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A WAR Worth Fighting For?

Victor Barreiro Jr. Posted:
Columns The Devil's Advocate 0

If you haven’t heard, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) will be closing up shop on December 18. While I have not particularly gotten back into the game in the years since I left it, I have a certain fondness for the White Lion I played back in the day, as well as how WAR affected me personally.

The impending closure of WAR affects me in some ways because the game was the second or third non sprite-based MMORPG I ever played, counting Age of Conan and World of Warcraft. More importantly, following a WAR blogger (whom most of you now know as Syp from Bio Break or Justin from Massively) as he jumped into general games blogging was what led me to venture out of personal writing and into games blogging myself.

Since Games Workshop isn’t renewing the license for WAR, and since attention for a Warhammer MMO seems focused more on the Warhammer 40K: Eternal Crusade massive action RPG, I think it’s time for a short thought experiment.

My question to myself is simple: if things turned out differently, what could have been done to make Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning a WAR worth fighting for?

Finish the Fight

The first thing that would have likely increased WAR’s staying power? Delivering everything it wanted on the day it was ready to ship. I remember that WAR lost four capital cities prior to release. While they existed, so to speak, they were not actively living areas.

What heights could WAR have reached if the game had more content, or perhaps all of its content, available before it released? We won’t really know, but I would have loved to see multiple cities being thrown in turmoil by a three-faction split, that’s for sure.

Throwing Money = Silly Solution

Assuming licensing wasn’t an issue, I don’t think throwing an entire chest full of money into the coffers of Mythic would have enabled WAR (and its MOBA cousin Wrath of Heroes) to have survived shoddiness. Perhaps half a chest of gold and a royal advisor to the Mythic developers would have helped allow for WAR to make better inroads into many a gamer psyche.

While I don’t think WAR was a bad game, it can be argued that there weren’t many compelling reasons to keep coming back to it unless you enjoyed PVP battling. Spending money and investing in further development on WAR would have meant making more tactical decisions about how to direct the game. Sadly, EA didn’t seem to want to gamble on that, though we know that they probably wanted to mitigate losses due to the time limit of licensing.

Using additional investment money to get more PVP maps, for example, would not have been a smart use of money since it would have lessened the overall playerbase on individual maps and would have done nothing to solve player retention and future proofing issues, such as people catching on and adapting WAR’s big idea for their own needs: Public Quests.

Public Quests Outquested

Off the top of my head, I keep thinking that there would have been two ways to substantially improve the lot of WAR. Further development could have worked like Final Fantasy XI and the Everquest games (which came before WAR), where new elements and quality of life additions could have kept people coming back to play.

More realistically, however, I think, Mythic would have likely tried to improve its Public Quests system, beating back future competition like RIFT. Guild Wars 2, and Final Fantasy XIV: ARR by focusing on its major feature while incrementally providing new wrinkles to its gameplay and systems to encourage roleplaying and other gameplay enjoyments.

Since it advertised itself as wanting to beat World of Warcraft, making a game that relished the chaos of PVP by providing a ton of potential player stories through combat and multi-faction fighting could have done it a lot of good.

Add in moving, mutli-stage, public quests that allowed for multi-faction infighting to complete the objectives, and you would have had some glorious organized PQ parties killing each other to get the loot from public quests, all while armies try to raze other people’s capitals accordingly.

Back to Reality

While the above discussion is very hypothetical, I know that some of those additions could have increased the player base of the game over a period. Judicious spending, smart design choices, and better faith in the product instead of a quest for profit could have allowed WAR to become something worth fighting for.

Instead, it became an ideal that armies would sing about, only to find their homes razed upon returning from a uneventful patrol: an eventuality brought starkly to mind by knowing that it could have been avoided if certain things were just slightly different.

Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and ArcheAge columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and The Secret World columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.