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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at r1ft.com. The jaded game designer turned corporate lackey. Feedback is always welcome.

Author: Daedren

Tron Goes to Azeroth

Posted by Daedren Friday November 27 2009 at 7:55AM
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Earlier this year I did quite possibly my most controversial piece of work - tackling a subject that is prone to inciting empathy (rarely) or seething hatred (more likely). This topic is, of course, botting, specifically in MMO's like World of Warcraft. My attempts to appease the audience with cute pictures of robots while simultaneously praising the possibilities of botting provoked mixed reactions, and my inbox piled full of notes of love, hate, something in between and even a curious one involving a surprise ninja kick to my curiously represented virtual testicles.

Funny enough, since then, some of my old readers have contacted me to see what I've been up to, assuming that Blizzard killed me or that I was in prison somewhere. No, alas, that's not the case, as with the closing of WoW Glider (as it will forever be known to me and the community) meant that some of us actually had to go play WoW for real, which was pretty damn boring. Most people either quit (as I did) or moved on to other bots, which in the absence of Glider, have had a large customer base ready to try them out.

With the MMO genre, I'm prone to using drug analogies, and one here is too fitting to pass up. Blizzard and the legal team that took down Glider are analogous to the DEA / Narcotics police. Glider, being a WoW bot, was akin to the largest weed (drug not chosen randomly) supplier in the area. Glider had people on every corner and anyone that wanted a spliff or a sack of mary-j could go down to the corner and buy it. Some other small time dealers were around, but nothing on the scale of Glider's spread and customer base.

So, the DEA (Blizzard) hit the supplier (let's call him Tron) Glider with a court case. Tron had to stop selling weed to get the DEA off his back. However, the need for weed was still present in downtown Azeroth - people just don't stop getting high overnight. With the po-po's sweating Tron's sack, he had to go into hiding for a while until the shit blew over. Tron still had a lot of connections, and people on the street want to get their weed from Tron and his crew, but they can't. Now some smaller dealers have hit the streets to fill the market gap that is now present. Overall, the weed market is still as healthy as ever, but instead of one supplier to deal with (Tron) the DEA now has to worry about 10 small time operators.

As in any open market economy, this has led for different competitors to try different things. New growing techniques are being used now for the new suppliers to get more of their market share - as there is no longer a monopoly, there's room for everyone to make a name for themselves. What's most surprising is the unity the suppliers and customers have shown together, with the end goal of getting high (and not getting caught) prioritizing over petty marketing games. Word on the street is that even Tron has been keeping busy by letting these 'competitors' use some of his suppliers while he waits out the future court date.

Here's the kicker: people that want to buy the 'weed' here do it mainly to not have to smoke as much crack that the DEA has been selling them for years. Yeah, the DEA is corrupt, selling addictive crack to everyone that takes A LOT of time to smoke. Some people don't have time to smoke crack all the time, or they'd rather be doing something else rather than smoke crack. Sure, they're still addicted to it, but when Tron came in with this magical weed that let them get a crack-like high in a fraction of the time, it was like a huge burden had been lifted off of the crackhead community. Crackheads could now enjoy crack on their own terms and on their own time, instead of being forced into smoking crack six hours a day just to feed their addiction.


If a line in the analogy has to be drawn somewhere, it's probably here.

It's amazing the amount of money that Blizzard has spent just getting Glider (and some other smaller bots) to shut down, only to have them be replaced by other ones at amazing speed. In fact, though no official demographics are available, the amount of actual bots being used has more than likely grown in the past year since Glider has been shut down. Fortunately for these new bots, they're located outside of the US, often in Asian countries, where the long arm of Activision and it's douchebag lawyers can't reach. This might be bad news for Glider, though them ultimately losing their court battle bodes poorly for gaming in general, as clicking "I agree" to a MMO's EULA might in the future might give them your first born child.

Botting is still bad!

While I covered my personal opinion on what I thought about botting (or 'cheating') in MMO's, I still recognize that the majority of normal players still don't look too highly on it. I can empathize with this, as it does seem that if a player can have a bot do things like earn money / grind honor for them, it's not fair for a non-bot user that has to spend time doing it.

This brings up an interesting point, though, that I'm sure will alienate me even more from people. I have to ask a question:

Is playing the game in question fun?

Put this 'botting' business in perspective of any other game. Team Fortress 2, or Left 4 Dead, or something like Dragon Age: Origins. These aren't MMO's, sure - but having a bot for these games would make no sense. Why? Because you're missing out on gameplay. The only reason to really play these games is for fun - that is, battling out a TF2 match with people or trying Expert mode in L4D or running through Dragon Age with a new character. It's almost unthinkable that you'd want your computer playing it without you, because you're missing the fun. Of course, things like TF2 achievement idle maps exist (or did), but this is because the only requirement for certain items was sheer time.

Enter the realm of MMO's, where to have 'fun' you have to do boring shit. Grinding honor (which, as PVP, should have a similar fun factor to a FPS) is not fun for most people, especially the enormous amount you're required to do to stay competitive in something like WoW Arenas. Or making money. Some people might enjoy doing the same exact quest every day for money, but some don't. It's unfortunate that the gameplay itself isn't fun. It's more unfortunate the vast amount of people that spend time doing 'unfun' stuff just to be able to to do fun stuff. Think of a FPS where in order to kill people you had to do some mundane puzzle, crossword or cleaning task to 'unlock' the action.

Botting helps alleviate some of these 'unfun' tasks so that the player can enjoy the fun parts of the game, making the overall gaming experience more 'fun' and less 'i want to rip my eyes out these daily quests are so boring'. Oh, did I just blow your mind? No, probably not.

Let's use WoW as an example. Most people would agree that the 'fun' part of the game for them is:

1. End game raiding
2. PVP, including Arenas.
3. Making other characters to do 1 and 2. (altitis)

Now, to be competitive and do one of these three things (usually a combination of 3 and either 1 or 2), a lot of time is required. An estimated 150 hours of battleground / honor grinding (offset by other things like Wintergrasp / Heroic's) is required to purchase latest season PVP gear. That's per character, per season. Add in money needed for enchanting, gemming your gear, and there is also a serious monetary investment. Earning this virtual currency takes time - add everything up and you're looking at time investment that's easily a second job, especially adding in any other characters you might want to play.

I know it's a bit apples and oranges here, but it's still the core of the problem - the large amount of time and repetitive tasks to enjoy the game is ridiculous. Some people can handle it. Some people can't. A third set of people don't want to handle it so they create something else to do it for them. This doesn't really make it fair for the people who can't or don't want to automate the process or spend real money on stuff, but it's their choice not to do these things. This is probably the origin of the seething hate that a lot of people have for 'botters' - as they see them as rule-breakers, cheating around the in-place system imposed by the Blizzard overlords for no other reason than retaining a monthly subscription fee.

