The Parody Returns

Orlock over at Warhammer Geek has got his writing pen out and created another fun-filled Warhammer parody song, along with Jethal Silverwing’s dulcet tones. This time it’s the High Elves and Crazy Elf Swordsmaster. Head on over and check it out, and if you haven’t heard the rest of the parody songs, make sure you listen to those too!

Bringing in new classes

The three games we play have something big in common at the moment, they’re all introducing new classes to the game – so we thought we’d do a very brief look at how the introductions differ:

Knights of the Blazing Sun and Black Guards in WAR

Two of the ‘missing’ classes being introduced to the game sometime before the end of the year (pending date changes, of course). As everyone reading this will know, they’re both tank classes – the Knight is mirror to the Chosen and will use auras and twisting, the Black Guard mirrors the Ironbreaker but uses hate instead of grudges as a mechanic. They’re iconic classes and have been much missed, so there’s bound to be plenty of them.

Now, WAR might be the first MMO to introduce new classes so early on in the cycle, mainly because they were obviously close to being ready when cut out from release. This means that there won’t be any new starting areas, gear was already designed, and it’s still in the stages where people are testing out alts anyway. WAR has also chosen to herald the entrance of the new classes with a fairly interesting live event, which is going on in all zones at the moment. Hopefully it’s going well – some will do it for the fun, some for the chance to get a week headstart with the new classes – again, something that I believe is pretty new in the genre, but will probably be copied!

Rune Keepers and Wardens in LotRO

Came in with the Mines of Moria expansion. They can be various races (covering all of the races in-game, but each new class skips one race), but the starting areas remain the same. Turbine have added gear for the classes to each stage of the game, including raidsets etc.

Interestingly, both new classes are supposedly decent soloers, and together they form the tank-healer combo, with some good dps between them. A good design decision for the overwhelming number of the new classes that started in the game this week.

Death Knights in WoW

Came in as part of the new expansion, although none of the pre-expansion events specifically featured Death Knights. They’re well known as part of the lore, have featured previously as raid bosses in pre-Burning Crusade WoW and anyone who played Warcraft III will be familiar with them. This class also starts at level 55 so skips the bulk of the levelling process.

They have a full Death Knight specific questline when you create a new character of that type, in a semi-instanced setting that reminds me a lot of the LOTRO introductory quests. The questline is solid and fun, and features lots of WoW-trademark style quests with the customary pizzazz and sparkle. There’s an associated storyline to do with redemption from evil and choosing to fight against their previous overlord. It’s well written and  culminates in a fairly epic battle scene. They also get a full set of good quality gear and a fast mount thrown in for free, which you are awarded as part of the intro questline.

The gear they release you into the outside world with on a Death Knight also looks absolutely fantastic. (Well, until you start replacing it and look like a clown again, but it will last for awhile.)

U-Turns Galore in 1.0.4

So  the Heavy Metal patch (1.0.4) is going live without the healer and ironbreaker nerfs that we’d discussed a few days ago.

Mark Jacobs writes about how they’re thinking now about the career updates for future patches (I am now slightly unclear as to which changes will go in which patch but we’ll see when the patch notes go up) which gives some of the reasoning and accounts for feedback and reports from the test realms. A basic summary is:

1. Ironbreaker Grudge mechanics still being tweaked but there will be a much slower loss of grudge per second. This means that the Ironbreaker doesn’t have to stay constantly in combat to be able to use Grudge.

2. Healer HoT changes (nerfed) are being backed out completely but the buffs to the slow heals are staying in. So that’s a decent buff and not a nerf at all.

3. Sorcerer/ BW DoTs will not be benefitting from the general damage increases.

I’m all for testing and all for not being nerfed so hurrah for that. But I still wish I knew why they’d wanted to nerf healers in the first place — was it a basic balance issue that still needs to be addressed (maybe even moreso because of the planned buffs) or just a mistake?

Game developers in general are very bad at explaining why they make specific fixes, possibly because of the torrent of feedback that might ensure. But as a player, I would like very much to know how developers feel about the state of different classes because I’d like to know if my expectations match up with the designers. (If they don’t, it’s a good sign that you are playing the wrong class.)

[WoW] World of Resource Management

thorium, is there anything it cant do?

thorium, is there anything it can't do?

Perhaps it is due to coming back from a break but I wonder how I’d never seen WoW as the resource management game that it undoubtedly is before. There’s always an element of resource management in MMOs, but WoW takes this to extremes.

