Tobold's Blog
Friday, August 08, 2008
WAR thoughts

As a disclaimer I must admit I'm a Paul Barnett fan, I do think that his boundless enthusiasm and qualities as a public speaker are something that the genre sorely needed. But being a fan of the man doesn't mean I'm completely convinced of his game yet. So here are my thoughts on the recent developments, as far as I can say things without breaking the NDA, but just referring to publicly available information.

I got the WAR July newsletter yesterday. It was late because the announcement of the WAR release date was only this week, and apparently they held back the newsletter to include it. In the newsletter another of the excellent WAR production videos explains how the game will be working with 2 cities instead of 6. That one convinced me. The 6 cities will in fact be replaced with 6 fortresses, and the two cities will be a "tier 5" level on top of that. And as the quests etc. from the cut 4 cities are moved into the remaining 2, we don't really lose any content here. I'm still not convinced that cutting 4 classes will have no negative consequences, but the 4 cut cities I can live without. As a general remark I think that this was a typical case of Mythic promising too much, and then being hit by fan disappointment when they couldn't deliver. One should be careful with promises.

So open beta will begin in August, the NDA will drop maybe as early as next week, and the game will be released on September 18, with early access already starting before. Both collectors edition and standard edition preorders will get early access, but probably a day or two more for the CE. As WAR has been delayed quite often, one has to ask the question: Is it ready this time?

My gut feeling on this, based on all what I read about the game, is that WAR is ready and relatively bug free, but the high-level content might not be complete yet. One strong hint for that is that the open beta has a level cap of 20, which to me sounds like a great device to keep people from finding out that content beyond that is lacking. Age of Conan had the same level cap in their open beta, and disappointed me after that level, although of course in AoC it was level 20 out of 80, while in WAR it's level 20 out of 40. There are no reports suggesting that WAR would be as bug-ridden as AoC. A friend of mine is still playing AoC, and was farming epics all week from specific open world mobs with his guild, until a hotfix patch fixed that loot table bug yesterday; that should tell you something about the quality level of Age of Conan, and I haven't heard anyone saying that WAR will be as bad. Nevertheless I would be surprised if there weren't some server problems and bugs on release, even WoW had those.

So I'm optimistic that WAR will have a good start. I'm not sure at all about it's future after that. How much will the WotLK release, probably 2 months later, hurt the WAR server populations? Can Mythic do something efficient against one side winning all the time due to population imbalances? How long will people enjoy the PvP endgame without having PvE raids to keep themselves occupied? I don't know, and probably even Paul Barnett doesn't know. I am looking forward to this big experiment, because it's outcome will probably determine whether we will see more PvP or more PvE games in the future. If WAR can make PvP succeed in a mass market, it'll have gained it's place in MMO history. The best case scenario would be WAR breaking the illusion that only Blizzard can make big-earning MMORPGs, and thereby starting another wave of investment into new games. Exciting times ahead, indeed.
I haven't gone past one month for an MMO since I quit WoW 6 months after its release. Naturally, I really hope WAR at least manages to hold me for a subscription cycle or more.

But, more importantly, as you mention, I hope it succeeds to spur more investment. After WAR, there doesn't seem to be any significant games on the horizon that one can fall back on, MMO-wise. If WAR succeeds, maybe (hopefully) that will help change the field just as WoW has inspired millions of investment in current generations.
Dylan: There are some interesting MMO's coming out after WAR actually-- the KOTOR MMO from Bioware, the Stargate MMO, and Champions Online are all in the pipe. No idea if any of them are going to be great but at the very least a lot of people will be watching for KOTOR.
Kotor MMO is still what 3-4 years away?

Or am I just making 1-2 numbers out of the top of my head?
I'm not a fan of Paul Barnett at all...his -acted or real- adhd quotient is just too stratospheric. These kind of people annoy the hell out of me:D That said, I do appreciate his relative open communication to the players though.

One thing WOW did was make a succesful genre crossover: from niche to mainstream, expanding the market and reaping all the financial benefits that come with that.

WAR will not be able to do such a thing, WAR will not attract new players to the genre. Instead it will be fishing in the same pond, an established and mature market, with a similar-ish product. Success will thus depend on (perceived) unique selling points, luring players from other games.

From what i read sofar WAR will be able to offer a few unique propositions. Their PQ system looks to be an excellent way of promoting group play (which an mmo should be all about), making grouping easy and effortless. Leveling through pvp and RvR are interesting kind of new and interesting too.

