Warhammer Online: The more Mythic talks, the less hope I have.

Too much stuff going on today that I want to talk about, and on a Friday no less.

Jeff Hickman from Mythic talked at GDC about Warhammer Online and what he believes are some of the mistakes made with the game. While I don’t directly disagree with his three flaws, especially that making PvE braindead easy was a mistake; I don’t think WAR would be any more successful if Mythic had fixed all those issues on day one. Even if the PvE challenge was spot on, the economy was as awesome as EVE’s, and players were happily grouping and socializing like it was 2001 EQ, they would all still hit rank 40, see T4 RvR, and 75% would leave.

Now unless the article fails to mention him talking about RvR (and if he did, the writer should be fired), that aspect is not even addressed. Everything in the game is designed to prepare or filter you into RvR, ESPECIALLY the end-game city RvR, and despite almost everyone agreeing that it’s the weakest part of the game, it does not make the list of issues with WAR? When people think of WAR, they think RvR. When the RvR is broken, is it any wonder your game is struggling? That would be like if WoW had a terrible PvE game but had fun PvP and a great economy; would anyone care?

The biggest shame with WAR is that overall it’s a good game crippled by one major flaw. The graphics are very solid, the sound is good, it has one of if not THE best IPs in the fantasy space, and it’s combat system is in a good place between the hardcore system of a game like DarkFall and the easy combat of WoW. But hey, none of that is going to keep people around for 6+ months when your leveling is fast and soon everyone is at the cap and looking to do one thing; RvR. Why are you talking about the economy, the PvE, or how PQs are going to be in all MMOs going forward when day in day out people are leaving because of one thing and one thing only, Tier 4 RvR? Absurd.

I would bet that a large number of those who left WAR would love to come back if T4 was fixed, as I doubt many really burned out on the game, or even got to see it in action the few times the stars aligned and T4 worked. I’m also guessing not many quit because the economy was weak (gold has zero meaning in WAR, but does anyone even care? The MMO space already has a themepark where one of the rides is running an auction house mod, and other games with actual economies for players to test themselves on, wtf is WAR going to add here?), or players who quit because the PvE balance was off. Sure fixing those would be a nice side bonus, but it’s not the make or break issue here!

I believe more than any other MMO, WAR could easily pull off a comeback and get back to respectable subscription numbers, but that won’t happen until the needed miracle patch truly fixes T4 RvR. Until then, Mythic can tweak animations, PvE, the economy, and add in countless live events, and continue to watch as WAR slowly bleeds dead. But hey, PQs are going to be in WoW soon, huge win Mythic…

22 Responses to Warhammer Online: The more Mythic talks, the less hope I have.

  1. PTD says:

    Frankly, I don’t see WAR being able to bounce back. It’s not just T4 that’s the problem. If anything, that’s an issue with the more hardcore element, and they have better games to fulfill their wishes. (Darkfall, EVE) The more casual players, who are who you NEED to really rise up, are turned off by WAR as well. It’s not just that the PvE is easy in WAR, it’s flat out bad. Boring, rote, been there, done that. Sure, PQs are a nice diversion, but without players around to do them with, they turn into an endless cycle of Part I and Part II over and over again.

    And though the Scenarios are great fun at first, after you’ve run the same zerg fest 10 times in a row it starts to wear on you. So what are you to do? The same Scenarios over and over, or boring, bland, easy PvE?

    In WoW, I was always taken in by the new zones I saw, the new places to explore. Though WAR is beautiful, and active, there is something dead about it when compared to WoW. I wish I could put my finger on what it is, but I can’t. WoW manages to be immersive, while WAR is plastic and lifeless.

    You might say things like objectives on the map are innovative, but they kill the PvE. I found myself checking the map for red, heading that way and looking for what I needed. I wasn’t exploring a world, I was following a trail of breadcrumbs.

    I don’t know, I wish I could be more concise in my objections to WAR, but I can’t. Something is just off, in PvE I felt more like I was in a shooting gallery attacking 2d cutouts than I EVER did in WoW.

  2. sid67 says:

    it’s combat system is in a good place between the hardcore system of a game like DarkFall and the easy combat of WoW.

    This made me chuckle. Not because it’s untrue, but because in WoW, I hit 4 buttons pretty regularly. In WAR, I hit about 6 buttons.

    At first I thought, umm.. that’s not much harder. Then I thought about it like a marketer. So what is that? A 50% increase in difficulty? LOL.

    I don’t know, I wish I could be more concise in my objections to WAR, but I can’t. Something is just off

    You are absolutely right, it’s a good game but something is off. And it’s the “fix” that absolutely eludes me.

    I don’t have a problem coming up with things that suck in T4, I just can’t think of any reasonably good way to fix them.

  3. Frank says:

    The problem is the context of this talk, which was about “moving out of the box”, talking to developers about moving from a single player model to monetizing a multiplayer one. Could Jeff have chosen better topics to discuss? Probably, but the article’s title belies what was actually supposed to be discussed.

