Wednesday, August 20, 2008
There has been a lot of reporting that in the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning beta the Destruction side consistently outnumbered the Order side on all beta servers. I've been playing on both US and Euro beta servers, and I can confirm that observation. On the other hand I must say that the more people got invited, the better balanced the realms got. And I'm not prepared to swear yet that Destruction will remain the stronger side in the release version.
The problem here is that beta testers are not a representative sample of the general population. Hardcore players are more likely to sign up for a beta than casual players. It is still completely possible that WAR attracts a large number of casual players who prefer to play humans or high elves, just because they are prettier, or because they are "good". If you saw the new WAR cinematic trailer, it did show off some very cool Destruction character abilities, like the squig herder summoning a big squig that eats him and the herder controls it from the inside (and YES, that is an actual game feature). But the background voice was telling the WAR lore from the side of Order, asking people to defend the lands against the forces of chaos. In World of Warcraft prettier races are played more often than ugly or stunted ones, and I don't think that preference will be much different in WAR.
WAR is somewhat special in that anything you do in PvE can have an effect on the RvR control of your current zone. Thus a large number of casual players just doing PvE quests or public quests for Order can still end up controlling the zones, even if Destruction for is winning more PvP battles. So Destruction is still far from winning the WAR, even if they were more numerous in beta.
Of course imbalance is imbalance, regardless of which side wins by being more numerous. And in a game like WAR, where losing the RvR means getting your capital city plundered, there is a risk that any initial imbalance gets worse with time, because losing players reroll on the winning side. So Mythic should balance realms very early in the game. Only they haven't said how they are going to do that. It is very hard to force people to play a side they don't want to. And if you try to balance things by making the losing side stronger, you get the perverse effect that you reward people for losing, and punish them for winning. This is not an easy problem. We'll have to wait and see how this will work out.