Warhammer After a Month

The RvR is good. The PvE is unexceptional, not particularly inspired or poor. The classes are fun. The US servers and subscription systems seem fine. Bugs, incomplete features, and imbalances still abound. It is a good game that is improving quickly, but it offers little new to the jaded MMO veteran.

I stand by my earlier opinion that Warhammer was the most ready-to-release Yet Another Fantasy MMORPG out there. I then spent the first week of release ranting that good for a YAFMMORPG is still not good. In the sense of polish, that remains true: the game is missing features so basic I never thought to test for them, some things are imbalanced, and others do not work at all.

But what impresses me most about the release of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is the speed with which Mythic has addressed problems. They are working from a relatively solid base, they have a clear understanding of priorities, and they are addressing problems as they come up. Patches are frequent and meaningful. It is still frequently frustrating to be a first-month player, but Mythic is putting together a game that deserves to compete for your gaming dollar. Assuming you like DikuMUD with graphics.

The first essential point after the break? It is the same game you have been playing for the past ten years. It has most of the improvements you have come to expect over those years, and a few new ones, and RvR action on your first night of play. But it is still DikuMUD with graphics (and team PvP).

Chat is the most obvious offender for “missing features.” You cannot right-click names. The ignore list seems to mostly work for most people, which is a big improvement from its original functionality (which did the same thing as /magicpony). You cannot link items in chat. You cannot copy text from the chat window. The responses to goldspammers were various shades of poor. (SpamMeNot works perfectly for me these days, so for all I know they fixed it server-side.) [Update: I think they have it fixed. I have received exactly one goldspammer tell in the past week-plus. I do not think SpamMeNot is even catching much anymore. I still have a little spam mail.]

The other problem is that chat does not matter much. The game is quieter than any other I have seen. Some of this may be the PvP-centric aspects; if I am typing in PvP, I am either dead already or about to become so because I am talking instead of fighting. Voice chat wins. (I recall a DotA guide that recommended identifying the opposing team leader and staying on him. Either you kill him while he is explaining things to newbs or the newbs die because he is too busy to explain.)

Even if it did matter, the game itself will scroll your text away. Altdorf NPCs will happily fill your chat window every five to ten seconds. Buying, selling, crafting, using the auction house, or checking your mail can also produce multiple lines of text per click. Any time an item drops in a group, your text box will fill with who picked need/greed and then what everyone rolled and then who won. If that was a PQ, you get to see some results and then everyone getting bags and then what everyone got from their bags. I need to get better with filters and hope that others around me catch meaningful comments in the constant scrolling.

(Side note: I remember when City of Heroes planned to add item drops to that chat window. A mass of player complaints stopped that before it went live. It baffles me in The Lord of the Rings Online™ Volume 1: Shadows of Angmar™ and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (so this is why we always use abbreviations) that they intentionally have more-than-a-full-window of item spam appear for every item to roll on. All it has ever taught me is who is the jackass who rolls “need” on everything.)

Many experiences will vary based on your faction and server. Some servers have queues to enter. Order usually has vastly shorter queues for scenarios. Which scenarios are common seems to vary by server; Nordenwatch is Averheim’s favorite, nigh-only tier 1 scenario. Destruction often claims battlefield objectives unopposed. Or maybe you are on one of the servers led by a top guild or two. In which direction is your server breaking? Maybe there is balance, since I hear both sides complaining about how much things are stacked against them.

I played a lot of scenarios. Tier 1 open world RvR is rare and tier 2 is spotty, so scenarios were the way to get both RvR action and good experience. Playing Order, I had time to drop off my Mourkain Temple quests before it popped again. I found “capture the flag” scenarios lacking, often poor and/or boring. I liked scenarios that were basically piles of violence around an objective or two. The scenarios are mostly good, with some problems. Some are asymmetrical, either in their design or in a few key abilities available to one side.

Scenarios can fail in other ways. They can be half empty, for reasons discussed here (note comments) and potentially made worse by “queue all (and then turn down the ones you don’t want).” I have had 5-vs-11 fights. You get a pop-up saying that the game will end because of this. Repeatedly. And then it doesn’t (except when it does). Do you want to suicide repeatedly and pointlessly or just wait for the other team to get bored and run up the score to end it all? Nice idea, work on the coding.

