Friday, October 10, 2008
Tug of WAR
On November 13 me and many other MMORPG players will have to make a decision: Do we continue to play Warhammer Online, or do we go back to World of Warcraft and the new Wrath of the Lich King expansion? So somewhere in my head there is a little virtual decision gauge, which looks like this:As you can see I'm currently tending towards leaving WAR and playing WoW / WotLK instead. And when I think what influences that decision, I find that curiously Blizzard has nothing to do with it. I'm not even following the pseudo-news of the various WotLK beta developments any more, they change and reverse too quickly. I simply assume that I have a pretty good idea of what Wrath of the Lich King will be: More of the same, an opportunity to play my characters for another 10 levels, and a bunch of tweaks and changes which cause some people to hyperventilate, but don't really change the way World of Warcraft plays. So my decision on which game to play is based on mentally comparing the WoW I know well with the current state of WAR. And the reasons why that decision tends against WAR are as follows:
- PvE content: From level 1 to about 15 I was happily playing WAR as a PvE game with the occasional PvP sprinkled in whenever I wanted. But then leveling up got slower and slower in the tier 2 zones, and I was running out of quests. After some discussion with other players it turned out that I was doing not enough scenarios. A quick comparison revealed that in the same time that it took me to do a quest for 2,500 xp, I could make 5,000 to 10,000 xp in Stonetroll Crossing, plus get renown. Questing is too slow. Having been unable to play for two weekends I'm already falling behind my guild mates, who are mostly doing tier 3 stuff. And if I want to catch up quickly it appears I'll have to grind PvP scenarios all evening long. Bleh! As I said, the occasional PvP scenario is fun, but doing the same scenario ten times in a row isn't what I want. And if PvE content is getting thin and less rewarded in tier 2 already, I'm dreading what it will be like in tier 3 and 4. Having played only low-level characters in the beta I had been convinced that WAR was a decent PvE game as well, but that doesn't seem to be valid for the mid to high levels any more. :(
- Population imbalances: There are various population imbalances in WAR. The best known is that Destruction outnumbers Order, leading to login queues and long waits for scenarios for my Destruction character. But with time I also noticed that even when my server is so full that I have to queue to get in, there aren't enough Destruction players in the greenskin tier 2 areas to successfully complete a public quest. Everyone rushed past me and is already in tier 3+. My public quest experience is reduced to grinding the first stage for the influence reward, then failing to do anything in stage 2, and waiting for a reset. That pretty much removes one of the major attraction points of WAR for me. The fundamental cause of that is probably a too low total server capacity, there are only enough players allowed on the server to really populate well the most popular areas. With public quests needing a certain minimum population around, this is going to be increasingly difficult as people level up, and PQs might not be a viable option for alts any more.
- Polish: That dreaded word, but somebody had to mention it. WAR is more polished than AoC, but considerably less polished than WoW. There are still quite a number of minor, but annoying bugs. Some features, like tome tactics, are still not fully implemented. And some other features, like the mail and auction house system, have obviously been produced in a hurry and are not user-friendly at all. The crafting system is still somewhat half-baked and not well balanced. And the list goes on and on. Whatever you want to call that, and I'm just using "polish" for it because it is a well-known term, the production quality of WAR isn't quite up there where WoW is.