“Dude, that game is so 2004”, and other WAR comments.

Reading some of the early Open Beta feedback, one thing struck me as a bit curious, and I wanted to write about it here in the hopes that someone can explain it to me. Why is 2008 so different from 2004?

What I mean is, why are people saying that Warhammer Online would have been nice in 2004, but in 2008 it’s ‘not enough’? And I don’t mean the people who don’t like WAR for whatever cool-aid infused reasons, I’m talking about the people who played it, had fun, and will continue to play it, but will do so under the doom and gloom of ‘I won’t like it for long’.

It’s not about the graphics, because WAR is generally an upgrade over WoW, and about as much as you can expect in four years when your main goal is performance > looks. WoW had EQ2, WAR has AoC, and we all know how that story plays out. It runs well on ‘average’ machines, even during RvR battles, and that all along has been the mission statement. Same goes for sound, servers, stability, and all other ‘tech’ issues, I don’t think anyone is super underwhelmed with the tech behind WAR.

Many people are stating that generally accepted MMO design features (holy trinity, hotbars, global cooldown combat, having fun) are old and need to go. It’s time for really ‘next gen’ stuff like… um… no hotbars or classes, instant (but balanced and non-twitch) combat, deep PvP that attracts a mature (not AoC mature) and very un-PvP crowd, and we want all that wrapped in a niche setting with a multi-million dollar budged behind it. Oh and no established IP to lure investment dollars, we want totally new fiction that is new and awesome and ‘matters’.

Sarcasm aside (it’s Monday, deal), why is a game that was fun in 2004 no longer fun in 2008? Why did that game in 2004, that did nothing for the genre other than add polish (which was as huge a step forward as any) get a ‘no innovation’ pass, yet in 2008, when handed another game that hits it’s marks, brings polish and a twist (PvP > PvE focus), some scream bloody murder?

“Oh but its 2008, we have been playing MMOs for years”. True, just like in 2004, when some of us had been playing MMOs for years. Just like DAoC was the PvP EQ, WAR is the PvP WoW. Was there ‘no innovation’ being chanted during the DAoC beta? Did people cry out that Mythic was developing ‘yet another fantasy MMO’? Had Bartle already played DAoC, but it was called EQ Rallos Zek?

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Age of Conan, beta, Combat Systems, Dark Age of Camelot, EQ2, MMO design, PvP, Ultima Online, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to “Dude, that game is so 2004”, and other WAR comments.

  1. Thallian says:

    :P well I dunno. I am in no position to judge WAR yet having only played a couple times in Open Beta, yet, if they don’t polish it some more I’ll be a bit disappointed. WoW has smoother, funner combat. As far as scenarios go, they at least have more variety and the auto leveling mechanic is nice for people to just jump in and not care. I wonder how it will work at end game when its not the level but your gear that’s the issue… I’d say I’m reservedly optimistic. I’ll give it some optimism, but I have some reservations about some things.

  2. sid67 says:

    Well, I don’t agree with the 2004 vs. 2008 sentiment. If the game is fun, the game is fun. That being said, I do think I get where part of this comes from. To me, the game doesn’t feel that much more visually advanced than WoW and in some ways it’s inferior. It’s not really graphic quality, but immersion. This was my original WAR preview impression that I wrote on my blog:

    Immersion – Graphics
    This is tricky, but despite the game having better “graphics” than WoW, I felt that they were less fluid or connected. When I say connected, I don’t mean to the game world but to me (personally) as the player. It’s hard to pinpoint, but something just seemed to be missing.

    Cartoonists use a technique called exaggeration to avoid a phenomenon called the uncanny valley. The theory of the valley is that if an animated character is sufficiently non-humanlike, then the humanlike characteristics generate empathy that makes them visually appealing (awww – isn’t that cute!). However, if the character is too humanlike, then the non-human characteristics will be the ones that stand out and it will feel “strange” to the viewer. Ironically, the better the imitation of reality, the more likely they are to fall into this uncanny valley.

    Stylistically, WoW is often considered “cartoony” when compared to other MMOs. WAR has a much grittier sense of realism. Graphically, it’s far superior to WoW, but that sense of realism makes it more difficult to have an empathic connection with the animated avatar. From an immersion standpoint, I didn’t feel as connected with the game world (through my avatar) as I do in WoW.

