213: Casualty of Warhammer

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Casualty of Warhammer

The customer service team at EA Mythic had it all - catered lunches, Rock Band-filled break rooms and logo-stamped coffee mugs. But sliding subscription numbers and a slumping economy meant the good times wouldn't last. Jeremy Monken recounts his time as a GM for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

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A fantastic read and a bleak look into the world of game design. It's a shame it went downhill so fast, but then that's the problem with making a WoW killer. It's outright win or end up at the back of the shelf again, WoW is just too big.

blimey, that was quite a story, I have to admit. Its very unusual to see the troubles of a company from an employers point of view (especially in the gaming industry), and having somebody talk about the bleak parts of being employed in the gaming companies is rather refreshing (most video's and trailers from companies show happy employee's saying how great the company is)

A sad read. I played WAR from the beginning, and the first month, it really felt like something huge was going on, like WoW might have a realt contestant. Then the zones became less populated. It was harder finding people to PQ with. And then, the real sign that something was wrong; servers started merging. In the beginning, I had to queue for 20-40 minutes, if I got in too late in the evening. Now there weren't enough to fill the servers that people had cried for to be multiplied.

I eventually stopped subscribing as well. Not to play WoW, but simply because the game lost value, along with the loss of players.
When I got an email some weeks ago, that they were offering me 10 free days, I couldn't resist. I played with great glee for the first three days. Then Extra work and other stuff cropped up. And I wasn't really bothered that my short free period was running out. I think that says it all.

It's a really great game. In the short while it has been running, I've had extremely great times. But its one soft spot is it's playerbase, and when that's not there... Well, then it just doesn't work.

IT's still great though, and I hope, as the author of the article does, that it will come back with a vengeance. WoW is not getting younger. Mac users who've never had a chance, want to have a peek. More and more content is being added(though we're yet to see the four capitols that were cut...)

I just wonder, that even if WoW grows "too old", if WAR will be able to make a come back, with newer MMO's being released. Some of my (former) guildmates are talking about leaving WAR, and playing Aion istead when that comes. I myself, is gingerly awaiting FF14.

A single manly tear was shed for this mans sad story.

If I could give you a digital hug, I would. Thanks for the good read and best of luck to you in finding work.

ouch... thats painful. Is it just me that thinks that games workshop themselves could do more to advertise the game?

rosac

Well now I just feel slightly sad, good story still.

Good story and an interesting read.

It's not really surprising that the release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion two months later
severely reduced Warhammer Online's subscriber base.
Most people won't pay for more than one MMO subscription...

I do think that Warhammer Online is one of the best MMO's out there.
Good luck at finding another job Jeremy Monken.

I wish I could care.

Promising game? Yeah, it was promising. And I still can't forgive them for ripping me and 700k people out of $50+ for beta testing a game that was supposed to be after a beta test. They didn't balance the classes, they didn't make end-game rewarding or interesting.

I wish I could get my $80 back from them, because I had more fun in Open Beta than in the whole retail.

Don't blame WoW for people leaving. You promise people a PvP/RvR game, they pay you, you fail to deliver a good PvP/RvR experience, they go to a better PvE game.

Also, I doubt the numbers of WAR were because of WoW's expansion pack release. - it's more of ignoring the community.

More about this here:

http://www.warhammeralliance.com/forums/showthread.php?t=304136

edit: Lol, one sentence didn't make sense.

Why try and create ANOTHER fantasy mmo on top of the already existing million of them? Why not go with War40k? I still personally want to try the game. Though I'm at least 4 months away from being able to, time will tell.

As sorry as I feel for the author for losing his job, I'm still pissed at WAR for ripping me off for over $100, not including the months of subscriptions I paid. That's right, I stupidly bought 2 copies of the Collector's Edition to play along with my partner on the very first day it came out. Almost everything that their Brit PR shrill promised was a lie. Overall, it's been an extremely disappointing and expensive mistake. My friends and I have learnt the lesson of never falling for PR hype and will not be paying to be a company's beta testers again. The pretty boxes and discs are now collecting dust on a shelf somewhere.

