Mythic apologises to Archmages

In a post to the Archmage forum at WHA, Adam Gershowitz apologises to Archmages (archmagi?)  for not having addressed their core issues in patch 1.2. He posted to Shamans also .

But changes are coming.

Uh, yeah. As an Archmage player who has no interest in picking up the character again until I feel it has at least a fighting chance of not always feeling like the poor healing cousin of the Order side, I appreciate the heads up.

Meanwhile let’s buff Warrior Priests again because they’re bound to need it.

Preparing for the New Classes

We can guesstimate we have a month-six weeks before the new classes find their way onto our servers. It’s time (as they used to say on Pipkins), to get ready!

  1. Create blog about new class (come on, Age of Blogging* only just over, slip in a Choppa blog and a Slayer blog!)
  2. Pick a name and grab it before anyone else
  3. Place bets on how many variations of Gotrek there will be on your server (on the Order side, naturally)
  4. Learn the Greenskin/Dwarf starting area, read up on the tome unlocks and scenarios (as if we don’t all know Nordenwatch in our sleep/nightmares)
  5. Place bets on how long before one class is considered ‘overpowered’ or ‘nerfed’
  6. Run a sweepstake in your guild or on your blog for how long before the new class/es are called ‘overpowered’, ‘fotm’ (can’t be spelled out), or before a hotfixed nerf is put in
  7. Sort out your social life so you have some time with your new creation!
  8. Sort out any other games you play so you can take a break from them
  9. Be nice to husband/wife/partner so they truly understand why you NEED extra online time, or persuade them to come duo with you!

ps. Patch 1.1.1 is on its way this week.

*rest of the blogs to be added to Book of Grudges blogroll by the end of this week, I promise! (arbitrary)

Awww, there is some Choppa love too

Snafzg over at The Greenskin has got his package from Mythic, and it heavily hints at the Choppa class. So go read up on it over at his blog.

Have heard there’s quite a few bloggers being asked for their addresses, and we heartily approve of such freebie marketing (we love freebies, whoever is getting them!). Go get ’em Mythic!

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.)

[WoW] Storytelling in MMOs

NOTE: There’s some minor spoilers in here for the starting Death Knight questchain. So skip this post  if you don’t want to be spoiled.

There are three types of storytelling that go on in MMOs. The first and most traditional sort are the stories we tell about players. Ask anyone about their worst ever PUG or the most amusing mistell they’ve ever seen — we all have stories to tell. Our guilds have histories, our servers have ‘famous’ personalities, we have scandals and drama, and all the flotsam of human nature is there. Game design can definitely have a big effect on the way communities form and interact but for the main part, these are interactive stories that are completely player driven. They aren’t always particularly good or thematic stories but that’s real life for you. At least we can guarantee that most get better with retelling.

The second sort is the type of story that players tell on roleplaying servers, from time to time. These are stories about characters that are partly driven by the game lore but aren’t directly driven by developers. If you’ve ever thought about your character’s backstory and where s/he came from, you’ve done some of this.

(Cybering usually falls between the above two categories because two players writing smut to each other isn’t really roleplaying and has more to do with playing out real life fantasies. Which is basically harmless as long as it’s not inflicted on minors or anyone who isn’t interested.)

The last sort are quest based character storylines. You follow the quests and as you do so, there’s some kind of storyline that your character is experiencing. It may involve helping old ladies to find their lost chickens or saving the world from the Big Bad but the story is written into the game. Human beings enjoy stories, it’s how we are wired, but there are major difficulties with these kind of questlines. The main one is getting players to buy into it. Or even to actually read it at all.

And in Wrath, Blizzard have pretty much taken this to the next level in MMOs (in a good way). The starting Death Knight quests are remarkable in that as a player, you feel personally involved in the choice that your character is making without actually being given a choice. They’re remarkable in other ways too – Blizzard did a super job of showcasing everything they have learned about creating fun and memorable quests, there’s the bombing run, the disguise yourself as a peculiar object quest, the nuke vast amounts of enemy quest, the ‘dodge the elite mob’ quest, and so on. But the writers really outdid themselves with one specific part.