    Thing is, you look at this talk, and then at the recent Producer’s letters, all of which mention the problems you and others talk about (one letter which was written by Hickman himself), then look at this and see there’s a disconnect. It’s because the talk wasn’t supposed to be about those things necessarily. Besides, talking to your peers and potential competitors about how you plan on addressing shortcomings? That’s almost proprietary right there.

    I’m not necessarily in agreement with what Jeff chose to talk about, but there are a bunch of people out there screaming that because of his choices he’s out of touch with what the real problems are, which is silly considering the evidence in recent communications.

  4. Autumnn says:

    @PTD What kills the immersion in WAR for me is the discontinuity of the game world. Talk to the flight master and you’ll get a generic cutscene of you flying away and then a loading screen while you instantaneously appear halfway around the world. Travel in WoW can be annoying, but AFKing while you make those long ass flights actually ADDS to the immersion factor.

    I don’t know. I really like WAR–or I really want to like WAR–but it’s missing something and the populations have really fallen below that critical mass that you need to make the worlds feel alive.

    • Malakili says:

      I don’t think thats where WAR fails though. I mean sure, loading screens are meh, but fun gameplay makes up for a loading screen. The problem is, at max level, WAR just really isn’t all that fun. I’ll admit I only played for 3 months or so after release, so if things have drastically changed, I’ll eat my words, but, the end game is a soul crushing RP and loot grind, just replace the standard PvE exp + loot grind with a PvP exp + loot grind.

      Thats not how to do PvP, thats where they went wrong in my opinion. I think it would take a pretty drastic restructuring to change it away from that, as their progression is basically what their end game is built around, but its just so incredibly mediocre, hum drum, run of the will, average, whatever else you want to say.

    • Stratagerm says:

      Autumnn, I had a similar reaction, and I wrote about WAR’s map flaws in http://gamegenus.blogspot.com/2009/09/game-worlds-and-geographic-realism.html.

  5. heartless_ says:

    I guarantee that most players didn’t see 90% of the game world in Tier 3 and 4. Mythic dumped everyone into Tier 4 RvR so quickly that there was a massive world out there waiting to be explored and for the most part it went by the wayside because there was nothing driving the players there.

    The failure of WAR is not the RvR, it is the fact that it was several different games patched together. Yes, RvR feels like this disconnected mess, but so did every other aspect of the game.

  6. Solar says:

    My casual experience.

    Fun:
    – beautiful world, great classes
    – T1 questing, RvR and scenarios

    Annoying features:
    – game promised “War Everwhere” which was a lie
    (only war in RvR regions, and even that was rare)
    – too many incentives to play scenarios
    (this emptied the world)
    – objectives in RvR poorly thought out
    (which was supposed to be the core game)

    Game breaking features:
    – not enough people in T3 to do PQs and RvR
    (this caused me to quit)

  7. Nelson says:

    I’m relatively new to Warhammer, my first character just hit R39. I’ve been enjoying T4 RvR a lot but I was lucky enough to find a guild that plays it well. It’s fun being organized enough to crush a zerg twice your size.

    What frustrates me about Warhammer is how buggy it is. “You cannot see your target” errors popping up randomly. People gliding through the air. Crushing lag in large fights. NPCs that path incorrectly, every single time. Quests with bugged collection nodes, or bugged NPCs to turn in, or bugged monsters you can’t hit inside walls. UI bugs all over everywhere. “Supply line are strained” when you’re trying to defend a fortress. It’s embarrassing for a game a year after launch to be so unreliable.

    It’s a fun game, but I’m beginning to fear the technology bugs are so serious they’re unfixable.

  8. Bhagpuss says:

    Solar above is close to my feelings, too.

    I think the WAR world is glorious. It’s absolutely packed with detail, humor and quirks that repayt hour upon hour of exploring. I spent more time just riding around looking at stuff than anything other than scenarios.

    Unfortunately, it looks like the super-detailed background world has been wrenched out of an offline RPG and used as a backdrop for next to no actual content whatsoever. I actuyally liked the PvE a lot, in the sense that I enjoyed the fights as much as or more than I do in most MMOs, but there was rarely any purpose to the fighting.

    Scenarios are great for a while, but have the same effect as eating a bag of boiled sweets (or hard candy if you prefer). Very enjoyable to start with, but you always end up having too much of a good thing and feeling slightly sick.

    I only got to T3, so I can’t comment personally on the T4 PvP, but it looked hideously like early DAOC to me, which is enough to make me run in the opposite direction. T3 was dreadful, too.

  9. Inktomi says:

    I don’t know if you got my comment, why how did the WAR economy miss its mark as Jeff Hickman stated. I never played WAR and would be interested to know. I have heard alot about the RVR mechanic, but if the economic model fails then the game is lacking a strong undercurrent.

    I guess since they tried so hard to alleviate the goldfarmers, who unfortunately are a part of mmo economies (doesn’t make it right, just reality) they threw the baby out with the bathwater.

    I really hope this game survives, for the dedicated players like yourselves. I hate to read about companies shutting down servers.

