WAR’s Groaning

Enough niceness, eh?  Bloggers, and in can be assumed others in the community, are testing out other games until WAR gets fixed or until the Land of the Dead brings people back to the game.  Hell, it’s what I’m doing. I’m even sometimes choosing grinding in LotRO over what it plainly fun about WAR – Tier 1 and an alt on many nights. People are doubting their subscriptions.

And Mythic? Mythic are tied to their desks trying to fix stuff and bring in new stuff that will need fixing with their lesser numbers in QA and elsewhere. The game needs these fixes and changes, and they’ve been promised to us. A number of people I know are pretty excited about Land of the Dead but not really bothered about much before, so this ‘live expansion’ is very important to Mythic, don’t mistake that. If it all goes wrong, it might be the end of a number of subs on both sides of the pond. The community is flagging a little and could do with pepping up.

Not heard of Paul visiting many blogs recently, or even updating his own. And that’s the problem with community involvement, once you start it, people expect it to continue. I expect these luminaries of Mythic to be doing all they used to do, marketing-wise, even when it’s unfeasible from a grander scale. But I’m sure there will be a ramp-up in community chatter and involvement with the Land of the Dead, there needs to be!

I’m finding WAR quite suitable for a casual game, but that also means if something more interesting comes up, WAR gets dropped for the night. I still enjoy the game when I play it, but even that’s somewhat because I’ve disengaged myself from the endgame, I’ve heard too much about it being unsatisfying, and I know I enjoy sleeping, so I don’t go to city sieges or defences, preferring to try new characters and play them through Tiers 1 and 2, safe in the knowledge I have my preferred char at rank 40 just in case I need a top level character.

WAR needs enthusiasm. It needs to be fun. If you’re not enjoying it, try alting, or play another game and keep your eye on info about the ‘expansion’.

And come talk to us all about it on May 9th at the Cittie of York pub in Holborn, London (while arranging to meet the rest of your guild there, of course). Seriously, I think we need more people for this or we’ll get moved out of our booked room… so ask around and drum up some interest, please!

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Recruit-a-freebie

10-day free trials have arrived in Europe and are now available at GOA’s site.

It’s perfect timing, what with the Bitter Rivals event, and the upcoming inclusion of Slayers, 10-days will get you quite a bit at the moment. So, if you’ve been away from the game, or know someone who might be interested in the event or the new classes, consider it your duty to let them know about this free trial. Let’s see how much of a population burst we can create!

Holding Grudges

Let’s face it, there’s a reason we picked the name ‘Book of Grudges’ – we like the concept of a big Grudge book!

So let’s examine the biggest grudge on my mind at the moment:

EU vs US

We’re patently not getting ‘equal treatment’ to the US players.

But it should never have been promised to us.

GOA aren’t the developers, they’re not in a position to answer as developers, they get given the code, they don’t write it. The things we dislike about GOA (ie. the website) will probably never change. We could take bets on that, I think it’ll change just to shock us, actually – but really, they could have got a new site up quickly. So let’s ignore that. US GMs are complained about as often as EU ones, I imagine. And at least GOA have been in charge of when we get server transfers!

My original post was going to be a list of Mythic ‘untruths’ about Europe. I honestly feel that to Mythic, we are irrelevant except as a pay packet. Over and over they offer incentives to their US players, devs answer them (and 100% will answer US forums more than EU ones, we can guarantee that), they have access to devs at events, they have competitions with in-game prizes (again, GOA not the developer, so they can’t add stuff to code).

And it’s frustrating to feel that we matter so little that they merely wait until fan unrest so strong they offer something calming, like a message from Mark about how much we matter, or Paul saying something on his video blog… it should be an everyday thought. I don’t want to be the afterthought of a marketing team that know their game isn’t performing as it should. I want to matter.

