The Other Hammer Falls

Warhammer’s European distributor Goa announced the imminent closure of 20 servers. Interestingly, that leaves 23 European servers open compared to 16 in the US, indicating that the bulk of Warhammer’s subscribers may be in, well, the continent where Warhammer originated.

Mark Jacobs posted a “State of the Game” address today, which didn’t address the server closures but spoke more generally about his hopes for the game’s future.

The last six months have seen an awful lot of excitement and change here at the studio.  We’ve launched another successful MMORPG but this time in the face of the worst economic conditions that most of us have ever seen.  We’ve done some things that we are very proud of, some things we regret, and some things that we are very excited about going forward.  As I’ve said about Mythic throughout the years, we are not perfect but we will always try our best to create great games.

However, he did address the closures in a post on the VNBoards:

Over the last few months we’ve been telling people to transfer off the lower population servers. Over this same amount of time people have been asking/telling/begging us to merge servers. So, now that almost all the people transferred off those servers, we’ve done just that. And of course, when we do that, some people here say “OMG Fail!”

As I’ve already said, if WAR was a PvE game, we wouldn’t have closed those servers but since WAR is RvR-centric, leaving those servers open with their current population would not be a good idea. While these servers have been low population for quite a while once we told people to transfer off of them their population dropped too low for an RvR-centric game.

Oh, and as an FYI, once again our number of paying subs in NA went up again yesterday as did our PCU (even with backing out the trial accounts). These are undeniable facts, not spin.

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47 Responses to The Other Hammer Falls

  1. Baroo says:

    These are undeniable facts, not spin.

    Wow… just, wow. That is the very definition of spin.

    I love being told when I’m not being “spun”. It’s a bit like someone saying “No offense…” right before they offend the hell out of you.

  2. Adam says:

    “once again our number of paying subs in NA went up again yesterday”

    I love that. Yes, it’s a fact that yesterday had more paying subs than the day before. As to whether it’s spin….

    Oh, and the recession cheap shot is thrown in there too. Because during a recession people can’t afford to go out anymore and are looking for cheap entertainment. Something like, oh, $15 for unlimited entertainment for a month.

  3. Raad says:

    Tasos made a clone?

  4. dartwick says:

    As much as I disagree with some of his design choices(namely the long rotten grind) hes being pretty straight, contrary to the naysayers above.

    This is nothing new or unexpected. The server contraction process was started months ago and it wasnt a secret.

    He in no way plays the contraction up as being ultimately desirable but explains quite reasonably that with what they have its the best move for quality game play.

    And I hardly blame him for ending with a mention of whatever small piece of positive news he has.

  5. DoubleD says:

    “IF War was a PVE game”

    So .. hmm… Why the grind to PVP? I think pretty much states that he can’t hold a candle to any PVE game. So why PVE to PVP then? Makes no sense.

  6. Montague says:

    Mark must have been absent during the whole “managing expectations” class in Game Design school.

  7. Sweetmeat says:

    @DoubleD

    The game was always supposed to be RvR focused. Maybe you missed it, but a while back they put in influence rewards for the RvR zones that are comparable to anything you can get by grinding PVE until you get to 40. Add that to transferring people to servers with a healthy population, and you can pretty much level all the way to 40 just on ORvR without ever doing any PvE ( other than undefended keep takes, which there still sometimes are ). That said, people aren’t always in the mood to RvR so you give them something else that they can do. Also if you play at very non-prime hours, RvR is harder to find even on servers with a high pop so it gives you something to do at 3:00am when you can’t sleep. I am willing to bet they will address the pve grind after 40 in the near future as well, because that is still a complaint.
    I’ve been playing alts mostly because CC + Grind in tier 4 still needs addressed before the game is as fun there as it is in tiers 1-3.

  8. Adam says:

    “hes being pretty straight, contrary to the naysayers above.”

    No he isn’t. If he had more subscribers than a week ago, or a month ago, or two months ago, he would have said it. Clearly they’ve been on an almost constant decline and he finds a one-day period where they’ve gone up and implies that things aren’t so bad for WAR because this one-day increase is “an undeniable fact”. If that’s the best “small piece of positive news he has”, he would have been much better off to not mention it, because it’s laughably transparent.

  9. Longasc says:

    Did he talk about the financial crisis as he was talking about the “worst financial situation …”?

    Pretty poor to blame the financial crisis for a pretty shitty game. I am sure Mark Jacobs and team are not the only persons in the world who did things they are proud of, some they are not so proud of and some things they plan to do in future.

    Maybe WAR will survive. But it did definitely not become the cash cow they expected it to be, lower subscriber numbers than expected.

