythic says sharing is bad — even if it’s with your brother or sister. Chalk this up under the “things they have absolutely no ability to monitor or enforce, so they’ll frighten you with big chunky text” column header.
(flip flip… oh Marmaduke, you ARE a big dog!)
One of today’s biggest events isn’t Witching Night, but the free server transfers for both characters and entire guilds, to help spread out the population and balance it somewhat. To sweeten the deal, they’re offering NA players a renown/XP bonus once you’ve transfered for a limited time. Good luck with those on the move!
(rustle the paper and feel all old-timey for doing so)
Anybody watch the Black Guard/Knight of the Blazing Sun podcasts? Good descriptions, nice concept art, but no in-game footage (boo).
According to Paul, Black Guards are “very upset 14-year-old teenagers”. Wow! I can’t wait to roleplay one of those! “With a bit of emo… give them a good slap.” So the Black Guard is comprised of 100% forum trolls? Or you can go with KotBS, which are (quoting him) “pompous adults”. Gosh, it’s so hard to choose!
I am no stranger to the Grim Reaper (or whatever he is in the Warhammer universe) in WAR; heck, he and I have become poker buddies due to the amount of time I’ve spent in his realm, and I’ve asked him to be my kid’s godfather. Death doesn’t bother me — click, respawn, hit the healer (ouch!), get back in the game — but how I die does. Doing PvP in WAR is like playing tag with an invisible ghost; I plod along until something I can’t see taps me on the shoulder, and then I’m dead. Boof.
Oh, I’m getting hit. Hit for a LOT, apparently. Where is it coming from? Is it like manna from heaven, being freely given to me even though I did not ask for it? Is it the damage fairy coming by to bless me with hearty red numbers? I don’t know. Soon, I am dead, and the point is moot.
How did I die? As a guildie helpfully suggested, why don’t I just scroll up my combat log? This is a problem, since it approaches Stephen King novel-size lengths in each engagement. I could do that, sure, but my feeling is that I’m not paying by the month to do research after combat to figure out what happened. We depend a lot on visual cues in games to give us feedback on what’s going on. One-on-one combat is usually okay, especially with PvE mobs (who only have a couple abilities to begin with), but it seems to me that a lot of career abilities lack significant visual cues to help that move stand out and be recognized. This is especially bad when they’re long-range damage skills, and even worse when you have no idea who’s dishing it out (engage in zerg vs. zerg combat and you know what I mean).
A Witch Elf comes over to me, and even though I don’t see her do anything special — just a few knife thrusts — suddenly I’m dead. Did she use special abilities? Anything I could’ve blocked? I don’t know. A sorceress stands on a rock and waves her arms around. What’s she doing? Who’s she aiming at? No clue. She might be practicing cheers for all I know. A guy on my side heals me, I guess, because green numbers start flashing by me — but the little icons under my name are too small to see clearly, and I don’t have time to tooltip over them to see if an Archmage or Runepriest is helping me out.
This is why the skills that ARE very visually distinctive tend to be the ones players react the strongest to. It’s unsurprising to me how often my turrets are targeted by Destro — it’s not because they’re high damage-dealing machines, but because everyone a mile away can see me laying them down and see where the damage is coming from. Visual cue, kill.
Bright green stream coming from a goblin? Must be a Shaman, and now I have a new priority target. Large ugly purple circle on the ground (which a friend lovingly calls “cowpies”)? Get out ASAP, those hurt a lot. Big swirlie purple strings? Can’t be good to stick around those. The black raven over your head? You’re a marked man, my friend. A Runepriest’s moves are very flashy and distinctive, yet a Zealot’s tend to be flinging tiny flasks and hand waving. These are great visual cues that help out a lot, but unfortunately, there’s just not enough of them.
The end result is, really, mass chaos. That’s kind of fun for ten or twenty minutes, especially if you’re not being targeted for invisible death, but after a while I really want to know what’s going on, to be able to read the battle better. I’m sure some of that will come with more experience, or if I get that combat text scroll mod, but this needs to be looked at. I never know how far away I have to be to stay outside of someone’s melee range, and the lack of blood spurting on my person or flashy impact points give me little clue whether I’m getting hurt a lot from them at this second (and don’t even get started on combat lag, where people perform moves but the damage comes a lot earlier or later depending on the whim of the game hamster).