I guess that's why I defend botting. I empathize more with individual people either saving time or earning money rather than the greedy corporate entity here. I'll agree that the marketing model is good, especially due to the high addictiveness of the game, but that doesn't make it something that is good. In fact, the amount of their customer's time that Blizzard has effectively wasted in order to try and keep the hooked in and paying a monthly fee could almost be considered extortion. If a company makes a product with the clear intent of getting players addicted, introducing repetitive, time consuming tasks in order to 'succeed' in the game, with the end goal of keeping the customer paying a monthly fee - then I'm loathe to defend those practices.

In closing, I suppose this is just an attempt at a rational counter-point to most rational players thoughts on the matter, which will more than likely portray me as the Internet White Knight for botting yet again. That's fine by me though, as I've missed the love and hate mail.

So, what's everyone else think? Five years now we've had WoW - and which is the greater evil - the cheaters or the game itself?

Tron out.

So Long, And Thanks for All the Rad-X

Posted by Daedren Thursday April 23 2009 at 11:39AM
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It's with a heavy heart that I announce the imminent demise of a beloved game company: one that brought us Fallout 1 & 2, Earthworm Jim and Descent. While their recent accomplishments are nothing more than questionable business deals and becoming a gaming company meme for financial troubles, we have to put in perspective the greatness and enjoyment the ghosts of Interplay past have brought us. It's been living on life-support the last 10 years - and while it's sad to see our old friend go, part of us is happy it's finally being put out of it's misery.

Exciting stuff, this doom and gloom. They've effectively produced nothing but disappointment and false hope for the past 10 years - but really, who are these people? It's not like the guys that actually made the games stuck around in an empty office doing nothing since 2001. They've been long gone. As Interplay was "acquired" by Titus in 1999, and the original CEO of Interplay left in 2001 citing "creative differences" with Titus - we can assume those differences were actually producing games - Interplay, as we know it from 2001-2009, has been a different entity. An impostor, of sorts, and a bad one at that. We have a company that swooped in to a successful game studio and effectively capsized it with "creative differences" - whatever that means. Apparently Interplay has really only persisted through one guy, one Herve Caen, who's name sounds entirely too French and mustache looks entirely too 70's.

Glorious Fallout for Make Wonderful Profits in Industry of MMO's?

Seriously, the mustache is starting to freak me out.

So - Interplay died in 2001 when the original founder and developers left. This shell of a company - Interplay: Reloaded - has been little more than the faint hope of the mustachioed madman who killed it in the first place - AH AH AH. That said, let's not let this be more than it actually is - the death rattle of a once glorious nation- er, company that brought us some damn memorable titles.

In the past few months, between ranting about botting and not having the heart to talk about Darkfall, the Fallout MMO has been my main interest. For a recap on the past few months of excitement, we have:

The Fine Print of the Fallout MMO - Read this if you want to know about the technicalities of the Besthesda/Interplay IP deal.

Fallout and Interplay: You have Three Months to Live - Hey, I was actually right! In January 2009, Interplay had secured a small fraction of the needed $30M to not void the agreement signed with Bethesda.

So, what's been happening since then?

Jason Anderson Leaves Interplay - Remember hearing about those original Fallout guys that went back and started working on the V13 Project with Interplay? It's not a good sign when they start leaving. This was effectively half of the Interplay working force.

Interplay Signs Deal with Masthead - When in trouble, go to Bulgaria. Who needs 30 Million when you can just sign something with a MMO studio? This news was surprising, and led to the inevitable...

Bethesda to Sue Interplay Over Fallout MMO - It's not official yet, but we can assume the legal offices of Bethesda/ZeniMax did a collective "WTF? They can't do that!" at the news of Interplay substituting finance and development progress with a deal written on a cocktail napkin in Bulgaria.

And last but not least, Interplay is about to go bankrupt - again.

That means it's up to ZeniMax/Bethesda to bring us quests to Kill 10 Rad Scorpions. Oh, the humanity. Let's just hope they don't use the same writers from Fallout 3 (I liked the game, don't get me wrong... but, well, let's not go there.)

As for the deal with Masthead - well, I assume production on Earthrise will continue and Herve will probably be never heard from again if he goes back to Bulgaria.

Very nice!

Confessions of a WoW Botter

Posted by Daedren Wednesday February 11 2009 at 6:03AM
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Ni hao, bitches. Now now, don't get all hasty - it's not quite that bad. I'm not here to bring you tales of epic gold farming or "Adventures in Azshara: 200 days of Genocide". Everyone has their own opinion of those kind folk who's trade involves them creating a level 1 character named "Xkabwqleoiyx" and running to a capital city - and most of these opinions fall into the region of "Wish you could stab someone through the Internet". Rest easy, I'm not one of those people. In fact, I'm a pretty normal guy - a casual gamer of such. This is my story - the story of a casual botter in World of Warcraft.

I suppose it's pantomime to account suicide writing something as open and honest as this. Honestly, that's one of the biggest motivators for me, actually - no, not the danger of it, but the apathetical sense of someone else taking care of one of my own, personal problems. My own personal problem is that when I'm so inclined, I tend to play WoW a bit too much, botting or not. *If* I did get banned for my "tales of a botter" then I'd be disinclined to ever play again - for the betterment of myself and probably everyone else around me. In any case, this is a problem of the past as I've already canceled and purified my hard drive of anything WoW related until at least the next expansion pack or in the unlikely case Blizzard ever implements a logical and *gasp* fun PVP system. I digress.

So there it is. I bot in WoW. Some will say "Who the hell cares?"; others with be confused, not really knowing what "botting" means. Yes, there are many people (made evident from the recent MMO Glider legal cases) that don't really understand what's going on. So, it'll help to clarify exactly what botting is in the grand world of Azeroth:

Botting is: A character in WoW that is controlled by a third party program. From a third party perspective, the character behaves somewhat normally (runs around, kills things, loots things, etc).

Botting is not: Paying someone else (like a company) to level, farm gold/honor or play a character for whatever reason. The company might (and probably will) *bot* your character, but purchasing levels / gold is different than botting and should not be confused.

So, how do people bot?

There are a few ways to do it, but the main way people bot is using a program called "MMO Glider" (formerly WoW Glider).  This program was created a long time ago to help alleviate some of the more tedious tasks in WoW at the time; from there, it evolved into a fully functional bot program that was capable of controlling a character in nearly every way, shape or form. Paying customers, using a monthly fee, can subscribe to the "Elite" service which allows highly modified custom classes and a lot of advanced features for the program.

Is botting detectable?

Until a few months ago, it was pretty easy to spot a bot. A trained eye could easily tell if a character is behaving normally or controlled by a program. Tell tale signs are fixed paths, jerky movements, identical attack orders, running into objects, huge stocks of "grindable" items on the AH -- all of these things are easy ways to identify a bot.

Things have changed, though. The botting community has created "smart pathing" code which basically analyzes the texture files in WoW to see where obstacles are and best pathing information. Using these advanced features along with highly modified custom classes, I've done test runs where my character actually plays *better* than me. He jumps over fences, pulls 2-3 MOBS at once, kills them, and then moves on. He does quests. He stacks his Eternal's like a good boy and heals and buffs other players when they are near by. He talks back to his friends and guildmates, politely ignores people he doesn't know, and when his bags fill up with stuff to sell, he mounts up to the nearest vendor, sells the vendor trash, mails the better stuff to a bank alt, and heads back for more tedious killing.

