Backlash Against Backlash

November 18, 2008

So Michael Zenke over at MMOG Nation has a somewhat insightful, somewhat snide little piece about the apparent transition between the over-hype of WAR to the pendulum swing to negative criticism.  Since he does me the honor of linking to a couple of WAAAGH! articles in attempting to show how I’ve shifted from hype to doom ‘n gloom, I thought I’d respond in kind.

He concludes with this charming quote:

I really don’t want to come off like a jerk here, but posts like the above just make me giggle. What in the Nine Hells did you guys expect?

I find this statement hypocritical (Zenke contributed big-time to the pre-launch hype with his articles at Massively) and the article misleading, to say the least.  First of all, everyone buys into hype.  It’s all there is to do before a game launches — no one should be faulted for that.  We know that the hype goes away as the reality of the game sinks in, and bloggers hopefully become more balanced in both their praise and criticism.  I’ve recently stated that I do like WAR, even with its faults and flaws, and will be sticking with it.  Keen has expressed the same thing.  It’s not as if we’re wailing because we feel like we’ve been sucker-punched by a fairy princess who turns out to be an old hag — the shift in mood and tone is to be expected of any game blog in the time following its release.

And, while I don’t want to come across as a jerk here, but what does Michael expect of anyone covering a game?  To always be positive?  To always be critical?  To rise above bias and emotional states and capricious moods?  Hey, that’s how gamers are, and bloggers reflect that.  People with hobbies of any sort don’t just sit around holding hands and singing about how lovely their hobby is — they endlessly discuss, debate, analyze and engage in that hobby in all its ups and downs.

The point that I think his article missed is that not all of the negative discussion of WAR is backlash following the giddy heights of hype.  I’m seeing a lot of it, including the links he included, where people who like WAR, who want to stick with it are critically analyzing it in an attempt to provide a better understanding and feedback for Mythic to improve the game.  I know it’s hard to understand, but you can criticize something that you like because you like it — because you want it to become better.

If WAAAGH! seems a bit up and down lately, well then, we’ll just have to deal.  But the fact that I still write about this game even after the veil of hype has fluttered away suggests that there is something here that stands above the backlash, something worth investing time and effort into.

P.S. – And if we can’t really criticize a MMO at this early stage, can Mr. Zenke please give us a timetable for when it might be appropriate?



  1. Heya Syp!

    So I think the thing that frustrates me isn’t so much the criticism as it is the dramatic downshifting. We went from Keen’s optimistic posting post-launch to a post where he basically says everything Mythic has done is crap and needs to be pulled out.

    My POV here is a guy who’s played a lot of these games. I just can’t get riled up anymore about a game failing to live up to expectations in the first couple of months. I think a much healthier approach for everyone concerned would be to take a step back, recognize there are problems, and give Mythic some time to fix this stuff. 😀

    If you’re still seeing the same junk going on two-three months from now, that’s an issue. That’s a problem. My second post there was an attempt to clarify that these games are highly theoretical on many level until they’re released. Contact with real players is what’s required to get them ticking and tuned.

    Just my two cents, though. 🙂

    I do want to note that I take exception to your poking at Massively, though. Massively has nothing to do with this conversation; if you want to poke at me you’re welcome to, but Massively’s job is to report on/feature MMOs. We did what we were supposed to over there, pure and simple.

    Love your site, by the by. Sorry I don’t give myself the time to stop by more often.

  2. And you do have a valid point to call us all to not live day to day in an emotionally unsteady, constantly shifting state — but to take the long-view, especially in light of this pattern we’ve seen in other MMO launches.

    Unfortunately, when monthly fees are in the mix, people have a very hard time being patient with perceived failures and an uncertain hope for the future. People want to know now whether or not a game is worth sticking with, and whatever criteria they use is varied and often depending on the mood of the larger community. People sense rats fleeing a ship, they’re more likely to jump as well; people sensing a happy community of rats baking cakes in the ship’s hold are likely to stay.

