I’m a bit of a podcast nut, because I have a 1.5 hour commute to and from work on the days I work (yes, I’m lucky enough to be a part-timer). I also tend to think podcasts can ease some of the blah from grinding, as and when I need to do it. So it falls to me, fairly naturally to give you a quick overview of the podcasts I listen to – I’ve tried to stick to WAR and gaming ones, but if you ask nicely I might list all the ones I have on my listening list (even ones I’m ashamed of ;p).


No Prisoners, No Mercy – now here’s one we can rely on! Part of the Virgin Worlds collective, this is really top notch and makes me laugh like no other WAR podcast. Sister Julie and Sister Fran put such passion and heart into the podcast that it’s impossible not to get caught up in its infectiousness. It’s a great insight into someone else’s experience of the game, and also raises some really interesting points. But let’s put it this way, the minute I get this one downloaded on iTunes it goes to the top of my listening list!

The Warpath – another weekly WAR podcast from the Virgin Worlds collective, this time helmed by Phillip and Stephen. long-time friends and players of Warhammer tabletop – which is great for me, because it helps fill in some of the lore that I’m really lacking in. I’ve really enjoyed their breakdown of classes – it gave me a lot to think about! There’s quite a bit here about progression through the game and how they’ve found the levels and tiers they’re currently playing, and I find it fascinating to listen to how others view these things, it also sometimes kicks me out of my doldrums and reminds me why I’m enjoying the game, and I look forward to the time when they hit their first fortress.

WARP – yay, another regular WAR podcast, and another one I’ve been enjoying recently. It has quite a few hosts, which means they bring a lot of different experiences to the podcast which is pretty cool. They cover things a wide variety of things, and taught me a lot about the various things different archetypes could do to siege equipment, and I think the show is developing really nicely even if it’s not quite as polished as it’ll probably be in a couple of months – but I still enjoy listening a lot.

Destruction Dollswhat can I say, it was a fun couple of episodes they put out, and I was greatly looking forward to more of it. But it’s been put on hold indefinitely. Shame, but it’s happened a fair bit. Still worth downloading and listening to the episodes they produced, but it’ll be pretty out-of-date.

Chaos Cast – produced and presented by THE triumvirate of WAR bloggers, Syp, Snafzg and Keen, this was once a fortnightly show. It seems to have also fallen by the wayside though, but I’m sure we’ll see the odd sporadic episode. The camaraderie between the three is obvious from listening, and it was always enjoyable to listen to.

Podcast of Reckoning another podcast that seems to have drifted off a little, but I’m listing it here because I know Orlock from MMOgeek fully intends to record another and get back into the swing of it. I remember it being full of fun and good humour, as well as having a British voice as part of it. The WarhammerGeek parody songs are simply fantastic, so even if you don’t go download the back catalogue of podcasts, head over to the site, listen to them and bug Orlock to record the ones he’s written!!

General Gaming

Virgin Worlds though I might like to pretend I don’t pay much attention to other games, of course I do. And Virgin Worlds is a great way to hear about developments in the MMOsphere. I may not agree with Brent on a few things (mostly to do with LotRO rather than WAR), but he’s terrific at what he does and always puts together an informative and entertaining show.

PC Gamer this is the PC Gamer UK podcast, and I adore it – despite the fact I don’t play many games at all. My husband and my friends are quite games-fanatic though, so it allows me to keep in touch with releases, and the contributors are always entertaining. It’s probably not work-friendly, but I love the banter between the contributors!

Shut Up, We’re Talking Darren and Karen host a podcast where they and their guests discuss the most up-to-date or interesting MMO news. Part of the Virgin Worlds collective, it’s another one I just wouldn’t miss and have been listening to for a while. It’s really interesting to get all the experiences of various MMO players and I’ve never failed to find this one particularly worth listening to.

Rock Paper Shotgun Electric Wireless Show – newish podcast from one of our favourite websites out there (I’m sure you’ve guessed we love it). Again this covers PC games, has great repartee and may not be entirely work-safe (if you’re prone to listening to podcasts on speakers at work that is!). But it always makes me smile, gives me a great insight into games I can then recommend to my husband/friends and has that nice touch of British humour about it. Episode 4 is basically a couple of the guys from Rock, Paper Shotgun, and Paul Barnett on a British train, chatting – which nicely encapsulates the casual and fun nature of the show. It’s only up to show 6 now, but I hope it continues for ages.

So that’s it in terms of gaming podcasts currently on my list, though it seems I may be trimming them down somewhat if those on hiatus don’t return soon!

