The recent upset over at the Warhammer Alliance forums over the supposed push-back of Warhammer Online got me thinking about choice facing the game in the coming months. The official statement made by Mark Jacobs is essentially that EA Mythic is committed to their Q2 release schedule and to think of the date as, "Set in mud" Well, what's it going to be Mr. Jacobs, is the game coming in Q2 or not?
That's the choice EA Mythic is going to have to make and it will lead Warhammer Online down two very different roads, in my opinion. Neither of these roads are inherently bad, but only one of them is the right choice for WAR -- which means the hard part is figuring out which road is best.
Easier said than done, right? Yeah, that's entirely true -- picking which way to take your multi-million dollar massively game (which you ditched your last game for) isn't an easy decision.
The Road of Rush
No, not that Rush -- the rush that happens when a developer's publisher starts knocking on their door more and more often just to remind them that the end of Q2 is coming up -- which would be June 30th 2008 to my knowledge. That's the date by which EA Mythic has said WAR will ship no later than.
The reason I don't think the game will (or should, for that matter) ship by that date is due to the little amount of concrete information about the game. Lots of important features such as career progression, final animations, user interface, keeps and siege warfare don't seem very set in stone -- I guess the release date isn't the only thing set in mud.
I mean hell, even the last High Elf class has yet to be announced and lets not forget the game could ship short of some classes. With all of these game features still in the gooey stage of development (like that Jell-O in the fridge that you keep poking) a June 30th date just seems too soon for the kind of polished title that we know EA Mythic is going to want/need for launch.
The Path of Patience
This is the path of most resistance. People are going to march to EA Mythic offices torches and pitchforks in hand and demand their game, but what they won't know (at least until later) is this path would be worth the wait. Am I saying that Warhammer Online is without a doubt facing another delay? Well, no. I am however saying that it should be delayed again, largely because it seems to have benefited Age of Conan from all the recent videos and information that's been spilling out.
Both of these games have gone through similar changes in that they have both listened to the community, gone back to the drawing board and come out with something else that, is hopefully better. If EA Mythic bides their time, will they possibly face the launch of Wrath of the Lich King? Yeah, they might, but history shows that a game with a bad, buggy launch has a hard time recovering over a game with a solid, polished launch. Just look at Lord of the Rings Online for an example of a game with a steadily increasing player-base through word-of-mouth and a good stream of updates.
I'm not suggesting that WAR should make a big move. What I would think to be wise is a delay of only four to six weeks, which would bring the game to a nice shine for release. Because no matter how many people you throw at the development of a game, rushing one never ends well.