WAR: Tales of Past Glory

n55876I’ve been watching with a heavy heart as many from Warhammer Online’s blogging community are retiring from their solemn duties, one after another, in a morbid procession of regret, wistfulness and (sometimes) anger.  Grimnir has the latest batch of farewells lined up, so I shan’t repeat them here, but there are some big names that have been blogging WAR since launch and before.

I understand, I identify and I support them wherever they go (and I sincerely hope that many of them, excellent writers that they are, keep on blogging in some format).  As many of you know, I wrote about Warhammer over a year on my old blog, WAAAGH!, played the game extensively, and ended up petering out much the same way as has been described by my fellow bloggers.  We all have our fun thresholds that have to be reached in order to sustain interest, and if it dips below that point, well, even having a major blog invested in talking about only one game won’t be the glue that keeps you stuck on it forever.

I’ve always thought of myself as more of a positive blogger than a negative one, but I’m not going to completely ignore what’s going on in the Warhammer community right now just because most of it is sour.  Patience is growing thin for many (but not all), particularly with Mythic’s promises and execution of said promises.

I will always love Mythic for being the company that they are, because — bless them — they have showed me that they care about the player, they listen to us, and they’re willing to work hard and pump out new content like there’s no tomorrow to improve their game.  It was a joy to cover WAR, because Mythic always gave us interesting personalities, excellent dev podcasts and interacted with the blogging community in a way that all other MMOs should do likewise. If I was the type to give report cards, I’d give them an “A” for effort, “A” for personality, “A” for imaginitive features, “A+” for hype, and “C-” for execution of it all.

Like Snafzg said, “If you keep building inefficiencies on top of inefficiencies, there is simply no way for you to untangle the mess you’re left with at the end.”  That’s an excellent way of putting a finger on WAR’s main issue.  It’s not that they weren’t daring, or don’t have a great IP, or have failed to throw a dump truck full of terrific ideas our way.  It’s that, like a car with three wheels that you’re fueling with Jack Daniels, it just doesn’t work properly.  Warhammer is an excellent game to play for those willing to overlook, for extended periods of time, faulty implementation in favor of the overall picture.  Mythic’s answer to a fleeing playerbase is grand promises, new content and rapid redeployment of Dark Age of Camelot’s tried-and-true features, whereas the #1 issue has always been polish, stability and playability.

Great ideas, grumpy engine.

There’s also an extremely wistful part of me that recalls back to summer 2008 and how I’d devour the advance info and imagine how the game would play.  In my mind, it was grand — the world was dark and gritty and humorous; the Tome all-encompassing; the play exciting; the customer characterization intricate.  The game in my head wasn’t pie in the sky impossible, it just wasn’t anywhere near where WAR turned out to be.  So I let that go, took WAR at its own merits, and eventually felt something intangible missing from my gameplay experience.

Of course, there are many, many players and WAR bloggers who don’t see it this way at all, and are in the thick of the fight even as comrades peel away for other MMOs.  That’s perfectly fine and I encourage them — as I’ve often said, don’t let the opinion of others (myself included) influence whether or not you like a game and are enjoying it.  If you do and are, then by all means: play away!  You shouldn’t need my blessing to do so.  We are all gamers, first and foremost, and should never be so wedded to one title that we can’t imagine ever playing anything else, or ever be able to leave.

I still hold tremendous hope for the future of WAR, because they are making strides to fixing and polishing and generating great content, and if in two years we start hearing about how we HAVE to come back and give this game another try by fellow players… then you won’t be able to stop a smile on my face.  I don’t want WAR to fail, and I don’t think it really will.  It can only succeed less instead of more.  I dare Mythic to win me back, to fling much improved subscriber numbers in the faces of doubters, to be the comeback story of the MMO world in 2009 and 2010.  I’ll be cheering them on if they do so.

7 thoughts on “WAR: Tales of Past Glory

  1. At my place of employment I’m fortunate enough to be the project lead on a “continuous improvement & excellence” endeavour, and yesterday we had some external consultants come in to assess our progress via focus groups, questionnaires, etc.

    One of the lead assessors, a “guru of quality” if you will, was telling me a story about the Japanese approach to quality. He said that they look at a customer’s complaint as a “gift”… if they could understand and fix the problem, they would have reaffirmed the customer’s belief in the company because the customer would have received a functional product AND piece of mind that the company was concerned with their satisfaction. The result? Oodles of customer loyalty.

