Monday, October 13, 2008
Altdorf fell for real this time
Via Kill Ten Rats I learn that Altdorf has been conquered for real for the first time. Even Mark Jacobs acknowledged the capture, albeit with a reservation that he still has to check whether any exploits were used. Of course there is the usual discussion whether raids in the small hours of the morning are fair, but Mythic seems to be okay with that. One participant reports the whole thing taking 5 hours from start to finish, against 0 defenders, which should have given Order some time to mount a defence if they hadn't been asleep and offline. I think part of the problem is WAR not having international servers, on international servers there are no times when everyone sleeps.
But what I found more revealing was one comment saying just "slightly over 3 weeks 1-> 40 -> City captured". He meant it as compliment, but to me the phrase pretty much sums up what is wrong. WAR is a huge game, with lots of zones, a great amount of content, and theoretically a large variety of options what to do at any given moment. But there are so many people who skipped all this content, just selected the one option that leveled them up the fastest (scenarios), and after slightly over 3 weeks basically "finished" Warhammer Online. What will they do next? It's unlikely they'll reroll an alt and start playing the game in all tranquility, starting to explore all the other options. There is a serious risk that they'll organize a few more Altdorf raids, until they get bored with that, and realize there is nothing else to look forward to. They fast-forwarded the film, they flipped through the book to read who the killer was on the last page.
That is a collective failure between players who think the only real game is the endgame, and the developers who enable fast leveling and tout their endgame as being the most important part. It is a failure, because it reduces a huge game to a tiny part. People can still grind scenarios for a while until they are renown rank 80, but then even that option disappears. There will be nothing left but trying to take control of the same zones over and over. With Destruction winning most of the time, due to them simply outnumbering Order. How often will players repeat that same exercise before it bores them to death and they leave?
The whole time-scale is wrong. How long is WAR supposed to last? I'm sure EA and Mythic were counting on several years, with EQ and UO still alive after 10 years, and WoW going strong after 4. But while in WoW it famously took one crazy guy only 28 hours to level from 60 to 70 when TBC came out (and there will be another crazy guys doing something similar in WotLK), WoW isn't over at the level cap. Even the best organized guilds took months until they reached the final raid boss, and then Blizzard added more raid dungeons. Mythic isn't going to add tier 5 zones after this, Altdorf / Inevitable City is all there is. Soon somebody is going to kill a king, and then there is nothing left but repeat performances.
Now somebody is going to say that those repeat performances of city sieges is what they want. To which I reply why did Mythic bother developing the rest of the game? If somebody is supposed to play this game for 4 years, but only spend 4 weeks of that leveling to the cap, and the other 3 years and 11 months doing city sieges, then why spend so much money developing the leveling part? For half the budget they could have made a city siege only game, where characters are created directly at the maximum level.
I don't believe that a significant number of players are going to play Warhammer Online city sieges for years. MMO players are notorious for their attention deficit disorder and their love for new, shiny things. After killing the king a couple of times, they'll just leave WAR in search of a new game. And that is a shame, because in their rush to get to that point, they missed a great game. They will have finished WAR, but never really played it. Which isn't only bad from a game design point of view, but also not the greatest business plan.