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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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.

Loot from Keep Takes

One of the joys of playing an MMO is that after each patch, you get to see how player behaviour changes and adapts. Players will always find ways to surprise developers, it’s what we do.

And apparently one of the outcomes of the new “more loot for all” regime of three gold bags per keep take is that on some realms, Order and Destruction are deliberately avoiding fighting each other so that they can instead carry on taking and retaking keeps to maximise their loot.

Frankly if you are on one of these realms, you have no one to blame but yourself. If your ‘team’ is doing this, what is stopping you from going and defending your keeps? It only takes a few people (with siege engines) to mount a competent defence. Stop being lame and go fight already! There’s good fun, renown, and xp to be had from Open World RvR and it sounds to me as though the extra loot has certainly done a lot to encourage that.

I’m going to take devil’s advocate though and also note that this is not a major critical issue:

1/ The worst thing that happens is that people get geared up more quickly. There’s no huge benefit to getting the gold loot bag more than once.

2/ It does get people out into Open RvR. The more people out there, the less likely that anyone can stop the feisty ones from provoking fights. It’s why they’re playing the game in the first place.

3/ It does however speak of player frustration at the way Mythic has structured their gear progression. People want the Annihilator gear because of the wards on it which will let them progress to other encounters. And it’s frustrating to get that at the moment, not only because of the paucity of gold bags but because of the inconsistencies of the contribution system.

And on that  note, I cannot disagree more with Regis@Wizards&Wenches who thinks that the wrong people are getting loot on keep takes. When they sort out contribution bonuses so that healing is properly recognised, THEN we can talk about rewarding higher contributions more. If I only heal at a keep take, I come almost bottom and it sucks (note: if I go into a keep take in full INT gear and dps as well as heal, I can do quite well, which isn’t helpful if people really need the healing). Everyone who has helped at all needs a chance to get the loot. If anyone thinks I am going to continue doing keep takes just to see the same people walk off with the loot all the time because they happen to be playing classes or specs that the system favours, they have another think coming.

None of this would matter if Mythic just got rid of their stupid ward system, frankly. They’ve already backed out one change they planned to make to this, and Keen writes about why that was a good thing to do here.

Expectations

Quick warning, this may be my first wall of text for a while and it’s very much based on my own personal journey…

I got very down about Tier 4 when I was new to it, my class kind of sucked at soloing from 31-33 (more than normal), and that was a big shock to the system. Plus, I don’t want to have to choose a levelling specline or have to choose gear for various purposes – I’m stubborn like that. And open RvR was quiet, Serpent’s Passage hurts my eyes after the 3rd consecutive run, etc etc. And I read around the place that others were having similar ‘fun’ problems. And then I had an enforced 5-day break. And I thought about it quite a lot, especially when chatting to my sisters and to a WoW gamer I spent some time with.

I got out of my funk. I love the game, I really do. That doesn’t mean I don’t wish open RvR was a bit more perky – but honestly, on our server there is open action in Tier 4 every day. It may not be at the perfect time for me, and some of it might mean taking empty keeps and waiting for defence and then scooting around to try and nudge control in various zones while many want a big fight… but it’s there. And that comforts me.

Then, at 33, my Rune Priest (not specced for Rune of Burning!) got better at soloing. Not great, but good enough for a primary healer. Which satisfies me there. In fact, my biggest concern is finding people to group up with to quest and do PQs (PQs are a bit pointless for influence rewards, but I see them as socialising with some free xp attached!). Even that is changing, I’m changing, I’m asking for help more. And trying to make myself more sociable and willing to help also. It’s a process, neither slow nor fast, but one that depends on mood.

So what really struck me about Warhammer Online while I was away? It’s a very different game to those I’m used to playing (DAoC, WoW, LotRO). And I asked myself the following:

  • How did I play my last MMO? (ie. level fast, solo/grouped, etc)
  • How many hours per day did I grind traits/influence/reputation/gear?
  • How many hours did I raid per week?
  • How many hours did I PvP?

WAR is a totally different kettle of fish for me, and for everyone. There’s a certain levelling ‘grind’ but I say it in inverted commas, cos it’s nothing like the grind I had in other games (I played WoW before they upped the lower level xp, I left before Burning Crusade). I have been known to play 12h straight in Dark Age of Camelot, whether in Caer Sidi or tree groups! All day is and has been pretty common for LotRO. And yet, when I try it in WAR I get a bit edgy and miserable.

