Reflecting on WAR

WAR bears bears bearsThe time has finally come — Warhammer Online Age of Reckoning is shutting down in December.  Sometimes I forget the infamously botched MMO is still around, and other times I am reminded of the horrific mistakes I made during the anticipatory hyping period prior to its launch.  I made a mistake.  I was sucked in by horrible marketing because I was desperate for a good MMO and blinded by my hope and belief that DAoC could actually be repeated by the same studio.  I still believe I am the self-proclaimed biggest WAR Fanboy of all time.  I made today’s crazies look sane.

We don’t need to rehash the awfulness that is WAR.  Promises were broken: Bears bears bears.  Promises were kept: WAR has Five Years of Content (I’m laughing out loud right now at the irony).  Carrie Gouskos (who was the Tomb of Knowledge person when I interviewed her back in 2008), now Producer, says she doesn’t think WAR’s critics would ever call it boring. No… no, it was pretty dang boring.  Honestly, the WvW RvR was horribly boring.  The PvE was dull.  Then world was uninspired despite being set in one of the best-known fantasy IPs ever.  It wasn’t good.

5yearsofwarCarrie is right about one thing, though.  WAR absolutely introduced features which are now considered industry standards.  I still remember sitting down with Mark Jacobs for an interview during E3 2008.  We sat in a little side room of EA’s big E3 booth.  Mark, Graev, and I sat at this circular table and Mark let me bombard him with questions.  Besides Mark’s shirt (which I believe was a black polo) only one thing has stuck with me… Mark said, “Public Quests will be something game developers blatantly rip off for years to come.  It won’t even be subtle.  That’s what developers do – we steal each others ideas.”  (Slightly paraphrased).  Sure enough, five years later developers are still blatantly ripping the idea.  I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.

Seriously, let’s think about what we can learn from all of this.  If some good can come from WAR, I hope it’s developers everywhere learning that it’s not enough to think you have a ton of great ideas, a history of success, and a fanbase.  If you put it all together and your game just isn’t fun — you failed.   Personally, I learned how not to market a product — a lesson which has stuck with me now into my marketing career.

So long WAR.  Please take the last five years with you.

  • As I walked into my local game shop to cancel my WAR CE pre-order, after the disaster that was the final stages of beta and early access launch, I thought to myself, “this game is a catastrophe, but I think it will serve a useful purpose – other people will copy its good ideas and actually implement them successfully”.

    So I think Mark Jacobs was right. Some of the ideas HAVE been stolen – I definitely believe that Rift and GW2 took a lot of inspiration from WAR’s public quests, and did a much better job of implementing them.

    It will be fascinating to see how the new Camelot game turns out. I think Mark Jacobs has learned a lot from the success of DAoC and the failure of WAR and we may well find that “third time’s the charm!”

  • I remember the day I heard that there wasn’t going to be a third realm. I knew then that WAR was dead in the water. I can’t believe it lasted as long as it did.

  • Did they take us for a ride.. damn. Was the worst case of wishful thinking I ever experienced. I knew shit was broke.. but beta community was good.. and dwarf zones were awesome to look at and somehow this can alll be fixed. But no it could not be.

    To be fair it was not even EA fault. 2 sides were there before, scenario focused gameplay was there before, zone design same.. maybe if they had another 6 month to polish they could have made it into normal mmo failure, but as it was it got into the epic level of fail. Public quests god they sucked from start to finish

    I am now watching Camelot Unchained for the signs.. i gave them $$ but if they stray from straight and narrow.. well the anti hype they will get.. 😮

  • Bears bears bears…that was my favorite part of the marketing nonsense…making a huge deal out of a minor feature and then it didn’t even work in the game as he described…sad haha

  • I still think WAR PQs might be the best implementation of the idea. Rifts pretend to do more (impact the zone) but don’t, while GW2 lies to itself and the players (evolving world). In WAR the PQs were exactly what they were expected to be; three-phased quest areas that anyone could jump into. There is a lot to be said about keeping a good idea simple, rather than trying to over-engineer it and dilute the core goodness.

    I think overall WAR was good-enough on the PvE side; sure the quests were simple but the zones (other than the end-game ones) were interesting due to the lore, and the flow felt ‘right’, not too fast but not grindingly slow either.

    The obvious problem was the PvP that was expected to keep us entertained ala DAoC was lacking, for numerous reasons. Out of all the wasted potential MMOs in the last 10 years, I think WAR takes the #1 spot for me.

