Games For 2008: Warhammer Online

By John Walker on January 10th, 2008 at 12:08 pm.

He's mean, he's gree... kill me.

Two conflicting positions: I have very high hopes for Warhammer Online, and believe it will be a great MMO with fresh ideas, and a unique way of dealing with global conflict. Also: I really worry about Warhammer Online, concerned that by the time it comes out it will have devolved into a very generic WoW clone.

The very first time I saw WAR, back in February 2006, it was more conceptual than physical. They had built a bit of the beginning ground for the Dwarves and Greenskins, and that was just about it. But they had some really exciting ideas. The world of the Games Workshop monolith was going to take some really original approaches to the genre, and the most immediately exciting was the abandoning of levels. Instead they had this fantastic structure in mind that let you micro-manage your character’s skills, picking three at a time and then letting the XP you accrue fill each until it’s complete. This was then broken down into five distinct stages, and, well, it doesn’t exist so it’s not worth explaining. But they were excited about it, and so was I. It’s very telling that the MMO genre seems to have the power to force developers to lose anything that strays too far from the familiar. You’ve got to get a player-base, and if you want them, you’ve got to make it familiar enough. Which means, of course, you’ve got to make it feel like World of Warcraft. Sigh.

Now of course WAR has entered that troubling time of vanishing betas, occasional silence, and hugely extended release dates. So it’s now that I’m going to tell you why I’m so optimistic about WAR.

war6

First, delays like this mean something: they’re making the game better. Now, this might mean they’re smoothing out more obscurities that separate it from WoW and thus confuse the stupid, but it also means they’re likely improving all that remains.

But more than that, there’s stuff that’s staying in that’s really distinct from WoW, no matter how the Warcraft fanatics will cry, “But blah-de-blah is the same as that if you squint and use your imagination…” And these are all structured around the global warfare in which your character is involved.

From the very start, you’re involved in the main conflict, even though you’re not immediately aware of it. While the game has the usual array of regular “kill 30 of these” quests (there’s a feature they told me about and I don’t know if it survives, but I really hope it does – that if you’d killed 25 rabbits in a field, then get given a quest to kill 30, you’ll only have 5 to go – please keep this in Mythic), there’s also those that invest in the overall progress of your race.

war3

Those races are, for the non-GW-familiar, Greenskin (Orc and Goblin), Dwarves, High Elves, Dark Elves, Empire and Chaos. If the first four look a little familiar, the last two should provide some much-needed originality to your racial choice.

These start out small. You could find yourself entering a PvP area from the very start, with a quest to complete that directly contradicts that of the opposing race (of the six, each is paired in twos), meaning you’ll be in each other’s faces right away. Then there’s the designated PvP zones, where you can venture in and just kick some enemy butt for the hell of it. Or most immediately accessible and stupidly fun, the organised team games. On a second visit, Kieron and played in a few of these, including a Capture The Base game, based around dominating the bases of a large, bridge-like gateway, and then a very fun Capture The Flag game. I think it’s important to state at this point that I was best at this, and Kieron and I won nearly every game for our team. We were amazing. You should have seen us. You’d probably have been moved to weeping.

war4

And then at the far end of the scale is Mythic’s signature (based on their small-scale success with Dark Age Of Camelot) Realm Vs Realm uber-game, for those who have level-capped. All the previous PvP elements, along with this end-game battle, add to the effort for your side, pushing to gain territory on a huge scale, and eventually capturing the enemy’s capital city, with all the accompanying ransacking you could hope for. These pushes are expected to last around a week, with the game forcing resets (the AI driving players back to the ‘middle’ once capitals are taken.