On a technical level, Blizzard has a little anti-third party feature of their client called "Warden". These botting programs are specifically designed to circumvent any detection like this. For the most part, if you stay up to date and follow the instructions, there is virtually no chance of being detected. Really, the only way to get caught is being reported by other players or selling gold.

Example of non-AFK Botting
An example of non-AFK botting
Two Types of Botting

Mainly, there are two different types of botting: AFK Botting and Non-AFK Botting. AFK Botting is usually ran for long periods of time in secluded areas, mainly by unguilded or "private" characters. An example of a good AFK Bot task would be to grind the Captured Firely in Zangarmarsh or one of the whelp pets in Azshara. These little pets have a .01%-.1% drop rate, meaning it can be 1-2 thousand kills before one drops. An example of a non-AFK Bot task would be killing Fire Elementals in Storm Peaks at 6 PM server time. Chances are you'll get attacked if you're on a PVP server or lots of /whispers on a PVE server. Lots of people will be around to observe your "bot like" habits, increasing the chance you'll be reported and having your account banned.

Non-AFK botting involves you usually doing something else on or near your computer, to be able to respond to /whispers or take manual control over your character in the likely event something will happen. So, you can non-AFK bot at work, or watching a movie, looking at your favorite midget porn - whatever. It allows you to do normal, non-WoW things and still do something in WoW, albeit less efficiently. AFK botting is the sort of thing you put on before you go to bed, or going to Iraq for 3 months - fire and forget. If you set up cautious anti-detection settings, the worst thing that can happen is that your character logs out.

So, why bot?

I want to say a short disclaimer to say that I'm not here as an apologist. In the WoW community, talking about botting is kind of like discussion religion or politics in the real world - you're apt to piss people off no matter where you stand. A lot of people don't care if you bot. A good portion also think it's unfair or would think negatively towards you if they did find out, perhaps even reporting you in game. That's why it's safe to stay secret squirrel about the subject to avoid any unnecessary risks as a botter. I'm not ashamed of it, and most of my good in-game friends knew I was capable of doing it, but it still wasn't a well known fact.

There are many reasons to bot in WoW; monetary reasons (selling Gold on various sites) - advancing other characters, making money for a mount / expensive item, whatever. I only did it for one reason, though: time. WoW is a time consuming game. It's really the only real currency in the game: he with the most time, wins. 98% of the items, titles or achievements in game basically come down to a time investment, where throwing sheer amounts of time at them is really the only requirement. I never sold gold to a website or leveled a character to sell it.

It's because of this I've always been defensive of MMO Glider and the botting community. I know everyone has their own reasons, but I see this little bot program as something that saved me hundreds of hours of time and allowed me to enjoy the game to its full potential. I admit that with the recent Wrath expansion, the need for money and grinding has been dramatically reduced, but the sheer amount of time I saved in TBC was well worth the $20 I spent a few years ago.

For example, some of the things I've used botting for:

  • Obtaining Aldor/Scryer reputation
  • Getting the hard, grind only vanity pets (Firefly, Whelplings, etc)
  • General kill farming: Killings tons of skinnable creatures to sell the leather on the AH - to be able to buy gems, enchants and flasks/potions for raiding. Killing humanoid creatures to get cloth to level up tailoring or sell the cloth.
  • Leveling alts.
  • Obtaining enough money for epic flying / mounts.
  • Fishing (No, it's not fun)

Of course, some of this stuff wasn't necessary. My character can perform fine in a raid without a Captured Firefly. However, things like enchants, gems and gear can make or break a raid, especially when you're in a critical role. As a healer in TBC (when raiding was actually challenging), not having the right stuff could cost the group an encounter, especially when learning the encounters and still gearing up as a raid. Black Temple and Sunwell might have been "ezmode" for hardcore raiding guilds, but as a casual player in a casual raiding guild, they were challenging and extremely time consuming. Not having the proper gear and gems/enchants just made it that much harder.

That might be a fine excuse on the cover - and honestly, it's enought to justify my reason for botting. I didn't have a lot of time to play WoW - 4-5 nights a week and 3-4 hours on average per night. Maybe sneak in during the afternoon on a weekend or something when the kids are asleep. So, with raiding 2-3 nights as week left 1-2 nights maximum where I could play without raiding, and these always went to PVP / Arena. I was left with a choice of either giving up PVE Raiding or PVP if I wanted to get everything the "legit" way. Hell, and that's only playing one character.

All that aside, though, there is another big reason to bot in WoW:

Botting is fun!

Yes, it is. Some might even argue that it's funner than actually playing the game. It's like having personal minions that can go out and do tedious tasks for you. You can see how many level 70/80's you can get (one of each class, why not?). You can see how much gold you can farm or how many vanity pets you can get. It becomes a game in itself - seeing your profiles and tasks at work, constantly improving and tweaking your classes - it's like a mini-game. If you're brave you can even tweak it enough to perform well in PVP (BG's only, of course - don't think anyone could do an Arena Bot). All in all, it's fun to advance or do things when you're asleep or at the office.

The Legal Issues with Botting

Recently there has been a lot of talk around the MMO-sphere about MMO Glider and the lawsuit with Blizzard. All in all, it's not looking good for the future of MMO Glider. I'm confident, though, that even if it does go "tits up" - another person or team will step in to fill the hole. In fact, if the MMO Glider code was distributed to the right persons (living in a galaxy far, far away) they could basically continue the legacy where the MMO Glider guys left off. There is a huge community behind them and the idea will live on. How, exactly, is what we'll find out in the next couple weeks.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Deviant Fish

In conclusion, I want to say I'm not ashamed to have botted in WoW. It allowed me to enjoy the game more without sacrificing my personal and family life. For that, I want to say thanks to the Glider guys and the community as a whole. To all the non-botters out there: next time, before you pass judgment on someone, keep in mind they might be someone like me: just a lonely gnome with not enough time on his hands.

References:

MMO Glider - Official Site

PPather (A Newb's Guide to PPather)

MMO Glider + PPather Setup Guide

PS: WALL-E is great.

Original article is here.

Fallout and Interplay: You Have Three Months to Live

Posted by Daedren Wednesday February 4 2009 at 11:29AM
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On one fateful day last year, after a late night binge of boxed wine, I decided to write something mildly coherent, uncharacteristically calm and hopefully accurate in regards to the future of a Fallout MMO - specifically, one done by everyone's favorite old school penniless game studio called Interplay. For those that didn't read it, here is a quick summary: Interplay needs 30 Million USD in venture capital by April 2009 to retain the rights of making the Fallout MMO; if they don't have it, they'll forfeit the rights to the game to Bethesda and probably have their knees broken. The 30M is to start production on the game, and an added 45M or more will be needed for the projected development budget.