The trust has been lost and we will never purchase another Mythic product again.

Arkengetorix:
Why try and create ANOTHER fantasy mmo on top of the already existing million of them? Why not go with War40k? I still personally want to try the game. Though I'm at least 4 months away from being able to, time will tell.

Because as fans of 40k usually tend to forget, a 40K game would need to be beyond immense in scale, like.. 20x EvE big, with all races represented at launch, and all the other crap that would cause fans to bitch if they couldn't do them immediately.

"What? I can't play a Titan commander? /fail, i'm going back to WoW."

Personally, this saddens me immensely, the Warhammer universe, and the MMO, are like spending years growing up with Errol Flynn movies, reading books like Last of the Mohicans, and wishing you were Zorro after school.

WoW, is the digital version Hercules, the Legendary journeys.
Sure, Kevin Sorbo's cool, but he's working within a horribly sterilized environment.

Ashkente:

WoW, is the digital version Hercules, the Legendary journeys.
Sure, Kevin Sorbo's cool, but he's working within a horribly sterilized environment.

I couldn't have put it better myself. I just don't see the appeal of WoW. I can understand the idea behind a MMO, it's a great way to get players together in one place(so to speak). The problem lies with the games. WoW is just grinding and leveling up and dealing with idiots dancing in the middle of towns for no damned reason, which leaves one to wonder how this could be considered fun.

I tried to like WAR, I really did. I love 40K as anyone could guess from my nick and Warhammer, while not my favourite of the two, I do prefer it's fantasy to the fantasy of many other series, Warcraft included, but the game was so boringly similar to WoW's grind centric game play. And I can't stand grinding. It really turns me off a game.

good read. you never want to hear about folks losing their job.

i will say though pinning the failures of Warhammer on WoW's expansion is a little narrow-sighted and naive IMO.

The people who jumped into WAR (and Age of Conan before it) wanted a viable alternative to WoW. I have no doubt if WAR would have provided that alternative, it would still be a healthy game today.

Instead, WAR players are left with an end game that is still not well thoughtout or viable on many servers. They are left with unbalanced combat and "mirror" classes that can be drastically different in ability and power from patch to patch. And they are left with RvR that 99.999 percent of the time boils down to which side has more players at that moment.

People left WAR because it simply wasn't, and isn't, a good game. It had all the potential in the world, but I think the decision makers at Mythic were too stubborn and full of ego for their own damn good.

My sympathies go out to the author of the article, but WAR was too much like WoW for its own good. The difference is yes, WAR's RVR was slightly better at some points in time than WoW's battlegrounds, but the PVE was severely lacking.

I got turned off of the game when I discovered I had to go to every map in my tier just to gain enough xp off of quests and killing mobs to get to the next tier. That right there kind of kills any hopes of rolling an alt and seriously having fun past Tier 1, because starting with tier 2 you've already seen all the content.

I know Mythic hyped WAR to be a pvp-based game so perhaps the fault is mine for assuming I would like the pvp (RVR) in it. In early access RVR was phenomenal because you didn't know who was going to win the matches. The official launch hit and Destruction (the side I was playing at the time) became filled with people who had no clue how to pvp and seemingly didn't know how to read English.

Now, I don't have a problem with people who don't know how to read English, but if you're playing on a server where a specified language is the primary language, you should know how to at least read it. Then again, it may be that all those people who rolled Destruction and failed at pvp knew how to read English but decided they wanted to be the big bad hero anyway.

WAR has a lot of promise. To the OP, I hope you get your job back or another that's just as good.

Are you kidding me with this?

"Our game had been beaten into submission by gold farmers, cheaters and WoW's new expansion."

Gold farmers and cheaters were a total non-issue as to why Warhammer failed. Gold has almost no use or purpose in the game, and as a result gold farmers lost their shirts. Many have abandoned WAR by now.

