Friday, October 10, 2008

Warhammer population incentives gone bad?

I've talked about Warhammer population imbalances before. (In fact, as the screenshot shows, the post in question is somehow inexplicably the top Google hit on the topic; I hope Marc Jacobs hasn't read it and sent assassins to kill me.) So you'd think I'd be in favor of something, anything to fix the problem. Well, Mythic actually did one of the things I said they should, namely offered increased exp gain to Order players on servers that had been dominated by Destruction. As a low-level Order player on one of the three servers picked to be the very first guinea pigs for the new boost, what do I think of the results?

Well, I used to have nigh instantaneous scenario queues, and now they take 10 minutes. Order used to have groups of relatively higher level players show up, and would occasionally actually WIN scenarios. Now we get a crowd of level 3-4 characters (bolstered up to level 8 and dumped in a scenario against level 10-11 Destruction characters - and the bolster buff doesn't give you access to the skills you're missing as a result of being under-level), I've topped the damage meters while on suicidal "sacrifice myself to kill the enemy healer" duty, and we lose. Badly. Often without successfully holding any of the objectives. The ironic result is that these measures to help my side out have actually made playing my side less enjoyable. I guess this whole population balance thing is harder than us armchair designers like to say it is.

Other thoughts on Warhammer
Realistically, other people have said all of the meaningful things I have to say about Warhammer. Here are some of the things I would have written about if others hadn't beaten me to the punch:

- I observed that I had a hard time picking a class and Rohan has figured out why: Warhammer classes are VERY specific in their flavor and abilities, and you either find one you love or you're not even going to get off to a good start in the game.

- Tobold didn't like having a bullseye on his head for the mistake of playing a healer, the same reason why I gave up on my Rune Priest.
- Snafzg noted that "questing/grinding is too slow", following it up with a more in-depth look at the flaws in the exp curve. Syp appears to agree that you need to supplement your PVE with RVR, which is precisely why the issues I'm seeing in scenarios (my favorite part of Warhammer) since they added incentive exp are threatening my enjoyment of the game so much.

- In addition to covering the above points, Tobold's post on why he's leaving Warhammer for Wrath commented on polish. Now WoW certainly isn't bug free, but Warhammer crashes more often due to client bugs than WoW did at its launch (in fairness, WoW crashed a lot in that era, but that was due to server issues rather than debugging), and many more quests - including the really low level ones that lots of people have seen - that aren't finishable due to bugs.

Not joining the parade of bloggers leaving Warhammer... yet.
Overall? I'm concerned about this game. Sure, they've managed to sell 750K boxes, but that's a lot different from convincing those people to open up their wallets for a recurring fee in a week or two. I should have been a very very easy sell for Mythic - while I like Wrath of the Lich King, I've already played the portions of it that I was really interested in, and I would have been very happy to spend more time in Warhammer and come back to Northrend later. Now, I'm not so sure, especially with WoW's patch 3.0 most likely going live before my next Warhammer bill date (as I predicted Blizzard would plan it).

I'm not quite ready to throw in the towel on Warhammer yet - I was really having fun with my Witch Hunter in RVR until the exp boost went live, and its effects may be mitigated by the fact that the program has since expanded to a bunch of other servers (and is temporary). Still, Mythic has some work to do in the next month if it doesn't want to see a mass exodus when Wrath launches.

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