    This made me think about Mythic and the state of WAR. We’ve given Mythic many “gifts” regarding server stability, influence and reward systems, class balancing, and the amount of liberties towards Warhammer lore that we are willing to endure. What have we, as customers, received in return?

    Further limitations to the game via fortress caps and “Winds of Change”. Nerfs and buffs to classes than many suggest are unwarranted and untested (I play both a BW and a Choppa and have to wonder why my Choppa AOE with other Choppas is okay, but my BW AOE with other BWs is not). Constant modification to BO capture rewards that makes earning renown feel like a grind more than ever before (most people complain about INF, but I find I can’t get renown to save my life now, which is particularly troublesome when I know I have a whole 80 levels of renown to work towards; trying to discourage Alts are we, Mythic?). The list goes on…

    Instead of earning loyal customers by fixing the initial problems a half-decent game had, Mythic has now galvanized many to the point of hoping WAR will be an Epic Fail just to spite the developers and marketers (read: hype mongers) who borked the game linked to one of the most promising fantasy IPs out there.

    On another note: three-wheeled car that runs on Jack Daniels. Syp, you magnificent bastard! That’s the best idea I’ve heard in a long time… better than sliced bread and Nike Pumps combined!!!

  2. Here..Here…Syp.

    And a Car that ran off Jack Daniels won’t go no where, cause I would of drank all the fuel

  3. Mmm Nike Slicedbreadpumps. Can they have jelly?

    I have to say, I felt like I was reading the obituary for Mythic here. But frankly I agree with the post, and the comment. Mythic is making some fairly stupid mistakes (stupid in the sense that they could be avoided). It is not about the hardware they have, or their coding sucking… it is the direction they put their energy in. They are so frightened that the RR40+ folks will leave because they are “bored,” but they are leaving because of basic mechanics.

    I have no doubt if basic aspects of this game were re-evaluated rather than pushing hard for new content, players would come back. I have not heard anybody say “Man I am BORED of all of this carnage and smashing of face.” I hear “#$%^& I crashed! $#%# basic rudimentary gaming mechanics!”

    Myself and my guild will stand strong until the fibers of WAR are swept away by the Winds of Change. I am loyal to the Lore.

    One last tidbit: Could Mythic use a new perspective? I am not saying hang the current developers out to dry, but it may be cost EFFICIENT for them to hire a few fresh-brained folks (even a business consultant, cough cough).

    Seriously, losing more players costs more than hiring a few new guys to retain current/new players.

  4. I’ll be cheering them on too, but in recent weeks, my confidence in Mythic’s ability to sustain the game is waning. I’ve had a CSR appeal in for two weeks now with absolutely NO response, and my appeal regards a game breaking bug. All I want is assurance that they’re working on it. Other people have gotten responses for trivial things. I tried calling and was told that my issue needs to be handled by the ingame CSRs, so there’s not even anyone I can talk to by phone, unlike Blizzard and Turbine.

    I love WAR. I’d still be playing all the time, despite the bugginess in T4, because I enjoy RvR and my hanging out with my guildies in vent, even with the crashes, sever side lag and getting kicked back to character select. But my patience and enthusiasm is wearing thin, and sadly, I think we’re seeing that same sentiment across a large part of the WAR community.

    Those LOTRO “come back” emails are looking mighty enticing. (As an aside, for us PvP types, I’d love to see you do a bit on their monster play, Syp!)

  5. BVD, please keep in mind that the Eastern mindset regarding these things is completely different from the Western mindset. And as such, the approach, while commendable, is not really applicable.

    How do I know? I’m Asian, and a student of the Japanese culture myself, who is now living in the USA. Trust me when I say that the Japanese approach does not work here. There are many reasons for this, too many to mention here. I could write a thesis on it. The tldr reason simply being that the two cultures are fundamentally way too different.

    @Syp:
    I’m still playing, got my second 40 not too long ago. My main impression of WAR is still that it is strong, it has it’s niche and it fills it well. The stability issues are there, but honestly apart from fort sieges, I almost never have lag problems. My experiences with City Sieges have been positive, even though the City PQs are instanced, I’ve been running into lots of fighting with multiple warbands in every instance. The vibe on my forum community is still positive. We are also seeing a constant influx of new players picking up the game, taking the free trials our current players are giving out. More than one guy is 1 invite away from getting the recruitment Mount. No one denies the problems, but most have faith that it will be ironed out. This is the nature of the beast. WoW never has had to deal with the issues brought on by hundreds of players crammed into a tiny area like a fort. All WoW endgame is neatly instanced. Honestly, the fort lag is the main bottleneck that I’m seeing. I would even be wiling to instance forts as a last resort in the name of greater stability.

