WAR, AoC and WoW

Word is coming out on Warhammer’s Preview Weekend, in which I myself did not take part. It’s mostly positive, but the sensible folks are pointing out that there are still some issues that need addressing. I’m figuring that we have a solid three weeks before early access starts, so I figure there’s good reason to think that Mythic will get at least some of this stuff ironed out before then.

Between the NDA drop and the introduction of a lot more people into the game, we’re getting a much lower percentage of hyperbole. It’s clear that WAR is not going to be 100% clean at launch, nor is it going to be the “Jesus Game” that assorted fools^D^D^D^D^D geniuses^D^D^D^D^D^D^D^D nice folks predicted, but those hopes were entirely unrealistic anyway.

Right now (and I am pretty stoked to get started,) WAR is looking like it’s going to meet or beat my modest but optimistic expectations. Whatever problems there are, it’s crystal clear that they will be a couple of orders of magnitude less than those of Vanguard, which I managed to play quite a lot of because I was still having fun. It’s also looking like WAR will have content that’s much better fleshed-out and well-rounded than Age of Conan did – something that remains that game’s largest problem.

I’m reluctant to make direct comparisons between WAR and AoC, but it looks like the former will, at the least, succeed at one of the things the latter failed to do – create an environment in which one can both enjoy and progress in both PvE and PvP in an integrated way, wherein parts of the PvE experience lead naturally into PvP and vice versa. If this was not an actual design goal for AoC, it transparently should have been, and I think that WAR is going to make it look inept in this regard. No, AoC is still not the epic fail some think it was. No, AoC is still not the straight WoW clone that many made it out to be. No, it will not be canceled in the next few months. It is a good, successful game that happens to have a bunch of problems and deficiencies, no differently than any other MMO at or shortly after launch, and better than several others. At this point, however, I suspect that WAR will launch not only more solidly than AoC did, but that many will feel – justifiably – that it’s better-designed. My final verdict on this won’t come for a few weeks, of course, but that’s what things look like right now – and at any rate, over the long haul, post-launch development turns out to be far more important to an MMO than the flat statistic of how problem-free it is on launch day – another reminder AoC has given us of the lessons taught by EQ2, Vanguard, and a number of other titles that launched poorly but managed to build a thriving game despite that.

What I’m hoping for out of WAR, beyond simple fun, is that it’ll center around social play, rather than the solo play reinforced in the WoW model. I’m hoping for a well-rounded experience that rewards me not only for questing, but for PvP as well – without forcing me to endure a lengthy grind first, like WoW does. While WAR is looking like an MMO from the very same generation that WoW is (however you’d like to define those generations,) if it succeeds at eliminating the overwhelming and short-sighted focus on endgame play that WoW has made common, and makes people realize that it’s fun to group and they should do it, it’ll have, in my opinion, a positive impact on the MMO community, regardless of what issues it launches with or the fact that a bunch of stuff got cut for go live.

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