WAR will not revolutionize the genre though. The next big player in the field must be able to make another crossover, as in attract a lot of new players to the genre. My money will be on Blizzard next gen mmo.

For now there are only 2 more serious contenders in the pipe. The Bioware MMO looks to become playable in about 2 years. Then we have this thing called Copernicus from the baseball guys MMO studio. Those guys bought so much talent, they either pull a Vanguard or something really good.

The other thing is Blizzard's own WoW successor. Right now we look at almost 2 years of (pre-)production for this already. Expect it to be unveiled in 2 more years at least.

Everything else will not live up to WoW-expectations in terms of quality. You can not expect some unknown teams with bad track records to deliver a superior product. It won't happen.

If Mythos will see any kind of release i will play that. The beta had potential and was fun to play.

As for WAR, i already wrote some lines on this very weblog. The beta is fun and it improved a lot, wich was needed. They did their homework to bring you a very decent entry level experience on par with WoW.

What even i can't judge is the long term appeal of this thing, but from what i've seen and been told, it won't be my cup of tea, just like others may not prefer raiding instances.

I want to commit to a game, when playing it and i doubt WAR will reward my commitment in the long run that's all i will say for now. In terms of balance and design this thing will be worth tons and tons of experience for the armchair designer. They have so many classes already, that you really have to wonder if it's even remotely possible to keep everything balanced. Diversity is what makes balance so hard and this game tries to be full of it.
I'll go ahead and take the risk of getting kicked from the closed beta to say this...the end game is there. Open Beta might be capped, but we are testing the end game in closed beta as we speak, something I've never done in a beta before. Kudos to Mythic!
I'm most definitely NOT a fan of Barnett and his incessant spin-doctoring. Hype won't make my game experience better, and it has gone on for far too long. I'm still sore about the content cuts, and NO, I'm not convinced that less is more as Barnett claims.

Nonetheless, I'm very excited that WAR is finally coming out, and that we'll be able to play it and judge it on its actual merits instead of marketing hype.
Lets hope they are not rushing this out just to get it on the shelves before WotLK.
It might just be blind optimism, but I think this date is more motivated by Mythic than Blizzard.

It's almost an exact a 6 month delay from the last release date if I remember correctly. Plus any time table we have on WOTLK, other than 2008, is pure guessing. November sounds good, but I can't think of any Blizz product that didn't get one date and then actually come out a couple months later
My impressions of Paul are jaded by two items

Paul has a problem on where to keep his eyes...(ps: look at her face Paul)


World Of Warcraft is to MMOs what The Beatles are to music, Barnett said - WoW made prior MMOs irrelevant. But you can’t be The Beatles. If you try, he quipped, you will "...end up as the Monkees.

Yet, the Monkees sold more albums than the Beatles ever, why would you NOT want to be the Monkees!

He has ...."Issues"
I didn't care for Guild Wars, but that game has been flying under the radar for quite some time, so I'm curious how Guild Wars 2 will pan out.

As far as what's on the horizon, Star Trek Online (back from the dead) and Bioware's MMO are years away. Only Stargate Worlds is nearing completion, and I expect it to be the flop of 2009.

I predict the next 24-36 months to be extremely dry for new MMOs.

Tobold's going to be miserable.
My theory about the level 20 Open Beta cap is different. I don't think it's a lack of mid to end game content (can't break the NDA to say why), but rather I think Mythic wants to concentrate the beta players around a level range so there's plenty of RvR opponents.

How much would it suck to open beta an RvR-based MMO and not be able to find enough opponents because the level range is spread around like crazy? You might think the RvR totally sucks. If you can find fights every night, in Scenarios and open world RvR, I think you might get a much better idea of what makes WAR unique and enjoyable.
@Openedge: Are you saying the Monkees sold more records than the Beatles?
"the open beta has a level cap of 20"

That's not true. Not even close. Maybe it was true during one phase or another, but that is not the case.

From the pre-order page:

"The Open Beta will be level capped and content restricted. You will be allowed to choose any of the game's 20 unique careers and advance through rank 20."

I stand corrected, I was thinking "Closed beta".