Now backtracking a bit, everyone who plays WoW knows that Death Knights begin their careers as loyal thralls of the Lich King. They also know that Death Knights will eventually be fighting the Lich King alongside the regular members of the Horde and Alliance. Which must mean that either they get a redemption storyline or else they are all really really bad spies (if they were good spies, they’d be disguised as Retribution Paladins – all you’d have to do is whine constantly about not wanting to heal and carry a big 2 hander, no one would ever know).

So the Death Knight starting quests present the player with a redemption quest line. The turning point is where you encounter a member of the same race who remembers you from your time before you became a Death Knight, when you were a hero … And they call you brother/sister and ask if you have the strength to resist. I don’t know anyone who has done that questline who didn’t respond emotionally to that piece of writing, and my hats are off to the Blizzard writers. It is probably the most important piece of quest text in the game because if you don’t buy into that, you can’t buy into the character at all, and they make it work.

I can’t overstate how difficult a thing it is that they pulled off with this. Any tabletop GM will tell you that there are some types of storyline that you just can’t run with some players. I’ve had players who hated storylines where they got captured by the enemy and had to escape (even though I thought it would make from an awesome Escape from Colditz type plot), I’ve had players who were offered a redemptive type storyline and refused it because they liked their character the way it was. Some people just like to feel in control and that they are making their own choices.

And letting people make their own meaningful story choices is something that’s been very hard to pull off in MMOs. So colour me utterly amazed at the writing in the Death Knight quests, because it feels as though a meaningful choice has been made and that the player was personally involved, even though it’s a static questline with no choices in it.

Mrs Spinks Goes to Northrend


Aside from all that, I’ve been very much enjoying questing with my warrior. This is basically what I bought the expansion for and it hasn’t disappointed me. It’s the Blizzard way to deliver a lot of basically competent quests with a few gems in each area. I’m just about done with Howling Fjord, have finished every quest I could find and run the first instance a couple of times with friends.

I really miss the red map blobs from Warhammer!!!

It is also that time in the cycle where there’s a lot of guild swapping going on, as people jockey around and decide how hardcore they want to play for the next few months. My semi-casual guild has lost a few people to more hardcore establishments. It’s inevitable that we likely will lose a few more – experience from TBC says that some people will hit 80 a few weeks ahead of the rest and if they get bored and frustrated while wanting to raid, they’re likely to find different raid groups. C’est la vie. It all happened before and no doubt it will all happen again.

Getting more stuff as you level

Me and Arbitrary are currently both rank 37, aka THE END IS IN SIGHT! Actually I feel as though the levelling pressure is off now. I have all the abilities I really wanted from my mastery specs and none of the baseline abilities that I will get between now and 40 are particularly exciting.

Or in other words, I know now how my character will play at maximum rank and I’m having fun with it. I’ll get more xp now regardless of what I do but it doesn’t seem all that urgent. I can play in Tier 4 with my friends (have been able to do this for ages), we’ve been to Bastion Stair, I’ve run around in Open RvR warbands, I pull my weight. Part of this is due to playing as a healer, and because healing spells are never resisted it has always been easy for a healer to contribute at a lower level than tanks or dps classes. But  also I have all my core spells now.

The alure of levelling as a mechanic is that players are slowly introduced to core abilities. It’s an easier learning curve than if you were presented with every ability at rank 1. Plus it’s an incentive. Level up some more and get cool new abilities! You get to feel as though you really worked for it (I’m not big on work ethic in games myself but it works for some people!) But on the flipside, if you have to wait until max rank to get important play-changing core abilities then you may be stuck with a character that plays very differently at endgame. You could spend all that time on a character to find that you hate it.

And even if not, forcing people to wait for important abilities affects game balance for levelling characters. They had to tweak Archmages in beta to give them their damage abilities earlier in rank because they were simply painful to level at all.

Xixaz-AP has a super post on the Vault discussing all sorts of game design issues, with suggestions. The one that caught my eye was the suggestion that characters should get all their new abilities for a Tier right at the start of that Tier. So you get all your Tier 2 abilities at rank 12, for example. He also has some great ideas about indirect rewards and bragging rights.

How would you feel about that? Do you like the idea of having kickass abilities available at max level as an incentive/ reward?