Hope you enjoy them, if you go investigate. Or suggest some others for me to check out – remembering that some of my time is given over to comics, TV and film geekery too 🙂

No links please, we’re British

First, a welcome to Swisshammer (more Euro blogs!) and Kiss My Bolter.

Have any ideas on how to improve the chat system in game? MJ is taking feedback in a thread on The Vault.

GOA haven’t provided us with an EU  server status page yet, so Penlid@Freddyshouse has produced one of his own.

Money News tells you all about tome tactics and how to unlock them. (The quest librarians who award the tactics aren’t currently in the game due to being fixed for an exploit but I expect they will be soon.)

Quick Youtube vid you should go watch – Paul Barnett’s finished Hamtoucher’s ‘WAR(here we come)’.

Rock Paper Shotgun has a blistering review of My Dream Job: Babysitter. Maybe it’s because I was drunk when I read it but that made me laugh a lot, thanks guys!

British gamer stabbed over forums dispute? This is just plain wrong. We’ll never be hosting a forum! And on a crime theme, but with absolutely nothing to do with gaming at all, a tyre-slashing grandmother in Germany has been ordered to knit jumpers as a punishment!

Games Radar has a list of ten gaming moments you wouldn’t want your family walking in on. It made me grin, and includes any form of playing World of Warcraft. Meanwhile, Fidgit has a list of 10 moments that changed videogaming forever. It also includes WoW, as well as the Portal song.

You think Warhammer plundered from World of Warcraft and you haven’t read all the history of both games to know exactly how they line up for borrowing from one another? Well, how about this? World of Warcraft are now putting out a miniatures game. No kidding.

Let’s all get behind the Rock, Paper Shotgun list of 10 things all PC games should do. They had me at Alt-Tab support.

Gamespot have a guide to Mourkain Temple that everyone should read! Best guide so far, and not least because the angry Rune Priest looks like Arb’s. (thanks Ardua for sharing that link)

Just in time for Fallout 3 (what do you mean you didn’t know it was out in about a  month??), The Escapist notes that UGO have provided a crash course in Fallout.

KOTOR MMO to be revealed later this month according to CVG. And RF Online is closing in Europe and North America on 10th November.

Wired has its review of Warhammer Online up now, it’s pretty damn positive. Obviously we haven’t been linking to every review of the game, we figure if you’re reading this blog, you probably like the game, but this one came in a bit later than others, so stood out in the feed reader.

Kiziko has an interview with Josh Drescher, it’s very funny and he also talks about capital cities and city sieges.

Kikizo: Some people say that this could be the next World of Warcraft…

Drescher: Those people are very kind!

Kikizo: When we say “some people” we mean your PR guys…

Drescher: [Laughs] Well OK, very good…

Start your engines: first review up

Eurogamer has a review up of WAR (it’s not actually the first review, but possibly first since closed beta — in a non-blog at any rate). And it’s good.

It’s been obvious for some time now that Warhammer Online would be fighting-fit for its launch, and that’s absolutely the case. With those final troublesome crash bugs eradicated, the game boasts sturdy networking, stable servers, rare bugs, a functional and detailed interface, a lavish amount of quests and play styles, and a reasonably if not spectacularly well-optimised engine (the frame-rate struggles a little more than it should, although most landscapes are more than usually busy with monsters and NPCs). With the account-creation problems of European operator GOA now ironed out, this is a very solid gaming experience, by MMO standards.

They gave it 8/10.  (Cheap bastards 😉 )

And in other news, it looks as though the authentication is back up on the GOA site.

From ABBA to WAR

For my money, the best film of the year so far isn’t one that is going to be winning many Oscars. It’s not one that’s tearing down the boundaries of film making either. In fact, all it did was make a lot of people very very happy.

Waterloo – promise to love you for ever more

Yup, it’s Mamma Mia, a film which did everything right! Every single aspect of that film is note perfect (apart from possibly Pierce Brosnan’s singing but hey … James Bond sings ABBA. is that cool or what?) and totally focussed on realising the director’s vision. It’s fun, it’s happy, it’s true to the original stage play and the music, and the acting is great, in a way that doesn’t distract from the flow of the film. It’s funny and smart, and doesn’t treat the audience like fools. We all know it’s a musical and musicals have daft sequences where people burst into song and dance for no reason. We all know that comedies are based on silly misunderstandings but end up with people getting together in the end. And that’s exactly what the film delivers.