    My point about your articles at Massively was that you contributed largely to the pre-launch hype and you have experience with how people eat that stuff up — I know I did! It just felt as if you wrote a lot of pre-launch material helping to build up the hype, and now you’re chastising some people for crashing off the hype wagon as if we should’ve known better to listen to or believe in any of it in the first place. I wasn’t slamming what you wrote, and I do remember that you were one of the few people who presenting very realistic concerns and criticisms before the launch, which were appreciated.

    For the record, I am in it for the long haul, and that commitment is freeing in a way. But I agree with Snafzg — the fact that a game is relatively new or still in the process of developing doesn’t render it immune to criticism, analysis or suggestions. Maybe in doing so we show ourselves to have more of a vested interest in what happens to this title than others who view it in a much more casual light. But that is one of the unique features of MMOs — that they’re constantly developing, and should require constant examination in return.

  3. Perhaps I’m not the most unbiased observer, given that I follow Waaagh constantly and never read Mr. Zenke or Massively, but this post didn’t poke at Massively. The only “attack” was to point out that Mr. Zenke was contributing to the hype of the pre-launch era for WAR.

    Assuming that the previous commenter was, in fact, Mr. Zenke (it’s the Internet, faking an identity has been known to happen), I’d like to point out that if you read all of this blog, you’d be well aware of Syp’s position on the game. You’d also know that Syp has defended it, without resorting to fanboi-ism, all while still keeping an eye open for where improvement can be made. And knowing all of that, you wouldn’t have made the mistake you did in your article. Claiming injury for your website is simply a clever attempt to try to get away from the fact that you messed up. Do more research next time, and you won’t get stuck looking silly.

    If the previous commenter was not Mr. Zenke, then disregard the part about covering your backside. In this case, you are not dishonest, but merely ill-informed.

  4. Just a thought, but maybe it’s easier to criticize WAR now that Wrath of the Lich King is out…

    Speaking of which:
    Syp, I don’t play WoW – never in the past, and probably won’t in the future (though I do remember enjoying Warcraft I & II in my younger years… but that’s before I stumbled across Games Workshop and realized “hey… Warcraft / Starcraft have a lot of similarities to Warhammer / Warhammer 40k…”)

    It would be interesting to get a perspective on the WotLK launch and how it’s both succeeded and failed at improving WoW, and what that might mean to WAR players in the future.

    I’m sure I could find other articles about it online, but would be great to hear opinions / views from someone in the WAR community. Maybe something you could tackle as a blog post sometime?

  5. I love this game, and the lore of the Warhammer Universe. So this game had me at hello.

  6. Awww, I like it when bloggers kiss and make up. Until they start tongue kissing — then it just gets awkward.

  7. The game deserves criticism in several areas. The PQs, while awesome when they work, actually turned out to be one of the things I hated most about the game. Why is that? Because there are never enough people around to do them. I’d be sitting around grinding grinding grinding on the PQ, and nobody would come along. So by the time Stage 2 hit, I’d be all alone, and unable to complete the quest.

    So, in theory they worked great. For all the hardcore gamers, they worked great too. But, since I guess I didn’t level as fast as everyone else, I was stuck along in this “great new quest model.”

    The only thing that I found myself coming back to in Warhammer were the scenarios. They were a ton of fun. However, it wasn’t enough to keep me going. It just took forever to try to level exclusively through scenarios.

    It just didn’t have that fun ‘hook’ that kept pulling me back every day.

    Keep in mind, these are my personal experiences. I still thing the game is a great piece of work. I understand the appeal. I just feel that I don’t have the time necessary to dedicate to the game to experience it the “right way”.

  8. […] 2008 by spinks I was reading with interest the to and fro of posts between Michael@MMO Nation and Syp@Waaagh about the WAR ‘backlash’ that they see among bloggers at the […]

  9. Both hype and doom can be explained by the game’s mechanics. The greatest parts of the game are all related to group play, and when you have lots of people, the game shines. On the other hand, the game does its best to separate, divide and disconnect players from each other, so as soon as large masses dropped off, the rest were effectively left on their own to solo, which is where the game sucks.