Quantum of Linkage

First up, this month’s WAR grab bag from Mythic. This one is a winner, it discusses zone control in detail and how zones become locked at Tier 4. They also list all the renown rank titles for every race (holy crap, these things go up to rank 100??) and have some screenshots of female Knights of the Burning Sun and Blackguards just to prove that yes, Mythic have found artists who can draw kickass female fighters in plate. Oddly enough, while male Swordmasters ARGUABLY look a bit girly, the female Blackguards look like male impersonators. And if you want to try one early, they confirm that the Heavy Metal daily quests will be soloable, quick, and available to characters at any rank.

Mark Jacobs stops by the Vault boards to update on the Public Test Server and point out some more tweaks being made (for tweaks, read buffs/nerfs depending on your archetype). Also says the PTS due to go live this weekend, update mentioned at A Wall of Text, which alerted me to it.

This is an old (but interesting) article I found on Gamasutra about design issues with hybrid classes.

Wendy Despain talks about video games that bark (a bark is the slang for the words that an NPC says randomly when you click on it.)

In the category of ‘I couldn’t make this shit up’, the US army wants to try out its AI in MMOs. As if Barrens Chat (old WoW dino joke) wasn’t bad enough.

Gary Gygax’s favourite Christian charity refuses donation from GenCon because of its association with D&D. Here’s a cartoon about it.

If you can’t beat it, tax it! China is going to impose a tax on virtual goods income (ie. gold farming, among other things).

That last link reminded me of a cool story about Michael Faraday, who explained the importance of electricity to the prime minister of the day with the insightful comment, “One day, sir, you may tax it.” Read it and other stories about famous scientists here.

Just in time for the Christmas rush, Square-Enix open a European random stuff store. So now you can have those plastic models of Sephiroth and Vincent Valentine to do funky fangirl things with at last. And if your fanfic is good enough, you might even get a job with them!

Here’s a WoW link in preparation for the expansion next week: Jame’s Guide to Death Knight Levelling (55-61). This is for people who want to do it the most efficient way possible.

Bit late for the US elections but here are a couple of links:

A funky typographic summary of this US election campaign. (nb. site is safe for work but the URL isn’t, go figure).

And another interesting typographic fact, last Wednesday was only the fourth time that the New York Times has used a 96 pt font for the front page.

Campaign gossip, courtesy of Newsweek and the Huffington Post. This one made me laugh though:

The debates unnerved both candidates. When he was preparing for the Democratic primary debates, Obama was recorded saying, “I don’t consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, ‘You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.’ So when Brian Williams is asking me about what’s a personal thing that you’ve done [that’s green], and I say, you know, ‘Well, I planted a bunch of trees.’ And he says, ‘I’m talking about personal.’ What I’m thinking in my head is, ‘Well, the truth is, Brian, we can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of something collective’.”

Vote for your favourite US election candidate in Spore.

For everyone who is enjoying seeing their opponents (political or otherwise) weeping sweet sweet tears, this is John Scalzi’s recipe for Schadenfreude Pie

1.05 – on its way

Mark Jacobs has stopped by the Vault boards to offer a sneak preview of patch 1.05, a seemingly bigger patch than I think any of us expected before 1.1 hits in December. It’s apparently over 17 pages long, and more news will be coming later today – US players will also get a chance to see the changes first on a preview server. I’m not even going to ask if the EU gets the same.. I think we khave a vague idea of the answer. The highlights of Mark’s post mention:

  • Public Test Server (as mentioned above)
  • Morale abilities fixed to show proper timers and fire off at the right times (glorious change, will see though!)
  • Rally points at every warcamp, soon allowing multiple bind points to make travelling to and from the action faster and less annoying (we approve of less annoying)
  • additional gold bag at all keep takes (those classes that do well at keep contribs, be happy!)
  • fixed problems with abilities or animations not firing or ending. Also fixing the ‘ability not ready’ message to synch in with global cooldown and not display if time remaining is less than GCD.
  • more solutions to afks in scenarios – which honestly, we’ve not seen so many of since the last rounds of fixes, but hey, it can never be a bad thing to stop people doing it!

