Archive for August, 2008

It’s Been A Lovely WAR

Posted by Stropp on August 29, 2008

First off, my apologies in taking so long to get to this Warhammer Preview Weekend write-up. I was completely thrashed after the weekend. I didn't time it, but I think I spent close to 36 hours playing the various classes on offer. Consequently, the next couple of days were veggie mode.

Funny thing. I used to be able to do really stupid hours without paying the piper. I must be getting older!

For me, the weekend started at 10pm on Friday night Australian central time. I was expecting it to be a later start, but decided to login to get any patches that might have been available. At that point the servers were up with already a few hundred players on each. I ended up playing to around 3am before finally going to bed. It was pretty much that way until the end of the weekend, which for me was Monday evening.

The only real break, apart from sleep was a birthday celebration on Saturday evening.

I posted on Monday afternoon that I had enough and was quitting. Well, after a couple of hours the itch got to me and I logged back on to create a Witch Elf. I finally logged off around 10:30pm Monday night. I fully expected to be kicked off well before then, but was surprised when the servers just kept on going.

Anyway. Let's meet the gang.

screenshot_001

I ended up creating twelve characters over the weekend. Since each server only has place for ten player characters, I deleted a couple of them later on. Those were ones I couldn't really get into anyway, they were the Archmage and the White Lion.

I took three PCs all the way to the grand total of rank 7. The remainder I got to level 5 or 6 with one or two at level 3.

That was my intention. I originally wanted to concentrate on seeing what the Destruction classes were like since I was intending to play Order. So I aimed to see as many as possible without leveling too much. However, I changed tack on Sunday and decided to look at some Order classes as well.

Big mistake. If I originally intended to go Order, well, sampling the Destruction has changed all that. Destruction has some of the best starting areas in the game, especially the Greenskins. The Greenskin area was totally chaotic. New players running around. Dwarves in barrels. And two big Orcs banging on drums. The area had a lot of atmosphere. And that's not mentioning the Orkapult.

Anyway. Let's talk about the big three issues. Stability, Polish, and Gameplay.

Stability

This is one of the issues that came out of the weekend.

While I had one of the most stable beta experiences since LotRO, which still holds the title for stable betas as far as I'm concerned, a number of players didn't. Casualties of WAR provided a vent server allowing our guild to chat. Over the course of the weekend, there were quite a few cries of anguish as guildies crashed to desktop (CTD) some far more often than others.

It turns out a lot of these CTDs occurred on laptops. I believe this is a result of incompatible drivers and laptop graphics chips. Mythic have already responded to a number of player concerns about this problem, and this is what they have at the top of their fix list.

I ended up with a single crash to desktop right at the end of the weekend around 10pm Monday night. Since I hadn't experienced this at all before hand, I first of all thought that the PW was over and Mythic had turned off the servers. Logging back in proved this notion false.

I also didn't experience any appreciable lag, even at the start on Friday night when there seemed to be 15 million people in the Dark Elf starting area. The fact that I was playing on a US server, not an Oceanic server (not sure if they were up) meant that the lack of lag was a good sign.

The PW certainly wasn't bug free either. There were a number of issues that came to light. The worst of these was the NPC pathing issues. It seemed to be more a problem for ranged classes. I found if I hit a NPC from range, it wouldn't behave properly. It would sit there and take a few hits, or run off and then back, or both. It was a little unpredictable to say the least.

Pets, the White Lion and Squig, behaved similarly. This was likely the reason I didn't end up liking these classes.

Mythic also acknowledged the pathing issues, saying that they had broken something just prior to the weekend. Fixing this was their second priority.

Polish

There is a definite need for more polish.

Actually I think the game is in a pretty good state, aside from the issues I mentioned above, but that doesn't mean it can't be made better.