Another feature that really stood out when I last played the game were the public quests. As you wander the lands a message will pop up letting you know you’ve stumbled into a public quest area: a quest you can leap in on at any point, and help out whoever might be around. There’s no need to team up with other players – simply contributing to the effort means you’re in on the task. So say a team of AI soldiers come marching through, you should help out with beating the crap out of them. Once they’re defeated, you might find that there’s a consequence – you’ve got to rescue a bunch of prisoners who can now be freed. But doing this could unleash a huge boss giant, and those in the area will now have to bring him down. The game will measure your involvement in the events, and reward you accordingly.

war5

Talk to the developers and you’ll hear a lot of excitement about the Chaos race, and their potential for freakish and spontaneous development. I have a sneaky suspicion this will eventually mean that there’s some floaty eyes in their starting world, and you can grow an odd horn. I don’t see how an MMO can sustain the improvisational approach they’re suggesting. But there is no doubt that there’s a hell of a lot of lore going into this, with massively elaborate back-stories, histories and motivations on offer. Given a unique freedom by Games Workshop to tell their own story, loose of the canon, the plan is to pick up on familiar conflicts within that universe, and pinch the best ideas from all over the GW history.

At this stage, after a lot of development, a buy-out from EA, and some extensive delays, to Mythic I quote the immortal words of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn: “Make it work.”

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51 Comments »

  1. Evo says:

    and you can grow an odd horn

    Say what now :O

    Moving on though, this is an MMO I am actually interested in! And if some of the features mentioned in this preview are included then I think I will be quite enticed by it.

    Though the continued delays of a public beta are disconcerting, I originally registered my interest so long ago that I wonder when we will get one :(

    Last thing – I want a 40K MMO!

  2. Butler` says:

    AoC vs WotLK vs WAR

    If nothing else, the next six months will be interesting.

  3. tom says:

    please make it good….. please stop me playing WoW……

  4. Steven says:

    Already in development by THQ.

    I’m actually, really excited by the new Focused iterative blah blah testing that they’re doing. In which all the beta players start at high level to test the capital city sieges. Or all the beta players become mid level dark elves and are asked to test public quests. Or whatever specific element of the game is being tested this week.

  5. Butler` says:

    Then you’ll just be reincarnating your addiction in a new MMO!

    The way I see it, WAR is to PvP what LOTRO is to PvE. They are both essentially the WoW model++.

    AoC is the only one trying to do anything new, though that could ultimately be its downfall.

  6. Masked Dave says:

    I just can’t get excited by MMOs, I feel like I’m missing something.

    (Except Hyborian Adventures, but thats because I’m excited by a new FunCom game.)

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    I’m ashamed there’s a big part of me giggles about fighting Chaos Warriors.

    KG

  8. Tim says:

    I’m really glad mythic got this ip. The warhammer universe has such huge potential and GW has a history of refusing to let their ip isn’t abused.

    At the same time, I can’t help but wish it was warhammer 40k. But if this works out, surely that would only be a matter of time.

  9. Kast says:

    I tried WoW and CoH these past few months. Found very little to keep me playing, all in all. I think a large part of this is I don’t like playing with large amounts of other people – I tend to solo or buddy up with someone for a few hours.

    So, while I am intrigued about WAR’s proposed features, I don’t think I’ll be giving it a run.

  10. Thiefsie says:

    This is the most (yet still very slightest) interested I have ever been in an MMO, partly because I love Warhammer, but partly because the innovations featured actually sound like fun and a little less of a grind than the usual mmo fare.

    However, if it was 40k I would actually seriously consider playing this.

    Oh what I wouldn’t give for a faithful computer version of 40k or Necromunda (to save on the cost/painting and harsh reality of finding ppl to play difficulty of playing the real thing) – which of course they will never make as ppl might stop playing the table top game, the simple barriers of entry to table top gaming are why I’ve never done it, although it looks like rather good (geeky) fun.

  11. Nick says:

    I hope it’s not too like WoW, I don’t understand why MMO makers haven’t worked out that if you make it like WoW, people will just carry on playing WoW.

