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Vicarious Existence

To blog about what is going on in the MMO genre from a casual MMO player's viewpoint.

Author: UnSub

WAR (Beta): What Was It Good For? Making An Obvious Mistake, That's What ...

Posted by UnSub Saturday October 25 2008 at 8:54AM
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Across lots of different industries and repeated time and time again you can find cases of people (or groups of people) making obvious mistakes that in retrospect are pretty obvious. Things like New Coke or releasing an album with a 'baby butcher' cover must have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it didn't take long for the mistake to be uncovered when exposed to the public.

WAR's beta should be a text book case of how to do things right yet end up with a very wrong conclusion. At this point, it is obvious what happened, but it needs to be pointed out so that it doesn't happen again. I wasn't in beta but had heard some things, so I asked how Mythic had run its beta process; the responses I got pointed to a common theme.

This theme is that by testing WAR a lot in separate pieces but rarely the whole as it would launch, Mythic missed the basic problems of WAR's size versus player population distribution. Apart from the start, when beta players complained that things were too repetitive, Mythic had beta testers test sections of content in concentrated bursts. Players would be levelled up as required to do the content in the test/  This worked very well and the beta players did get involved were able to go through the zone(s) and test the required areas easily. When that was done, there were plenty of players of about the right level to do some realm vs. realm combat (RvR) or public quests (PQs) or whatever else took peoples' fancy. No-one had to worry about levelling because the next period would see the characters wiped and new characters level bumped as required.

An RvR area that would have been full in beta testing lies empty post-launch.

An RvR area that would have been full in beta testing lies empty post-launch.

This worked great as a beta test - lots of testing focus, lots of players in a limited area to test how things worked and could possibly be broken. However, little time was left to examine how the whole game fit together when players had to level from 1 to 40 under their own steam. The sheer size of WAR's world, together with a large number of world servers, means that players have been distributed far and wide - something that wasn't adequately tested for in beta. It seems likely that Mythic looked at the feedback taking from the tiered beta testing and thought it would apply equally to the title post-launch. Sadly, this is obviously not the case.

The lesson of this tale (and yes, it seems obvious) is that you need to test things under 'real world' conditions as much as possible to know how they will behave in the real world. A tiered beta test is a good idea for examining each section in isolation, but the game as a whole needs to be tested too in order to find out how it hangs together. WAR doesn't hang together particularly well since it appears balanced for a much larger number of players in each chapter - something that isn't happening in the mid-levels of this game. Scenarios dominate RvR - the supposed core of WAR - because they are easier to take part in and give better rewards i.e. allow people to level up more quickly.

Some people might want to blame EA for such things, but I find that one hard to accept given that Mythic appears to have run the beta themselves and just not quite ever got to the point of letting players test from level 1 to 40 in a natural state. Also, given that Mythic already has one successful MMO title under its belt, you would have thought they would have known better.

Unfortunately the case is often that obvious mistakes are only obvious after you have made them.

Zyllos writes:

Just an FYI, the RvR areas were empty in the beta also (not sure about beyond beta 3 as I stopped when they announced class/city cuts).

Sat Oct 25 2008 9:03AM Report
Citron writes:

I was an Elder in Beta and have to agree spot on with your summary.  The sad part was how limited we all were on the Mythic forums with posting complaints. You pretty much only could post under a already created topic if it existed, but you were not allowed to freely post your likes and dislikes which I think would of helped a lot. I personally got a nasty PM from Marc Jacobs chewing me out for complaining about certain gamebreaker bugs!

Sat Oct 25 2008 9:05AM Report
Arcken writes:

I cant think of a single game besides LoTR that was actually all that good at launch, if you look at the more successful titles out there, youll find they werent really all that great the 1st month after release.

I do agree there are a lot of problems, however I dont think passing judgement this early on is a good thing.

Sat Oct 25 2008 10:32AM Report
Arcanthis writes:

I think this is an inherent problem in sticking with levels for a game like this. Dark Age of Camelot suffered from similar issues and I believe WAR actually exacerbates the problems.

