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.

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Urban Destruction for Fun and Profit

As I poke my nose further into open RvR in Tier 4, I’m really impressed by the design of the open RvR areas. They may not work as a cohesive ‘world’ but there are some incredible landscapes and terrains for us to fight in and around. I am also  noticing that although I was a initially frustrated at trying to navigate my way through zones like Dragonwake, I’m now much better able to pick out the good shortcuts and get my Archmage promptly to where she’s supposed to be going.

Or in other words, I’m learning the map. This appeals to the explorer in me. The more time you spend running around, the better you learn the route. Dragonwake in particular is a maze of breathtaking mountain ridges, fragile gorgeous bridge spans, and tiered waterfalls that will drive you nuts until you have found your footing. But it is also very beautiful and I’ve grown to like it a good deal. And no discussion of the artwork would be complete without a nod to the dwarvish keep in Thunder Mountain which took our breaths away the first time we saw it.

But however beautiful, twisted, atmospheric, or crazy the landscape the open RvR zones are still basic random fantasy terrain. All except one.

Praag steps it up a notch. We’re running around a proper city, complete with  buildings, bridges, barricades, towers, and boulevards and town squares that would make Baron Haussman proud. All it lacks is a good hardware store where we could stock up on instruments of urban warfare and it would be perfect (although there is a war profiteering elf in the Order war camp who has some siege weapons of mass destruction for our pleasure).

I’m not sure quite why racing around a city and killing stuff is such a gleeful experience. But it is! It feels like we get to play in one of those army urban combat mockups, or the sort of cool paintballing places  we used to go on work trips during the internet boom where everyone tries to snipe their bosses boss.

For me it is as if there is an instinctive ‘omg urban playground’ instinct that kicks in when faced with a cityscape in a game. And funnily enough, the only other MMO I know which had a city based zone that wasn’t peaceful was DaoC (Avalon City, if anyone remembers, which was a PvE zone) and we loved that too.

The only sad thing for me is that Praag was so insanely busy during beta and yet somehow people prefer fighting in the other zones now that the game is live. We’ve had some good fights there, but not on the same scale as the beta craziness. But hey, give it time.

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!]

We want to learn!

There’s been a ton of talk about open RvR in Tier 4 of late. Why? Because all us pesky early-adopters are hitting Tier 4 and we write and gripe about the things we do. And I do take the ‘wait-and-see’ approach, especially as there are more and more tentative forays into Tier 4 RvR all the time on our server, and I think it’ll be the same everywhere, though not always at the same timescale. Mythic knows there’s a problem, they’ll do their best to fix it. And people signing up generally want to play an RvR game, not a game of Serpent’s-Passage-till-your-eyes-bleed.

I do have one complaint about Tier 4 and the campaign there though, and I personally believe it’s a valid one. Why didn’t they train us in how it all works at the lower tiers? I mean, we got to understand capture the flag, the various ways and means to capture battlefield objectives and increasingly larger keeps. We got to learn about siege weaponry (love!) and postern doors, and yet, the moment you get into Tier 4 you get a whole new set of things to get your head around if you don’t go and read up everything there is to read across the web on it.

Zones being locked. It’s a bit of a mindfuck, when you’ve not really seen it before. And then the campaign moving elsewhere.. and yet you can still drift around the open RvR areas (I use drift because I have a gyro!), and not see anyone. Yes, it’s locked, but it feels strange, almost eerie. And you still get nice xp for scouting the objectives! And then instinctively knowing all the stages you need to go through to capture a zone or to head for the Inevitable City. I’m not stupid, but it is quite tricky to go from ‘wander anywhere and take whatever keep feels nice’ to being directed for the good of the final campaign. We’ll get there, but I wonder if there was any way to do it differently. And I wonder if that’s some of the reason the spontaneous open RvR isn’t as plentiful in Tier 4 as everyone seems to be reporting it is in Tier 3.

Anyway, just another quick thought from my weekend away from the game.

