Warhammer Online has just too much content. I think back to pre-release, and the announcement that Mythic had cut 4 cities, and the player outcry of “oh now we will just be repeating the same city all the time, boring”. Funny how truly off that sentiment was.
For those who played closed beta, and now play the release version of WAR, you know how different the two play. Beta played far close to the ‘vision’ (small v) of Warhammer Online than what we see on most servers today, with the majority of players stuck in scenario loops striving for some magical end-game (hint, it’s basically the same game at Rank 10 as it is at 40), leaving most of the Open RvR and PQs empty, and the overall world feeling far less populated than it really is. In beta players played to experience the best content, release is a treadmill to rank 40.
Now part of that different between beta and release is due to the type of players generally found in beta, who tend to be bigger MMO fans and ‘get’ the genre a bit more. Thanks to WoW, the ultra-casuals far outnumber the hardcore, or even the relative casual fan, and the majority of players now don’t read message boards, follow patch notes, or understand an MMO past what is directly in front of them. At best they might pick up on a flavor of the month through guild chat. As a result, we get the ‘sheep’ mentality in major MMOs today, were the crowd follows whatever path is set for them and is perceived as the easiest and most accessible. (welfare epics in WoW, scenarios in WAR)
And while I’m right there on cursing the ultra-casual for ruining ‘my’ MMO experience, the truth is they do more good than harm. The sheep fund the big budgets of current AAA MMOs, giving us higher production values, more visibility, and overall higher quality games. Until the next new shiny comes along, and MMOs go out of fashion, they are here to stay, so it’s up to the developers to herd the sheep and manage them better than WAR currently has. Mythic made the mistake of thinking fun gameplay would be picked over mindless grind, and as a result we have the current scenario issue. You can’t nerf scenarios directly, because then you risk upsetting the sheep, and instead of altering their style of play, they might just pick up and leave. Instead you have to guide them better, and the less content you have, the easier it is to guide them.
If WAR had just two tiers, instead of four, and only one racial pairing, instead of three, it would be a much better game. Give tier one the same three scenarios it has now, and give tier two a choice of six. Tier one has Keeps, but the smaller variety, and tier two has the bigger Keeps, along with the whole end-game setup. Guide players along a pre-set path, with PQs along the way (increase the number of PQs per chapter, but extend the length of each chapter as well), and make the switch over from tier one to tier two more ‘dramatic’. In essence, tier one is clearly the ‘build up’ tier, and as soon as you are in tier two, you have arrived at the end-game.
This limits the spread of players, while still keeping the overall number down to avoid 300v300 battles at the end. (cool in theory, impossible in practice, see EVE Online fleet combat) And while you have less choices on where to level, how many PQs you can do, and how many zones you can see, considering most players only see one scenario per tier, this won’t really hurt. It should actually INCREASE the amount of content, as more PQs and open RvR should be usable and available to players.
In the end, you can blame the sheep all we want, but unless you are willing to play a niche MMO (which are great in some ways, no knock on those), the sheep are here to stay, and it’s up to the developers to herd them correctly, putting their ultra-casual noses right under the content you want them in. The sheep are lead to ‘greener’ pastures, and the bigger MMO fans get to play the game we envisioned all along.
And in case you feel this post is directed at you, the fact that you are reading an MMO blog disqualifies you from the ultra-casual ranks. Sorry.