One would think major investment announcements would be made by Interplay, if indeed they were, in fact, getting investors to invest in them. One would think that - but hey, who knows, perhaps they are just biding time, waiting to the last minute to tell Bethesda "We got it, bitches!" and then go swim in their vault full of money. One could also think that a financially insecure, unstable game studio of past glories long told could also be completely up shit creek and have no financial backing whatsoever, save for the paltry 1M USD they kind of got last summer - and, with the current economic situation - well, you get the point.

Interplay HQ
Interplay HQ

The Interplay website was redone last autumn, a highly needed update that vaulted the Interplay 1994-esque Geocities style homepage to something at least done in the last decade. Oh, and they now offer the Fallout Trilogy - which, according to them, doesn't include Fallout 3 and instead gives you Fallout Tactics. Ok, we get it, you're hurting for money guys. I know, let's head over to the Interplay Forums and talk about a Fallout MMO. Where the hell is the Fallout forum section? Well, it doesn't exist. Apparently those at Interplay felt the majority of Interplay fans would be there to discuss Earthworm Jim. Sprinkled around the General Discussion and "Other Classic Interplay Games" we can find the hopeful forum users eagerly talking about the possible future of the game.

Forum talk aside, Interplay is pretty hush-hush about this project. Their latest "News" is the announcement of the site redesign. The Interplay dev(s) rarely post on the forums, and when they do, it's usually in support of another Interplay title. Basically, from a public point of view, not a lot is happening on the Interplay front in regards to "Project V13". April 2009 is coming up quickly and to our knowledge Interplay has procured not even 5% of the total monetary budget to even start production on the game.

Things are not looking good for Interplay. These could be the final months of the game studio's existence. The future of a Fallout Online game might rest solely in the hands of one ZeniMax Online which I've mentioned before. Let's just hope Bethesda and company stay the hell away from the "Games for Windows" Live service thing they ran for Fallout 3. Bethesda has made some good games with the Elder Scroll series and Fallout 3, but making a MMO is (as we know) an entirely different animal. Can they do it?

What's everyone else think? Would you rather have the broke, oldschool Interplay making the game or the rich and greedy Bethesda at the helm? Neither have MMO experience, but money *can* buy anything. Well, unless you're Mythic or Funcom... ;)

Daedren's Guide to Living with Deathknights

Posted by Daedren Monday January 26 2009 at 12:13PM
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I don't like writing about Warcraft. I consider the game unchallenging, frightfully unimaginative and terribly addicting - but in the same time, I'm drawn to it for its familiarity. It's the familiar and user friendly cornerstone of draining our lives away, escaping into the bosom of our treasured alternate reality. We find comfort in the gear treadmill and bitch about the inevitable dysfunction of PVP. Other games come and go, hopes are dashed - and WoW is still there, persisting like the Family Circus of MMO's, something we secretly hate but read anyway . The centralized servers eagerly await our inevitable return into their carefully categorized and never changing world before they merge and become WoWNET and kill us all.

Enough waxing intellectual - I'm here to bash Deathknights. Like everyone else in the free world, I tried one of these babies out from the get-go and thought to myself "Nice! It's almost like they took all the abilities they wanted to give other classes over the last 3 years and gave them to DK's! Sweetness!" Early days as a DK were tough, as you were just another face in the crowd of ever-growing Deathtards. You laughed at DK's that were stacking +spellpower gear and chuckled when General Chat had people arguing if you could use maces.

 

Aww... that's not me. Thank God.

 

To differ from the herd, I chose the route of tanking  - and also because I'd never played a tank before. It also helped that 98% of all DK's didn't even know they could tank and preferred to *nnaaahhh* "hit stuff". Level 80 and a couple thousand gold later and I was decked out in full tank gear and was tanking every Heroic in the game, patiently trying to convince people that Frost wasn't the only (or even best) spec for tanking and that Unholy Aura is an Aura and I'm also able to use Frost Presence at the same time to tank. (WTF DK! USE FROST AURA TO TANK NOT UNHOLY AURA!) It was fun to play a new class in a new role. It was also fun to completely dominate everyone in PVP.

PVP, of course, has never been a strong point of Blizzard's. Some of their decisions have been downright delusional, from Warlocks and Druids pre-3.0 to Paladin / DK's and general burst damage in Season 5. Not that PVP has ever mattered too much in a PVE oriented game - and, with the  unofficial "Death of the Arena" (some would argue that Arena was never really alive anyway) in the latest 3.0.8 patch - or "Winning is the New Losing" system that was put in place - we can almost start discussing PVP in WoW as something purely past tense. Maybe they should have stuck with the Forrest Gump of PVP systems instead of going full retard.

Deathknights aren't the sole cause of this, of course. In fact, DK's had a short reign of just over a month, from the start of Season 5 until 3.0.8 where they truly dominated in the 2vs2 and 3vs3 bracket. They still do dominate, of course, but the stupid new Arena "Spooky Ghost Rating" system has thrown all logic out of determining who is actually winning or doing well in the Arena. It's also not so much that DK's are stupidly overpowered - but, partnered with a Paladin - they have really no weaknesses. It's a bit ironic that the two classes would compliment each other so well as by lore they should be at polar opposites. In any case, I stopped playing my DK for the same reason I stopped playing Quake with godmode on - it just wasn't fun. After facerolling properly specced and geared PVP players as I wore full PVE gear, it just lost its appeal for me. In short, the current state of PVP can be summarized by one simple image:

After, in a move of epic sadomasochism, I decided I'd play my Druid in PVP. As a healer. Keeping the Quake analogy, that's like going from Difficulty: Easy with Godmode on to Difficulty: INSANE and playing with no monitor. This did allow to me to gain a proper perspective on the current state (or past state, as I should say) of PVP and Arenas in WoW as a punching bag. Running around with 800 Resilience and 21K HP, I've even modified an addon to record the shortest amount of time I've gone from full Hit Points to 0. Current 2vs2 record is 3.5 seconds by a Rogue / Mage combo, and my fastest 1vs1 death was by a DK in 4.1 seconds in Orgrimmar. (In his defense, he did precast Army of the Dead. I was fishing.)

To finish the long-winded prelude - I'm back to being a non-DK. Like most other non-DK's, I'm hoping that they will dissapear or be "retuned" to make less people want to play them. It seems the new "scourge" of Azeroth isn't the Scourge but the retard Deathknight's they've spawned upon us. AHAH! Maybe Arthas is a smart guy. Learn from Illidians mistakes and send upon us a plague of overpowered glowy-eye freaks. I just hope that in the final fight with Arthas himself, he exerts his power over the Deathknights and turns them against the raid. That would be cool.

Anyway, until then, that means I have to live with Deathknights being part of the world. So I bring you:

Daedren's Guide to Living with Deathknights!

Deathknight Races / Gender Choice

Race and gender choice says a lot about a Deathknight! Here is a quick summary:

Human Male / Female - I have no imagination.

Night Elf Male - I'm the only one who thinks my character looks cool.

