Daily Archives: October 20, 2008

War torn.

I’ve decided not to continue my subscription to Warhammer Online. Or, to put it more accurately, I’ve decided not to subscribe at all, since GOA were not resourceful enough to demand my credit card details from the outset, and thus I never actually had any semblance of a subscription plan in the first place.

Now, all those fanlings out there who take joy at frothing and foaming at any slight to their game, no matter how small and no matter how irrelevant the instigator, can feel free to fire-up their email clients and compose stern letters in poorly spelled words of no more than two syllables telling me just how wrong I am. Rest assured I will print out every email and give each one the intimate attention it deserves; even if it means I have to wipe my bottom raw, I will make sure I cover each and every point you make.

So why am I not subscribing? I’m not having fun; this much is as irrefutable as the gravity on this beloved planet of ours. Why am I not having fun? If I could only tell you the reason, I would, but then I would also be able to tell Mr Jacobs, preferably on a contract salary with many, many zeros at the end of it, and to be brutally honest I’d much rather do that because, regardless of the monetary recompense, I wouldn’t have to wipe my bum sore on all the ranty opinionated drivel that was sent my way.

I simply don’t know why.

To put things in to context a little, then: I’ve tried numerous classes, on Order and Destruction, and have found nothing really wanting with them, they are all excellent takes on the classical classes, with unique twists and attempts to involve the player more; some work better than others, but they all work. I’ve played alongside some fabulous people in a guild that is both populous and active, and therefore have not simply tired of soloing a game that was never meant to be played solo other than by the hardcore grinder. I’ve probably had as many victories as I have had defeats in PvP, such that I have not been put off by the game’s heavy PvP bias; in fact, I’ve found that upon cracking open my sugar-coated carebear shell there was a soft, delicious chocolaty PVP centre within me. Warhamer Online has, if nothing else, opened my eyes to how good PvP can be. Guild Wars showed us that an MMO with a PvP focus could endure and remain fresh in the public consciousness, much like Everquest showed us that MMORPGs could work in an online world of FPSs and RTSs; and much as World of Warcraft brought MMORPGs to the masses, I believe Warhammer Online brings large scale PvP to the same. Make no mistake, World of Warcraft had the mass-market PvP first, but Warhammer made it compelling beyond a mere treadmill-like league of grinding phat loots, instead making it integral to the whole game experience, tying it inexorably to your character’s fundamental reason for being.

Still the question stands: why am I not having fun? There must be something tangible to grab on to, some tiny annoying loose thread that mars an otherwise immaculate dinner jacket of a game. Perhaps it’s not that I cannot find the thread, but that I fear to pull on it lest my entire view of MMOs unravels before my eyes, and I’m left wearing the rather tatty and dishevelled waistcoat of MMO disillusionment. Can we just accept that for some reason the game does not work for me on a basic primal level, and leave it at that? Look, I like Shakespeare’s works; I love to visit the Globe and be a groundling for an evening, or in times passed watch the RSC at the Barbican before they decided to turn into some sort of travelling troupe. Yet I know many, many people who don’t get it. They don’t enjoy it in any way shape or form, even if it’s cast in a Baz Luhrmann too-hip-to-be-cool mould. I never ask them as to why, though, for what sort of answer could one expect? It’s boring. It’s inaccessible. It’s outdated, maybe? To me these seem like crazy reasons, but that’s not because these people aren’t right, it’s just that they can’t really put their finger on why they don’t like it. They. Just. Don’t. I can’t argue with them for not liking it, you can’t say to someone “Well, if you just read all around the topic and studied it for a few years. Perhaps take to quoting sonnets until your brain can only form sentences structured in iambic pentameter. Then you’d probably enjoy it”, that’s not an argument for the joy to be found in Shakespeare, it’s an argument that says “You’re at fault and you should work hard to correct that”. No, no and thrice no. Enjoyment of pastimes is not a chore, it is a pleasure from the start or it is nothing at all. Yes you often have to work at an interest to experience all the enjoyment that it has to offer, but there has to be that base interest in the first place, that foundation of pleasure and enthusiasm to build upon, else you’re building something that will not stand even the lightest of pushes against it.

If pressed, if truly harangued by the torch-bearing, pitch-fork wielding horde of fanatical fans of the game, smashing at the doors of the KiaSA windmill while I stand above them on a balcony, cursing them for their lack of understanding and their heathen ways, I would perhaps offer a few vagaries in the hope that they would pause for a moment in contemplation and then leave me in peace. These would be thus:

The so good:

  • The character and world design is fantastic. Grittier than World of Warcraft and eschewing shoulder pads that rival the wingspan of 747 airliners and weapons that could be used to span the English channel and support multi-lane highway access to the continent, Warhammer’s characters are closer to the tabletop miniatures, they still have their comedy moments, but it is the refined surreal comedy of the Mighty Boosh as opposed to the gaudy over-the-top comedy of South Park.
  • The war. War is indeed good. We’re still not sure what it’s good for (huh), but we can agree that Mythic has certainly delivered on its promise to develop realm pride and to allow that pride to be represented (yo) on the field of battle.
  • The game is at least trying to do some things differently. Many of these things work and work well, others are great in concept but have lacked a little in their realisation.

The not so good:

  • The XP curve. Fixes have already begun to filter through for this, and if there’s anything most MMO players can cope with it’s a tedious repetitive grind, so I don’t imagine that this will be a problem for long.
  • There is still too often a tangible disconnect between what I do with the interface and what my character appears to do on the display. The effects work – the healing is delivered, the enemy is smote with damage – but my character appears to be doing something entirely different a lot of the time, playing the banjo or crafting origami badgers, it doesn’t matter, the fact is that I cannot easily tell if what I did had the desired effect without parsing the combat log or upgrading the floating combat numbers with an AddOn and then spending my entire time staring at text on the screen. Which I could do playing MUD1.
  • Huge parts of the game already feel like WoW’s 1-60 content: empty, abandoned and unused. I have visited so many public quests and out of the way areas and found nobody else around. On odd occasions I’ve found another lone soul and we’ve teamed-up in order to try to accomplish something, but mainly we just end-up standing and quietly holding one another, a forlorn attempt to affirm our connection to a world where one steps into a void as soon as one leaves the grind-filled ruts of the common levelling path.
  • Scenarios break public quests. Simply put, public quests should have been available on a queue system like scenarios are, or scenarios should not have been on a queue system but accessed from specific locations around the world map, with those locations preferably being close to public quests (which would have been rubbish, because instant fix PvP is one of the excellent design decisions Mythic made). Mythic came up with two excellent game systems that unfortunately aren’t terribly compatible in their current state. With scenarios having the greatest XP-per-effort/time ratio, they won out, as has been discussed by m’colleague and numerous others already.

There’s nothing game-breaking or truly awful in the above, they are just a few areas that help contribute to my lack of desire to play the game. They are not the reason for my lack of desire, however, this I wish to make abundantly clear; the game doesn’t work for me at a fundamental level, but it works for a vast number of others and I’m deeply happy for, and somewhat envious of, them. And if none of that helps to pacify the lynch mob, or at least confuse them long enough that I can make my escape by the back door, then I shall just have to play the Boris Karloff part to Zoso’s Frankenstein, lift him up before the crowds and present him as the sensible one, the brains of the operation, the one who is still playing WAR and enjoying it, and to entreat them not to destroy us with their flames just because they perceive me as a monster.