Farewell, Warhammer Online

I am late with my article reminiscing about Warhammer Online after the closing of the MMO on December 18, 2013 was announced, but for a good reason. If you scroll just a little bit down, you can see a carefully selected assortment of screenshots that I have taken in the one year that I played. This took quite a while to sort through. Also, be warned: This post is full of personal nostalgia and will be very long.

When I saw the announcement of WAR’s closure, I was a bit shocked. Not that the game is going to close as this has been foretold by players for years. ;) But for a few weeks, the WAR community had not heard anything about the game and its upcoming anniversary. Said announcement was posted on the game’s 5th anniversary. That’s a great way to show how much you care about your customers! So far, there’s also not been any announcement of closing parties/events as other MMOs have done them.

All in all, I do not regret that I left the game after a year. I did miss it every once in a while, but never enough to pay Mythic any more of my money.

But let’s head back in time. It was 2007 or 2008 when bookahnerk first mentioned Warhammer to me. I probably barely looked up from my screen playing World of Warcraft and just muttered a quiet: “Warwhat?” He told me about this MMO in development and I, being the nice girlfriend that I’ve always been, sat there and smiled and nodded and… no, seriously. Of course, I listened, but I was not interested in another MMO. I already had WoW and didn’t need anything else, especially as I did not want to pay two subs. I don’t know when that changed, but while getting burned out in WoW and listening to him tell me about this wonderful Warhammer universe that is also the spiritual parent of Warcraft, I got hooked up. It didn’t take long and it was me sitting in front of the PC reading every piece of information and new I could find about the game while squeeing excitedly at the classes that Mythic had already revealed. I especially remember one Sunday morning with bookahnerk acting like he was fast asleep while I went on and on about which class I found interesting and why. Once I talked about the “zealot“, though, he was wide awake and told me why he loved that class and wanted to play only that one – or the blackguard, but this was ultimately one of the four classes that got postponed.

WAR CE mousepadWe both bought the Collector’s Edition of the game. My very first Collector’s Edition of anything. You can see a video of somebody unboxing it on YouTube, only that ours also had a small mousepad as GOA (the European publisher) had added that to our version. The best part was probably the mini figurine that, typical for Warhammer figurines, came in several pieces and with no colouring. Quite a lot of people stormed to whatever forum they found (there weren’t official game forums in the beginning) to complain about the broken figurine. By the way, mine is… still not done. It’s been on or near my desk all this time, but apart from a bit of filing, nothing’s been done. Oh well. One day… one day (and only if I find the orc’s arm again… O.o)! There was no soundtrack, though. Instead, Mythic offered 6 songs to download for free.

But back to before launch. First, there was open beta. If I remember correctly, it was exactly one week of open beta. At that point, GOA was reponsible for the European players, servers, service and so on. We were all eagerly awaiting the website to accept our account registrations. We had our open beta codes, but GOA said we had to wait. I don’t know how many we were, but we crashed the site. On the day open beta was supposed to start, we could finally enter our registration codes! Bookahnerk and I met with a friend on Teamspeak and instead of entering a code, we just saw “414” appear on our screens. In the end, we watched some DVDs and at some point during the night, it finally worked.

I did not want to spoil my fun by playing a goblin shaman which was what I wanted to play a week later at release. So I chose the most unlikely candidate: The blackorc. I knew I only liked casters and healers and since the blackorc is a tank, I was certain it was the best choice. Oddly enough, it turned out that I really loved the blackorc and did make him my first main (I switched to shaman and engineer later on, but not because I disliked my blackorc). It was Warhammer that made me realize how much I love tank classes. And speaking of the blackorc, I absolutely loved that the orcs weren’t the only ugly characters in the game. ;) During character creation, you could choose scars for all characters. That pretty lady down there (in the gallery) is missing an eye! Well, it just shows she’s not to be messed with as she has no problems getting into a fight and coming out alive in the end with a pretty scar to brag about on top.

So this is one thing that I’ll always remember positively: My blackorc. Other than that, I also loved how they implemented the tanks. In PvE they were pretty much your standard tanks, but in RvR they started to shine. Of course, they were tougher to beat than others, but thanks to collision in the game, they really could block other players’ paths. And they had skills that gave those standing behind them a defensive buff. They also had the guard ability they could put on one other player, so that part of the damage to that player was taken by the tank instead. This way, all classes were useful in PvP.

Warhammer Online also had something similar to Guild Wars 2’s dynamic events – only that they were static. ;) But they were specific events in zones where everybody could participate and had to work together. If you contributed enough, you got to roll on loot. Unfortunately, if there were e.g. 20 players, not every player got loot as there was only a limited amount of loot bags. But overall, this wasn’t actually too annoying. These public quests, but also roaming through the RvR zones, were made easier by public groups. Those could scale up to the size of a raid (4 groups with 6 players each). You could open a small window to see all public groups in the area. With just one click you joined the party. The window also showed you how many seconds were still left until you grouped up with them. This made interacting with others and finding them a lot easier and faster.