If you want the truth about why Warhammer failed here it is:

What Went Wrong with Warhammer Online?
http://www.brighthub.com/video-games/mmo/articles/44427.aspx

Sure, WoW's expansion hurt WAR, but that's because WAR was utterly failing to deliver the PvP/RvR experience it promised.

I was really disappointed that this 4 page article from an insider gave us nothing about what happened internally to cause WAR's utter failure. No scuttlebut as to why they foolishly clung to 2 realms, or why they refused to fix CC or class balance, or why they thought adding more broken content to a broken game was better than fixing existing content.

/disappointed

I don't normally play on what I do elsewhere, but I find it pretty relevant this time around.

In these circles, I'm just a regular poster, but WAR hits home for me in particular. I'm the Assistant Site Manager for Warhammer Alliance, one of the major fansites for Warhammer Online, and felt that while I can't really comment on what's inside the company, as I am not employed or ever was employed for Mythic, I can comment on how the game has progressed.

WAR's main issues at this time really stem from a lot of factors. One would be a release which I personally suspect was artificially induced to try to get ahead of Wrath of the Lich King, which turned out to be a mistake. Another was the whole overpromise and underdeliver syndrome that happened as a result of setting expectations at a level that exuded confidence but which may not have been appropriate of a game of this scale. You can't compete with WoW unless you are willing to be like McDonald's, compromising your core design elements to gain more subscribers and presenting things in an easy-to-digest method. Most MMOs these days, including WAR, want to target an audience with the things that make their game great and unique - worthy, but not enough to take down the juggernaut of MMOs.

Realistically, the game has improved quite a bit from the time that perhaps most of the commenters so far, and even the writer, have stopped being subbed/associated with it. Crash to desktops are reduced, the UI is greatly improved, and most of RvR works fairly well. The most recent patch brought with it an addressing of AoE and CC that was definitely needed. The team soldiers on and is confident, despite the layoffs referred to in the article and the loss of longtime GM/VP Mark Jacobs. The real issue is that there are core problems that still need fixing - things that affect mostly endgame, city siege, combat balance, and RvR elements. These are all responsible for retaining subscriptions, WAR's biggest problem. There are recent interviews out there that reflect the developers' feelings about their game, and the acknowledgment of these real issues that have, on some level, cost people their jobs. So the next few months, with Aion and Champions on the horizon, will test WAR's ability to stay afloat. Time will tell whether it works out one way or the other. The Catch-22 is that people want these problems fixed RIGHT NOW, but fixing them takes testing, which takes time. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

WAR is a good game - despite rocky roads ahead, and from what I know, I think it is in no real danger of going away just yet. People declaring terminal death for an MMO need to see that an underperforming MMO is not necessarily a dead MMO - Hellgate London and Tabula Rasa are the only two recent entries to actually "fail", and many MMOs out there continue to operate despite most people writing them off, meaning on some level, they are providing some level of profit to a company. That isn't blind fanboyism, that's fact.

WAR's development time and how it's changing fits most MMOs out there - including WoW's. The issue is that the standard and bar has been raised, and subscribers are less tolerant of understanding that an MMO is dynamic and it is changing, and that to fix things is a marathon, not a sprint. These are not excuses for the way WAR has performed from a subscription standpoint, but they do explain in part why things worked out the way they have. I too feel sorry for the OP's loss of a job, and what he went through, and hope that the tale hits home for development teams when creating expectations and priorities for their games.

For our part, we are going to continue to level the praise and the criticism, and ultimately the dialog, necessary to make WAR better. Our forums contain plenty of people that have unsubbed, but are still keeping an eye on WAR. I encourage everyone here to do the same.

Sorry to say, but I find it amusing that WARs "woes" seem to be due completely to outside sources, rather than to inherent shortcomings of the game and service itself (including the sub-par CSR service from EAMythic that always plagued the game long before layoffs even occurred), according to this author.