My suggestions to Mythic have always been to stop segregating the population like this as it's not healthy for RvR (or PvE in my opinion) and only gets worse over time. The barrier to entry for new players gets greater and greater unless they have friends to power level them so they can play with their friends (a problem with levels in any game really).

RvR would be much better if base attributes didn't scale (as they do with levels) so health, strenght, etc can only be enhances with spells, armour and items. So a veteran can still be notably more able than a newbie, but a group of newbs could still have a good chance of taking down an experienced but lone player. With the level difference this is simply impossible and defeats the principle of RvR.

Having said all that, my main issue with WAR is it's just a game, not an experience, it has little to draw you into the world and seems too superficial. Paul Barnett kept saying they wanted to make it more like a hobby than a game but, for me, they did not succeed.

Sat Oct 25 2008 10:43AM Report
UnSub writes:

@Zyllos - I've had people tell me that RvR was bigger in beta than it is in launch, hence my comments.

@Citron - Hopefully you kept that PM. The WAR devs really PR'ed out plenty of rope to hang themselves with.

Sat Oct 25 2008 11:47AM Report
Arawon writes:

OP your comments are just the tip of the iceberg of  frustration expressed openly and repeatedly by beta testers.Class weaknesses ....rvr weaknesses....broken parts of the game...boring parts of the game....no crafting etc etc.All of this was known and not addressed.Thank goodness I was able to beta test and not get taken by another mmog launch that promised far more than it could deliver...again.

Sat Oct 25 2008 12:41PM Report
megafluxmega writes:

i saw it as a pop game, figured the simplicity wouldnt be to my liking and avoided it completely. in my eyes the more something is hyped the worse it is going to be (mostly because of us as mmo gamers all scurrying like ants, which wouldnt be SO bad but the wow kiddies hear about "teh awzum new game and lawl cant w8")

kinda figures, i mean it sucks that they trashed an otherwise GREAT IP, but they wanted to make a pop game...nothing that is pop lasts.....it wouldnt even be pop if it lasted..it would be hip hop or something.

Sat Oct 25 2008 8:39PM Report
Loke666 writes:

You got a point, the Beta could have been better managed.

WAR still have a big potential but they need a way to get the player to spend more time in RvR and less in scenaros. And raising the RvR XP isn't enough by far, the game need to refocus away from the sceanrios. Now it have to much FPS feeling where you only play certain scenarios over and over instead of the MMO feeling where everyone is in the same world.

Sun Oct 26 2008 4:38AM Report
Deewe writes:

I agree.

   Also I read MJ saying they where surprised how much people do play scenarios whereas in beta.

   Some time ago I made a post saying the world size was an issue regarding the amoount of players. They should either "merge" the servers or merge the zones.

   The last buff in RvR is far from enough. I tested it for 3 hours, checked my XP and renown vs scenarios + PVE play while waiting for jumping into a scenario and I had much much more exp from the last.

   I don't know how you wrote you post Citron, but I don't agree with MJ making such a PM. I was a QA manager at a time and well trust me when people report bugs or, better submit feedback, I'm more than eager to have them checked and if possible get in touch with the player for more data.

 

 

 

Sun Oct 26 2008 9:20AM Report
HudsonNZ writes:

For some reason I think Mythic and EA managed the games development very very poorly. From the start to finish the amount of time and resources available to them should have allowed them to acomplish a very nicely polished game. It turned out however, through either indecision or poor management perhaps, that time was wasted. Huge areas of the game got done and then re-done resulting in what many people thought was going to be in the game becoming cut from release.

 

For me I wish they had not started the publicity machine as early as they did, so they could have had the time they needed to push back the release without it looking too bad.

 

Oh well I am going to give the game at least 3 months to stabalise before passing more judgement as in my eyes that is probably the amount of time they should have needed to actually finish the game off.

 

What ever happened to games being finished on launch day??

Sun Oct 26 2008 10:50AM Report
lath456 writes:

Why don't all the players agree to level up in one factions area - say like, everyone go to the elves tiers?  That way you would get the most people in the smallest area - instead of having everyone divided among 3 areas.

