Brent over at A Wall of Text has a put up a somewhat alarming post today, to the effect that Warhammer Online is on the brink of total collapse. Now, Brent’s blog is one of those I read most avidly, and I agree with all of his actual points and all the particulars, and with most of his suggestions for improvement.
In particular, population imbalance is a major concern, and it is indeed troubling that Altdorf has fallen already on at least one server. I’m not clear at this point if the bugs that contributed to that event are also active on the NA servers – normally I would assume this to be the case, but GOA seems to have very much their own thing going on over in Europe, and slight differences between the EU and NA games are verified to be present, though not intentionally.
The bugs are also annoying, but, to be blunt about it, the only thing that’s close to game-busting is the client’s propensity to crash for some players, including myself. Everything else is in the ‘needs addressing, and soon’ category rather than the ‘this makes the game fail’ one.
The population imbalance issue seemed to me to fall into this latter group rather than the former. Even after Altdorf fell, because, after all, that happened on some froofy Euro server. The people playing Order on those servers were probably eating foie gras or something at the time – it wasn’t my problem. So at this time yesterday, this kind of post would have seemed unnecessarily alarmist to me. But for a while last night, it looked like Destruction on Averheim was trying to duplicate that feat – on a server that seemed relatively balanced. And it occurred to me that if that happened at this time, it would seriously sour me on the game. Not because Altdorf fell – that’s part of the game – but because it fell before one side was able to do anything about it. If it falls because we played and lost, that’s one thing; it’s quite another to penalize approximately 40% the population for losing a section of the game they couldn’t play.
Taking a realm’s capital away is a big deal – players lose the ability to do all kinds of things without a capital, including buying mounts and getting important quests. And even if the loss is only temporary, a capture (to my understanding) resets the city’s rank to 1 – from the current 3, in our case, which would take a number of features away from us Order players for days, possibly even weeks. This would be, I think, tremendously demoralizing for Order players, and would cause at least some of those players to either leave the game or switch to Destruction, either of which would make the problem worse.
So no, sitting on the problem and waiting for the realms to balance naturally will not do. AT ALL. It may happen, but these early weeks are formative ones for the game – if Order needs the time to build a mature population, okay, but it needs to be given that time. Mythic needs to step in and get rid of the bugs that contributed to the problem fixed immediately, and for that matter get rid of the other bugs in the game that favor Destruction, and do whatever is necessary to ensure that capitals cannot be ninjaed by low-30s choads like they were the other night, no matter what time it is.
That may be something as simple as adding more, tougher guards to the Fortresses needed for a city assault, and to the cities themselves. That’s small enough that it could even possibly be hotfixed in. But the solution in the long term is to even out the populations. Again, that may happen naturally, but it’s pretty clearly not happening quickly enough. Even so, it’s a tough problem – how do you make one side more appealing without egregiously favoring it? Dark Age of Camelot did it by having three factions, a situation which all but guarantees that if one becomes too powerful, the other two will gang up to knock it down. WAR does not have that luxury, and adding a third faction is not an option any time in the near future.
As for the other bugs… well, again, they’re annoying. But the game released two weeks ago yesterday, something us headstarters may have lost track of. It’s totally unrealistic to expect every single bug to be fixed at this point. But there are bugs, and there are gamebusters, and the population issues are certainly looking like they may be swiftly developing into the latter.
Maybe not. Maybe the early fall of Altdorf was an aberration. Maybe the participants should be banned for exploiting. But this is not something Mythic can afford to ignore until it fixes itself. All that said, I think Brent’s post strikes too alarmist a pose; I don’t think it’s appropriate to panic. It is certainly appropriate to shout “Hey! Mythic! Fix this now!” from the rooftops.
This site is not a rooftop; it’s more like standing on the coffee table. But I’ll say it anyway.