Return of the WAR

As I think the majority of readers here knows, I took a bit of a break from WAR and have recently returned to playing more regularly with my little Warrior Priest (who dies a LOT thanks to a sea of Choppas, and contrary to popular belief!). Was talking with Spinks this morning about just how many positive things WAR had going for it, and rather than writing about it on Nerf the Cat, I thought I’d list some of  them here.

Not waiting around for looting (bags, choices, etc)

We were discussing how one of the problems I have with raiding in other games is the stopping and starting for loot, whatever choice of loot distribution the raid uses, and that’s when we realised that WAR really doesn’t have this problem because of the loot bags in PQs, dungeons, oRvR, etc and the way the need/greed system works. It’s so much better to have loot selections on offer, and to also have stuff that’s directly relevant to your class. I don’t think I realised how much I like the system, because previously I’ve focused on just how crappy my rolls have been, or how unfair 1 gold bag per keep used to be, and stuff like that. In the end it allows for some seamless play where looting doesn’t get in the way of the experience. It’s certainly not perfect, but it fits in well with the frenetic pace of  Warhammer Online.

Variety

Ok, a lot of this is due to the Slayers/Choppas and server merges, but for whatever reason, the server feels pretty damn busy at the moment across all tiers. I hear of fortress and city stuff going on via guild chat (merged guild, so new faces to learn and get used to also), while someone also mentioned Tier 3 is very busy and I know for myself that Tier 1 and 2 are. The general number of people and the spread have highlighted the variety of things to do in WAR, and I’m omitting crafting because I don’t feel any urge to do it at all!

But with public quests, scenarios, normal questing, capital city quests – there’s a lot to do to get from A to B, levelwise. Spinks and I spent a good portion of today doing PQs while waiting for scenarios to pop in Tier 2, and once the afternoon kicked in, we barely had time to hand in the scenario quests before another one popped. It was this variety that appealed from the start, and it’s great to see it there and being shown off so nicely. I hope this continues, though I fear it’s inevitable that the action eventually move firmly to Tiers 3 & 4.

Scenarios

In and of themselves, scenarios are great fun. Though, it interesting that people seem to like whichever the latest one is. I know I really enjoyed Reikland Factory and the Twisting Tower, but maybe just because they were new and fresh and after a while the others can get a bit frustratingly samey. But, having said that, something that takes you out of the normal run of the game and transports you into a fun 15-minute mini-game is to be applauded. It’s a bit like the solo instances in LotRO, something I can do that adds to my experience but doesn’t take too long. Of course, scenarios are desperately dependent on other people signing up… so they have a bit of a downside. But overall, still loving them and the concept of them!

Casual Hardcore

One thing that I’m enjoying about my return to WAR in contrast to other games, is that everything is pretty fancy-free and unstressful. If I want to try and get a group together to do something, I can give it a go. If not, I can toddle around doing random quests via red blobs, and just exploring the world and the game. Dying means very little to me, it’s too quick and easy to die when the odds are against you. It might be a pain during a dungeon, but in every other situation, I just shrug, get up and get on with things. The game is quick to pick up and also to put down, so it can be treated as more of a pastime and less of a chore. Of course, if I cared enough about the endgame, the ward armour, completing all the content or collecting every title, I might not feel this way, but at the moment, it’s a perfect game for me to decide on a daily basis if I want to be casual or hardcore or a mix of the two.

Questing

The normal quests are often shrugged off as being a sideshow to the main attraction (the RvR, which we all know and mostly enjoy!). But actually, they’re not half bad at all. The red blobs might make questing fast and easy-ish (location-wise), but the areas have great flavour and interesting storylines to follow through, so that even when blasting through you get a good sense of them. I quite enjoy WAR questing as another fairly unstressy way of enjoying the game.

Anyway, a quick overview of things we were discussing today, and of my very basic feelings after not playing very seriously for a while. Feel free to add others, or disagree at will!

Advertisements

My First Fortress Attempt

A prominent Order guild on my server made the call for our forces to march on Caledor and push to the fortress. It’s exciting to see all these guilds come together and really push a singular goal. The anticipation is exhilarating, and much of the reason I wanted to play MMOs in the first place. This wasn’t my first fortress push, but it was the first that I was able to see it to the end… or so I thought.

When we reached the fortress, it was relatively easy to make our way through the outer and inner doors. What first struck me is the scale of the structure. It’s massive compared to the keeps I’ve been sacking. However, I was disappointed to see that while huge, the layout is relatively the same. In fact, know that I think about it, all the keeps layouts are the same! Did the armies of Warhammer only use pre-manufactured keeps from Germany or something? Next it will be Ikea interiors!