Night Elf Female - Officially I'm a NE for the 2% dodge and Shadowmeld, but I also enjoy watching my character fight with no clothes on.

Dwarf Male - I hate rogues.

Dwarf Female - I am a beautiful and unique snowflake.

Gnome Male / Female - I am evil incarnate and disregard any sense of logic when it comes to choosing a character.

Draenei Male / Female - I hate the world because my DK looked great at the creation screen with a skirt on. Now I have to look at stupid hooves! Need more plate kilts!

Undead Male / Female - Am I alive or dead? I'm all sorts of confused. Added WotF bonus incase I have to kill 17 Warlocks at the same time.

Orc Male / Female - Our racials are awesome, we look good in plate, and my +5% damage to my ghoul(s) and gargoyle will justify me speccing Unholy for the rest of my life.

Troll Male / Female - Our lack of boots makes up for how clearly awesome we are.

Tauren Male / Female - I need Warstomp to suceed and I enjoy flattening horses in my spare time.

Blood Elf Female/Female - I am the embodiment of everything wrong in this world. I also love penis.

Deathknight Names

What about names? Names say a lot about a person, especially if they are a Deathknight! If their name contains:

*death*, *dk* or *deathknight*

-- They are just testing out the class. Another possibility is that they are incredibly stupid.

Example:

[1]General: Orcdk: Cool quests!

[1]General: Deathstabber: STFU NOOB

[1]General: Bobdk: [Dirge]

If their name is a variation or similar to:

Arthas, Sepiroth, Sauron, Lucifer or any other evil character, god, demi-god or celestial being:

-- They have delusions of grandeur, lack imagination, and should be punched in the cock.

Example:

[1]General: Arrthas: bowz to me minion dkz lolz
[1]General: Deathstabber: STFU NOOB
[1]General: Saurondk: Wrong, they are MINE!
[1]General: Lucyfer: lol at your names
[1]General: Separoth: i know

If their name contains any special characters like:

Æ È Œ Ð Ö å é è

Hopefully they have a macro for telling you what ASCII alt code to use to invite them to a group. They should also be beaten with a keyboard and preferably have it stuffed down their throat.

Example:

From Ðèåthknight: invite me
To Ðèåthknight: get a new name
From Særon: hi DPS here
To Særon: Frodo fucked you up, get over it
From Hán: hi use alt 0225 to invite me
To n: hi use alt 0182 to go fuck yourself

In the end, a name is just a name. Sometimes... actions speak louder than words!

Deathstabber has earned the achievement [Merrymaker]!

Translation: I'm doing the seasonal achievements! TAKE ME SERIOUSLY. THIS IS MY NEW MAIN.

Ðèåthknight has earned the achievement [Grand Master Fisherman]!

Translation: I have far too much time on my hands. My dedication to the art of fishing, while borning, implies that THIS IS MY NEW MAIN.

Bloodknight has earned the achievement [Swift Zulian Tiger]!

Translation: I have now obtained a mount that most other people don't have because I can solo the boss with my overpowered class. THIS IS MY NEW MAIN.

Bloodknight has earned the achievement [Traveler's Tundra Mammoth]!

Translation: I have spent 16,000 gold on a mount to show everyone how serious I am about playing a Deathknight. SRS!

Dklol has earned the achievement [Amani War Bear]!

Translation: HAHA DK's you can't have this mount! Nothing you will ever do can amount to the pure awesomesauce of an Amani War Bear. Oh, and your eyes look stupid.

Darknight has earned the achievement [40 Exalted Reputations]!

Translation: Ok, you win. This IS YOUR NEW MAIN.

I feel all dirty now. So, anyone else up for some Darkfall?

-- Daedren

Original article is here.

The Fine Print of a Fallout MMO

Posted by Daedren Thursday November 6 2008 at 8:44AM
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At last! Fallout 3 has swept into our gaming lives, and most people are happy. The game, in my opinion, is pretty damn good. Of course, with a good game like that, coupled with a heap of old-school game fans, it's easy to get all moist on the mere thought of turning the Fallout universe into a MMO. I'm as excited as the next guy at the thought of having anything as cool as the Fallout series take a leap into the genre. In fact, I like the IP enough where I've actually based my theoretical game designs on Fallout (it was either that or Neuromancer, of course) and I even hang out at the craziest, most dedicated fan site that has ever existed for any game: No Mutants Allowed. In my limited dealings with real, actual people in the games industry, I've even been lucky enough to chat with a few of the former Black Isle and Interplay guys. So, it pains me more than anything to say: the Fallout MMO probably won't happen for a long, long time. Sad Panda is sad.

Of course I can't just go spouting stuff like that without some sort of logical argument. So, let's take a look at the Fallout wiki site, that fills us in on some of the boring (although quite relevant) legal status of the Fallout MMO. Basically, it revolves around Interplay being Bethesda's little bitch in every way, shape, and form. Remember a couple years ago when Bethesda bought the Fallout IP but Interplay retained the "rights" to a MMO? There are stipulations. Those are:

  • Interplay has to raise $30 Million by April, 2009.
  • Interplay has to start development by April, 2009.
  • Interplay must launch the Fallout MMO no later than 4 years from starting development (April, 2013).
  • Interplay must pay 12% of subscription fees in royalties to Bethesda if they somehow actually launch the game.

If any of these are not met, Interplay forfeits the rights to the Fallout MMO. (Source)

I want to point something specifically out in this little arrangement (which sounds more like a Mafia deal than a real business arrangement). The initial proposal for the Fallout MMO projected the cost of development between $75M - $100M. That means if Interplay does indeed secure the magic "30 Million" that they're still over 60% under budget for actually making the game. Normally this wouldn't be too big of a deal, as game studios normally don't have a strict production schedule. Unfortunately, this situation is far from normal, and even if Interplay could start production on a Fallout MMO in 2009, they have a strict 4 years to get it out the door - no matter what state it's in.

To compare, games like World of Warcraft and Warhammer had $70M+ budgets and took 4+ years to develop. Oh, and Warcraft had a team of vets from games like UO, Asheron's Call and Everquest helming it up, not to mention Mythic having the Dark Age team at its disposal. Interplay has a couple of the original Fallout guys (Chris Taylor and Jason Andersen) - and, while talented, have no MMO experience whatsoever.

For arguments sake, we can assume that a Fallout MMO could be made in 4 years with the projected budget of $75M. That leaves us to question Interplays ability to secure investments. While the recent success and hype of Fallout 3 might reassure investors that the IP is workable as a MMO, putting money into Interplay is going to be a tough sell to anyone with money. We're talking about a company that, 2 years ago, was over $5M in debt and had to sell it's top IP just to not get their knees broken.

So, in a nutshell:

  • Interplay, a company in financial disarray, needs 30M large to just start production on the game.
  • Interplay currently staffs no experienced MMO developer of any sort
  • Interplay has a strict 4 years to release the game, no matter what the state is
  • Interplay then has to pay 12% royalty to Bethesda and can also not profit from any Fallout IP related merchandise.

