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BioWare Mythic
MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 09/18/08)  | Pub:Electronic Arts
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Warhammer Online: Talking Head Commentary on State of the Game

You've seen the talking heads on CNN, BBC or Fox News, commenting on a speech or a debate. Today, with the release of the first Warhammer Online State of the Game from Mythic Entertainment's Mark Jacobs, MMORPG.com Managing Editor Jon Wood gives his running commentary along with the letter.

You can read the original letter with no commentary here.

Folks,

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After over three years of work and one of the smoothest launches in MMORPG history, WAR is moving quickly towards the end of its first month. This is a perfect time to take a look at where we were, where we are and where we are going. First, on behalf of everyone at Mythic, I would like to thank you for your interest in our game. While it is impossible for me to personally thank all 750K+ worldwide account holders, please know that we are grateful for your support to date and the support we hope you will show us in the future. It’s been a long road to get where we are today but it has been a worthwhile journey. While I might be tempted to say that the future’s so bright we have to wear shades, as you’ve seen from our podcasts, we’ll even wear those indoors.

Jon's Comments:

Mark says a couple of interesting things here as a lead-in to the first state of the game. What really grabbed my attention first and foremost was the 750K+ number. It’s important to note the language here as he says “750K+ worldwide account holders”. In the first month, this is really the only statistic that is really valid. There’s no real way to talk about current players until we see results past the included 30 days of free play. In any case, this is quite an accomplishment.

I was also impressed that the letter specifically thanked the players who have bought the game. While it seems like a no-brainer to thank the players, it’s more rare that one might first think.

So, as to where we are today, WAR is doing fabulously. We are one of, if not the, fastest selling MMORPG out of the blocks and we are also one of the most highly rated MMORPGs of all time. While the game is off to a great start, we still have a long way to go before we can declare WAR a major long-term success. That success will only come by being focused on making a great game even better. How we are going to accomplish this begins with our first major patch (1.1), the subject of this State of the Game message. While WAR is truly a glorious MMORPG, it is not perfect and over the last month our primary focus has been to correct bugs and tweak a few things here and there. We’ve stayed away from major feature or career changes until we’ve had plenty of time to gather and analyze the data from our players. Having done that, we can now move on to what we are going to do over the next couple of months, culminating with the release of patch 1.1 later this Fall.

Jon's Comments:

Here, Mark announces the game’s first major patch in the form of 1.1. There was some speculation as to whether or not Mythic would keep up with a schedule of big, free updates with all of the small free fixes that have been happening since launch. Mark does a great job here of explaining where the focus has been and where it’s going. We also know that we’re not going to have to wait too long as it’s been promised by later this fall.

Let’s start with what we know is some truly exciting news. I’m happy to announce that in December, the Black Guard and the Knight of the Blazing Sun will officially be part of WAR. We have very special plans around their appearance and in our next newsletter we will provide full details about that exciting and rather novel event. When they were cut from the game launch plans earlier this year, I said that the Black Guard and the Knight would be part of WAR only when they were great and deserved their place alongside all of WAR’s other compelling classes. I also said that we would not charge any additional fees for this new content or put it in a separate expansion pack; that’s not how we operate. We’ve kept to that plan and with the introduction of these two classes, Mythic shows that once again we are happy to keep giving players more value for their subscription dollars than any other MMORPG developer.

Jon's Comments:

Good news for players who have been complaining about the cut classes as Mark announces the coming of the Black Guard and the Knight of the Blazing Sun. This is going to alleviate some of the issues that order players have had in terms of not having an Empire Tanking class balanced on the other side with the Dark Elf Black Guard.

While some might say that this won’t help the perceived imbalance between the number of Order Tanks vs Destruction Tanks, I respectfully disagree. I think that many order side players have been waiting to be able to roll an Empire Tank and they will soon have their chance.

Almost as interesting as what is in the third paragraph is what isn’t: This does not overtly address or even make mention of the other two cut classes or the cities. Before people get up in arms though, I should point out that what Jacobs said here about not putting the classes in until they were ready applied to all four classes so presumably, we’ll see the The Choppa and the Hammerer some time down the road.

Creating an MMORPG, especially an RvR-focused MMORPG, which runs perfectly on all types of PCs, is one of the most challenging technical aspects of game development. While the performance of WAR is great on most higher spec machines, we know that we can improve its performance on lower spec machines. We’ve been working non-stop to improve that performance and we’ve got a number of things going into the game between now and 1.1 that we expect will help to address everything from crashes to desktops (CTDs) to stuttering. We have a number of other client changes that will improve things such as propagation and ghosting.

Jon's Comments:

It’s nice to hear them talking about solving performance issues, and nicer still to hear that they’ve got a focus on lower end machines. This seems to be a key to MMORPG success and although I personally feel that catering to lower end machines may cause a stagnation in development technology, I also recognize that not everyone can afford a high end gaming rig and that the more people playing, the better even if it does mean it takes longer for prettier graphics to become commercially viable.

Thanks in part to WAR’s success; our mail system that worked well in Beta has been straining to keep up with the heavy demand placed on it. It’s functional and it works, but it can also be slow and cumbersome to use. In all fairness to the team, the system’s problems have been magnified by the demand of having so many servers and players using it at the same time. That’s not an excuse though and we are working hard on deploying a substantially improved mail system for this patch. We will continue to enhance WAR’s mail system until it is one of the best mail systems found in any MMORPG.

