Warhammer is plagued by some rather terrible flaws, flaws that should have been tested in beta. The flaws have nothing to do with coding errors or graphical problems, but rather center around player actions and motivation. Warhammer Online’s biggest problem is the players are simply not playing it correctly.
Now before you go and post a “don’t blame the players” comment, relax and keep reading. On paper, everything in WAR works. In execution, each piece also works on its own. Scenarios are a noticeable improvement over WoW battlegrounds, PQs are a clever new way to implement PvE, and RvR is a ton of fun when players are battling over keeps or objectives, and truly does separate WAR from other MMOs in that regard. The engine supports PvP above and beyond what previous MMOs have done, and the balance is remarkable for a new MMO with so many class options and abilities.
The problem occurs when you put everything together, and then let MMO players enter the world and decide what they do next. Who could have predicted that contrary to the massive Alliance/Horde imbalance, WAR would feature the exact opposite? What happened to everyone wanting to be the knight in shining armor? Who could have predicted that in a game that starts at level one, rather than at the cap, players would STILL race towards the end regardless of anything around them, and do so in the most grind-like manner? (one scenario per tier)
Mythic coded an amazing game. They nailed the look and feel of the Warhammer IP, they had a great launch, and they continue to support the game at a rapid pace. What Mythic failed to do is provide enough motivation to herd players in the right direction, to guide them towards the great content they have provided. In today’s MMO market, it’s no longer enough just to provide quality content; you also have to guide your players to it. Take for instance open groups. Open groups make finding players for PQs or RvR rather simple, yet many players still don’t know about the /join command, or that you can look at all the open groups around you by clicking an icon. The best way to gather players is still to advertise in regional chat, and this clearly shows the general lack of awareness by players. Lairs are another example of wasted content. Instead of being explored and discovered by players, lairs go largely ignore, not because they are not entertaining (they are), but because the players are not guided to them. (Which is the design point of lairs, to be found by explorers, but clearly catering to the explorer means you exclude the masses)
It’s safe to say Mythic is now aware of this rather dire problem, as the last two events have been a virtual hand-holding to guide players into content. The Witching Night brought RvR lakes to life, and now Heavy Metal directs players on a daily basis, be it towards a scenario, some PQs, or whatever else Mythic has planned. It’s a good first step, but it makes you wonder why it’s a step being taken a month after release, rather than something fleshed out and ready to go on day one. What would Mythic’s retention rate look like if more players have experienced a great keep battle before bolting towards more neon pastures?
Blizzard, masters of hand-holding, gave the MMO market an innovative step forward with daily instances (was Blizzard the first MMO to do this? It’s always dangerous saying Blizzard was the first to do anything…), but Mythic should ‘borrow’ the idea and take it a step further. As others have commented in the past, we need daily RvR lakes, or daily keeps, or even daily scenarios. Each day a new focus, something that drives the majority towards a single point. Fluff rewards are enough to drive players, so create an overall influence bar that runs for a month or so of time, and at each influence level hand out trophies, titles, whatever. Each month reset the bar, mix up the rewards, and continue to guide players. Save the major events for really game-changing stuff like new classes or major content updates.
Who would have guessed that the biggest problem facing WAR would not be content, bugs, or stability, but rather player motivation? Clearly not Mythic, but now lets just hope they move quickly to provide that motivation, and get players into the great content they already created.
And just for the record, I myself have not really experience the majority of the problems listed above. I’ve never had an issue finding a group for a PQ, I’ve seen plenty of RvR, and I’ve never been at a lack for content or something new. That said, Monolith seems to be a very well balanced server, and playing with Forsaken and CoW really helps, so I understand that my situation is somewhat different from the majority. I also understand how /join works, but that’s just elitist old me…