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!

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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!]

My love/ hate affair with NPCs

A game world with no NPCs (non-player characters) would be a dull and lifeless place indeed. It isn’t that the NPCs inject a whole lot of life into the surroundings per se, but it helps us suspend disbelief if there are people walking around towns and apparently living in the world. Aside from giving out quests and quest rewards and buying our random junk, they help to flesh out the lore and give players something to compare themselves with. Even if it’s just checking out how the high level NPCs are dressed.

They are also undoubtedly the place where MMOs have utterly failed to offer as good an experience as a pen and paper game. In a tabletop RPG, a game master brings the NPCs to life. Players can talk to them, interact with them, argue with them, trick or be tricked by them, and they let a GM get her amateur acting chops on. Now computer games have their fair share of zany and memorable NPCs and good voice acting goes a long long way to helping with characterisation (Deckard Caine anyone?), but you rarely get that sense of personal interaction. And players in tabletop love interacting with the “A list” NPCs in the campaign, even if just so that they can flip them off. You see the difference immediately with computer games, where players treat NPCs as quest and lootbots.

WAR does a particularly bad job in this respect. The big name NPCs are there alright, standing around and giving out quests while they wait for the other realm to storm the city and kill them. But that’s about the limit of their involvement.The Phoenix King has pretty armour, admittedly (although it doesn’t take any big strides in the ‘High Elves aren’t girly!’ campaign). I haven’t found many quests at all involving specific important NPCs and their personal lore and history.

Other games fare slightly better: LOTRO has some clever interactions with members of the fellowship including a particularly nice single-player quest instance where you get to walk around Rivendell with Frodo and talk to him about his fears. Sure, he talks and then pauses, but everyone I know who played that quest says that they typed back to him to fill in the gaps, even though they knew he was an NPC and wasn’t listening. I was impressed.

WoW mostly has static NPCs but there are a few stunning questlines where you get an actual response out of them (the Thrall greatmother chain, Sylvanas’ singing, the Alliance Onyxia chain — don’t worry if none of this means anything to you by the way). And reading about the zombie invasion event, I was impressed at how they’re laying the grounds for players to have a personal reason to hate the Lich King and trust the alchemist who found the cure to this particular plague.

I can name my least favourite NPC without breaking a sweat though. It’s Ostelle Blackwood, who wanders around High Elf Tier 2/3 asking for seeds. I can always find her to pick up the quests but can I ever find her when I want to give them in? No way.

But I’m not sure if I have a favourite, and that’s a bit sad. A whole world full of lore to work with and none of the NPCs have really come across yet as characters in their own right. I suppose I have to go with Teclis since he’s cool in Giantslayer — but he sure ain’t anything special in WAR.

Do you have any favourite or least favourite NPCs?

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.]

Do RP servers have better communities?

I was intrigued by the discussion on the last Chaoscast about how to find a good server. The guys all took it as read that RP (roleplaying) servers have better communities, and I was wondering if that was true.

It’s a tricky thing for me to talk about, since (as Arbitrary reminded me) we’ve always played on RP servers, and will do that again with WAR. So mostly what I have to compare with is posts from forums and talking to friends on other servers. But, just for the record, the reasons I pick RP servers are:

  1. I find the atmosphere more immersive
  2. I really like the idea of players organising their own events, and RP servers/guilds are more open to this
  3. I’m not big on leet speak and I find more people who feel the same on RP servers
  4. I like the idea of RP, I don’t mean cybering and in-depth character arcs, just wandering around cities pretending that we’re from that world.
  5. I like being on a server where people don’t mock RPers

Note I didn’t say that I did RP a lot. I don’t particularly. I just like the atmosphere. And what I have found is that it’s easy to find other people who play the same way I do, and like the same kind of RP atmosphere. I do like the communities that build up, and roleplayers tend to be sociable and cooperative. They also tend to get a more mature crowd (again, means I have more in common with people) and more women. (The downside of this is that you can get crazy amounts of drama in RP guilds — “But your character wouldn’t have done that!!!” is not an issue you’d have on a regular server.)

BUT do they have better communities? Truth is, I don’t know. It depends how you define ‘better.’ A free-for-all PvP server can have a very tight-knit community, success there depends on having guilds and alliances you can trust to watch your back. But these servers aren’t as friendly to solo or casual play. Being tight-knit can mean cliquey and unwelcoming to newbies, but that really depends on individual players.