Any time they introduce new content, you could summarise it as “collect token X (which you get by doing activity Y) and use it to purchase item/ reputation Z”. I can’t imagine how confusing this must be for new players when half the resources you collect have been made totally redundant. This gives an impression of the game being more complex than it really is. Yes there’s lots of stuff to do and collect while you level, but much of it is completely pointless now (dark iron ore anyone?). The sheer variety of stuff for people to collect in order to get a character well sorted for endgame does add an extra level to planning alts, though. I think it’s fairly standard for people to play their first character the regular way and just do stuff as it comes, but then try to optimise alt levelling so as to minimise the work needed. I characterise ‘the regular way’ as meaning to organically move through the quests and zones as the game naturally indicates. That means that to optimise you have to do some content out of order; for example, ignoring quests when you would normally pick them up and running higher level instances instead.

Optimising resource management adds a lot of replayability to the game. Jury’s out (with me at least) as to how fun it actually is, but it undoubtedly adds an extra layer of challenge to levelling alts. ie. Can I do this better? I do very much prefer the EVE model with its wider range of choices, many of them based on responding to how other players act in the economy, rather than the WoW on-rails experience of dictating exactly what you need to gather and what you can turn it in for.

It is still quite surprising to me that they’ve turned something that isn’t especially fun into a cornerstone for all of their content. It also contributes to the “same old same old” feel that a lot of people get about the new expansion. Meet the new resource management mini-game, same as the old one, but we’ve renamed the tokens and the reputation grind! It’s not only ridiculous, but also exceptionally lazy. Instead of collecting Primal Water, you can instead collect …. (wait for it) …. Eternal Water! Be still my beating heart! Collecting Primal Water was the absolutely high point for me of TBC and I know we’re all counting the minutes until we can do it again…? No?

Anyway, I resubbed, specced my warrior up the Protection Tree and went off to check the Argent Dawn quests for the Necropolises. I can’t get excited about content I already saw a couple of years back but I trotted off to the Burning Steppes to kill some undead like a good ‘un. It’s a zone I know well because I spent a lot of time mining Thorium there in the past.

Thorium paid for my epic ground mount back in the day so I will always have a soft spot for it. Also it’s bright green and glows (and smokes too, for some strange reason) so you can’t really miss it, plus everyone always wants Thorium because you need it to level half the tradeskills and no one bothers farming it. There are many many more optimal ways to farm cash than running around waiting for ore to respawn but since I was there anyway I grabbed a stack. For old times’ sakes.

I’ll tweak the spec a bit, there’s a couple of talents I can ditch in favour of more damage, but Protection Warriors are pretty hot right now. I was also enjoying the novelty of soloing in my tanking gear. I think Blizzard have really nailed the spec. It feels solid and powerful but not overpowered.

What will patch 1.05 mean for you

Right then, here’s the 1.05 patch notes. The big thing to note with these is that they are up on the test server, which means that they’re going to get some testing and possibly some tweaking before they go live. So love them or hate them, the sky has not fallen. If they turn out not to have the effect Mythic wanted on the test servers then there will be changes, these are not set in stone. If you have access to a test realm (ie. not in the EU) and are feeling sparky, go test and give feedback.

Having said that, we can certainly read through the patch notes and get an idea of the sorts of changes they want to make and how they see some of the classes and abilities at the moment.

A few bloggers have already summed up changes for classes they play: Regis discusses 1.05 and Warrior Priests, Syp discusses engineers, A Wall of Text talks over the non-class specific changes.

But because you can never have enough summaries, here’s mine!

Healers

Every healer has had their main HoT spell adjusted to do the same amount of healing as it does now, but spread over 24 seconds. So each tick will be ticking for less. This is a sizable healing nerf because the reason people have been getting such high healing numbers in scenarios is by HoTting up their whole team.

Healers have also had their damage adjusted upwards, which should help for soloing and make levelling much less painful.

I’m in two minds about these changes. Casting HoTs blindly on everyone is pretty dull, I much prefer keeping an eye on what’s going on around me and responding to that. On the other hand, dps is outdistancing healing in Tier 4 by quite a lot at the moment. No one thinks healers have too much survivability. So a patch where several classes get more damage and all healers get less healing could tip the balance even further away from support.

I’m hoping that Mythic plan to move towards more fun healing and away from the constant HoTs so we’ll see how these pan out on the test server. I’m very happy about the increased damage though. That was needed. There are also some bug fixes for various classes but that’s the main gist of the healing changes.

Damage Dealing

DoTs are being made more consistent which looks as though it means that most of them get a damage buff. The damage buff in most cases is to do with the spell getting more of an effect gear stats (ie. Int). But there are some spells that simply got a damage increase independent of gear.

