Double Buffered

A Programmer’s View of Game Design, Development, and Culture

Warhammer Online: Basically Pretty Good?

Posted by Ben Zeigler on September 30, 2008

I now have a level 12 Goblin Squig Herder in Warhammer Online. The interesting thing is that I can’t decide if I particularly want a level 13 Goblin Squig Herder. I’m in a unique situation because I got him to level 12 on the pre-release head start code, and my physical copy didn’t arrive until Saturday. So, that left me with having to make the choice to open up my copy of warhammer, enter the retail cd key, and set up my credit card for monthly payments. This is NOT the kind of decision you want your players to have to make, and if I hadn’t been in the pre-release headstart I’d just be playing on my first month, and would play until that ran out. I can’t decide rather I want to keep playing the game, and here’s why:

  1. The game is the opposite of visceral. One of the things I actually did like about Age of Conan was that it was inherently fun to kill things, with all the fatalities and action-oriented combat. Warhammer goes very far the other way, and combat generally feels very floaty and out of sync. For instance, the damage numbers NEVER seem to sync up with the animation. There are also a bunch of client-server sync issues, and it’s obvious they don’t really get the whole client-side prediction thing. Of course, either does WoW, but the combat interactions are far more polished there, so it doesn’t bother me as much. WAR is a much more indirect, detached experience and I don’t think I like it.
  2. The player population feels very small. I was playing Destruction on one of the most popular servers (Volkmar) and I had to wait in line for up to an hour to play during prime time. However, when I actually made it in to the server, it felt pretty empty. I was the only person defending an RvR keep, and many of the public quests were entirely empty. Most of the players were standing still by the shops waiting for an RvR scenario to queue, or grinding one public quest over and over. The design is not doing a very good job of encouraging diversifying, so much of the game world feels very lifeless and barren.
  3. It runs really poorly on my computer. I have a Athlon 64×2 and an 8800GT, so I should certainly be able to run a game that looks worse than WoW (okay, it SOMETIMES looks better). However, my fps often drops down to 10 or 15, especially in RvR. I think a big part of the problem is disk-loading stalls, as my framerate is perfectly fine when standing still. However, roaming around the world is not at all a smooth experience. It reminds me a lot of CoH before we put in a lot of the multi-threaded data loading enhancements. 4 years ago.

It may just be that I’m becoming more critical as I’m a game developer longer, but the good ideas in the game (The scenario RvR combat is really fun, and I like the exploration-based tome mechanic) don’t seem to be enough. Warhammer Online brings together a bunch of things I generally like in a generally well-constructed package, but I think I like some of those elements seperate. I prefer to get my PvP from Team Fortress 2, and I prefer to get my action roleplaying from other games (Tales of Vesperia currently). Warhammer does a bunch of things well, but it’s not doing it for me personally. Maybe I’ll come back in a few months, if the population issues aren’t as bad as I fear.

Anyone want to buy an unopened copy of Warhammer Online?


2 Responses to “Warhammer Online: Basically Pretty Good?”

  1. Sulka Haro said

    Good writeup, raised thoughts. I had to write something as well, since interestingly I’m also a level 12 Goblin Squig Herder. đŸ˜€

  2. arigato gozaimashita said

    I just tried the trial and it was a total disappointment. The environment and the NPC are SO stiff and lifeless. It really feels like there is no life to the game at first. The enemies that i got to face in the first minute seemed to have only one move to attack so when i faced 3 opponents at once it felt really bad when you saw all three of them repeating the exactly same move. I didnt get far in the game so my critcizm doesent really count. Might get better the further you go. I think this game lacks life. You can really feel how someone have placed each no-brain NPC right where they are.

    Sorry for being so harsh, hope some people can enjoy this game!

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