Kate… it’s…euh… short for… Bob!

The European forums are due to launch shortly and, because of that, GOA is offering players the chance to change their nicknames.

Why is this important? Well, because your official nickname will also be what you’re known as on the European Warhammer forums. So if you picked something silly, or even your real name (which may well be silly), it’s time to head on over to the WAR-Europe site and get it changed, pronto. You have until the forums go live (no jokes about 2010 please!)

I would have tested it out for you all, but I’ve already got Arbitrary as mine, and I’m worried I’ll change it to something like skwys and then not be able to change it back…

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PTS, and forums?

So America got their PTS yesterday and we get ours today. That’s business as usual. Nothing to see here (unless you want to go play on the PTS – public test server – in which case go read up on what you have to do!). The day delay is what we’re used to and it’s not bad at all, we can live with that.

Official forums also landed in the US yesterday with much fanfare on the Herald and the various Mythic tweets (ah twitter, how quickly you have become a marketing tool). Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t really care when Europe gets their forums. We know they’re underway. It just reminded me how sick I am of the whole split in the global community. A joined community would have fuller servers, equal treatment in terms of dev responses, etc etc. We don’t need to go over those arguments again.

And I don’t especially blame GOA for this. They had an opportunity to market and run WAR in Europe, and hey, it looked like a sure bet. I’d have taken that bet. They’re not responsible for getting devs to care what Europeans think, or to offer things like the unique Slayer/Choppa heads to Europeans too (I mean, even if I’d flown to NYCC, I couldn’t use the code). They’re responsible for bringing up these issues, but really all they’re in charge of is running the servers, website, forums and everyday stuff. Probably lots of marketing/promotion too.

And yet, the European playerbase is not insignificant. If they could have quoted player numbers separately, I’m sure they would have – but 300k Europe AND America. So we make up part of the whole when it comes to financial statements, but in terms of day-to-day play, it feels to me like I don’t really matter at all to Mythic. Just to GOA (for better or worse ;-p).

We’ll see.  There’s still hope we’ll get some European love sometime, and not just get Paul Barnett sent over to Games Day to smooth things over when a launch has gone a bit awry. I’m hoping to see devs regularly visiting the European forums (which will exist by then, oh yes), and for their to be European promotional events similar to Comic-Cons and Games Days and that we’ll get access to all the same in-game content as our American counterparts.

But anyway, ignore my grouchiness and go play on the public test server! I’ll be cheerful when my week of full-time work is done. Never let me volunteer for overtime again is the message here!!

[Quick edit: Mark Jacobs stopped by the Vault to say the US forums are in beta, and eventually they will be open to the public to view but not to post on, I’m betting that will be how it gets shrugged off that the devs don’t post on European servers!]

Pretty diagrams!

GOA have presented us with a fun run-down of team play, in what we can safely assume is the start of a series of useful guides to the game.

The guide covers grouping in open RvR, including handy hints and tips on leading groups and a variety of tactics and skills. I definitely enjoyed it, and look forward to the rest of the series.

A swim in the RvR lakes

I’ve really enjoyed all the keep takes that I’ve either led or hopped into. Open world RvR has a different and less predictable rhythm to it than running end to end scenarios, questing, or putting groups together for Public Quests. Although you usually start a world RvR warband with a vague mission (ie. ‘lets’ take back the High Elf keeps’ or ‘Who wants to come to Bugman’s Brewery?’) you also know that you’ll be sending out scouts and trying to respond to any enemy action as well. Some nights you win, some nights you lose. If it was predictable, it wouldn’t be as grand in scope.

Our server, like many others, has adopted the habit of using an Order channel (so you sign up to it when you log on) to help arrange PUG raids and report any scouting information. It’s not only useful but pretty much compulsary to pull off this kind of organisation. I’m hoping that the new channels that Mythic are providing with the latest patch will help too but I know we’ll stick to our Order channel because everyone knows it, and it works.

So I’ve been leading a scheduled weekly raid — scheduled on the guild calendar at any rate — and also sometimes hopping into PUG raids, sometimes I end up leading them but often it’s just a chance to get some more keep practice, get to know the RvR monkeys in the realm, and kick Destruction out of our keeps. I would say they run with moderately good frequency, I’m not really seeing the lack of open world RvR that I’ve heard people complain about.

I have noticed that our raids are getting a little more sophisticated tactics-wise. We’re getting better at covering the postern door and sending groups out to harass Destruction players on their way to defend. People don’t need to be told to target the oil. We never run out of rams. Or in other words, the realm is learning how to RvR. Sure, this doesn’t apply to the hardcore but just talking about the regular PUG players here.