And:

All classes have had some abilities buffed and some abilities have been debuffed a bit. For example, the Squig Herder has gotten 30+ adjustments to its abilities. Out of those 30+ adjustments, the phase “damage has been increased” shows up about 80% of the time. As part of this update, the team has looked at every career in the game and made adjustments. Things such as Electromagnet, Fire Cage and snares/roots in general have drawn particular attention from the team and have had numerous changes/fixes made to them. Of course, where major changes have occurred to the careers a free re-training has been offered. Tomorrow’s notes will detail all of the changes and considering that the career changes are about 14 out of those 17+ pages, I think you can say that we made a whole lot of changes.

So expect many changes, I’ll be interested to read the full notes but wanted to give a quick preview before I head off for a very very long day at work!

MJ also relents enough to give Vault readers a quick preview of what is in store for Electromagnet:


Electromagnet: The cost has been reduced significantly. The cooldown has been increased. The build time has been increased. The ability can no longer be cast on the move. The pull-in maximum number of targets has been decreased and can now be defended against.

There’s also some clarification on the Public Test Server over at Warhammer Alliance – it’ll be up for periods of time only, when big changes need to be tested by as many as possible.

Predictions for the Nerfbat

Class balance is not impossibly bad in Warhammer, I’ve seen much worse in other games. I’ve seen both sides totally demolish the other in scenarios, so organisation and a good mix of classes trumps any individual ‘overpowered’ class. Melee dps is also generally tougher to play in PvP, although we get smushed by melee heavy Destruction teams in scenarios quite often.

As far as the balance goes, it seems to me as though Order was always intended to have stronger ranged classes and  defensive-based hybrids and Destruction intended to have stronger melee and more offensive based hybrids. I think these are deliberate characteristics and we do see them in play, with some exceptions. Bear in mind we’re all playing Order so there’s some Order bias here. All this really means is that I haven’t been on the receiving end of our classes to judge them.

I’m also (mostly) picking on mechanics rather than classes here. These are places where the mechanic seems more powerful than intended.

Mythic have said in their State of the Game that they are planning to do a balancing pass over classes with an emphasis on buffing rather than nerfing. Here I think the nerf bat is inevitable. Hopefully classes will be buffed and balanced after this to make sure they are where they need to be.

Dual Wield Procs

Destruction melee is totally over the top at the moment. In Tier 4 you can really see it. So my tips for nerfing are Marauders, Witch Elves, and Disciples. What do they have in common? They are all fast hitting dual wielders. And the overpowered aspect? The abilities they have which have a chance to happen on every melee hit. Order has no duel wielders (the Witch Hunter has a gun but that isn’t fast hitting) to match this. And their procs (damage, huge heal debuffs, whatever else they get) simply go off way too often. An internal cooldown of some sort would tone this down. Witch Elves in particular seem to scale off the roof. I realise they are fragile etc and I expect to die to them a lot on my Archmage but they do a huge amount of burst damage to better armoured characters also. I think the mechanics need to be checked over to bring them into line.

Marauders in particular seem to also get a lot of AE crowd control for a class that also does so much AE damage. I have no problem with the amount of damage, but the knockdowns could use a toning pass.

I’m not thrilled about the tentacle pull/fetch ability but a single player CC isn’t as crippling. However, when the marauder can follow the pull up with a stun (knockdown) or disable … not fun.

Mass Pull

Magus/ Engineer mass pull. This has to go. It’s not remotely fun to be on the end of a mass pull/AE crowd control/AE nuke instant-kill. It also does bad things to my lag. It’s not so much the ability itself (although it does cause lag) as when it’s followed by a large amount of root/knockdown/disable and then AE death. NOT FUN.

Being able to pull things through keep doors is simply a bug that needs to be sorted out. [arbitrary – being able to do damage through keep doors on both sides needs to go too]

Now, about them Bright Wizards

On Order side, Bright Wizards do way more damage with DoT spec than anything else on the battlefield. Even it up so that all their specs do similar damage and let them pick which form of dps they prefer. And that means toning down the spec or specific talents in it that is currently overpowered.

My feeling in Tier 4 is that Sorceress/ Bright Wizard damage is roughly on par, so need to watch this carefully while balancing. Sorceresses are in no way underpowered in Tier 4.

Balancing for Tiers

I can live with some classes being overpowered in lower tiers as long as they are all brought into line in Tier 4, but there’s a limit to how overpowered any given class should be. Maybe the answer to this is to give out more resists at lower tiers or scale the damage up more slowly. But we really do notice when different classes get similar abilities at different ranks (eg. knockbacks for order or heal debuffs for destruction melee) because it changes how the whole tier plays.