    That being said, within a couple of hours of play, I did get used to it and started to feel like I was part of the Warhammer world. In an unexpected way, the sense of community that WAR fosters with the RvR and Public Quests actually offsets the unconnected feeling. For this reason, I didn’t find the early lack of connection to be a deal-breaker since it mostly passes. I mention it mostly because if you are a WoW player, you WILL notice it.

    I honestly believe that if this game was as immersive as WoW that this complaint would largely go away. It’s hard to consider a game more advanced when a game 4 years older feels as immersive.

    Although it’s not entirely fair either because WoW is NOT truly four years old. It has gotten several animation overhauls, graphic engine overhauls, introduce new quest types and significantly improved the UI through a series of four year’s worth of patches. None of these improvements individually are all that great, but taken collectively as a whole the game has been progressed and polished quite a bit since 2004. The problem is that people aren’t comparing it to 2004 WoW but to 2008 WoW.

  3. Tipa says:

    Um, LOTS of people called DAoC a EQ clone. It was entirely different, but still felt a lot like EQ to me. Same mobs standing around waiting to die. Same dungeons (and by same I mean, they all looked pretty much the same. They even reused dungeons between realms). I liked DAoC, but it was kind of frustrating being in the middle of a battle and watching your party die to a stealther that you could never see, making it impossible to retaliate. All you could do is just die.

    Also, it felt kind of lame that the realms could never declare peace. No matter how many battles you won or how much you might like to ally with one realm to take the third, enemies were always prevented from speaking to you and always enemies. What’s the point of fighting if it can never end in peace? It’s just psychopathic to fight eternally for no reason — like in Eddison’s “The Worm Ouroborous”, where when the good guys win and are given a wish in reward, they wish to have the bad guys resurrected so they can start fighting again.

    That said, when you have thousands of people playing a game, you’re gonna have thousands of opinions about it. I doubt there’s two people that, having played the game, have identical feelings about WAR. It’s just this year’s shiny. Next year everyone will be excited about something else.

    Maybe Darkfall (if it comes out) will give PvP peeps something to have fun with. Darkfall PvP makes Warhammer PvP look like competition hopscotch.

  4. Openedge1 says:

    Best answers

    “But, I already did that…in 2004”
    or
    “Been there, done that?”
    or
    “You can’t go back”
    or
    the best

    “Because it is 2008”

    Why keep playing the same thing.

    I tried, my wife tried. We wanted to like WAR and feel what WoW did for us in the past.
    It did not work. We saw WoW when we played WAR.

    We already played that.

    How many games with a story on a console have you played?
    Lets say Oblivion.
    Once you play and complete that story…how many times can you go back and play it again?
    OVER and OVER.
    Now, Two Worlds comes out. Looks almost the same, plays almost the same…

    Which would you rather play?

    I went back to Oblivion.

    People will go back to WoW…eventually.

    Myself, I will be taking an extended break now from the “MMO” genre in it’s original state. No more WoW, EQ2, Vanguard, WAR, etc.
    Lets see if I can accept that playstyle again when the new games come in 2009 that do it the same as those games from 2004…

    Who knows…maybe I can kick that habit. And maybe…just maybe the Devs at THAT time will take a chance on something new…

  5. Wilhelm2451 says:

    I’m not sure what is difficult to understand about the 2004 vs. 2008 concept.

    Around 2004 a few games came out, most notable amongst them being EQ2 and WoW, that made the games already out, EQ, AC, and to some extent DAoC, feel clunky and out dated. When I stared in on EQ2 it felt like five years of progress had been made. It was very difficult for a lot of people to go back to those older games. They weren’t made unplayable, they didn’t shrivel up and die, but they felt their age. I’ve written more than once about going back to play EQ. It is still fun, but I’ve grown used to the improvements in the genre that have come since, and no amount of retro fitting can make EQ as smooth as EQ2 or WoW.

    Now WAR comes along in 2008. Does it feel better than WoW or EQ2? I know whole raiding guilds who came over to WoW and swore off EQ forever. Will people make that same statement for WAR based on the way it plays, the features, the look and feel?

