Saturday, July 12, 2008

Incomplete, Content


Prior to the Lord of the Rings movies launching, back during filming, word leaked out that the core story was being altered to include a love story between Arogorn and Arwen. Nerd rage ensued, as this was blasphemy to the Lord of the Rings faithful. Peter Jackson, director of the trilogy, eventually made the decision to cut most of the love story that had been added to the script, because it wasn't working out. The love story remained part of the movie, but no where near as involved as it was originally scripted. Guess what, no one screamed that the films were "incomplete". Actually, most people would agree that they were pretty damn good movies, even with just a third of the love story included.

Fast forward to this week's announcements from Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR). People are screaming that what is being left on the cutting room floor will now make the end product "incomplete". Really? Just like the Lord of the Rings movies were left incomplete in the wake of a major plot theme being cut? Peter Jackson had a great saying for the pre-release fans: "Don't worry, it'll be in the Collector's Edition DVDs!". Same as Mark Jacobs saying; "Folks, we'll work on it, and if we get it right, we'll put it in."

Fortunately for WAR fans, an MMO has far more luxury to add in major additions later down the line. However, like movies, MMOs have to come out of the gates swinging to capture an audience before another movie does. There are plenty of people looking for a new movie this year and they will only be satisfied by a movie that makes it to the credits.


It really enrages me to hear people claim that 2/6 of WAR's content will now be missing, so I want to take a few moments to talk about content.

Starting off, capital cities in WAR will be broken down into five different stages and grow with the playerbase. Yes, cities in WAR will level. A major point to this argument is that each new city level will increase the amount of content available to players of BOTH realms, because once captured, enemies gain access to that content as well. In reality, there will actually be ten different capital cities worth of content to explore in WAR. With the announcements, Mythic clarified that they will be adding even more content to the cities now that there is only two, on top of polishing what was already there. How that message is being translated into a loss of 2/6 of the games content is beyond me.

World of Warcraft's guild system is nothing more than a chat channel and a members panel. WAR's guild system will have forty levels, guild standards, a shared guild tavern, guild-claimable keeps, in-game guild calendars, and both of the items mentioned for WoW.

WoW has nine player classes. WAR will have twenty. The "classes are just mirrors of each other in WAR" argument falls flat. If classes were simply mirrors, none of them would be getting cut from release. WAR's classes will have similarities, but all will be unique within themselves, with their own flavor.

WoW's player skill system has three paths available per class, as will WARs. However, in WAR players will be able to gain additional skills from the Tome of Knowledge and Realm vs. Realm ranks.

Oh, and WAR will have the Tome of Knowledge, which Blizzard is trying to match with an achievement system in Wrath of the Lich King. However, we've seen the Tome of Knowledge and it houses ten times the potential of an achievement system being tacked onto an aging game.

WoW has Arena rankings, which followed a failed and abandoned Honor Rank system. WAR will have eighty planned levels of RvR ranks. a system Mythic has perfected over a decade of game development.

WoW has four PvP battlegrounds. WAR will have some as well, rumored to be several more than that available in WoW.

WAR has a Campaign System, culminating in a Capital City siege and capture phase. WoW will have one zone in Wrath of Lich King designed to be an open world siege.

I could go on and continue this vane argument, but what I'm trying to get at, is that we should be standing here and asking if WoW is "complete", because by the measuring stick being leveled at WAR, it sure the hell isn't. It isn't even close. Of course that can't be possible for the Holy Grail of MMOs, so the measuring stick is obviously flawed. I actually agree with that assessment, because the measuring stick is broken. However, as broken as it is, it will be used to measure WAR while WoW sits idly by, immune to the same criticism.

If WAR pulls off what has been SHOWN already, it will be launching on a content platform far more diverse and unified than anything offered by WoW. It will take time to grow that content in quantity, but that is fine when Mythic sticks to quality first. In the end, that approach to quality will keep players interested, just as it has kept players interested in WoW for four years.

What these cuts for WAR tell me is that Mythic is dedicated to sticking to what works and making sure it s done as best as possible, just as Blizzard does. Last I checked, that worked out pretty damn well for Blizzard.


  1. I don't like WoW as much as the next person, but I find this post to be completely unfair of it. Actually I don't agree with pretty much anything in this post. First the major thing, WoW was released almost 4 years ago. It changed a lot of things with MMOs and expectations. Expectations that WAR now has to live up to if it wants to succeed, because of WoW. No matter how much you rag on WoW, it set the bar. It is the bar now and will continue to be the bar if WAR doesn't succeed.

    The cities being cut, and the uproar is something Mythic created itself. They hyped the crap out of them, then they decided they weren't ready, so they cut them. I think people are perfectly justified to scream incomplete because of it. If you aren't sure of something, don't hype it. Simple as that.

    Back to content, again you are comparing a game that changed the genre, and was released nearly 4 years ago. I don't see how subtracting 4 cities is actually adding content to them, but to each their own. Again, WoW's guild system was created nearly 4 years ago, and for it's time it was pretty damn good. The game I played before that didn't even have a guild tab or anything like that. Classes being cut never bothered me, I expected as much with so many of them.