Everyone in the cinema when I saw it was laughing and singing and having fun. And maybe, just maybe, that’s just as valid a film experience as an edgy Arthouse film. (I like edgy arthouse films too, but it doesn’t stop me enjoying Mamma Mia for the perfect gem that it is.)

You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life…

You can probably see where I’m heading with this. What Warhammer can learn from Mamma Mia is that sometimes it’s all about the fun, and being true to your mission. Even if that means you are doing things that other people view as uncool. It’s all about the fun. There’s no harm done in pandering shamelessly to your core audience. It’s better than trying oh-so-hard to be edgy and disappointing everyone.

Reading reviews around the blogs and internet, it’s clear to me that Mythic have their focus and have stuck to it. People who enjoyed the game (like us) will tell you that we had fun. In fact, I’d be amazed if the word ‘fun’ doesn’t feature in most reviews, even the not-100%-positive ones. They’re kicking the basic MMO design around old-style and having fun. And I think that as long as they stay focussed on the strengths of their game as it is now, it’ll be a great success.

There are some revolutionary features in there. I agree with Tobold that the way the game encourages people to play together is really something new and exciting. And it may not be immediately obvious to beta testers, depending on the beta community. I do believe that in a few months we’ll really see how the community is forming up in game and have a better idea of how the PQs, open groups, etc really affect people. And I look forwards to that, because Mythic are putting the Massive back into MMOs, and that’s one of the big reasons that I like them.

Mamma Mia, here we go again! My, My, how can I resist you?

Now, there have been dissenting views and I think they warrent some consideration. People like Brent at Virginworlds complain that the game isn’t revolutionary enough for them. While I don’t think this is really a fair thing to criticise in a review (you’d laugh at a reviewer who criticised Mamma Mia for not being sufficiently revolutionary), It’s a useful point to make for people who haven’t been following the game for months.

Anyone who had read the Mythic website and the class descriptions would know from the start that there was never any claim to be getting away from the tank/healer/dps style MUD combat setup. It was never their goal. But for sure there will be people who just know ‘Oo, new MMO, what’s it like?’ This is useful information for them. I just don’t think it’s fair to say ‘this game is rubbish because it’s not revolutionary enough’. (Although saying that will certainly get you lots of hits.)

But why would we want a MMO to be revolutionary? Why tinker with a formula that works?

Now here I do sympathise. There are lots of things about MMOs that I love. I am hooked on the whole concept of a persistent world and RPG-style character development and have been since MUDs. And I think all of us were drawn in by our vision of what this type of game could be. The customisable avatars and the notion that they exist in a virtual world has been so appealing in itself.

But even though WAR is a polished example of the type with some cool new ideas to get people playing together (and I do actually think that it is revolutionary in that respect at least), MMOs in general still fall far short of the virtual world we were enticed with. The MUD-style combat system and the tank/healer/dps class setup were not necessarily part of the vision. And right now, they may be getting in the way of the ‘perfect’ sandbox virtual world game that a lot of us would love to see.

I think this is why so many fans really want the genre to keep moving. It’s because we know it isn’t there yet. WAR, like Mamma Mia, is tremendous fun if you like that sort of thing, but I wonder if the next huge MMO may not even be presented as a game at all.

[I personally find it hilarious when the Internet Heroes go on about how Warhammer Online (or any other MMO) isn’t revolutionary. I love it when they tell us, in their oh-so cool way, that we’ll still have to “Kill ten rats”. Why? Well, MMO quests tend to boil down to three types; 1) Kill Ten Rats, 2) Talk to Person X, 3) Find Object Y and take it to Person Z.

Come on then, find something new, something revolutionary that we can do, that doesn’t boil down to one of those three types. It’s easy to knock something down, so why not show the game designers where they’re going wrong? Tell us what we’re missing? Because by doing so, you can be making games more fun for everyone… – Hawley]

Review of Warhammer Online Beta

(NB. It is midnight here and I just got back from meeting friends to find that EU NDA is lifted. I’d like to take a moment to thank whoever it was at GOA who was up late updating the website so we could go ahead and post this. And hope you enjoy reading it.)

[Updates from the end of Open Beta added as underlined comments in brackets, 13 Sept ’08]

WAR is everywhere

The Age of Reckoning is at hand! It’s time to pick your side and join the fray! And with that, we’re off. It’s been terrific fun and that, more than anything else, is why the game succeeds.

And if there’s one thing I learned from playing the beta, it is that a lot of other beta testers have been waiting years for a new MMO which integrates RvR (Mythic’s more sociable version of PvP) and PvE because people were taking part in both aspects very enthusiastically. Although on the surface, it shares many facets of gameplay in common with other MMOs, the social aspects feel like a breath of fresh air. What really makes this game stand out for me are the clever mechanics which nudge people into playing together without any of the awkwardness of looking for groups or standing around for hours hoping to find some action.

