Non-Content WAR

With my new view of hobby elements and how much of that salt I needed for my MMO diet, I had to take a look at Warhammer Online.  I have to hand it to the guys and gals at Mythic Entertainment because the hobby elements in Warhammer Online were very different from the elements I was used to in other MMOs.  It was another type of hobby element that eventually turned me away: players as content.

That’s right.  I am taking an indefinite break from Warhammer Online.  I was signing on less and less, and when I did sign on I was never getting that momentum to keep going.  Others got to write their goodbye posts, and I am too, while trying to incorporate it in to the hobby elements series of posts.

As far as hobby elements goes, Warhammer Online was fairly light.  Leveling is at a greater speed than most.  Good items are easily obtained.  The death penalty is light and easily removed.  Grouping is possibly the easiest of any MMO.  Yet, the problem I had was that Mythic removed so much of the hobby elements only to add in a different one.  The MMO required other players to work as intended.

I first noticed this when I was starting to lag behind in the great forward push to max level.  The public quests that I was happily moving through were starting to get empty.  Unless the public quest was next to the respawn point, the players were not participating.  Eventually, as I started on Tier 3 content, players at public quests were not there except on the busiest nights of the week.  The same thing happened with RvR.  It was taking more and more time to find some active PvP, and the game was not meant to be a PvE game.

The fun I did have was excellent.  I really liked the class design.  I generally liked the balance.  I loved public quests, and I think that public quests are Warhammer Online’s best contribution to the slow progression of MMOs.  And, RvR when it expanded beyond undefended keep sacking was truly the crown jewel of the game. 

All in all, though, I believe Mythic created a niche MMO.  The players who stick to the game through a whole year must be dedicated.  It was pretty hard for me to play Warhammer Online casually because the player density was just not there.

I think it is really hard to make a PvP-oriented MMO worthy of a subscription.  I think that most players need to find the subscription MMOs they play are worthy of being a hobby.  Warhammer Online contained a massive pushmi-pullyu in requiring dedication enough to pay monthly and enough players to fill the content.  It’s nearly the equivalent of an MMO prisoner’s dilemma: if everybody pays and stays the game is more fun (like it was in beta and the first month of live), but if people start leaving and taking their subscription money elsewhere those that stay have less content.

In the end I think that Warhammer Online will be successful enough to retain a strong, hostile niche of players.

–Ravious
it’s judgment that defeats us

16 thoughts on “Non-Content WAR”

  1. Ravious, I think you just summed up my feelings about the better than I could myself. It really did get less fun really fast the less people there were around, and since I’m not a power leveller, I was left behind rather quickly from the herd. All in all, better pve might have changed Warhammer’s ball game entirely, they might have retained the critical mass needed for most of us non-fanatics to stay and enjoy ourselves, and it would have provided more entertaining replay value for alts which would have kept lower level zones from becomes no-fly zones.

  2. You summed up the “players as content” mechanic WAR heavily relies on perfectly. Rolling an alt in WAR only three months after release feels eerily like rolling an alt in WoW four years after release. The player density just isn’t there to support a fun experience.

    To take this one step further, when you rely on “players as content,” the quality of that content is impacted greatly by player behaviour. You touched on this lightly when you mentioned keep trading in the original post but it also reaches to a much higher level of gaming quality, namely realm balance. Without strict software limitations on how many Destruction are able to play on a server vs. the number of Order, you have no chance at achieving some kind of balance. There are also factors you can’t mitigate like realm skill. If several insanely skillful guilds and alliances hop onto one realm on one server, there’s no way for Mythic to balance the war campaign, is there? You would hope for players to adapt and get better, but the easier solution for these disenfranchised players is to simply unsubscribe.

    They say that hingsight is 20/20, so I think a lot of future games will take some great ideas away from WAR along with some cautionary tales of game design that didn’t work out as intended. How many people came over to WAR because they wanted less of a focus on PvE and yet the quality of WAR’s PvE was a leading contributor to their departure? People are just so fickle and designing your game around dodgy variables isn’t a guaranteed success.

    And all this is coming from a guy who is still playing WAR. Simply put, there aren’t any more fun alternative MMOs out there for my tastes. Here’s hoping Darkfall has a successful launch. If so, I might just hop on board.

    Sorry for the long comment! :P

  3. Thanks for the comments. One funny thing, Thallian and Snafzg, is that there were many people who powerleveled in my guild, and for like a month all I heard was that they wished that Order “would hurry up.”