And that’s the same problem all games have with class balance, and core groups and hybrids and things like that. Deep down, we all want to matter. And we should. And games companies REALLY need to examine how they treat their worldwide audiences. It’s fine to offer examples of how great one company has been, or another. But it shouldn’t be that such examples are unusual. I hate having to choose between a US and EU server. I hate that Oceanic servers are usually not even considered by companies. If you want our cash on a monthly basis, and you don’t want us to skip games focus on getting the game right and then on not going out to exclude people just because it might save you some money. In the longterm you’d avoid the grudge-fest, which frankly feels like it’s festering at the moment.

I don’t really care about little differences, being on the PTS at the exact same time. I do care about speed to fix things that are broken, I care about being brushed off when there are real concerns.

You load 300k subs, and whaddaya get?

… another year older and deeper in debt.

Electronic Arts (EA) announced yesterday that Warhammer Online had 300k active subscriptions at the end of last year. This was actually one of the high points of their earnings call.

They lost $641mil over the third quarter of last year, a huge increase over the year before. They’re closing down 12 offices (making approx 1100 people redundant, and are cutting down the number of games in their portfolio to 50 for 2010.

All of this is severe, and it gets worse. Three of the big name games scheduled for this year have also been delayed (hope no one was holding their breath waiting for Sims 3 or Dragon Age). If you’re bleeding cash, the only reason for delaying extra income flow from a new game is because you have no choice. Either those games are behind schedule, they can’t make their schedule because of the loss of resources/ job cuts, or there are other reasons to think that there is more profit from delaying than from putting them out on time.

So what does 300k subs mean for Warhammer

300k subscriptions is a healthy number for an MMO. If it seems disappointing now, it is because the hype machine was in overdrive last year. And also, no one really knew what to expect — we simply hadn’t much experience of seeing how a AAA MMO would go up against Warcraft. LOTRO and Conan were arguably different types of proposition.

I think the future for WAR is rosy. Mythic have dealt promptly with any issues arising, they were quick to offer server merges when it was needed and have been active with entertaining events and new content for existing subscribers.

The proof is in the pudding though, and we won’t know until May how many people who initially took out a 6 month subscription will be staying with it.

By far the biggest issues the game has in my opinion are technical ones. They need those large battles to be stable and accessible since they’re the big selling point. They could really use a larger server size too.

Balance and content are good to go. Not perfect, but not a red flag either. They can be tweaked as long as players are having fun in the meantime.  But for all that, it deserves to be successful, and the core of the game is sound. I said this back in my beta review and it’s still true.

Three hundred thousand is a solid number of players. It’s a solid income stream for Mythic/ EA. It’s definitely not a failure in any terms other than the overhyped ones. Eurogamer.net reckon that it’s enough to guarantee the game’s future, and they have a chat scheduled tomorrow with Paul Barnett in which the question is bound to come up.

And right now, Electronic Arts could probably use all the guaranteed income streams and  non-failures that it can get.

So what have the other bloggers been saying?

Wizards and Wenches has a null reaction.

Tobold discusses the attrition rate and why the early estimates were so high

Syp@Waaagh analyses what the numbers mean to him

Reroller also ponders whether players should be worried

Syncaine@Hardcore Casual is initially disappointed in the numbers, but argues that they are solid.

I haven’t written about it in my blog (because one post a day on financials is enough 🙂 ) but I’ll link to it anyway!

Awww, there is some Choppa love too

Snafzg over at The Greenskin has got his package from Mythic, and it heavily hints at the Choppa class. So go read up on it over at his blog.

Have heard there’s quite a few bloggers being asked for their addresses, and we heartily approve of such freebie marketing (we love freebies, whoever is getting them!). Go get ’em Mythic!

Quantum of Linkage

First up, this month’s WAR grab bag from Mythic. This one is a winner, it discusses zone control in detail and how zones become locked at Tier 4. They also list all the renown rank titles for every race (holy crap, these things go up to rank 100??) and have some screenshots of female Knights of the Burning Sun and Blackguards just to prove that yes, Mythic have found artists who can draw kickass female fighters in plate. Oddly enough, while male Swordmasters ARGUABLY look a bit girly, the female Blackguards look like male impersonators. And if you want to try one early, they confirm that the Heavy Metal daily quests will be soloable, quick, and available to characters at any rank.