In short, it's not looking good for an Interplay based Fallout MMO. I have a gut feeling that of the $30M that Interplay needs to raise, they have about $29M to go. Only one public announcement has been made of investment (and it was for 2M shares of Interplay, not even $1M USD). Sadly I don't think Interplay has the mettle or the personnel to be trying to keep everything all secret squirrel. Unless Santa comes with a fat check this Christmas, it looks like it's going to be permanent lights out for good ol' Interplay.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This light is: ZeniMax Studios.

It's not the coolest name for a game studio, but whatever. This studio is Bethesda's little secret. At the moment, they're officially working on something that seems to be interestingly uninteresting. They bought a MMO game engine license that makes it look like they're doing, well, something. What I think they are doing is just biding their time. They are probably just laying the groundwork for their potential Fallout MMO, which they'll have rights to in either May 2009 or May 2013, whenever Interplay decides to concede victory and try to escape the country without being killed by their investors.

ZeniMax and Bethesda will have exclusive rights to the Fallout IP and MMO as soon as Interplay officially voids the contract. From the above keypoints, it's probable that this will happen. The MMO industry is a fickle and dangerous business to be in. Bethesda has both the talent (and more importantly) the cash to back a huge MMO project. In fact, when you think of it, Bethesda was pretty sly about this whole thing: they bought the Fallout IP rights from Interplay, probably discounted for the Fallout MMO rights. They then put these stipulations into the contract - knowing that they'd be done with Fallout 3 in Q4 2008 or Q1 2009 - enough time to revive the Fallout IP interest and then dive into the Fallout MMO in April 2009 - since they seem to know that Interplay can't possibly raise $30M on this speculative venture.

So, maybe it won't be a long, long time. Actually, ZeniMax seems to have their shit together (no surprise) more than Interplay for the Fallout MMO - as they've already got an engine picked out and possibly have a team (not just a couple guys) actually working on the game. They could have it out and humming by, say, 2011 or 2012 if things go well. I guess all that's left for us to do is sit back and enjoy some Nuka Cola, since it looks like the boys at Bethesda have us covered.

 

Fallout Online - ZeniMax Entertainment

Coming 2012

That's my prediction anyway!

 

Original article here.

Warhammer: A 65% Approval Rating?

Posted by Daedren Friday October 24 2008 at 11:08AM
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I’m partial to throwing out the famous words of Mark Twain even before we start: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” My limited premonition has allowed me to see the future comments on this: “Oh, look at this guy now - what the hell is he, a MMO market analyst? Who the hell is this guy? DIE YOU FRENCH BASTARD!” All valid points. I don’t claim that this is official or by any means accurate. It’s just my take, in my limited research, on how Warhammer is doing so far. The hype for the game has died down, and the bigger/better/newer upcomings of things like Wrath of the Undead Treadmill and Bioware’s Better-not-suck Star Wars MMO have been busy stealing the show.

First, I’ll start with my usual disclaimer: the following information expressed is my opinion. It is based upon non-standard and quite frankly rather piecemeal, shoddy and otherwise unreliable statistics that are only a very small fraction of the applicable targeted audience. The statistics for my conclusions are based on forum polls at Warhammer Alliance and the VN Boards, reader responses to my articles on r1ft.com, Massively and MMORPG.com - or, to put it more eloquently - the worse place on the internets to find objective information.

I’ve been a bit torn (yes, torn) over how to feel about Warhammer Online. One part of me wants it to fail miserably and be cast down with the other scrubs like Vanguard, Tabula Rasa and Age of Conan. Why? Because of it’s lack of creativity and ingenuity. (and yes, I know that this is just plain unhealthy thinking) Another part of me, though - the more mature and rational part - wants Warhammer to succeed. It’s a PVP oriented game, after all, and failure could spell doom for future companies/investors looking to pour their time and money into PVP focused games. I consider myself a nice guy, anyway, and it’s just hard to wish doom and gloom on anyone, even the uncreative jackasses that spew crap into the MMO industry.

One thing that surprised me in my “Inevitable “Meh” of Warhammer Online” piece was the agreement I got. I had expected the vehement fanboys to arrive in mass and collectively lynch me for not having the same opinion as them. Some did, but a good portion of other readers felt the similar to how I did, or at least could sympathize with my views. So, I took a few minutes and did an amateur research on what people from around the Warhammer community thought of their game after one month of playing. What I determined was that:

About 65% of people are happy enough with the game to pay for another month.

Roughly 25% of the people are not going to pay for another month.

And the remaining 10% are on the fence, undecided what they will do.

With these statistics, it’s good to keep in mind a few things:

  • They are taken from Warhammer fansites, forums, or MMO news sites
  • People that have stopped playing the game would be less likely to respond
  • The game could also be so awesome that the players don’t have the time nor inclination to look at forums.

(Source articles/forum polls are here: Warhammer Alliance Poll 1, Poll 2, VN Boards Poll 1, Poll 2, r1ft 1, Massively 1)

(FINE PRINT: In regards to references, it's been said, possibly inaccurately, that the VN Boards are generally thought to be more "pro Warhammer" and fanboyish who intend to address most of their posts to someone at Mythic, while Warhammer Alliance has gained a slightly unsavory reputation for harboring a good amount of negativity towards the game. Mark Jacobs posts frequently on the VN boards. His posts are usually followed by about 85% of the people trying to fellatiate him digitally, with a sane 15% actually trying to say something objective and without balls in their mouth. This, along with a guestimation that a good portion of ex-Warhammer players would not visit these sites again, led me to my conclusion of a 65% rating. That guess is about as stable Funcom's financial situation.)

I'm not sure what the margin of error should be, but any way you cut it, roughly 1/3 or 1/4 of Warhammer Online's customer base could be not resubbing or thinking about not resubbing. The last official word from Mythic had 750,000 people buying the game. So, if this research is accurate, almost 200,000 of initial buyers of Warhammer Online could be hanging up their boots after the first month. Or, in strict money terms, over 2 BAZILLION dollars a month. Er, 2.5 million $USD per month, sorry.

More importantly - what does this mean in today's market?  Would a 25% player first impression cut rate be higher or lower than other MMO’s like Age of Conan, WoW or LOTRO? Your guess is as good as mine. Initial player retention might be far less important than long term player growth, like in World of Warcraft - which started with under 1 million subscribers (according to

THIS

) and has now grown to over 10 Million, or about 2 million if you exclude bot and farming accounts from ninja countries. The question then would be: Does Warhammer have what it takes to make a substantial player growth in the coming years?

In my amateur opinion, I would say no. The difference between now and 2004 is that the MMO genre has a lot more to choose from. The competition in the field has increased by about 300%, or even more when talking about strictly fantasy MMO’s. Warcraft undeniably took a lot of players in from other genres and overall, the MMO industry has expanded significantly because of it. On the other hand, Mythic has catered to the already existing customers of other MMO games (mainly) and hasn’t drawn many into the scene. They’re focused on trying to draw away players instead of generate new ones. This was a fundamental marketing flaw that you really can’t do much about, I’m afraid. So, while Paul Barnett put his money on 3 million subscribers in the future, I’d put mine on hovering around 1 million at most. In the end, though, I could just be plain wrong.

