In at the beginning

I went to see The Dark Knight last Friday, which was the day it opened here. I’m not going to review it here although it was an awesome film (if you like that sort of thing) and I expect to see Oscars heading that way next year.

Going to see a big film on its opening night is a very different prospect to going at the end of the run or watching it on DVD later. The film itself is the same, but the atmosphere of being in a packed cinema full of excited people, many of whom are in costume? That kind of event only happens on the first weekend.

A MMO is different of course because players interact with each other. Instead of just sitting quietly (or not quietly if you’re the guy who was 2 rows in front of me, but I’m not bitter) enjoying the film together, there’s a more active element involved. But a MMO feels very very different to play when it’s new than when it’s a couple of years old, even though the basic gameplay may be the same. The basic gameplay will even likely be better later on due to improvements and bug fixes.

Despite this, I’m really hooked on trying MMOs when they come out because the playerbase seems friendlier. I always assumed it was because people hadn’t settled yet into their cliques and were more motivated to meet people, if only to figure out who they wanted to hang out with in the endgame. Later on, the experienced players get more hardcore. They’ve finished their learning curve and aren’t finding it fun any more to do things inefficiently . But somehow for me, the really /fun/ part of the games is in the first 6 months. While we’re all learning together.

After that, it settles into a hobby. And while it’s also fun to know that you’re really good at playing the class/game and hone that as much as possible, somehow the sheer childlike play quality fades away.

What is it that appeals to you about being in right at the start, bugs and all?

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Introducing.. the Shadow Warrior

Hiding, she watches all! (or is that just posing for the camera? Elves!!!)

Guest post from Comic-Con

A friend of mine’s over at Comic-Con at the moment, and of course, I asked him to look into the Warhammer Online stuff for us (hopefully not too traumatic as he does like MMORPGs!!). This is his first report from the show, and I thought I’d quote it verbatim for you.

Warhammer First Impressions… by a n00b

On behalf of my long time friend arbitrary, I’m proud to report to you live from the show floor of the 2008 Comic-Con International in San Diego, California. On the first day of the con, I went to the Warhammer booth to get my first tastes of WAR. Keep in mind that I knew nothing about Warhammer, neither its lore nor the game. I’m familiar with some MMORPGs, mostly WoW, so I mostly focused on why I would like WAR over the competition. During a quiet lull in the booth, I managed to get a few minutes of one of the reps’ time and barraged him with questions. Also, I’m not equipped with a tape recorder or proper “interview” gear, so please forgive my paraphrasing.

Having been raised on WoW, my first impression was “this looks gorgeous”. I know not everyone uses the crappy animation that WoW has, but this looked very detailed and very smooth. No doubt they had optimized hardware, but even still it looked very good. But looks does not a game make, so I started talking to one of the reps:

My number one complaint with WoW is that endgame is a pissing contest about who has more time to play. What’s endgame like in WAR?
 
You still need to gear up to enjoy endgame, but it won’t be as bad as having to run the same instance 100 times.  There will be 6-man and 24-man instances with a good LFG system that filters for roles.  There will also be public quests.  You also get leveling experience for PvP, so if your play style isn’t about questing, you’ll still find it easy to progress. The best gear will come from a balance of questing, raiding, and PvP.

What are public quests?

There will be numerous public quests that allow you to participate at your schedule. These are quests that go on perpetually in a zone. Anyone can join in and leave. When the quest completes and the loot drops, everyone who participated are notified and are given the chance to roll.

Do the public quests restart? i.e. if I don’t get in on a public quest, can I eventually try it some other time?

The public quests put the zones into different states, which trigger different public quests. It’s possible these will be cycled, but more likely it depends on how people are playing the game. For example, suppose one side is moving to attack the other side’s city. Zone after zone, the attacking side takes over… these are effectively public quests in each of these zones. This effects the people in those zones too. Suppose you’re in the city that gets taken over. You get the option to join the rebellion or get booted out of the city.

I plan on attending the Warhammer session with Paul Barnett and trying to get an interview. I’ll keep you folks posted.

WAR heads to Spain

GOA will be taking Warhammer Online over to Valencia next week for Campus Party and invite anyone interested to come say hi a their stand. A good opportunity for any Spanish fans to get to see the game and talk to the company who’ll be running it in Europe.

Games Day (UK) I-Spy

I-Spy books were around a lot when we were growing up. Basically they were spotter’s guides that included points for everything you saw, in a little book you could helpfully write on (always fun as a child).

Anyway, in my excitement and nervousness about actually going to Games Day I decided to sit down and create for everyone a little I-Spy sheet to supplement other Games Day activities. Feel free to amend it for US events (you could even use it for Comic-con over the next couple of days). And I’m happy to take suggestions of things I may have missed!

Games Day I-Spy (Google Doc)

ps. the chocolate entry exists to make sure I personally get some points 🙂

Paul blogs Comic-Con

After Josh Drescher provided exclusive blogs for Ten Ton Hammer from E3, now Paul Barnett steps up to the TTH blogging keyboard to bring news from San Diego Comic-con. You can read his first post here.

RP server popularity in Warhammer

Roleplaying servers are typically a minority interest in MMOs. It’s funny when you think about it, because the devs spend all this time designing and writing the background to the games, everyone whines like crazy when lore is broken, but the majority of players aren’t all that interested in playing in that sandpit. They’d kill plain white cubes if they got xp out of it.

Part of this is the reputation that roleplayers have among more hardcore gamers, as people who are just bad players. We all have heard about the guy who rolls on random gear because it looks cool, ‘for RP.’ We’ve all heard about the people who cyber (RP sex) in public places. Part of it is the impression that everyone will be forced to talk in mock Elizabethan English and drummed off the server if they don’t. None of these are really typical and most players on RP servers don’t like them either. But the reputation is there.

But mostly it’s because people don’t care all that much about being part of the lore. They might enjoy some of the stories (if they read the quest text) but they want to be able to call their characters ikillu and healerxxx. They want to talk about TV and sport on public channels. They want to play, and for them that means interacting with the game in a different way than roleplayers do.

The distinctions get confused because a lot of players like to express themselves through their characters. That means picking gear because it looks cool or interesting, collecting mini-pets, getting funny titles, and that kind of fluff. It’s a similar mindset to people who need glittery MySpace pages and although devs cater to it, I’m not really sure that they understand it. You don’t have to be a RPer to do that, nor do you need to be on a roleplaying server.

But reading the various bulletin boards and skimming guild sites, I’m surprised by the number of people who do say that they are interested in roleplaying servers. I wonder now if Warhammer might see an upsurge in interest in RP, just because of the sheer number of people who played and loved the tabletop game and really do care about the lore. You do expect the beta crowd to be more into the game and its background than ‘regular’ players but I wonder if the appeal of the setting and roleplaying in it will outweigh any existing prejudices against RP servers. I guess we’ll see.