Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Apples are better than Oranges

Tobold has a review up of WAR. It’s fair and pretty accurate review in my opinion. As I pointed out in his comments, it’s a bit premature to make a full blown WoW comparison when you have only played the first dozen levels. After all, he’s played at level cap in WoW and obviously very few have done that in WAR. Still – you can’t expect someone to level all the way to cap before writing a review or giving their impressions of a game. You can fully understand 80% of what any game is like in the first twenty hours of play.

WoW is better than WAR,
Tobold remarked that WAR is better than any other major released title with the notable exception that it’s not better than World of Warcraft. I agree.

WAR is not better than Warcraft.

I’ve been playing Warcraft for four years and I have a ton of attachment to that game. WAR is not going to replace that experience. I have friends in Warcraft and I have an intimacy and care for the game that can only be gained after hundreds and hundreds of hours played.

Needless to say, there is a bias. I can look over my hundreds of hours of WoW game experience and point out dozens and dozens of incredible moments. I know how much fun I’ve had in WoW. I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and 30 hours of playing WAR is not going to make me forget that.

Except WAR is better than WoW
BUT – if I stop for a moment and think about my similar points of progress in the game, then I realize that WAR offers you more to do in the first few levels than WoW does in the first twenty.

If I take my collective WoW experience and compare it to my collective WAR experience, there is no comparison. WoW is a better game. However, if I just think about my first 30 hours of WAR versus my first 30 hours of WoW... well, WAR simply offers me so much more than WoW.

In WoW, the most exciting thing I have done by the time I hit level 20 is Wailing Caverns. For the most part, all I have done is quest and explore. I get that in WAR, but also so much more...

By level 5, I have not only done all the normal questing and exploring but also experienced Public Quests that feel like spontaneous mini-Raids. AND – I’ve been PvPing in Scenarios (like battlegrounds) for both XP and Renown Rank. By level 10, I have participated in a significant chunk of objective based World PvP against similarly leveled players.

Comparing WAR Rank 10 to WoW Level 70
The issue here is that we are comparing apples to oranges. Most, if not all, of us have spent a good chunk of time at the WoW endgame. It’s only natural to compare that experience to our first few moments in WAR.

But is that fair? Not really. I can guarantee that ANYONE would find rolling a brand new WAR character more refreshing and fun than rolling a second WoW character. In fact, I would argue that first time players would find WAR more enjoyable than WoW as well.

Of course, fair or not, we are going to make the comparison based on our most recent WoW experience at level 70. After all, WAR’s real competition is Wrath of the Lich King. We will be starting Wrath with our 70s, so WAR is competing against a character well past the early level grinds. So WAR is NOT competing with another WoW alt, it’s competing against a fully mature and developed game offering an expansion with new content for max level characters.

2004 WoW is not 2008 WoW
One thing that gets overlooked in all these comparisons is that WoW is NOT the same game it was at release in 2004. The “polish” didn’t stop at release.

Animations have been updated, the graphic engine slowly improved, battlegrounds introduced, new quest types (and mechanics), new dungeons (and designs), a major UI overall in patches 2.1 and 2.4, and oh yeah – a major expansion. Needless to say, the WoW endgame has evolved into something a bit more than just a 10-man raid called Upper Blackrock Spire.

None of these improvements individually are all that great, but taken collectively as a whole the game has been progressed and polished quite a bit since 2004. Why is this important?

Because WAR will receive the same level of attention during its product life. The starting point is FAR more advanced than where WoW was at release. In fact, it’s at a point where you CAN make the comparisons to 2008 WoW and say that it’s almost as good (even with your bias). It’s fair to say that over the course of the next few years that WAR has the potential to become a much better game than WoW.

Maximum fun by maximum variety
To me, this is the single most important improvement that WAR offers the genre. I’ve written about this several times, but just about everything you do in WAR is worthwhile and rewarding. The game is purposely designed so that you don’t need to seek out the most rewarding thing, but the most fun thing.

I think WAR will a better fit for someone who is time constrained. If you only have an hour or two to play a day, you can easily jump in and find fun things to do in WAR. In WoW, that's usually not enough time to do anything meaningful unless it was pre-planned.

If for no other reason than this one, WAR deserves a chance. Because it IS fun to play even at level 5. Check your ‘leveling grind’ compulsion that Warcraft has instilled in you at the door because it’s not about hurrying through levels to get to the “real game”. Sit back and just enjoy the experience. You don’t need to race through it.