For me, scenarios were make-or-break for the game. They were how I leveled up. I started moving away from Destruction because of their longer scenario queues; I have other games with more and better PvE. If the Order crowd out that day had a lot of idiots, I logged or tried another server/tier. If scenarios were not popping, I logged or tried another server/tier. If the only scenarios popping were dull or unbalanced (against me), I logged or tried another server/tier. The fun value is strongly based on who is around.

You would expect that in a multi-player game. It takes an extreme here in that there must be fun people to play with (and against) or the entire game is worthless at best. Chat channels are silent outside the guild, so they must be fun to play with, not just be around. The solo PvE is a vanilla version of the quest-guided grind you can find anywhere else. Other people will make or break the game; if you can have fun solo here, you can have fun solo in any other game or just playing with sticks and bricks, so you do not need Warhammer.

If you are bringing your own group of fun people, of course, you can also have fun in any other game or just playing with sticks and bricks, so I guess I am talking about your faction. You can /ignore idiots, but you cannot kick them from your scenario team. You cannot keep your team from being full of idiots, nudists, AFKs, and people at the minimum level. Well, your team may be fine, but there are six other slots you cannot dictate. You cannot join a scenario as a warband (and you will get hideous bugs if you join as a member of a warband), so at best you can bring that group of fun people. The rest of it is up to your server.

This scenario-centric view of mine seems to be a consequence of design rather than intention. The developers seem to want to have a world at war, not a series of football games with fireballs. And hey, maybe the open world RvR will fill in someday. It is not as rewarding as scenarios, especially if you are Order and can get endless scenarios instantly. Having fun there depends on the other team showing up, but not too many of the other team. It is a delicate balance in a game where Destruction seems to have more players on every server that is not Full-Full.

That balance is even more tenuous given four tiers and three pairings. Are there going to be enough RvR opponents in tier 1 to make it worth heading out? But not too many to make it not worth it? And the enemy can always get frustrated and leave, either because he is holding the field uncontested or losing without a chance against superior numbers. Maybe that will all work out in tier 4. At least you can have your own warband there, where you will not be much affected by idiots, nudists, and attempted leeches who you have on /ignore.

(I note that others report entirely different experiences. Casualties of WAR has had many good RvR nights in the open world. When you play in what tier on which server will have an effect.)

There are two really hard parts here. First is getting the lower tiers to work given everything above. If you cannot level meaningfully from open world RvR, open world RvR population will drop; repeat the cycle down to empty zones. Second is getting tier 4 to work. So far, every reported attempt on a capital city has involved bugs, such as keep doors that let the enemy in or a keep that could not be captured or NPCs who were not working as intended. Even when the parts work, will the system as a whole work? It could be too hard: we have had several stories of Altdorf falling, only to find the Emperor alive and well at the end of each. Maybe someone will be able to take an almost-undefended city once there are more warbands full of 40s. But if it is too easy, and there are too many times of day when you are taking an almost-undefended city, then it is broken in the other direction.

This will mostly break against Order, but it is not just to Order’s detriment. If people wanted to fight NPC bosses, they would still be raiding. Having a few PC gnats against your warband will not change the equation much. Maybe people want to be the underdog against an increasingly powerful foe, victims in the path of greater numbers with better loot and higher renown ranks from previous city raids. Maybe people want to be that Destruction juggernaut. For me, an unbalanced game is not especially worth playing, no matter how much fun it is to be the dominating side for a little while, and certainly not when either your situation is hopeless or your hopeless victims leave.

Ideally, it will all come together in tier 4. I envision a game where you level up on scenarios with a bit of PvE so that you can learn how to play your class. The tier 4 zones are where winning and losing really “counts”; before that, claiming has only slightly more impact than winning a scenario, so if the rewards are not there, open world RvR just means that you prefer 24+ on 24+ instead of 12 on 12, or maybe you like fighting NPCs with your PvP.

I have not seen evidence yet that the late game works well. It may, but I cannot believe it has had much testing. On the other hand, if any company can fix something that difficult on the fly, I must credit Mythic for its ability to respond to problems. I write many posts a few days in advance, and I have had more Warhammer posts re-written by patches and Herald announcements than I have had in the past two years.