Why, then? Well, the best I can do at describing it is that I’m finding WAR a completely different kettle of fish as an MMO. It’s the kind I like to dip in and out of, which is something I’ve never done before. And one of the reasons I’ve never had two MMOs at the same time before now. To me, MMO has always been a bit like a part-time job, occupying all hours to get all the things I want and need for my character while grouping up with friends to complete some fairly hefty challenges, or to just hang out and have some fun. Now we have WAR, where in a few hours I can take two or three keeps, or jump into scenarios while questing. For me, anyway, it’s not a game I want to spend 12h straight – and that’s the big difference.

Since coming back, and recognising this, I’ve been a much happier bunny. I log off when I’m tired or when I want to go watch TV or hang out with the cats or my husband. I play less, but I enjoy it more. I’ve reached rank 35 and renown rank 32 (well, I’m 95% there, and will be by the time this is published). I have titles for taking keeps and for restoring keeps. I am beginning to help people with their quests more and have recently seen Bastion Stair for the first time. All of this has been more fun than a couple of weeks ago, when I hit the Tier 4 doldrums.

I think the game still needs tweaks at the high levels, the influence rewards for PQs are lousy after ch16 and this has led to a desertion – one that makes questing where there are PQs quite tricky. Going back to help lower level characters has giving me a sense that my character is powerful and also, it’s more relaxing than trying to solo stuff. When these guys catch me up, we’ll all group and do ch18+ together. So I’m kind of fixing it myself, and the levelling curve is flattening all-round.

No solution to Serpent’s Passage Syndrome yet but I have faith Mythic will work something out. They’ve been very responsive and let’s face it, they know they have a problem with Tier 4 at the moment, you can’t fail to notice the threads and blog posts about it. But it’s not all down to the game company, we do have our own responsibility to do what’s fun for us.

For me, it’s to dip in and out of PvE, RvR, scenarios and dungeons and not to try and play WAR as if it’s LotRO/DAoC/WoW.

[And, as Syp said in a comment recently ‘great minds think alike’ – it would be remiss of me to leave out a link to Stylish Corpse whose words on the same topic I greatly enjoyed and who I totally agree with!]

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!]

Big November Event! Daily quests, new scenario, preview of new classes!

Arrgh, as usual, just after we wrote some other post Mythic make a big announcement! *shakes fist at timezones*

So, we have an announcement about the November Live Event, dubbed “Heavy Metal”.

When the Heavy Metal live event begins on November 17th, players who log into WAR will see a new tab in the Tome of Knowledge. Clicking on this tab will open the Live Events page, where each day we’ll place a new daily task. Completing these daily tasks earns influence, just like you’d earn in a public quest. There are rewards for Basic, Advanced and Elite influence, culminating in the ultimate prize: the chance to play WAR’s new classes a full week before they’re released to the public! This last reward won’t be easy to earn, and players who want to get to the Elite level will need to log in each day and complete on the daily event.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a special live event scenario that will be available to all tiers for the duration. And it grants extra renown to players.

I’m hyped, Mythic sound as though they’d taken out all the stops here! I love daily quests and scenarios. And now it’s going to be harder than ever to decide which game to play in November. Game is very much ON.

Edit: Nov 18th for European players

Witching Night!

This is what you can expect to find in game this Halloween.

Four new PQs, one for each tier. They will be located in the open RvR areas and will reset much more slowly than regular PQs.

Ghosts roaming the battlefields – they’re not hostile to players but there might be special rewards from kil^D^D^Dsending them to their eternal rest.

Witches and Cultists will be gathering also. Again, players who can release the trapped spirits of the dead from them can claim special rewards.

Rewards including: titles, new cloaks, new masks, trinkets and potions. All for use by any level.

What I didn’t do yesterday in game

I wasn’t around too much yesterday because of visiting friends (and sisters!) up in London, so I didn’t take part in a lot of these events myself. But the guild was chatting about them happily when I logged on in the evening to play my Ironbreaker gal for an hour or two before turning in.

1. Tier 4 RvR. Apparently it had gotten quite lively with warbands from both sides raging pitched battles up and down Thunder Mountain. Order eventually retreated after being outnumbered 4:1. I wasn’t there so can’t report in person on what it was actually like but it all sounded quite fun. And all the chatter on the realm boards is about people wanting more of the same. We always thought it would just take a little time for the community to settle out in Tier 4 — I think this is the first sign of a lot more to come. (Thunder Valley wins my award for worst T4 scenario though.)

2. Roleplay. Apparently we had a witch trial and witch burning in Altdorf yesterday. I know some of the guild Witch Hunters went along and got involved and enjoyed it a lot. On the Destruction side, they were organising some big Cult of Slaanesh type RP that we mock because it involved lots of sleazy semi naked elves. But so does everything in Destruction, it seems.

