Archive for the ‘beta’ Category

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And So It Begins.

September 14, 2008

Last night I logged on briefly — oh so very briefly — to the beta servers to talk to a few members of a prospective guild I’m looking to join. While I was talking with them, I did the standard “run around but don’t actually accomplish anything” routine that I’ve gotten used to in beta. Only after I logged off did I realize that that was the last time I’d ever be in WAR beta (barring an expansion pack beta), and I didn’t really do anything significant for the occasion.

Over the past month and a half, I got used to being very detached from my beta characters. They got wiped, no biggie. I deleted them to try out new classes or to say hi to people on various realms/factions, no biggie. I didn’t care to read the quest text, to really gear them up, to accomplish anything other than being in game to talk to folks and get a cursory overview of WAR. I’m sure my characters thought me to be quite heartless, but I was only protecting myself from being burned, baby. You understand.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: with the launch of the game, players are only now going to really experience the full potential of WAR. It cracks me up that Eurogamer already posted a review of Warhammer Online — they haven’t played the retail version, but they’re quite willing to pass a review off as such. They, and us, have not yet had a persistent character to really invest in. They haven’t been gaming in a world where the economy is being molded, where guilds have planted roots, where the real struggle between Order and Destruction takes place. They just puttered around in a beta world of scenarios and Public Quests without a larger context to it. That’s like reviewing a book where you’ve only read the first half of each chapter.

I’ve seen a lot of people try to put out definitive “reviews” of WAR based on the beta, and I’ve ho’d and hum’d through most of them. You can tell they aren’t emotionally or socially invested in the game, because, hey, it’s beta. If I go to see a movie and someone tells me in advance that all of the heroes get killed long before the end credits and nobody triumphs, I’m just not going to enjoy that film. I don’t have anyone to really pull for — and the same is for the characters in beta. You can try to dissect all of the game mechanics and try to pull a review together from that, but it isn’t the same as really experiencing the live release with a persistent struggle and characters that we plan on being with us for years to come.  We have yet to connect with our characters in very real ways, and that, to me, is an essential part of the MMO experience.

Just so you know, WAAAGH! isn’t going to post an official review on WAR. Do I need to? I have an entire blog centered around one game, so you know I find it interesting enough to play and talk about. My articles contain elements of reviews, sharing with you freely the strengths, weaknesses and changes as I play the game. For me to write a review would be completely redundant. If nothing else, know that I, Syp, have relinquished a four-year investment into my World of Warcraft characters to place my chips on WAR, and I have no regrets doing so. That should be all the recommendation you need from me.

The first impressions of WAR will make for great headlines over the next couple weeks, and much hubbabaloo will be made over official reviews and whatnot. That’s great fun, but for me, the big test is how enthusiastic we are well after that, a month or two or six down the road, and how many people show up and stick around for the war. I have a feeling it’s going to be a greater testimony to the game than any “Editor’s Choice” review ever could be.

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Open Beta Day 2: Electric Boogaloo

September 8, 2008

“Today was a dark day. We expected a massive influx of players, but reality was even harsher.” ~ GOA’s CEO

Well! Boy howdy! Yesterday was sure as shootin’ a dallop of sunshine threatened by a wicked evil storm front, waddunt it?

Actually, for NA folks, the first day of Open Beta went more or less okay. Reportedly 47,000 or so WARmongers stepped onto the playing field, many for the first time, and I hope they enjoyed their experience. Lots of people do forget that Open Betas are, still, betas; they counter this with a wrinkled nose and a haughty “Well it’s right before launch so this should be as good as the launch game!” Perhaps, perhaps not. Anyone who’s been through enough MMO launches knows that the weeks proceeding it are rocky, launch is never flawless, and emotions run at an all-time high until a couple weeks after. Then people just settle down and, y’know, play the game.

For Europe’s gamers, it was a dark day for the rebellion. I talked about this a bit previously, but the Cliff Notes version is that: tons of people tried to register/log into the game, various problems kept those people from being able to register/log in, and GOA was drawn, quartered and screamed at for about 24 hours straight by frazzled players. Even the more rational EU bloggers registered disappointment tinged with hope (hope… you can believe in). Some folks were not as kind.