    The real question you should be asking is, “Is such an expectation fair?” Being in tech, you get used to things being newer, better, faster all the time. But have other game genres jumped ahead lately in the same way that MMOs did in the move from 1999 to 2004? Have they jumped more than once? Look at the FPS or RTS market. Jumps or incremental? Heck, look outside of the game market. What has word processing software done for us lately?

    It is quite possible that the class of 2004 represented a “one every twenty years” sort of leap and that we might just see much slower progress for some time to come.

    You cannot blame WAR for that, but it will still be their cross to bear. Timing is everything.

  6. mandrill says:

    The thing is that people want something different. Yes WAR is fun, it plays well and the visuals are a step up from WoW but it doesn’t play any differently. The mechanic is the same, the grind is (or will be) the same, and the quests are the same. Its the same ideas wrapped up in a nice new package with some new ones tacked on. Its not revolutionary, its not groundbreaking, and its not new.

    My first impression when I finally managed to get on the European server this evening (don’t get me started on that farce) was ‘Oh its pretty, but it plays like WoW’ NO doubt there’s more depth to the gampelay made possible by RvR and the many different ways you can participate in PvP, but it still plays like WoW.

    Time for something different, new and innovative, and the only way you’re going to get that is if it doesn’t have millions of dollars riding on its success. Look at Love and tell me its not interesting and challenging and innovative. That’s one guy, with no money, who’s doing it in his spare time. Love and other things like it is where the industry should be aiming.

    Think about it; a box can only hold so much money, but outside the box is a whole other story.

  7. mandrill says:

    you might want to fix the link in that last post, it seems I forgot an after love in the third paragraph. Sorry, its late and I’m tired. feel free to delete this comment.

  8. syncaine says:

    But that’s really my point Tipa, DAoC was NOT an ‘evolution’ over EQ, and yet when all was said and done, does anyone view the two as similar? Does anyone care about the PvE of DAoC, or does anyone mention EQ PvP in a positive way?

    What made DAoC special at the time had very little to do with any similarity to EQ, what everyone remembers is that small ‘tweak’ of taking PvP and organizing it. WAR makes that small ‘tweak’ and gives WoW a working PvP engine. The list of ‘different’ MMOs is quite long, almost as long as the list of cancelled MMOs.

    And Wilhelm, already plenty of rather notable (if that means anything) guilds have moved from WoW, especially PvP oriented ones. But that happens for almost any major MMO. And in 2004, in the WoW beta, was anyone saying ‘this is the new gold standard’? Did anyone think that removing the suck from EQ would be enough to raise the standard 20x times, from hundreds of thousands to millions? Remember that before beta, everyone was predicting a major failure for Blizzard, being so ‘stupid’ to launch an MMO at the same time that EQ2 was coming out, ESPECIALLY since EQ2 had such ‘awesome’ tech behind it, and it was coming from the ‘masters’ at SOE…

    2004 was not a ‘one in twenty year’, that was 1997 with UO, which pushed MUDs into the mainstream and birthed MMO gaming. Why we expect WAR to be UO I don’t quite understand, but how WAR not being UO makes it any less fun is even more confusing.

  9. coppertopper says:

    Even if you grabbed the best features of every MMO released since 1997 (EQ/UO), would you have a next gen MMO worthy of 2008? No but you would have a fantastic fantasy MMO, and it would still use the same general formula as EQ. You can mess with the variables, like WAR has done, but its the same formula at the heart. Kill stuff, loot for gear upgrades and money, boost your stats, rinse repeat. Maybe WoW dumbed down the genre so much, and devs are so busy trying to ride that bandwagon, that we just need a stat heavy slower paced fantasy MMO a la EVE.

    “From an immersion standpoint, I didn’t feel as connected with the game world (through my avatar) as I do in WoW. ”

    This is the only disconnect for me as well. I miss that feeling you get while walking thru Goldshire or Stormwind, where the environment, the buildings, and your avatar all seem pulled from the brush of a single artist. WAR doesn’t have that same cohesiveness (and I have everything on max settings), and some of the building interiors are ridiculous – like something you would build from legos. Although at the same time, the open RvR areas and actual outdoor environment design seem to work well – lots of obstacles to keep out of LOS of your enemies.