I think a pass through the different abilities to try to make similar ones available at similar levels would make the levelling game more fun.

Stop! Hammer Time!

Wotcha everyone,

Many of you may have noticed, if I haven’t made it completely obvious anyway, that when it comes to games I’m more than a little obsessed by the way things look.  I am fully cognizant of the fact that, just as in real life, in online games looks are most certainly not everything.

But having said that, underneath the looks in an online game, you get a lot of meaningless technomagical mumbo-jumbo that somehow makes things…  work.

So when Hawley swings his hammer, all that mumbo-jumbo does stuff.  Arcane, obscure, technomagical stuff.  That is then translated into numbers on my screen, so I can understand what just happened.

Now, when it comes to those looks, I do like a bit of variety.  Frankly, I don’t give a tinker’s cuss whether or not I look like anyone else.  I have no need to look like a unique special snowflake.  But I do like a change every so often.

If I’m wearing an outfit for too long, I get a bit antsy for the next piece of kit.  Not for the stat upgrades, but for the opportunity to change the way the character looks.  To look at something new, and hopefully cool looking.  And yes, in the past I have chosen not to upgrade to something that looks nasty and most decidedly uncool.

But.  And it’s an important but…  I’m still using hammers.  I swap from the two-hander to book and hammer when I need the extra healing stats (more from a sense of propriety than anything else – I don’t usually care over-much for carrying multiple item sets) but at the end of the day, they’re both hammers.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the looks of the hammer.  Sledge hammers look cool, in a 70’s British Crime film way, but in the real world, if you start hefting one people start looking at you as if you’re some sort of weird stalker with a  diy issue.  Same for any sort of hammer really.  Grinning at any viewers, to help allay any fears they might have, never helps.  And the other styles of hammer out there just look worse.

Most of the time, in online games, I lust after axes (I lust after other things in the real world.  Sometimes this includes Monica Bellucci in a vat of tea, but that mainly happens when it’s been at least 10 minutes since my last brew) .  Sort of brutal looking, with a bit of wood-choppy utility.  Couple that with an innate ability to choose every class that isn’t allowed to wield axes, and I spend the whole time playing with the self-imposed quest “Find Usable Axe” running in the background.

Warhammer Online is different, though.  I get the ability to use “Hammers”, and “Great Hammers”.  That’s it.  Even the ability to use “Harsh Language” is a hard skill, not a software skill.  Have I missed the usual arbitrarily (it sometimes seems) set of weapon skills for my chosen class?

No.  And I’m wondering why.

I am the sort of person that has a favoured weapon type for a character.  I like my dps murderers to carry knives, my clanky-tanks to carry swords or axes, and my healers to carry something fun and funky, to make up for the fact that swinging it in anger usually means it’s all gone a bit frantic.  In a “special” sort of way.

Having said that, I also like variety.  Sometimes it’s nice for a dps murderer to carry something longer than a shiv.  Sometimes I let the tank put down his sword and shield, and put a honking great double-handed axe in his hands.  Variety is, apparently, the spice of life (despite the fact that Lemon Pepper seems to go with everything).

Yet here I am, and I’ve forgotten all about that.  Weapon choice is practically down to a binary option; wield your allotted weapon, or don’t.  And when I first started a Hawley, all that time ago in beta, I did notice the fact that weapon choices were one handed hammer, or two-handed hammer.

And, as mentioned previously, promptly forgot.  To the extent that I only remembered recently, when I was looking at one of the empire NPCs and started having covetous thoughts about his pretty shield.  Almost to the extent of luring him down an alley for a quick coshing (No, that’s not a weird, or even not-weird, sex-thing.  It’s the sharp, nasty contact between a leather-wrapped bag of sand and lead pellets, and the back of an unsuspecting head).  So there I was, wishing that I could carry a shield for a bit, because even though books are cool, they don’t quite have the level of protection that a shield does.

Unless it’s “War and Peace”.  As the old saying goes; “No-one gets through War and Peace” (thankyou, HOL).

The fact remains that I’m not missing the variety in class weapons.  For once, I’m enjoying the game enough to just not care.  I might be coming down with something…

Cheers,
Hawley.