  12. Xagarath says:

    I would have liked to see them take the differences further,
    Adopt the structure of the tabletop game and have you as a hero and a small unit of troops, rather than just a single character. Level up your entire unit, giving it new equipment or access to different kinds of troops. Have the option to trade in your footsoldiers or cavalry for a siege engine or similar. Make the whole thing even more PVP-focused, with most territories disputable, but with flanking and high ground and so forth to make things like actual battles rather than big messy brawls.

  13. Meat Circus says:

    So, as a former WoWer, who has no intention of allowing myself to be sucked into that again, does Warhammer offer enough of any real significant differences to WoW?

    I’m more drawn to Age of Conan in MMO terms because it seems to be trying new stuffs, although the “OMG MATURE = BOOBIES!” aspect is off-putting.

    I really, really wish that Darkfall would stop being vapourware.

  14. Shadow KoBolt says:

    I really liked the concept of your characters physique improving as you “level” up, like your dwarven beard growing and what not. I hope thats still in there….

  15. Meat Circus says:

    Do we know the reasons behind the abandoning of a potentially innovative skill-based system for a tired WoW level treadmill?

  16. Nick says:

    CHANGE IS TO BE FEARED!

    That would be my guess.

  17. John Walker says:

    The reason given is that, “it just didn’t work”. I suspect this translates to, “people just didn’t get it.”

    It sounds such a fantastic character development system that I really hope someone else steals it.

  18. Jocho says:

    “here’s a feature they told me about and I don’t know if it survives, but I really hope it does – that if you’d killed 25 rabbits in a field, then get given a quest to kill 30, you’ll only have 5 to go – please keep this in Mythic”
    I guess you’ll be glad to hear – it’s still in! And it seems to have been ever more developed including lots and lots of things (like, checkboxes to addict acievers – and titles for some stuff).

    Really looking forward to this. It might be close to wow, but it’s still so different that it’s far from a copy-pased clone.

  19. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    I’m with everyone who wanted this to be 40k. The Necromunda idea would have been absolutely brilliant, joining one of the 8 (or however many it was) gangs, the RvR stuff would still have been there – you’d be fighting for turf in the underhive. Oh god. That would have been amazing.

    /weeps

  20. Kieron Gillen says:

    The problem with 40K is that it’s just too big – John’s game would be ace, but that’s a Necromunda game, not a 40K game. Getting a set up where you get all the primary races in the same place just isn’t easily feasible.

    KG

  21. Ghiest says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCkXLJLVkLk

    explains about questing (there are 2 other parts as well).

    But looks allot better than most Quest implementation I’ve seen to date. Like LOTRO on crack really+ allot more.

  22. Alec Meer says:

    It’d have to be modular, only taken to anything like total coverage over a number of big expansion packs.
    You could start with just the Space Marines, who have more than enough content and variance to constitute their own game, and try to block the panic about not doing the now-standard thing of having multiple playable species at launch. With the dread shadow of WoW hanging over it, I’m not sure any publisher would take such a one-note risk, sadly.

  23. KingMob says:

    There’s a 40K MMO in development.. publishers are THQ (pubs for Dawn of War, which I still love).
    Here’s the first link which came up on my google search:
    http://www.gamespot.com/news/6166560.html

    But I’m sure that game is several years down the line, so let’s look forward to WAR while we can. Back on the main topic… I’m excited about the DAOC-style realm vs. realm and siege warfare they’re having, and apparently testing right now. I would have liked Gods and Heroes-style squads to direct rather than individual characters, but you can’t have it all and perhaps if I’m lucky we’ll see that in the 40K one…

  24. Meat Circus says:

    I’ve never played a tabletop RPG, and I don’t know what a Necromundas are.

    If there wasn’t a Wikipedia, I’d be shaking my fists at you right now, John P and Gillen.

    Grrrr.