    My feeling is that once Land of the Dead launches, Mythic will take the time to quietly improve the Fort/City stability problems while we are all out in the desert killing mummies, and each other. I also predict that the LotD areas will be a LOT more stable and will be able to handle greater numbers without crashing, or terrible lag.

    I’m still confident that WAR will maintain it’s place as the #2 western MMO for quite some time. The only other MMO’s I would even consider playing at this point are Champions Online, and SWTOR. I’m a bit apprehensive about CO, due to some people saying it’s gonna be rushed out to make its street date, but I’ll reserve judgement til I actually play it. In the meantime, I’ll still be playing, and awaiting the next step towards LotD.

  6. I saw a lot of this coming before WAR ever launched. All it takes is a cursory glance at the media/blogger behavior over the past several years, then an additional glance at our own behavior as MMO players these days to realize it’s a huge mistake to set out to only cover a single MMO. Doesn’t matter if it’s a blog, a podcast, or even a guild. There’s no guarantee pre-launch that the hype will meet reality. In fact, there’s not a single case of that having been true, why would anyone think Mythic would be the first to pull it off? As gamers, we may get bored or tired of a certain game, burnout on the whole genre, any number of things, not to mention plain ol’ MMOADD. The moment we set out and say “my blog is going to only be about Game X” we’re setting ourselves up to disappoint readers when we later decide Game X just isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, or not for us.

    I never cared much for the Warhammer IP and I certainly sure as hell never bought into (nor understood) the whole fanboism over Mythic themselves, but for some unknown reason I wanted to like WAR. I lasted a couple weeks and didn’t quite make it into Tier 2 before it was painfully obvious that whatever they did for WAR wasn’t for me.

    Interestingly, since I’ve returned to LOTRO recently I’ve been mostly doing PvMP and having more fun doing that than I have in any MMO PvP in the past decade.

  7. Hiryu02,

    Congratulations on being Japanese. I (absolutely) disagree with your comment though.

    Yes, Eastern and Western mindsets / mentalities / cultures may be different, but that does not mean basic practices in quality & excellence (which any organization can benefit from) would not work in both cultures.

    Look up William Edwards Deming (1900-1993) – a North American who is arguably the father of quality systems in manufacturing. North America wasn’t too friendly to his theories on quality, but the Japanese were in the 1950’s and companies like Toyota benefited from them immensely. They even have a Deming award in Japan for quality & excellence now to honour the man for his contribution in Japan.

    The US and Canada have this award, though here they are referred to as the Baldridge Award and the Canadian Award For Excellence (CAE) respectively. They’re based on the same quality and excellence principles that the Deming award is.

    That “guru” fellow I mentioned in my previous post who told me how the Japanese see customer feedback as a “gift” actually works for Ricoh Canada – a subsidiary of a Japanese company (Ricoh Co. Ltd) founded in 1936. Ricoh is arguably one of the leading companies in the world for quality, excellence and innovation. Each Ricoh subsidiary is encouraged to compete for the excellence awards of their home country (i.e. Ricoh Canada competes for the Canadian Awards of Excellence, while Ricoh Japan would compete for the Deming Award), and they then compete amongst themselves as well. This, again, is because principles for organizational excellence are universal.

    So Hiyru02, while I agree Eastern and Western cultures are fundamentally different, I think it takes a pretty ignorant person to suggest that “listening to your customers” or “making decisions based on facts” or “designing quality products with focus on failure prevention” aren’t practices a North American (Western) organization can adopt. If you still disagree, then I can only imagine you’re suggesting all North American organizations MUST be like those we hear about in the news so often these days – GM, Chrysler and Ford.

    Sorry if I’m coming across as harsh, but I find it very annoying when people try to tell me I should (or shouldn’t) know something because they have a different opinion on the matter. I also find it annoying when people continuously defend the actions of a company who has, to date, delivered a product to its paying customers that has some obvious design issues that have gone unaddressed (or poorly addressed) for the past 8+ months. This is a poor approach towards satisfying customers, and there is really no excuse for it.

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