After the battle, when all is said and done...

After the battle, when all is said and done...

 “But here I am to speak what I do know…” ~ Marc Antony, Julius Caesar

I cancelled my subscription to Warhammer: Age of Reckoning last week.

It saddened me to do so, as it’s not a bad game. Aspects of it approach true greatness: Open Realm versus Realm (ORvR) combat where parties of Order and Destruction slugged it out was always thrilling. Sure, keep fights where repetitive and the PvE game was open to charges of being monotonous and boring.

However, I found the range of WAR’s classes interesting and enjoyed the games art work and aesthetics. I’d rather not slate the game, I think WAR has been subject to enough trash talk on the interwebz.

When people talk about failed MMOs they mention WAR and Age of Conan in the same breath. The less charitable compare it to such notable failures as Vanguard and Tabla Rosa. But I’m not here to do that. After all, I invested a lot of time and energy in the game. I don’t see that as wasted effort.

I had a lot of fun in WAR, and have some great memories of the game. If I’m going to make one, final dedicated post to Warhammer: Age of Reckoning I’d rather do it out of respect. Respect for the hard work of developers. No doubt they sacrificed years of their lives. Also, respect for what is still a solid, though flawed, MMO.

Did the game fail? Yes, even EA/Mythic employees are talking about it’s major shortcomings and referring to it as a “magnificent failure”.

Still, let us speak fondly of a game that was once held to be a challenger to “The MMO that shall not be named”.

I come to praise WAR, not bury it.

I would rather pay tribute to WAR then condemn it. This, my eulogy, will praise the legacy of WAR…

Public Quests

A notable innovation, the public quest (PQ) allowed players to easily group and take on elite level MOBs and gain higher level gear and rewards. Players could simply open the “looking for group” window and join a group anywhere in a zone. Starting a PG group was just easy, and removed the need to constantly spam the open chat channels for party members.

This mechanic easily encouraged grouping, and as the groups numbers grew you would often convert the group into a “Warband”. Then the fun really started, as you and your little army went off to hunt enemy and capture strategic points in the ORvR areas. No doubt PQs will become a standard in many MMOs over the coming years, and can be rightly stated as true innovation.

Introducing PvP to a broader audience

Many gamers have become accustomed to the PvE tread mill: click NPC, get quest to kill ten rats, kill ten rats, come back and get rewards. Repeat for several years. Players were ripe for a change, and they looked to WAR for a different experience. After all WAR advertised itself as “the player versus player” experience: no doubt many flocked to WAR’s banner because of this very promise.

Fighting a MOB with scripted moves is one thing. PvP players know taking on another player is a thrilling challenge. WoW’s PvP is rather dull in comparison, restricted to Battle Grounds and a few open areas (Wintergrasp). I’ve never felt the same sense of danger or anticipation in WoW’s PvP than I did in WAR. No doubt the interest Aion has a lot to do with it’s PvP aspects. Thanks to WAR, many formally PvE centric players have had a taste of PvP and are keen to experience it in greater doses.

How to manage pre-launch expectations

It’s fair to say that pre-release, WAR was subject to enormous hype. Viz, Mark Jacobs very public statements, the bold claims made for it’s success and how WAR was going to take on WoW. In the months leading up to WARs release, I like many other players where *pumped*.

However, the games infamous post-launch issues dashed the hopes and dreams of many gamers. It was if there was a great disturbance in the MMOsphere and hundreds of thousands of gamers cried out in frustration all at once.

In contrast, witness NC Soft’s low-balling of expectationshas with the Aion launch. They’ve tried hard to walk the tight rope of building awareness and anticipation for Aion while not setting themselves up for massive failure. Mythic as taught the industry a valuable lesson: be careful what you say pre-launch.

Oh, and Blizzard will face stomp you if you dare try to take a shot at their crown.

Community engagement

Despite the often acrimonious relationship between Mythic and it’s player base, one could never fault the companies commitment to engaging and communicating with the WAR community. Even as a casual player, I had a good sense of the direction of the game and how issues where being resolved thanks to the frequent communication from Mythic. It sets a benchmark for other companies, and Mythic should be applauded for setting new standards of engagement with it’s player base.

Focus on polish

WAR was not polished enough at launch. The rough, unfinished Tier 4 and endgame experience dissapointed most players who got there. Bugs riddled the game, leading to almost daily hot fixes by Mythic during the first few months. The client would often crash, and server performance was subject to the ire of many players. In contrast, Aion has offered a relatively smooth launch experience. Despite the long server queues that some have experienced (at worst I’ve had a ten minute wait) there has almost no QQ about client/server performance. The game is relatively bug-free and runs smoothly.

Hopefully, developers will learn from WARs post-launch blues and ship a quality, polished product and not hope players will “stick it out” for a few months unit they get it right.

They first few months are when players such as myself are evaluating the game and deciding whether or not we’re going to maintain our subscriptions. Treat us well at the beggining, and we might just stick around.