Anyway, after blasting through the doors we made our way up the first flight of stairs. We assembled at the base of the final single staircase as we faced with “The Infamous Tankwall of Doom!” For those of you unfamiliar, defenders of keeps generally form a “U” or actually more like a lazy “J” at the top of the staircase. Then their healers and range dps sit back rain death on the attackers and love bolts to the tankwall. Because of line of sight issues, it is very difficult for the attackers to heal their front line while also attacking the defending tankwall. Tankwalls often lead to stalemates, and I find them very frustrating. While attackers shouldn’t be able to just steamroll over defenders, these situations just aren’t very fun for a video game. Mythic seems to agree and has said they are planning to add additional staircases to keeps and fortresses. However, I’m disappointed to see this most welcome change missing from the 1.2 patch notes.

Finally, the call came, “PUSH!” As I made my way toward the staircase my computer was wheezing like an old man after playing the All Priests Over 75 Indoor Five-a-Side Football Match. There were probably about 100 or so players involved in this fortress battle, but it’s pretty bad still to have 3.3Ghz Core2Duo with 4GB of RAM and a kajillion other leet hardware brought to it’s knees while on the lowest graphical settings! As I stuttered my way over to the staircase without warning something got me, and I was deaded. Unfortunately that was the end of my fortress experience.

There are many negative things I’ve read about fortresses on the forums, and I have always taken that negativity with a grain of salt up until now. Mythic really does need to do something about the performance of their game. They keep saying they are improving it, but something in their engine altogether needs to be striped out and replaced. They need to add more ways for attackers to assault keeps and fortresses. We need destructible walls, ladders, and other siege equipment to make the experience more dynamic. And the biggest issue for me, they need to make these keeps and fortresses more varied. I think they have done an excellent job making each zone varied from one another, but the keeps have fallen short of this. What if keep lords where in a basement instead of the top? What if the structure wasn’t a keep at all, but maybe a holy shrine or a den of vicious beast?

There needs to be more variety in open RvR keeps and fortresses, it must perform well on the average gamer’s computer, and their needs to be more options in battle so that gameplay doesn’t become a repetitive tankwall versus zerg. Otherwise, I think the Warhammer end-game will become boring and stale all too soon for some.

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.

I’m oh so tired…

It’s 6am. I woke at 5:30am. I went to bed at midnight, a bit awake for bed, but knowing I had to go. Because I have work today and need to leave the house at 7:30am to get there.

So why so tired?

Well.. first I signed up to a raid with my LotRO guild so I’d get a bit of practice in before Moria. It was fun, I didn’t get anyone killed and people were really nice and generous to have me along feeling a bit out of it. That finished at 10pm.

Now, when I last left WAR, Order on our side was fighting in Chaos Wastes, trying to flip it after a Herculean effort to flip Praag the day/night before. So I decided to pop on after LotRO and see what the status was. They were still fighting in Chaos Wastes (it started around 11am, just for reference), and there was a keep to be taken. So on I popped and joined one of the two warbands that were in the area. We took the southern keep, then a battlefield objective. Then our warband decided to go do some PQs to help with the zone flippage, leaving the others to re-capture any lost BOs on the way.

Off we went to the PQs. Did 1, then did another, then started on the first again. As we were reaching the end of stage 1 – the zone flipped. Not seen that before, but it was pretty cool, and people did genuinely cheer (even on Teamspeak – hang on, that was me!).

And the next thing we knew, I was learning the way to The Maw. We had 1 hour to try and capture it. First door, pretty easy. Second door, lots of problems getting a ram up, but we got it down. Didn’t see any defenders at all for that part and got a bit worried for poor ol’ Destruction. But seriously, we knew they were out there as we’d seen them valiantly fighting just moments before. We started off with the larger numbers and managed to get up some of the stairs intact, but we had problems with people having the right ward gear (unsurprisingly) and hey, it was our first attempt – so we were a bit all over the place.

We managed to make the fight last most of the hour, if not all of it, I stopped looking at the timer I have to admit. There were multiple waves of champion mobs that hit hard. Destruction had at least as many defenders as we had attackers by the end of it – which made for a pretty epic fight. There was lag, there were complete slowdowns, confusion, insanity and madness. But we were all along for the ride, and we all know it’s now going to happen again, on both sides.

As I left for bed, Order were off to try and defend Praag from the onslaught. One of the things about having that kind of fight, is you know all those players are on and spoiling for action. And a friday night – so noone has work the next day. Except me. Boo.

In other news, I notice Massively linked to my blog post that was pretty cynical about GOA at some point last night. So I thought I’d clarify – I think the odd bit of rhetoric can get action and make things change. I think if players shout loud enough things will get better there. I know GOA’s intention is not to stiff us and make us write such things. We now have a Realm War page (albeit in beta, but I’m guessing that’s because they wanted to get it out asap instead of stalling more – good work! I think we’d rather have it like this than not at all), we are having server transfers, communication has been a lot better – including Magnus stopping in at Ark’s Ark to comment on the Makaisson server transfer issue.

