Every show has surprises. A surprise for me at PAX 2008 were two MMOs that I didn't even knew existed before arriving at the show and seeing their booths and games on display. Yes, even an MMO buff such as myself cannot know of each and every MMO in today's marketplace. Sad, but true. Alright, I'll give everyone a hint... one of the MMOs has the letter 'a' and 'n' in it. And no, I am most certainly not referencing W a rh a mmer O n li n e.
My appointment was for 3:30pm, but I arrived about a half hour earlier to see if I could grab a spot on one of the demo computers while waiting. I stood in a strategic spot watching two of the demo stations at the same time. One had a smaller kid attempting to play the game, but failing miserably because he seemed like he was more interested in how the controller was designed than the actual gameplay. The other station had two older teenagers yelling at each other over where to go in the game. After a while, I was about to politely ask the smaller kid to check out another booth, when the two teenagers suddenly stopped yelling and walked away. I heard the trailing one say, and I quote, "It's just World of Warcraft, what is your problem?"
"It's just World of Warcraft"... what?! For starters, World of Warcraft borrowed elements from the Warhammer universe. So to set things straight once and for all, and to be nice to each game's sources, they simply compliment each other. By the time the drama at the two stations had dissipated, it was 3:40pm. I was introduced to Carrie and a few other team members. They took me through lush forests, rolling plains, and creepy underground chambers, many of which I had not yet seen in the public beta version of the game. This is not to say they weren't in there, but from what I can tell the graphics of WAR, on the whole, are leaps and bounds beyond WOW (in realism), and I would also say beyond their previous efforts in Dark Age of Camelot.
Carrie was extremely helpful in showing me the more mechanical components of the game. If anyone is coming from World of Warcraft, you will be glad to know that WAR will support a lot of user generated content, specifically centered around the user interface. This is all based on a Lua/XML API, much like WOW. Another thing I love about WAR, and that was shown in the demo on several occasions, are the public quests. Sharing each others' accomplishments and working together on a common goal is what excites me about MMOs. Public quests allow you to do this on a level that gives you some control over whether you want to meet those you're helping, or remain in your own area away from everyone else.
One of the things I still wasn't clear about is what the developers did with the other four capital cities during their recent content cut announcement. Carrie showed me that instead of removing the cities entirely from the game, they have been shifted as an object of commerce to an object of realm vs. realm, scenario based combat. The developers were actually more excited about the results of the change than the way it was previously established. There is still complete RvR combat for each of the army pairs. The capital cities are a focus of capture, with the fighting being taken right into the cities themselves.
Warhammer Online has been through four E3's, starting in 2005, has had booths setup at the past few Gen Cons, GDCs, and of course at PAX. Being able to collectively view all of this, I can see how everything has matured with the game since the very beginning, including the confidence in the developers who presented it to me. Everything is in place, the pieces of the puzzle are glued together, and now we have a picture that speaks not a thousand words, but just one. Waaagh!