It’s been a little while since I drafted the first part to this set of articles and I figured it was about time for me to bring you the other side of the story. In part one, I focused on how the precedents WoW has set will hold WAR back from a level of success it might otherwise achieve. It’s true that many of current pack of MMO enthusiasts will have gotten their first taste of the genre with WoW. Mark Jacobs has even stated that he’d be happy if WoW had 100 million subscribers because it would open up the market. The issue, however, is that most loyal WoW-ites will have certain expectations of new MMOs coming into the market. WAR, in the ways outlined in part one, doesn’t quite match up with those expectations.

Does this mean that WAR stands no chance? The answer to that question depends on what WAR is out to achieve. Does it stand a chance in usurping WoW’s role on the market? No, definitely not. At this point, no one game will do that within the first couple of years it’s out. What they are out to do, is stake out their own area of the playing field and to hold onto it with everything they have. Mythic understands that they’re not going to get ten million players this year; however, it is the western market that they seem to want to make their mark in, and is it reasonable to expect 10M western players over WAR’s lifespan? No. The good news, however, is that they don’t need ten million to succeed.

So what do I feel will push WAR towards success? Well, the first thing is that…

Mythic is targeting the Western market.

A large portion of WoW’s player base hails from Asia and pays by the hour. What that means, is that the vast majority of the game’s profitability is due to the monthly subscription model of Blizzard’s western customers. In Asia, MMORPGs are a huge genre, especially WoW. Players are used to having to pay less, or nothing to play them. It’s normal there. In the west, the vast majority of all games require no monthly access fee. Therefore, when faced with the prospect of paying fifteen dollars a month to play a game, we demand quality. Both WoW and WAR can deliver on that, but…

The WoW formula has never changed.

Since release, and in the foreseeable future (read: Wrath), the song has remained the same. You work up to the level cap, grind reputation, grind dailies, and grind dungeons, until the next best thing comes out. Rinse, wash, repeat. While some players enjoy this style of play, a lot of others are feeling pretty burnt out. Right now, burn out is at its highest level, right before the expansion pack. With WAR set to launch in less than two weeks (!!) they have enough time to pull some of these tired players away.

In conjunction with point one, this is how Mythic will make its dent in WoW. It’s unreasonable to think that a western game will beat the subscriber numbers of a game operating on both ends of the spectrum, but if Mythic can steal away a good portion of the western market, they’ll leave Blizzard, and its investors, reeling. Now, don’t get me wrong. WoW is a good game for what it is. On the other hand, the behemoth needs to drop down a peg for the betterment of everyone. Furthermore, on the WAR front, the more westerners they get from all of the competing games, the more comfortable EA and Mythic will be in investing financial resources into free patches and x-pacs. If Sid67’s write up is even remotely accurate, I have a feeling that Mythic can garner enough support to see themselves as a strong competitor to WoW in the western market.

WAR at release is the stepping stone to further innovation

I’ve also covered this point a little bit in the past. I’m not saying that I see WAR reinventing the wheel here; however, I do see WAR surprising us as we go forward. It’s in their best interest. Already, we have new, innovative, features such as open groups and PQs. We must remember, that WAR was built with the next five years in mind, so I think it’s reasonable to think that Mythic has some tricks up their sleeve that they’re saving. In all honesty, I think that their current innovations, focus, functionality, and state of the game will already earn them their own fair share of the market. Unless something goes horribly wrong early on, we can look forward to WAR getting progressively better with each passing patch.

WAR brings us cookies but with frosting

Okay, so I wish I had some cookies. Darn work for not offering them! Anyways, while WoW’s formula is remaining the same, WAR is taking ingredients from them and other MMOs, tossing in their own special cool-juice, for a unique, and tasty result. They take the tried and true staples of MMO gaming and put them in a fresh environment with their own brand. Yes, you have quests. Kill 10 of X. But, before you kill 10 of X (and no, this isn’t a real quest), grab this huge catapult and launch some big rocks into that building over there. And when you’re done with that, dump some boiling oil on some stunties! Now, to chafe them even more, burn down their village! MWAHAHA! Oh yes. WAR may be teen rated but their content is a little more… brutal. And this idea occurs throughout Warhammer Online. I’ve talked previously about how it’s cheap for older games such as WoW to use other people’s ideas, but WAR is a new game and can use them to push the industry forward and not hold it back.