  • Right there with you Keen. I can’t believe its been 5 years and WAR still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. It was the last game that I was able to drag all of my friends into playing and probably will be the last given their disappointment. Several of them were DAoC vets. I bought every last bit of their bullshit and shovelled it to my friends like this would be the second coming of MMOs. Never again. I think WAR is why I stay away from betas and don’t follow MMO developments as closely as I have in years past.

    So many disapointments. It was the only game I ever played where I felt compelled to write out all of the issues I had with it and missed opportunities I saw in a several page letter to Mythic. I knew they would never read it or make any difference, but it was cathartic for me in any event.

    The big red flag that my slavish fanboyism did not allow me to see at the time was when they shut down the beta to add keeps and siege. I think that was about 9 months before release. At the time, I should have realized then that something was wrong thinking this would be an RvR game when they didn’t even realize until well into beta, and only 9 months before release, that “Hey, maybe we should have keeps and siege in this spiritual successor to DAoC? Do you think?”

  • ” I was sucked in by horrible marketing because I was desperate for a good MMO. . .”

    We all were, however, I found the silver lining to all this is WAR provided a platform for a new community of gaming bloggers, some I still follow, and coalesced a lost community of MMO gamers that were looking for something beyond WoW.
    Many of us have found our “MMO” and many are still looking, but I find myself coming back to the bloggers and communities that I discovered during the WAR-hype days. Sort of my phase 2 in my gaming culture if you will.

  • I am not even sure you can say mythic is the one who totally killed war. Games Workshop vetoed the 3 faction idea early on. Mythic then went on to make a whole cluster of random ideas horribly glued together.

    I also always wonder what those other capitol cities would of looked like.

  • I actually had a lot of fun leveling in this game. Questing wasn’t bad, Public Quests were great. And leveling through the battlegrounds… all of that was great for me. But…. that end game. Confusing…. bland…. no REAL purpose/point…. and just the 2 realms. It was like watching a QB make this insane pass with seconds on the clock and the receiver get tackled at the 1 yard line.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed my time in WAR. Then again, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Rift and GW2. I’ve long since come to the conclusion that “its the player, stupid.”

  • I had only 1 problem with war, and i played it for quite a while.

    Video lag.

    Attacking a Fortress or another city was a pain in the ass because of performance issues, that’s the sole reason i stopped playing this gem, came back once one/two years after the launch and they still hadn’t fixed this so i stopped again.

  • @Vort: Sort of a MMO support group? WAR players anonymous? 😉

    @Wufiavelli: Maybe a lesson learned then is to avoid licensed properties?

    @Thallis: I liked the Greenskin T1. After that, I felt like the PvE took a huge nosedive into the mud.

    @Yazid: The lag was a huuuuuuuuge issue. Completely killed any interest I had in large-scale RvR.

  • Well, tbh yhe Chaoscasts is what got me to this site, and I’m still followimg, even after all these years…

    I liked the month I spent in WAR though :(. But that was all I needed from it apparently :3.

  • WAR was the last Beta I was involved in that the community actually strove for something. We were constantly talking to/pleading with the devs to fix certain issues and take design and implementation different ways. We failed. From the lack of speed classes (Was so sad when they took that away from the Knight) to the inclusion of “scenarios” or battlegrounds or whatever stupid name you want to put on instanced pvp. We tried, sure… but in the end it was a bust.

    Instanced PvP, bleh. To this day it still irks me that it exists. But what irks me worse is that devs think it can exist next to another type of PvP (like open world). It cannot. Given two paths, human beings on the whole will always choose the easier one. And instanced PvP is definitely easier to “walk” into.

  • I know the game was flawed, but I had a lot of good times playing WHO. I could have stuck it out longer had the sides been more balanced. Eventually, I would have got bored with the simplistic and congested pvp areas. Had they of removed the pve aspect and just focused on really large pvp objectives, the game would have been cheaper and more successful.

  • I had a blast in levels 1-10 battlegrounds as a sorceress. I actually disliked leveling out of the bracket for that reason.

  • I was in Beta and played it for almost a year after launch i had my fair share of fun, you could enjoy yourself in WAR, there are other games which tanke dmore in my opinion. So much WAR hate stems from the high expectations many had in advance.

  • @Ifrim :

    I believe that is a valid point from my perspective, although lag was what finally made me quit.

  • I think if you want to make a game surrounding certain mechanics then yeh avoiding licensed properties is a good idea. Licensed properties require your game to bend to the IP versus the IP bending to the game.