On another meta note, I want one-stop shopping for developer comments. If you are not going to have your own boards, you need to point out what your team is saying and where. I am not going to monitor multiple message boards when “recent dev posts” is known technology.

The game has promise. The game has fun. I stand by my original contention that you can get your month’s worth of fun just playing the classes that interest you through a tier or two. There is even enough good PvE content to make it worth poking around each zone a bit, although I would hate to try to level to 40 that way.

For me, for Warhammer, scenarios are where it is at. It is where the RvR action is. It is where I hear the most chat statements outside guild chat. It is where you usually have a team. So it lives and dies on how much you enjoy a YAFMMORPG version of Team Fortress. And how much you like the people around you. (If most people move into open world RvR after a month or two, remove the “Team Fortress” bit from that.)

If you are looking for a sequel to World of Warcraft focused around team-PvP rather than raiding, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is the game for you. If not, not.

: Zubon

Tycho had similar, if less verbose thoughts. I’m more verbose than Tycho. Great.

State of the Game post? Promises, promises. I’ll quote myself:

I am expecting some new patch and a big announcement this week. This is purely based on timing: the free month is almost over, so you want to get people to stick around another month. Give them a bone, give them hope, and you have another month to work out any issues.

7 thoughts on “Warhammer After a Month”

  1. Is it worth buying? I was thinking of getting it and using the 30 free days as my trial. An expensive trial, but it sounds like a good change from LoTRo…

    Zubon responds: WAR and The Lord of the Rings Online™ Volume 1: Shadows of Angmar™ both use the same basic DikuMUD framework. Whether it will be worth it for you depends on what sort of change you want. Did you like the idea of the Ettenmoors but think it does not really work? If so, you may enjoy the open world RvR. It does well what the structure of the Moors does poorly. If you like the Ettenmoors but wanted more group-on-group rather than raid-on-raid action, you may enjoy scenarios. If you are PvE-focused, skip WAR, maybe look back in a year or two. If you are burned out on MMOs in general, skip everything for at least a few months; WAR changes the game, but it is not new new.

  2. I “most ready for release” is very true in one way, and not in another. WAR kind of redefines what’s important and suddenly there are unexpected issues, ones that do need more work than at first they seemed.

    For starters, population imbalance has never been quite so important as it is in WAR. Anyway, I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but if we’re in first-month reflecting mode…

  3. I canceled both our accounts tonight. The PvE sucks, the scenario queues take forever and there’s nobody in the open RvR areas. I can’t take it any more. I really enjoyed the RvR in WAR, but it’s too hard to find at this point.

    They need to focus 100% of their efforts on encouraging more people to play in open RvR.

  4. “the scenario queues take forever ”

    Heh you must have been playing Destruction.

    Had the same problems as did most of my guild so we rerolle on to another server as Order. I believe the longest i have waited for a Scenario pop is 5 minutes in T3.

    I agree that the PvE is lacking…a lot. What makes it worse is that the Renown gear you get since it is level locked, and is pretty much all green gear is actually worse than the gear you get from PQ’s (which hardly anyone does). So if you want ot be in th ebest gear for your RvR you HAVE to grind the subpar PvE.

    I miss Open RvR, I had an absolute blast in the beta with Open RvR, but then you were restricted not just in level but in the amount of servers.

    The total server pop cap (order+destr) is way too low. It’s bad enough to not have people around in PQ’s but if a new person rolls a toon right now it’s like the game has been out for years, there is NOBODY around.

  5. I just hit an experience wall… I don’t like it. I complete all the quests for a Chapter, and then grind out all the Influence… and I am now two levels behind for Chapter 11. I know I can go to other pairings and do Chapter 10 there… or do Scenarios, but it sucks hitting this wall. I always get kind of depressed when I hit them.

  6. I’m still playing and I’ve no doubt myself and my guildmates will all make it to 40 before we decide if we’ll leave– but Mythic does have to bring activity (and a bit more fun) to both the PQs and RvR.

    Scenarios are entertaining, but sooner or later we’ll be souring on paying a monthly fee for something we can get in other games (Team Fortress, Battlefield or Counterstrike anyone?) for just the purchase price.

  7. Starting to come around to Ethic’s point of view here… Where’s the Open RvR? Not in T1 or T2… Scenarios can be fun but like popcorn they do not make a meal.

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