  1. The User Interface. The UI could be a little better. While it does everything it needs to do, I personally feel that it could be a little better. Having said that, it's a lot more flexible than the AoC UI which I thought was pretty bad.
  2. Sluggish Controls. Also on Mythic's hit list, the controls at times felt a little sluggish. I'd hit an attack and it wouldn't happen, or a command seemed to take too long to execute. Often I'd hit an attack and get a message stating it wasn't ready yet. That was often because it wasn't ready, but sometimes I'd hit the attack the moment it cooled down just to get that message. It was a little frustrating, especially in RvR.
  3. Slight Graphical Anomalies. Some icons were missing. Some graphics were a tad glitchy. Nothing too serious. The missing icons all had placeholders too, so it's not a bug, the actual graphics hadn't been implemented.
  4. Spelling. Only one or two occasions did I see misspelled words. Okay, am I being too picky here?

This is something that will get Mythic into trouble if they don't address it. Players like their games to be responsive, the graphics to be crisp (and all there). If it's not polished, the complaint levels rise, rightly or wrongly.

Gameplay

The gameplay that Warhammer Online offers is good solid MMORPG gameplay. That means that it is the same MMORPG that we have all come to know and love. There are some differences though. New or improved features that add value to the genre.

The first of these is the RvR. At first glance, RvR in Warhammer is similar to the Battlegrounds in Warcraft. At the low levels you get to participate in scenarios which involve capturing and holding objectives in a BG-like instance. When you get a little higher in rank, there are open world contested areas where you can fight players of the opposite faction. In fact, there is the opportunity to attack or defend keeps and use siege weapons doing so. I didn't get the chance to do the World RvR, but I did find the scenarios a lot of fun.

Public Quests are something new that Warhammer Online offers. My first character was a Dark Elf Sorcerer, and at level 3 I entered the first public quest area. This PQ and the others that I tried had three phases. Kill a number of NPCs that spawn in phase 1. Phase 2 is similar. Kill another set of NPCs, and then phase 3 is to kill a hero (elite++) boss.

In the DE starting area the hero boss is a stinkin' dragon. Yep. At level three I got to nuke, or help nuke, a dragon.

Of course the second PC I created in the DE area late in the weekend had only five other PCs to help in this quest and could barely scratch a dragon scale. I guess that's why the Public Quests are... public.

You've probably heard about the Tome of Knowledge by now. The Tome stores all your quests, and also keeps track of what you've done, who you've met, and how many you've killed. It also reveals a story as you progress into new areas and complete quests. That's a real plus for someone like me who likes story in his games.

Like I said before, WAR is your standard EQ/WoW style MMO in many ways. You'll have the usual quests to kill ten rats, and you'll get quest chains to complete. Personally, I don't mind the quest grind. In fact I kinda like it.

However, you don't have to do that to level. Doing scenarios or open RvR will allow you to level as well. Maybe not as quickly as doing quests, but RvR is a viable option to leveling. I added a couple of levels myself just killing enemy players in scenarios. Some players do all their leveling doing RvR. It's nice to have that option.

I should also say that I found leveling a little slower than other games. It took me a good three hours to get to level 6, and close to four hours to get to level 7. In WoW, I can generally get to level 6 in under an hour, and ten within three hours.

I think this is a good thing. There's been a tendency lately to allow players to power-level their way to the level cap. WoW has recently accelerated leveling, and Age of Conan was designed to reduce the time to the cap. That's all well and good if all you want is players raiding, but I've always considered the journey as the game, and exploration the goal, not just racing to 60 or 70.

What Now?

On a scale of one to ten, I'd rank this preview weekend a seven.

It's clear that Mythic have a good game on their hands. If they can fix up some of the problems that showed up during the preview, and apply more polish, they'll have a great game on their hands.

And that sounds a little pessimistic. If they can fix it. There's nothing I've seen to suggest that there are any insurmountable problems in the game. This is not Age of Conan two months after release when the devs still haven't fixed the memory leak. This is a game still a month away from release that is almost ready for primetime.

While Warhammer Online is not a mythical step ahead in the evolution of the MMORPG, it is a good solid example of the genre that throws a few new neat ideas into the mix.

I had a thoroughly good time playing over the preview weekend. You sometimes go into these things wondering if you'll come out wanting to cancel the preorder. I had no such inclination. Rather, I'm now hanging out for the game to go live. When that happens, I reckon there's a list of at least ten classes I want to play.