Jon's Comments

Mail system upgrade: Woot! I’m not really sure what else to say here other than once again, it’s interesting how Jacobs manages to put a positive spin on the issue without appearing to “sweep it under the rug”.

Moving on to some more good news for our RvR players; we have brought additional resources to bear on, and augment, our RvR gear and overall itemization. In 1.1 (and beyond) we will be doing a myriad of things for our RvR players, including improving gear drops, increasing drop rates, and implementing an RvR-influence system to compliment the current PvE-influence system. We will also be giving players more incentive to engage in open RvR by improving the rewards for both assaulting and defending in RvR. WAR is an RvR-centric game and we will continue to do whatever is necessary to encourage people to join in RvR and reward them when they do so.

Jon's Comments:

RvR itemization fixes. Anything that helps to promote RvR in this game is going to be a positive. While there any many aspects to the game, RvR is Mythic’s crown jewel. Anything that encourages players to poke their heads out of scenarios and get into the Open RvR zones is only going to serve to improve our enjoyment of the game. I’m also grooving on the RvR influence addition. I know that PvE influence gives me incentive to bust my butt in Public Quests and I suspect that this will have s similar result in RvR. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I really hope that RvR influence applies only to Open RvR and not to scenarios as well. People already have incentive to play Scenarios, it’s time to help us divide our time between those and the open field RvR.

Other changes for 1.1 include major additions to the chat system (item linking and more) as well as continued work on our targeting system, including adding Main Assist and Target of Target. In addition to the server balancing methods that have worked so well over the last week, we will also be offering the first server transfers to our players to continue to help even out the server populations. These transfers will be free of charge but they will be limited to moves off high-population servers to select mid-population servers or off of low-population servers to a selection of mid-population servers. Much like we are doing now, we will select certain mid-population servers and let people transfer there. Once they reach a certain population level, we’ll remove them from the list and give their spot to another server. We will publish the list ahead of time so players can plan their moves accordingly.

Jon's Comments:

We all know that the chat system needs some love in WAR, so I’m not going to comment too much on that here. What I am going to focus on is the server transfer stuff. While I often hear about server moves (from low pop to higher pop) being a death knell for a game, I think that’s probably pretty far from the case here. Allowing players to move from low pop servers to medium pop servers is going to make a big difference for those players who started out early on a server that just didn’t catch on. Population is such a key to enjoyment in Warhammer. While it’s possible to enjoy yourself on a low pop server, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and it isn’t the design of the game.

Similarly, giving players on extremely high pop servers a chance to come down to a less populated location is also a positive. I think ideally, the game is going to run best on High / High servers and this should create more of them in the end.

While that might seem like a lot for a month, we’re not done yet! We’ll also be adding more exciting content to the game, including fourteen entirely new quest chains, two new Lairs, and many more Tome of Knowledge unlocks! This is only the first of what will be our ongoing content updates to WAR and it is a great start.

So, that about wraps it up for this first annual State of the Game, so without further ado…

Okay, so I was joking, we’re still not done. Over the last month the team has been looking at all the careers and building up a list of issues/concerns to address. Almost every career is going to see some changes and love coming their way and there are very, very few changes that will be seen as reductions to a career’s abilities. The Combat and Careers team has spent the last month looking at the changes that they want to make with an eye towards making improvements and buffs, not removing or weakening abilities. I won’t go into details here but the vast majority of careers all have nothing but love coming their way. Of course, we will continue to monitor and track all the class data so expect, like every other MMORPG, changes to the careers to be an ongoing process.

Jon's Comments

It’s nice to see that they haven’t forgotten that many of the classes need a few tweaks here and there. What gets me scratching my head is that Mark says here that very few changes will be seen as a reduction… I’m just not sure how one does that while fixing some issues and maintaining balance. It’s possible I suppose, I’m just going to be looking forward to reading those patch notes when they finally do come.

Well, that just about wraps my first WAR State of the Game and I hope that it has given you some insight into what we are going to be doing over the next month or so. This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything we are working on and I won’t go anywhere near talking about general bug fixes. The items mentioned above are just some of the highlights of our first major patch and I hope you agree that there is a ton of good stuff coming down the pipeline.

As required by lawyers everywhere, here’s the usual disclaimer that this letter is a guide to what we hope to include in this upcoming patch and not a guarantee of any kind. We are working on many things right now and my letters, as always, are just the tip of the iceberg. Fellow WARriors, we have a lot more big surprises coming your way that I will address in my next State of the Game message and it’s going to be a doozie.

Jon's Comments

Has it really come to the point where the guys has to make a point of saying that this report on what they’re planning to put in the game isn’t a guarantee and that they’re just talking about what they’re planning? I mean, I commend Mark for putting this in there as a “just in case” way of managing expectations (a game’s development is constantly changing and adapting) but shouldn’t that just be a given?

Hmmm. Fans of Warhammer are called WARriors… What would my fans be called? JONiacs? WOODenites? I’ll let you decide.

Once again, I thank you for your support, patronage and interest in WAR.

Mark Jacobs
VP, GM Mythic Entertainment

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