Warhammer is no peaceful world. It’s dark and grim, spiked with dark humour. Not even your capital city was safe! Every now and then, a hero monster appeared that required a group to kill. If you just happened to go afk near that mailbox and returned a few minutes later, you could basically just scratch your remains off the ground and regroup. They also had level-neutral mobs. The player who first attacked the mob determined its level. If a level 10 player attacked the mob, it would change into a level 10 mob. This was great especially for events as that meant that every player could participate.

I will also always fondly remember the first week after release where we were just bashing the other faction – and they were bashing us. Back and forth, back and forth in the chaos/empire first RvR zone. Another player came by, stopped and asked: “Why are you doing that?” – There are objectives in WAR’s RvR zones, after all. Flags to be captured, castles to be stormed and claimed, etc. But we didn’t do anything like that. Our reply was: “Because it’s fun.” – Of course, later on, it wasn’t that much fun anymore and more tactical fights on the battlefield were preferred. But this was the first week. Everybody was trying out their class and wanted to see what’s possible and I think we quite enjoyed fighting in such a largy army (even though performance was bad for quite a lot of us). Everything was new and we did not do stuff for loot or gold. We did it, because it was fun.

Altogether, I spent many many hours in the game and while I’d been very shy about getting into PvP/RvR at first, the way the game was designed, I just fell in love with PvP: RvR zones were in the middle of the PvE areas, a warning and countdown popped up before you got flagged after entering the RvR zone, you got unflagged after death and could go on about your PvE business if you had enough and it was very easy to find others roaming the RvR zones thanks to the public groups. The maps were also always a great help when trying to figure out where fights were happening (crossed swords were shown at the location) or where your help may be needed.

So when I loved this game so much, why didn’t I stay?

Bugs, lags, crashing servers, crashing clients (though I didn’t suffer from that, at least, but others did), stuttering, hitching, a lack of development, a lack of balancing,… mostly stuff like this. To give one example: Bookahnerk was not able to do one of the scenarios (instanced PvP). It was called “Twisting Tower” and you entered the battlefield by using a jumppad, but whenever he used the jumppad, his character did not land on the tower as he was supposed to, but fell down long before he even reached the tower which meant he fell right into his death. There was no way to get into the fights without using the jumppads. His PC could handle the game, but in this case, it was too slow. A weak PC determined your character’s position in the game. Brilliant idea. ;) Not to mention the players that got banned for speed-hacking – it turned out that those players had overclocked their CPUs.

Not that long after release, the game saw its first added content, the Land of the Dead. After that, no other new zones were added. In general, it seemed that patches got slower and smaller. If you read the announcement post, you’ll see Carrie Gouskos saying “We had this, but we didn’t finish it. We were working on that, but then we axed it…” – and this is just the short summary of WAR’s development. In the end, stuff was taken out instead of added in, like the fortresses, because those regularly crashed the servers. Apparently, they were reintroduced… a mere two years after being taken out!

The game world itself, as I said, was a grim and dark place. Maybe they wanted to make us feel unsafe as well by placing traps in the oddest corners: I once got stuck in a bush and bookahnerk liked to get caught by fences. You could “unstuck” yourself, at least, but it was still a tiny bit annoying. Especially as those places never got fixed. Bookahnerk’s cousin regularly ended up below the game world’s floor. By jumping. See the above mentioned problem that bookahnerk had with the Twisting Tower. Those were probably related, as bookahnerk’s cousin had a really, really bad PC and jumping meant the PC had trouble loading the new data while determining where his character landed after jumping.

If you’re looking through the screenshots, you may notice some Denglish in there. The client determined part of the shown language with the server determining the other part. Quests were displayed in German on German servers and in English on English servers. That part was determined by the server. The interface itself was dependant on your client’s language. I could not stand that mixture, so playing on German servers meant using the German client. Thankfully, the translation actually wasn’t bad at all if I remember correctly!

Something else that was always with us were server transfers. We started playing on Bolgasgrad. Then player subs went down, and three months after launch, servers had to be closed. We transferred to Hergig and felt quite at home there. However, about 6 months later, player subs were again down and Hergig got closed. Our last transfer led us to Drakenwald. I had switched to playing Order at some point after transferring, so I was playing on Carroburg. But that’s not WAR’s fault. ;) I had just found a guild that seemed stable and friendly and they happened to play Order. That was also when I switched from my blackorc and my goblin shaman to my dwarf engineer. I am still with that guild as they are my German Guild Wars 2 guild. So, count those to the positive things of the game!

I’ll end my post with this: I had fun and I loved the RvR. Until this day I still miss it, as I haven’t experienced anything similar in other MMOs so far. On top of that, I got to meet a great guild and great people in that guild, of course. For that, I am thankful. So farewell, Warhammer Online and thanks for all the fish.