Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Gutting of Warhammer Online

In a very surprising announcement yesterday, Mark Jacobs informed the Warhammer community that Warhammer Online was cutting out some pretty major parts of their game, including all capitol cities except for Inevitable City (Chaos) and Altdorf (Empire) and four careers! Holy Feature-Cut Batman! I don't think I've ever seen such a major gutting of game features since the great MMO disappointment that was formerly known as Horizons!

This is a pretty huge blow in several ways. First off, the capitol city removal. To me, this is almost a game breaker. Not having a capitol city completely destroys the culture of those races who are now forced to inhabit a city that is not their own. Very sad indeed. Not to mention the pain of having to deal with traveling to your racial-specific areas from someone else's capitol city every single time you want to adventure there! All the quests are going to be dogpiled into these same cities and they will be the ONLY place to trade, sell, repair, etc, and I shudder to think of the lag that everyone will get to experience in these towns. It will be like WoW (pre Burning Crusade), where only one city on each side is the hotspot and the other capitol cities are ghost towns. And that makes me weep.

Mark Jacobs has posted further elaboration on the VN Boards, part of which includes a thought about maybe rotating in cities so that the focus is on one at a time. That is an even more horrible idea. Who cares if the players are spread out in three areas of the game? That's what the game is about! If one side decides that they want to make a serious push on one city, then maybe they would need to try and coordinate with the other races to focus on that particular section of the world. If they cant get organized enough to manage that, then they don't deserve to lay siege to capitol cities. Sieging a capitol city is supposed to be a big deal anyway, right? It shouldn't be happening every other month!

I won't suggest additional delays to the release date (which would be fine with me), but personally, I would much prefer to have some sort of placeholders in place instead. I don't mind if my capitol city doesn't grow in size and cant be sieged and maybe doesn't even have all the amenities of those for Empire and Chaos. But I do want a place to call home. A place where I can meet up with my fellow Greenskins that is OUR home. They can always patch in city improvements later, but losing that cultural quality in the initial launch is a hard thing to swallow. And yes, I know that they'll add in the cities at some point. But how long will it take? Will the cities be less interesting because a majority of the player base has already outleveled a significant portion of their content? Given the loss of entire career options, its not as if each race has a lot of options for replayability. And how much of that initial awe and excitement of being part of our own capitol city will be lost? Too much, IMO. I really don't care how fancy Inevitable City is. I'm not planning on playing a Chaos character. I'm a Greenskin at heart and I want a Greenskin city, not a couple of token Greenskins in someone else's town. Knowing that you'll be making major changes in the future allows you to plan for that ahead of time and lock off parts of the capitol city area as needed. Blocking them off entirely is a demoralizing and crushing blow to those races.

The loss of no less than four careers is a bit less galling to me (likely because it didn't hit any of my main class choices directly), but probably even more damaging in terms of gameplay. Those races that have lost careers are now much less viable as single-race entities, especially the ones that have lost their tank class! Single-race guilds are reeling beneath this announcement. ARAC all the way it seems, which makes me weep even more. If you wish to read more, there's also a thread covering this topic.

These changes seem to really destroy the concept of racial-pairing and will have a huge impact on both RvR and PvE.

So, I issue a heartfelt plea to Mythic. I certainly understand the desire to get things right and not release half-assed efforts, but I also understand that MMOs go through a lot of changes, especially in the first few months after launch. I can only speak for myself, but I would rather have partial, incomplete content that maintains the immersion and flavor that I've been eagerly awaiting for well over a year, instead of HUGE missing gaps that force players into a big, generic mash that undermines the concept of racial pairings. Let us have our cities and classes, as incomplete as they might be rather than completely denying each race their individuality.

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