WAR Graphics: A look back into the early beta

I wrote this post last winter, when I had first started playing the WAR beta. I’m going to post it to illustrate a point. Much of what I wrote has changed; the graphics were upgraded many times between when I wrote this and now. What I want to show, though, is how much my initial perceptions have changed, and how little we should rely on people who heard last winter how poorly WAR might compare with WoW, or other current-gen MMO’s. Unless you’re reading something that has “Edit” before it, this was WAR six months ago. I’ll explain what has changed in the “Edit” additions, and put my edits all in italics. Please don’t link to the normal text and use it as evidence that WAR somehow sucks…lots has changed, and for the better. Posting the old draft starts in 3…2…1…now!

Maybe it’s just due to spending so much time in WoW, but I much prefer WoW graphics. I was surprised that WAR isn’t more visually striking. Perhaps this is designed to facilitate War and to perhaps solve some of the problems experienced in DAoC when hundreds of people might be fighting each other at a keep or a mile gate. I want to keep in mind the goals of WAR, and to view their graphical design decisions in consideration of those goals. I suspect they’re not able to use incredibly detailed graphics in light of the expected number of characters on screen at once.

Edit: Major upgrades to the graphics engine since I wrote that. I’m not a developer, so I can’t tell you specific technical details that were improved, but I know they added better textures, lighting, shadows, and details since then. The game is still designed to run smoothly in huge RvR battles, with 100+ players crashing together, with spell effects and animations going crazy around you, so no, it doesn’t look as good as, say, LoTRO or Age of Conan at high resolutions. It does, however, play really well. Back to the draft from last winter…

My initial testing this weekend is being done on a Macbook Pro (running Windows XP under Boot Camp), and unfortunately, it’s crashing like crazy. I’m not going to blame Warhammer for that; I’ve had crashing issues with XP and Boot Camp in other games as well. Eve Online runs very well under Boot Camp, but WoW crashes fairly frequently. I suspect that I’ve got an out-of-date driver somewhere, but updating drivers in Windows in a Boot Camp partition is a little weird.

Edit: I haven’t gone back to playing WAR on my Macbook Pro. I’m going to try to download the beta client to test it out, and I hope it’s stable now. So much else has changed, I can’t say for sure that there are any leftover Bootcamp issues. I’ll report how it goes after I torrent the huge client later tonight ๐Ÿ™‚ Back to last winter’s draft again…

When Warhammer does run without crashing, it definitely grabs my attention. Visually, it’s not as appealing as WoW, but I always give graphics a backseat to gameplay. I’ve had so many arguments with people who LOVE the graphics in Game X (and I can’t stand them), or I’ll rave about the graphics in Game Y only to hear how much someone else hates them.

My biggest complaint with the graphics is the characters. Their faces are fairly uninspiring. That may be because it’s beta and we’re not seeing the finished product (there are only two male characters available on the Chaos side at the moment, with two face options each). Characters also seem smaller in the environment than they do in WoW, which can be unsettling when you’re used to one game perspective.

The details on the face may be a deliberate design decision. In Dark Age of Camelot, when you had a couple hundred people on screen at once, the servers had to load all the character and equipment details. In a game where you’re expecting massive battles again, you’ve got to consider the level of complexity in your models.

The art style is reminiscent of Camelot, moreso than WoW. Running into the first newbie dungeon, just a tomb in a graveyard right outside the starting area, I was instantly reminded of the Darkness Falls dungeon from Camelot, and the little dungeons around Tir Na Nog in the Hibernian realm.

Edit: Can you see how someone who played the beta last summer, or last winter, and hasn’t played since, might still have a negative impression? Or if you’re taking the word of someone who talked about the beta on forums back then? That’s the point I’m trying to make here. If you heard bad things a while back, give it another try in the open beta, or at least listen to people who are playing the current version of the client.

Ok, I’m done with the italics, and done with my old impressions. Hopefully I’ve made my point ๐Ÿ™‚ I was kind of disappointed back then, even though the gameplay was pretty solid (beyond the Bootcamp problems). I’ve definitely changed my tune since then. I think Mythic was really smart to concentrate on gameplay for so long, and to leave the polishing for when they felt like the gameplay was pretty complete. I feel like Funcom went the opposite direction; they made a pretty client, and then tried to jam the gameplay into that high-resolution model, and the result was pretty poor.

Let’s see what happens with the WAR client when we hit open beta, and when launch day comes ๐Ÿ™‚ I suspect they’ll have load balancing issues to straighten out. Pretty much every MMO does. The gameplay, though, seems solid.


8 Responses

  1. A fair number of people out there fail to realize that when a game is in beta… it is in beta. Maybe they’ve had bad beta experiences in the past where the major issues of months ago were still present at release, but Mythic makes some INSANE improvements on a weekly basis.

    Hated the old UI? We’ve gone through three UI versions in two months. Hated the graphics? They’ve been steadily ramping them up over the last two months (as they were optimized). Hated how your favorite class played? Each phase of beta has brough on 25-pages of patch notes.


  3. Hmm, I might have some screenshots of the area you’re talking about, circa last February or so. Sounds similar anyway…I was playing a Witchhunter and had to go into a crypt and rid the place of evil spirits.

    I’ll look when I get home. Hmm, I’m not sure the lifting of the NDA covers releasing old screenies though. I’d better check on that.

  4. If you think wows graphics are good, you are very much under the “spell” of it.. its ugly and simple-looking :/

  5. My husband played on a Macbook Pro throughout the closed beta. It was fine and didn’t have any more crashes than I did on my PC!

  6. L2PostMoreNoob!

  7. @ Juhani – My daughter wanted to play some WoW last week, so I re-subbed to let her play in the Auction houses and try on new dresses. I was thinking that it looked worse than I remembered, so maybe you’re right ๐Ÿ™‚

    @ Syncaine – Work is kicking my ass! And I’m ready for the game to launch now, I’m a little tired of playing characters I’m not going to get to keep.

  8. Just because you don’t play does not mean you don’t post. WTF am I supposed to do all day at work if I can’t read blogs?

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