All the abilities which reduced heals by more than 50% (affects Marauders and Witch Elves) now are being nerfed to 50% heal reductions.

Wizards and Sorceresses

The main nerfs here are:

  • the fact that root now has a chance to break on damage, so no rooting people and then nuking them down.
  • immunity on root which will leave these classes lower in survivability
  • combustion is slower to build
  • root now available at rank 12, not rank 10. (ie. not in Tier 1)
  • HoTs ticking for less makes it harder for healers to keep these guys up when they’re nuking at full combustion

Other than that, they got a solid damage buff with the DoT improvements. Not quite what people were expecting.

Squig Herders, Engineers, White Lions, Maguses (Magi?)

Lots of ‘this ability now does more damage’ buffs. So more damage across the boards. It looks as though pets are being buffed up as well, at least in their damage capability.

Bow classes now get to autoattack on the run while in their skirmish mode.

Tanks

Poor Ironbreakers, their ability to build up Grudge is being nerfed quite severely. Were they doing too much damage in Tier 4? I don’t know but it seems Mythic thinks so. On the bright side (is there one?) they can now use hammers.

All tanks get their root breaking ability at rank 12.

Guard now only works on players within the tank’s group.

Non Class Specific

  • Ability to set rally points in any warcamp
  • root effects can’t be stacked, and after you get rooted you have a 5s immunity to being rerooted
  • less likely to get the same scenario twice in a row
  • movement reductions etc will no longer stack
  • guaranteed to get 1 gold loot bag on every keep take PQ
  • everyone needs ward gear to fight encounter bosses, not just tanks

Overall

I see a lot more damage buffs across the board, and an across the board healing nerf to go with it. I hope they test this good and proper because it’s quite harsh as a healer in Tier 4 as it is and this isn’t going to help.

I feel bad for the Ironbreakers too.

October Newsletter hits

Brief highlights again, as I just got home from work and want to play 🙂

  • Heavy Metal event advertised, Nov 18th-Dec 2nd in Europe (so place your bets for launch of 1.1 here), scenario called Reikland Factory – open to all levels, all tiers and doesn’t contribute to campaign. 10% bonus to renown for playing it. Basic influence gives a trophy, advanced gives a cloak, elite gives access to the two new classes a full week early.
  • Overviews of Knight of the Blazing Sun and Blackguard
  • Witching Night announced – now till Nov 4th (has a couple of mask photos)
  • Advert for Red Alert 3 and Kossar’s Helm
  • Mark Jacobs’ State of the Game (for those who don’t know it already)
  • Concept Art – Order Epic Armour, Greenskin NPCs
  • Paul and Adam Gershowitz podcasts on Knight of the Blazing Sun and Blackguard
  • Paul’s videophone blog
  • Grab Bag (as previously reported)
  • “WAR Europe is the place to go for the most up-to-date news regarding your favorite (sic) game and ours – Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning!” (I had to quote this, as I’m still laughing)
  • Developer Profile: James Casey (Content Design Lead)
  • Blackguard and KotBS wallpapers
  • Community Spotlight – Warhammer Movies
  • Ads for Empire in Chaos (Warhammer Online novel) and joint DAoC/WAR subs for Europe

Big November Event! Daily quests, new scenario, preview of new classes!

Arrgh, as usual, just after we wrote some other post Mythic make a big announcement! *shakes fist at timezones*

So, we have an announcement about the November Live Event, dubbed “Heavy Metal”.

When the Heavy Metal live event begins on November 17th, players who log into WAR will see a new tab in the Tome of Knowledge. Clicking on this tab will open the Live Events page, where each day we’ll place a new daily task. Completing these daily tasks earns influence, just like you’d earn in a public quest. There are rewards for Basic, Advanced and Elite influence, culminating in the ultimate prize: the chance to play WAR’s new classes a full week before they’re released to the public! This last reward won’t be easy to earn, and players who want to get to the Elite level will need to log in each day and complete on the daily event.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a special live event scenario that will be available to all tiers for the duration. And it grants extra renown to players.

I’m hyped, Mythic sound as though they’d taken out all the stops here! I love daily quests and scenarios. And now it’s going to be harder than ever to decide which game to play in November. Game is very much ON.

Edit: Nov 18th for European players

Things that amuse – with pics!

Spinks: Apparently the in gear for fashion forwards Swordsmasters this Autumn is the  Devastator Platecoat. As you can see, the bug is that it’s skinned to a Knights of the Blazing Sun type shape. Not to mention, made for someone smaller.

Yeah, we prefer our Swordmasters in robes too.