    PvP system in WoW was a failure, I completely agree. However, calling WARs pvp system a success because they have "perfected" it in DAoC is absurd. Look at EQ and EQ2, EQ is considered great, EQ2 is considered... not so good. Anarchy Online is a cult hit, AoC is a big flop. It's crazy to claim previous success will lead to current.

    To date WoW is the most complete MMO I have EVER played. Picking sections of WAR content and forgetting about everything else WoW offers doesn't make for a good argument.

  2. Hard to believe WAR is only a few months away. I must say, I'm starting to get a little interested.

    As a warhammer tabletop gamer (fantasy and 40k, have a lizardmen army and half a dark eldar army) I feel somewhat superior to your typical WAR fan. Er, just saying.

  3. Anonymous2:51 PM

    Or, for a variation of the argument: The Scouring of the Shire, discuss.

  4. The argument already fails using something that was never part of the original story to begin with.
    This was a "special" addition Peter Jackson wanted to make.

    All along the core of WAR included these capitols, and classes. At least this is what Mythic told us.

    I stated elsewhere, Mythic is just like Funcom in regards to not releasing complete.
    The difference is Funcom kept up the ruse that it was there all along.
    Mythic tells us the truth, removes it and lets the fanbois fix it all up and make it look pretty to the masses.

    At least we still have those exciting videos of Paul staring at Morgan Webbs boobs on X-Play as he expounds upon the fact that "We took EVERYTHING you loved about Warhammer and put it into an MMO"

    Well, except for this little bit...k?

  5. @Sane,
    I'm as much a Blizzard fan as the next guy, still playing WoW and loving it. But writing something like "WoW's guild system was created nearly 4 years ago, and for it's time it was pretty damn good." it a damn lousy excuse. Plus I think in this case you should use "its" not "it's" ;)

    All it means is that for over 4 years Blizzard have not had the will to improve something which could imho be relatively easily improved and which would have added so much to the experience of players. Would it really have killed Blizzard's servers to have 200 friends and 200 ignores per person? sharable at will among alts? with frigging notes!

    The guild system, friend/ignore lists, pvp combat in general (and Arena in particular) and especially the god-aweful LFG system are among some of WoW's least-liked/polished/mature/{add adjective here} parts. They suck actually. The chat interface could use improvements too.

    WoW rocks when it comes to playability, end-game content and user-interface customization. I have yet to hear if WAR will allow UI mods but if it doesn't it's a huge step back compared to WoW. IMHO the ability to write UI mods has over time saved many people from leaving WoW since they could improve a bad UI and in some cases even Blizzard borrowed the idea back into the game. I would say in fact the low system requirements, playability and UI-mods are among the 3 top reasons why WoW is top dog.

    If WAR wants to be more than a niche game, better guilds and PvP will help but imho it must also have the above 3 or it will never really take off.

  6. SolidState,

    Thanks for pointing out SANE's mistake. There is nothing "fine" about WoW's Guild system. Everquest 2 launched at the same time as WoW with a far more advanced guild system. Actually, games ten years older than WoW have more involved guild systems. WoW's guild system, to this day, is a bare-bones kit.

    If WoW has had any problems, it is the lack of guild structure and loyalty, but that is fine in a game that can be played and enjoyed as a solo player. However, I've always thought WoW could do A LOT to improve the end game situation by beefing up guilds.

    Sure,WoW's system works and gets the basic job done, but as with almost everything about WoW, there is HUGE potential for improvements if Blizzard ever gets the time.

  7. One Major thing Mythic has going for it is their focus on PVP instead of making a PVE centric game with PVP horribly tacked on later.

    I doubt anyone would argue that the PVE in WOW is the best in the MMO world and will probably continue to be the best long after WAR releases. The PVP sucks and will probably continue to suck.

    Did WOW launch incomplete? Absolutely. They lacked the ability to see that flying mounts would one day be part of the game and thus made much of Azeroth incompatable with flying mounts outside of the gryphon cab service. Blizz promised seige engines before WOW ever launched and failed to deliver. Ironforge was a complete mess until over a year after launch. I could go on and on but I think people are going to get where I'm going with this.

    Imo, a gaming company shouldn't brag about gameplay elements they plan on adding 4 years later, they should emphasize the aspects they have already polished or plan on polishing before launch. Anything else I consider to be incomplete.

  8. What pisses me off is that Blizzard never made the time to improve things in WoW like its guild system or adding in player housing. Instead they thought it would be a good idea to move all their developers to new projects like

    Diablo 3
    Starcraft 2
    New Unannounced MMO
    Wrath of Lich King

    There's really been no pressure on Blizzard to innovate or improve their basic game for a long time. I was hoping that Warhammer would force the giant to wake up and move around a little bit. Now I wonder if Warhammer is sacrificing too much to release before Wrath of the Lich King. Will it be able to hold onto subscribers or will they all head back to Blizzard?

    Also, despite what Mythic says does this smell like a EA influenced decision?

