Archive for the ‘Warhammer Online’ Category

Skaven And The Red Headed Step Child

Skaven Warlord

Dead Cat On Hip. New accessory by Armani.

Although I haven’t played Warhammer Online for a while I still follow news about it and have a second account setup for their endless trial (although I did receive a curious email not so long ago saying that my trial had expired meaning it wasn’t quite so endless after all… not quite sure what that was about). It’s a game that I remember being very, very excited about before it came out but then, after a flurry of passion, lost interest with it pretty quickly. Much like Age of Conan, a peer of its time, I always assumed an expansion with some juicy new races or classes would entice be back but so far there’s been nothing of the sort. Until kinda now there is.

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Expand Or Die

I hope this screenshot isn't too... boaring

I hope this screenshot isn't too... boaring

After having signed up for the endless trial, I was a little bit shocked when I logged into Warhammer yesterday for the first time in 18 months to discover that were only 2 English EU servers. It was quite a sorry sight as I remember there being dozens of servers when the game was first released, most of them so popular that sometimes Destruction players had to queue over an hour before logging in. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

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Thinking Of Going Back To WAR

Yes, I once met a Goblin called Gordon. And no, it's not funny.

Yes, I once met a Goblin called Gordon. And no, it's not funny.

Before you say anything, I’ll just clarify that I’m not actually an old army veteran suffering withdrawal symptoms, currently considering re-enlisting so I can get back into the action, sate my never ending bloodlust and bring an end to the terrifying dreams that torment my mind every night. No, I am in fact talking about the MMORPG, Warhammer Online.

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Travel In MMOs

Travel in MMOs is a tricky thing to get right. It’s more than just a way to get a player from A to B, it’s a way to immerse them in the online world and let them experience the natural flow of it. It’s also a very hard thing to balance. If it’s too easy for a player to travel from one place to another then there is no opportunity for them to experience the world or feel a part of it. Too difficult, on the other hand, and the player is left frustrated, bored or, at the worst, unable to easily join his companions.

World of Warcraft has a pretty good travel system though I do wish the griffins would fly a little quicker (I always sigh when I see my flight countdown clock read 9 minutes after I’ve picked my destination). I’d like the flying speed to be about double what it is now because spending 9 minutes doing nothing as my character is flown to a new destination is pretty tedious. Quite frankly, I can think of better things to do with that time. Saying all of that though, WoW certainly does grant a powerful feeling of immersion and being part of a vibrant world as you fly seamlessly through the differing areas and zones. The mount system is also good with a huge variety on offer and, at higher levels, the ability to get a flying mount. Finally, the ability to summon group members to dungeon entrances is also fantastic as it helps get people together quickly.

Everquest 2 also has a good travel system, although if WoW’s is a too long and tedious at times, this one is probably too easy in comparison. Sure, it’s nice to be able to use the travel bells on the docks to move to zones quickly but it does destroy the sense of immersion a bit. I think SoE have realised this though as there later expansions have included large, interlinked zones which you can’t easily teleport too but have to ride or fly through instead. I like this approach at it really helps make you feel like you’re existing in a living online world. I also like the fact that Druids and Sorcerers can open up travel portals to Druid Rings and teleport group members respectively – it really adds to their lore and power within the game world. Much like WoW, EQ2 also offers a fantastic selection of mounts to ride around on.

Warhammer Online, on the other hand, has one of the worst travel systems I’ve ever used and it’s certainly one of the contributing factors as to why I didn’t play the game long. The whole game has no sense of immersion and it’s only enhanced by the fact that you can’t fly overland inbetween zones but instead ‘teleport’ (you climb the flying mount, see a small animation and then appear in the new zone) between them. Combine this with an obious zone tiering system and it totally ruins any sense of immersion. Final, riding anywhere is also an utter pain in the arse as even the smallest bite from a mob will dismount you! Ultimately the travel system is neither immersive nor convinient and it really irks me.

I could write about the travel systems in other games but most have some sort of combination of what I’ve mentioned above. To me, the method and style of travel in MMOs is very important as it can be a massive influence on how engaged I am with the virtual world or how annoying it is to move around and actually do anything. I certain don’t envy game developers trying to come up with the ‘correct’ approach.


