29th January

Looks like that’s the date for whatever big announcement Mark Jacobs promised over at the Vault boards (he said end of January, which works for me). Keen and Graev have been sent orange hair dye and hair clippers, and the world is expecting some cool pictures of Slayer-style hair cuts. If you are planning a mohawk, I’ll let you in on a secret – it was my favourite hairstyle ever, and I had one hrrm…. around 3 years ago now. I’m tempted!

The community have been guessing at a Slayer since the Hammerer was delayed really, so this would count as one of the least surprising surprises – but one of the most welcome (unless you wanted to be part of a very under-played MDPS class, in which case you might be a little reticent about Slayers going in). For me personally it’s good news, because it means the MDPS classes will be announced soon and hopefully in-game sooner, and I have a friend who will be coming back to the game to play one – as his main interest in the game was originally the Hammerer.

In European news, we had some maintenance  which fixed something I hadn’t even noticed on my Knight. Sometimes, I think I’m a bit rubbish at noticing details, but in my defence she just hit rank 10.. so there wasn’t much to re-train!

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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.

Which EU servers get the 20% xp/renown bonus

From the GOA site (no bonuses for playing Destruction which isn’t entirely unexpected):

A true warrior enter the battle where needed the most. Join the ranks of Order on one of the servers listed below, and the Gods themselves will smile upon you, granting 20% bonus to Experience and Renown gain for a limited time.

20% Experience and Renown bonus to Order:
Alarielle
Clar Karond
Karak Ungor
Karak-Izor
Karak-Norn
Karak-Vlag
Karaz-a-Karak
Makaisson
Tiranoc
Tor Anroc
Worlds Edge Mountains
Yvresse
Zhufbar

Please note that there is currently a display issue active, resulting in the bonus servers not being indicated as such on the server list. Rest assured, the bonus is applied correctly on these servers. Our technicians are working jointly with Mythic, attempting to resolve this as soon as possible.  We will update this post when the problem is resolved.

Popularity vs Population

As I write this, the game has been live for exactly a fortnight. In those two weeks, many elves have been slaughtered (1000 by me alone, apparently), many seeds have been sown, many keeps have fallen, many guilds and alliances have been created, and the paths around Nordenwatch have probably been haunting the dreams of tens of thousands of people. It’s been great!

And Destruction outnumbers Order on pretty much every single server, both EU and US/Oz. We knew by the end of closed beta that this was a possibility. All the surveys backed it up. But we didn’t know for sure how much of an issue it was going to be. In a sense we still don’t — the majority of players who started at the outset are not yet into Tier 4 so balance in the endgame is still something of an enigma.

It certainly hasn’t stopped people from having fun and levelling characters. Order has way fewer queues and shorter waits for scenarios on average. We’ve been able to take keeps and hold them- then they get retaken. Tier 3 on Burlok has been pretty solidly in Destruction hands all week, for example. But we’re still levelling (mostly) and when people are struggling through the windswept tundra of their 20s towards the heady climes of Tier 4, they won’t always want to take time off for keep take operations.

I’m expecting that we’ll usually be able to take keeps when we want to, assuming we can put some kind of organised force together. But it will be an uphill struggle to hold them for any length of time, especially if Destruction is bored and spoiling for a fight. As Order, we can get fights pretty much whenever we like; we set the terms on which PvP is played. If we don’t go out into world PvP then there simply won’t be any.

And in the endgame, Tier 3 and Tier 4 keeps both contribute towards being able to ‘lock down’ the zones. What we don’t know yet is how difficult it will be for an outnumbered side to be able to do this. In a few weeks time, we’ll know if any Order teams have been able to stage a city siege themselves. Certainly it’s an uphill struggle when the numbers are against you. But certainly I know that I intend to siege The Inevitable City, alongside my guild and alliance and friends. I don’t entirely know how yet but I know that we will find a way to do it.

In the worst case, if there are servers where Destruction constantly knocks Altdorf over and Order never get a chance to regroup, then people will get demoralised and leave or swap sides. This is one of the big balancing points with PvP in general. You want to win. But unless you are a griefer you don’t want your opponents to actually throw in the towel and quit. And if people feel like they have no chance, a lot of them will decide not to bother.

So what can be done?

The main thing is that the Order players need to feel that they have a chance. You can do a lot with a ball of string, a couple of warrior priests, a keg of ale, and hope.

Some of this comes down to the players. It’s down to us to forge strong alliances, sort ourselves out, and make sure people know that our faction/server is welcoming to new players, well organised, and has a lot going on. And to keep our spirits high and keep trying. Nothing is inevitable.

