Thursday, September 18, 2008
If it changes the way you play, it's innovation
I've read various reports of what people did during their headstart days of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. And I'm sure there will be many more reports like that when WAR launches the release version today. And one thing I noticed with myself, and you can also see in posts by, for example, JoBildo, is that people group more and PvP more in WAR than in other games.
Imagine you would start a new character in World of Warcraft today, and leveled him up to level 9. What activities do you think that character would have done from level 1 to 9? I think he would have spent most of his times doing regular quests. He might have started a tradeskill at level 5, but he certainly wouldn't have done any PvP (unless he was ganked on a PvP server). And it is unlikely that he would have joined any group.
My WAR character at level 9 has done regular quests, and learned tradeskills. But he also joined more than 10 groups (not counting scenario groups, and I have the achievement to prove that), for public quests and for RvR. I also reached renown rank (PvP level) 8, having done scenarios repeatedly, a RvR public quest completed three times, and having visited all three open world tier 1 RvR zones, once even in a huge warband (raid group). And I didn't group and PvP to deliberately change my behavior. I did it because it was the natural thing to do.
Groups are so obviously better for public quests and RvR that you need to be completely alergic to other people to want to avoid them. There is no "it took us half an hour to set up this pickup group, and then one guy did something stupid and wiped us, at which point half of the group left" in WAR. Instead you get situation where you and the other players around you are already doing the same thing, be it a public quest or taking an RvR objective, and grouping up is simply better than every one doing the same thing in parallel. I even grouped sometimes for normal quests, as in WAR there isn't the same problem as in WoW that if you are more people you need to kill more foozles to get 10 foozle ears for everyone; every mob killed counts as one kill or one item drop for every one in the group. And the group xp bonus is large enough to earn more xp per time in a group than solo, unlike WoW's.
Doing RvR comes naturally as well. You stumble upon some quest NPC asking you to do a scenario relatively early. You try, and you notice that regardless of your level and gear, you'll be able to do *something* useful in a scenario. Yes, a level 1 will just be boosted to level 8, have only his initial 3 spells or abilities, and no gear, so he'll be crushed in a one-on-one duel against a level 11 in full renown gear. But there are few duels in a scenario. Your level 1 spell will be boosted to level 8 and be perfectly able to damage that level 11, who'll might not immediately notice you if you fire ranged spells from behind. If you are a healer (my main is a Shaman on the Euro servers), you can help your side significantly by healing. And you are exactly as valuable for capturing a flag as anyone else. And while doing all this you will gain both regular PvE experience points, and PvP renown points. Renown ranks (PvP levels) will give you stat bonuses at the renown trainer, which are useful for both PvP and PvE. And the renown gear merchant will sell you good equipment, easily financed by all the coin you get in RvR from every kill.
There has been a lot of discussion of whether WAR is innovative or just a WoW clone. But the people argueing that its just a clone do so based on screenshots and feature lists, which is about as useful as a movie review based on screenshots and a plot summary. The question is not whether WAR looks like WoW and has classes, levels, and quests like WoW. The question is whether WAR plays like WoW. And it does not. I'm not saying WAR is better than WoW, I'm sure I'm going to miss fixed-group dungeons and raids at some point. But I'm absolutely insisting on WAR playing differently for the average user. At no point do you think "oh, I'm just doing the same stuff as in WoW here". In WAR you have more different activities, all of them viable paths for advancement, during the leveling stage. While in WoW the bulk of the choices is concentrated at the level cap. Yes, that means that at some point in the future I'll write a post about how there isn't enough to do in WAR at the level cap. But right now, leveling up is a hell of a lot more fun than in WoW. And that *is* innovative, player behavior is not something that is easily changed. If you can get people who mainly soloed and never liked PvP to do lots of groups and RvR, you have done something new to the genre. It will take some time for everyone to realize this, but WAR changes what a MMORPG is; playing more together and against each other than playing alone, who would have thunk that?