I think the level 20 cap is more to preserve content rather than mask the lack of it. That's just my opinion though.
1. I can't help but feel like this game won't be ready or that good. They gave a release date 6 months ago and 6 months later, they have to cut out a significant amount of content just to get to release? Perhaps they just don't understand how long it takes to make such a game, but it seems like the game is not going to be anything like they planned, so will it work? That said, I will buy it. I need a WoW break. Sound like it can provide that for a month or two... until Wrath comes out.

2. The Monkees sold more albums than the Beatles? In what world do you live in? I don't even think the Monkees sold more albums in any given year than the Beatles, let alone overall. The Monkees had great success for about 1.5 years and that's it.
@ Mike -

There sir, you are incorrect. They made a call on the game to cut out content they couldnt deliver at a quality that they wanted. They're really into giving the customer the best experience they can give. I would rather have 20 classes and 2 cities blow my mind away *and it has been, btw. Yay close-beta ;) *, then to have 24 classes and 6 cities that are just average. And thats what they've done. Yeah it sucks that they cut them (plans to add them in later havent really been talked of much past "we want to add them in later in a patch") but they made the call that will end up delivering a better game in the end.

The game as is, is freakin great. NDA - blah blah blah - NDA.
The lev 20 cap is likely there for marketing reasons. Like many MMOs (WoW included), WAR will most likely offer a superior, richer, more polished experience in the first few levels in order to draw the players into the game and get them to subscribe. After that the content will get grindy, sparse, and even unfinished. Capping beta (and later trial) accounts allows the developer to show the best of the game to the prospective customers while hiding the worst.
In regards to the level cap, the info released says there's content AND level cap. I don't think it's a post-20 issue, as they've stated numerous times they worked from the top down to avoid the no high-end content issue.

Not to mention that the recent dungeon preview, states that the rank 40 dungeon had more time spent on it than any of the others.

If anything, I'm concerned that the mid-level content lacks some of the high and low level polish.
I find it interesting, why there is so much doubt and angst about WAR. On nearly every blog i read a lot of rants, bashings an overall negative opinions, that the game isn't ready, isn't complete, isn't polished, will disappoint.
Heck, how do you know that ?

The opinions of AoC were much better, maybe due to the lying-their-ass-of-PR hype. The fault of Mythic could be that they were too honest with their potential customers ;-).
I hope it does break that illusion cuz that will mean lots more choices and attempts to make AAA titles in the future
@Sonoc has a point.

Maybe there was just alot of people getting burned by Funcom and now they are a weeee I dont know... skittish?
The best case scenario would be WAR breaking the illusion that only Blizzard can make big-earning MMORPGs, and thereby starting another wave of investment into new games.

While the worst case scenario would be the opposite: WAR fails to make any serious headway and reinforces the illusion that only Blizzard can make big-earning MMORPGS and effectively shutting down investment in new games.

[thread hijack]

According to wikipedia "... The Monkees sold more albums than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined."

Ahh, but what does the elipsis represent? "In 1967, ".
I think people will be pleased to find a more technically sound and content rich game than AoC was, as well as a MMO that incorporates PvP into the core game. However I think there will be disappointment that the basic gameplay dynamic - combat - is basically the same stagnant autoattack gameplay we've been playing for years - it doesn't improve the formula at all and feels sluggish and uninvolving compared to WoW's combat.
The content that was cut has had very little effect on the game. The only real way it will effect the game is if you have pure race vs. race warfare going on, which won't happen because only two capital cities. With the deep grouping systems in place and ease of traveling into an allied race's questing area, the missing classes won't be an issue.

There's still 10 classes on each faction to play with various builds for each, plus the added customization of tactics.
"My impressions of Paul are jaded by two items

Paul has a problem on where to keep his eyes...(ps: look at her face Paul)


Are you kidding me? I watched the entire video, Paul occasionally looked down at the table or off to another camera spot, but if you are meaning to imply he was staring at her breasts the entire time, you're absolutely nuts. If you're worried about people with "issues", I'd start by examining yourself.
As a long term player of WoW I'm pretty sure WAR will make it at least.
AoC missed the target and fell off the hype in the first few weeks. The release was too fast.
But wasnt it Marc Jacob, who told us all, that a Developer who trusts his own product lifts the NDA 8 weeks before the launch, and a Developer who does not trust his own product doesnt lift it 4 weeks before?
His words from March2008
End game is there I have been testing it for quite some time now. Not only is there a ton of it but it is pretty freaking fun and working very well.
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