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Why Warhammer Online Failed — an Insider Story 235

Posted by Soulskill
from the truth-or-dare dept.
sinij writes "An EA insider has aired dirty laundry over what went wrong with Warhammer and what could this mean for the upcoming Bioware Star Wars MMORPG. Quoting: 'We shouldn't have released when we did, everyone knows it. The game wasn't done, but EA gave us a deadline and threatened the leaders of Mythic with pink slips. We slipped so many times, it had to go out. We sold more than a million boxes, and only had 300k subs a month later. Going down ever since. It's 'stable' now, but guess what? Even Dark Age and Ultima have more subs than we have. How great is that? Games almost a decade [old] make more money than our biggest project." The (unverified) insider, who calls himself EA Louse (named after the EA Spouse who brought to light the company's excessive crunchtime practices) says similar trouble is ahead for the development of Star Wars: The Old Republic. EA has not commented yet. God of War creator David Jaffe has criticized the insider for having unrealistic expectations of working in the games industry.
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Why Warhammer Online Failed — an Insider Story

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  • by mykos (1627575) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @12:34AM (#33890594)

    The problem is that PC gaming is dying as online console gaming gains ground.

    Most new exciting games are being released for consoles. There are only a few really hot titles for the PC.

    I'm only 31, and this is the second decade in which I've heard this claimed.

  • It is free to play, and I still couldn't stick to playing it for more than a week. The fact that free play is restricted to Empire vs Chaos Tier 1 may have been a factor, but probably not the deciding one.

    It seems mostly bland and uninspired to me, where it doesn't seem thrown together or buggy.

  • by Draconi (38078) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @06:15AM (#33891754)

    Full disclosure: I was one of the UO design leads during Warhammer's later development years, and everything I'm about to say is tinted by a) not working directly on the product, b) my professional opinion having played it, c) and that I have a contract similar to Sanya Weathers' (who is quoted in the EA Louse comments several times) and will not engage in disparagement.

    EA Louse completely ignores actual game design reasons that the product failed, instead focusing on company culture and his/her managers' failings. I won't comment on that, but I will point out the following things that went rather horribly wrong with Warhammer:
    * Incomplete content: past level 20 most zones were barely there, let alone fully populated with content.
    * Broken systems: the economy, craftinig, Tier 4, and the actual zoning and load balancing code couldn't keep up
    * Unbalanced classes: they tried to make equivalents for each faction, and over-powered the Bright Wizards, Warriors Priests, and Witch Hunters. Excellent write up about that here, especially about Crowd Control: http://www.brighthub.com/video-games/mmo/articles/44427.aspx?p=3
    * Not moving fast enough on PvP imbalance complaints: The common response would be "We ran the numbers! On average, 50% are Order, 50% are Chaos! It's perfectly even!" and in the real world of course it was usually a massive mis-match between sides in individual fights
    * The mandate to produce new content instead of fix old broken content. I'll never understand that one, and I tread on dangerous ground going too much into it, but it was a horribly bad idea.
    * Public quests: I have always, truly believed that public quests were a good idea gone horribly wrong. This is probably just me being naive from my days on UO, where if we had a fun system idea we could implement it directly ourselves and things like "automatically adjusting difficulty, loot, time constraints and quest goals" were well within reach for the designer. Public quests in WAR stopped being fun the moment population surges in a zone dropped -- soon becoming impossible to complete. How awesome would it have been to at least have them dynamically adjust to lower/higher levels of difficulty based on how many people were in the zone and their relative strengths? How much better if the same *kind* of PQs weren't spread like filler throughout all the zones and they were a little more creative?

    Hopefully other games will learn from this: you have to finish and polish the game until it shines! Only in the emerging F2P market can you get away without doing so, and even that will change over the coming years.

  • by mlts (1038732) * on Thursday October 14, 2010 @07:51AM (#33892212)

    I just wonder if that might be something the big names are wanting -- a big crash like '83, then they will be able to blame "piracy" [1] for all their ills and get ACTA ratified with more Draconian "anti-piracy" measures like self destruct chips, hardware DRM stacks, and the like. Remember the INDUCE act of '06?

    The big names will whine and bitch about how the poor pirates are eating their lunch. In reality, all that does is give them the mandate to make ever more exotic DRM stacks with a game attached to it, lobby Congress, and have excuses for crappier and crappier content with more and more essential stuff as DLC [2]. We used to be pissed about late beta quality games. Now we are ending up with early beta, or alpha stuff being shipped with *one* patch if lucky, then the game is forgotten about.

    I completely agree -- the computer game industry needs an enema. However, people would rather have their Sims sequel or play known IPs as opposed to actually trying something that is new. At least in its heyday, Origin Systems always had new IP even with sequels. 10 years from now, I know we will have a Sims 4 or 5, a Madden 2021, something Halo based, and sequels for all the mainstream FPS games, so we can hear some 13 year old kid spluttering obscenities 24/7 just as well in the future as now. Only difference will likely be DRM systems nastier than we ever dreamed of. Perhaps LensLok + activation + mandatory online connection + a hardware dongle that would fry the motherboard if any protection got compromised [3].

    [1]: Even on a platform that had a 0% piracy rate, sales were pretty low on the PS3 compared to other platforms, so that is a good judge of how really the game industry is doing without them able to drop a smokescreen on numbers.

    [2]: I'm just waiting for games to ship essentially with nothing but a DRM stack and everything past the title screen be DLC. Even though someone spent $80 on a game, they have to pay $20 more if they want to actually purchase the character they will be playing and name it. $20 more actually gets one past the first chapter. The cost will be justified as "Movies cost $20 per chapter to watch. It should be the same with games."

    [3]: I remember companies hawking dongles in the '90s that had capacitor arrays to discharge into the user's motherboard if the dongle thought it was being bypassed. I'm sure this technology will be back.

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

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