We kind of witnessed a “perfect storm” of nerd rage yesterday. GOA set itself up by having a tarnished reputation from the DAoC beta/launch, then they made a bad decision to not bring up the account servers until the start of OB, then they either stopped communicating with the players or actually demeaned them a bit, and then things went to hell. It got so bad on some of the forums that the mods were working overtime trying to rein in the madness, devs weren’t pleased with the nastiness out there, and calls were made for people to take a step back and count to ten.

If we’re the type who try to see the glass as half full, there’s a lot of positive to take away from yesterday. Mark Jacobs gave us a Day One report, which included an impressive amount of players, servers and stability (along with promises to lock down some of the more nastier bugs out there). He also hopes that future efforts in Europe will regain the trust tarnished by Sunday’s events. GOA seems to have received a proper kick to its butt, and the CEO has promised more and better communication.

All in all, it’s par for the course. Yesterday sucked, for sure, and any of the good stuff — such as players who got in having fun experiences — were overshadowed and out-talked by the frustrated mob. It’s of course important to remember that this isn’t “Free Demo Week”, it’s “Open Beta”, and one of the reasons they do an open beta is to iron out these sorts of problems caused by so many people joining the game for the first time. It’s a big issue today, but in a week nobody’s going to be thinking about anything but launch, and evaluating how that goes. I’d rather witness a hundred FUBAR screw-ups this week and have a great launch next week, than let some potentially game-breaking issue slip on by just so people can skip around in their demo land.

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PW+

September 7, 2008

As Preview Weekend+ sails on out of modern history and we usher in the fabled Open Beta (see its claws, how it slavers!), I wanted to comment on a couple notes from my Saturday evening experience:

  • For all of the bugs and issues that 4.1 fixed, there are still a hefty assortment of problems, including, but not limited to: the “target not attackable” bug, crashes to desktop (I had two and a guildie reported at least one), much much slower leveling XP curve that has players rankled, and a weird little renown trainer bug where it wouldn’t refund me points I put into tactics.
  • I’m also getting some nasty frame rate/lag at times, which really shouldn’t be.
  • Some of the Tome entries/unlocks are bugged and don’t click through the way they should.
  • Got a huge variety of titles to choose from — I went with Syp the Green for a while, then Syp the Stonewalled.
  • The Black Orc has grown on me, the big fella. I’m not sure if its his commanding stature, his awesome assortment of armor bits, or his growly excitement at being in the midst of battle. He genuinely feels like a real character to me, not just an avatar. I might have to roll one of these again. I got him up to rank 7 RR 7, a net gain of two of each ranks on Saturday.
  • Good laugh — I saw a goblin cooking something in a pot, and there was a foot sticking out of the liquid, swirling around as he stirred.
  • Dyes are terrific fun! I put a sort of metallic powder blue on my armor.
  • I got into a lot more scenarios, which was terrific (Gates of Ekrund). Healers are almost impossible for a lowbie tank to take out, but I gave it an honest shot. If nothing else, I felt good knowing that I kept him from healing someone else.
  • Some of the battles got incredibly chaotic in a visual sense, when you had 4-6 people packed together, casting spells and whatnot. Sometimes it was incredibly hard to see, aka “The City of Heroes Effect”.
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4.1 – Da Gud and Da Bud

September 5, 2008

(“Bud” because… I did cultivating for the first time!)

(Okay, that was just plain bad.)

(Sorry.)

So I got to waste enjoy a few hours in Warhammer Online this afternoon, tasting the fruits of the Preview Weekend+ (anyone else think of New Game+ when they see that?) and patch 4.1. I’m going to play Syp the Black Orc over the next week, who got up to Rank 5 RR 4 during the afternoon, along with a set of really nasty-looking gear. Someone in Keen’s guild was nice enough to lend me a pair of cheese grater shoulders, and I finally felt a little bit like a rough-and-tough tank with them on. (Also, I’ve been observing that opponents in RvR seem to be intimidated by the mass of the Black Orc, and run more often than fight.)

I have a list here of observations and things that tickled me, well, not pink, because I’m Italian, but at least a lighter shade of tan.

