warhammer flaws   -   September 20, 2008

Warhammer Online is a reasonable attempt, and over time it may even improve to the point of being a great MMO. However, currently, it falls short in a number of areas. Players who have enjoyed other fringe market MMOs such as Dark age of Camelot, City of Heroes, or Age of Conan may also enjoy the variety of Warhammer Online. However, I doubt their three month subscribed player-base will exceed a few hundred thousand, and I don't believe they will make a dent into World of Warcraft's dedicated player-base. Continue on to see my reasons why.

Warhammer's artwork and technology are both high quality. A few few moments in the game might have you thinking this new entry has a chance to gain a substantial player-base. However, a dedicated MMO fan that plays it for a few hours may begin to think differently. Warhammer has some neat concepts, but it also has made some major missteps. Fortunately, in the world of online games, these are all correctable. Here's hoping the Mythic team identifies the critical elements and fixes them before the early adopter fans leave them. After only 8 hours playing I find Warhammer a chore, not enjoyable. When I compare this with the few hundred hours of entertainment I derived from Age of Conan, and the nearly uncountable thousands of hours from World of Warcraft, that's a sore disappointment. My top list of issues for Mythic to fix are:

Make gameplay crisp: I find the current Warhammer UI feedback sloppy and imprecise. Casting bars slowly fade out when they complete, when they should crisply disappear. Skill animations are jerky and cut off mid-stream depending on what you do next, when they need a crisp 'pop' to signal that the effect occurred. Instant casts have very little positive feedback of what occurred.

improve the action animations: I've so far played a shaman, zealot, bright wizard, and archmage. They all have spell animations that are imprecise, jittery, and buggy. The shaman's main channeled nuke half the time gets into some weird sound loop with the target and sounds like hit-hit-hit-hit-hit. The Zealot's scourge animation feels really lackluster, as it it casts as if it's a projectile, but then makes those weird buggy looking streaks, and if you do something too fast after, the streaks don't even finish. Teeznch's cry is also buggy and half the time isn't visible. These spell animations are not just eye candy, they are the 'feel' of the game, and when they are inconsistant and unsatisfying, the game is inconsistant and unsatisfying. Please improve them, and make sure they are a good visual indication of what is happening. How do you do this? Watch someone else play with the sound off and see if you can tell what's happening.

Fix the actionbar: The dancing array of text and lights in the action bar is more seizure inducing than useful when trying to play as efficiently as possible. Tone it down, remove the flashes, and get rid of all text except the longer cooldowns. Do I really need to see every action which is not on cooldown flash after every action I complete? No.

Improve the buffs display: I don't know what those colors around the buffs mean, and they are making an already tiny icon harder to discern from many. Give me an easy way to see my own buffs/debuffs on a target, and make them show up instantly when I select the target, not after a delay like they do now. For example, show my buffs/debuffs first and make them bigger than the others. Get ride of those colored borders, they are just annoying.

Quit the flip-flopping targets: Having two targets is a novel and interesting idea. However, making it so that your defensive target shows up in your primary target slot, unless you have an offensive target, it just annoying and disastrous. Especially in the heat of PVP it makes picking out a target quickly and positively knowing you got it very difficult. Please always show friendly targets in the secondary target slot, and offensive targets in the primary target slot.

create a negative confirmation sound The standard 'confirmation' sound which happens when you select an action click on a target happens whether or not the action is valid. For example, if you have no target selected, or the target is out of range, the same sound occurs. Please, if you are going to include a sound, have it mean something. A sound that simply registers "something may or may not have happened" is not doing it's job. Make a different sound for when the action can not occur, or remove the sound if the action can't occur, or remove the sound entirely, and fix other parts of the UI to crisply indicate when an action is occurring.

Fix target selection: A disastrous decision makes target selection extremely imprecise. The hover-indicator is exactly the same as the selection indicator!! It's extremely common to 'misclick' a moving target and move the mouse away only to see the selection disappear again. Either remove the hover-selection indicator, or make it noticably different than the actual selection indicator please.

Better pvp healing UI: When I'm healing, the group interface is very suboptimal. First off, the health bars disappearing when the players have taken no damage is a disaster for a healer. A distracting set of dancing bars are harder to process. The above target selection issue, and action sound issue also cause problems. Further, I'd appreciate an indication of which players are in range. For example, make the health bars disappear for out of range players. This would be far more useful than the current behavior of bars disappearing when the person is at 100%. I regularly heal in wow battlegrounds using xperl raid frames, where out of range players are grayed out, and it's an excellent setup.

While you are in there fixing some of these major issues, please fix some of the minor ones as well.

Better Logout/exit indication: Give me some indication that logout or exit is happening, more than just a text message in the chat window. Further, let me exit while in a scenerio.

Startup faster: Do I really need to accept the TOS every time I start the client? Do I need to see the startup animation? Please learn from other games and get rid of all this timefiller stopping me from getting to the game. Unless you are just trying to keep me away from the game because you arn't going to fix it, in which case you can just make your launcher start wow and save me the trouble.

Some things are just not so easy to fix, but should seriously be considered:

Introduce more player choice The current paths between locations are very linear. A to B. B to A. A to C. C to A. The first ten hours of leveling feel like running back and forth along a straight line with no choices. Introduce more player choice by designing around many equivalent distance but different paths between locations. Don't carve a path right up the middle of everything... put an obstacle right in the middle, and force players to choose which way to go around it. It's simple, and it helps keep a fairly braindead process involve at least some thought.

Introduce more world continuity: The flight paths system is incredibly confusing. The destinations map being drawn as a faction chart, combined with the flight animation in and out, really destroys the feeling that this is a world at all. It just feels like disjoint zones and levels of a game. We're not paying monthly subscriptions just to play a game, we're paying to inhabit a living thriving world. Please make it feel that way. Sadly, the feature to queue for scenarios anywhere also hurts the world illusion. I'm torn on this one. It's a good feature, but it's also hurting immersion.


I hope over time warhammer improves. History says it won't stray far from the core, but with a few key changes, it may grow up to be at least a thriving pvp game. As it stands, i'm more satisfied simply leveling another class in wow, and that's a sad state of affairs.

Posted by jeske at September 20, 2008 5:04 PM