I’ve just seen it improve before and then go bad again. But I am hopeful that this may be the start of something good GOA-wise.

I’m also shattered because the RvR is so engaging I couldn’t just let it lie and not log on last night, and then I just couldn’t go to bed!

Poor work – they haven’t seen me this sleepy since I was killing a Balrog, and now they’ll all have to hear about The Maw.

My issues with dungeons (so far)

Ok, this is solely based on Gunbad and Bastion Stair which we’re currently half-heartedly working our way through.

Why half-heartedly? Well.. for a few reasons The first wing is almost too straightforward, easy to clear – the boss, wasn’t too bad once we got his schtick (not too hard to grasp!). The second wing, is more tricky – but has some nice little fights in. And I’ve not yet been to the third wing.

The problem? Well, it’s all well and good to have a public dungeon where I can take a warband of guild or alliance mates and crush evil wherever I see it. But, once we get to that instanced boss, we suddenly have to work on making balanced 6-man groups, leaving people out, feeling guilty/bad if one group does it and another doesn’t – and anyone who does it gets a 24-hr lockout. And the game doesn’t detect the 6 (or less) classes taking part and cleverly drop sensible loot for those classes – nope, it’s so far mostly dropped stuff for any class NOT in the group (often one in the other group, who then get different loot). I hate that a fast-paced dungeon romp comes to a crashing halt as bureacracy kicks in.

The only solution we’ve found so far – go as a 6-man group only. But that means I can’t just openly ask guild and alliance if they want to come along – everyone gets influence for the PQs, for example. Each group can tap mobs needed for quests and get some xp that way. But the bosses – it grinds to a halt and then there’s an aura of awkwardness.

And the 24-hr lockout. While I don’t disagree in principle to it (I think it was 30 mins for Gunbad, unless that’s changed), it means that some people are literally going EVERY night for a chance for their loot. I can’t and won’t do that, it’s no fun and it’s no xp after the first tranche of quests are completed.

Don’t get me wrong, I like public dungeons. I like being able to randomly decide I want a break from questing, scenarios and open RvR and that I have an option that can potentially offer me some great rewards. And both Gunbad and Bastion Stair are very atmospherically and graphically pleasing. Gunbad inhabited by Night Goblins, and Bastion Stair dedicated to Khorne with lots of skulls, blood and fire. So I like the occasional trip – they just always seem to leave me feeling a bit down.

Also, the lag caused by the pretty fires in Bastion Stair. Not fun!

I’m hoping people will answer with lots of things they love about the dungeons… so over to you.

Say hello to my little friend

my dps is fine, thanks

I’m Spinks and I am addicted to siege weapons. Even when I’m supposed to be healing people in a keep siege I’m probably fiddling with the Heavy Empire Organ Gun in my pack and trying to decide if I am in a Ballista or a Heavy Cannon mood.

We’ve been doing keep takes recently with far fewer people if there are enough of us online in the mornings. Yesterday we were taking keeps with one group. Obviously this is because they were undefended, and amusingly it also shows that T4 keeps are easier to flip than T2 ones (I am thinking of you, annoying keep lord in the Shadowlands!).

In any case, the siege weapons help a lot. You can certainly take a keep without them but it is a slow and painful experience, and defending without siege weapons makes the job much harder than it should be.

The basics of siege weapons are that you can place them on siege pads that are laid out around the keep. Some pads only take specific weapons – for example you can only place a ram in front of a keep door and you can only place oil above the door. Other than that, you get a free choice and it doesn’t matter which race you bought your siege weapons from. The only thing that does matter is that it was at a vendor appropriate for your current tier. So buy your T4 kit from T4 warcamps.

The siege weapons that you buy from the vendor are only useful in keep takes or keep defenses. There are no other places to use them. This doesn’t mean that you can’t man the siege weapons at a warcamp if it is under attack but your vendor won’t be useful there.

The siege weapons are simple to operate once you have the hang of it, and each one can take multiple operators. So if you see someone working a ram, feel free to click on the ram and see if there are any operator slots free (if there aren’t nothing will happen). The goal with multiple operators is for them to all use the siege engine at the same time, to multiply its effects.

The ram works like a golf game where you left click to stop the swing in the yellow zone. When you have four operators, you can see how they all scored after each swing. (It’s given as a percentage where if you miss the zone altogether you score 50%).

The single target siege engine (cannon or ballista) is my personal favourite and you use it to target other siege engines. In particular there are some keeps where using a siege engine is the only way to take out the oil above the outer door because it is placed too high for a caster to reach. They are also the simplest to operate, just aim the crosshairs at the thing you no longer wish to keep and click to fire. Then it takes a short period to reload.