So that’s my plea. Continue to tighten up skill keys/responses (please, Mythic, tell me you’re not done working on that or the lag issue), and provide better visual cues for the battlefield. RvR is fun, but give me the tools I need to become a master.
(am i pretty now?)
If it’s not the tanking economy, the depressing election or Hannah Montana, then it’s the ominous tides of black pessimism that’s seemingly descended upon the Warhammer community — especially if you keep tabs on as many blogs as I do (and forums, but hey, forums don’t count, unless you want to feel slightly superior about yourself in comparison to the blathering trolls that lurk at those depths). Everywhere you go, it seems, the Voice of Doom is booming loud and clear: “Warhammer is in trouuuuuuble.” Hey, when Heartless_Gamer, Mr. Self-Proclaimed Warhammer Fanboy #1, announces as such, it must be true, right?
Of course, if it weren’t for the MMO community, the Voice of Doom would be on much harder times. I’ve seen the VoD come and go so many times for so many games that it no longer has true weight with me. Players, myself included, are like easily-frightened schools of fish, willing to go with the crowd and turn at a moment’s notice or the mere inkling of danger. So it takes a discerning eye and a steady heartbeat to sift the meaningless panic from the meaningful signs. Is Warhammer in trouble?
On several points, most are agreed. Warhammer had an incredibly stable launch, world-wide, no less. It got many good reviews, several great ones. People widely applauded features as “meaningful” open world RvR, PQs, the Tome and living guilds. Mythic is proving itself quick to act on key issues and work hard to fine-tune the game.
Yet there’s been a growing discord of worry over population imbalance, character imbalance and — especially now — RvR imbalance, in that most people seem to be heavily favoring scenarios over open world RvR for their PvP fix. There are bugs, features and abilities not working properly. Some people are disquieted over things they can’t exactly put their finger on — like combat not “clicking” as well as it should, or the world being a bit too lifeless or empty in parts — but it keeps them from feeling comfortable in their decision. And some of it can simply be chalked up to MMO culture shock, the unrest that comes from assuming features from past, familiar MMOs would be in this title and from having to adapt to a new system.
I’m not here to say that WAR is perfect, or that your feelings on the subject are any less important than my own. But I think that doomsaying is a popular MMO pastime in these communities, and it’s taught me a few lessons from observation and personal experience:
- Game devs, on the whole, DO listen to their players (who are, after all, their paying customers) and over enough time do act on the feedback and concerns that players have. Mark, Paul and the rest of Mythic’s whizkids aren’t sitting back in their chairs counting up cash right now, as evidenced by the amount of patches, events and upcoming content that’s been announced.
- As a result of constant development and refinement, MMOs get much, much better over time. Yeah, there are stumbles you can point to, but nobody can doubt that World of Warcraft 2008 is a far superior game than World of Warcraft 2004 post-launch. Or, heck, even Ultima Online over 10 years later. The game we see at launch is actually the WORST version of the game that we’ll probably ever see.
- Sometimes you have to shut out the voice of the community when it’s saying something contrary to what you’re experiencing or believe. If you like your class, great, just don’t let forum posts tell you otherwise. If you’re really, truly enjoying WAR and feel like it’s on the right path, then by all means just ignore the blogosphere at large. I think people as a whole are too easily swayed by what the majority (or loud minority) says and thinks, and on the internet that’s rarely positive.
- The first couple months post-launch of any MMO title is a rough transition period, to put it kindly. We’re shifting gears from “Hype” to “Reality”, from “Idealized” to “Actualized”. People who flood into the game at launch sometimes find it’s the place for them, and others don’t. After these few months, stability in the community increases because the people playing really want to be there, instead of consisting of a lot of people just trying out the free month.
I’ll be honest with you: WAR isn’t everything I thought it would be. Some of it is way better, some of it disappoints. But I do like my experiences in the game, and I’m really excited with how fast and hard Mythic is moving with its updates and content. There’s a lot of hope for this title and a great future — it hasn’t plateaued yet, and I don’t think it will for quite some time to come.
Da Bloody Twenty is a weekly countdown of the 20 most interesting, well-written or weirdest Warhammer Online articles and posts… to me.
“WAAAGHkin” @ Doppler – Happy Halloween!
“Mythic Working On The Expansion And New-New Classes” @ Massively – New-New? Oh, I thought he said Gnu-Gnu. A gnu once bit my sister…
“WAR PvE” @ /random – Good, bad, and a lot in between. Randomy second-guesses what the Mythic devs went through.
