Monday, August 25, 2008

Warhammer Preview goes well, highlights a few issues

Everyone is writing about their Warhammer Preview weekend experiences and I thought I would join the crowd and talk about a couple of the small things I noticed. The first was that the character design definitely seem a step backwards after playing Age of Conan. There is a much lower level of detail which becomes obvious from the moment you get to the character creation screen. It is a step above World of Warcraft, but just barely in my opinion. The landscapes are also similar to World of Warcraft with maybe a bit more attention given to animating certain background features. For example the Chaos starting area has sickly looking trees whose branches look like moving tentacles. Very cool looking.

Decent graphic quality is an important feature for any MMO, but most people consider it secondary to well designed gameplay. Thankfully, Warhammer has several well designed features which more then make up for any graphic shortcomings it may have. The public quests were just like how everyone described them. Very fun and usually surrounded by open groups which you can join. It was pretty hard to win a loot roll on the more popular public quests, but I quickly earned enough influence to get some upgrades. I was also surprised to learn that Warhammer has a dual targeting system so you can have an offensive and healing target at the same time. This should be of big help for the caster/healer classes like the goblin shaman.

The tome of knowledge was interesting, but I didn't have enough time to fully explore all of its features. It looks to be pretty good at organizing your titles, achievements, and any quest/mob information you might have discovered while in game. I was sadden to find out it wasn't account wide and has to be unlocked for each one of your characters. On the positive side, the tome did tie into a quest tracker which highlighted areas of the map that had quest objectives. I didn't like this method in Age of Conan at first, but it grew on me over time. I guess as long as they don't mark the exact location for every quest there's still some exploration left in the game.

Overall the preview weekend was a very good experience and definitely made me decide to keep my pre-order. There were however a couple problems that became clear while playing the game. One is that the mob pathing is absolutely horrible as Tobold pointed on his blog. I ran into the problem while playing my Squigherder which half time was fighting without his pet. The squigs were constantly running off in weird directions, getting caught on objects and sometimes would just decide not to move for awhile. It reminded me of my experience playing a beastlord in EverQuest 1, but I think it was even worse. I'm not sure what the problem is with their pathing algorithm, but I saw enough range classes taking advantage of it that I think it can be classified as game breaking.

The other problem had to do with some balance issues me and my friends saw while testing out the scenarios. One server I tried out had queue times that were over 10 minutes for my goblin squigherder. Order players on the same server had instant queues and were quickly gaining renown at an accelerated rate. I certainly hope Mythic has a viable way of balancing the factions across the servers or they are going to have problems. I haven't seen any signs of cross server queues, so I'm guessing the wait times will go through the roof once a server's population becomes unbalanced. Earlier I had heard about factional queue times to sign into each server, but this doesn't seem like a very popular idea.

Another trend I noticed was that a lot of people liked the Empire classes. The Bright Wizard and Warrior-Priest seem to be well design towards kicking ass in the beginning of the game and had a lot of fans. I also saw a lot of Witch-Hunters though they didn't seem as overpowered. I'm guessing the Van Helsing appearance of the class attracts those concerned about looking badass. I saw a better distribution of classes on the Chaos side with a slight favoring of the Greenskins. I only mention this because I can already see what classes are going to be the bread and butter of each faction and which ones are going to be like the WoW Shaman. I'm hoping Warhammer does some more tinkering with the class balance before release or at least makes sure things balance out in the later levels.

Highlighted Issues:
Graphics might turn some people off the game
Mob and Pet Pathing could be game breaking
Mechanism for balancing faction populations unclear
Couple classes are very powerful at the starting levels


sid67 said...

I noticed the pathing problem as well. Thankfully, it sounds like it was a recently introduced bug that didn’t exist in the beta prior to Preview Weekend. It didn’t appear to be a pathing bug per se, but more of an AI error in the flee/attack/hold logic.

Relmstein said...

Well, I hope that's the reason. I was planning on playing the squig herder as my main, but I was starting to change my mind since they were proving impossible to control.

Jeremy Metzler said...

Did you find the graphics bad or just the art style itself? It has been stated by the devs that the graphics have been intentionally dialed down to lowish medium settings to keep everyone on the same level for testing. That aside I forced AA and AF in my Nvidia control panel and the game looked fantastic to say the least, I can hardly wait until the settings are opened up and it actually uses the high res textures etc. :)

Crimson Starfire said...

I've got a theory on how Mythic is going to solve the faction balance problem:

WAR balance conspiracy theory