2nd look at WAR’s cutbacks
Yesterday was … interesting to say the least. I had expected the announcement to be nothing more than a release date or information regarding one of the beta phases. I had even given thought to an additional feature being added into the game at the 11th hour. Given the source of the impending announcements (mmorpg.com) I had zero expectations for such a huge game altering announcement. But, it is what it is. I posted my thoughts on the announcements yesterday only minutes after reading them. Today I want to post my gathered thoughts on the issues and include statements from Mark Jacobs where he answers my questions directly.
I want to get Punkbuster out of the way first because this is adding something to the game instead of taking away. Mark Jacob’s posted several topics on the WARVault yesterday addressing the various issues. In his Punkbuster thread he answered the following questions that I had:
Keen: “How will the update process for Punkbuster work with a mmorpg? Will it be integrated into your updater so that when the game is patches punkbuster receives an update?”
Mark Jacobs: “Yes”
Keen: “Punkbuster often has hiccups and problems where it detects a false positive or error when there isn’t one. These problems are caused by everything from random Windows Vista issues to a player having programs running in the background like AOL Instant Messenger. Will players be at risk of being punished for false positives?”
Mark Jacobs: “No”
He wasn’t his usual wordy self but I’ll give the guy a break given the massive amount of strain he was under yesterday. These two questions are the most important to me. Anyone who has ever used Punkbuster knows that it can be a PITA. It’s annoying to upgrade, annoying to manage when a server admin, and annoying when it seems to hate you with a mind of its own. I hate having to manually update Punkbuster when a game updates. It always brings with it a slew of problems. Hearing that the punkbuster update process will be tied into Mythic’s patcher reassures me slightly that I will not have to worry about that so much. Hopefully the patcher integration will keep punkbuster in check.
My next PB concern comes from the fact that I have had past troubles with PB giving me false positives. I’ve been kicked and even banned from some FPS servers because PB thinks I’m hacking or having a program running when in reality all I have open is something like xfire or Trillian. Heck, it didn’t even like Vista for a few days when I upgraded. Although my problems are all sorted out now, and were in a timely fashion when I had them, this leaves me with concerns that if PB detects a false positive that my account will be suspended in WAR until a time that it can be reviewed. Well, according to MJ players will not be punished for false positives. The details of that are unknown due to the vastly unspecific meaning of the word “no”.
Ultimately I do not care if PB is in WAR. Mark Jacobs came right out and said that if it does not work out then he has no trouble getting rid of it. And really, we know how good they are at getting rid of stuff that isn’t working out…
Consolidating Capital Cities
I’m never a fan of consolidating content. If you know me at all you know that I desire options, choices, and diversity. Having the capital cities reduced from 6 to 2 is pretty nasty. But what is the alternative? Releasing them in an unfinished state? That’s not any better than cutting them from the game; in fact, it’s worse. Mythic took the lesser of two evils here and in doing so saved themselves from having a release like Age of Conan’s. As I explained this past week in a blog entry, I do not like games being released before they are ready. Had Mythic released the game with these unfinished cities then I would have been upset. Now the worst emotions I face are disappointment for the content I won’t get to see for a while like the Greenskin capital.
There is an upside, I suppose, to all of this. Mythic is really pushing the fact that by consolidating the capital cities they are actually doing us a favor. Apparently if there were 6 capital cities then the players would have felt too spread out. I’m not sure that I agree but I can definitely see how cutting back the cities will make these two enormously popular focal points for … everything. This also changes the mechanics of the game though. Now instead of working through a battlefront to take the city at the end your realm must take 2/3 of the battlefronts to expose a capital city. It’s actually harder to siege a city now. I see that as the biggest plus of all.
This one hurts the most. I’m actually confused more than anything as to why these classes didn’t work out. The Blackguard is a mirror of the Ironbreaker and the KotBS is a mirror of the Chosen. So their mirrors could make it into the game and work just fine but they can’t – that means the mechanic behind them works so something else must have gone wrong… I won’t try to understand that one. Then there’s the Choppa and Hammerer. These two are mirrors of each other so having them removed makes slightly more sense. One could assume the mechanic here wasn’t working properly.
After the initial disappointment of these classing being MIA wears off I’m left with concern. Having two tanks removed but their mirrors remaining leaves balancing issues unanswered. The Chaos will have a tank in their battlefronts early on but the Empire won’t. The High elves will have a tank but the Dark elves won’t. This will only be a slight problem in the beginning until players spread themselves out, but I’m looking longterm. Tanks counter melee DPS and melee DPS counters magic. This means that magic dps will have two less classes to worry about. Yes, complete speculation to even worry about this right now but balance in-game is something I pay very close attention to in a RvR game.
Mark Jacobs answered some of my questions in his Careers post here on the WARVault:
Keen: This inevitably raises the question of class balance. Do you feel that the loss of these classes deals a serious blow to the balance of the game? (Feel free to explain what must be changed to ensure balance)
Mark Jacobs: “No. Jeff and I had yet again another conversation about this subject this morning and the team doesn’t think so. Just in case, I’ve asked them to have a backup plan to their backup plan. As to what we must do, I’ll be happy to talk about if we need to do that. We won’t release an unbalanced game.”
Keen: “What is being done to ensure races that are missing tanks will be capable of sustaining themselves, especially in the lower tiers, without a tank?”
Mark Jacobs: “We believe that between the careers that are currently in the game and the mastery lines, that the races who just lost a pure tank will be fine. If not, we’ll deal with it accordingly.”
I think what we’ll end up seeing is some adjusting to the mastery lines of the classes still in the game. I think that perhaps melee dps in the game will receive added benefit against ranged magic dps and tanks in the game will receive adjustments to counter the removed melee dps. I really hope Mythic pays close attention to the balance issues this whole fiasco brings into play. It could turn out to be a nasty side effect to simply removing classes because they aren’t up to snuff.
Taking it all in
Once again, here is how I see it. The game is still in development and changes are often made. These changes are huge changes to be made months before release but at least Mythic came out and told us about it and had the balls to cut something from the game instead of pushing into release like many other games with the BS plan to “fix it with a patch”.
Am I angry? No. Am I disappointed? Yes. In the end we’re still going to receive a finished product and hopefully avoid much of the problems that would have arisen with the alternative.
I will say one thing though. The content that IS in the game needs to be, as Mark Jacobs put it, “fabulous”. I’ll be holding them to that one and I hope they expect nothing less.