“WAR: Making Tanking Fun Again” @ Tenfold Hate – Meatshield pride.
“Strange but True” @ The Greenskin – True fact: Snafzg gives me one Canadian moose for each time I mention him on this blog.
“Resists” @ Way of the Chosen – Passing on second-hand info to make your life more livable.
“High Rank Armor Sets – Tokens Are Gone” @ Stunty Stomper – No suits for you!
“WAR: A New Hope For Open RvR” @ A Wall of Text – Grey skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face!
“Is It the Player’s Fault This Time?” @ Keen and Graev’s – Who’s fault is the current scenario/open world RvR imbalance, the players, Mythic or both? Perhaps mine? I dunno!
“Setting Up Hotkeys For Tactics” @ Money News – A great workaround to quickly switch between tactic sets. Because clicking once was a pain.
“Class Balance in WAR” @ Stylish Corpse – A trip through the Order classes… but no Engie love! Waaaah!
“The Future of WAR” @ IGN – In which the term “bloodbath” is used. I’ll let you find out where.
“Fixing WAR RvR Redux” @ Potshot – Good ideas, but I think the armies should indenture players and force them to fight instead of giving them pansy-wansy choices!
“Did WoW Weaken The MMO Community?” @ Classy Gamer – Don’t let the name fool you, it’s mostly about Warhammer. And class.
“Witching Night Event Information” @ Garrison of War – Wanna know what to do for this first live event? Wonder no longer!
“Halloween is Coming” @ Tome of Knowledge – Peanuts as WAR characters? Genius.
“The Shadow Approaches” @ Fires of WAR – Heck YEAH! Fluff this game up, Mythic!
“Paul Barnett Explores Players Behind the Races” @ TTH – What you play is what you are?
Waralytics – Gorge yourself full on all sorts of stats and numbers about WAR’s makeup!
Looking ahead to 2009 and beyond, in terms of MMOs, it kind of struck me: all of the major upcoming MMOs with growing hype and massive IP potential… few to none of them are in the fantasy genre, which is downright amazing to me. For as long as I’ve been following MMOs, fantasy has been the bedrock staple of the field, dominating all with sheer numbers and subscriber dollars: Ultima Online, Everquest, Asheron’s Call, Dark Age of Camelot, World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Guild Wars, Runescape, Lineage, Vanguard, Dungeon Runners, Age of Conan, WAR. In fact, in the already cutthroat world of MMOs, making a non-fantasy title prior to now was tantamount to taking a bath: Anarchy Online struggled severely, Auto Assault tanked, EVE’s had a long road to respectability, Star Wars Galaxies hemmoraged players like nobody’s business after NGE, and CoH thrived probably because it had zero competition in the superhero MMO genre.
And now, now what are we looking at? Stargate Worlds. The Agency. Champions Online. DC Universe Online. Star Trek Online. Star Wars: The Old Republic. Jumpgate Evolution. Warhammer 40K. Probably whatever Blizzard is developing next, too. It feels as though we’ve finally come to a crossroads where companies willing to shell out mondo bucks to develop a MMO don’t even want to bother with the once highly-desirable fantasy market. It’s done, played, tapped out — at least for now. Innovation and revolution in this industry aren’t merely confined to mechanics and features, but also in the genres themselves.
While I’m sure triple-A YAFMMORPGs — Yet Another Fantasy Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games — aren’t dead and gone like silent film, I have a feeling they’re going to be going into hibernation for a good long time. Really, why not? It’s not as if we’re lacking options on the fantasy front, and our current crop of fantasy titles have projected lifespans that could extend well into the 2010’s, if not the 2015’s.
(Okay, for those Guild Wars 2 people out there having a spastic fit… even with that very under-hyped title on the horizon, you have to admit there isn’t much else coming. You really going to go to bat for Darkfall being some sort of massive sleeper hit? Chronicles of Spellborn?)
So it made me pause and look at WAR as one of the last Big Boys of this generation’s YAFMMORPGs, one that has legs to carry it for a long while alongside of the other fantasy titles, both great and small. It made me wonder if the 2009 launch timing wasn’t one of the most fortuitous events for Mythic, as right now its main competition is against fantasy cousins (or perhaps shifty-eyed stepbrothers) instead of looking like a relic from a MMO past going up against the wave of different genre MMOs from the future.