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.

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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!]

Is it more fun to lead a WAR guild than a WoW guild?

Blackweb@The Vault has a lot more fun leading his guild in WAR than he did in WoW and explains why pretty clearly.

One of the reasons he gives is that guilds in WoW, particularly raid guilds, compete for members.

In wow, my guilds greatest enemies were other guilds from my own faction. Poaching guild members was rampant, promises of instant epics common. I actually had another guild merge with mine with the intention of taking my best players and leaving.

During my time raiding in WoW and being a guild officer in a raid guild I have seen a lot of the same behaviour dynamics. I don’t know many guilds who deliberately ‘poach’ but all the higher end raid guilds are very aware that their best source of new geared, experienced raiders will be people from other raid guilds. Turnover can be high, people regularly burn out, recruitment is continuous for particularly desired classes/specs. Part of the incentive to compete over speed of clearing raid instances is for bragging rights and being more easily able to attract new raiders from less ‘elite’ guilds.

Blackweb continues (talking about WAR now):

We have good relations with other guilds and work with them on a regular basis. WAR is the most fun I have ever had playing a pvp based MMO since early planetside. Mythics strong stand against exploiters, gold spammers, power levelers helps us keep our guild free of exploiters and play the game as it was meant to be played. WARs living guild concept is great. Everyone celebrates when the guild ranks up and works hard to achieve the next guild rank. Everyone gets involved in helping build the guild. No one steals items from the guild bank. Member turnover is low.

Even allowing for the game only being a few weeks old and in its honeymoon period, again what he reflects here is behaviour that I have seen too. Particularly the incentive for guilds and raids to work together as opposed to always competing for resources.

I’ve said before that I also find it more fun to lead raids in WAR than WoW for many of the same reasons. Part is the fun you can have with strategy and second guessing live opponents, and part is for the fun of working together with other raids from your own realm.

I think the points that blackweb makes here are very core to the feel of both games. And really, if the leaders aren’t having fun and are burning out, how good can that really be for the state of any game?

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.