Arbitrary: Ok, it’s complete fluff and I’m such a girl. I know. But I will never ever delete this adorable pet book from my character. It may go live in the bank though!


Hawley:  It’s the little things you pick up.  Discovering that the chaos champion you just whacked into the ground must have been a horticulturalist, because of the watering can you’ve looted from him.  Or that you’ve just collected someone’s makeshift loincloth.  I mean, how desperate do you have to be to need a *makeshift* loincloth.  Loincloths are pretty simple things, really…  But no, my favourite thing so far has been…

A barrel of fish!

A barrel of fish!

The barrel of fish.  Every time I see one, I giggle.  It’s so cool!

When the tier 3 quest train got derailed

Tier 3 is the level 21-32 stretch of the game. There are two zones per racial pairing to cover this level range, and an increase of scenarios to two per pairing (making six in total). Like tier 2, there are two keeps to attack per pairing, but the keeps are much larger than the ‘baby’ versions and have an outer wall as well as an inner bailey, making twice as many doors to knock down.

And just as tier 2 had an instances (sewers in Altdorf, I assume there’s a Destruction equivalent), tier 3 has Gunbad. It’s an underground area in the Badlands with oddles of quests, public quests, and instances with bosses – lots to do and nice rewards if you do them.

Other than that, business as usual! So how’s tier 3 treating you?

Slow, Slow, slowslowslow

The big difference that we, and everyone else, has noticed is that it takes longer and longer to level up via PvE. Where before we were struggling not to outlevel our quests because we were getting so much xp from pretty much everything, now the opposite is true. It’s quite easy to finish all the quests in an area and not yet be high enough level to easily tackle the next set of quests. Snafzg has a good rant about this. I agree that questing feels too slow at this level but not that grinding does — that depends more on what class you are playing and who is with you.

What’s more, scenarios give xp at a hugely better rate than quests. If a quest gives about 2500xp, I can pull at least 10k xp from a scenario (if we win), and that’s not including the associated scenario quests from the warcamps. Plus scenarios generate a lot of renown too, it’s a no-brainer if they are up. So people congregate at warcamps so as to be able to hand the quests in after every run.

I’m not  inclined to work up to a major rant because I haven’t been personally frustrated. We play Order on a well populated server so we never have to wait long for a scenario at prime time. So what we tend to do is quest/grind xp in the mornings (or when not many people are on), and try to run scenarios or groups to Gunbad or world RvR (doesn’t give much xp but is fun!) in prime time. Still, it is the first time I have found myself grinding out some xp and on a healer that’s a fairly slow proposition.

All aboard for the quest train

Questing is the fancy package holiday levelling version of an MMO. Hop onto the quest train and get a guided tour around  story and lore mixed with bits of killing^D^D^D^Dmeeting the natives and exploring. Sometimes there will be clips of cool scripted dialogue or encounters too. And eventually you end up at the max level quest terminus with connecting flights to whatever you plan to do at end game.

So when you hit a brick wall, it hurts hard. Not only has it interrupted the questing rhythm, but when you wander into an area to talk to a quest person and all the creatures that you see are 4 or 5 levels above you, you have to wonder what your dumb character is doing there. If you decide that it isn’t possible,  you now need to think about how you can (in time honored fashion) go off and kill some wandering monsters so that you can go back to your quests later when you are a bit tougher. And when it’s slow to get xp from wandering monsters — suddenly the fun light-hearted game starts to look like work. Lots of work. Stray off the beaten track of your package holiday and you don’t know where you might end up.

I don’t think it is necessary to be able to level purely by questing in one area but it should be possible to do so by questing in all available areas. That way, if you chose to stick to one pairing you still have the option to grind xp or  scenario, but if you prefer to just quest you can.  So while the best possible option would be to add an entire new zone full of quests into T3 for each pairing, the easiest would be to tweak quest and PQ xp upwards. Mythic should do this.

Other things of note about T3

There are some really good Public Quests available in the T3 areas. Syp mentioned a skaven one which we all love. There is one in Saphery which I liked that involved helping an ancient Archmage defend his tower; I think I prefer the PQs which have badass NPCs in them. (But where’s my tower? What, that garden shed …) But people aren’t flocking to the PQs any more. My guess is that this is mostly because they don’t give as good xp as scenarios, plus people wanting to stick to warcamps to maximise scenario xp.

In Tier 3 you also notice that healers and tanks don’t feel as competent at soloing as they did in earlier levels, if they spec to heal/tank. This also contributes to the ‘slowing down’ feeling. Tier 3 feels slow compared with what went before.