These are, in no particular order.

  • Iron Breaker
  • Witch Elf
  • Bright Mage
  • Sorcerer
  • Warrior Priest (still got to try out in OB)
  • Witch Hunter
  • Black Orc
  • Chosen
  • Sword Master (still to try out in OB)
  • Shaman

Let the Altitis go mad!

Really, Really Quickly

Posted by Stropp on August 25, 2008 I've just logged off from the Warhammer Online Preview weekend. It's 4:30pm Monday my time, which translates into something like 3 to 4 am US time I think, and the servers are still up. I finished off with my rank 7 Chosen (rank is the same as level) doing a few RvR Scenarios. Lot's of fun, but I'm pretty tired now and I've seen all I need to see for a preview. The PW started around 10pm on Friday evening my time, and I spent the first night to 3am playing. It's been pretty much non stop WAR all weekend except for Saturday night when I attended some friends birthday parties (way too much chocolate.) Even then I got back into it when I returned home for a few hours. I'm just going to veg now and maybe get an earlier night. I'll post up my impressions (which are generally good) some time tomorrow.

Mythic Patcher Is UP

Posted by Stropp on August 22, 2008

It's 2am here, so I'll be quick.

I just retried running up the patcher for Warhammer Online, and I no longer get a quick flash and sent back to the log in dialog.

It took quite a while to bring up the EULA/TOS. I suspect the servers are quite busy with folks logging in. The patch however, once it started, was astoundingly fast. I was expecting a pretty large patch, but it was only a few meg. It all downloaded and updated in less than a minute.

As I said, it's 2am Friday morning here. That means it's early Thursday afternoon in the US. That means less than 24 hours to the start of the Preview Weekend.

More Warhammer Online Than You Can Shake A Stick At

Posted by Stropp on August 20, 2008

I know. It might seem a bit like Stropp's World is becoming a Warhammer Online blog, but that's not the case at all. It's just that I'm getting a little excited.

Now that the NDA has been lifted, there's a whole bunch of new info and opinion about WAR appearing in a frenzied Wargasm of posting. The days of frustrated blogger having to hold their tongues are over.

We already know a lot of the features that have been promised for WAR. Now we get to find out the intimate details of Public Quests, The Tome of Knowledge, and the RvR Combat everyone has been pining for. And what I'm already reading is part of the reason for the excitement I've been feeling.

I mentioned yesterday that I have been invited to the Preview Weekend. I'm pretty happy about that because I'll get to experience what everyone else has been involved with for the last six months. I've got a birthday dinner for friends on Saturday night, a dual combined level 40 celebration in fact, but other than that I'm clearing my slate.

I've now downloaded the beta client, but I can't patch it yet. I expect that the patching will be available when the preview goes live. Although I really do hope that the update will be available a day or so before the preview. I'd like to get that out the way before the weekend starts.

So, you should expect a lot of Warhammer Online talk on this blog for the next few weeks, and probably for a while after that too. But I will post about other MMOG topics as well. Just because WAR is coming doesn't mean that there are a lot of other topics to consider as well.

Warhammer Preview Weekend – I’m In!

Posted by Stropp on August 19, 2008

Earlier this afternoon, after reading a comment on the Casualties forum by HarbingerZero, I checked my Warhammer account and saw one little line added to the end of  enabled items.

WAR Preview

Woo hoo!

I really didn't expect to get into this. I mentioned in a previous post that I went to bed before Mythic had enabled the Open Beta and Head Start codes (around 2am) and didn't enter the codes until about 11am the next morning. I fully expected that the 50,000 available SE slots would have been filled. Seems that wasn't the case.

Ironically, I had seen only a few minutes before a post on Tobold's blog where he was talking about the preview weekend, and where he had given a link to the Fileplanet download, and the Bittorrent link. I clicked on the Bittorrent link just to see what would happen, and viola! up came my Bittorrent client and WAR started downloading.