If we can all agree that East Commons is the "auction house", we can figure out that there's one area we can all meet up in to grind.


Sun Oct 26 2008 11:50AM Report
Starbear writes:

I do have to agree, I think the game is great but its way to empty in most places. Its my understanding that its always better to launch with to few servers and add as needed, that way people don't settle in empty servers and need coaxing to get off of them, which is what Mythic has been trying to do since launch.

Sun Oct 26 2008 10:14PM Report
kordos writes:

While I agree with some points your wrong on one major level

Most of the closed beta tst did NOT consist of small focus testing (that came later on in the beta) most of it was quite open - all the orc/dwarf and chaos/empire zone for example was the kick of for Beta 2, all the dark elf zone, the darkelf and high elf zone, all the zones up to tier 2 are some example of how big the beta testing was before the focus testing

Sun Oct 26 2008 10:44PM Report
Devour writes:

Also, New Coke was an effing amazing business strategy.

Really, it's fairly obvious that it was NOT a mistake on the before of Coca Cola, if you look at it from the angle of the declining popularity of coke.

Tue Oct 28 2008 6:34AM Report
UnSub writes:

@kordos - I asked people and they indicated the focus was on testing the tiered areas using templates. That has been the majority report on WAR's beta and certainly one that more players experienced.

@Devour - I know that's the conspiracy theory, but it doesn't fly. No way Coke would go for a strategy that had such a risk of backfiring and permanently giving Pepsi the lead in the cola wars.

Fri Oct 31 2008 10:17AM Report
SuperCackle writes:

Yup, this testing was bad.. Questing is so boring, stupid quest after stupid quest, over and over.. so you move to do the RvR which is fast paced, and takes away from the stupid boring quest.. problem is.. its repetitive and you quickly learn that strategy has no role.. Since you can rarely create pre-made groups in RvR of say 3 full groups it leats to the only team that wins is the zerg team or the overpowered by random choice team..

Real gamers are leaving a very sour taste in a players mouth that wants to make key attack / or move decisions ... The End Game is also not there due to horrible planning and server instabilties.. did they think eveyrone would be in 6 man groups on every BO possible? when they give the ability to create warbands of 24 and on top of it create alliances that allow 10 guilds to ZERG every BO they desire at will so the other team quits or dies of lag doom?

This g

Fri Dec 05 2008 2:32AM Report
SuperCackle writes:

Yup, this testing was bad.. Questing is so boring, stupid quest after stupid quest, over and over.. so you move to do the RvR which is fast paced, and takes away from the stupid boring quest.. problem is.. its repetitive and you quickly learn that strategy has no role.. Since you can rarely create pre-made groups in RvR of say 3 full groups it leats to the only team that wins is the zerg team or the overpowered by random choice team..

Real gamers are leaving a very sour taste in a players mouth that wants to make key attack / or move decisions ... The End Game is also not there due to horrible planning and server instabilties.. did they think eveyrone would be in 6 man groups on every BO possible? when they give the ability to create warbands of 24 and on top of it create alliances that allow 10 guilds to ZERG every BO they desire at will so the other team quits or dies of lag doom?

This game

Fri Dec 05 2008 2:32AM Report
SuperCackle writes:

Yup, this testing was bad.. Questing is so boring, stupid quest after stupid quest, over and over.. so you move to do the RvR which is fast paced, and takes away from the stupid boring quest.. problem is.. its repetitive and you quickly learn that strategy has no role.. Since you can rarely create pre-made groups in RvR of say 3 full groups it leats to the only team that wins is the zerg team or the overpowered by random choice team..

Real gamers are leaving a very sour taste in a players mouth that wants to make key attack / or move decisions ... The End Game is also not there due to horrible planning and server instabilties.. did they think eveyrone would be in 6 man groups on every BO possible? when they give the ability to create warbands of 24 and on top of it create alliances that allow 10 guilds to ZERG every BO they desire at will so the other team quits or dies of lag doom?

This game was

Fri Dec 05 2008 2:32AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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