Mark Jacobs stops by the Vault boards to update on the Public Test Server and point out some more tweaks being made (for tweaks, read buffs/nerfs depending on your archetype). Also says the PTS due to go live this weekend, update mentioned at A Wall of Text, which alerted me to it.

This is an old (but interesting) article I found on Gamasutra about design issues with hybrid classes.

Wendy Despain talks about video games that bark (a bark is the slang for the words that an NPC says randomly when you click on it.)

In the category of ‘I couldn’t make this shit up’, the US army wants to try out its AI in MMOs. As if Barrens Chat (old WoW dino joke) wasn’t bad enough.

Gary Gygax’s favourite Christian charity refuses donation from GenCon because of its association with D&D. Here’s a cartoon about it.

If you can’t beat it, tax it! China is going to impose a tax on virtual goods income (ie. gold farming, among other things).

That last link reminded me of a cool story about Michael Faraday, who explained the importance of electricity to the prime minister of the day with the insightful comment, “One day, sir, you may tax it.” Read it and other stories about famous scientists here.

Just in time for the Christmas rush, Square-Enix open a European random stuff store. So now you can have those plastic models of Sephiroth and Vincent Valentine to do funky fangirl things with at last. And if your fanfic is good enough, you might even get a job with them!

Here’s a WoW link in preparation for the expansion next week: Jame’s Guide to Death Knight Levelling (55-61). This is for people who want to do it the most efficient way possible.

Bit late for the US elections but here are a couple of links:

A funky typographic summary of this US election campaign. (nb. site is safe for work but the URL isn’t, go figure).

And another interesting typographic fact, last Wednesday was only the fourth time that the New York Times has used a 96 pt font for the front page.

Campaign gossip, courtesy of Newsweek and the Huffington Post. This one made me laugh though:

The debates unnerved both candidates. When he was preparing for the Democratic primary debates, Obama was recorded saying, “I don’t consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, ‘You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.’ So when Brian Williams is asking me about what’s a personal thing that you’ve done [that’s green], and I say, you know, ‘Well, I planted a bunch of trees.’ And he says, ‘I’m talking about personal.’ What I’m thinking in my head is, ‘Well, the truth is, Brian, we can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of something collective’.”

Vote for your favourite US election candidate in Spore.

For everyone who is enjoying seeing their opponents (political or otherwise) weeping sweet sweet tears, this is John Scalzi’s recipe for Schadenfreude Pie

October Newsletter hits

Brief highlights again, as I just got home from work and want to play 🙂

  • Heavy Metal event advertised, Nov 18th-Dec 2nd in Europe (so place your bets for launch of 1.1 here), scenario called Reikland Factory – open to all levels, all tiers and doesn’t contribute to campaign. 10% bonus to renown for playing it. Basic influence gives a trophy, advanced gives a cloak, elite gives access to the two new classes a full week early.
  • Overviews of Knight of the Blazing Sun and Blackguard
  • Witching Night announced – now till Nov 4th (has a couple of mask photos)
  • Advert for Red Alert 3 and Kossar’s Helm
  • Mark Jacobs’ State of the Game (for those who don’t know it already)
  • Concept Art – Order Epic Armour, Greenskin NPCs
  • Paul and Adam Gershowitz podcasts on Knight of the Blazing Sun and Blackguard
  • Paul’s videophone blog
  • Grab Bag (as previously reported)
  • “WAR Europe is the place to go for the most up-to-date news regarding your favorite (sic) game and ours – Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning!” (I had to quote this, as I’m still laughing)
  • Developer Profile: James Casey (Content Design Lead)
  • Blackguard and KotBS wallpapers
  • Community Spotlight – Warhammer Movies
  • Ads for Empire in Chaos (Warhammer Online novel) and joint DAoC/WAR subs for Europe