RvR is provided via scenarios (small instanced mini-games, like battlegrounds in WoW) and world objectives. It’s very easy to find some action in world PvP because the map will mark where battles occurred in the last 5 minutes. Or you could just ask on the zone chat or join an open group in world RvR and check where they are. It’s easy for lower level players (assuming they are in the level range for the tier) to get involved because as soon as you enter an RvR area, everyone gets bolstered (or lowered) to the same effective level for the purposes of being able to hit things and how much health you have. So it is more effective to have higher levels because they’ll have better gear and skills but it’s not instant death if you aren’t.

The PvE side of the game is dominated by the Public Quest system (remember I said you’d love it?) which makes it easy for players to work together on a smallscale raid boss with a storyline attached; we all got quite addicted. Add to this the intuitive open group system and it becomes so simple to check which PQs the open groups are at, head over there, and join in. And it would not be unusual if the group was fun for people to suggest moving on to other PQs or heading off to RvR. The groups didn’t always disband after a single quest. Aside from the random PQ rewards, you also gain influence from taking part that you can eventually turn in to a reputation-style vendor for gear. This, coupled with the renown gear you can earn in RvR (which covers a full set of gear, including weapons and trinkets), means that you never have to rely on random drops while levelling. There is always something you can work towards reliably from either PvE or PvP.

Most of the other questlines that we found are very solo friendly. In general they are good, but lack the polish of WoW. There isn’t so much emphasis on ‘you are the HERO and this is your story’ that you get from single player games or many MMOs. Some zones we liked more than others but the feel of the Warhammer setting is very true. Although quest givers are marked with a green book above their head, they don’t all appear on the minimap which means that there are some perks for explorers who like to go searching. The other innovative side to questing is that when you accept a quest, a red area will appear on your map showing you roughly where you need to go. This struck a good balance between making quests into a pointless snooze-fest while still making sure that the directions were good enough that you didn’t go wildly wrong. So questing was generally fast and non-frustrating.

We didn’t test any PvE instances, it’s something I hope to do before the end of beta. It is mostly because the first instance is at around rank 20 and a lot of the guild didn’t level that much in beta.

[Ahaa, I did go through part of the Altdorf sewers when we were grossly over-powered for it. Was quite small and fun though, and the atmosphere in the sewers was great – don’t think it was itemised at the time though – arbitrary]

I also should mention the Tome of Knowledge, which is just astounding. You’ll be earning unlocks from the moment you zone into the game and talk to the first questgiver. Each new tome entry has a few paragraphs of ‘in character’ prose for you to read, and may have maps and other descriptions also. The Tome itself also contains your quest log, lists of titles and achievements you already have, and lots of other information too. It’s absolutely integrated into the game. And the other thing I loved (and this is great for explorers) is that there are some tome unlocks that are based on items or places that you can find. Massively wrote about one tome unlock like this which they found in the High Elf starting area. There are lots more, if you can find them.

Is it ready to release? We found some bugs, sure, but the game itself is as stable as any beta I have ever played. I can compare it easily to WoW or LOTRO in that respect, which both had very stable betas by the time they got to release.

The game isn’t flawless; in particular we still don’t know what the answer will be to population balance issues, and performance in largescale battles hasn’t been good. With regard to that latter point, I hear via forums that we should not read that there’s a patch already on some of the US beta servers that solves many performance issues so I’d hold judgement on that until we get to see it ourselves.

[OK, as of the end of open beta, performance in largescale battles has been dramatically improved. There was definitely some lag but the game was playable. It’s better than anything else I’ve seen in that kind of situation. We also have some idea now of how the population balance will work out. There are separate caps and queues on each server for Order and Destruction. This does mean that if your side is ‘full’ then you may need to queue before you can log on.]

Now, I did (foolishly) make a list of ten points I wanted to see from reviews so it would be churlish not to cover them.

1. Was it fun?

YES. We had a lot of fun, particularly with the phase of the beta test where we started from level 1. Part of this is just the sheer joy of having a whole new game to explore, and being able to play with friends I haven’t seen online for months. But the game made it easy for us to play together and find fun things to do which benefitted all our characters. It was also easy, as I have said, to hop into a group in PvE, RvR, and a scenario, and fight alongside other people who you might not know without everyone annoying everyone else.

