Friday, March 13, 2009

Tulane's "State of the Game"

Warhammer Online has been moving in a positive direction since it's launch last September. And since the game is approaching its six-month anniversary, I thought I would examine where the game was, is and will be in the upcoming months.

1. Communication

Communication was a big headache at launch. Each zone was split up into fractions, making communication in region chat impossible. However, Mythic was quick to respond and streamlined region chat to cover the entire zone. It has worked very well in a game where armies need to mobilize fast to be effective. 

For the sake of further improvements, I don't think an in-game voice chat system would necessarily be a bad thing, but often times it is a feature that is never used in mmos, since most guilds and groups use Team Speak or Ventrillo.

2. PvE

a.) Leveling

Leveling in WAR is no longer as tedious as it was at launch. Tier 3 was absolutely a nightmare to grind through initially, however Mythic has made significant increases to quest experience, making leveling less of a chore. I believe Mythic still needs to increase the experience in tier 3 and tier 4. If anything, the experience needs to be consistent. Quest experience in tier 4 Greenskin is much more profitable than the other two racial pairings. 

While scenarios are still the fastest way of leveling, players at least no longer feel like questing is a total waste of time.

b.) Public Quests

It was hard to find a solid group for PQs even at launch. 
I chalk it up to the fact that there are so many PQs. PvE influence rewards have always been decent and the loot drops from successfully completing a PQ were equally — if not better — than influence rewards, so the incentive was already in place. To combat the difficulty of finishing a PQ, Mythic implemented easy PQs in each area. Now, players can complete a PQ with only one or two more people (and even solo depending on the class). 

c.) Dungeons

A token system needs to be implemented to minimize the gear grind. I wouldn't have near a problem with the gear grind if all of the city dungeon runs that I have done would at least grant me tokens to purchase to armor that didn't drop for me. This is an RvR game and the most dynamic play doesn't happen in dungeons, it happens on the battlefield. Therefor, constant running of dungeons as a means to get gear is not only tedious, but self-defeating to the purpose of the game.

3. RvR

Numerous changes have been made to make RvR more appealing. Sure, we all remember at launch how everyone ran to the tier 1 RvR lake to battle for supremacy against the other faction. This notion of realm pride and the attitude to "play because it is fun" quickly dissolved as players focused on incentives as it relates to time investment. Therefor, RvR lakes became scarce with players.

In response, Mythic implemented RvR influence rewards, much like PvE influence rewards. Some of these rewards are significantly superior to other PvE rewards, giving players an incentive to do the one thing the game was designed to do, RvR. The "Nemesis" system that
Mythic is implementing will make RvR more personal and exciting. I look forward to gaining increased rewards for killing those players who have killed me the most.

a.) Keeps

Keeps still need a lot of work. 

Keep sieges in tier 2 are no different than keep sieges in tier 4. This is a fundamental design flaw. Keeps should become more dynamic in the higher tiers. Larger courtyards doesn't equal more dynamic. I understand that keeps were a late addition to the game, however Mythic needs to address them as soon as possible. Mark Jacobs said the design team is implementing an additional ramp to keep lords in each keep, but this is not a viable solution.

Keeps need to be dynamic. When an army attacks one, it should look like it has been attacked. Walls should be destructible, siege towers should be used to climb the walls, etc. I should be able to place diseased animal carcases on a catapault as a means to cause a disease debuff to all players that come into contact with the attack. Also, siege weapon animation needs to be there. When I fire a repeater, the opposing army should be fighting in the shade.

b.) Fortresses

Fortresses are just glorified keeps. They were also a magnet for server crashes. As a matter of fact, they still are. The population caps that Mythic implemented improved on crashes, but it greatly limits the scope of battle, minimizing any epic feeling that may be felt. Nothing less than continued server and client performance issues can remedy this problem.

c.) Battle Objectives

BOs need to serve a purpose, both offensively and defensively. They should be treated as supply lines to the nearest keep. If Order has control over a keep and the two nearby BOs, then they should receive a bonus when they are defending their keep. However, if Destruction takes the BOs — thus cutting off the enemy's supply lines — the defenders should take some sort of debuff when defending the keep. And if a debuff will discourage players from defending, then capturing the enemy's BOs could just nullify the keep defender's bonus.

4. Character

Character animations have greatly improved since launch, however there is still a long way to go. Casting lag and animations need to be remedied if Mythic wants to pull in potential players. On my DoK, as well as my Magus, if a spell's tooltip says that it is a two second cast, it will undoubtedly be three seconds. All of my abilities either contain misinformation in the tooltip or the casting lag is off by one second. An immediate fix is needed, especially in an RvR-centered game.

Balancing issues are still prevalent, but that is the life of an mmo. 

5. Overall

WAR continues to improve and the changes that Mythic has implemented have all been for the better. The developer, as well as the players, are committed to making the game succeed.

Back in October, when my friends were leaving the game, I can remember telling them to wait and see where the game is in six months. Well, the six month mark is here and I am happy to say that WAR is a much better game now than it was. This is something that doesn't always happen in mmos (i.e. LU #13 in EQ2, NGE for Star Wars Galaxies, Arenas in WoW).

With the final two classes going live, there really has never been a better time to give WAR a second glance. WAR has more potential than any other mmo that is currently live, and even with all of its flaws, it continues to crawl closer and closer to reach said potential.

Now is the time to join the war. If you need further encouragement, check out my propaganda video.

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