Now really, keep takes in Tier 2 and 3 are something we do for fun and practice and socialising and to help train the realm in siege warfare. We have the possibility to dominate areas but they don’t contribute (as far as I know) to the city siege mechanic. So we aren’t as motivated to stay and defend keeps as we are to take them, if we’re running with a large group. This is because when you take a keep you get lots of renown (and soon, lots of xp too) and the chance to roll on some decent loot. The only case where this isn’t true is when we know a keep is under attack, or guess correctly that it soon will be, so there will be plenty of enemies to fight.

It isn’t entirely about scoring points and loot. Sitting in an empty keep is dull compared to running around and fighting stuff, even just NPCs at objectives. I don’t think this needs to be changed, there has to come a point where you RvR because you want your side to win rather than purely for points scoring and there’s no way to reward people for preparing a defence that won’t unduly avoid the afk crowd. We’ll see this come up more in Tier 4 where defence is more important because the keeps actually count.

I enjoy RvR raid leading very much. I’d encourage anyone who is intrigued to give it a go. All you really need to do is announce on the channel of your choice ‘Anyone want to join me for taking keep X’ and if it’s like my server, the people will come pouring in. Then you say something like, ‘OK everyone, meet at warcamp Y.’ Then when they get there, issue a pre-battle pep talk such as ‘OK, lets’ go.’ And watch as your warband zooms off and does it all without you. It really can be that straightforwards. You can leave the warband open if you don’t want to be fussed with invites (the main reason not to do this is so that you can boot anyone who is being a dick – hopefully it won’t come up often). People in the warband will usually offer advice and suggestions so even if you aren’t sure what to do, just pick one and repeat it.

But that’s not the fun part. The fun is when you start chatting to other warbands and getting reports in from other zones about where the enemy are, and then you get to pick your next objective with a view to getting fun fights for your warband which will play to your advantage. It is always ALWAYS rewarding when you pick the right option and your guys get to charge and slaughter the enemy while they’re busy on a keep door. It is always rewarding when you can sneak your guys through a postern door and hold onto a keep even when you are outnumbered. I love the tactical side to world RvR. And that means I love the unpredictability.

These are the exciting encounters that people remember.

Now, Tobold posted last week wondering where all the PvP was. When he sees Open RvR, he sees raid leaders avoiding open confrontation. and I wanted to pick up on that (this is not to do with the PvE PQs that you run when you sack the opposite city, which isn’t PvP at all, which was his other point). Scheduling for off-peak times. Looking to avoid the big battles.

So it’s fair to ask, what is the goal of an RvR raid? Have fun, take objectives and keeps, earn renown/xp for raiders, find some good fights, raiders to feel a sense of accomplishment? Yes, all of those things. But a good fight in RvR is not necessarily a fair one. If you try to take a keep that is defended by the same number of people as are attacking, it won’t necessarily be fun for the attackers if the defenders play well. They’ll be throwing themselves at the chokepoints for a long frustrating session. Keeps are designed to be favour the defenders. Similarly, if one raid surprises an enemy raid at an objective and charges in from behind before they can react, it’s not necessarily fun for the losing side (although they can regroup and come back for payback).

RvR is not the same as PvP. We’ll get good fights along the road, but it’s perfectly legit to try to outnumber an enemy or attack at his weak points. These are possibilities that give the game its massive scope. If you want fair, there are scenarios which guarantee you the same number of players (roughly). And sometimes it genuinely is the better strategy to pull your warband back from what might turn out to be a slow keep assault and send them off to grab more objectives or a less heavily defended keep instead. I don’t think of it as people avoiding PvP, but more as people playing RvR the way it was meant to be played, as a game with a large tactical scope that you play to win over a longer term.

Having said all this, I think Tier 4 will be different. Just hit 29 on my Archmage yesterday so I haven’t seen much of it yet but keeps matter more in Tier 4. Guilds will be more motivated to take and hold them, and when that happens guild pride comes into it. We still won’t go out of our way to pick losing fights but the terms of the game will have changed. Tier 2 and 3 were for fun, Tier 4 is for keeps (sic).

And on another note, has any other raid leader noticed that people really really really love to take the beer related objectives ? Unless I’m very specific with people and watch the map like a hawk, they tend to drift to Bugman’s Brewery and the tavern in High Pass. I get a lot of, “Why aren’t you guys at Passwatch?” “Coming soon, we’re at the pub.” Ah well, plus ca change. Mine’s a pint.