There’s nothing especially revolutionary in the classes but we all were able to find ones that we really liked, so they’re doing something right! And that helps a lot with the fun aspect.

2. What irritated us?

The most irritating thing I found in the beginning was trying to figure out how to get to the other race’s starting areas (or to Altdorf) so we could group up. It is not currently intuitive or obvious. What you actually have to do is find your way the first warcamp in your racial area and locate a flight master, but the warcamps are not well marked until after you have found them.

[Yup, still an issue. But now people have great websites up with maps on them which makes this a bit easier.]

It was also a bit irritating that some of the scenarios were never up. People congregated in the Empire v Chaos zone and I never saw any of the Elf T2 or T4 scenarios played at all. Of course, this did mean that it was easy to find A scenario, if you hopped over to EvC. Just some zones ended up quite deserted.

[Not true in Open Beta when there were more people around. EvC was still the busiest scenario in tier 1 but I think that’s mostly because people liked it better. I was able to play all of the others without too much of a wait. I think in live with its greater populations, this will be less of an issue.]

I was also sad that there wasn’t a dual wield class for Order, at least Destruction has the Disciple. (I don’t count the Witch Hunter because sword + gun isn’t really the same.)

Couldn’t name the War Lion. That made me very sad, and I hope they change it before the game goes live.

[Both me and my husband (and Hawley) got to play the T4 Elf scenario and loved it, I played the T1 Dwarf one a couple of times, but in general all the action in beta was EvC. Possibly had to do with the comparatively low server population – arbitrary]

[As of Open Beta, you can now change the War Lion’s name (the command is /petname <name>. This made us very happy, at the cost of seeing lots of … very creative pet naming. The War Lion also changes appearance more from level to level with different colours of coat and stripes. There’s even extra some randomness so two pets are less likely to look the same.]

3.What makes this game different?

I think Mythic have really delivered on all the things they hyped. Public Quests, lots of open world RvR with objectives, Tome of Knowledge, the Warhammer setting. Just to delve more into the setting, the look and feel of the game is spot on. We discussed our various ponies and gyroharness and everyone agreed that they didn’t want the choice of different mount colours because the standard ones just … worked. You will end up feeling like part of a larger army, wearing similar styles of armour. You will feel as though if you rode into battle alongside a bunch of people of the same race, it would feel like a warhammer army on the march.

I also really liked having both a defensive and offensive target. As a healer, it was a very nice touch.

I also really liked the idea of levelling up the guild and getting in game rewards for it. This isn’t especially new to this game, since EQ2 and LOTRO (among others I am sure) have similar features. The living city intrigued us a lot also.

Oh and I totally loved my magus and its disk! I won’t be playing it as a main but … I just loved the disk.

4. What makes this game the same?

The UI looks and feels like Warcraft when you first see it. This makes the game very easy to pick up. Aside from that, most of the standard tropes of the genre are there. It isn’t revolutionary. Class design is fun and has some neat tweaks but goes with the same tank/melee/support/ranged that we’ve seen many times before. Quests are … quests. You’ll end up doing deliveries, killing 10 mobs-of-the-day, finding items that kind of glow a bit to help you out, and so on. I think they’ve done a good job on all of these things but there isn’t much new there.

[Should just add, if you have a quest that asks you to collect 10 foozle ears, every foozle will drop an ear. Also there is a separate item bag for quest items, so they don’t take up room in your main bag.]

I think the game does compare well to other MMOs, but it doesn’t have the gonzo polish of WoW. I do think that if people are willing to give it a chance, it will win them over. But you have to stop comparing constantly to other games and enjoy it for itself. Whether people will do this, I don’t know. I think the warhammer fans will be happy though.

5. Did you try anything nuts?

The high elves start on top of a cliff so naturally the first thing I did was to jump off. I failed totally to die because I landed in the sea, though. I announced to my guild that you couldn’t die from falling, and then they all proved me wrong.

So I totally failed at jumping off cliffs 🙂

[I would never nor have ever tried anything nuts – arbitrary. Honest!]

6. What is the core of the game like?

The core of the game is all about giving you lots of options for finding people and doing things in groups without being overly beholden to them or spending hours in LFG. It’s fun and it works. A typical session might involve logging on, checking if your guild was busy and if you could join them, if not decide if you feel like PvE or RvR and checking the open group list locally to see what is going on. Or join a scenario queue and get on with some quests in the meantime. It’s also very easy to start your own open group so if you are in a mood for keep taking and no-one is doing any, just announce in the local channel what you plan to do and people will probably start joining.