    In one way he is right though. The sky is not falling, server merges of a fairly new game mean that it is not as successful as anticipated. But it does not necessarily have to be the beginning of the end, rather an adjustment for a lower customer base.

  10. Drakks says:

    “As I’ve already said, if WAR was a PvE game, we wouldn’t have closed those servers..”

    Also, if WAR was generally considered a good game you wouldn’t have had to close those servers because of the actual people on them.

  11. Gx1080 says:

    The servers merge needed to be done, thats called being realistic. And he is right in one thing, its no fun having nobody to fight. Now that truly “WAR is everywere”, the game can grow in its own peace.

  12. Gx1080 says:

    The servers merge needed to be done, thats called being realistic. And he is right in one thing, its no fun having nobody to fight. Now that truly “WAR is everywere”, the game can grow in its own peace. I believe that its neccesary a little pain for being able to grow well, like puberty and adolescence. Edit: Sorry for the double comment, wrong button case

  13. Quoth Mark “No Spin” Jacobs: “….leaving those servers open with their current population would not be a good idea. While these servers have been low population for quite a while once we told people to transfer off of them their population dropped too low for an RvR-centric game.”

    So Mark didn’t kill the servers today… they were killed when the decision was made that their population was so low that they should be cannibalized for parts, only Mythic has been been calling them “transfers” rather than “merges” right up until the point that Massively reported that the “source” servers were going to cease to exist. No spin here, gang.

    I’m not saying that it’s the wrong decision, just that you have to wait at least a paragraph after saying something like that before you get to claim that you’re not trying to spin people.

  14. VPellen says:

    Guys, what do you expect him to say?

    “Wow, we really overestimated this stuff, huh? Guess that was pretty stupid. Well, shit’s going downhill, so we’re just shoving as many people in one place as we can so that they don’t notice the declining population as much.”

  15. The Claw says:

    Closing the servers was of course the correct decision, given the current player population

    The incorrect decisions were all of the design decisions which led to so few people wanting to carry on playing the game.

  16. Pickly says:

    It always seemed strange to me that the warhammer people didn’t use a guild wars type setup, where they had 4-6 servers in a cluster of some sort. If the population of an area got too high, people traveling or loading in that area would be sent to another server in the clusters, and as servers emptied, people would get clustered together on one server as they travel and load, so that overall, the population of area on individual servers could be kept relatively constant, even with varying amounts of players on the entire cluster, and different distributions of players.

    (I’m not sure how technically feasible this would be. Since guild wars does something similar, it seems more likely that it would be workable, but I couldn’t say for sure.)

  17. Muckbeast says:

    I think blaming the state of the economy is serious spin. I cannot speak for other games, but Threshold has really benefited from the economic downturn. People are fleeing to “value” entertainment, and it is really hard to beat online RPGs for value.

    Also the “more subscribers today than yesterday” data point is pretty absurd.

    I want this game to get better so I can resubscribe. But when I hear this kind of spin it is not encouraging.

  18. Jeff says:

    Somewhere out there a bunch of heretics are smiling

  19. UnSub says:

    Here’s the flaw in Jacob’s reasoning: WAR IS a PvE game. It’s core is a long way from RvR. RvR is not the centre of WAR, based on my experiences in game and the basic system designs WAR has in place surrounding RvR.

  20. Jeff says:

    A Tale of Two Games:

    I present to you the decision making process of game A, quoting the lead systems designer:

    “We have three lead designers. The other two are in charge of world design and content design. We all work together pretty closely.

    The class and item designers are part of my team. However, our decision-making process is very, very collaborative and consensus-driven. We don’t make any major changes unless the whole team is on board. Our decisions are also informed by input and collaboration with other designers and the rest of the (Game A) team. My job is not to force anyone to make certain decisions. I just try and keep us organized and on schedule and help maintain the overall vision for the game. (Company A) just doesn’t operate with a great deal of hierarchy. We’re a team and our folks are empowered to make decisions.”

    I present to you the decision making process of game B:

    “Burn the heretics”

    Game A has 11 million + subscribers, Game B is hemorrhaging subscriptions.

    Things that make you go hmm…

  21. Joshua Meadows says:

    Jacobs is so… embarrassing.

    Any time I’m tempted to play again because I’m bored with WoW, I just look around Warhammer Alliance or VGN for some of his whiny posts and I lose the desire.

  22. Iconic says:

    The tough economy, right. That’s why WOW and EVE are in constant decline.

    They’re not in decline? How strange.

