Thursday, September 19, 2013

Warhammer Online Shutting Down

It was called the "Age of Reckoning", and it looks like the Day of Reckoning is now upon us. Warhammer Online will be shut down as of December 18, 2013. It was live for 5 years - a short time for an MMO.

I remember being so incredibly excited for this game, and it was one of the few titles I bought as soon as possible. I've even purposely waited to buy WoW expansions just to keep from having to deal with the bottleneck situations from too many people doing the same quests, but with WAR I was willing to deal with it. I installed the game and was very pleased with what I saw. My first toon was an orc, possibly a black orc, I don't remember now. What I do remember was a wonderful starting zone where I was smashing dwarf skulls and the amusing "barrel" quests. Also, being able to join PvP maps from level 1 and have fun was amazing (they'd scale all players to be able to compete with the top level of the bracket). The maps were all great, and at the time WoW's battlegrounds paled in comparison (except perhaps for Alterac Valley IF you liked those extended sieges).

For a while, I kept subs active in both WoW and WAR, because I enjoyed both equally. I rolled toons on both Order and Destruction, and enjoyed both sides equally. I have several fond memories of the game that I may retell on another post (a couple are quite long to explain but worth it). At some point though, things turned south. I don't recall the exact patch, but class balance eventually got out of control to the point that some classes were simply not played because others were so much better. I left once I realized changes weren't coming to fix this glaring issue.

Fast-forward a year or so later, and WAR releases the Tomb Kings expansion. Players now fight to control the expedition point into the desert to fight the ancient undead and loot their ruined cities. A side could only hold the area for a short time before the other side was allowed to come back and fight all over again - think Tol Barad, but the winner gets a small continent (with a number of instances) to explore instead of one island and a raid. This piqued my interest, and if memory serves me the game had a limited trial available at that point. I reinstalled and gave it another try. The new content was a lot of fun, but the class balance was still a huge problem, so I didn't stick with it.

In the years to follow, Skaven were added as a cross-faction race (I still don't know how they justified that on the Order side), the servers were merged in several waves (from 36 I think down to 4 now), and entire zones and PvP maps were removed from the game. I can only assume the reasoning behind the last two were to keep the game from looking like a ghost town (and to save money from wasted resources). Whispers abounded about WAR going F2P, which was officially squashed with an announcement soon after.

That brings us to today, and the sad news of WAR's close. According to a well-respected (now former) moderator of WAR's forums, EA wanted to make WAR F2P, but Mythic refused. The license for the Warhammer IP expires at the end of this year, and Games Workshop and Mythic have agreed to part ways.

Some are wondering if the license will go to another company and a new game will emerge. I don't see that being very likely, at least as an MMO title. Warhammer 40k was going to have an MMO adaptation (you can even find videos of it on youtube), and WAR's poor long-term showing seemed to be part of the reason behind GW pulling out from another title. I can't imagine GW willing to license out the IP again right away - remember, it takes at least several years to develop an MMO and that's rushing it - and WAR closing will still be fresh in the minds of gamers for a little while. The Warhammer IP is going to have that black spot for a while, keeping players leery of investing time and money into another game any time soon.

Anyway, that's the news as it stands. I'm going to keep an eye on the WAR forums and website to see if anything will be done towards the end of the game. I'd like to be part of the last hurrah in some way if possible because for all its shortcomings, Warhammer Online influenced the MMO genre pretty heavily. I'll go into more detail on that topic in another post soon.

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