  • Server list is now handled on the same screen as the character selection. When I logged in there was a message saying that Order on a certain realm needed some extra help, but I laughed at their misery and made a character on a full pop server anyway.
  • The new tutorial system is in place, handled by a feisty parade of question marks (?) that pop up over your action bar when you encounter a new feature of the game. You can turn them off, of course, but I left mine on to see how far they’d go. They did a good job running the gambit from newbie zone stuff to crafting to RvR to Tome unlocks. Not quite the instanced tutorial that I still think some wet-behind-the-ears MMO newbies need (I really wish MMO devs would acknowledge that these games are very intimidating and complicated to the newcomer), but a great step in that direction anyway.
  • The Tome of Knowledge has, of course, been overhauled and reskinned, and it looks fantastic. There’s nine tabs on the left side: Intro, Quests, Chapters, Achievements, Rewards, History & Lore, Noteworthy Persons, Bestiary and Armory. Now, when you click on the Tome icon, it automatically opens it to the Intro page, which doubles as the New Entries page — a very slick way to handle that. All in all, Tome 2.0 does a lot to rebut the criticisms that some bloggers (*cof*) leveled against it during the last Preview Weekend.
  • The Abilities window has been updated. You can now click on General abilities to see what types of weapons, armor and shields your class can use (yay).
  • Despite what the 4.1 patch notes say, the Book of Binding is still an item in the backpack, and a guildie informed me that it now has a lengthy (~45 min?) cooldown. Considering that people were delighted with the zero cooldown use on the old BoB, this seems like a step in the wrong direction.
  • Your backpack begins with 32 slots for items, minus the one for the Book of Binding.
  • I just love how the action bar has Greenskinny graphics to it — it helps a lot with the theme.
  • I spent a little bit of time messing around with the Customize UI window, in which you can access the Layout Editor and move every single on-screen element to where you want it to be. Nice!
  • The influence bar for each chapter has been moved. There’s now a race:chapter title (Greenskins: Chapter One) in the upper right-hand part of the screen, with a teeny tiny influence bar (and its three sections) above it.
  • Still getting surveys. I really, really hope we don’t see any of these pop up after launch.
  • There are new graphics for Tome unlocks, and they look really cool.
  • I couldn’t find the icon for the social window (hotkey: O). The social menu on the lower-left of the screen gives you some drop-sideways menu options for friending, ignoring and so on, but it isn’t the whole shebang.
  • The new graphic options are in, and I cranked that baby up to FULL! All I can say is… holy moley. This is one beautiful, detailed game. The lighting is spot-on perfect, and there’s a lot more to these graphics than the “WAR is WoW” dismissers give it credit for. Armor and weapons and items have a real 3D presence to them, instead of bare minimum polygons and reskinned textures. I ran around on High settings for the afternoon, and it was relatively smooth. Some lag, either server or graphical (probably the latter), came up from time to time, but it wasn’t consistent. Spell effects looked tremendous! And don’t get me started about my first trip to the Inevitable City, which felt like a crazy fun/haunted house and looked like a painting. Other than the occasional lag, I did experience a bit of texture popup (where you see the plain non-textured version of an object, then it’s skinned a few seconds later), especially when alt-tabbing in and out of the game.
  • There’s a new set of Tome quests at the beginning designed to get you used to the book.
  • Talisman slots are now on armor as early as level 1, but I didn’t find a Talisman trainer yet.
  • Did I mention this game is pretty? I did? Well, how about the sound? Awesome.
  • Although AI pathing is fixed, now I’m seeing (and others too) a bug where you’re in the middle of attacking a mob and then suddenly you get messages saying you can’t attack it — while it’s still attacking and killing you. The mob freezes in place, then sometimes pops back out and works again. It’s not a huge, every-mob issue, but it is there.
  • Buff and debuff icons now have color-coded borders to them for quick perusal.
  • Have you checked out the Help menu yet? It’s got an insane amount of information in it!
  • There’s a new “You Have Died” graphic that pops up, with the message of who killed you (in RvR). Looks quite spiffy.
  • I got slain by “Bambii”. Sigh.
  • Two times WAR made me laugh: I heard a goblin moan about “my tummy wummy!”, and then I got to see the fixed version of the Black Orc /special. Poor snotling!
  • UI responsiveness seems to be up. There’s a number countdown timer in each window, letting you know how long (to the tenth of a second) you have until you can use that skill again. I’m a bit concerned about the Black Orc/Swordmaster in this regard, because you’re kind of forced to keep glancing down to the bar to see where you are on your skill chain — which is very much a Bad Thing in PvP. I need more of a head’s up option to appear in the middle of the screen, or as a graphic around or on top of my character.
  • As I said, I dove into cultivating and apothocary for the first time. Pretty intuitive, although the cultivating… er, minigame? I guess minigame, although it’s not really a game, just a series of item inputs. The cultivating process demands your attention for minutes at a time to the exclusion of gameplay, and although I liked how it works, it didn’t let me set up a plant to grow without needing my constant input. I don’t know how much time I have to sit around and do that sort of thing. Apothocary is a lot easier, although I had problems trying to get my first potion stable.

