Now that the NDA is lifted, I thought I could share some of my experiences with Warhammer Online, which I have played into the Closed Beta.
First and foremost, I'd like to do it in the eye of an FFXI player. Second, I just want to share my experiences with this game. I love FFXI and in no way I want to criticize this game.
I think it might interest a few of you. If really this thread should be posted elsewhere, please move it, but read the thread first. I really want to do it with FFXI in mind.
But first, my background as an MMO player. FFXI is my only real experience of MMORPG (except a one week trial of City of Villains), and I started... wow... 3 years ago. I do not do endgame (the "closest" I do is Assault), but I have a well developped character and an awesome social linkshell. And I still have fun with this game.
Character creation : well, you chose a race, then from that race, you chose a job. And that's it, you'll be that job forever, which is a major difference from our game. (But you can create lots of characters). Then you have a little more character customization choices, like face types, ear types (for goblins), eye color, etc.
Into the game : I played two races as of now. Goblin Squig herder lvl 9 and Elf Swordmaster lvl 11. The first thing you feel in the game, is the atmosphere. While you begin your life in FFXI in a peaceful kingdom, full of helpful npcs, in WAR, well there's war everywhere. And I really mean everywhere. As a goblin, everywhere I meant, there was always some "stunties" to bash around (dwarfs for you normal-speaking people), and as an elf, plenty of dark elves. Many monsters are aggressive also, and there's also plenty of them. But I found that avoiding monsters was really easier than in FFXI. There's simply so much more room. And their aggro range is very, very small.
After that, you realize what you have to do quite fast. Quest NPC are clearly identified (which is different from FFXI). You go see them, they give you a quest, and, directly on your map, you can see where to go to actually resolve that quest (be it monsters to kill, treasures to find, npc talking or area scouting). I loved that.
And quests gives you xp. As is killing monsters. As is discovering new areas. As is unlocking new lore. As is... well, you gain xp for everything. And I really mean everything. I gained an xp reward for dropping 10 items out of my inventory (and a new tome unlock and title).
As you can probably guess, xp is easier to get, so grouping for xp is... well... unnecessary. I found this quite settling. My goblin (first character) went to level 6 without speaking to anyone. BUT...
If you actually want to group... it is very easy. Whenever you enter a new area (and everytime you check on your menu), you can check for "open parties". You see one, you join it. Simple as that. But why would you group? I found that grouping was very useful for RvR (more on that later) and Public Quest. Public Quest, are, in my mind, one of the most amazing thing in this game. There are several areas on each maps where it's a Public quest area. Think of it maybe as a campaign battle area. You have clear objectives once you enter those zones. An example : Stage 1 - Kill 100 dwarves (cumulative for everyone). Stage 2 - Go get beer barrels to the big Giant (yep, I did it). Stage 3 - Kill the big boss and his underlings.
Grouping helps, because every kills or accomplishments done by your party gives you some xp and renown, so it's better than being alone. Also, when a PQ ends, you are ranked for renown (and xp reward) and randomly ranked for loot (I think accomplishment may have positive effects on this random thing, but I'm not sure). The loot you get always contain something useful for you own job.
RvR (or PvP). Of course, this is probably the biggest difference with FFXI. At first, I was afraid that everywhere I'll go, there would be dumb players ready to kill me at every chances, but it's not the case. There are two types of RvR I noticed (maybe more, only lvl 11, remember). First are scenarios. Once you discover them, you can always join them (when they happen) and you are teleported there when they begin. In those scenarios, every players have their level adjusted to be equals (but you keep every abilities you know). There, you have goals, which of course are the opposite of your ennemies.
I played some Ballista, and was not very very good at it... and I think I may sucked even more in RvR. But it was fun. Dying ain't very bad, you spawn near your starting point... and everyone dies often anyway. But I think that I may have encountered many players coming from more PvP-centered game with more experience than myself, it showed on their strategies and abilities to play. Anyway, another benefit of grouping shine in RvR, of course, since you have access to party buffs and more protection.
The game interface is well done... but I must say, the chat window (even if it can be adjusted), is still bugging me, from my FFXI player point of view. It is SO SMALL. I miss alot of things going in there. I much prefer the FFXI one. Otherwise, you can customize everything in the menu, which is nice.
Finally... sorry it's long... although there is a lot of story in WAR... it's really not story-centric like FF. NPC really feel less "involved". They speak to you in a bubble, tell a little of their story, and off you go to complete a quest. You can have more of the background story in the Tome of Knowledge, but you are not involved at all in it. Do not play this game and expect to be as involved as in FF. I have seen no CutScenes. No interactions between NPC (except those that are fighting... and they are everywhere, like I said). From an FFXI point of view, it's one of the reason I'll still play FF. Storywise, FF (even if you do not count expansions) is richer.
So that's it. If you read it through, you can see the differences between the games. I think I'll enjoy both of them (nope, I'm not quitting FFXI). If you join WAR, have fun, because it is, and have a good WAAAGH! If not, keep enjoying FFXI, it's a wonderful game.