At least I now know why CSR would sometimes take literal months to get back to me on a problem whenever my petition was escalated. Too busy playing "Rock Band". <_<

LaBambaMan:
I couldn't have put it better myself. I just don't see the appeal of WoW. I can understand the idea behind a MMO, it's a great way to get players together in one place(so to speak). The problem lies with the games. WoW is just grinding and leveling up and dealing with idiots dancing in the middle of towns for no damned reason, which leaves one to wonder how this could be considered fun.

No offense, but your post clearly demonstrates your ignorance of the genre. No, you don't really have understanding of a MMO if that's your impression of it. I'd encourage you to really try one out before passing judgment. I'd bet you would find it isn't quite as shallow as you make it out to be after all.

Cybercoco:
Sorry to say, but I find it amusing that WARs "woes" seem to be due completely to outside sources, rather than to inherent shortcomings of the game and service itself (including the sub-par CSR service from EAMythic that always plagued the game long before layoffs even occurred), according to this author.

No kidding. Putting the blame on external sources is a joke. Gold farmers? ROFL. That's hilarious. I don't think I ever encountered a single gold farmer in WAR. If I did, they were so out of the way they never impacted gameplay at all.

Cybercoco:

At least I now know why CSR would sometimes take literal months to get back to me on a problem whenever my petition was escalated. Too busy playing "Rock Band". <_<

Customer service was absolutely worthless on WAR. I remember numerous times submitting bugs for disappearing gear and other severe bugs and it would sit PENDING for weeks. And if you had an active petition on ANY character, you could not open another one. So basically, while they dicked around playing Rock Band instead of answering petitions, if another bug hit you you then had to decide if it was worth deleting the old one to submit a new petition. What kind of stupid design is that?

And that's basically a microcosm for Warhammer in general. At almost every opportunity, when they had a chance to make a bad decision they screwed it up almost every time.

Pathetic.

I feel for the author, but c'mon, its EA. They're the anti-christ of gaming and one of the roving cannibal companies that eats the talent of other companies and tries to pretend the games made after that are as good as the original, and that endless microtransactions are totally worth it.

as for WAR, it was focused, repetitive PvP and forced, linear PvE, I didn't even make it to the end of my free first month before I canceled and uninstalled it and swore I would never pay for an MMO again unless I get to beta, open beta, or play a trial of one first. I'm suprised companies think they're above trials for their MMO's.

image

LaBambaMan:

Ashkente:

WoW, is the digital version Hercules, the Legendary journeys.
Sure, Kevin Sorbo's cool, but he's working within a horribly sterilized environment.

I couldn't have put it better myself. I just don't see the appeal of WoW. I can understand the idea behind a MMO, it's a great way to get players together in one place(so to speak). The problem lies with the games. WoW is just grinding and leveling up and dealing with idiots dancing in the middle of towns for no damned reason, which leaves one to wonder how this could be considered fun.

Because in a week you can get (with modest playing) from 1 to 80. With each content patch they add lots of (gasp) content and they change various things to speed up gameplay and reduce grinding. They have tons of things you can do on the side and once you turn off trade chat the only people you end up talking with aren't idiots.

WoW is not the best thing that could ever be made but if you are looking for a solid experience where you can play something like 10 different classes, each with a somewhat unique feel, across an absolutely massive world you can manage it there. Plus raiding with a group of friends is a great experience.

My problem with WAR was that it felt like WoW but with an even stronger emphasis on PVP and an even weaker balancing system.

PVP is as I've seen the weakest aspect of ALL MMO's (maybe not EVE...maybe) and it is the most pushed. That's the problem to me. 100% of the time companies are trying to shove PVP in your ass when 110% of the time they haven't even gotten it to function properly.

It's like playing various card games that just make more extreme cards each release. People act like strategy is involved but really its just about having the biggest gun and the quickest trigger finger. I hear that it isn't the case but everytime I've ever PVP'd or watched PVP it has been the case.

