AoC, WAR and the Choad Factor

OpenEdge gets a shout-out on the wonderful Shut Up, We’re Talking podcast #45. Grats to him, and his mention of it reminds me that I intend to get back to Age of Conan around its one-year mark to see how things have come along.

It’s no secret that Age of Conan’s touted PvP features were something of a bust. But it also fell victim to two other factors, the impact of which remains uncertain.

The first seems to be a trend when new MMOs launch nowadays, what I call the PvP Choad Factor. This occurs when a bunch of choads who think they enjoy PvP get into a new title which promotes it heavily. When they inevitably find that they actually don’t enjoy it very much, they proclaim the game to be busted rather than seeing that their actual issue is with PvP in general. After all, if they really liked ‘consequences PvP,’ they’d be playing EVE Onlne, or maybe Darkfall, as the fantasy alternative. Darkfall may end up suffering from this as well, but the limited launch appears to be offsetting this to a large extent – limiting access also limits the ability of the choads to bitch about it – a smart move on Adventurine’s part. I have no opinion on how good or bad Darkfall may actually be, but watching the sociological impact from the outside has been interesting.

The other factor was the extreme hype over Warhammer Online, of course. Partially this was Funcom’s fault for marketing Age of Conan in a similar position to WAR, as a game oriented around PvP, when that turns out not to be what it really was. AoC’s launch was marred in large part by a barrage of hate from WAR partisans who thought that title would be the GRAETEST EVAR experience. This was a pretty understandable feeling at the time, with a big chunk of AoC’s PvP (which was, again, supposed to be a major part of the game,) non-functional and the WAR hype machine in full force. Alas, WAR turned out to be a disappointment, centered as it was around an RvR experience that the game did not actually provide, and by ladling on the weaksauce in every other department.

I think that Age of Conan is flatly a better game than Warhammer, because I have decided that I personally prefer a variety of experiences within an MMO. I enjoy PvP as one element of play, but I also enjoy PvE, crafting, instances, atmosphere, and other dimensions of exploring the game world, and to put it bluntly Warhammer shit the bed in all of these areas. But I also think that AoC offers a better PvP experience than WAR does, regardless of the non-functionality of city seiges and mass battles (Are those still non-functional? I’ve haven’t kept up with it.) Firstly because the combat system in AoC is worlds more interesting and dynamic than the well-balanced but derivative WoW-style combat of WAR, and secondly because viewed in the light of my own preferences, as an adjunct to gameplay rather than the whole of it, occasional PvP that actually happens in a game in which PvP is but one aspect of gameplay is infinitely preferable to constant PvP in a game wholly centered upon it, but in which it is seldom if ever actually available.

Both games suffered from technical issues from the get go – AoC with the monstrous lag inherent to large-scale actions and WAR with a server population cap so low that it was impossible to have meaningful RvR on the great majority of servers – those without an ideal population value and balance within what turned out to be a very narrow range. Of the two, AoC’s technical issue turned out to be less significant, because it turned out that it was actually a game that had more to do than just PvP, and from my limited technichal knowledge, it’s probably easier at least in the short term to tweak client performance upward than it is to redesign your server architecture to allow for a higher per-server population.

It strikes me, though, that Age of Conan does have an advantage of six months over WAR, which may make the comparison a little unfair. But only a little, and I am at any rate inclined to be charitable toward AoC, which landed with modest expectations among rational commentators, and harsh toward WAR, which was being pimped endlessly as the Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha of MMOs not just by intelligent bloggers (like Heartless and Keen, among others, and I was certainly eventually worn down by it myself,) but also by semiliterate troglodytes who commonly responded to contrary opinions by calling people ‘fagz’. (True story, and this un-admirable element of the community is one of the reasons I don’t much bother with GAX anymore, despite the presence of many worthy voices there, and my admiration of Ryan and Gary. I know maturity in this hobby is an unreasonable expectation on my own part, formed by years of particpation in the generally erudite and mature online tabletop community, but there it is.)

5 responses to “AoC, WAR and the Choad Factor

  1. For “no consequence” MMO PvP, I’d argue WAR really is one of the better games out right now. However, I have to agree with your general sentiment. To my personal tastes, mediocre PvP in a full featured MMO is better than polished PvP in and MMO that falls on it’s face in every other area. The PvE in WAR is sub par, and the crafting system is atrocious. If that’s the best Mythic could come up with, they really should have just left crafting out altogether.

    As for AoC, I’ve never had much interest in it. My PC would barely run it (yes, I am using a toaster) and the initial marketing focused on “bewbs and blood” (I’m not 14). I also was really unimpressed with how Funcom managed the game. Showing off only the first 20 levels to preview writers was pretty shady (“See, our game is polished and story driven!”), and things as basic as functional crafting or stats on gear actually doing something weren’t in at launch. And that’s not even to get into the promised PvP focus in a largely PvE game, or the fact that DX 10 is listed on the back of the box and only went in last month. It may very well be a great MMO now, but the launch left a bad taste in my mouth I still can’t shake.

  2. I found that WAR’s RvR, consequences or not, was a great deal of fun when it was actually happening, but that was the problem. Once the servers went live, it rapidly degenerated. Give me WoW over WAR any day, where if there’s no PvP happening at least I can find something else to do, and leveling is less of a mercilessly linear chore.

    AoC certainly was mismarketed on a number of levels, something I wrote about before its launch. (Amusingly, ‘Age of Conan boobies’ is still a common search engine hit on this blog.) For me, though, bearing in mind that I never got high enough to get involved in city sieges or the like, the biggest problem was just the dearth of content after level 30. I understand that this has been largely fixed, so my biggest single problem with the game is gone.

    I also didn’t get high enough to do any crafting, but I really liked the way AoC did harvesting.

  3. Conan was and is a much superior game imo to WAR and i may even still be subscribed if
    1. They fixed the bugs faster ( the pyramid instance was a joke )
    2. My computer could run it better (not the games fault i know)
    3. People I knew in real life stayed – whilst I enjoy meeting new people and forging new friends its just not the same without a couple of real life mates

  4. If fairness to your #2, AoC was poorly optimized in at least one respect – certain graphics settings impacted performace in a non-intuitive way, such that if you had your settings more or less High but tweaked in a very specific way, it’d run better than it would on the standard Low configuration. This was a bumble on Funcom’s part, since plenty of people found the client to run poorly on High, so they switched to Low and found that it wasn’t much better. And honestly, the textures look terrible on Low.

    Funcom seemed after the bottom fell out post-launch to be foundering badly, but over the last few months they seem to be putting things together slowly but surely. In contrast, Mythic has seemed (to their credit) to be right on top of things, but I have grave concerns that they will be able to make WAR work.

    I have generally found that MMOs take about a year or two to shake the bugs out and mature the content. Some games may have hit their stride faster, but generally speaking that’s been a pretty good rule of thumb, regardless of what the starting point is at launch. WAR may do this as well, and might be a fine game in another 6-12 months, but it’s so precariously built around an ideal population mix that it might not matter even if the game was flawless.

  5. I did give WAR a brief outing on my time off and have a short write up on my blog… its still a really bad game imo which is a shame as the IP deserves a hell of a lot better