That was a few hours ago, and I've been getting a pretty decent download rate, at times above 400kB/s. I should have this sucker downloaded in another five or six hours with luck. That will give me plenty of time to set it up for this coming weekends preview.

All in all, I think this sort of news deserves a new Casualties Recruitment Poster.

cowrecruitkhaine

Warhammer Online Open Beta Starts on the 7th September

Posted by Stropp on August 19, 2008

Well, it's good news and bad news.

I was kinda hoping the open beta would start a bit earlier than the 7th of September. That just leaves 11 days before the release of the 18th, and since there is a preorder head-start of two or three days (possibly) that will be probably be reduced to 7 or 8 days of open beta goodness.

On the other hand, it's probably a sensible move by Mythic. Open betas can be brutal on a games good PR. You always get a bunch of players who get in and rip the game to shreds. There's always haters. Limiting the amount of time before release, limits the amount of time they get to spread negativity.

Not that there will be that much negativity anyway. Everything I've heard from people in the closed beta has been good. They haven't violated the NDA by the way. When you read comments saying that they can't wait to get up in the morning to play the beta, it's a little obvious that the game is not going to be a disaster.

When a game is completely not ready for release, you hear about it anyway. NDAs don't mean squat when that's the case. Vanguard beta testers, after telling Sigil the game wasn't ready and fearing it would be released anyway, broke the NDA to spill the beans.

The indications are that Mythic is going to drop the NDA soon anyway. When that happens, the pent up words of a million silent bloggers will be released. I expect that most of those words will be positive.

Still. I'm hanging out for a bit of a go at the game. Waiting for another 17ish days. Sigh.

Oh, by the way, you might have noticed the list of Casualties in my left sidebar. These are the bloggers who are joining up with the Casualties of War. It's a list I intend to keep up to date, but at the rate of sign ups I might lag behind a little.

Why don't you pay them a little visit?

Warhammer Online Open Beta Center Ready For Business

Posted by Stropp on August 16, 2008

The downside of living in such a great country like Australia (apart from the politicians and OFLC, but you get their types everywhere!) is that it seems everything happens when you are asleep.

So it happens with the Warhammer Online preorder codes. Last night while I was dreaming of cutting my way through vast swathes of enemies while wearing my exceedingly cool hat, and for some bizarre reason waking up with the theme to American Dad going through my head, Mythic activated their account center. Thus enabling it to finally accept the open beta access and live game head start codes.

Needless to say, that was the first thing I checked when I sat down at my PC this morning.

So I am now officially entered in the open beta. I'm just waiting for Mythic to enable the links that will let me start downloading the OB client. That should happen sometime in the next week or two. But first the NDA has to drop. Once that occurs, in the next day or two, we should start seeing a metric ton of info popping up on blogs everywhere.

Woot!

Warhammer Online – Just in it for the Hat.

Posted by Stropp on August 15, 2008 cowrecruitwitchhunter A few of the guys over at Casualties of WAR have been getting their creative on and making up some brilliant recruitment posters for the guild. [adsense_id="1"]Since I find myself leaning towards the Witch Hunter class for my first character, I promise you there will be others, I thought you might like to see our Witch Hunter recruitment poster. Over the next few weeks, I'll put up some more of our recruitment posters as they come along -- we have some real talent in the guild. Speaking of that, the other day we passed one hundred applicants and since then there have been quite a few others. The momentum is really building up, not just for the game, but for the guild. At this rate I wouldn't be surprised if we hit two or three hundred members when the game goes live. If you are interesting in joining up with a bunch of crazy bloggers, apply here.

It’s Getting Hot and Steamy in Age of Conan

Posted by Stropp on August 14, 2008

Remember that Seinfeld episode where George gets fired for having sex with the cleaning woman on his desk at work?

I came across this on Lum's blog, Broken Toys. He links to an escapist article about how a Funcom employee, a GM for Age of Conan was recently fired for having cybersex with a player.

I imagine the conversation in the boss's office afterwards went something like this. (With apologies to Seinfeld.)