Appeals to the time constrained
You log into WoW. You got an hour and a half to play and you want to do something, but that’s not really enough time to do anything meaningful. It’s not really enough time for a full instance run unless you get a group together like RIGHT NOW. You certainly aren’t going to be raiding. Your choices are pretty much limited to: a) surf the Auction House, b) grind some gold or reputation, c) level an alt or d) play some arena or battlegrounds.

The fact that you have time to PvP but not time to PvE instance or raid is an important one for the time constrained player. WoW’s best parts are in the PvE instances and raids, so if you don’t do those things – well, the end-game sucks. It’s a big reason why so many people get altitis.

In WAR, the game is built on PvP. There are LOTS of different types of PvP with LOTS of different things to do on short notice. For a time constrained player who just wants to jump in and contribute, then leave when they run out of time – this is really really appealing. If you only have an hour or two to play a day, you can easily jump in and find fun things to do.

Does this make the game less appealing for the player with hours and hours of free time? I don’t know. Perhaps. But I also think that question can’t really be answered until those players DO hit the endgame. And at least right now, neither Tobold or I or almost anyone can answer that question.

4 comments:

Nekura Neko said...

Love your insight on WoW & W:AR, but I have to point out a couple of things while trying to devolve into an "WoW is more marketing campaign than game" ranting...

1) You claim that the WAR is competing against WotLK so the level grinding in WAR is different. Experience with rep-grinding and the Stranglethorn Redeux quests in The Burning Crusade says you're wrong: WotLK players can expect an awful lot of grinding on their way to level 80.

2) The suggestion that WoW has "an endgame," never mind it evolving past the formerly-15-person UBRS, is dubious. When was the last time a raid went after Onyxia or Nefarion, purged out Zul'Gurub or An'Quiraj or Naxxramas? And how long after WotLK is released do you suppose that Karazhan (which had moments of being very cool) or Gruul's Lair (which just plain sucked) or Magtheridon's Lair (likewise) are going to keep getting visitors? Heck, has anybody actually cleared out Hyjal in the open game as was an advertised feature of The Burning Crusade? (Did Hyjal ever get realeased to the open game?) Point is this: WoW doesn't have an endgame because expansion packs are designed to branch players off for more grinding on new maps without them necessarily encountering any endgame content. Ever.

Put another way (and coming dangerously close to ranting): The opening moments of every expansion pack convert the game back to a massively single-player online game because they refuse to build on previous content that the player might not have experienced which ensures that future players *won't* experience it. So even though it should be a cultural phenomenon with its millions of subscribers, this implemenation of Blizzards's business acumen seems to actively cap WoW's social impact to killing boars and barrens chat.

sid67 said...

Good points, but I don’t think that’s a really fair assessment of WoW. What you say about content becoming obsolete is 100% true, it’s just not super relevant to any comparison. I’m sure four years from now that WAR will have plenty of obsolete content.

In a way, that’s kind of my point. WAR is competing with Wrath + WoW. On the surface, both products offer a new leveling experience + new endgame content. However, WoW also offers familiarity with the game and a pre-existing personal attachment to a level 70 character.

It’s not really fair to make that comparison, but that’s not going to change the fact that it will happen. People are going to evaluate each game based on what they are likely to experience. In order to compete, WAR has to a similar (or better) experience from the first moments you start playing the game.

I would argue (and have argued in the past) that the Wrath endgame isn’t going to be noticeably different than the Burning Crusade. The lack of variety will get old very fast and people will most certainly experience boredom when the old grind sets in again.

Long-term, I honestly believe that WAR will be a superior game to WoW. It’s just going to take some time for the game to mature and develop. WoW has already had that opportunity and it’s unlikely it will continue to “mature” much past where Blizzard has already taken us. That’s not the case with WAR. Things are already pretty damn good and they can only get better.

ScytheNoire said...

Good post, but I think the entire game comparison can be summed up as follows:

Do you like (PvE) raiding? Play WoW.
Do you like (PvP) raiding? Play WAR.

I definitely feel WAR will be a superior product given some time to work out the bugs and finish some of the content.

I was in the WoW beta and there at launch, and if I was to compare the two games, at launch, WAR is many times superior to what WoW was. So I'm excited to see where WAR goes over the next few years. It's going to be an awesome ride.

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