  10. Mikey58 says:

    Would love to be able to make some comments on the game, ut the only comment I can make is that GOA have completely screwed the pre-order CE PAYING CUSTOMERS. I am now beginning to hate this game before I even get to play.
    .

  11. *vlad* says:

    That 2004 game is just as fun in 2008, but nobody plays it any more.
    It’s a bit like shopping; things look better on the shop shelf than they do in your home.

    Once you have bought X, all the excitement and anticipation that you had dies away, and is replaced by a craving for something else.

    That’s the reason why people buy Madden 2008, when they already bought Madden 2000-2007.

    Check any blogger, and they will be more excited by games that they are going to play in the future, than any game they are playing now.

  12. Talyn says:

    Maybe it’s just that I’ve never liked the Warhammer IP in general that I pretty much blew off WAR’s development until recently. Even now, though I am looking forward to seeing how the Casualties of WAR guild plays out, I can’t say that I’m looking forward to the game itself. But that’s because I *am* expecting a “2004” game, which is really just a refined and polished 1999 game. From EQ to WAR, everything is still first-generation. I’ve played these mechanics before, I know how everything works. I’m not expecting *the game* to hold my attention much at all, I’m *hoping* the community and guild can instead.

    I’m more excited about upcoming games (even if I don’t like or play the games themselves) such as the Agency, DC Universe, APB, etc. because they’re moving away from the first-gen Diku game and promising not only new systems and mechanics but entirely new experiences for this genre. That’s more exciting to me than “more of the same, but with Feature X.”

  13. Wilhelm2451 says:

    @Syncaine: So are you telling me “No, WoW and EQ2 did not perform, feel, act, respond better than the previous games?” Are you saying, “WAR performs, feels, acts, responds better than WoW or EQ2?”

    Because, in my mind, unless you’re making one of those two points, you’re not really refuting the 2004 vs, 2008 argument. We’re no longer talking about beta, btw. We’re about a week away from launch for WAR so what we are seeing now is only a few bug fixes short of the day one real thing.

    @*vlad*: That 2004 game is just as fun in 2008, but nobody plays it any more? Are you going to break the news to Blizzard? I mean, the last NPD sales report show them with three 2004 (and earlier) games on the top 10 sales chart.

  14. syncaine says:

    We are talking beta, considering a week ago NPC pathing was borked, then NPCs got stuck in the terrain, and now both are fixed (from my very limited experience last night anyway). Until Sunday, it’s beta, and after, well it’s an MMO, so it’s still beta :)

    EQ2 performed WORST than EQ1, so lets not use that example. It took how long for SOE to turn EQ2 into something playable? How many people/guilds, who worshiped EQ1, jumped ship shortly after launch?

    As for WoW, it had a slew of well documented (and often forgotten) issues at launch, both client and server side. Was it an evolution in game play over DAoC at the time, not really. It was better, yes, and EVENTUALLY became much much better, but in 2004 you could jump from DAoC to WoW and not do a complete 180. But that’s a bit unfair, considering that’s comparing a new game (WoW) to one already very well established and refined (DAoC).

    As for WAR vs WoW, I do in the same light I did in 2004 with WoW. The very fact that I know WAR was designed from day one for PvP lets me know that I will enjoy the PvP in WAR far more than I did in WoW, that WAR won’t do a 180 at Rank 40, that a great leveling game won’t turn into ‘raid or gtfo’. The strength Mythic has with WAR over Blizzard and WoW is they not only know how to make a great game (both companies have that going for them), they also understand the average MMO fan. With 40 man raids tacked on to a solo-friendly (although back then not as much) game, how well did Blizzard understand MMO endgame?

    My main issue with this whole ‘nothing new’ bitching is it’s coming from MMO burnouts, or people who themselves expected something else from WAR. I never expected Fantasy EVE Online from WAR, I EXPECTED WoW + RvR. I got my game, my expectations (so far) have been meet, Mythic delivered. Bitching that Mythic did not reinvent the MMO wheel, which was never their goal, is just a silly complaint to make IMO. They have a talented team with a big budget, and used it to further refine a great game (WoW) and put their trademark (great PvP) on it, while also giving us some new stuff (PQ, ToK, etc)

  15. Talyn says:

    Since WoW’s designers came from the EQ raid scene, I’d say they understood *that* end-game quite well. They designed their end-game that way. Unfortunately they made the mistake (then again, that mistake got them 11 million customers…) of having a leveling game that got everyone enjoying the game before pulling the bait and switch at level cap.

