Breaking down the State of the Game

Here are the bones of Mark Jacobs’ recent State of the Game letter, as linked in the previous post, stripped for clairity of as much marketing-speak and ass-polishing as I could possibly do without, with commentary by your truly. Overall I think it’s a very positive set of announcements, although you’ll find that I have some negative things to say about certain things.

How we are going to accomplish this begins with our first major patch (1.1)… 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.

I find this approach understandable, because the WAR team had, I’m sure, been killing themselves with work for several months prior to release and I too would want to kick back a bit after that crunch. Now that this is done, hopefully we can start to see substantive improvement in the game. At the same time, WAR was probably the best-playtested MMORPG ever released, and frankly it’s hard to see how some of the bugs slipped through that.

I’m happy to announce that in December, the Black Guard and the Knight of the Blazing Sun will officially be part of WAR.

As noted previously, this is good. It’s the major ‘YAY!’ moment of the entire announcement and if it happens on schedule it’ll be months earlier than I expected it to happen. It should go a long ways toward filling in the gaps on the order side. I expect the Knight to be pretty popular, more so than the Blackguard – Destruction has an overabundance of tanks and melee classes as it is, while Order is very lean on them. I myself will almost certainly try a KotBS out. And it’s encouraging to think Mythic is fast-tracking getting the cut classes into the game – Order cries out for a pure melee DPS class as well.

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.

For what it’s worth, my performance has been rock-solid except where lag has slowed the game to a slideshow and/or rendered abilities almost totally unresponsive. I understand that many have a much larger problem with CTDs than I have had as well. I would have liked to have heard something specific about lag in particular, but it’s encouraging to think that my guildies might not need to recover from CTDs at critical moments anymore.

…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.

In all fairness to the players, WAR’s mail and chat systems are rudimentary, sub-last-generation systems. Today’s players expect at least as much functionality as they get in other games, and in these departments WAR does not deliver. It’s an annoyance rather than a crisis-level problem, but small annoyances can build into large aggravations, and this is something that Mythic really should get fixed within a reasonably short period of time.

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.

Okay… I want to hear more details about this, specifically with regard to the overwhelming majority of players choosing to advance solely through scenarios. Scenarios are cool and all, but Mythic needs to get the other parts of the game back on the table.

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.

The targeting system is also currently rather crappy. I’m glad to hear it’s being worked on, but the last fix to it was supposed to have addressed the issue. I am adopting a wait-and-see on this one.

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.

Okay, great. But this would have been a solution better introduced when server cloning was handed out instead – that did not solve the problem, and it’s a problem that Mythic should damn well have foreseen – I saw it coming, and publicly said so, and I’m not getting paid to develop MMOs.

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 great, but if Mythic were to put that into the game today, hardly anybody would bother with it, beacuse nobody’s playing anything but scenarios. They need to get people doing PvE and Public Quests again. I understand that WAR is an RVR game, but if I want to play nothing but scenarios then frankly I’ll play Team Fortress 2 instead.

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.

This is an approach that’s both interesting and laudable. Balancing by buffing rather than nerfing seems like an obvious solution to both the problem of balance issues and the problem of some players’ inevitably hysterical reaction to anything seen as a nerf. At the same time, I’m not sure I see a lot of true balance issues in the game. I see bugs that favor one side (inevitably Destruction, seemingly) and a much greater availability of snares on the Destro side, but overall I have little to complain about in this regard. Classes aren’t balanced for one-on-one, and that’s fine with me.

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.

This should go without saying, but it’s good that it’s been said anyway.

…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.

How’s that for a teaser? I open up the floor to speculation as to what the next big change will be. The cut capitals? The Hammerer/Slayer and Choppa? Tier 5? A third Realm? The first expansion?

One response to “Breaking down the State of the Game

  1. If the next SotG announces the Hammerer (or better, the Slayer), I’m going to cry that I’ll forever be a lowbie. 🙂

    The added classes are great, as both of those realms needed tanks for the early levels, and Order does need more tanks period. But oddly, the thing that excites me most is improvements to RvR. I sincerely hope it’s enough to get people out there and participating.

    CoW’s proven to be pretty good at findign a fight, but we usually have to announce it ahead of time (like tonight’s T2/T3 stomp). I’d really like to NOT have to do that.