    /eatspopcorn Openedge1

  4. There you go, another example of players behaving in a way that doesn’t work with the game design. WAR is an RvR game, so there is absolutely no reason to rush ahead of the curve because there’s nothing for you to do if you make it to the top before others. This was even a problem in WotLK where certain guilds exhausted the raid content too quickly and no have nothing left to do but wait for content patches.

    You can’t force people to play a certain way, but you can predict how people will act and try designing plans B, C, and D around them.

  5. There is no reason for a leveling system in a PvP game. Period.

    If your game is built around a critical mass of players playing together, the stratification that comes with a leveling system will undermine your core design.

    It’s really not that hard to see, and it smacks of a rookie dev mistake way back in the concept stages.

  6. “They say that hingsight is 20/20, so I think a lot of future games will take some great ideas away from WAR along with some cautionary tales of game design that didn’t work out as intended.”

    I’m not sure I believe that saying about hindsight, at least not in this case. Many of the problems with RvR mentioned here (density, lag, population imbalance, guild imbalance) were problems in another game I used to play (and love), Dark Age of Camelot.

    The instanced anonymity of WoW’s PVP may leave some people cold, but with the exception of “premades”, it doesn’t face the troublesome issues RVR in WAR and DAOC does.

  7. Which may be why Mythic’s original plan for WAR was to heavily instance all the RvR just like WoW. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your stance on RvR, most of the beta testers hated the concept of instancing RvR, so Mythic scrapped it and gave us a weak keep/fortress system and a so-so scenario system.

    I do wonder if Mark Jacobs ever regrets that massive shift in original game design. That big change so late in the development process probably cause half the issues people complain about in WAR.

  8. Same here Zubon. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon so it arrived 3 or 4 days after launch. I had exactly 3 days of seeing *anyone* whatsoever in Tier 1, each day seeing fewer and fewer people. Day 4 until I quit a couple weeks later it was difficult to get anything done at all. Just goes to show that a single-player DikuMMO is *NOT* fun in the slightest.

  9. ” Just goes to show that a single-player DikuMMO is *NOT* fun in the slightest.”

    … and yet WoW is still up there. :) I’m saying this only half in jest.

  10. I noticed someone touched on the “players are content” concept. I have been harping on this for years, and even blogged about it a few months ago:

    http://muckbeast.today.com/2008/08/13/players-are-content/

    WAR is fun in a lot of ways, but if you can’t find some exciting RvR action you are hosed. There is little or nothing else to do, which is a shame. I don’t remember why, but it seemed like DAoC had a lot more to do in your downtime. Perhaps it was the housing or the crafting, but it definitely seemed like there was more fun to be had when RvR action wasn’t there.

  11. I got into beta too late to know what the instanced RvR was like, but all Heartless_ and I have been saying since a few weeks after release is that we wish it was instanced.

    I truly don’t mind the PvE. It’s comparable to any other game out there, but where the game’s its best is in PvP, and that’s not 100% yet in terms of systems design. Taking keeps becomes boring after a few dozen times, much like running a dungeon.

    Add to that the face that sacking a keep in a zone doesn’t flip control of that zone without first competing in PQs and Scenarios, and you have an asinine concept: So one side of the WAR owns the entire zone, but it’s not locked? We can’t move on without first pummeling some NPCs in PvE? That seems to stray away from the RvR-centered design, you know?

    /armchair developer off

    The two big games released this year both have so much potential, but seem to be in need of some hefty help. I think Blizzard spoiled us all, sometimes.

  12. “There is little or nothing else to do, which is a shame. I don’t remember why, but it seemed like DAoC had a lot more to do in your downtime.”

    DAOC was a more traditional PvE MMO, with raids, dungeons, and (with ToA, love it or hate it…) plenty of post-level-cap content. RvR was bolted on in segregated zones. That’s not to say it was an afterthought, but it was two different games joined (literally) by a doorway. In WAR they consciously tried to minimize the PvE, leaving players with little to do outside of RvR, as you say.

  13. One thing I really couldn’t believe Mythic didn’t put into WAR was some kind of mix of PVE-PVP dungeon. I know Keen and Graev mention this a lot, but Darkness Falls in DAOC was fantastic, and the options for WAR seemed to be even more wide open. I would have loved something that could have sated players’ deside for better PVE options while still keeping with the PVP theme of the game.

    It would be great to have, for example, a large dungeon full of monsters, which Order and Destro can enter anytime at opposite ends, so the farther you explore in with your group, the more chance you have of encountering the enemy and having to deal with them. It would also be fun for one side or the other to try to “raid” through the dungeon and take full control, smashing anyone who came inside. This kind of thing would provide much needed variety and it feels like Mythic really dropped the ball on this, when they had previously had a similar thing in DF.

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