I’m sure there’s a lot more, but I wanted to get you a preliminary report, especially to the folks who can’t log in this weekend — or perhaps next week.

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The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is Over

September 5, 2008

In other words… welcome to Preview Weekend+/Open Beta!

It’s indeed nice to know that, barring any serious problems or unknown downtime, Warhammer Online will be playable from now through launch. A lot of Europeans are miffed that they weren’t invited into the Preview Weekend+, which definitely stinks — the EU population is starting to clamor that they’re feeling like the “second-class citizens” of the WAR community, and whether or not they’re being treated as such, it’s hard to erase that perception.

I have no great plans for OB, per se. I imagine that if the Preview Weekend was bad, in terms of numbers and lag and whatnot, Open Beta is going to take me by the throat and lift me up a wall, Darth Vader-style: “WHERE are the plans to our secret planet-blowing-up moon-thingie?” I imagine I will dip my toes into that crowded swimming pool (too late to make summer references?), but the knowledge that the actual Head Start is just a week or so away takes some of the urgency out of doing that.

What are your plans for OB? Any great feats you wish to accomplish?

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What A Difference Four Days Make

August 29, 2008

Way back when, in the yonder days of early 2007, I pre-ordered Lord of the Rings Online and got into their “founding fathers” program or whatever they called it. The biggest incentive for me to do so was their promise that founders would be granted early access to the live game client, a head start of a week or more (I forget exactly how many days). There was a level cap of 15 put into place for that time period, but it was one of the most exciting opening days of a MMO I’ve ever experienced, and yes, I include WoW’s launch day in that.

The joy of it all was that, for that period of time, I felt like I was bumped up to the first class cabin — I got a bit of extra legroom, some more space between me and my neighbor, and the privilege to sample the goodies before anyone else. Guilds used that time to form, players started earning some money by gathering and crafting, and the level 15 cap made for a very interesting “end game”, which also encouraged you to try several alts in that time period.

Ever since they first announced the Collector’s Edition, I’ve been buzzed at the thought of the promised head start program. Having seen Warhammer Online’s newbie areas just swamped with players during the preview weekend, I’m looking forward to a short breather where it isn’t quite so nuts. Today, it looks like Mythic (or at least GOA) has announced the two head start dates: September 14 for Collector’s Edition pre-orders, and the 15th for Standard Edition pre-orders. Everyone else, including those who pick up the game off the shelf, will have to wait until the 18th to play.

Four days doesn’t seem like a lot, and in truth, it isn’t. I guess if you’re a mad, mad gamer, you could push yourself to getting to a decent level (I’ve yet to hear concrete “to level” times, so I’m not going to even speculate on how high a person might rank in four days), but for most people, it’s going to spread a good chunk of the initial playerbase between tier 1 and 2 zones, and get some good open world RvR going by that Thursday.

For me, the head start is important for two reasons. One, I want to reserve my favorite names, and I know I’m not alone in this. I wouldn’t be surprised if some folks had pre-ordered for the sole purpose of reserving names and nothing else. The CE head start is on a Sunday, which is a pretty heavy work day for me — I’m going to log on, snag names, and log off. The second reason is that I’m a completionist, and I like to explore and complete a zone before moving on. This’ll be easier to do in tier 1 without a million other players running all willy nilly all over the place.