    A better question might be “will the *players* understand any other end-game?” Look how players bitch about EVERY other game out there that doesn’t focus absolutely on the EQ/WoW tradition of the raid progression treadmill, because that is what they’ve been weened on and that’s what they expect and want. LOTRO is about balancing a good amount of solo, small group and full group content. It *has* raids but is not *about* the raids. I’d be tempted to say the same about EQ2 but it’s been around long enough and has enough content to satisfy both camps. Vanguard focus is nearly identical to LOTRO’s but it still suffers from a lack of end-game content beyond a couple dungeons and one raid, so it’s difficult to make an absolute statement there.

    Again, I don’t necessarily feel people are upset or revolting over WAR itself, just that in general people are becoming very “been there, done that” after playing essentially the same game reskinned for a decade. WAR is just the first to have those complaints lodged against it. Every first-gen MMO that gets released after WAR will probably get it even worse. 38 Studios better be paying attention to this because if we’re bitching about WAR being “WoW again, 4 years later” just imagine the flame-fest if “Copernicus” is just “WoW again, 8 years later?”

  16. sid67 says:

    considering a week ago NPC pathing was borked, then NPCs got stuck in the terrain, and now both are fixed

    Off-topic, but maybe they didn’t fix this – they just made it a “target not attackable” problem instead. It occurred to me that the in a lot of cases, the unattackable mob behaves very similarly to how the NPC did when the pathing was borked. It may seem unrelated, but the way AI works in NPCs is that they use different states (i.e. determine which state they are in, then perform accordingly) to determine action. It’s totally reasonable that while fixing the perceived pathing problem, they introduced some unintended glitches into the state engine.

    My supposition is that they borked a state which caused NPCs to behave erratically and appear to have a pathing problem. Most likely, a temporary pre-combat state (facing or some such). They then “fixed” the issue, but flagged the mob as unattackable during this state as a fail-safe. The hope being that a brief moment of the mob being unattackable would allow it to sort things out. In most cases, this works out and pathing appears better. But in some cases, it still gets stuck in the original borked state – only now the mob is unattackable and it’s not for a “brief moment”.

    Just a wild ass theory, but in a weird way it would make me feel better to know that this is just an old bug that’s persistent rather than a new one introduced a week and a half before launch.

  17. syncaine says:

    When I said stuck in terrain, I meant unattackable. The patch yesterday fixed that as far as I could tell. My squig herder had zero issues with his pet. Again though, I only tested it for 10-15 minutes, so it might still be around.

    The overall point was that seemingly “zomg it needs months of work” issues are getting resolved rather quickly. Again the game is not perfect, but even by recent MMO standards, it’s in VERY good shape.

  18. sid67 says:

    That bug still existed last night as-of about 9pm PST.

  19. Oakstout says:

    What is a 2008 game? Has anyone seen one? The issue is, why do game developers continue to produce games that are stuck in 2004? Because the mass majority of players are only interested in WoW type games. Right? I mean, it’s not the number one selling MMO out there for nothing, and its still 2004.

    We die hard MMO players can say all we want, but the people making games aren’t making them for us, they are making them for mass appeal. Because they know, they will have us hooked, we are easy. Slap in a few end game type scenarios or make great loot. ad we will be lining up to play a game. Well, maybe not 10 million of us, but they aren’t trying to win all of us over, just a nice percentage. What they want are the people still hooked, still in love with WoW…a 2004 game.

    We might want something new and innovated, but that’s not what is selling to the public, it’s a 2004 game.

  20. Anon says:

    I heard from the rumor mill that pathing was great/just fine until 3.3 in closed beta and subsequently preview weekend where they added the mechanic for mobs to flee at low health which borked it. Not sure if its true but it would give some weight to the “state” issue being the culprit if it is true.

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