Sort of like how folks used to say the world was flat, they could say it all they wanted but it never made it true :P.

When you are playing on a server with tens to hundreds of thousands of people and only 6 are dancing naked in town that's pretty damn good. My college campus had a higher amount of nudists and a far smaller population.

I think my biggest kudos to wow is that even when I do find myself grinding I don't notice. As opposed to most games where it is PAINFULLY obvious. Shit you bring a friend and you can do 3x exp and get an entire server full of 60's or higher before it even ends.

Honestly, my interactions with WAR CSMs were pretty worthless. Most tickets were about losing gold bags from a PQ or keep because of crashes or some other glitch. CSMs kept telling me it was part of the game to get to the treasure chest on time, even if I died at the end of a keep fight and released more than 2 minutes away. So I made a stink on the IGN board one time that if we don't pick up a bag they should just mail it to us. I'm pleased to see that when I resubbed, when I missed a bag one time they did mail it.

Kind of a sad read, but just as well for the author to move on. My experiences as a WAR player parallel his as a GM--increasing gloom and pessimism month after month. But WAR was never a bright shining star of a game crushed by the impossible competition of Lich King (and goldfarmers or whatever). It was buggy, laggy, crashy, with graphical glitches and strange leaden animations, a bizarre combat system, monotonous RvR, okay but unstrategic scenarios where everybody just gathers and fights in the middle, and broken contibution points for some classes in the public quests. And its DaoC engine was just not powerful enough to handle the expections of a post-WoW MMO. Seeing the emptiness of Tier 4 content I quit last January.

I resubbed last month. Land of the Dead was meh. It was a huge error to produce that instead of fixing the game. Okay some things were fixed--I almost never crashed. But lag and slide show stuttering was still common despite having a better computer now that could easily handle the graphics. And though there were improvements in RvR (mainly better gear as a reward), it was still too monotonous and empty, and the whole combat system remains frought with crowd control that left me silenced and immobile half the time, and lag such that I was barely able to cast an ability the other half.

After my first cancellation I was hoping things would get better and I'd be playing again. I canceled two days ago and won't be looking back. WAR is a sinking ship. WoW is a sinking ship too but it at least it had days of glory whereas WAR has only seen defeat.

Muckbeast:
I don't think I ever encountered a single gold farmer in WAR. If I did, they were so out of the way they never impacted gameplay at all.

Really? I was often and regularly spammed by gold farmers for the first few weeks after release. I was another that played for the first 30 days then returned to WoW. I did quit WoW a few months back, and returned to War to see what had changed. They have made alot of changes, and while I did enjoy running around, the server I played was seemed devoid of other players in my level range, and queuing for a scenario often proved futile. If there had been more RvR and more people around, I may have stuck with it longer.

I would write an article about my time as a GM for Age of Conan...

...but here it is, already written for me. Like, nail on the head. :/

Aww maaan thats too bad kinda depressing too.

I absolutely loved the game but it lacked horribly as well. Most notably in the amount of players, under level 30 it was impossible to find people to play the equivalent of battlegrounds and I dont think I've found any instances below 25 either..

It was definately a wow killer in theory, but the horrible execution killed it sadly..

This was a great article, but I'm even more interested in the comments, which (especially the first ones) have a tone of "you deserved it, WAR sucked!" I don't care at all for MMOs, but I find it quite interesting how people seem to be unable or unwilling to tell a game from its makers, as if one guy who was brought in late in development for a small debugging job was as much to blame for each failure of the game as a whole as every other person involved, from the company's executives to the studio's janitor. I guess it's because video games require so much personnel to come through that the end result is largely unpersonal, so we end up thinking of all employees as this series of clones, each of which with an identical vision of the game, which corresponds to the final product.

Nurb:
I feel for the author, but c'mon, its EA. They're the anti-christ of gaming and one of the roving cannibal companies that eats the talent of other companies and tries to pretend the games made after that are as good as the original, and that endless microtransactions are totally worth it.