Amusing conversations while trying to kill Greenskins

So it’s no secret I’m a bit of a Teamspeak fan. Though, with the influx of new people for Warhammer Online, I do find myself asking a bit more often ‘who’s that?’ but I’m even starting to get used to all the new voices and accents.

We talk about all sorts of things, jobs, pets, travel. We also discuss the game quite a bit, and it does percolate back to the blog sometimes, especially when there’s been an interesting discussion about what things we’d like to add to contributions or how best to tackle a certain scenario or who is the biggest challenge to heal in the guild. Often it’s all harmless amusing stuff, but I learn a lot from my guildmates and their experience, on Teamspeak and on guildchat.

Sometimes though, Teamspeak will go a little surreal and it doesn’t quite move over to guildchat – someone will make an amusing or thoughtful comment and because we have such wits in the guild it’ll go to a completely different place.

For example, so far my favourite Teamspeak conversation has been:

Could you live solely on chocolate, and if so, what brand of chocolate would keep you alive longest?

The battle at Spite’s Reach

Leading RvR raids is very different from leading PvE ones. All of your plans and goals are subject to change. Assuming that the other side come out to play, you will be keeping an eye on what they are doing and changing your plans on the fly. It is a very different proposition.

I led my first keep raid over the weekend. Well, maybe led is too strong a word. I organised the raid and called targets, and everyone else did the rest. It was great! I pretty much just had to name a keep (we were raiding tier 2 keeps) and before I knew it, everyone had run off there, the rams were down, the keep lord slaughtered, everyone posing for screenshots and then wanting to know which the next keep was!

Like any kind of raid leading, the main thing is not to panic and to stay calm. You’re coordinating a lot of people but you don’t have to do all their thinking for them. People also tend to panic if they think the group is going without them or that they don’t know where to go or are being left out. As a raid leader, you have to stay on top of that. Be prompt with invites, be clear with directions. Make sure everyone knows what the raid’s current objective is, and preferably what the plan is after that also. People will be hassling you with tells. You don’t have time for long discussions when you’re leading a raid. Deal with what you can, anything that doesn’t have to be dealt with immediately you can tell the person to come back with later.

Decide how you plan to communicate. In a guild/alliance raid, you may end up using voice chat. Is everyone in the raid on it? Or do you need to type instructions as well. It’s very easy to get flustered using several different types of communication. And people in the raid can get flustered too if they think you are ignoring them. So very important to be clear with your objectives. Even if people don’t get the full experience of you wittering about beer, they need to be happy and clear that they know what the raid is doing.

On an RvR raid, you probably want to send scouts out ahead so that you can find out if a keep is defended or not. People will usually be happy to volunteer for scouting missions. It makes sense to send people with mounts and who are familiar with the area. Keep the raid updated with where the main body of the raid is so that scouts can find their way back to you when they are done. The big decision that you need to make as the leader is to decide what your raid can reasonably achieve. We had two full warbands so didn’t bother scouting objectives other than keeps – even Destruction on a bored night won’t have 2 warbands just hanging out at the Lighthouse in Barak Varr.

And then when the scouts report, you have to decide what to do about it. There’s a difference between “I saw a zone message that the Lord of Spite’s Reach was under attack” and “I saw a warband of destruction players heading to the fort in the Marshes of Madness”. You want to give your raid some good fights if you can, and that means not sending them somewhere where nothing will happen and they’ll have to wait around pointlessly for hours. But you also don’t want to send them off to certain death. The keep lord under attack messages are very sensitive. They could just mean that someone accidentally pulled one of the keep guards. Or that someone was scouting a keep. Or that there were just in the area.

Usually I find it’s best to start with a rough plan (eg. take all tier 2 keeps and objectives) and stick to it unless you get a scout report that reliably pinpoints enemy players. It’s also wise to take the objectives in an area before you take the keep, partly because they give a defensive bonus to any defenders but also because it nets your raid some renown which is a nice bonus for people who have come along to help. But when we did get a report that one of the keeps we had taken was under attack by destruction players by a scout who’d seen the players on the move, I did change my plan and send everyone back to that keep. We were lucky (or rather, I was lucky). We got there while the destruction guys were still working on the door. So my two warbands swept in from behind and it was a slaughter. They didn’t come back.

I think in future I might experiment more with splitting the groups when we have that many. But this was my first raid and it was also the first raid we ran as an alliance, and I was probably a bit too nervous.