  23. EpicSquirt says:

    Tough economy is a good one. The friends of mine who played Warhammer went either back to or started with WoW, resubbed EVE to train up new skills and try out the new expansion or bought Guild Wars.

    At least here in Germany there are plenty of jobless people getting their daily dose of online gaming, I’d say the more people at home, the more people playing.

  24. Flimgoblin says:

    Everyone loves that “burn the heretics” quote… Barnett posted a response to that a while back:

    http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=78047629&blogId=420605542

    I’m sure the state of the economy has had an effect – it’s harder to justify buying a new rig to play WAR in this economy rather than just playing WoW on your old machine. Whether it’s had a particularly big effect is a moot point, It wouldn’t have ever turned 300k into 11million ;)… but it might have turned 300k into 400 or 500k.

  25. Jeff says:

    @Flimgoblin

    We love that quote because it is a stupid thing to believe, let alone say. Anyone that has played Warhammer into T3 or T4 that is not a faboi can clearly see the results of burning said heretics that were more than likely pointing out many of the flaws that caused 1 million people to play the game for a month and collectively say “meh, this is not what was promised. I might as well head back to game x.”

  26. Jeff says:

    @ Flimgoblin

    And for the record, I bought a new rig to play Warhammer. The game still crashed like it was 1999, but it looked pretty. In the end it was too unfinished, too buggy, and too unbalanced to earn my 15 dollars a month.

  27. Vetarnias says:

    Flimgoblin :
    Everyone loves that “burn the heretics” quote… Barnett posted a response to that a while back:
    http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=78047629&blogId=420605542
    I’m sure the state of the economy has had an effect – it’s harder to justify buying a new rig to play WAR in this economy rather than just playing WoW on your old machine. Whether it’s had a particularly big effect is a moot point, It wouldn’t have ever turned 300k into 11million ;)… but it might have turned 300k into 400 or 500k.

    Yeah, that system requirements thing has always been puzzling me. I recall that someone at Mythic bragged about how they were more realistic than Conan’s. Still didn’t make any difference to me, either on paper or in practice. Conan was choppy as hell but only crashed once; WAR crashed all the time.

    I’m getting really, really, really tired of that “it’s a brand new game, so it has to be a computer resources hog”. No. The original WoW is doing allright on 4-year-old technology, and Shadowbane was actually pretty good, graphics-wise, for a 2003 title. I’d have no qualms about playing a game with graphics dating back to 2004.

    Maybe it’s an industry that needs to be reminded of retaining a certain amount of technological modesty: brand new does not make it better. But I’m not sure whether there isn’t some sort of self-perpetuating element involved in that race for insanely better graphics, e.g. we must use every means at our disposal to convince the suits to hire more people, and what could be more convenient than the quest for the best graphics on the market as a selling point?

  28. EpicSquirt says:

    I thought Barnett was just some screaming frontline monkey. Jeez, no wonder Warhammer is the way it is. I’ve met him at the Games Convetion 2007 in Leipzig, I left the place as soon as he started screaming, it was embarrassing.

    That talk he gave at Develop conference in Brighton was full of shit, in every aspect. So fine, he chooses lemmings over heretics.

    Who would you prefer?

    1. The Heretic: our UI is a nightmare, the client/server-synchronisation breaks in scenarios, we have lag ghosts all over the place, the collision detection doesn’t work correctly, line of sight is broken, we have broken crowd control like unbreakable roots and way too many knockbacks with no immunity, we have tons of scenarios but only one in each tier is being played because of the higher experience over time, damage is so much higher in tier 3 and 4 that you can just forget healing, we have several unbalanced classes (Bright Wizards, Marauders), the client is crashing and therefor putting players in long queues, the client has a decreasing performance over time, forcing players to restart the client and oh, our end game RvR (which is the core feature of our product!) is completely broken and pointless! I think we should fix this all before release or not release at all, infact if you release this pile of shit now, I don’t want my name on it, I don’t want be part of your amateur team – my standard is higher, I don’t believe your crap!

    2. The “lemming”: The game can be released now, it is in awesome state! It’s been such a pleasure to work with so many motivated and talentend people, I could die now, my life is fulfilled.

    I would promote the Heretic and make sure he forces the lemmings to do their job!

    So the heretics have been burned (there must have been some critics in the long winded beta?), the lemmings succeeded.

    As it turns out a “lemming” has a shorter life expectation than a heretic.

    I’d love to have access to Mythic’s issue/ticket system just before release. Someone should make a global and open bug & feature request tracker for MMOGs, so we can measure the mess publicly. A lot of MJ’s spin would just die instantly then.

