WAR really wants you to come up and see it sometime

The big Warhammer Online news this week is that patch 1.2 has gone live, and along with it, the new Slayer and Choppa classes. (I keep typing Chippa instead of Choppa which makes me think of fish and chips). The new classes are bags of fun, it’s hard to really go wrong with a dual wielding melee “hit it till it falls over” style and people have been wanting their mohawk dwarves and basic orcs since forever.

The other big Warhammer Online news is that although they’ve been consolidating servers via transfers for some time, they’ve finally done some merges and closed the unneeded ones.

In the US, from 43 servers the number is now down to 17. 20 servers closed in the EU so they now have more servers than the US, but that does  include foreign language servers.

I don’t think closing servers is the great sign of doom that it used to be. Obviously losing players isn’t good but a game like Warhammer with the heavy PvP emphasis needs high populations to make it work. There simply isn’t much to do if other players aren’t around.

I also think that the reason fewer servers were closed in the EU is that GOA had been more proactive than Mythic in consolidating up until now. They’d seen the issues and tried to address them. And possibly, just possibly, the game actually has more subscribers in its continent of origin.

What it all adds up to is a game that desperately wants to be loved. Mythic/GOA have been adding content at a rate of knots, they’ve really been trying to address the issues that players had with the game, and they’ve taken the difficult step of closing servers in order to improve the game experience across the board. It’s a fun game with cool classes and a lot of smart design tweaks, set in a glowingly detailed universe with over 25 years of world development.

Also because of the new classes, the lower tiers are very very busy. It’s a good time to go check it out.

No better time than the present

And in case anyone was in any doubt about whether now was a good time to test the waters, Mythic/GOA have introduced 10 day free trials.

That’s not the end of the advertising blitz. Former subscribers, including Esri@Gaming Granny and Scott Jennings@Broken Toys have received personalised mailshots from Karl Franz himself ordering their characters back to the front line and referring to their guild and  friends who are already there. I was amused by that, nice one Mythic.

But my ‘they never??!’ award goes to wowwiki. I giggled.

Mythic’s ability at PR and spin may be one of the great unrecognised sparks of genius in the MMO arena at the moment. I thought those were all good ways of drumming up some interest.

And what about me?

I can’t be lured back because my sub is actually still active. I simply haven’t been playing much. But I did log on yesterday to pick up one of my underplayed alts and go join the tier 1 mayhem.

And yes, Tier 1 is still buckets of fun. I logged my little Knight of the Blazing Sun (it’s a tank, yes), queued myself up for scenarios and before long I too was enjoying the simple pleasure of thwacking orcs over the head and trying to protect my healer by … uh … getting in the way a lot.

PvP tanking in Warhammer is novel because it actually works. Tanks in WAR end up with a fair amount of crowd control, with the intention that you should use it to stop mean melee dudes slicing up your squishies. Added to this, collision detection means that standing in the way is not simply a way of life but also a viable tactic.

My little tier 1 tank doesn’t have much in the way of crowd control going for her yet. She has a snare to make it harder for enemies to get away. But damn if she isn’t good at being in the way.

Unsurprisingly, tier 1 is currently dominated by the new classes. And the side which is able to dredge up a couple of tanks, healers, or ranged dps to help them out has a definite advantage in scenarios. Props in particular to the brave little runepriestess, the only pure healer I saw all day, who did her best to heal me even when I failed miserably at my getting-in-the-wayness.

I don’t entirely know what the upcoming massive class imbalance will do to the game. I think a lot of people will love their new choppa/slayer and will continue to play it. But I do know that it certainly hasn’t ruined the PvP elements which I was playing.

Mythic bets on the blogosphere. Would you?

I love reading (and writing) MMO blogs. If you’re reading this and you’re a blogger, THANK YOU. I love the level of conversation, the thought provoking writing, the platform for people to explain very different play styles and perspectives, the theorycraft, the rants, and the interaction.

Mythic Interactive

Ever since the development stages of Warhammer, Mythic employees have been actively chatting to bloggers.

So perhaps it isn’t surprising that they’ve chosen to publicise their two long awaited upcoming classes via (not very) obscure gift packages sent in the mail to bloggers. One to Keen and Graev (who have a cute post puzzling about it, of course it’s about Slayers, you berks!!) and one to The Greenskin.

Apart from the side-effect of inciting jealousy in all the other Warhammer bloggers, I can’t help wondering how effective this is for getting the word out.

How many people read gaming blogs?

But how many people really read blogs? We know that most MMO players don’t even read official forums, and blogs are surely a smaller proportion than that.

As a rough guide, when the Book of Grudges was at its peak, we used to get about 1000 visitors a day. We were one of the more popular Warhammer Online blogs but my guess is that blogs like Waaagh and The Greenskin would get two or three times that. (A lot of blog readers will just pick one favourite blog and not regularly read several). A popular but more generalist blog like Tobold’s may get at least that many, possibly more.

And presumably the big WoW blogs may be on 5000+ hits per day. WoW Insider may have much higher numbers, I suspect that as a site they have a lot of readers who don’t typically read blogs.

I am assuming that gamers  are more interested in specialist blogs about the game they are currently playing than are interested in general MMO issues/design. And since WoW is the big gorilla on the block, that translates into more traffic for the big WoW blogs than for those of other games. It might be incorrect, there may be some games which just foster a higher level of web activity than others.

This is not to say that I don’t love and appreciate both of my readers :)

How influential is the blogosphere?

Obviously it’s cheap PR to send a few pieces of tat in the post. And certainly the pro online gaming news sites do keep an eye on the bigger blogs (this is the story from Eurogamer.net about the Slayer) . It also enhances the company’s reputation for engaging with its players/fanbase on a very grass roots level. (Can you imagine Blizzard doing this? Thought not.)

Anyhow, it is because of being picked up by the larger media sites that this method seems sound to me. It’s just an alternative, cute way of putting out a press release. I thought it was all quite fun!

An addendum about the word blogosphere

I love the word blogosphere. It has a “trendy media talking about web2.0″ vibe to it, but according to dictionary.com, the word dates back to 1997 (ie. practically the dark ages.) Now that it’s out of my system I promise that I will never use it again.