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The Digital Continuum: The calm before the WAR storm

Kyle Horner

Do you know where your developers are tonight? Chances are the guys and gals over at Mythic Entertainment are busy scrambling to triple-check everything for the second time today. Meanwhile, the rest of us are awaiting one of three "launch" days with bated breath. Many of you are probably waiting for Tuesday, when the general pre-orders get to join the head start. However for a lot of players day one is coming tomorrow. So on the eve of "Hurricane WAR" approaching, I felt like going over some random bits about the game before it's no longer a beta and instead a newly launched MMORPG.

There's been a few things on my mind concerning Warhammer Online as it nears launch day(s). For starters, I want to touch on the subject of Public Quests supposedly being anti-social. While I'm sure most of you will agree that they aren't, it's likely that some disagree with the stance. Here's the problem, as Dr. Horrible would imperfectly put it: You're looking at the symptom of the issue and not the source. The anti-social behavior isn't coming from PQs themselves, but from the anti-social players. It's true that some design choices are akin to feeding the trolls, like kill quests that send players after mobs existing within PQs, but the rest aren't so profoundly worrisome. In total my experience has been more positive than negative. I've encountered some real jerks, yes, but whenever that happens I just leave the PQ to go do one of the myriad of other activities that Warhammer Online offers. Then I come back shortly thereafter and voila, no more a-holes! I agree with Ryan's desire to see PQs evolve into something even better but his approach comes off as overtly negative.

Moving on, I've a couple little pieces of grief I'd like to voice about WAR's start-up sequence. Something that's been annoying me -- and apparently annoying my colleagues -- are the constant splash screens you have to sit through, EULA and TOS to scroll through, accept and click "OK" on with each and every login before you can actually play the game. Mythic, if your goal with WAR is to present players with a user-friendly game that was not in the least bit off-putting, this is not a wise way to start. When someone doesn't have a lot of time to play their current MMO of choice, it's not conducive to their calm if you shove hoop after hurdle in front of them. Keep the splashes first-time only (people will remember you guys for the great job you've done, not the 100+ times they see your logo on start-up) and only bother with the TOS/EULA stuff for the bigger patches. Players want to start the game, enter their password, click on their character and just play. It'll work to your benefit, I swear. As a personal added bonus, if these changes are made I can finally stop grinding my teeth every time I launch the game.

My other -- also minor, but kind of not -- bone to pick is with the graphical options. They're fine for now, because they've got the essentials down. The "solo/group/all" options on spell/ability effects is incredibly nice to have for those big RvR encounters. Although I'd really like to not have to force my videocard into AA2x-ing (jaggy-removing) WAR. Basically, my stupid little complaint here involves a request to see more advanced settings down the road. The current stability of the game is quite impressive though and stands as a testament to the team behind optimization. So props where props are due.

On a graphical side-note. I was surprised to login yesterday morning after some downtime only to discover several combat animations had been improved. It's mostly a "feel thing" where responsiveness and visuals have converged on a very super-shined state. With the rate that these updates are coming out I'm honestly excited to see what kinds of patches will be coming in the next few months. This is a subject I've talked about recently, so I won't retread ground much here. Suffice it to say, I feel pretty confident in Mythic's patch release schedule.

Now to my final topic of discussion: servers. I was surprised when I first learned that WAR would actually be setting up roleplay servers. Just wasn't expecting that one, to be honest. Though I suppose with the revelation of things like taverns, it seems as though Mythic is planning on supporting the roleplay community. Plus, the game already has some really awesome emotes. It'll be interesting to see what'll happen when serious roleplayers get their hands on those.

For me, these server types always represent an opportunity to experience something extra; something beyond the standard game experience. Not by pretending I'm really in the game world -- although I do plan on playing it up as an Orc, because that's just easy fun -- but by simply being around those who are in fact roleplaying their hearts out. Whether it's a Dark Elf player whose character thinks he's really a Greenskin or a Chaos Marauder who copes with his mutating form through dopey poetry, roleplay servers continually entertain. There's always the added risk of running upon an impromptu, adult-themed exchange of /me commands, but that's the chance you take for possible comedy gold. Even if your eyes are assaulted by that which dare not be named, it's not all bad. Much like eating bad food or seeing a bad movie, the experience is so terrible that it makes other things that were good so much better. Like when you meet a trio of Goblins that each speak a word in a collaborative sentence. Great stuff after the eye-melting experience that is coital-RPing.

I always end up on more than one server anyway. So I'll have my "core" server with no extra rule sets to play around on when the roleplay server gets old. Nothing good can last forever and the roleplay servers are no exception. Their entertainment value during the early years of an MMO are high, until most of the entertaining people burn out or get bored.

Most of all, though, I'm happy to see the game finally launch -- as is Mythic, I'm sure. It'll mean all sorts of news, features and generally new things to discuss in MMO-land. The only question we're all left with now is, "How big of a storm this is going to become?" but like with all things, only time will tell. Can you feel it though, the slow calm before the digital storm? If not, I may need to slow down on the caffeine and Swedish Fish.

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