Tobold's Blog
Thursday, September 26, 2013
WAR, what was it good for?

I don't think the answer is "absolutely nothing!". There is a lot of Schadenfreude in the blogosphere following the announcement that Warhammer Online is closing down. People quote an ancient announcement that "WAR has 5 years of content", which sounds funny if you interpret it retroactively as "WAR will be closed down after 5 years". Many other bloggers mention the "bears, bears, bears" as prime example of what went wrong with the game: The game was over-hyped, and then under-delivered. And amid all that the contributions of Warhammer Online are forgotten.

I would say that the communication of the WAR developers to the community was exemplary. I wished that other game companies would be as open about their vision for their game. Of course then I would want a game in which that vision is also realized and works sufficiently well, which is where WAR failed in my opinion. But I don't think the solution should be to develop games only in secret and not reveal anything about them before release.

As a blogger, and related to the previous point, WAR also constituted the high water mark of MMORPG blogging. Never in the history of MMORPG were there as many blogs with as much activity as on the day before WAR was released. Unfortunately many of those blogs died in the weeks after release. A few changed from being "WAR blogs" to being "MMORPG blogs" and survived until today. But no other game since then has managed to launch a similar amount of blogging activity. Again, it is easy to dismiss that as false hope at the time, with WAR being a blog killer, not a blog starter. But just imagine how great the blogging community would have been if WAR actually had delivered on their promises!

I also appreciate very much the contribution of WAR to the MMORPG genre in the form of public quests. The implementation was flawed, but we wouldn't have the better implementation we now see in newer games if WAR hadn't dared to try this feature.

In all this I see a common theme of daring vision followed by failure to execute. But I am not really convinced that I prefer what came after in the industry: Good execution of the tried and trusted without much risk-taking, nor much of a vision. I guess some people blame WAR for making the rest of the industry so risk-averse. But I always considered it better to have tried and failed than to no have tried at all.

WAR is the only MMO that I left before even the initial free month. I gave my copy to a friend for free and he also lasted 1 week. I seriously can't see what people could remotely like about it.

The only legacy was the public quest system, which eventually led to dynamic content as we see them today in Rift's invasions and GW2's events. And that's it.

The PvP was greately unbalanced and completely overriden by CC.
The open world stuff was deserted except maybe T4.
There were bugs everywhere.
Game performance was abysmal, even in high end machines.
Animations were subpar.
Graphics were worse than even WoW's.
The customer support was infamous.
And finally, the PvE experience was a bland, souless theme park riddled with "kill 10 rats" quests.

To be honest, I'm surprised it lasted that long.
I am not sure I see that much joy at WAR's demise. I think most of that was played out by the 1 year anniversary of the game. I see a lot more whistful regret about what could have been, given what came after in the industry.

But it certainly was a high point for MMO blogging... outside of WoW blogs. WoW specific blogs were legion and tend to be pretty insular, linking only to other WoW blogs. But for generalists who liked the genre as a whole, it was a good time.
Wasn't WAR the MMO that popularised the automatic group quest type mechanism now heavily used in games like GW2?

At least it had something going for it. :-)

Gobble gobble.
I really liked War, contra Chris. It's the only MMO I actually enjoyed leveling in, precisely because you could do it by PVP.

It had it's major problems (RVR was insanely tedious), PVE was crappy.

It was a diamond in the middle of a horse turd.
don't forget that WAR had the achievements for random stuff book ... which I think was even before WoW &co
I had an amazing 6 months in W:AoR on Phoenix Throne...running around with a well co-ordinated warband from zone flips to fortress takes to city siege...yeah, sometimes the server couldn't handle load and the whole thing blew up but most of the time they were the biggest, craziest battles I've ever been a part of.

W:AoR's biggest problem was their vision superseded their tech. It's a shame they're getting unplugged but it's a true legacy game.
It depends on how you think about games. If you think of them as a product, then the developers should be doing their best to please the customer, including being open and seeking feedback. However, some players think of games as a work of art. In this case, the artist (developer) should not be seeking much outside feedback lest their artistic vision be tainted.
As far as game devs being too risk averse, I'd suggest that by that logic the nearly endless number of big budget WoW clones that tanked would encourage taking risks. It's odd that the one that deviated a bit from the formula tanking is weighed more heavily than the multiple clones failing.

I think the real thought process is that that dropping 100 million on a game is going to make the suits risk averse. Same reason so many blockbusters are formulaic to the point they hurt themselves.
I had kind of forgotten about WAR. The 3-way thing seemed like such a good idea before launch. The public quests seemed like a nice innovation after. One of our guild tanks in WoW said he was busy at work, but we all knew he was playing War. But then... it kind of faded away. But indeed, it faded more than almost anything! I wonder why?
WAR had some good things in it.

Public quests were awesome, and basically the template which GW2 and FFXIV carbon-copied. (The original Public Quest was really Tabula Rasa's invasions, and that's the template which Rift cribbed heavily from.)

Positional blocking for PVP/PVE. (Heavily susceptible to lag.)

The 'bears, bears, bears' thing was implemented... albeit weakly and sporadically. (It didn't apply universally to ALL creatures you killed, only specific huntsmen.)

The Codex was brilliant. A record of every monster you'd killed, place you visited, lore you found, and exp bonuses for hitting milestones. I'd actually grind to complete a codex entry and be HAPPY about it. That's quite an achievement.

For Chaos, at least, it was a very faithful adaptation of the IP and felt very Warhammer'ish.

It had a lot of flaws, but I choose to remain thankful for the above, at least.
Heh. I can't always agree with the 'beter to have tried and failed than to not have tried at all'. It's like the old, 'Better to have loved and lost...' Yeah, that's not always true. Sometimes you would've been a lot better off not trying a failure. Anyone who invested heavily (financially) in WAR might possibly think that.

I think one of my favourite scenes in a movie ever is in Men in Black, where the young pup Will Smith tries telling wizened Tommy Lee Jones the 'better to have loved and lost' thing... and TLJ shoots a sudden death glare back, retorting sharply: "Try it."
I think I played it for around six months before I mostly gave up on MMO's as a regular thing. The things that I liked:

The Public Quest system was neat, but flawed in that they were largely impossible unless the zone was pretty full.

I'm not sure what the complaints about graphics are based on. I remember them being much better than WoW's at the time.

The classes were very distinct and played very differently, although cloned across faction lines. I played a Sorc, Zealot, the tank class with auras, and the dual wielding AoE healing melee character. They all played very different rolls and were all fun.

There were fun and interesting abilities like the shielding of allies that were positioned behind you.

CC's were actually useful and even more so depending on the situation. If you weren't smart enough to take them into account then you paid for it.

The RvR that you could join from anywhere and be returned to your original place in the world was new at the time. WoW required you to go to a specific spot and wait your turn. The RvR matches were fun and the maps seemed to be pretty well balanced although some had obvious flaws like the one where you could fight with impunity from the top of a cliff after rezzing.

The Tome of Knowledge was awesome! Some of it was based on too much grinding in my opinion but the wealth of titles and such available through it was very fun. I played my Sorc naked for the first dozen levels or more so I could get an amusing title. WoW seemed to put out their achievements in response to WAR showing off the ToK before release.
WAR is one of the few games I really regret buying. I didn't hate it, I just got bored of it so fast I didn't outlast the free month. Lots of small cool things but the overall package was just...I don't even know, it was lacking something.
I would like to add my two cents and stress that one of the most important contributions which WAR made into the MMO design was the Tome of Knowledge / Codex, which Cam already pointed out. The only game where I met similar system was Atlantica Online, and this feature is definitely not a mainstream, but worthy. Public quests were also great indeed.
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