3. Tier 2/3 RvR. Has been very active on our server for weeks. Continued to be active yesterday.

4. Tier 1 RvR. This is the bit I actually did myself! So I was messing around with my little Ironbreaker and doing a quest that led me to a PQ area in Mount Bloodhorn. And there were a couple of other dwarf players there, an Ironbreaker and a Runepriest. So one thing led to another, then a foolish sleazy semi-clad (and flagged) witch elf showed up and took a pop at our healer so we killed it. More people turned up and we moved off to take all the Dwarf Tier 1 objectives as a group with some scenario queueing on the side. There was some light roleplaying.

I like this game 😉

How smart can a contribution measurement really be?

Since the dawn of time, humanity has been struggling to find better ways to measure stuff. The big questions people were asking back then are the same questions they ask now: when, where, how long, how far, how much, how big, how small, how fast,  and why is Bobina in the next cubicle paid more than me when I work twice as hard? Our obsession with measurements and metrics could even be one of the defining human characteristics. Without it, there could never be any progress, because if you can’t measure what  you are doing, how can you decide when it improves?

Now, speaking with my engineering hat on, I love metrics as long as they are useful. Useful to me means something I can use to help improve my team’s performance. I think the contribution measurements in WAR are great – I don’t always agree with them and there are definitely things which they don’t (and possibly can’t) measure but I like that they are trying.

Everyone loves feedback. Even if the feedback isn’t 100% positive, it’s always a good thing to get feedback on what you are doing. It’s nice not to feel ignored, and nice to feel that the game gives you a pat on the head from time to time. It is a basic human need and most MMOs do it very poorly. As a healer, you know when a heal landed and stopped someone else from dying, sure it would be nice if they realised it also but even a basic UI will show you the effect you have on health bars. As a tank, you can tell when a monster is hitting you, and see very clearly when you pulled one off someone who it wasn’t supposed to be hitting. As dps, it’s way tougher. You see health bars go down but you know there are other people doing damage too.

I think it’s quite telling that one of the most popular WoW addons was the damage meter, so that dps players could compare how much damage each of them was doing. Again, fulfils a basic human need — to answer the question, “how did I do?” and to boast about it to other people.

But performance metrics are victims of their own success. People obsess on beating the metrics, because they’re so easy to show to other people. And sometimes that means you can end up encouraging all sorts of strange emergent behaviour which are nothing to do with the results that you originally wanted to measure.

I also think that metrics can be useful in teaching new players how to play in groups. One thing WoW is often criticised for is that you can very easily solo to max level, without ever learning to play your class in a group. In a game where grouping often means using a very different set of abilities to soloing, that’s really hampering how easily new player get into the endgame. Meters which let you compare your damage/healing/damage taking to other players of the same class can give people a baseline at least. And there’s no real substitute for watching how someone else plays your class to help a new player learn about using specific abilities.

I think Mythic have made a brave effort with the contribution metrics in WAR and it’s because we like the feedback that people are going to obsess about it over the whole lifetime of the game. This issue will never die. And no one will ever be totally happy with the metrics.

What you can’t measure

You can’t measure anything intangible. You can’t measure how hard people were trying. You can’t measure who was good for morale. You can’t measure individual leadership skill. You can’t measure redundancy — eg. people who were prepared to switch role to be emergency tanks or healers but weren’t needed to do that. And it’s very hard to measure flexibility and efficiency. Human beings could measure those things but they’re also subject to extra bias.

The metrics are particularly bad at measuring people doing dull but tactically important tasks like defending an objective that never gets attacked. Or holding some AP back (ie. not spam HoTing everything in sight) in case an emergency heal is needed. To the metric, that’s the same as being afk or idle. And players are terrifically sensitive to the idea that afk players (or leechers) might get rewarded for doing nothing. This is mostly because it’s behaviour that none of us want to encourage. Scenarios are fun because they are fair. They’d get a lot less fair if we regularly had half the group afk at the start.

So what contribution measurements do now is very tough and ready. Raw damage. Raw healing. And a lot of crucial contribution is not measured and possibly never can be. However, those crucial contributions have a much bigger part to play in the eventual outcome than the meters would imply.

Metric Ideas

I’d like to see the reward for actually winning a scenario being more heavily weighted. After all, this is the actual goal of the scenario. It’s unproductive to see members of the losing team earn more renown/xp than the winning one because they scored more kills. This is a war, it’s all about winning. I’d increase the randomness on PQ rewards too, assuming a minimum level of contribution. It’s practically impossible for a healer to ever top the meter on a keep take at the moment, for example. They simply require more damage than healing, but that doesn’t mean people who play those classes should always be cut out of the rewards.