It’ll be curious to see how this affects PVP/RVR based games in the future. I think most will agree that the genre did need - hell, it still needs - more PVP focused games to play. (Hello Darkfall, yes, I know you’re there. Look, about last night…) Let’s hope that just because Warhammer hasn’t generated an enormous player base, other investors and game studios will shy away from creating PVP oriented games.

So, what’s everyone else think? Is this “approval rating” healthy, unhealthy, or just a bunch of crap? How do you think it will do in the long run?

Original article here.

The Mark Jacobs "State of the Game" Generator

Posted by Daedren Thursday October 16 2008 at 12:18PM
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Well, can't do PHP scripts here at MMORPG.com - so here it is: 

http://www.r1ft.com/war/mark-jacobs-state-of-the-game-generator/

Enjoy. ;) 

 

Warhammer Online: Will You Subscribe?

Posted by Daedren Tuesday October 14 2008 at 4:38AM
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While it might be no secret on my personal disdain for Warhammer Online, I've been curiously intrigued by the amount of negativity towards the game. Over at Massively, they recently asked the question "Has Warhammer earned your money for another month?" - and surprisingly, almost half of the commentors expressed their intent to either not resub at all, or definately leave once WotLK is on the shelves in November.

Most can agree Warhammer isn't exactly shattering boundaries with its ideas, but the fact remains that it's the biggest PVP/RVR focused game to ever be produced. For a PVP oriented gamer like myself, this gives me a vested interest into the future and prosperity of Warhammer, as failure could pose problems for producing similar games in the future. So, while I might not have been wooed and wowed by the ideas or implementation of the game, I'd still like it to have a healthy subscriber base to at least encourage other companies to go forth and forge an epic PVP focused game.

This medium (blogging) isn't the best for objective market analysis, but its a start. So far, between my blog and Massively, with over 200 readers responding, it seems that almost half of those will either not resub to Warhammer or leave back to WoW in November. Perhaps it's mainly the negative people commenting, perhaps not. Anyway, I'd like to find out.

So, I ask my readers here: will you subscribe or resub to Warhammer Online? 

 

The Inevitable "Meh" of Warhammer Online

Posted by Daedren Wednesday October 8 2008 at 9:34AM
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Hi, I'm Daedren. You might remember me from other articles like "Squig Vicious: When Herding Goes Wrong" and "Fatality: My Age of Conan DVD in the Microwave." I know, I know - it's hard to write something where you know you're going to alienate or piss off a good portion of your readers with just the title, but it's just how I feel. To summarize, my thoughts are basically this: Warhammer Online is a mediocre remake of everything we've already seen in the industry. It lacks passion, it lacks real creativity, and at the end of the day, it doesn't provide a unique or memorable experience. Or yeah, something like that.

The first few weeks after an MMO comes out are always bustling with activity. People just can't seem to shut up about a game. I suppose it's all about that new and exciting feeling, the same sort of feeling you get when you're waiting for your test results back from the lab after hooking up with the tattooed girl at work. I can honestly say I really wanted to like Warhammer. That said, I don't. Just a warning: there will be an immense string of negativity hurled Mythic's way in this rant of an article. These are my personal thoughts on the game, and how I feel about it. Some will agree with me. Many will not. Keep this in mind before you get all stabby with the comments.

Warhammer Online, on paper, seems to be a good, solid game. On paper, it's a nicely designed game that at least tries to take some baby steps to advance our MMO industry. On paper, it's not so bad. Unfortunately we don't play the game on paper, so let's focus on one thing: why does Warhammer make me say "meh?"

The "MEH"

What the hell does "meh" mean anyway? Well, to me, it's this feeling of "blah" or apathy that can roughly be summarized as not caring too much about whatever it is you're talking about. For example: "How do you feel today?" - The "meh" answer here would portray a sense of uncaring blandness that isn't quite good, and isn't quite bad. Upon further questioning, the purported sayer of "meh" will be somewhat uncertain of the exact cause of this: they can't pinpoint something that is outright bad, but they know something is amiss.

That's my feeling towards Warhammer Online. The inevitable "meh." I can't get worked up to actually care about fighting Faction X because I'm Faction Z. I feel distanced from my character in game because it feels like I've been there before. I don't feel for the Elf or Empire or Dwarf cause. I don't care that Chaos people and Greenskins go burning virtual buildings and killing NPC's or players that magically respawn back into existence. And quite frankly, I've done enough "Ten Kill Rats", "Talk to Joe" and "Collect Item X" quests in my life to never see one again and be happy.

I just don't care about playing. Some people might say "Daedren you need a guild!" - well, I have a guild. A damn fine one at that. Never a shortage of people to do things with. Sadly, my guild can't make the game fun to play. They can't take that apathetic feeling away that makes it feel like a chore just to log in and progress. I just can't convince myself that the game is fun enough to spend my time playing. Perhaps I'm getting picky, but I really just think the game is "meh". Unchallenging, uninspiring, and lacking passion. They've solidified an already existing game dynamic, adding a few bells and whistles, and expect people to spend a good portion of their free time in their unoriginal cookie cutter world. I just can't do it.

Playing Bad Guys, Factional Combat and RVR

A few months ago, when people started saying that Destruction to have the most people playing it, I had my own ideas why. Mainly it's because I thought that most people playing Destruction would be some emo/goth hybrid, torn between listening to death metal or Evanescence whilst painting teardrops on the corners of their eyes or writing poetry about how the world doesn't understand them. Now, though, I understand that it's really because Mythic spent about 75% of their development time working on Destruction classes and areas. Thanks to that, we now have everyone and their kitten running around playing naked Witch Elves or hulking Greenskins. They've gone and made being bad popular, and what does that mean?

From a design perspective, Mythic has allowed players to play a bad or "evil" faction. The problem here is that they allow players to play the role of an evil-doer, yet infer no material or moral consequence for their actions. Universally, there is nearly no difference in playing Order or Destruction other than some weakly implied moral bias. Every player knows that you don't really kill another player in RvR - as they are magically reappearing seconds later because of the joke of a death system - but the real problem is that deep down, players know that they can never really win. You can't vanquish evil, you can't slaughter the forces of good - all you can do is work at inconveniencing them for a couple minutes. It's a never ending game with no side being able to actually win or claim a real victory, so it blends into a meaningless label of Good/Evil or Order/Destruction with a lack of substance behind any faction or player.

It's depressing from a player perspective: no matter what you do in the game, you cannot change anything. Sure, burn Altdorf down. It resets in a week or whatever. The Order players are still there. You can never get rid of them. You can maybe evict them and their stupid Keep Lords from their temporary residences, but they'll be back. They have places to go where you can't, making the Warhammer Online universe no more than a staged battlefield, a Valhalla of sorts, where nothing can ever really change.