    Maybe they all didn’t sleep enough? Today I’ve read an article from the Harvard Medical School, that people who are in charge and don’t sleep enough act similarly to drunk people.

  29. Jeff says:

    MJ’s new theme music, to be played on his blog and whenever/wherever he speaks:

    “You spin me right round baby right round like a record player right round round round”

  30. Flimgoblin says:

    Now I’ve no idea not having worked there but from reading Paul’s blog post I take it that the “heretic” is more “hmm, they didn’t put in so I’m going to come in and fume in the corner instead of working”. There’s disagreeing with design/whatever and then there’s being able to put it behind you. “OK, we’re doing X instead of Y, bleh, whatever, right what about A?”. That’s what I’m read but I always give people the benefit of the doubt 😉 maybe he actually meant “You shall all follow what I say is the right design or YOU SHALL BURN!!!!”…

    Terrible choice of words though. As us still discussing it now aptly proves…

  31. Flimgoblin says:

    @EpicSquirt To say they didn’t listen to criticism in beta’s a bit unfair – they put in keeps et al thanks to beta feedback.

    And the scenario xping problem didn’t manifest till release. People didn’t play them in beta, they were too busy killing each other in the ORvR zones. Templates which get you to the level for the tier, no real motivation to level up because it’s beta and you’ll get your char nuked. If anything that tells me you’ll never get a proper live test of your game from a beta… In hindsight the problems with scenarios vs ORvR are obvious but that’s hindsight for you 😉

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying Mythic are flawless but I believe them when they say they’re trying to make a good/better game…
    (even if they managed to totally ruin scenarios for me in 1.2… roll on an AoE heal/damage nerf… *grumble*)

  32. DoubleD says:

    Usually you steal the Heritics’s ideas before you burn them lol

  33. Iconic says:

    “@EpicSquirt To say they didn’t listen to criticism in beta’s a bit unfair – they put in keeps et al thanks to beta feedback.”
    Yea, I think they definitely were listening for feedback and responding. I think it just took them far too long to actually steer the ship where it needed to go (and they still haven’t got it there).

  34. Jeff says:

    Iconic :
    “@EpicSquirt To say they didn’t listen to criticism in beta’s a bit unfair – they put in keeps et al thanks to beta feedback.”
    Yea, I think they definitely were listening for feedback and responding. I think it just took them far too long to actually steer the ship where it needed to go (and they still haven’t got it there).

    All of this is true.

    The great wrong they committed was shifting from a stance of “we’ll release when it is ready” that Spinmaster Jacobs promised to “get this mofo out the door.”

    Clearly the shift came around the time when they cut cities and careers, or at least that was the first visible clue of the shift. I’d rather Warhammer still be in beta right now, it would have been a better game for it.

  35. Flimgoblin says:

    I think they’d still have had some major problems even if they’d kept it in beta another 6 months (the scenarios one for instance, the ‘wall’ of tier 3 levelling at release for another – both fixed now but would you see them in a beta?).

    More things would have been polished/working but I’m not convinced they’d have made the game that much different without the live environment to get feedback from.

    Also, I imagine that if Warhammer were still in beta now they’d have been made to shed a few more staff than they just did…

  36. The Claw says:

    To be fair, I really don’t think keeping it in beta any longer was an option open to them, financially.

    Also, my beta experience was that with every push, the game got worse – I don’t think there was a single one after which I didn’t see more new bugs added than old ones fixed.

  37. Tinkertrap says:

    To be fair to Mythic, the players have been clamoring for server merges for months now.

    I’m still playing, and having a ball, but only because I *make* my fun in-game…

    You know, lurking in the treeline, waiting for someone to run by thinking that they’re in the clear, then knocking them off their horse and farming their RP’s…

    If I had to get in on the keep-swapping horses*it with the mouth-breathing, nose-picking, basement-dwelling crowd (Credit: Missy!) I’d probably go back to my Atari 400…

    No, really though… They’ve made a ton of improvements to the game and it’s (finally!) starting to feel more like DAoC2 than GW’s bastardized version of WoW.

  38. EpicSquirt says:

    GW is a better designed and implemented game than Warhammer will ever be.

    Just leave it alone.

  39. Tinkertrap says:

    EpicSquirt :GW is a better designed and implemented game than Warhammer will ever be.
    Just leave it alone.

    Are we talking about the same GW? Just curious, but I’m not aware of a game with the initials “GW” anywhere in the same sphere as Warhammer.

    Or are you saying that GW made a better ‘designed and implemented’ game than Mythic did?