I think it’s a solid model, it works, and it’s fun. And I can see that it would be easy enough for Mythic to add more content later without altering the core of the game.

As to how the game actually plays, it’s balanced to avoid insta-kills in RvR. There were some complaints that it took too long to kill people but in a largescale fight this really means that there’s a bit more tolerance for people to get involved without constantly dying. I thought that aspect was tuned well, and made the RvR experience rather less ‘omg I’m dead again’ for people who hadn’t done it much before.

Combat is fine, not as responsive as WoW and classes don’t have as wide a mix of abilities but I tried casters, healers, and melee and I didn’t feel any major issues with basic gameplay. You will notice the lack of long crowd control as a basic design decision.

7. What are the biggest issues?

Funnily enough, I didn’t find any issues in the actual game that concerned me. But population balance is going to be a big deal. In beta, Order was outnumbered and as a result Destruction held most of the keeps for most of the time. This wasn’t especially demoralising since we were able to take some back, but knowing always that we’d never be able to hold them for long takes some of the fun out of it.

And as I said above, some zones were quite empty and some scenarios rarely ever ran. I’m not sure how much of an issue this really is. If you give players choices, they are likely to have preferences. But it is worth noting.

Healers in particular are quickly singled out and have very few defenses other than healing themselves. I think this will be less of an issue once players learn how to work better with collision detection and tanks.

[Getting used to collision detection is bizarre, the number of times I swore blind it was someone else’s fault I’d run into them was kind of amusing, to my husband anyway! I think there’s something for everyone, but the traditional concerns relating to RvR will always apply; lag and balance – arbitrary]

8. What wasn’t there yet?

Auction House and Banks. The only tradeskill (apart from the gathering skills and cultivation) was Apothecary. Trophies don’t show up on your character although you can equip them (edited to add: have had reports that this has changed, I haven’t had a chance to grab any trophies since we got the level 31 templates to check yet.)

[OK, many changes here since Open Beta, as you’d hope. Auction House and Banks are now in the game. Trophies do show up but you need to have an item of the correct type equipped to do this. For example, if you have a shoulder trophy, it won’t show up unless you have shoulders equipped.

Crafting is now in but not especially polished. It’s fun for what it is, but I expect to see some tweaks later. Butchery and Scavenging are easy gathering skills to earn some extra cash, especially Scavenging since most things you kill are humanoid. Magical Salvaging needs you to destroy green items, although they have added extra salvaging drops too. Cultivating needs you to sow seeds (which drop a lot) and add water and nutrients, but you can do this while wandering around and doing other stuff. I found it quite relaxing. Of the crafting skills, Apothecary makes potions – they all seem moderately useful. You have to figure out the recipes but its easy to experiment. Talisman Making makes short duration (several hours) tokens that you can add to socketed gear, it seems the most difficult at the moment.]

9. What was the beta experience like?

I actually have written a separate post about that. It’ll go up later 😉 Generally positive though. And zergy. I feel that Mythic have been quite responsive to feedback.

10. Did you find any good bugs?

Nothing spectacular. Some graphical glitches. Quests not lining up nicely in the quest tracker, etc.

I know someone found a levelling bug because it was one of the few things that got moderated off the forums. There was some issue with Bright Wizards/Sorcereresses which meant that some of their abilities did too much damage. We did keep getting drops for the cut classes, which was quite funny. And I found a quest which gave a reward that was unusable by any class in that zone. I also found a PQ in which the last stage was bugged to be way too easy — we reported it after we’d all maxed out influence (err, I mean we repeated it three times to make sure it was replicable and then reported it).

[Hrrm, mine mostly related to naked dwarfs. Is that a problem? Found some interface stuff, but not really anything too much of the game itself – arbitrary]

[Mythic have been very responsive to bug reports. Each patch that came out in beta fixed a lot of bugs and although there are still some graphical glitches, they’ve been very quick to fix major issues. There has also been some class rebalancing but nothing major.]

Spoil this!

So it’s been a quiet day on the blog front, probably because everyone is expecting an NDA drop imminently and has lined up lots and lots to post as soon as it does. (I fear Syp’s promise of ‘one post a minute’ precisely because I’m absolutely sure that he’s able to do it!)

One thing I do wonder about is spoilers. I’m not spoilerphobic myself but you do get a very different experience of a game, book, film, etc if you play through without the spoilers and discover everything for yourself. There have certainly been times in Warhammer when one of us discovered something that made everyone laugh. Some of this is cool hidden tome unlocks, Massively gave a good example of one of these with their elf coverage and I rather appreciated that they didn’t go on and pick out a few more.