Some of it comes down to Mythic. The underpopulated side will need tougher NPCs and tougher keep defences, especially on the fortresses, to make up for the lack of numbers. They’ll need to fix this anyhow after the Karak Eight Peaks city siege this week, and I’m expecting to see some kind of announcement from them on the subject soon. Unlike Tobold, I don’t like the idea of forcibly eliminating alarm clock raids. If raid leaders can muster 40 players who are willing to get up at stupid o’clock to play a game, good luck to them. I wouldn’t do it, but the servers are up 24/7 so it’s fair play. It’s important to a lot of players that we have the illusion of free will, so if we think of a (non exploiting) tactic, we’re able to try it out.

So what can you do without restricting player choice?

The population issues in WAR remind me that this style of game relies entirely on player preference to sort out the numbers of classes and sides. We had these discussions months ago about the lack of tanks in WoW. Without a mechanic to encourage or enforce people to play under-represented roles or sides, these imbalances can and do happen. Over time, it’s assumed that players will tend to balance things out. But what if they don’t?

The trouble for Mythic is that in this case, it’s mostly to do with the look and feel of the sides which is something they don’t have a lot of control over. Was it crazy not to have at least one big and imposing tank on the Order side? In retrospect yes, but there’s a limit to what you can do within the IP. I know people have suggested that bringing back the Knight of the Blazing Sun as an Empire tank would help but have you seen those guys? (The first quest giver in the Empire starter zone is a knight if you want to check an NPC out.) Yes they have plate armour. Yes they also have fwoofy feathers in their hats. They aren’t big ugly lumps of meat like the Black Orc and Chaos Chosen. They were never all that popular in beta polls and I don’t think that people would find them very imposing now. They look great, I’d love to see them back, but I don’t think it would miraculously get large numbers of people on-side.

Dwarf slayers would be a better enticement. They’re iconic and loads of people love playing hit-it-with-an-axe-until-it-stops-moving melee classes. It might even be possible to add the Order classes in but not the Destruction ones. That wouldn’t really affect balance, Destruction already has its aura tank and a few extra melee here or there would only counterbalance the tank-tastic armies that Destruction likes to send out (ie. the counter classes for any new melee are already present in large numbers).

I think Mythic are right to take a hands off approach. This is a genre that thrives on the illusion of player freedom. People like to play what they like, where they like, when they like. People get attached to their characters. Forcing anyone to play anything is a sure way to piss off the player base. But they also can’t conjure new players from nowhere.

It’s also key to the game that the classes and PvP are balanced for each other. There has to be no question of making the Order classes more powerful in order to make them more appealing. It would work, but it would totally undermine the game. Besides which, we don’t want to storm every scenario because of imbalances. We want good fights too.

Inducements for people to play Order might work, as long as they don’t affect PvP balance. Levelling and renown boosts aren’t really needed at the moment, but they probably would be the easiest way to encourage new players to give the realm a look. A better way to balance would be to reward Destruction players who switch to Order alts; it’s a very tough sell but people who were considering the idea anyway might be open to it.

We won’t really know how this will work out for a few more weeks yet. And it’s down to the Order players to try to pull together on their servers even with a numbers disadvantage. It is our game to lose. But you have to wonder whether a balanced MMO PvP game can ever really work when you give players total freedom to pick what they play.

Adding Skaven as a Destruction race in an expansion could deal a deathblow to Order. Unless they could be added as a third side …  maybe that’s where the longterm answer will lie.

Welcome to Tier 3, Here’s Your Anti-Healing Debuff

(Updated to add a couple of extra abilities that people reminded me of in comments, thanks all!)

Anyone who has played WoW will know the power of the healing debuff. Available originally to only one class in that game, that ability alone would have made Arms Warriors essential in any competitive PvP group. Healing can be very powerful in PvP, so any ability that can reduce it can potentially be a battle winner.

A lot of classes have heal reduction debuffs available to them in Warhammer, either as baseline abilities or in one of the talent trees. Some of these will come into play in Tier 3, and it will change the way PvP plays. For one thing, healer survivability drastically reduces — unless they remember to cleanse the debuff. If you are a debuffer, try to target the classes that can’t remove the debuff on themselves.

So which classes do get heal debuffs? I’ve listed them here. I also listed all the classes who can remove debuffs. Its very hard to spot debuffs on the UI at the moment, hopefully some addon writers will help us out with that.

