Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning officially launched yesterday. The collector’s edition people have been in since Sunday and the cheap bastard mere-pre-order folks like me since Tuesday, but still, live official release in a new virtual world is still an event.
Since pre-orders were sold out at Humongous (aka Fry’s) near me, I ended up going to the dreaded Worst Buy. Worst Buy only had a couple pre-orders stocked back by the carbon paper and cuneiform scribes, so I anticipated the worst when full release came around and I would have to go back to get the retail box. Kudos to them, they actually had 88 on hand (85 after I left) though I had to ask the clerk where they were. Rather than the corner next to the 8-Track tapes, they had actually move a whopping 5 of them up to a front end cap.
Success. I had a copy on release day. Not that it mattered much as EA Mythic had learned from other war stories (no pun intended) about getting boxes out to people on release day and providing a reasonable grace period for rolling start pre-order customers. Still, I wanted to be done with the entering of account codes and not worry about turning into a pumpkin if a retailer screwed up.
Account page visited, retail code entered, subscription plan adopted and that was it. Utterly painless. Unlike most of my SOE experiences, a) it was done in less than two minutes and b) I felt reasonably sure that I had actually done what I intended to do.
I logged in about 7 pm pacific, deep in the heart of U.S. prime time to see what there was to see. On the Order side, I had an initial log in queue of about 28 people with an estimated time of about 2 minutes. And, about 2 minutes later I was in.
Surprisingly, on Averheim at least, the noob zone was not wall to wall though there were plenty of people around. I wandered around just to see if performance was wanting and was delightfully surprised to find very little lag even in crowded areas and I had no crashes.
Being Thursday, the West Coast members of our little WoW group converged with no particular agenda at the appointed hour to see what there was to see and do what there was to do. Without any particular plan, we ended up spread across a few levels (3-6 at the start) and in three different starting areas (2 in the Elf zone, 1 Dwarf and 1 Empire).
We skyped up and decided since we were in far flung areas (and being noobs) we should just queue the party for the Khaine’s Embrace RvR Scenario and play there rather than burn travel time to find each other. A nice feature of WAR since you can join the scenarios from anywhere.
After a few minutes since Khaine’s Embrace was not popping for us, one of our other group members who was in an Empire Zone queued us for Nordenwatch. Another nice feature– any party member can queue the group for any scenario they have available. Since at that time 3 out of 4 of us were in Elf-land, having someone in Empire let us simultaneously queue for two scenarios. Had we known we could do this, we would have had our dwarf brother queue for the Gates of Ekrund before he left Dwarf-land as well.
Despite the ease of getting peeps from across the far flung world in multiple queues for RvR scenarios, something must have been up as absolutely ZERO scenarios popped in the 2+ hours we were in queue. Had we been level 20 on release day, I might have said, ok, we’re too far ahead of the population curve. But we were all between 3-6 starting the evening. Every retail Day One noob should have been queuing for the noob scenarios and doubly so for the Destruction side so Order should have been popping like popcorn.
Alas, no. So I hope it was merely a launch day bug with the scenarios.
Still, in our “free time” we collected quests and migrated our way to the Chapter 2 public quests in the Blighted Isle. Two of our group managed to find the flight paths in their home zones and make their way to the two of us starting out in the Elf lands.
A brief moment here to comment on yet another barrier to grouping that doesn’t exist– in a WoW world, while the humans, dwarves and gnomes could find each other fairly easily via the tram between Stormwind and Ironforge, the poor Elves would have to suffer the trials of the damned to brave the journey across the Wetlands and through Dun Morogh to get to IF. Simply not so here. While something of the sense of immensity of the world might be sacrificed, the trade off in terms of mutual play time is worth it to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I remember every exhilarating lowbie trip across the Wetlands, but I also remember countless hours of wasted travel time that everyone spent in an effort to converge for a nights adventures. Various group travel paradigms have mitigated this in WoW somewhat, but WAR does this out of the gate in a way that is not trivial while also not so significant a hurdle as to dissuade one from the undertaking.
When united, our little group spend a good deal of time biding our time with several nearby PQs. The one thing that bugs me is that I haven’t figured out if there is an easy way to determine if other party members are on a quest. If there is and I missed it, then I’m an idiot (and it wouldn’t be the first time), so tell me. Otherwise, I’m a bit disappointed that while WAR has done so much to facillitate group collaboration, it still requires an inventory check of quests with fellow party members though a combination of “do you have quest X” and share quest X, a already has quest x, b is not eligible, c has completed quest x, etc.
I still thing EQ2 has the best solution for this I’ve seen with its “shared” quests display when in a group. Mythic, please fix this soon.
Other than those minor quibbles, and the potentially major one about scenarios not popping, launch day was extremely smooth, stable and incident free. For me at least, it was utterly devoid of drama and showed no particular stress. Good job Mythic. From my perspective this should be a launch to be remembered for how it should be done. I think it was smoother than the LotRO launch and probably had more folks trying to pile in. While I saw Destruction side queues of up to 380 on the server screen, nothing in game indicated that full servers were struggling to keep up.
I assume that this weekend will be the real test as everyone everywhere will be trying to get in game, but for now, a wholly succesful launch from my perspective.