Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Warhammer Expectations

I don’t have the game yet, and haven’t played it since I was famously booted from beta for breaking the NDA in a pretty long rant that got some attention here on NotAddicted. That said, they have my money already, and I’m eagerly looking forward to playing it again tomorrow when I get into the preorder head start thing. I’ve been combing forums in the meantime trying to figure out if the game is living up to the hype so far, and this article will be a summary of what I feel I can realistically EXPECT from an MMO backed in funding by the world’s biggest gaming superpower, and created by a non-newcomer to the genre. I think it’s fair to say this isn’t the entry to the market by Ted and Sally from down the street working out of their basement.

1) First and foremost, I expect the game to function properly. More and more often, with each release of a new MMO, people seem to be expecting a bug riddled piece of trash for the first few months. Why we’ve grown so complacent in this genre really doesn’t make much sense. If a game doesn’t work until the third month after release, it should have been released in March instead of January. People on Warhammer forums are still asking if there’s going to be another magical patch after-the-headstart-and-before-public-release. I think two days before the official release is a little late to be hoping for bugfixes. Yes, there will be patches. That’s expected, but I don’t get it… is EA so strapped for cash after the release of Madden 09 that they need to push their huge triple-A MMO title out before it’s done? Is it too much to expect a final product?

2) I expect combat to work. Saying ‘work’ is setting the bar pretty low, and I won’t complain TOO MUCH if it at least works. Again, EA and Mythic aren’t exactly new to gaming, and this isn’t a new genre they’re blazing trails in. WARhammer is pretty much WoW (which was pretty much EQ, etc etc), with a few changes to gameplay mechanics. If these new mechanics are slightly kinky, and need some ironing out, fine. But when I set forth into the wild to slay my first “Small Brown Rat”, I expect things like spell animations to fire correctly. I bring up spell animations in particular, because there’s a pretty detailed movie I’ve seen from the very latest build that seems to indicate when a spell animation finishes casting has no relevance whatsoever to when the spell actually fires. There are even haste effects you gain as you play that speed up spell casting by 20% per rank, and while the 80% rank correctly throttles the animation speed (assuming you don’t get interrupted or pushed back), once you hit 100% haste (instant cast) it bonks back down to the original spell cast speed. Wonky.

Quote from an interesting thread from NutellaGrande (with 13,000+ views) over at warhammeralliance.com:

This problem occurs becuase WAR's cast animations are static, while WoW's cast times are dynamic (due to pushback from damage). In WoW, every race/class has their own cast animation, its the same for every spell, it can go on indefinitely before the spell fires, and its exactly the same throughout. Whether your uninterrupted frostbolt is 2.5 seconds or your LOLFELHUNTER frostbolt is 12 seconds, your frostyhands are there until the castbar finishes, and your frostbolt goes off.

In WAR, each spell has its own separate animation, and its timed to end when the base cast time of the spell ends. What do you get when your cast time is increased by a second? a second delay between the firing of your frostbolt and when your frostbolt spell finishes, throwing your brain off, and making it look clunky.

The guy has a pretty clean hi-rez video posted on FileFront, which I’ve gone and re-hosted on YouTube so you can actually watch it, instead of just getting Server Full errors all day long.

Read his thread, and watch the video. Yeah. Some people seem to recommend pushing buttons slower, giving you time during combat to "think, respond, and have a sip of soda". Hmm... sipping soda during PvP sounds intense!

3) I can hope to expect engaging PvP. I’ve said time and time again that I am not an Arena Junkie, never ground out High Warlord over the course of two years, and don't really give a crap about things like battlegrounds. THAT SAID, this game is touting PvP as the big difference between it and WoW. WoW’s end game revolves around 25 man PVE raids, while Warhammer is supposedly a climb to the level cap to fight each other. I know the climb itself will be tedious. I don’t expect to shudder in ecstasy while reading quest dialog boxes. The end itself should at least partially

Okay. Let me stop that sentence there. I began to type “the end itself should at least partially resemble this ‘war is everywhere RvR woot woot’ they’ve been hyping for years’ and then there I was back at my first point up above. The game shouldn't be ‘at least partially’ anything. It should hit that nail square on the head. That has been their main hyping point for the game since we’ve heard about it, and they’ve had over three years to work that out. I’m sick of hoping for ‘some of what they promise’. I want all of it. I’m the customer. If I see a Big Mac poster outside a McDonald’s, go in and order one, and only receive a half eaten moldy bun, I’d be like ‘what the hell is this crap?’ and demand my money back. We’ve already accepted that there are no refunds for software somewhere along the line for god knows why. To now install that software and only find 1/3 of the code in place just seems silly.

WAR IS EVERYWHERE! has been pounded into our heads since this game was announced. It makes me wonder then, why the two server rulesets are so confusing. ‘Core’ and ‘Open RvR’ sound an awful lot like ‘Normal’ and ‘PvP’ for WoW, but it isn’t really the case. Core requires that you flag yourself for RvR or be found to be off-limits for world PvP, while Open has the flag always on. Okay, so far so good, but now if a higher level toon goes back to a lower tier area of the map, they get turned into a chicken, are able to be one shotted by anyone, and then respawn on the other side of the zone.

People are applauding this as the end of ganking by higher level toons, but I really don’t get it. Getting steamrolled by bored 70s while you level in STV is part of playing on a PvP server. If you don’t like it, ROLL PVE. I recently went back to Goldshire on my hunter to grind out 7 or 8 quick super lowbie quests to hit exalted with Stormwind on my Draeni for the horse mount. Something like this won’t be physically possible on an Open RvR server in Warhammer. Once you leave the zone, there’s no going back, but they have this whole Tome of Knowledge thing that you’re supposed to fill out to earn extra abilities.

This is conjecture. I haven’t played yet. We’ll see how it turns out, but when you see Famous PvP guilds like the Something Awful’s Goon Squad from Mal’Ganis saying they’ll be rolling on Core servers because the Open rule set is ‘retarded’ it kinda makes you wonder. I intend to roll on an Open server first to see how it works, and if I find myself being turned into a chicken for engaging in world PvP then we’ll know that WAR IS SOMEWHERE, BUT NOT RIGHT THERE, OKAY?

I always end my Warhammer rants with the sincere wish that the game turns out to be fun. I’m just sick of WoW. It’s the best game available right now, and there’s plenty in it that I haven’t done (and probably never will), but it’s time for something new. I want to move on to a new game with new toons and new locations. I hope Warhammer fits the bill. Stay tuned, as I officially get underway tomorrow. I’ll probably have a solid “first impressions” up by the weekend at the latest.

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