Mark Jacobs On Starting A WAR

By John Walker on September 23rd, 2008 at 1:05 am.

Yes, there's no excuse for an old WAR grab. It's late, I'm tired, I'm sorry.

Gamasutra have a giganto-interview with Mythic boss, Mark Jacobs, about the launch of Warhammer Online. He discusses how a UPS truck nearly destroyed Dark Age of Camelot’s launch, and then how WAR already has 50% more players than Camelot ever had, server queues, and how Roseanne Barr would make a bad romantic lead in a comedy. It’s some great reading, with impressively candid thoughts about Blizzard and Funcom.

Here’s an excerpt:

“We’re not looking to get more subscribers than WoW. We’ve been very clear from the day we announced that WoW is a great game with great numbers. It was an industry-shaping game. Those don’t come around very often. I’m amused when I hear other developers talk about WoW or even games in the standalone space, saying, ‘We can top these guys, that’s easy.’ Yeah, that hasn’t worked out for just about any of them. So I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Well, with EA behind us, we’re going to beat WoW.’ I don’t say that, never said it, won’t say that today. On the other hand, we’re not afraid of WoW.”

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31 Comments »

  1. Will Tomas says:

    I love that truck story. It just brings it down to such a mundane non-techy level. It’s pretty funny.

  2. yns88 says:

    Will: The greatest gems in IT stories are always on a ridiculously physical level like that.

    This interview almost makes me want to play an MMO.

  3. Konky Dong 26: The Phallus That Time Forgot says:

    Twas a good interview and yes, that truck story was awesome. Here’s hoping WAR is as successful as it deserves to be.

  4. sigma83 says:

    Did he strike anyone else as somewhat braggy? I know it’s an interview about his game, so he does have license to be talking about the things he’s talking about, but yeah.

  5. rei says:

    WAR seems like a really nice game, but the thing that’s keeping me from buying it is that I have no delusions about EA keeping the servers up a few years down the line, when the player base has dwindled to the passionate core and they’re not raking in the cash like they used to. On the other hand, I’m fairly certain Blizzard will keep some servers up until the end of time, as long as there’s anyone left to play their games.

    (To the ones of a frothing-at-the-mouth disposition: I’m not comparing WAR to WoW, beyond the fact that they’re both popular MMOs)

  6. Razerious says:

    I’m currently playing a Goblin Shaman on Karak-Izor (I gave up on joining the RPS guild, because of the insane queues on Karak-Hirn), and I’m having a blast. Public quests and the RvR implementation is made of pure awesome.

    The game also has that well polished feeling, just like another MMO that shall remain unnamed in fear of the internets. So far I’ve only encountered a few small bugs.

    I’m probably going to skip WOTLK. I’ve done the WoW instance grind before, and it’s fun for a while, then it gets boring. So I think I’m going to stay with WAR because of the RvR.

    PS: Greenskins are awesome

  7. TheBigC says:

    While I think EA does have a history of shutting down MMOs that aren’t doing well (Earth & Beyond springs to mind) they’re also the company that’s kept Ultima Online going lo these many years, and I can’t imagine Ultima has THAT many subscribers. Food for thought at least.

  8. Pwnzerfaust says:

    I’m ashamed that the first person I thought of when I saw this story was the similarly named fashion designer.

  9. SPEEDCORE says:

    Pwnzerfaust: Haha, I thought the same!

    Good read, tho the amount of time spent on how successful the launch was is pretty useless in the grand scheme of things. The people that love that stuff will be playing the game regardless if it crashed or not.

    The bulk of MMO players never experience day1.

    1month later is much more important then 1 day later.

  10. sigma83 says:

    I think that’s part of what struck me as braggy :P

  11. Kieron Gillen says:

    Rei: Yeah – when EA have supported the longest running mainstream MMO in history, I don’t think the accusation is terribly fair.

    KG

  12. Cataclysm says:

    Its a little misleading, not mentioning the Europe beta, Head start and launch disaster.

    I gotta admit, I love this game though, I leveled 2 characters in RvR scenarios alone from 1-6. Its fun.

    Though I had to make an alt on another server as the queues to Karak-Hirn waste a good hour of my night.

  13. Meat Circus says:

    I think that Mythic can be justifiably proud with perhaps the smoothest MMO launch in living memory.