  25. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    “Getting a set up where you get all the primary races in the same place just isn’t easily feasible.” – Yup. Also, playing as a Necron or Tyranid would be really boring. Hive minds /automatons FTL? I, sort of like Alec, kind of envisgaged everyone playing for the Imperium, starting out as a grunt in the Guard. They could do a Star Wars Galaxies and let the best players be Space Marines (a la Jedis), except that worked horribly in SWG and I can’t see any way it would ever work. And everyone who played Eldar, Orks, etc either in the tabletop game or in Dawn of War would be really pissed. I don’t know how it would work. But then i’m not a games developer!

    Let’s stick to Necromunda then. House Delaque were clearly the best!

  26. H says:

    I’m actually really looking forward to WAR, but I just wish the project hadn’t been taken on by Mythic and turned into a reskinned DAoC. The very original concept, of a proper, living RPG, would have been, I suspect, far far greater an achievement. Hell, they were talking about modelling rooftops, cellars, *complete* buildings in the towns and cities. Who else has really done that?

    I’m sure it will still be fun though.

    And the two races rumoured to be in the first expansion? Skaven and Halflings. Or, to put it another way, Chaos Rats and Hobbits. Smashing.

  27. Jives says:

    Gorkamorka was also a great game…

    whatever happened to the other warhammer mmo that was being made. That one would have been brilliant if it did the stuff they said it did. TURN INTO A VAMPIRE

  28. Paul S says:

    It was a big, unwieldy mess, and it got canned. Looked ace, though – remember that wicked trailer with the cool daemon being all threatening in the background?

    But yeah, it was too ambitious and lacked focus.

  29. moocow says:

    Climax was the developer of the previous Warhammer Online. Some interesting ideas, but it was crashing and burning pretty quickly. Games Workshop eventually pulled the plug.

  30. neoanderthal says:

    Oy – all of this talk about PvP and PvE is interesting, but I’m dead curious as to whether Mythic is going to take the worst idea ever in an MMO (auto-attack) and make it at least optional. I played WoW for about 6 hours, and decided the game didn’t involve me enough to warrant my continued play. I found out LoTRO used the same mechanic, and skipped even trying it. Auto-attack and attack radii make things such as tactical ability a non-issue – there are no tactics involved in running close enough to get a monster into your attack-radius so your character can auto-attack him with little-to-no control on your behalf, or in trying to get far enough away so the monster can no longer auto-attack you (regardless of its facing and activity).

    If Mythic is going to stick with a single-character class/profession/call-it-what-you-will until your character dies of old age, I certainly hope they offer a multitude of character customization options in the form of skills to truly differentiate fighter builds, for example. I hope they truly offer something different than WoW, rather than employing the same boring tried-and-true ideas that WoW uses. Otherwise, I’ll skip this game, too, and continue to be one of the few thousands playing DDO:Stormreach and HG:L.

  31. Zeno, Internetographer says:

    Like with all upcoming MMORPGs, I’m going to offer up a prayer to the gaming gods that it isn’t a grindfest. I’d like to see a lot less focus on killing things as the main source of XP.

  32. NegativeZero says:

    they had this fantastic structure in mind that let you micro-manage your character’s skills, picking three at a time and then letting the XP you accrue fill each until it’s complete.

    So something similar to Eve Online, except skills levelled up with experience instead of time? That would have been interesting.

    Damn you, Blizzard. :(

  33. Saul says:

    It amuses me that the Warhammer game is now being accused of copying World of Warcraft, given that the Warcraft games have always been a rather blatent steal of a whole lot of ideas from Warhammer. Still, you can never have too many Orcs, huh?

  34. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    I guess I’m the only one here who’s not looking forward to a 40K MMO. Or I would’ve liked the idea of it a bit more, if only people didn’t take the IP so seriously–it’s so over-the-top and ridiculous in its piles of “dark and gritty” that you wonder why people don’t look at the floating robo-skulls and chuckle. That, and all 3,982,451 Space Marine chapters have funny gimmicks, funnier names, and the funniest pauldrons.