I used to think like that. Then I learned about Activision.

The Random One:

Nurb:
I feel for the author, but c'mon, its EA. They're the anti-christ of gaming and one of the roving cannibal companies that eats the talent of other companies and tries to pretend the games made after that are as good as the original, and that endless microtransactions are totally worth it.

I used to think like that. Then I learned about Activision.

they suck too, and so does blizzard for joining them

Ashkente:

Because as fans of 40k usually tend to forget, a 40K game would need to be beyond immense in scale, like.. 20x EvE big, with all races represented at launch, and all the other crap that would cause fans to bitch if they couldn't do them immediately.

"What? I can't play a Titan commander? /fail, i'm going back to WoW."

An interesting point, I can understand the inherent difficulty of making a 40k MMO in relation to its size. But obviously it would not all be available straight away. Even WAR doesn't cover the whole Warhammer world. But most fans don't seem to mention that in their complaint, or that its missing races like lizardmen and vampire counts or whatever. The main complaint of WAR seems to be the game mechanics.

So in making a 40k MMO that's what you'd need to concentrate on. But obviously you'd have to make an early decision in terms of just how large of a game your willing to make. And then perhaps flesh out the rest with future expansions.

Any issues with the games/EA/whatever aside, as someone who was a casualty of the triple round of TV layoffs here in Canada I can identify all too well with this, and if we lived in the same place I'd be inclined to say our groups of castaways should get together and tell war stories. I hate to use the old "calm before the storm" analogy but in many ways it fits here. You hear about layoffs in other departments, people you don't know. Your little group thinks they're safe, then suddenly you show up one day and find out your friend isn't around anymore. They haven't died but it damn near feels like it when you realize that your group has just become fair game. And as more and more people vanish the ax gets closer and closer to your head, to the point where when you finally get cut it's practically a relief since you can get the hell out of there. Only to realize you aren't getting paid anymore, which sucks royally.

Its so sad to see my favorite game world fall apart, but there are just some things that developers are just gonna have to learn. Graphics are no the way to beat WoW. I would have of signed up for Age of Conan immediately if my computer could handle it, I would have joined the armies in Warhammer conquering across my favorite fantasy world since my childhood if I just bought a better graphics card. Lets face it, not every one can run those games, there are just too demanding in their specs, sure you can better PvP then any game ever created, but if im just gonna lag then I'm not gonna play it.

People play WoW because they can, a $500 laptop with minimal specs can play WoW. Thats why 11 million people play that game, and really no other reason.

Maybe EA / Mythic should have done some research about the average MMO player.

90% play for the loot / rewards - simple as that.

Are you really surprised that when defending players wont band together? When an offence is so great and steamrolling its way through generally MMO players will move out of the way and go for whatever they can to make the most out of the situation.

Its like AFK players in battlegrounds - they know they are going to loose so they'll go AFK, grab a cup of tea, take whatever honour is coming and try again.

Players don't want to co-operate if they can avoid it, because they can't be assured that the other people will contribute as much as them (if they are randoms), and heading into occupied zones is just a death sentance so why bother when all you'll get is dead and nothing to show for it.

WoW tries to balance this out by giving the 'tenacity' buff when one side is outnumbered.

Its one thing that bugs me about games developers these days - they try to make games that they THINK people will enjoy, when really they have no idea what they are doing.

WoW does well because its well balanced and the devs understand the motivations of players - the reward.

That's depressing.

I never played the game myself, even as a Warhammer 40k fan, neither have I played WoW, as I generally do not like MMOs as a general idea.

They seem to be centred around grinding, gold farming and cheats, who love to ruin other's fun with tacky moves that they think will let them achieve something. Mostly, from what I have heard, the storylines are short, almost transparent, and never seem to go anywhere.

Also, addiction. You don't want to be addicted to something, you want to feel like you're there! Strive for immersion, not addiction.

For a gamer like Warhammer should have stuck to the tabletop, and Warcraft to the original series.

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