    It wasn’t perfect, you’d have to be mad to expect that. But it’s been pretty damn good all the same.

    I and my fellow Rock Paper Snotlings have been having a whale of a time, Karak Hirn queues notwithstanding.

  14. Jeff says:

    wrong thread

  15. Alex Hopkinson says:

    There was a Europe Open Beta disaster, certainly, but the Head Start went pretty well, as did the launch. None of the two dozen people I’m playing with had any problems in head start, and I wasn’t aware that there was any widespread headstart/launch problem?

  16. Esha says:

    I personally worry more about GOA handling the servers than I do EA, as they have a terribly bad track record. If there’s one thing I think Jacobs was wrong about, it’s that GOA was a better choice than GOA for Europe. GOA has a bad “Oops, did we err? But you still love us, right. …right?” addiction, and there’s only so much one can forgive one company for (yes, I played Dark Ages of Camelot, too).

    In all honesty, I would’ve been many times more comfortable if EA had been handling European accounts and servers. I can’t say I’m fond of EA (what with all their buying and canceling) but they are, at least, mildly competent at running a service. UO has proved that, as KG points out.

    As a game though, Jacobs has a right to be proud of WAR. WAR has very few pop culture references, and it didn’t come over as though it was written by teen interns. The first thing I look at when I look at a game is the quality of the writing, and WAR can take pride in what it has. Even the grammar errors and typos are few and far between.

    I frequently want to hug their writing team. They ease the pain that certain other MMOs have put me through, wherein the quests have almost had my brain slowly seeping out through my ears.

    It may be problematic on a fiscal front though that writing of that caliber is going to scare off the lowest common denominator, but beyond that I can’t personally give a damn. If it proves to be a barrier to those who don’t appreciate decent writing, then that’s going to make for a better role-playing player-base at the end of the day.

    Bitter? Just a bit, but WAR is easing my pain.

    I can’t say enough about their writing team, because frankly I haven’t played something that makes me smile quite as much since City of Villains, which also had a great caliber of writing to it (anyone who’s played it certainly remembers the NPCs, and some of the Mad Scientist scenarios). I played City of Villains to death thanks to that.

    And I plan on playing WAR to death too. I just need to get Spore out of the way first, which is occupying much of my time, but I’m finally making some headway in the Space stage, and as soon as I have a galaxy-spanning empire, I’ll stop with that. That time will then go to WAR, because I do need to play my Orc more.

    Also: Oi, Mythic. Skaven!

  17. aldo says:

    Well, of course he’s not afraid; it’s not as if Blizzard are going to run onstage at an E3 presentation and yank down his suit trousers, revealing his buttocks to a shocked press corp.

    Probably.

  18. Dexton says:

    I also had to pick a different server, I knew the RPS server would attract more attention that it could handle. RPS + any other randoms was enough for 1hour+ queues, so I ended up on a lower pop EN Destruction realm.

    Having a great time though, love levelling through a mix of pvp, pqs and questing, so much more varied that the usual early mmo faire.

  19. Esha says:

    @aldo

    Iono. I wouldn’t put it past them.

    @Dexton

    This is actually the reason I’ve taken a slight break from Warhammer at the moment and put Spore at the top of my list of games to play. I actually want to get into the RPS guild, but I’ve barely been able to get online, so when I have played I’ve often found I’ve had to do a lower population server too.

    But my mindset is that if I give it a week or so to calm down, so that everything evens out and GOA finally gets on top of their queues, I’ll be able to play it comfortably without getting stressed over being the 371st in a queue.

    Patience is a virtue, but I’m certainly looking forward to getting back to my Orc, I have to admit.

  20. fanciestofpants says:

    Absolutely loving WAR so far, they should be proud. I was going to go back to Wow to try out wotlk but I’m seriously not feeling it anymore.

    Just need more people on my server to kill. Join Lustria(AU) people!

  21. Arnulf says:

    Can you give that figure?

    MJ: No; publicly-traded company. Wish I could. But I can say it was about 50 percent higher than what we had in Camelot.

    I never understood this. No MMO-company ever releases exact figures how many (active) players are playing the game right now.