    I guess GW is so protective of the IP because the potential for Chuckles is too great as is. But hey, at least it’s not as generic as Blizzard’s “take” on GW’s ideas.

    Wouldn’t mind a chance to play an Imperial Guardsman, though, I’d expect to spend a great deal of time respawning and getting mauled with my own flashlight by mildly irritated space goblins.

  35. Matt Dovey says:

    I am, by turns, cautiously optimistic and wildly pessimistic about this.

    On the one hand, I have a deep seated adolescent love for Warhammer and its canon, and the idea that GW have let Mythic loose upon the story can only be a good thing, for them to trust so much. Getting to run around the Northern Wastes spreading virulent plagues for the greater glory of Nurgle would be indubitably magnificent.

    On the other hand… a lot of things in this article make it sound like it’s been dumbed down for the WoW crowd. Everytime I’ve seen concept art I’ve been awed, but then the finished videos are nothing particularly special. It all reeks of dumbing down, and what offends me most about the general MMO experience is (I’m afraid to say) my own snobbish attitude towards idiots. I’ve been getting into EVE Online a lot lately simply because the general crowd is more mature, more reasoned, more intelligent, gate campers aside. I’d hate to give that up for being called a variety of repetitive homophobic insults until I ended up soloing.

    Also, John’s Necromunda MMO idea sounds utterly brilliant. The skirmish games were my favourite, by the end, and I’d love to dive back into them. I’d always seen it as a squad-based, mission-based single player game – perhaps like Jericho, switching control of characters – but the battle for territory sounds fantastic. Seconds on House Delaque as well, especially because on top of everything they were the easiest to paint.

  36. Snafzg says:

    It’s really hard to judge a game by compressed video, especially one that’s in beta and lacks key elements of polish like proper lighting. The majority of the features have been implemented but their primary reason for delay was to give all the elements a glossy shine. You really need to launch a COMPLETE and POLISHED MMO when your main competition is World of Warcraft.

    As for playing with idiots, I suggest joining one of the RP versions of their Open or Core servers (depending on your tastes for PvP). Role-play and mature gameplay in general are highly encouraged on these servers and you can report morons for abuse.

  37. neoanderthal says:

    @Saul: Turnabout, and all that ;)

  38. eoy says:

    Still, unless WAR starts offering some endgame PVE raiding, it won’t be competing with wow. There’s a lot of people who play wow, not to pvp or to quest, but to go with other people and slay a dragon, and become famous on the server for doing so.

  39. eoy says:

    Also, WoW has all the oppertunities for raiding an enemy captial city and killing their king, and still we never really see anyone doing it?

  40. Andrew says:

    It was the entire raison d’etre of Dark Age of Camelot, though.

    When the game is built around a mechanic like that, it’ll get some use.

  41. Kieron Gillen says:

    JohnP: Problem with that is that’s not how the Space Marines really recruit, so has canon issues.

    (Though, frankly, the recruitment of Space Marines is a bit all over the place. And as it should be – there’s a 1000 of the chapters, and they’re all mad)

    Put it like this: As much as I think a Necromunda MMO could be really neat – it’s a great world – a 40K game needs you to be a Space Marine, from the off.

    KG

  42. Kieron Gillen says:

    (Idly, for the record, the 40K game I want to play is the Rogue Trader single-player RPG one. Like Star Trek, but with being a complete cunt…)

    KG

  43. phobos says:

    40K MMO would be a mix of Eve WoW and Daoc to become warhammer 40K online. I like it how WAR will be, and all those whove played WoW: Warhammer will be nothing like WoW, because Warhammer will be more close toDaoc game system than WoW, even the Graphics engine is the one which is used in Daoc.

  44. Game Player says:

    It is Good!

    Have a great time playing!

  45. Adam says:

    Long awaited – hopefully the wait will be over soon! Till then you can watch some warhammer online videos at http://warhammeronline.tv

  46. Ize Game says:

    It’s good!