    Think about it: the game does not help you group, or actively tries to stop you from grouping. Nor does it in any way help you to start a guild, recruit new guild members or help find a guild to join. Open groups only work when there are enough people around already, but when you have to look for more, over 80% of the potential joiners do not even see the open group as they are in different zones. So, public quests, champion/hero quests, BO/keep sieges, open rvr all fail because players do not know when and where they are taking place, and while *waiting* for that to happen, they are trying to do what they can, which is solo. No proper communication channels, cumbersome map hunting to constantly poll for possible fights in various zones, …

    And even if for some reason you did know there to be an open group in some other zone, travelling there and back is a serious pain. And the incentives for doing that are very small. For the first 30 ranks, players are scattered to 18 separate zones, so on average every 1.7 ranks they move to another zone, with no means of knowing what is going on in other zones, and very slow and cumbersome travel for those who might know better. And once you move to a higher tier, you can’t help with rvr. And if you hep with PQs, you’re also most likely contributing most and thus most likely using one PQ loot bag, which is off of those in-level doing the same PQ.

    The only exception to the above are scenarios, so no wonder they’ve been popular. And now we should stop doing the one thing that we don’t have to LFG for hours, travel for 15 minutes and end up without a balanced group (though at times that still happens)? Scenarios also happen to be the one fun thing to do when you are three ranks short of next tier, and have already finished all quests in the tier, and maxed influence through PQ stage 1 solo grind (very boring and pretty much the only option).

    So, why did the game feel so great and exciting when there were masses playing it after launch? Why does the game now seem to suck when every zone looks and feels empty, and we are all spread over 20+ zones with no communication, slow and tedious travel, and general lack of tanks and healers? Did we all change our minds or are we simply seeing the two sides of the same coin.

  10. Scenarios
    Love them when your team is all on the “same page”, but hate them when everyone is running around like a chicken with it’s head cut-off and not working together. Despite liking the Scenarios (especially the new Reikland one!), I still think “teleporting” into them whenever you want is a mistake that takes away from the rest of the game.

    Love them when you have 2-3 other players with you and the conversation is good, but hate them when you’re either by yourself (and can’t finish them), or suddenly the PQ gets swarmed by too many players at the last minute and you see your loot go up in a puff of smoke.

    RvR Lakes
    Hit and miss. I’ve enjoyed hooking up with small raiding parties to take back BO’s quite a bit, but have never successfully taken down a keep – only spent an hour or two trying with a great degree of frustration. Defended a keep once which was fun, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit guilty when thinking what my opponents must have been thinking:
    “How come 20 of us can’t storm a keep that’s only defended by NPC’s and two PC’s sitting on the battlements and shooting at us with Hellcannons?”

    One of the few things I actually enjoy doing on my own. Haven’t tried questing with others very much, but just felt like I was going along for the ride as a bodyguard or something while the other person was achieving their quest objectives.

    I haven’t played a lot of MMORPGs in my day, so I’m probably not the best critic, but I really do enjoy WAR. Usually pretty good / funny people online, with the only frustration being from unbalanced scenarios (with scores of 500 to 60, you can’t help but think “what was the point of that?”) that are a bit too easy to access. I also found that I was a lot more frustrated with my toon (a Chaos Chosen) at lower levels – now that he’s around level 20 I actually find myself becoming a viable meat shield and walking debuff. Can’t count the number of times I’ve been knocked back by IB’s because they know all the debuff hurtin’ I bring to the front lines 🙂

    One last thing I really enjoy about the game (though you could do this in any MMORPG) is playing “Santa Claus”. I often take my loot back to the newbie / lowbie areas in T1/T2 and hand it out like it’s Christmas. Most people really seem to appreciate it, and I guess it makes me feel good if I can make someone else’s gaming experience better.
    Now that could explain why I’m level 20 and still don’t have enough cash to buy a mount, but that’s really not the worst thing in the world, is it?

  11. […] Stirs the Pot Syncaine adds a dash of spices Zenke Stirs the Pot some more Syp Throws in some Eye of Newt Spinks gobbles it all […]

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