    Actually it’s driving me nuts. It started back then with UO and Planetside. They would give vage references like this server is really full, but that one is almost empty but never hard numbers. I think for a very very short time SOE gave numbers like over 1000 players on that server for Planetside, but stopped doing that for some reason.

    Can someone explain that to me, please?

  22. Dexton says:

    @Esha, I think they are cloning Karak Hirn, which means if either the RPS or a significant amount of the other players move to the new server, the queues should ease up. So yes there is hope for people wanting to play with Rock Paper Snotling, but it will depend on how many stay and how many use the new server when it comes online.

  23. rei says:

    KG: You may see UO as the rule, but if I had to place it in that particular continuum, I’d say it’s more the exception. I suppose it’s a half-full half-empty issue, but if Paul Barnett isn’t all sunshine and lollipops about EA, I don’t know why anyone would be.

    GOA did it with Dark Age of Camelot and they’ve done it really well. They’ve done it in a very European way, but they’ve done it very well, and it’s more of the same. EA couldn’t have done it, what the hell would EA know about it? They know nothing about launching MMOs in Europe, unless it’s spending lots of money closing them down I suppose.

  24. araczynski says:

    just the eclectic art style/direction/graphics/whatever make me cringe every time i see a screenshot of this game. i doubt i will ever touch it.

  25. Marcelo says:

    We get it! WoW!!! can you please gimme something that would make me want to continue to play WAR now? Very Underwhelem, maybe it’ just not for me.

  26. plant42 says:

    I know WAR got a lot of flak for uh… ‘reappropriating’ WOW’s art style so I was prepared for that in the gameplay movies. What shocked me was that the entire UI was the same. Same map in the upper right, same health/mana bars in the upper left, same size/style item icons, same character screen. Same interface for trading and buying/selling equipment.

    There’s almost nothing there to differentiate it. I mean… I’m watching a video showing a guy jumping into a RVR match, and the voiceover is talking about how you’ll “start out with a basic level of equipment – a few greens, a few blues…” I mean come on – fine, the art styles are similar because Warcraft was originally built from Warhammer… but they ripped on the same damn colors for items? The entire UI?

  27. Meat Circus says:

    @Plant42:

    Why change it for no reason?

    Minimising the cognitive load for WoW players trying out WAR is a perfectly noble aim as long as it doesn’t prevent you from doing the new stuff you want.

    There are twelve million people out there who grok the grey->white-green-blue-purple-orange loot hierarchy. You’d need a bloody good reason to change it. “We just want to be different” is not it.

    Like it or not, the WoW way has become the de facto standard way.

  28. Arathain says:

    Yeah. The question is not “Why would they do that the exact same way?” but “Why wouldn’t they?” If you have a tiered system for items why wouldn’t you use a colour scheme that’s instantly understandable for a big chunk of your player base?

  29. malkav11 says:

    It’s different enough in the ways that count. Yes, at first blush, it looks a lot like WoW, has a similar interface, and so on. But a couple weeks into playing it, there’s no confusing the two.

  30. mpk says:

    Going back to the WAR/WoW comparison, I think the instant feel of deja vu you get upon starting a new character was a very calculated but deliberate design decision. After all, you’re chasing the second spot, as he says, but all the press is about how WoW-like WAR already is , well before anyone has seen it outside of the closed beta then there’s a good chance you’ll get a significant number of WoW players coming to have a looksee. Having everything feel like WoW almost straight away made me feel very comfortable in the game and it’s been nearly two years since I cancelled my WoW sub.

  31. Frye says:

    I, for one, didn’t have a smooth start. For me the game is choppy, despite upgrading the ram to 4 gig, to the point of being unplayable. (i DO meet the hardware specs by a long run). In RVR situations the game gets so unresponsive that it plain and simple gets me killed. After some googling it’s clear that thousands of people are suffering from the same issue: silky smooth frame rates as long as i don’t move, reduced to a slide-show whenever traveling or some enemy walks into view. I really wanted to like the game, the NPC’s do their own thing (instead of the ‘statues’ in wow), i love pvp, a whole world to explore; its my kind of game. But the client refuses to perform well on my machine.
    (AMDx2 5600, 4G, 9800 GT), in fact it uses only slightly more than half my processor resources, half my RAM, and 1/4 of my GFX card and still lags. Explain THAT, Mythic! No wonder they didn’t bother with a forum.