Boss: I'm going to get right to the point. It has come to my attention that you and a player have engaged in cybersex while playing Age of Conan. Is that correct?

GM: Who said that?

Boss: She did.

GM: Was that wrong? Should I have not done that? I tell you I gotta plead ignorance on this thing because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing was frowned upon, you know, cause I've worked in a lot of offices and I tell you people do that all the time.

Boss: You're fired.

GM: Well you didn't have to say it like that.

Warhammer Online Sales Predictions

Posted by Stropp on August 13, 2008

Everybody is doing it, doing it, doing it. Making sales predictions for Warhammer that is.

In the spirit of the upcoming Season of WAR, I'll have a go with my own predictions of Warhammer Online sales success. Now bear in mind that I am something of an optimist, even if I am a bit of a cynic at times. Hmmm. A cynical optimist -- how odd.

First, I'll restate the predictions made by Tobold, Syncaine, and Rick.

  • Tobold: 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 copies sold by the end of 2008.
  • Syncaine: 1,500,000 to 3,000,000 by 2009. Qualified.
  • Rick: 1,000,000 copies sold in 2008, growing to 1,600,000 maximum.

All up I think that those are pretty solid, safe numbers. At least at the low end.

That Age of Conan sold (or was that shipped) over 750,000 units by the end of the first month showed that MMORPG players are ready for something new. The failure of Funcom to release a game that was solid and polished for all available levels does not negate that fact. I believe that Warhammer, being less of a mature rated game and targeted to a wider audience, will do marginally to moderately better than Age of Conan.

Here are the factors that I'm basing this prediction on.

  1. The most important factor. When the NDA is lifted and the game goes into Open Beta, the reports coming out are at least positive about the game. If the reports that the beta testers make are glowing, that could add a reasonable multiplier to the number of units sold.
  2. World of Warcraft currently has 11 million subscribers. But these folks haven't all been subscribed since 2004. There'd have to be millions of ex-players. Some of those will be looking for a new experience and will at least give WAR a go.
  3. The system requirements for Warhammer are not so steep as to prevent players with older computers joining in.
  4. Some players are feeling burned by some recent releases (AoC, TR, Vanguard.) A portion of this group will wait until they can see how the launch and first month go.
  5. There will be a large group of players that will buy the game at launch regardless.
  6. There have been a large number of preorders already.
  7. Warhammer seems to be better anticipated for longer than Age of Conan was.
  8. I have no qualifications for making sales predictions. ;)

With no further ado, my Warhammer Online sales predictions, based on a smooth launch and reasonably polished content, are:

  • Warhammer Online will sell between 800,000 and 1,200,000 copies at launch and in the first month. I haven't seen any preorder figures yet, but since the CE has been sold out for a while now, my guess is that the numbers are pretty big. Don't forget EA is behind this, they have a lot of purchasing power and can produce a lot of boxes for launch.
  • Sales will then continue at a steady pace until late November with around 300,000 to 500,000 units sold. With the September launch, a lot of potential subscribers will be watching to see how it all goes. If the first month goes smoothly, a lot of these folks will buy the game.
  • Toward the end of November, the Christmas shopping season begins. There will be a decent jump in sales as boxes are bought as presents. Subscriptions might not kick in until after the holiday. I'd expect at least 500,000 to 800,000 be sold during this period. Especially if the game is getting good reviews.

So, all up before the end of 2008, I'd expect somewhere between 1.6 to 2.5 million copies of Warhammer Online to be sold.

Of course, that all depends on the quality of the launch and the level of polish the developers have achieved for the game. If Warhammer Online gets rave reviews after release, and by the hints coming out from the closed beta, I suspect this might be the case, then my estimates are reasonable. If pre and post-release the game gets glowing reviews, sales could easily be double these estimates.

Finally, there are always a number of players who cancel before the end of the first month. Either they feel the game isn't for them, or they don't like it for other reasons, but there are always a few. I don't actually have any historical data for other MMORPG for this so I'm taking a wild guess here, but I figure around 20 percent will cancel before the first month.

It's your turn. What's your prediction for WAR?

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