And then, we found a defended keep. Oh, Spite’s Reach, how I hate you! The Destruction Keep Lord at Spite’s Reach (it’s the keep in the shadowlands) is an absolute pain. She’s a caster with a very strong AE DoT that goes through walls, and apparently floors too. We’ve had trouble with this before even when there were no defenders. So when there were, it was going to be a bloodfest. Having said that, I was delighted to see that the keep was defended. People don’t come on keep raids because they like killing NPCs. They want a good fight, and I knew we would get one.

There isn’t really a good strategy for taking a defended keep. You do the same stuff that you would normally, except that there are also other players involved. And this means that once you are inside the keep, you have to somehow fight your way up the ramp. The other team will be blocking the ramp and they have a big advantage from the layout and NPCs. It doesn’t help that Destruction seem to get a lot more knockbacks than Order at Tier2 level. So keeps are designed to give a huge advantage to the defenders. This means that it doesn’t take a lot of defenders to keep out a much larger force. And add to that a keep lord with a massive AE DoT and I knew that unless we could storm up quickly, the chances were that the keep would not fall.

There’s no point complaining about this because it will work to our advantage too when we are the defenders.

The defense was very good. And clearly the word was put out because more Destruction filtered in to join them. We killed as many as we could who came in through the postern gate but as time went on it was less and less likely that we would make progress. I could have pulled my force back and taken the Ellyrion keep (by the way, it’s a nice advantage to playing Order that you can pretty much assume most keeps will be Destruction most of the time so you can plan a keep raid in the knowledge that there will be something to do), but I figured we’d had a good romp through T2 dwarf and empire so it would be good practice for people to have a knockdown fight.

And the final thing? Don’t forget to thank your raiders for showing up. You’re hoping they’ll be prepared to do it again, right? 🙂 And if you had any good fights with the other side, you can start a thread on one of the realm forums (WHA I guess is the busiest) to tell everyone else on the server that you enjoyed it and to either thank them for a good fight or jeer, depending on your style. I like the Destro guys to know that we are organised and have alliances and are getting some practice in at tier 2 so they know to expect more from us in future!

But that keep lord at Spite’s Reach needs a nerf!

Initial thoughts and stuff

So, we’ve had the game for a few days now, all our headstart people have been in since Monday, and we await the influx on Thursday. Here’s a few points on how it’s been:

GOA’s done a good job

There was a slight delay to the Collectors Edition Headstart, a couple of hours. Standard Edition headstart went well with people getting in smoothly. Queues haven’t been horrible (we’ve had none, but we’re Order and Core-RP), just haven’t seen too many complaints. And everyone who got an email back from a GM was very happy with it. Just Thursday to go and signs are positive! Also, there is nothing about it in the gaming news – which means it’s going well. (Obviously there are stories that the game is launching, but strictly they’re focusing on Thursday).

EA problems with keys an exercise in why to order elsewhere

I really feel for people who went with EAStore, because hey, it’s EA and they promised all sorts of goodies and for a while they were the only Standard Edition seller (soon joined by Direct 2 Drive) who said they were offering the headstart. Sending out the wrong keys was a cock-up, I hope everyone is in now and it wasn’t too painful. Having problems with manufacturing so that not all CEs have been sent out on time isn’t great either. On another note, looks like Play.com has some CE copies left. (This may be out-of-date when you get to read it).

Standard Edition Headstart

Because of Games Day, I started playing a few hours before the Standard Edition people came online. I was out of the starting area and at the first Dwarf PQ. Had to ask in-guild for some help finishing it and someone headed back to help (yay, guild). By the time we got to Stage 3 it became apparent the Standard Edition had come online as suddenly a whole gang of people entered the PQ, meaning we stormed it. Was a great sight and feeling. So enjoy that today America!

Guild

We have a separate post coming with names, screenshots, guild details – just making sure of Hawley’s first. But quickly, would just like to pause for a moment to say the guild is great. We’ve done a few things together and lots of things in smaller groups. Chat levels high, as is excitement. The guild is full of people we haven’t yet met, and Teamspeak is full of unfamiliar voices, but it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun learning about and meeting them all.

The Game

The game remains insanely fun, with a few collywobbles as I realised this character isn’t getting deleted so I better take it a bit more seriously. Scenarios have been plentiful (more so at night), open groups have invited me along, rather than waiting for me to invite myself, have done a bit of exploring in the mornings – but I intend to do more. I’m not sure why, but it feels better than either beta. I have a suspicion it’s the number of players and general level of excitement. Good stuff!