Driving to Games Workshops Games Day 2008 in Chicago this past Saturday, I'll admit I had no idea what to expect. Regretfully I must also admit (though I dont hold myself accountable for my actions) that long ago I went to a Star Trek convention. I bared full witness to this Mecca of all things geek, but would Games Day be the same?
Yes and no, Games Day had a lot more screaming.
The Excitement of Games Day!
From my arrival I was bombarded with an onslaught of chanting and yelling. Banners waving, the fully costumed Warhammer faithful had assembled in mass and with a deafening WAAAAAAGH! had overtaken the Donald E. Stephens convention center. Im sure the Fine Jewelry Expo on the other side of the main lobby was terrified. Boxes and tables of Warhammer miniatures were strewn about in mass with all the dice rolling fun a Warhammer tabletop playing could crave.
But Im not a Warhammer tabletop player. No I came for one thing and one thing only, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.
Although the game itself is far from disappointing, the presentation (or lack there of) was. Huddled in a small section of the expansive show room floor was a single area devoted to WAR. Present here were a collection of about ten computers, a Disney World style waiting line, and a handful of Mythic Entertainment employees. Our Games Day supplied itinerary and guide told us that there was a presentation by Mythic in a few hours, the booming voice over the speaker system said otherwise.
Apparently, with all of the usual suspects at Mythic presently occupied at ComiCon still, there was no presentation by Mythic planned for the day. My soul reason for coming (besides the Skaven Skin Cloak in-game bonus item for attendance) had been cancelled. Needless to say I was quite deflated after that sour message, but I endeavored still to get some questions answered for the Ten Ton Hammer faithful and bring to you my impressions.
Ill start off here with the information that you guys really want; open beta, the release date, and the NDA coming down. I had the pleasure of chatting with Bob Mull, the Community Manager for Warhammer Online. First I asked about the highly debated September 23rd release date, the one even posted on E.A.s website. Mr. Mull told me that per Mark Jacobs, nothing is official until Mythic says so ourselves. So the speculation continues.
The Warhammer Mecca!
Next we shared a surprisingly short conversation about when the NDA was going to drop. I was told simply to look at the monitors running the game; they had nothing to hide and would like to drop the NDA as soon as possible. I could do nothing but agree, but more on that later. The highlight of my conversation with Bob Mull was discussing the open beta. To add quotations for extra emphasis, I was told that wed be getting information on the Open Beta in the very near future. When I inquired whether or not that meant wed see Open Beta information in the next monthly newsletter, likely due out within a week or so, Mr. Mull expertly dodged a direct answer telling me that he wasnt sure. He said he hadnt seen the latest version of the newsletter. Very clever sir, very clever indeed.
Im not going to be doing much of an impressions piece. Because I am a proud card carrying member of the Closed Beta test, and thusly under strict NDA, Im going to leave the impressions writing to Sayu. I met up with my fellow Ten Ton Hammer poster at the convention, and he was kind enough to allow me to hover about while he played WAR and videotape his misadventures in RvR warfare! I dont have the steadiest of hands, but the videos I shot turned out fairly well as long as you dont get motion sickness easily. Check them out for yourselves, as Ten Ton Hammer was kind enough to host the files! (These are coming soon)
I had a limited opportunity to fire off some questions towards Mike Finnegan, the QA Supervisor for Warhammer Online. I was honestly drawing a blank as to what to ask, but I did bring a few questions with me from you on the forums. I admit, I should have spent more time preparing questions and gathering then from the Ten Ton Hammer community, but hopefully Sayu can pick up the slack for me!
When asked about whether or not someone in Europe could purchase a U.S. copy of the game and then play on U.S. servers, I was given a definitive Sure, should be able to. The only other question I was able to ask was about the White Lion class, namely the armor of the War Lion companion. The lion will grow and change in appearance as you level up, including becoming adorned in armor in the upper echelons of the leveling curve. However, I was told you would not be able to select specific pieces or sets of armor for your lion, and that customizing hair color/pattern and/or armor dying were NOT in the game. Bob Mull seemed to suggest however that the Mastery path you followed would have an effect on the appearance of your War Lion.
As for my impressions of the game, I only played once. I had the pleasure of playing a Rank 21 High Elf Archmage in the eight vs. eight RvR scenario The Gates of Ekrund. The Archmage falls into the Healer archetype for the High Elf race, and was able to perform this role adeptly. Choosing between slow casting, high hitpoint heals and faster casting heal over time effects, I was able to keep my injured group mates in the fight long after they would have otherwise fallen. The interesting mechanic behind Archmage game play is that by casting healing spells, you build up High Magic which causes your damaging spells to glow on your action bar. For every point of High Magic you have built up through casting healing spells, you decrease the cast time of the next damaging spell you cast as well as increase its potency. Once you cast a damaging spell your High Magic count resets to zero. This works the other way too, by casting damaging spell after damaging spell you build High Magic that lets your next healing spell be more potent and cast faster.
Also because of the dual targeting system, which lets you have both friendly and unfriendly target selected at once, it was very intuitive and easy to make use of this interesting mechanic. You could heal your friendly target, building damaging High Magic, and then unleash a powerful spell upon your unfriendly target without having to do any switching. It was a very enjoyable playing experience, even though the forces of Destruction cleaned our clocks that round.
Beyond that I can say that the game looks amazing. Even more impressive, the game ran at a very smooth frame rate with absolutely no hiccups. When I asked Mike Finnegan if the lighting effects present in this build were final, he said that they were not. They were running the same client as is currently in Beta, but on a closed server just for this event. If these lighting effects are truly not in their final form, then come release I think people are going to be astounded by how great this game actually looks and how smooth it runs. I believe this to be the very definition of polish, and if what I saw at Gamesday was any indication, Bob Mull is right that they have absolutely nothing to hide under a NDA.
Unfortunately thats all Ive got. I was really hoping for a good Q/A session and an information filled presentation by Mythic, perhaps even a little idol worship being able to have a chat with legends like Paul, Josh, and Jeff. Alas, this fan-boi dream was not a reality. I do wish to thank Bob Mull, Mike Finnegan, and the rest of the Mythic staff for being there and chatting with me, but most importantly for bringing WAR there for many to enjoy playing for the first time.
Hopefully the wait for open beta is winding to a close and the NDA will drop very soon. I look forward to seeing you all in game!
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