And to be honest, I feel like I’ve been waiting on Warhammer for so very long that I hardly remember back when I wasn’t anticipating the title. Four days might not be much, but it’s four days sooner than it would otherwise be.

The only question I’m left to deal with is whether I’m going to take that Monday off work, or just wait until my typical day off — Thursday, WAR’s launch day.

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Fortune Telling With The Power of POLLS!

August 27, 2008

It’s like we’ve devolved into early summer 2008 again, what with this lull between the preview weekend and open beta. So why not launch yet another huge “What class am I going to play?” poll at WHA, and why not check in with master numba cruncher, Snafzg!

What say you, Snaffy?

He’s pleased to note that the population seems to be balancing out a bit, but the grain of salt you’d have to take with all that would kill a mature moose. I think it’s absolutely hilarious that the three least popular classes — according to this scientific poll — is the White Lion, Witch Elf and Magus.

I don’t think any of these three classes will be hurting at launch, so why is the poll slanting in this direction?

White Lion – As Snafzg mentioned, this class is suffering from a relatively late introduction to the playerbase, but since it received such monumental fanfare (as the last new career for launch), I’d think that would balance out. Pet pathing issues and subsequent reports of lions gone haywire probably drove a lot of potential WL’ers away this past weekend, but those will be fixed. In the end, it’s an elf, with an axe, and a huge lion. That seemed to work pretty well for WoW, and I doubt they’ll be hurting after the first month of play. The White Lion is probably the most pure pet class there is, with one steady pet that grows and gets decorated and (hopefully) will be renamed.

Magus – This is an odd duck of a career, for sure: a “defensive” casting class with a unique movement style (floating on a disc) and stationary pets. Maybe the disc will turn people off to the class, but this is by far and away one of the most visually arresting careers in WAR, and when you throw in pets to boot… yeah, it’ll be okay.

Witch Elf – The sole problem here is painful dps, flagging behind other melee-burst dps classes like the Witch Hunter. If and when the dps is bumped up, people will flood to this class, I guarantee. You got the looks, you got dual blades, you got semi-stealth and a whole rogue vibe… this sort of class is always favored in PvP situations.

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Friday Night with Señor Syp – Preview Weekend Edition

August 22, 2008

Heyyy… nice to see you! How youse doing? Get comfy… pull up a chair… let me buy you a fruit cocktail and talk about all that matters in love and WAR.

This Trailer Is Not Yet Rated

With the NDA drop, Mythic officially fired the starter pistol to the publicity race leading up to Warhammer Online’s launch. As nervous as they’ve got to be without the leash of the NDA restraining beta testers from yammering on, they’ve got to love all the free — and overwhelmingly positive — publicity that’s surged down the pike. They’ve got a full month of being in the spotlight, as most major MMOs do when they get to this point, and believe you me, they’re going to milk it for all its worth.

And so will we, to get the extra hits, eh?

Big Brother Blizzard might be feeling the sting of a stolen spotlight, so they finally unveiled the last major weapon in their Lich King arsenal (at least, that we know of): the cinematic trailer. Blizz has always had high production values on all their products in this regard, but a funny little thing happened. The trailer… is kind of dull. It’s a lot of Lord of the Rings narration, ice, and the color blue, but very little goes on during it. Even die-hard WoW fans have expressed disappointment over it.

And they don’t even have the monopoly with that — also this week, Mythic lifted the curtains on the nearly five-minute WAR trailer that’s been rumored about long before you were a baby. I know I’m a pretty staid fanboy at this point, but… c’mon. That trailer is simply breathtakingly cool.

Preview THIS, baby!

We had a couple days of downtime this week, as the beta was taken offline in preparation for today’s start of the three-day Preview Weekend. Tens of thousands of new players were invited in along with the current crop of beta testers to give WAR a whirl — good thing the NDA is down, hm?

This all gives me a good idea of what launch day (and head start day) is going to be like in WAR: hundreds of brand-new characters clogging up the newbie zone, the general chat spiraling out of control with identical questions and heated responses, PQs where you get, like, 1/2 influence per run because of all the people doing it, and general glimpses into what careers might be September’s flavor of the month. Bright Wizards and Chosen, baby!