So I’m thinking: how would you measure server community?

  1. Survey. Ask players on the server if they are having fun. And ask questions designed to see how much they are socialising (Are you in a guild? How old is your guild? Do you feel that you have made friends here? etc.)
  2. Public events. How many public events do players organise? This can mean anything from a RP picnic with storytelling to a public raid. The only requirement is that it’s open to all-comers. To show if the community is welcoming and active, even to people who mostly solo or play very casually.
  3. How often do guilds fail?
  4. How many alliances are there? How many guilds are involved in these alliances?
  5. How long does it take a new player to find and join a guild that suits them? (Assuming that they wanted to.)
  6. How many level-capped players know each other? Do people recognise the names of all the guilds?
  7. How active is RvR/ PvP between the two sides? Is it evenly matched? If not, does the lower pop side still win fairly often?
  8. How much do players on opposing factions communicate with each other, on forums or IRC? Do people feel that they know their enemies and recognise their names?

Just looking at these points, it’s clear to me that Public Quests could change everything. But we just don’t know yet how people will use them. Will they use them as a game provided tool for socialising? Will they try to game them and shut out people who they don’t know? (Is that even possible?)

I like RP servers, because I find that the communities are better for ME, which at the end of the day is the only metric that matters 🙂 But I’ve always thought they were quite a minority interest, which is why I was surprised to hear Syp, Snafzg and Keen discussing them as if it was common knowledge. And also surprised that in a recent thread on Warhammer Alliance a lot of people did say that they’d want to play on a RP server. Maybe they’re getting more popular? Or just among old school MMORPG players who are looking for a certain type of community?

Are games more fun when you know the lore?

There are two different types of tourist.

  • The well prepared tourist has read guides, made lists of things they want to see and do and planned out their holiday in advance. It may be a sketchy plan but it’s there. They may even have learned a few words of the local language and know which of the local delicacies they plan to sample. Perhaps they have watched films about their destination or even been inspired to go there from seeing the place featured in a favourite book, comic or TV show.
  • The accidental tourist travels with the aim of exploring. Maybe they have made some preparation but what they really want is to be surprised with new and exciting experiences to tell all their friends about when they get back.

I always feel like a tourist when I head into a MMORPG for the first time. I like to know about the lore so that I can have the fun of recognising places and people if I see them in game. If someone made a game set in the town where I live, I’d enjoy “walking” around it in the virtual world, even though I could go outside and see it in real life.

For Warhammer, I’ve been reading some of the Black Library books to get a feel for the setting. I really noticed the effect of this when I was reading this month’s newsletter. Every other paragraph, I caught myself stopping to think something like “Wait, I read about that!”, “Ooo, that looks like a rat ogre, that was in my book!”, “That sounds like one of the daemons I read about … and it’s going to be in that dungeon! Wow, cool!”. I don’t know how excited I really am about the Warhammer setting per se but I am very intrigued at seeing how the world I’ve been reading about will be brought to life.

Of course, a graphical setting can be breath-taking whether or not you know the lore behind it. It’s nothing to do with how hardcore a player you are or whether you roleplay in game; an awesome visual is a visceral experience, and a well-written storyline can engage anyone who reads it (this is why even in a game like WoW, you can ask people if they have a favourite quest and most of them will pick the well written ones.)

Do you prefer to research the lore before you play a game that is set in an existing ‘world’?

Games Day UK – tickets on sale online (or from shops tomorrow)

If you’re in the UK (or elsewhere) and want to go to Games Day UK at the Birmingham NEC on 14th September, don’t forget that tickets go on sale on saturday 28th June from Games Workshop stores around the country.

You can also buy them online here.

The Games Workshop website can help you locate your nearest store. The stores also organise coaches to and from the NEC, but the coach places will sell out faster than Games Day tickets will, so if you want a coach ticket too, you’ll need to be sharp off the mark on saturday morning.

Tickets for the event are £30, coach tickets will cost extra.

Warhammer Online is going to have a presence there. But I think we’re both also hoping to get a sense of the Warhammer tabletop game and lore and just be in the same room as lots of people that love it and to see their reactions to Warhammer Online.