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First Impressions of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning – Part 1

by: J. F. Amprimoz ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

WAR launches September 18th, but the Head Start program for those who pre-ordered has been up for a few days. Finally, we can stop talking about potential, and start talking about if the game is a success.

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    Many have spent months, and some have spent years, waiting to get boots on the ground. The Head Start began last Sunday, and the rubber (shoe leather) met the road (dirt path).

    Those players were expecting a lot, and the collective ignorance was that Mythic would try to have the game out before Christmas. When September 18 was announced as a release date, resulting in the shortest Open Beta I can remember for an MMO of its stature, people were worried.

    Careers that were to be available to players had been cut from the game only weeks earlier, and suspicions of what Electronic Arts might be doing to their Mythic acquisition were coming to the fore. How did Mythic cope?

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    That’s One Way to Run Your Server Launch

    Mythic raised eyebrows even further (by now most players’ couldn’t wear hats, and winter was coming) when they announced they would begin the Head Start with a very low number of servers, and add more as time went on. This was obviously worrying to large guilds that had members who would be arriving in game four days apart and didn’t want a server to fill before all members could join.

    Mythic was worried that having too many servers would spread the Head Starters too thinly, that this would affect game-play, and that reviews and forum comments based on the Head Start period would be very negative. They also explained that the servers would be capped artificially low at first and ramp up to almost full capacity at launch. There was some back and forth and the initial number of servers was raised to 15.

    Servers come in different Rulesets: Core is standard; Role-Play and PvP servers are also available for those who prefer those play styles. Interestingly, there are PvP-RP servers for players that want to stay in character while they gank n00bs in starting areas. This resulted in even more concern amongst players (myself included) who were concerned that too many servers were allocated to needs other than theirs.

    The system appears to have worked, at least during the Head Start period. Queues were very infrequent and very short, and the starting areas were well populated. It is important to note that Destruction and Order (check out this article if you need some grounding with the game’s concepts) players are capped separately to maintain some balance of numbers. This means that if the server is completely full with players from both sides in queue, there would be an equal number of players from each Realm. For now, Order seems a little outnumbered, but at least the system prevents an imbalance from being locked in place.

    (Note that as of launch on the 18, queues grew on some servers, and Mythic has begun “cloning” servers: more on that in the next article.)

    All of this is academic if the servers aren’t actually running well, and talking about full servers is definitely getting ahead of ourselves if the game isn’t that good. As mentioned above, Mythic didn’t leave themselves a lot of time in a lot of people’s opinion, so how did they do?

    The rest of the series will answer that. The next article covers Technical Issues from the server and client side.