It looks biased towards Destruction who have two classes who can put out a 75% heal reduction, a tank with a passive heal reduction aura, and the ‘heal debuff on crit’ ability put into the dps line of a melee healer (as opposed to Order who have it on a Runepriest — they won’t be gearing to crit or critting anything near as often and many of them never even cast dps spells in RvR). But most of the Order classes with heal debuffs can apply them at range, whereas in Destruction it has gone to melee classes.

I do think Runepriests (and Order in general) got stitched by having a dps heal debuffing tactic on the class least likely to be dpsing.

Order Heal Debuffers

Archmage – Scatter the Winds (Hex Ability, requires 5 points in Vaul tree). 50% heal reduction. 10s cooldown, lasts 9s.

Bright Wizard – Playing with Fire (Hex Ability, requires 5 points in Immolation tree). 50% heal reduction. 30s cooldown, lasts 10s.

Rune Priest – Rune of Nullification (career tactic, requires 11 points in Grungni tree). 100% heal reduction, lasts 5s, requires a crit.

Shadow Warrior – Shadow Sting (Ailment Ability, requires 5 points in Skirmish tree). 50% heal reduction. No cooldown, lasts 9s, target must be Ailing.

Warrior Priest – Absence of Faith (Curse Ability, requires 9 points in Wrath tree). 25% heal reduction. 20s cooldown, lasts 10s. (thanks Brian!)

White Lion – Thin the Herd (Curse Ability, requires 13 points in Axeman Tree). 50% heal reduction. 10s cooldown. Lasts 10s.

Witch Hunter – Punish the False (Ailment Ability, requires 11 points in Inquisition tree). 50% heal reduction. 10s cooldown, lasts 10s.

Destruction

Chosen – Discordant Turbulance (Chaotic Aura, requires 5 points in Path of Discord tree). 30% heal reduction. Persists while aura is selected, remains for 12s after it is dropped.

Disciple of Khaine – Curse of Khaine (career tactic, requires 11 points in Torture tree). 100% heal reduction, lasts 5s, requires a crit.

Marauder – Tainted Claw (Ailment Ability baseline, has a tactic to improve heal reduction to 75% at 11 points in Savagery tree), 25% heal reduction (75% with tactic). 5s cooldown, lasts 5s (10 if target is crippled)

Squig Herder – Rotten Arrer (Ailment Ability, requires 11 points in Quick Shootin’ tree). 50% heal reduction. No cooldown, lasts 9s, target must be Ailing.

Witch Elf – Black Lotus Blade (Ailment Ability, requires 9 points in Path of Suffering). 50% heal reduction. 10s cooldown, lasts 10s.

Witch Elf #2 – Healer’s Bane (career tactic, requires 11 points in Path of Suffering). All path of suffering attacks have a 25% chance to reduce healing by 75% for 10s.

Zealot – Windblock (Rank 4 Morale Ability, requires 15 points in Dark Rite tree). Affects all targets within 30′. 50% heal reduction. 60s cooldown. (thanks Zealbot!)

So who can remove debuffs?

Archmage – can remove hexes and ailments

Runepriest – can remove curses and ailments

Warrior Priest – can remove curses and hexes

Disciple of Khaine – can remove ailments and hexes

Shaman – can remove curses and ailments

Zealot – can remove curses and hexes

First Players to Hit 40

Yup, someone on the US Skull Throne server has hit 40 already. Congrats! And clearly this involved some serious powerlevelling — scuttlebutt on the forums is that it involved a three man (tank, healer, wizard) team, AE grinding, and the old buggy version of the killing spree bonus that was fixed in one of this week’s patches.

I think it’s a pretty impressive achievement. Yes, it involves ignoring almost all of the content but if you’re just trying to level fast for bragging rights, that isn’t the point. On The Vault, the players claim that they weren’t tag teaming (ie. having multiple people play the character so that they can play 24/7) and there’s no special reason to doubt them. They found an exploit before it was fixed, partly as a result of that it has now been fixed.

One thing that is clear is that although there is an advantage to being higher level in RvR, having low renown rank means that they simply won’t have the PvP-oriented gear to stand up well to lower levels once they reach tier 4. And with just three of them, they won’t be taking many keeps or objectives on their own to earn more renown until more people have caught up.

So I see this as an amusing (and impressive) oddity. Well done, now go actually play the game 🙂

Initial thoughts and stuff

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

GOA’s done a good job

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

EA problems with keys an exercise in why to order elsewhere

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

Standard Edition Headstart

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

Guild

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

The Game

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