  9. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Whoo, where to start?

    First of all, I guess, the LotR analogy isn't really correct in its details. I was both following the thing very closely and am initimately familiar with the book; the griping wasn't that the Arwen subplot was being included (it is, after all, right in the novel,) it was that Pete was planning on adding Arwen Warrior Princess to a bunch of the battles, which would have been pretty stupid. Thankfully a smarter course prevailed.

    On to WAR... I'm finding the ToK to be sounding essentially just like LotRO's Deeds at this point. Cool, but not exceptionally noteworthy. Some recent stuff has come out indicating that there's a lot more to it than that, which is great - it's one of the features (along with public quests and the allegedly awesome capitals) that I most want to see.

    However, more PvP battlegrounds do not necessarily make a better situation. Too many and you split the PvP player base. You'd think this would be harder to do in WAR, just because it'll have a higher proportion of people interested in PvP, and there are some easy ways around it, but it's worth pointing out.

    I do not agree that WoW is immune to criticism - it has plenty of critics, including you, me and 95% of other MMO bloggers. Indeed, it often attracts criticism that seems solely rooted in its position as the market leader, as so often happens, whether that's fair or not. In fact, I would put money down that there are more people grousing about WoW than there are people slavering over WAR.

    All that said, I have no faith that anything particularly interesting (including the rumored achievement system,) will appear in WotLK, and I would be shocked in WAR did not have PvP clearly superior to WoW's even at launch. As I've said, I expect it to be a very solid game.

    I am, however amused at the community reaction, which is pretty much as I predicted. And much as I would like to laugh at Mythic for having to do a little dancing after the announcement (which they should have handled better,) I'm glad that the situation has forced their hand a bit and made them reveal some details that they were previously very tightlipped about.

  10. Ardwulf,

    Go listen to Chaos Cast #4 at the link below and tell me the ToK sounds like the deed system of LotRO. The Deed system of LotRO is about 10% of the entire ToK, which is why a lot of people confuse it as one in the same.

    I never said WoW didn't have critics. WoW is immune to the criticism. WoW, when criticized, is still used as the shining, pristine example of how it should be done.

    The fact is: WoW has one way to add content, while WAR will have several. What that results in is a far more diverse play experience for the WAR player that CAN NOT and WILL NEVER be found in WoW. That doesn't make it the better game, but it satisfies a need for a lot of players like myself.

  11. Anonymous8:47 AM

    You'll pardon me for saying that (without having listened to the podcast,) I don't trust Keen and Graev on things like this - mere weeks ago they were talking about Age of Conan as if it were the messiah arriving to take us all to the MMO promised land, and now it's allegedly the biggest disaster since the Titanic. I do, however, trust Michael Zenke, and he seems to feel that the ToK will be a very powerful feature.

    The ToK is, however, fundamentally the same idea as LotRO deeds. It may take that idea a whole lot farther; I hope it will, and certainly Mythic is telling us that it will. But I also am disinclined to take vague promises of greatness at face value at this point, without some corroborating information from, say, the beta. Until I see that detailed explanation of how the feature works and why it’s so awesome, or play with it myself and discover that to be the case, I’m going to remain very guarded about it.

    Part of the point I have been trying to make for weeks (perhaps inarticulately,) is that I take what we are seeing from some corners of the WAR fanbase as unrestrained hyperbole, and I don’t think that’ll be helpful to the game, because it will not arrive absolutely perfect and unassailable in every way, and falsely raised expectations can create a big negative backlash and lots of hard feelings. Keen and Graev provide the perfect example of this; one week, AoC was the Most Perfectest MMO Ever, and the next it was unredeemable dogshit. I’m being very cautious about WAR because I want it to be good, and because that kind of thing annoys me.

  12. Ardwulf,

    I pointed you to the podcast because Keen and Graev interviewed the ToK lead developer from Mythic. You can literally get the word straight from the horse's mouth about comparing the ToK to the LotRO deed book. The podcast hosts do an excellent job of asking her questions as well.

    Also, I don't think you can fault people for trying to enjoy what they are anticipating and going to play. Fault them for flaws in their reasoning and for blindly defending the game even in the face of overwhelming factual evidence against them.

    I think you will find Keen and Graev both discovered the flaws of AoC and rightfully changed their stance on the game.

    For AoC, it was very tough to determine the outcome at first. There was nothing apparently wrong at the start, which is where many assumed the problems would begin. A bevy of MMO veterans claim nothing but fun was to be had at launch.

    AoC beta testers, myself included, felt that there would be issues down the line, but Funcom did quite a job getting the game from a "complete disaster" to "solid launch". It fooled a lot of people, and it is interesting to see which ones are coming back around to admit that AoC really does have problems.

    I think Keen and Graev should be commended for being able to gracefully shut down their AoC hype machine. I know I wouldn't of been nearly as graceful.

    If WAR somehow turns on me and comes out craptacular, I'll be the first to admit it and probably the loudest to eat crow. However, I think have a pretty good nose for these games and know when to tuck tail and run. WAR smells like roses.


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