How do you feel about spoilers? We all know that very soon just about everything knowable about the game will have been neatly collected on various websites, will you go look things up or do you prefer to find out for yourself?

10 Things We Want from Post-NDA Writeups

Kudos to the guys at Gamespy for giving us a really fun beta writeup this week. I was thinking while reading that it covered a lot of the points I like to see in a ‘what I did in beta’ report. I know we’ll be talking more about this when the NDA goes down but because I’m selfish, I just wanted to let everyone else in beta know what we wanna see!

(By the way, one of the really surreal things I found on Gamespy while I was poking around for the WAR beta writeup link was a guide for things to do in WoW at level 60. That’s practically a museum piece right there. Including the link for posterity.)

1. Was it fun

Did you have fun playing? Doing what in particular? Was it fun right from the start or did it grow on you? At a very basic level, if a game isn’t mostly fun then it has failed.

Were you able to find a character class that was fun for you, and what made it so fun? Did you like the class/es that you expected to like? Did you stick mostly to one side (ie. Order/Destruction) and if so, why?

2. What irritated you?

NDA will be down, you can be honest. Was there anything that irritated or frustrated you about the game? Give details! Do you think it’s mostly a beta issue or will we see it in live too? Did you find any workarounds?

3. What makes this game different?

In this case, we know what the selling points of WAR are. The public quests, the tome of knowledge, the RvR, the Warhammer setting. So, beta testers, just how cool are those things in the game right now? How did the rest of the beta testers take to them? What worked, and what were any issues? Was there anything else that really made you sit up and think ‘ok, this is new and different‘?

4. What makes this game the same?

What did you see that reminded you of existing games? It’s fine to compare WAR with WoW, for example. How was the UI? Did you find it easy to use because of similarity to games you played before?

Did the similarities make you feel positive about WAR or did it not compare well?

5. Did you try anything nuts?

I can tell you now that the first thing I do in an online game is to take a dive off something high and see what happens. Did you try anything silly or crazy? How about with your guild (if you have one)?

Give us some funny stories! Preferably with screenshots.

6. What is the core of the game like?

Do you think that the game is basically sound? What sort of activities did you do in a typical session?

When I talk about the core of the game, what I’m trying to say is that it’s hard to compare a new MMO to games that have been out for over a year and had a lot of content added to them. A MMO at release will always have less content than that. But the core mechanics and gameplay won’t change hugely over time. WoW was always loot dependent and had fast-moving combat with lots of tuned 5 man instances. LOTRO always made good use of instancing for storytelling and didn’t have a standard healing class. CoH always let you beat up lots of mooks at a time, relied on generated mission instances, and had a superb character generator.

What’s core to the gameplay here? Does it play well? Will it still be engaging when more content is added?

7. What do you think the biggest issues are going to be?

I can name a couple without troubling the NDA at all. But what were the biggest issues you encountered in beta, and do you think they’ll be present later too? I don’t mean what things were frustrating, I mean what actual design issues did you encounter?

8. What wasn’t there?

Name some functionality that wasn’t in the game yet but should be in there when the game goes live. In WoW, there were some placeholders in the beta (remember Captain Placeholder? We do!). Is there anything like that in WAR at the moment. What were you unable to test that should be present later?

9. So what was the beta experience like?

We know that beta communities tend to be more experienced and friendlier than live ones, mostly due to being picked for experience and willingness to actually beta test. What was it like being in beta? Were people cooperative? Was your beta server community friendly and interested in testing things together? What content did you actually get to test? The gamespy crew commented on getting level 31 templates. Did you do that too?

How were Mythic/GOA about taking feedback? Were the servers stable? What were the downloaders like?

10. Did you find any good bugs?

Do you have any particularly funny bugs to report? Any feedback that you are especially proud of? Feel free to include screenshots. We’ll be laughing at these a year from now.

How about exploits? Did anyone find anything potentially game breaking?

11. Send us chocolate!

<insert fluff text with barely disguised plea for chocolate, or ice cream>

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.

Book Review: Gotrek and Felix — The First Omnibus

Gotrek & Felix, by William King

Gotrek shrugged. He glanced to the door. The archway was filled with green-skinned marauders, advancing behind their grinning moon banners. Felix slid the Sigmarite sword smoothly from its sheath. A thrilling musical note sang out. The runes across its blade blazed brightly. For a second the goblins hesitated.

Gotrek looked over at Felix and grinned, “This is going to be a truly heroic death, manling. My only regret is that none of my people will ever get to hear of it.”