Boiling oil is also simple to use. When it is loaded, click to use it. You don’t even need to target (it’s a cauldron of boiling oil, you don’t so much target it as tip it).

And last up is the multi-target cannon, ballista or organ gun. This is the one you use against other players. It has a combination three click firing system and a ground target that you get to place.

Repairing the Siege Engine

I put up a bold header for this because a lot of people don’t realise that you can do it. But when you take control of a siege engine you are given a bar with three icons — one to release the siege engine (ie. and let someone else operate it), one to use the siege engine, and the last one … to repair it. So a siege engine can have multiple operators, each of whom could be either using it or repairing it. This gets more important if the siege engine is actually under attack, which happens a lot with oil and rams.

If you are targeting some oil and it doesn’t seem to be losing ‘health’ the chances are that the enemy has someone up there healing it. That’s the time to switch to the organ gun and nuke their sorry arses! *cough* but I digress. Conversely, if you are bored at a keep defense, feel free to go and help repair the oil or heal the guys who are repairing the oil.

I really enjoy the siege weapons, they’re cheap and cheerful and I’m one of those bad bad healers who runs to the siege pads when I get a chance. Although in a big keep siege it is generally more polite to let the guys who would otherwise be twiddling their fingers use the cannons. And tanks onto the rams. In a small group no one will mind though.

If you haven’t tried using siege weapons at a keep take, go do it!

Witching Night Post-Mortem

So, Witching Night is over now, the Winds of Shyish have blown cold and all we have left to remember it by is a couple of exquisitely rendered masks and several internet whine threads.

I think it was a great success with a few caveats. The genius of the event was only having it last for a few days. That’s long enough for people to poke around and investigate, fight randomly while doing so, work out an optimum strategy that takes a lot of fun out of the event, initiate whine mode and then … presto, it’s gone again. With the bonus of playing for pure fluff (masks, cloaks and titles) and not anything that would actually affect gameplay. Business back to usual until the next one. In many ways it’s the perfect PvP game style of event – I’m excited that Mythic were able to try it out when the game’s still so new and looking forwards to seeing what they have learned from it.

The way the event ran for us (mostly going with Tier 4 because it’s what I saw myself): On the first day, there was a lot of Open World RvR around the PQ areas. People were curious and wanted to go and see what it was all about. I heard lots of comments on guild and chat about how much people were enjoying all the mass RvR. There was some chest camping by whichever side had lost the PQ which meant that the winning team couldn’t pick up their rewards. On the second day, there will still lots of Open RvR going on even when the PQ wasn’t up, plus the warbands were more active in Objective and Keep Taking also. But by this time, people had worked out the mechanics of the event in larger numbers so teams were more cautious about where they fought, and giving kills to the enemy. By the third day it was much quieter. People still occasionally checked on the PQ area but the constant mass battles were over. However it was the weekend so there was plenty of Open RvR going on in its place. By the fourth day, people were mostly bored of it.

The cauldrons were quite tough to find in PvE so I think a lot of people who would have happily ground out influence there weren’t able to do so. Having said that, we found a couple and it does reward the explorer types with some pretty fluff if they’re willing to spend a few hours grinding.

Suggested Improvements

I think the RvR PQ would work better if each side had resources to fight over (aka the Lighthouse in Nordenwatch) and got points/ influence for the longer they were able to hold it, or items to gather in the PQ area. It will never be exciting to stand around in one place wondering if anything is going to happen but if you could get some influence for doing it, there is more of an incentive.

Open RvR by its nature always favours the more populated side. There is pretty much no counter to this other than special event scenarios which are fun (and I’m very much looking forwards to the Reikland Steamtank Factory) but miss the point. However, having one of the PQs in a keep (which possibly could change randomly) would encourage people to focus on that. And keep defense is one of the places where an outnumbered side can hold their own.

More PvE cauldrons or having them more thematically placed with better clues as to where to find them (ie. in graveyards? In ruins? Just something to give the less lucky explorers some pointers) would have kept people less frustrated who really did want the cool masks.

The PQ and PvE event itself wasn’t overly-exciting, but the geek in me enjoyed seeing the influence guy in Altdorf in his full Amethyst Order regalia. More story would be nice next time.

But for now, I think the event was a qualified success. Mythic hotfixed the PQ reward chest fairly quickly (so hopefully have learned from that), we did get a lot more Open RvR while the event was running until people got very cagey about giving kills, the masks are simply gorgeous, and  I think that as long as it’s only for a short time and with fluff rewards, letting people figure out how to ‘game’ an event is not the worst thing in the world.

Mostly, I had fun and now I want to see more!

[arbitrary: event extended in Europe to 5th November but the above points still stand!]