Actually, I’ve been hearing a lot about how there’s Chosen EVERYwhere on the Destruction side. I guess that could be true, although I’ve seen a lot of everything at this point. I can’t imagine this one tank class being the overwhelming favorite at launch — but then, Warriors dominated WoW, so why not? Just not for me, not right now at least.

Servers Galore

Preview weekend this might be for us, but for Mythic, it’s stress test central. They’re introducing more players on these servers than have ever existed before, and since the Herald keeps announcing new servers being brought online almost hourly, I’m guessing it’s going to push them to the limits. How many servers do you suppose Mythic has in stock for WAR? One of WoW’s greatest failings at launch was lacking enough server capacity and numbers, but servers aren’t cheap, and you don’t want to have to buy more than you’ll need.

I don’t want to list all the servers right now, I’m sure someone more bored than I will help you with that, but they all seem to be named after places in Warhammer. I even spied with my little eye an Oceanic server. Why can’t they call it Pacifica? New Zealand and Associates?

Whiners Incorporated

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them all and then you have the “I don’t LIKE this!” comments in evaluating WAR. Two of WAR’s biggest features — Public Quests and the Tome of Knowledge — have gotten knocked around in the past few days, which kind of boggles me.

PQ’s have a couple persistent complaints: one, that the higher level PQs take forever to do and even longer to grind out enough influence to top the meter and get the best loot, and two, that the loot bag rolls (which are random) coupled with the contribution scores (which are fixed but reported to be manipulated) are rarely fair to those who put in the most effort into winning.

It’s a loot system that takes a little of column A (your character’s contribution) and column B (a random roll to offset potential manipulation or dps/healing domination), and leaves nobody entirely happy. Personally, I’m just ducky with it. It’s a bit random and a bit predictable, and since I view the influence rewards as what I’m primarily going for with the slot machine loot roll as an occasional bonus, it’s water off my feathery back. Trust me, people would be complaining a LOT more if it was 100% contribution and nothing else — certain careers would simply own PQs, and there would be no end to the fighting, arguing and gimp-calling.

The Tome of Knowledge complaint puzzles me even more. The reasoning behind it goes that some players just don’t care for the achievements, unlocks, lore, expanded quest text and so on, and they’re pretty annoyed that the Tome keeps chiming in all the time (especially during your first few days of play, when you’re racking up new Tome unlocks every other minute or so) with info they don’t want. Personally, I love the Tome. It’s a bit eye-opening to see that there will be three factions in the playerbase: those that love it like I do, those that are ambivalent, and those that are irritated by the popups. I think once you strip away the Tome and lore and flavor text and fluff, you end up with more of the system than the game — you strip away the soul, in other words.

But that’s how some folk want to play, and along those lines, I don’t think it’d hurt Mythic to put in an option to disable the Tome popups, as long as the Tome kept doing its thing anyway. Make them happy, fine. I’ll still pity them, however.

Videodrome

Lots of folk, including half of the blogroll over to the right there (it seems), have been recording and uploading gameplay videos this week. They’re popular, particularly with the “We can’t play yet!” crowd. That’s understandable — it chafes you can’t play yet, or you don’t have the time to explore everything, and watching videos becomes an addicting little pastime.

Personally, I feel they spoil the game, especially pre-launch. Ever since starting to write about WAR, I’ve dug into all sorts of articles, interviews and so on… but I’ve never been too attracted to gameplay videos. Watching clips of someone else playing a game is weird, like watching movies of other people driving before you get your license. It’s not the same thing, and it steals away a bit of that newness, that first time experience doing something. You may want to be spoiled, and that’s your choice, but if you come back a month or so from now feeling like WAR is a little… less… than you’d anticipated, and you don’t know fully why, perhaps it’s because you’re playing something you saw on TV once.

I’m not bashing my fellow bloggers/amateur filmmakers — they’ve put in a lot of thankless time doing these videos for the community, and for some, they’re very much of a godsend. I just want to advise restraint as well… I think there is such a thing as too much information, especially when it’s concerning something you’re anticipating.

That’s all that’s bubbling through my head tonight. Time to log on and test out the Magus a bit more!

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WAR Has Yet To Begin

August 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.

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Post-NDA Day Two: The Empire Strikes Back

August 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.