I think measurements of individual contribution are worthwhile and people love them. But we need better ways to measure contributions for different classes. Sure, we all know Bright Wizards can beat the damage meters. So maybe we should take that into account when measuring the contribution of a Shadow Warrior. No one class should be singled out for lower contributions across the board; or if they are, it should be a sign that they need a tweak. Add some contribution for buffs and debuffs.

And finally, we need good ways to dissuade people from afking or logging out of scenarios. That’s not an issue to be resolved purely by contribution meters. I don’t think it’s ever going to be easy to find a way to reward people for defending flags but the scenarios which depend on this as a strategy can be weighted to reward winning more highly and random killing away from the flag much less highly.

But at the end of the day, there’s a limit to how smart a contribution meter can be. Some classes will always do better than others because they’re just better designed at whatever the meter was trying to measure. Some people will drift to those classes because they obsess about meters. But lets not forget that its actually the result that we want to reward. Winning the scenario, playing well in teams and in realms, teaching new players how to group, rewarding good group play.

Gunbad, good and bad

We’ve been playing a bit in Gunbad, a 3-wing public dungeon in the North-West corner of the Badlands. So once you know where it is, it really doesnt take much to organise a quick group and toddle along. The entrance is an impressive cavern mouth with a red crescent moon above it, signalling the presence of Night Goblins! And a swirly zone-change thingy. Go through that and discover a ton of quests, that cover all three wings of the dungeon.

The easiest wing starts with rank 23 champs, and is the right-hand one. You’ll see spiders, so you’ll know that’s the right one. The middle-ranked wing is off on the left-hand side and starts with rank 25 champs. So taking the middle path gets you to the hardest wing, I think they start at rank 28 champs – my group ran off and I was healing, so I didn’t pay as much attention.

You can do each wing as a warband or as a single group, and each consists of 3 PQs, followed by a boss fight. The PQs can  be fast and furious, especially if you do have a large warband, or there are more than just your group in there. Yes, it’s public, so it could be swarming with groups. We’ve never found it to have more than a couple though. And each PQ is pretty self-contained, usually helps with a quest and has 2-3 stages. They also drop purple, blue and gold bags with more regularity than we’ve seen elsewhere. You work along the influence bar for the zone, and when you get to the first bar of influence, you can go see the first boss, etc. That’s behind an instance swirly thing after the third PQ of the wing. But, be warned, you can’t go in in a warband, it’s a one-group fight.

That’s the good. You can jump straight into Gunbad with just one group, or announce you’re going and get quite a few interested parties and do some dungeon-bashing with nice rewards. The quests give a ton of xp compared to many (I had one quest from Dark Fire Pass just to go to Gunbad that netted me 10k xp), and the influence rewards are very nice too. So even if you don’t win anything at a PQ or boss fight, there’s a good chance of nice gear. And honestly, the PQs are pretty fast and can be redone with persistence points. Set pieces seem to drop from the bosses (not quite done the final boss yet!).

Also,  there’s a chance to work on your ‘kill night goblins’ tome achievements. And if you kill two named goblins in the final wing, you get an item unlock – a dark light for your pocket slot (buyable at city libraries). Can’t remember their names off the top of my head, but they’re on either side of a path and you need them both for a quest anyway!

So that’s the good. It’s a nicely accessible place with some fun PQs, nice loot, good xp and the ability to tromp through with a warband so you don’t have to turn people away. And each wing can be done in around 1.5h (possibly faster in big warband), so there’s no massive time commitment either.

But…

For the behind-instance boss fights you will need to separate out into balanced groups. If you took 10 people through the wing, you now need to discuss which 4 to leave outside. Bit of a bummer, but the lockout is only half an hour, so strictly those 4 people could hang out and then the whole group could burn half an hour doing PQs, reform the instance 6-man and do the boss again for those who missed out the first time. Or that’s the theory, I’ve not had a chance to try it.

Also, if you do go in in a warband, bear in mind that quest mobs (and tome unlock mobs) will need to be tagged by each group separately in order to tick the achievement/quest off. They respawn relatively quickly and is another encouragement to do the nearest PQ twice, but it’d be nice if some of these things did work better in warbands generally.

If there are other groups in there doing PQs, prepare to be a little underwhelmed at the epic-ness of some of the fights. I’ve done the first wing in a lowish level 6-man and in a mid-level warband, I’m sure you can guess which was more challenging! But you can challenge yourself and still find another couple of groups in there, so it’s probably best just to see it as a romp and enjoy the fighting and looting.

Overall, I really enjoy Gunbad. It’s a good way to bring people together and do something fun in PvE that’s also rewarding and a little different. I look forward to the other public dungeons around the place, since I believe they all follow a similar pattern and now we’re knocking on Tier 4 it’s nice to have the odd break from RvR!