    To be fair, there’s just a *bit* of difference in implementing a TT vs. a PC-based game, if that’s where you’re going with it…

    Don’t construe this as a flame, of course, I’m just curious as to what you’re referring. 🙂

  40. IainC says:

    @Tinkertrap
    He means Guild Wars

  41. EpicSquirt says:

    I was referring to Guild Wars, but you were not. Sorry, my fault. Your post makes perfect sense to me now.

    From what I know some of the GW IP fans are waiting for Bloodbowl, in my opinion Mythic should have went for DAoC 2 straight away too instead of a “GW’s bastardized version of WoW”, but I doubt they would have had or have the ability to draw the right conclusions about the strengths and the weaknesses of DAoC, since they repeated so many mistakes of DAoC in Warhammer.

  42. Tinkertrap says:

    @EpicSquirt

    Ahhhhhh… *THAT* GW…

    I can’t even speak intelligently about that one as I never made it past the beta phase.

    Yeah, Mythic needed to have stayed closer to what they know (or at least have experience with…) in WAR than they did. Part of me wonders how much influence Games Workshop(!) had in all this inasmuch as the design hoopla is concerned. The other part wonders how much of the “I-win-filtrator” mentality made it from DAoC to WAR…

  43. Mike Swinton says:

    Speaking about having less game servers is really not important. You do not have to be a math wiz to figure out that less servers = less players. There are not even many people playing on Dark Crag which is the or one of the most populated ORvR(pvp) servers. So you can speak about how players asked for this but seriously: that is not the reason why it was done. There was nobody to play with on many servers. You can not have PvP that is open and up to who is around if there are not enough players populating the 4 tiers they have.

    The game is really not working properly. And for those of you who like to blindly look at the world through rose tinted glasses – look at the forums by the gamers.

    Furthermore the statement that subscriptions are up in NA can mean that any number from 1 – X joined up.

    I will not waste your time with a long list of how this game is not going anywhere save to say that when a patch is released and it is supposed to improve things and actually makes it worse(see Warhammer Forum on patch 1.2 bugs) well …

    If you are not playing currently, never hit Tier 4 or were not ever or currently a part of the community trying to get it (the game) to work out, your comments are worthless. I had high hopes for this game – it is on it’s way to nowhere just like AoC. Again see what is happening? Free items and free time if you RE-join? Hey why not sell gold too and power levelling options.

    And btw EpicSquirt – Guild Wars is nothing like WoW. I will not say which one I like. I will say that I played both. Guild Wars (3 years of playing here) is in now way like WoW. Why do you comment on things you have no clue about? LMAO Play them both, all 4 part of GW and all 3 parts of WoW. Then compare. Again, I will not waste my time with a list – go try that and you will see how wrong you are.

  44. Mike Swinton says:

    @Mike Swinton

    Correction
    NOT = is in now way like WoW

    I mean “no way”

    M.Swinton

  45. Mike Swinton says:

    @Jeff
    Jeff man, I so wish this was the case and agree totally. I wanted Warhammer to work out!!!!

    You say it all when you write:

    “I’d rather Warhammer still be in beta right now, it would have been a better game for it.”

    Why? Because the players are paying to beta as we speak. This game could have been amazing. It was lots of fun up until T3, a bit empty but hey it is a young game. But now it is and was riddled with issues. To be fair I will check it out after patch 1.3 to see whats up, sadly though when you dont get it right in the first 3-4 months… people won’t go back. And other things are on the way for 2009.

  46. Mike Swinton says:

    Jeff :
    @ Flimgoblin
    And for the record, I bought a new rig to play Warhammer. The game still crashed like it was 1999, but it looked pretty. In the end it was too unfinished, too buggy, and too unbalanced to earn my 15 dollars a month.

    Yep even with 4gb DDR2 double sided Ram, Nvidia GTS OC 640mb, dual core 6700, and a gigabyt board all built to overclock, and ultra high speed …

    To play Warhammer you have to turn framerates to fastest and all graphics to lowest to even play in a Keep Battle.

    AND THERE IS STILL LAG … lol.

  47. isildur says:

    Mark Jacobs, 8/29/08, MTV.com:

    “The corollary to that is if you’ve seen a game consolidate servers, you know it’s in deep, deep trouble — that’s not a healthy sign for an MMO,” he said, citing Sony’s January-released “Pirates of the Burning Sea” as a recent example. “It will be the same for ‘Warhammer.’ Look at us six months out. Look at us six weeks out. If we’re not adding servers, we’re not doing well.”

    http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/2008/08/29/ea-mythic-activision-world-of-warcraft-estimate-is-overblown/

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