    • sid67 says:

      Several reasons. The first is that the Auction House was one of the last things included in the Beta (like a week before release) and it was poorly implemented. Likewise, the mailbox system was very slow and difficult to use for large mailings.

      So that’s the first reason. The combination of the two made the ability to buy/trade both difficult and time consuming. I was frustrated enough by it that I actually even wrote an addon to improve the AH experience.

      The second reason is related to the crafting. Other games have a very robust crafting system that require specific loot drops. WAR went with a crafting system that required several materials from several categories. The idea being that you can pick your own seed, pot, water and see what pops up.

      Sounds cool, but it only “pops up” into one of four to six things. Considering the source materials come in 20+ varieties, that’s a bit silly. And it’s actually painful when you consider the inventory management problems it causes for the players.

      Thirdly, the crafted items were of relatively little gameplay value. So you have this screwed up crafting system and this screwed up auction house system for very little reward.

      So effectively, the only reason to even use the AH system ends up being to buy-sell weapons and armor. Neither of which come from crafting but from drops. And even here, there isn’t much in the way of item variety.

      • Nelson says:

        To Mythic’s credit, they have addressed most of these problems. Mail and the AH are still slow and clunky, but a bit more usable. Crafting was totally revamped to be simpler and more useful: selling talismans is now a reasonable economic activity. And they added a special crafting-only bag to make inventory management a bit simpler. It’s still not great, but it’s not entirely broken. It’s funny for me to see Champions Online repeat the same mistakes. I think neither game wants to be economic at its core, it’s just an afterthought.

        Elsewhere folks commented that Aion may well gut the remaining Warhammer player base. That wouldn’t surprise me at all, but we’ll have to see if Aion lives up to the hype.

  10. I actually left WAR because the game became incredibly dull around T3. I didn’t even make it to T4. I want some decent PVE to keep me ticking over and I ended up soloing incredibly boring quests whilst queueing for silly repetitive scenarios that people farmed just to get exp.

  11. pitrelli says:

    I am pretty gutted that things are going bad to worse for WAR, dont get me wrong its not the game for me but IMO the developers seem to be constantly going down the wrong path.

    Perhaps with Aion being released they will get there finger out and make WAR the game it threatens to be……. for its sake I hope its soon. Death by Aion would be a tad embarrassing

    • Whether Aion works long term or not, I wouldn’t be surprised if it pulls away a lot of current WAR players who have hung in there by default as it assumes the “best thing out there that isn’t WoW” mantle.

  12. I don’t think WAR will EVER recover.

    This isn’t going to be another EVE story. Where for years the developers continue to work on the game and slowly and surely they build up their player base.

    It’s sad really.

    It makes me wonder, if WAR bleeds all the money and talent out of Mythic and eventually has to close because of it, what would happen with DaoC and UO?

  13. Dink says:

    The game still has terrible lag after all this time. I played in beta, subbed, quit after 1 month, resubbed after 1.6 patch.

    Why I quit:
    – latency is terrible (click to combat time is bad)
    – class balance is way off (AOE damage too high, bright wizards are too strong, the paladin melee class is over powered)
    – there is too much crowd control (if you get hit, chances are you won’t be able to respond) This is real bad.

    Things I did like:
    Player quests, leveling through pvp or pve, nice class diversity.

  14. skarbd says:

    People talk about fixing Tier 4, yet struggle to quantify the issues and then put forward rational solutions which address the problems, which intern don’t create further problems.

    Let’s be honest, if it was an easy fix, it would have been done by now.

  15. Adam says:

    Having played pretty t4 pretty hard I came to the conclusion that –

    The cities should be completely gotten rid of… not tweaked just gotten rid of.

    They are the -worst- zones for lag in the game, why is the endgame staged there? Who made that call? “lets do 48v48 instead of redoing the geometry etc.” WTF

    One large zone something like taking Praag with West Praag (add an East Praag with those two so its -large-). Have capturable holdable objectives that multiple endgame guilds and all their players could take and hold. This would be real RVR and would require the endgame guilds (ie the faction) to actually coordinate in a real way.

    But my fix was to just switch to Darkfall :D

    • Adam says:

      Oh and if the engine could handle it (it can’t) you could patch in a “third faction” (this is what Aion does) with spawning Skaven hordes to balance against overwhelming zergs.

  16. n0th says:

    This post really nails it.

    Any PvP in WAR with more than 12vs12 participants is just mindless button mashing due to lag, OP AoE (hello Morale 4) and OP CC.
    Forts suck; Altdorf/UV sucks badly (Beyond Step1 anyway since its horrible PvE and as of now you don’t get there in the first place).

    Having said that you actually CAN have fun in T4, depending on situation. You just need to keep it smallscale.
    The occasional solo ganking/duels is fun (then again the skill cap is rather low). Group oRvR/SC premades can be fun depending on who you’re facing.
    Then there’s actually some hope that they will fix CC (introducing DaoC-like mezz).

    Overall to me WAR is still playable, and i’ll stick around till there are other options (probably when Mortal Online launches, if its not a complete failure)

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