The Hype was Right!

I was reading with interest the to and fro of posts between Michael@MMO Nation and Syp@Waaagh about the WAR ‘backlash’ that they see among bloggers at the moment.

They’re on the wrong track here. There is no backlash. What we’re seeing (to my mind) is that people have mostly played the game, enjoyed it (or parts at least), and are now prioritising their gameplaying time because of other games that are available. I don’t really have any links to people being unreasonably bitter about their unreasonable expectations not being met, just writers being honest about what they liked or didn’t and why they’re moving on.

The hype and backlash cycle is part of the huge PR circle of life. But backlash itself means something more specific than just whining about having your expectations reset. It’s to do with a kneejerk reaction to something that is popular. Or when the media builds up some celebrity or book/game/programme and then turns on it viciously, encouraging people to enjoy the spectacle of a good clean lynching. Maybe with a side-helping of Schadenfreude Pie. And this is what I haven’t seen. I don’t see a lot of people trashing the game completely because it broke their fragile little hearts.

And this is because no one lied to us in the hype.

I love hype

We’re all fans here. We’re not haters. We love hype. For myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the leadup to the WAR launch. I loved the Massively posts and the interviews and the monthly grab bags. I loved the discussions and being able to write about why we were excited and what we were looking forwards to. And the thing about Mythic’s hype machine that still impresses me is that for the most part, the parts of the game we most enjoyed are the same parts that they were hyping.

They told us about Public Quests, Scenarios, Open RvR, the Tome of Knowledge, the cool class mechanics, different zones to explore from level 1 to 40 for each race, being able to level in PvP or PvE, and the extensive Warhammer Lore and when we played the game, these were the things we loved too! I don’t feel at all that I was misled.

Some of the tuning has been slightly off. They have introduced other things that were never hyped (armour sets arrrgh) and maybe we did or didn’t like those so much but the core of the game is a rock solid play experience that is exactly what we were promised. Open RvR is genuinely fun in a way that no other game since DaoC has been able to pull off — we’ll see how WoW’s version plays out over the next month or so when more people have levelled in Wrath but I see it devolving into organised groups trashing PUGS, like everything else in WoW. WAR has managed the endgame impossibility of getting people to play together, which is a sadly rare experience in MMOs. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Open RvR raids for that reason.

It’s a core that Mythic can and will build on. Later on today, the Heavy Metal event starts on EU servers (GOA willing) and with it a temporary new scenario and the introduction of short-term daily quests with the chance to get a look at two new classes. And that’s only a couple of months into the live game. Imagine what it could be like in a year or two’s time.

That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to play it continuously for the next two years. I believe that it’s the nature of MMOs now that a lot of players have limited appetite for the grind. So we’ll see much more of the playstyle of people playing new content for awhile and then moving on to another game which just put out a content patch or an expansion. I really think that some people will gravitate towards being fixed on one game but a lot of others will keep max level characters in more than one, and pick them up as the content becomes available.

There is a question about how player communities can adapt to this. It’s not very comfortable for guilds to have large segments of the population drifting off for months at a time and then coming back and expecting to be involved with things — but guilds and games will both have to work out ways to handle it.

But there’s still no need to be a hater. Mythic put out a good game. It’s flawed in some ways that weren’t apparent in beta (I wrote a post a few months back that I can’t be bothered to look up about things that can’t be tested in a beta, we’re seeing them come back to roost now). Hype is fun and it’s perfectly fine to get caught up in the enthusiasm. Just don’t … hate yourself for it later!