Game update 1.04 – let’s take a look

Coming to a US server near you on 29th October, and soon after to Europe, no doubt. Here’s 1.04.

The Witching Night live event has begun! For details, see the Warhammer Online Herald.

We look forward to this! Hope the first live event goes really well and they’re encouraged to do a lot more, not always based on time of year.

With the arrival of 1.0.4 we are now one step closer to offering Character Transfers from low population servers to medium population servers and the final stages of testing have begun…

Random news of something coming up in the next few days, and something a lot of people won’t need. But for those who need/want it, this is great news and pretty fast after launch. And being offered free.

We have added three new guild rewards in the form of dungeon teleport scrolls…Gunbad Teleport Scroll – This reward is unlocked at guild rank 29…Bastion Stair Teleport Scroll – This reward is unlocked at guild rank 32…Lost Vale Teleport Scroll – This reward is unlocked at guild rank 35…

Nice, but weren’t these in the list anyway or am I going mad? And.. by the time our guild is that high rank.. well, let’s just say it’ll be nice for alts! It’s not a bad thing, it’s just one of those things that’ll be nice but not effect too many people as yet.

Once a city has become contested, the attacking realm will now have 6 hours to capture it. If the invaders do not conquer the city in that time, the defenders will be declared victorious and the campaign will reset.

I think, on the whole, this brings a whole new challenge to the city capture which is a Good Thing(TM), but I dread the night we start on this at 11pm! (Only cos I’m old and need  my sleep). Nice tweak though!

Pets set to follow will now path properly to their master, and will no longer teleport instantly to their master’s side. Fixed an issue that was causing pets to stop attacking their current target and return to their master’s side…

White Lions rejoice? We’ll find out soon. But improving pets is never a bad thing, it’s really just getting them to where they needed to be on launch.

Fixed an issue that could sometimes cause trainer icons not to appear on the minimaps.

The successful capture of an enemy battlefield objective now rewards the capturing players with experience.

Finally! We’ve been musing that this would be a Good Thing(TM) for a while. Getting people out of scenarios needs to reward them with the things they get in a scenario in other ways. I see lots more fights at Battlefield Objectives, again, a good move!

In response to player feedback, the amount of renown earned from healing players has been increased slightly.

Hurrah! Well, we say that cos we’re all healers. But in reality it took a bit of a hit, players proved it, the games company listened to actual player feedback (along with the odd whine, let’s not fool ourselves). It’s a good change because it again shows that Mythic is willing to change things if they’re a bit ‘off’. And that real feedback actually can make a difference. So, next time you have an issue with something, or a great idea. Don’t just blog it or talk about it, use the ‘submit feedback’ button!

Tier 4 zones now require fewer scenario victory points to be captured.  The mechanics of capturing a zone have not changed however.  Zones which have no scenario opposition can still be captured if players join the queue for scenarios based on that Zone.  Victory points towards zone control will be granted if a realm has enough players in the queue to launch the scenario and the other realm doesn’t.  If players in those queues join a launched scenario or leave the queue, the victory points towards zone control will be forfeit.

In other words, using “Join All” to queue for all available scenarios is still the fastest way to get into a scenario, but joining the scenarios in a specific zone will have the greatest impact on control of that zone, and by extension the greatest impact on the campaign in that pairing.

Now… I would say something about this particularly. But I think Ark does it perfectly. This change, while being made for the best of intentions sounds a bit weird to me. Will see how it plays out before final judgement.

Archmage: Balance Essence: The damage of this ability has been increased.

Archmages rejoice!

The minimum number of players required to launch scenarios in Praag, Dragonwake and Thunder Mountain has been equalized to ensure even population distribution between all scenarios available when the campaign is in its default state.

Can we have this through all scenarios? We did Grovod Caverns and Serpent’s Passage with at least a 4 person disparity in numbers and they were no fun like that at all!