This omnibus collects together the first three books of adventures of Gotrek Gurnisson, the battle-hardened dwarf trollslayer and his associate Felix Jaeger, warrior-poet of Altdorf. They’ve become two of the most iconic characters in Warhammer fiction. The books are great, and if they weren’t tied to a game-based IP, they’d be widely recognised as some of the best swords and sorcery fiction ever written.

The adventures are exciting, the characters spring to life, and the strange gothic undertone that gives Warhammer its distinctive flavour seeps out of every page. This is an Empire where hunger and war are familiar gnawing fears, where madness and corruption lurk in the shadows, where politics turns brother against brother, and where even the most high born can sell out their own kin to the lords of chaos.

Book 1: Trollslayer.

In a a travelogue written as a collection of short stories, Gotrek and Felix break up a Chaos cult during a sacred festival, travel to the lands of the border princes with a dispossessed count and his people, seek treasure and vengeance beneath the dwarf city of Karak Eight Peaks, and battle one of Chaos’ chosen warriors and her beastman retinue. Along the way, the Empire itself comes to life. The tough, determined humans. The oath-bound, honorable dwarfs. The subtle corruptions of chaos, and the savage greenskins.

Book 2: Skavenslayer.

The trollslayer and his companion settle briefly in Nuln, a large and prosperous city of the Empire. With no coins to their name, they start by earning their way as sewer tunnel clearers … and encounter the Skaven for the first time. Unlike the first book, this isn’t a collection of unlinked stories. The Skaven are plotting to overthrow Nuln, and Gotrek and Felix are drawn unwillingly into their plots.

One faction of Skaven wants to use the adventurers to foil another faction. Felix has to deal with a brother he hasn’t seen for many years who is now among the city’s wealthiest merchants. And who is the mysterious Doctor Drexler who seems so familiar with combatting chaos plagues? As the plots thicken, the whole city is threatened by plague and by starvation until finally the full force of the Skaven army is unleashed … from beneath the city itself.

Book 3: Daemonslayer.

In an epic story Gotrek gets together with two other trollslayers and a dwarf army to carry out a crazy plan which takes them beyond the ends of the civilised world. In a huge dwarfish airship, they plan to sail out to the Chaos Wastes to fulfil an old oath to a long abandoned dwarf city, to search for treasure and survivors, and of course for a heroic death. And yet, when they get there, Gotrek finds that his coming was foretold and that a great doom is upon them all.

It’s another well-told story with vivid, memorable characters. And yes, the dwarf engineers get their moments of glory here too. What’s even better is that the biggest baddest daemon of them all, a Bloodthirster of Khorne … is going to be in the game (read about it here) so we can also follow in G&F’s footsteps.

In summary, all I can really say is that if you want to read more about Warhammer and get a sense of the setting, READ THIS BOOK. And I’m really looking forwards to seeing Gotrek and Felix again in the pub at Aldorf!

How to take criticism (from a pro)

I saw problems that deserved to be addressed. And I was deliberately vicious in the words I chose when describing those problems. I knew, when I wrote the piece, that it was going to upset both players and developers.

Yep, we’re back to that PC Gamer article, from the June 2008 issue. Tim Edwards has made a post about the article and the follow-up discussions with Mythic as well as how the review was received in the community. Obviously, he notes from the off that he knew the review was a little inflammatory – all good publicity for the magazine, and honestly.. for the game too.

What’s interesting to me is that I don’t tend to think too much about the individuals behind the reviews too much. I tend to take games reviews as something interesting, but not make or break. When you get to be a reviewer for a title such as PC Gamer, your views have more influence, both on the developers and on the community.

Tim mentions again that he met with Paul Barnett to discuss his negative comments, and how Mythic had taken them on board and were working hard to fix them. Whether they succeed, we will (hopefully) soon be able to judge for ourselves. But, there’s nothing here I haven’t mentioned before… except when Tim goes on to discuss how the Warhammer Online community received his review.

The amazing thing, though, is just how smart gamers are. It’s easy, in these communities, to reject dissent. Warhammer’s players didn’t seem to. They read the preview, talked it over, and took it all on board. There is vitriol, yes. There always is. This is the internet. But it gives me hope, and makes me happy, that so many of Warhammer’s community didn’t try and kill me.

Let’s hope that going forward, we can remember these words and take them as an indication of how criticism should be given and received. When we criticise, we have the ability to feed back useful insights and information and to give some views on how things could change to improve the game/community/realm/review/whatever. And always read through the material for yourself before coming to a conclusion.