Warhammer Online first impressions

The highly anticipated MMORPG Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is finally launched and I have, as most of you, started playing. Right now I'm stomping through Blood Mountains (at least I think it was called that) as a fierce and funny black orc, screaming and yelling as I rampage around and kill anything I see. My first impressions of the game are really only threefold:

1. Polish

I didn't play the first release of WoW so I can't compare with it. But I can compare WAR with Age of Conan, Vanguard and Tabula Rasa. It's kicks ass in the polish department. WAR feels complete, I have yet to see any bugs and though some animations and quests are a bit jerky at times they don't subtract a whole lot since they're never really believable in an MMO anyway.

2. Gameplay

There's a whole lot more to do in WAR then in WoW or Vanguard.  The developers behind WAR have really pulled out some great innovations in using MMO mechanics to come up with gameplay activities. Quests are sometimes logically based on other quests which I had no idea I was missing in other MMOS. For example: one of the first quests as a greenskin is to kill dwarfs found in barrels washed up on a shore under the towering walls of a dwarf keep, and thirty minutes into the game I find a quest where I stuff dwarfs in barrels and throw them off the keep. Now this might exist in certain areas of WoW or Vanguard, but I have yet to notice it if it does. In WAR, my experience so far really seems integrated into the world. Not taped on like the quests of early WoW.

Public quests work great by the way. And they are a really fun way to spend 15minutes away from solitary questing.

3. World or Setting

Warcraft is a ripoff of Warhammer, which in turn is a ripoff of Tolkien's middle earth. That's ok.

But Warcraft really started to invent the setting while they build WoW, so we can see the cracks in the setting design in the early parts of WoW that get smaller as the setting is refined into later stages and of course the expansion. WAR doesn't have this problem, it's based on an very fleshed out fantasy world that has so much story, depth and humour that it rubs of on all the people working with the world. In short, WAR feels a lot more like a world then World of Warcraft and the humour of Warhammer is everywhere, spot on, and making sure that it never gets too serious.

I'm impressed by WAR so far, I'll be back with more thoughts on the game in a few days.

WAR release

Warhammer Online has finally received a release date: September 19.Which gives it a months head start on the next expansion for World of Warcraft in November.

Is this a good thing? There can be very little doubt that these two games are direct competitors. The warcraft universe is basically a ripoff from Warhammer and Warhammer Online has copied most of WoW's game systems.

WAR now has some time to gather a following. But will it divert attention from Wrath of the Lich King or will it simply loose a million players when the WoW expansion launches?

Hopefully WAR will survive with enough player growth to shake up the MMO marketplace a bit. But only time will tell, for all the faults of WoW it has proven again and again to be stronger then newcomers in the arena.

Age of Warcraft

I just started playing Age of Conan and I must say I'm impressed. I've played a lot of MMOGs for research and Age of Conan has the smoothest and most intuitive startup of them all so far.
The fighting feels really liquid and action packed, at least for a start, much unlike the one click combat of WoW.
But the environments make me feel claustrophobic. Don't get me wrong, the world in AoC is beautiful, its just so packed with hills, rocks and stuff that I can't the forest for all the trees.

Overall its a very interesting game but I need to play it a bit more to give some form of real evaluation. A friend of mine claims that the content dries up after lvl 40. Judging from my previous MMO experience I'll get bored a lot sooner the lvl 40 but we'll see, I'm still going strong at lvl 9 and it took me several weeks to get passed lvl 7 in WoW.

I still have my article on the cognitive limitations of the avatar coming up soon. Just need to sit down and write. Later!

Another line of work

So, after encouragement from Ole Herbjørnsen at Funcom, I've started playing World of Warcraft again. This time with the aim to max level a character and analyze the various systems I find on the way.

Now I've played WoW at least four times before. And the start of this character was no different, it was boring. Really boring. But then at around level 15 something previously unknownst to me happened.
I was enjoying myself!
Not the actual gameplay though, the fighting and grinding was still boring. But I started enjoying traveling through the world. The world itself in WoW is quite beautiful with it's five year old graphical style and the vastness and continuity of it really got to me. But instances and fighting... Let me give you an example:

Last night I had planned with a few of my friends to play Wailing Caverns, a horde instance in the barrens. It is the second instance for players playing the more colorful horde side of WoW.

But after dinner I found myself procrastinating, a lot. Even doing dishes!
Eventually my girlfriend Caroline prodded me:
"Weren't you supposed to play an instance with the guys?"
"...yes..." *sigh* "do I have to?"
"erh... I'm not sure you should pay for this game."

I did play WC, I did enjoy doing something with the guys. But I'm glad I have a few hours yet before I have to do it again. The basic gameplay in MMO's has got to change. Not many people can actually enjoy the one-click combat.