Then and NowNovember 22, 2008
We in the blogosphere are especially susceptible to the news cycle when it rears up — big, meaty issues that suddenly become the Talk of the Town until just about every blog’s weighed in with their opinion, dawdled on it a little, and then moved on.
Today… we’re not moving on. Today, we’re moving back.
Since writing WAAAGH! is both an exercise in documenting my mental breakdown AND the history of the community and development of a AAA MMO title, I have on hand many, many articles in which the collective “we” wigged out about some issue or another. What I’m wondering is, are any of these issues still relevant, did any come true according to our predictions, or was it all just brew-ha-ha?
I went back through WAAAGH!’s nine month history (really? nine?) and picked one major news cycle issue from each month, along with commentary on how it panned out. Let us see:
MARCH’S ISSUE: Warhammer Gets Delayed A Second Time
- Only a couple weeks after starting up WAAAGH! and getting prematurely excited for what I thought would be a June release, Mythic announced that the game would be moved to a “fall 2008” release. From the non-player’s perspective, WAR seemed to be just about done, by everything we’d heard. Yet from inside sources in the closed beta, the delay wasn’t just needed, it was actively requested and supported by the testers. Personally, I was pretty upset that they announced the Collector’s Edition first, then the delay immediately afterwards (a PR bait-and-switch that we’d see yet again in the summer).
- Still relevant? Since the game is out, I’d have to say “no”. Although, for all my passion for wanting the game released ASAP in March, with the current state of WAR I can’t imagine how it was back then. I’ve come to fully agree with Snafzg: this game needed a longer beta testing period.
- I couldn’t pick between these two (please don’t make me!), because both struck me as fascinating for different reasons. The so-called “stealth controversy” — fueled by Mark Jacob’s previous pronouncement of hatred of stealth mechanics and a promise that stealth would not be in WAR, followed by news that WH/WE would have stealth mechanics — blew up in a huge way early on, yet fizzled out quickly as well. Today, stealth is pretty much of a non-issue in game, perhaps just an annoyance as players decloak around you, but nothing terribly game-breaking.
- On the other hand, it is interesting that so early on we were rightfully concerned about the possible WAR vs. WoW release date double-header. It didn’t quite turn out to be the same weekend, but even two months apart feels awfully close together, and even with Warhammer’s head start, Wrath managed to take the wind out of WAR’s sails — hopefully temporarily.
MAY’S ISSUE: Age of Conan’s Launch
- Since the May/June period was originally supposed to be Warhammer’s launch date as well, before the second delay, WAR fans were a little steamed that AoC got a large head start and all of the spotlight for the time being. However, even with that incredible advantage and 700K boxes shipped, we know what happened: AoC had a miserable pre-launch period, a very shaky launch and post-launch period, had little dev interaction, and was missing some of the big “back of the box” features that were promised. Today, AoC limps on, doing okay, but not that great, not that great at all.
JUNE’S ISSUE: Richard Bartle Disses WAR
- In an interview reposted at Massively, MMO father Richard Bartle apparently dismisses WAR with the following quote: “I’ve already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft.” Many bloggers, including yours truly, take offense to the casual dismissal of a game that had yet to be released, and Bartle engaged in a lot of back-and-forth in various blog comment sections. It really wasn’t as big of an issue as we all made it out to be, but if I was pressed to put my finger on when the WAR blog community really started making waves, that would be it, right there. People reacted, overreacted, discussed, and bounced back and forth between blogs like mad.
JULY’S ISSUE: Four Classes, Four Cities Cut From Launch
- Whew. I really don’t know what Mythic would ever have to do to get the community so stirred up to this insane level ever again, but I assume it’d have to be something involving selling the game to SOE or adding a third faction of all pygmy clowns or something. Anyway, this is when the poop hit the fan: Mythic announced that in order to release on time, four capital cities and four classes would be cut from the launch version of the game. Readers, posters and bloggers went BALLISTIC. Emotions were at an all-time high, and people eagerly awaiting this MMO felt a huge stab of fear that the end result would be much less than it should’ve been. People were mad — Snafzg threw the biggest hissy fit I’ve ever seen — and people were sad. Some called for restraint and all those other futile terms that don’t work with an internet community.
- So how’d this pan out? Well, the game did launch in the fall 2008 window, and I can’t say that we’re really “missing” the four cut capital cities so much — in fact, if they were in the game, we’d have even less centralized population than we do now. However, the four cut classes — the two tanks in particular — really did hurt the population balance, especially on the side of Order, where tanks have been in short supply ever since launch. Happily, the 1.1 patch will get the tank classes back in — but no word on the other two classes or the cities as of yet.
AUGUST’S ISSUE: Third Faction/Expansion Speculation
- Previous to WAR’s launch, we received confirmation at one of the conventions that Mythic was already in the pre-production stage of the expansion pack. If there’s something that all gamers are great at, it’s endless speculation, and this flared up like nobody’s business. Obviously, we haven’t heard anything more about this, but it is interesting how many people got passionate and excited about these ideas. Passion and excitement — we could use a little of that these days!
- Warhammer’s launch really did go smoothly, all things considered, but that didn’t stop me or anyone else from taking a look at the lows as well as the highs of that week. What do all those four issues have in common? That they were big two months ago, and are virtually non-existent now. When’s the last time you had to suffer through a queue to log on? Or saw a gold spammer sending you a /tell? (Although now they’re doing it through the mailboxes, yay). And just recently, we got news that the EUALA box will be disabled from the login screen unless something in it changes.
- I think it’s morbidly hilarious that we’ve swung between two extremes in terms of population. In the beginning, it was all about overly crowded servers that people wanted to flee from just so they could play the game. Mythic opens up new servers, clones entire populations, and the mess is cleaned up. Now, we’re spread too thin, Mythic opens up character transfers back to populated servers, and people are bemoaning the absence of high/high pop servers.
OCTOBER’S ISSUE: Smacktalk Between MMOs
- Egos. Game devs have them, and they are mighty. I think this is a constant, really. In any case, a bit of escalating smacktalk between Mark Jacobs and various Blizzard devs escalated into a blogger’s feast, and people leaped on the issue as if they were speculators at a monkey fight. Was it professional? Nope. Entertaining? Sure. Helpful to either title in the long run? Not by anyone who read either side’s comments.
NOVEMBER’S ISSUE: WAR Exodus
- It’s no secret that a lot of bloggers have left WAR, temporarily or forever, and expressed their dissatisfaction along the way. It’s no secret that a lot of bloggers have stayed as well, and expressed support for what they see as a solid title in need of additional work and polish. In any case, it’s hard to overlook the gloomy atmosphere that’s been covering WAR as of late, and people are hoping for a strong gust of headwind to blow out from Mythic and pick things back up once more.
I realize that a lot of these “issues” are negative, but that’s usually what gets the most discussion, for what it’s worth. It is interesting to see how our attention and priorities have shifted over the months, how some of these issues go away and some are left unresolved (hey, my game still hitches like MAD, by the way!), and how we might be to blame for blowing some of these stories way out of proportion.
What will it be like a year from now? I’ll get back to you on that tomorrow! Or, in a year!