Factional WAR

This subject has the potential to be the most disturbing and controversial subject of them all. Warhammer isn't the first to implement it, though, but they do use it as the main selling point of their game. RVR combat - Order vs. Destruction. Or, as I like to call it, Spock vs. Evil Spock. You know, with the goatee.

I don't subscribe to the "It's WAR! Kill them!" pamphlet that makes me a robot soldier in an army killing an opposing robot soldier for Generic Reason X. This sort of mentality is exactly what is wrong with the world - killing other "people" because they are a certain race or faction. Are there no Goblins in the Warhammer world that are happy growing food and tending their squigs? No Dwarves or Humans that would betray their faction for the right price? No Dark Elves that are born with purple eyes and happen to be morally at war with everything their people does? Oh, if only life were this black and white. They've eliminated any sense of a "grey area" and have overly simplified objective right and wrong. The fact that Orks and Dark Elves can't kill each other is almost as laughable as Elves and Dwarves fighting alongside each other. So much for embracing game lore.

So, basically all we are in Warhammer are Battle Droids. The leaders tell us what to shoot, and we shoot it, no questions asked. Or maybe we're Stormtroopers. Who knows. Either way, we seem to be stuck in the role of "Don't think, we'll do that for you" to the supreme Warhammer overlords. It sounds like a mentality that a typical government would love for it's people to have: unquestioning and unthinking. Sign me up for the war, sir.

Preventing this is something very hard to do from a design perspective. It definitely makes things harder, throwing grey into the world. Perhaps people like the ease of determining good vs. evil - perhaps the fact that it doesn't mirror reality is what makes it comfortable - it is, after all, fantasy. I'll admit that the thought of a real and visceral evil is a bit romantic and provokes thoughts of real heroism and chivalry. Warhammer hasn't captured that in any sense, though, at least to me.

Whatever happened to Heroes?

Another stream of logic that Mythic has embraced is downplaying of your character in the game. They aren't alone in this aspect: the only MMO to really capture the true "Hero" aspect is probably City of Heroes/Villians. However, they've taken the high-fantasy world of Warhammer and allowed players to make characters in this world. These characters are not heroes. They're more like errand boys and shock troops. At most you could be considered a red shirt wearing Ensign of Star Trek. Go, zerg that keep like the good minion you are. Us heroes will be safely waiting here in the Warcamp as you do our bidding.

The real heroes of this game are the Keep Lords and the terribly powerful guards you see standing around. The insane power of these guys make you wonder why they don't get on a damn horse and try to go mobile. Hell, half of the guards at a Tier 4 Warcamp could probably take the opposing faction city with little problem. And here we are, the players, running around delivering notes to them and letting them direct us. We're their minions. Whatever happened to making a player feel like they are a hero? Why can't we have minions and troops to command? Where are the armies that we can direct and lead? The reason that D&D and Warhammer tabletop games were popular is because the story revolved around the players; they could noticeably affect and change the world based on their decisions. This main aspect and magic of the game is lost in a sea of inane, repetitive and fun killing "Quests". Yay, fun!

Creative Vision

I suppose what Mythic really missed here was the Creative Vision. Now, that's not to say there is nothing creative in Warhammer Online: we have nifty things like Public Quests, an advanced RvR system, flags and statues in cities, nifty little easter eggs floating around, etc. In the big picture, though, it's all small beans. All the repetitive "content" will be explored and done. People will hit max level and RvR for a while. Keeps will be captured and Capital Cities captured, ad infinitum, like some sort of pointless tug-of-war. As sad as it is to say it, Warhammer just doesn't have that "epic" feel to it. Polishing brass on the Titanic is more like it.

It's clear that Warhammer Online was designed with World of Warcraft as its working business model - and this is probably the biggest weakness of the game. I can understand the logic of "Hey, let's make WoW - but with an actual PVP and RVR system!" - yet it's failing to do anything for me. The good thing about WoW was that it was new and exciting at the time, even if it was just a rehash of Everquest and DAoC with a bigger development budget. WoW was a logical evolution in the MMO industry, and it helped mainstream MMO's and brought in a boatload of new people from outside the industry. And now, it's all about the three step process to mediocrity:

  • Use WoW as a business model
  • Make a game almost exactly like WoW but improve it a little bit and make it a bit different
  • Try and profit

Yay, recycling is fun! Ok, it's not that the game won't make profit. Sure, I suppose it will. It sold enough, has enough "content", and its got enough raving fanbois to keep a healthy population for a long time. Then we'll have Vanguard and Age of Conan on one side, and LOTRO and Warhammer on another.

4 Games. Over 250 Million USD in production costs. And almost absolutely nothing new to the MMO industry.

What about the end game of Warhammer Online? I haven't experienced it yet, that's true enough. Not many people have. The end game is all about RVR. Keep Takes. City Sieges. Renown Grinding. People always need to have the best stuff. What's the best way to get to RR 80? Why, it's playing the same scenario, over and over again. Think of Warsong Gulch 75,000 times. So, the majority of my end game will be grinding up to max RR level, with sparse breaks for actual open world PVP and keep takes? Thanks but no thanks. As always, it'll come down to the time = currency formula in MMO's, though I suppose it was silly to try and think that would change anyway.

Burnout

I've been told by a few friends of mine that my disillusion with the game is probably due to MMO burnout, and I agree. I stopped playing WoW a year ago. Tried EVE, wanted to love it, but couldn't. Age of Conan was a disaster. Warhammer was supposed to shake things up, but I got bored of Warhammer quicker than AoC, which isn't how it should be. Warhammer, on paper, sounds like it should be great game for an old-school PVP hound like I am, but in execution it leaves me overwhelmingly dissatisfied.

Maybe it's just age. I've felt more drawn to games like King's Bountyand even replaying Bioshock than grinding yet another character up to max level in MMO "X". For some good PVP I'm apt to go play Team Fortress 2, DOTA or Call of Duty 4. Perhaps the appeal of PVP in a MMORPG has just worn off. I've yet to see any MMO implement a system where actual skill mattered in a PVP fight - it usually just comes down to who has the most time to play or who has the most people to roll with them. This thought especially weighs down upcoming releases like Darkfall which not only embraces the "shoot me in the head it's another high fantasy MMO" aspect but also seem to have a PVP formula similar to Shadowbane and Age of Conan.

I've often wondered how the MMO industry can recapture the minds and hearts of MMO veterans like myself. A good portion of the player base started off with Ultima Online or Everquest - meaning that it's safe to say we've seen and done nearly everything Warhammer has to offer, albeit in a different light. The magic, we wants it back. The draw to the genre was that it was massive and new. It felt like things were created with heart and passion, not based on a working business model. I suppose it'll take another company or another game to really break out of the mold to get a lot of the old players back.

So that's it, folks. Warhammer has failed to impress me. I'm not the only one to have this happen, but on the other side, there are plenty of people enjoying the game still. Anyone else feel unimpressed and unmotivated to play? Do tell.

Original article is here.