Over the multi-year development cycle of a game, many things change. Features are scaled back or cut, others are added, designs change; it's a reality of game development. No developer can say with absolute certainty that a specific feature will be in game at launch with months or years left in the development cycle. Due to that, it should come as no surprise that information is released slowly rather than all at once. Despite slowly releasing game features and designs, things are still bound to change particularly with MMOs, which have dozens and dozens of interconnected systems.
As you're undoubtedly aware that Mark Jacobs, Vice President and General Manager of Mythic Entertainment, revealed to MMORPG.com's Jon Wood earlier this month that four capital cities and four classes would be removed from Warhammer Online. The news quickly caused a stir among those following the game. Some stated the game's release should be pushed back to allow for the cities and classes to be included at launch. Others defended the move to release the information rather than springing it on customers after they had already purchased the game, as other companies have done in the past. Still others simply said they cancelled their pre-order or claim that they will not purchase the game.
When the decision was made to cut several classes and capital cities, Mark was in a precarious situation; announce the cuts and possibly lose subscribers or keep the information as tightly wrapped as possible until launch and lose subscribers when the word got out. Mark chose the former and, from a glance at the forums, he cost Mythic some good will, though certainly more good will would have been lost had he chosen the latter. Right?
Mark has said that the four capital cities and four classes were cut because they weren't enough fun or on par with Mythic's expectations and standards. Shouldn't we, as gamers, applaud the move rather than shun it and play something that the game's developer's feel just isn't up to snuff? Given that there is such an outcry for polish these days, one would think the answer would be to applaud the move. However, it certainly appears that's not the case in this situation.
City sieges, a prominent end-game feature, haven't been removed. Enemy forces can still capture Altdorf and Inevitable City, and the four remaining cities, which will be added post launch, will be able to be captured as well. All tanks and melee DPS classes haven't been removed. Indeed, the game has twenty classes, eight of which are tanks and melee DPS classes. Why does there appear to be so much animosity regarding cuts?
I believe that we as gamers have expectations of every MMO in development that have gone beyond reasonable. We expect every design or feature, even those mentioned as a possibility, to be unchanged from conception to launch. We expect developers to nerf the class that consistently bests our selected class in PvP, but don't feel that anything is wrong with a class we consistently beat in PvP. We have developed a sense of entitlement to games before we've even played them. We need to ground ourselves with a sense of reality or we'll never find a game that keeps us happy.
By no means am I claiming that we should accept Warhammer Online in whatever state that Mythic feels comfortable launching it in, quite the opposite. Far too often in the relatively short history of MMOs have very promising games launched in an atrocious state because the developers over extended. Mythic has scaled back Warhammer Online to make the game solid at launch rather than so-so by including some not-so-great classes and capital cities. It's better for Mythic to scale back and tighten their belts so-to-speak than try to do too much in my opinion. Without a doubt, it's unfortunate that certain capital cities and classes were cut from launch. However, the remaining capital cities and classes, and the entire game, have undeniably benefited from the extra time designers can now spend on them due to the cuts.
Mythic can now be proactive with the other cities and classes rather than reactive. The developers can see what we enjoy, what works, what doesn't work, and tailor those cities and classes around what they learn. The cities and classes will be better for it. They'll have more of what we want and less of what we don't. They won't need as many changes after they're patched in, which is especially important when it comes to classes. No one likes to relearn his or her class patch after patch.
In recent memory I can't recall any game developer announcing cuts to a game several months before it goes live. Those announcements happen much closer to launch when they realize they absolutely can't get everything in. Sometimes they come after launch or they don't come at all. If you've been playing MMOs for awhile you've probably come across, or at least heard of, features printed on the box or in the manual that aren't in game yet. It was probably frustrating and you may have felt lied to. Making customers frustrated or feel lied to isn't a good way to retain them. Hopefully announcing the cuts months before launch will ensure that few will be surprised to find they can't play an Orc Choppa.
I believe Mark made the correct choice. I'd rather my subscription money go to a company that's upfront with me about having to make cuts rather than let me find out after I purchased the game. It's too bad that I will have to wait to see Karak Eight Peaks, home of the Greenskins, or Lothern, capital of the High Elves. However, I'd rather wait for them and have them be perfect examples of what a capital in Warhammer Online should be, rather than have a rushed version of them. While I wait, I'll be knocking on the gates of Altdorf as a Disciple of Khaine or on the gates of Inevitable City as a Witch Hunter.