We do think it’s an issue and are sympathetic to anyone who doesn’t have the option to pad out quest xp with regular scenarios due to server population. But we also have some suggestions:

– grinding xp on pqs. it isn’t exciting but you get a lot of xp and gold and you might meet people, you never know. If you don’t want to meet people, pick a less exciting or more out of the way PQ.  This is almost certainly the fastest way to grind xp if scenarios are not running, just if it drives you nuts after awhile take a break and do one of the other things on this list instead.

– check out quests and PQs in your capital city. Altdorf is now level 3 for us and there is new stuff turning up all the time. It passes the time and has nice xp attached, plus helps to level the city more.

– scenarios. I know, not helpful if you are on a low pop server but if you are playing in prime time and scenarios are running and you don’t utterly hate them, queue at a war camp and give the quests in as much as you can.

– grab some people and go to Gunbad. Most people will be curious to see it, and you can take a warband and zip through some PQs and get cool influence rewards and nice xp from quests. If you have a balanced 6 man group, you can check out the instanced bosses as well.

-Log out in a capital city. It will increase your rest bonus. if your guild has access to the guild tavern, make sure you have a scroll of return on you at all times to make this easier.

– I’m hoping that with the chat system revamp, mythic will add more realmwide channels to help with group forming but meanwhile, see if your server has an order/destruction channel and use it if so.

– tome unlocks. Explore everywhere. Kill anything you haven’t seen before. Talk to other people about unlocks they have found or check lists on the net. All tome unlocks give xp. If you want to spend some time exploring you can try to hit a load of these in one go.

– world pvp. not really great for xp although it is good for renown. But anything is better than nothing, right? And you can always ask people if they want to knock out some PQs when you’re done storming the castle.

Capture the healer

Inspired by a long and fevered discussion on Teamspeak, and also by watching how people play from my vantage point as a healer:

So, when you’re in a scenario (and we’ll stick to scenarios right now, as keep and open field is a little different for a few reasons):

  • Do you go for the enemy healer?
  • Do you protect your own healer?

There will always be divided opinion and in some ways it’s dictated by the make-up of the group. We know the enemy will drop faster if we can kill all their healers, but so will we if all our healers are killed. We know this, but that’s not always how it plays out.

RvR as a healer can be pretty stressful with line of sight issues, people running off in separate directions, everyone feeling they’re the healers’ main target. So let’s look at it, who is the main target?

  • Do you heal the tank that has your back, but the extra armour?
  • Do you heal the other healer who can keep you covered if need be?
  • Do you heal the MDPS who should be off killing something squishy?
  • Do you heal the RDPS who are very very squishy and always off doing something dangerous?

You have to make the decision in a split second to make a difference, taking into account dps being done on your target, range and keeping up with your target and line of sight (and whether to use group heals in the situation).

As a tank you need to decide who to guard and when to attack and push the enemy, as the shield wall makes a lot of sense. You can’t always be standing by a healer, though it’s always thoroughly appreciated.

As dps, you want to be out killing. It’s what you’re built for. I know this. I even understand and expect this. But you won’t be on tanks (really, you WON’T/shouldn’t), you’ll be on the isolated, or the squishy. And you go down FAST! I try, I really do, keeping up the dps is what keeps up the groups’ kill rate, but it’s just not always possible. And hey, remember if they’re attacking healers keeping the healers covered will produce lots of nice squishy and ready-to-die targets.

And let’s not forget we have different flavours of dps too, some more squishy than others. The glass cannons (sorc and bright wizard) really need to be on the attack, they’re built for it. The slightly less squishy versions – witch hunter, witch elf, marauder, white lion – they have a role to play in both attacking the objectives of the scenario and also protecting the healer.

I don’t worry too much if I die in a scenario, I’d hope others don’t either. As Spinks has previously posted, some scenarios go heinously badly. It’s not just because we come across a super-organised group. Sometimes we do something dumb, myself included. Sometimes I miss the ball and heal the wrong person, choose the wrong heal, hurl myself at an objective because I want to see what it’s like to do something like that, decide to test out something in my mastery.. sometimes I’m targeted by 5 people and survive, sometimes I watch as their dps targets all our Bright Wizards when I’m standing next to them.. and I wonder if they’re on a grudge match of some sort. I’m a dwarf, I’m female – I understand grudges 🙂

Just the other night I was in a scenario where someone was bitching about the healers. I was amused because I could see us all healing non-stop while he cheerfully ran out of range and all across the map. Someone asked him why he didn’t go play a healer – and he just laughed.

That’s our lot. Especially in RvR.