There’s also the usual small fixes and tweaks, so for the full story, go check out the Warhammer Herald and read through all the bits down to the bottom, I tried to stick to the ones that will effect people the most, and it’s already a hefty post!

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 😉

Big world, small world, open RvR, scenarios

Scenarios have been one of the most wildly successful parts of Warhammer Online since the game went live. I love them too. I love that I can queue for a Scenario from anywhere in the game world and have 15 minute soundbites of PvP fun to break up my exploring and questing. It’s an absolutely brilliant mechanic. It’s also perfect for players who simply don’t have hours of time to play at a stretch, may have to afk from time to time (as long as it isn’t in a scenario), or like to get straight into a guaranteed skirmish with no muss or fuss. And it is still, and always will be, brilliant that you can queue for scenarios as soon as you create your character.

And yet, in so many of the developer comments, we see signs that they would like to prod people out of their scenarios and get them into open world RvR.

I enjoy both. But I have noticed something strange recently with my ventures into Tier 4 lands. In Tiers 2 and 3, Open World RvR is quite active on Burlok. Keeps often change hands. There are often people on alliance channels or the custom ‘Order’ channel recruiting for Tier 2/3 raids. They did this before there was any extra xp involved at all. They’re still doing it. I ran weekly raids myself.  But in Tier 4 …. silence. And since Order owns all the keeps and has done for days (yes we are bizarro server), I’m not sure there’s much point in me scheduling anything right now either. Guild nature ramble through Tier 4 Open RvR areas just doesn’t sound as enticing as an actual fight.

So far, Mythic have been offering increasing xp bonuses for fighting in Open RvR, but will it work? Well, to know that, we need to think about why it’s been so quiet. Some of this may be server specific — we have one pretty hardcore guild on Order side so maybe Destruction on our server is … nervous? Waiting for more people to get to 40? I think they still outnumber us but it’s hard to know by how much.

I think a lot of this comes down to the painful levelling curve in Tier 4. If you thought Tier 3 xp was slow, it gets worse. My experience with leading is that people love Open RvR but don’t look to it for levelling. It’s fun, but more of a fun diversion than an xp fest. It’s the nature of the beast that you can never predict where the enemy will be, or in what numbers. It will never be as predictable as Scenarios or PvE for offering xp opportunities.

However, for the game to really rock, Open RvR needs to be active most nights. At least during prime time. I don’t think the xp bonus will hurt but I also don’t think it will get people out of Scenarios right now while they’re so focussed on levelling. It intrigues me that they didn’t offer increased renown for Open RvR, which I suspect may need to happen also. They may be concerned about how quickly people could get to max renown, which is a reasonable concern but renown is the best way to get level 40s out there.

What I think Mythic needs to do is increase non-scenario xp across the board. Boost xp from Public Quests in particular. Once people are happier with their levelling speed, they’ll be more interested in Tier 4 PvP. This sounds non-intuitive but I’m convinced that the main reason Tier 4 is stuck in scenario grind is because everyone just wants to get all their talent points and abilities by reaching rank 40 and … it’s so slow otherwise. It isn’t because people hate Open RvR.

They also need to look at ways to entice the losing side into the Open RvR areas to retake objectives and keeps — better rewards for keep capture would keep (sic) them moving. In addition, better rewards for a guild that is claiming a T4 keep would encourage more guilds to go and do it. The keeps are expensive to hold, so a good but temporary guild bonus would work fine.

For small group RvR to flourish, there needs to be small group PvE content in the RvR zones. Mobs which have an increased drop rate on desirable items would encourage brave soloers into the RvR areas too. Praag already has Public Quests, and that’s my personal next plan for an open RvR raid, as at least if Destruction doesn’t turn up we can kill mobs.

But at the end of the day, it takes players to organise raids. I see a lot of bored level 40s complaining that there’s never any action but I don’t see them organising stuff or helping anyone else to level. So they’ll just have to wait till we’re done. Sorry guys, we just were having too much fun taking keeps in Tier 3 to hurry along. But we’ll get there.