2009 Predictions

Here are my predictions for MMOs in 2009:

Star Wars: The Old Republic, Star Trek Online & DC Universe Online

Won’t be released this year. They will all be delayed until 2010.

World of Warcraft

Will continue to power on as usual but, as before, it will eventually lose subscribers to other games after a few months. This won’t really have any impact on the overall WoW subscriber figures though and players will return in droves in 2010 when Blizzard releases the next expansion. The dual-spec talent system will be delayed until late Spring but it will be much appreciated when it arrives.

Everquest 2

SoE release another new expansion in November, increasing the level cap by 10 and adding a new continent, the moon of Luclin. Unfortunately, the expansion doesn’t include any new low level content.

Everquest

SoE open a new server in March, similar to the Stromm server back in 2003. Lots of people go back and try it out for nostalgia’s sake.

Lord of the Rings Online

Continues to power along steadily but absolutely nothing exciting happens with it…

Age of Conan

Funcom release an expansion in the Spring with a new race, new content areas for all levels, a deity system, a handful more fatalities, some raiding zones and increase the level cap to 90. They make the Tortage starting area optional for all players who have a level 80 character or above.

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

Mythic work hard to fix all of the technical issues in the game has and focuses on improving the RvR experience. They increase the leveling speed again, making it quicker to get to T4 and reduce the all of the ‘requirements’ for PvP and RvR in Tiers 1-3 (i.e. reducing the number of people required to siege a keep). They add some new T4 PvE dungeons and, in the Spring, release the Choppa and Hammerer classes in a world event. They make scenarios cross server. During the summer they announce that they will release an expansion in 2010.

Vanguard

Vanguard eventually gets an expansion and proves that it just… won’t… die. The expansion focuses primarily on new areas for high levels and raiding.

Tabula Rasa

The games closes in February, only 15 months after having started. Real shame cause I actually liked the game – if only it had more depth and content.

Darkfall

Eventually releases this year and, despite a lot of fanboi hoo-ya, never really amounts to anything as all of the hardcore players return to WoW after trying it out for 1 month.


AoC Is Better Than WAR

2008 saw the release of two highly anticipated games – Age of Conan and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. I remember at the start of year reading the usual threads on forums about how they will conquer the universe and destroy World of Warcraft, making Blizzard cry and us laugh with shottenfreud. Never happened. In fact, both games are now getting severely panned by the blogging community whilst WoW is growing ever stronger. However, it seems to be the general consensus that WAR will eventually become a great game and challenge WoW whereas AoC will die a vicious, combo-orientated, death.

I disagree.

Although I think WAR is a decent enough game, it’s basic design is flawed deeply enough to prevent it from truly evolving. AoC, on the other hand, may be lacking content depth but it’s core game is excellent and it’s world is truly rich and satisfying. And I’m not talking about gorgeous graphics here, I’m talking about the feeling of the game when you play it and the immersion it provides. AoC really feels like a virtual world and, most importantly, it feels like Robert E. Howard’s virtual world. WAR, on the other hand, just felt a repetitive tiered t numbers game with no soul.

A Wall of Text has a good article up about why they are quiting WAR and I agree with everything. To me however, the scariest thing about WAR is the dying population and how it will effect gameplay. My original server, Karak Hirn,used to have a queue of 1-2 hours and yet, a mere 6 weeks after starting, the population was marked as ‘low’, even on peek times on a weekend (I haven’t checked it out recently). For a game which relies on large amounts of players to create the fun (PQs, RvR, scenarios) this is the kiss of death.

Mantooth fighting during a keep seige

Mantooth fighting during a keep seige

Keen and Graev are rather harsh towards AoC in their 2008 summary but, to be honest, I don’t think they ever liked the game. I haven’t played AoC in a few months but I still feel an affinity towards it and I honestly believe it will develop and evolve into a great game, much like EQ2 did. All AoC really needs is a good does of content, bug fixes, class balance, and new armour models (please, I want the variety!!!) – sounds like a lot but it’s all possible and doesn’t require huge reworks to the original game. It’s core gameplay is great and I have to commend Funcom for pushing the boat out and trying new things with their combat system. I have every intention of picking this game up again after their first expansion this year.

Mantooth: old man, big sword

Mantooth: old man, big sword