WAR takes raiding to a new level

In part one, I discussed how traditional raiding isn’t present in WAR. Shortly thereafter, I had an epiphany (okay, the light bulb flickered on… for a minute or two) and wrote another article on how WAR actually redefines raiding as we know it. A bright commenter brought up a great point: in WAR a large part of the raiding game is created by the players. Huge RvR battles will constitute raids in and of themselves. The challenges and variations will ensure that these never get stale and will likely not be so easily replaced. Considering this, it’s easy for WAR to implement horizontal expansions that expand the RvR raiding game, adding depth and longevity to its lifespan. Add into that my points from “WAR redefines raiding” and you have the makings for a game that allows raiding to become more accessible to the average player, more challenging to all, and available to either both RvR’rs and PvE’rs alike. Breaking down walls is something WoW hasn’t been very good at in the past couple of year. They were in the past and they’re trying in some ways still, but WAR has them beat hands down.

WAR wants you! (in the story)

The lore in Warhammer is deep. Really deep. It’s been out there for decades being built upon, and twisted, and has grown into a monster so big that it couldn’t all be included in the game. A lot of it is though. What’s not there, such as other continents, landmarks, NPCs, etc.,is fodder for future epic quest lines and, ultimately, expansion packs. I know a lot of people are really into the story behind WoW but, as someone who’s never played any of the RTS games (not my preferred genre), I missed out. I read the quests. I read the story online. I even read most of Day of the Dragon by Richard Knaak. Forgive me for saying, apart from Knaak’s book, the story is pretty shallow. Blizzard could have done far better in fleshing it out online and especially in the game. It’s just poor compared to what it could have been. You almost never feel involved with quests, there’s very few truly engaging epic quest lines (there are some), and to see any of it come to fruition, you need to be a hardcore raider deep in the end-game. I’m sorry, I know some of you got to experience more of it than me, but I’m of the firm belief that a game should be able to stand on its own. Players shouldn’t be forced to play three other games or read a novel to get involved in the story. I tried… I really did and I’m sure I’m not in the same boat here.

In WAR, the quests are well written and generally give you a sense of urgency to get something done. No MMO will have every single quest be God’s gift to story telling but WAR at least does it ten times better than WoW and that’s what this article is about. Even if you don’t want to read the quest text, the game brings the story to you through the Tome. The chaptering system evidences this. In WoW, the premise lies in that you’re the hero out there to be the champion of Azeroth; the focus is on the single player for the vast majority of the game. It doesn’t work. For everything you do, you make no impact on the world and there are a thousand other people who’ve already done it. In WAR, you’re a member of an army. It’s not about you, per se, but about your role in the realm, the war, and the ultimate victory you fight to achieve. If you want story that will pull you in without having to spend dozens of hours doing things other than playing the game, but also give you the option to get even more lore elsewhere, you want WAR.

M-SMORPG or MMORPG?

Perhaps one of the most relevant aspects of WAR that gives it an edge over WoW is that it puts the multi-player back in MMO. In WoW, it’s common practice to solo most of the time because the game mechanics actually support it. Unless you have someone power leveling you through content, or are facing a particularly tough challenge, it’s quicker to simply solo your way through the non-instanced content. In WAR, you get an XP bonus from grouping. On top of that, you gain influence from mobs your group mates kill, so there’s even more benefit from working together. Additionally, RvR is balanced around group encounters, so if you really want to be successful, you’ll want to form or join open groups and warbands whenever possible. You’re not forced to go one way or the other, however. Choose the path that’s best for you. A lot of players from WoW will find this difference to be quite the shift from what they’re used to. It brings MMO gaming closer to its roots and, I believe, for the better.

Given the choice, what would you choose: a Massively Solo Multiplayer Game or a real MMO?

Ladies and Gents, the list could go on and on. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure there are things that I had intended to put in this list that have slipped my mind momentarily. What it comes down to though, is that WoW and WAR, while directly competing, will coexist. WAR will put a dent in the western market and WoW will still dominate and pronounce its dominance with numbers inflated by the eastern market. In all honesty, I don’t think that I’d want WAR to get as huge as WoW because look at what’s happened to their community. Sure, there are some great people that play the game, but may goodness help you if you want to ask a legitimate question on the realm forums.

What I would like to see in the short term, and believe will happen, for all of the reasons above and for all the potential this title has, is for WAR to be the second highest earning MMO in subscriptions on the market. I think that’s realistic. It’s not just a matter of me being a WAR fanboy (guilty) or a WoW QQ’er; like I said, I like WoW, but sometimes the underdog needs to win. When the little guy comes out on top, it gives inspiration to the masses and it’ll make a better (gaming) world for us all.

Edit: If I recall any other pertinent observations, I’ll post them down here.

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