Call to Arms, pt. 2

Today marks the launch of patch 1.2.1 on the American servers, which means it’ll be heading our way soon. I’ve not written all that much about it, because I’ve found it all a little overwhelming, but I know it heralds some big and important changes.

Keep upgrading should prove an interesting addition that’ll add some flavour to open RvR at higher levels and also provide some incentive for holding a keep for longer. I hope it works as planned, it sounds like some much-needed extra dimensions will be in-game shortly.

The Beyond the Sands live event launches with 1.2.1. I want to kill undead things, so I look forward to it. Goggles, however, will ruin my hair!

There’s a lot of general improvements, to the UI, to combat responsiveness and to the luck factor (somewhat), by the introduction of a token system of medallions for RvR. I really look forward to seeing how many medallions I can earn in an evening of RvR (and yes, I will take my r40 Rune Priest out for this test) and what I can buy for them. And of course, there’s the new Gates of Ekrund ‘arena’  (6v6 ranks 19-24), it sounds cool, but also scares me a bit, because I’m notoriously nervous about my abilities – but I know people really can’t wait for this, and I’m extremely interested in how it goes, I imagine it’ll be a surefire hit and people will always want an alt in these levels to do this (or to halt the xp gain if they could).

And I know all the class tweaks and changes will take some getting used to. But it marks yet another stage of Mythic taking on criticism and comment and working the game to make improvements all the time. And because of that, there’s only really one thing to say…

…bring it on!

(patch notes here)

[Edit: it’s friday for Europe (or today!), hurrah!]

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WAR Thoughts and Grievances

I’d write about patch 1.2.1 and keep upgrades, but people have written about it a hell of a lot better. I’d write about the Archmage/Shaman changes, but I’m hoping Spinks will contribute her thoughts. So, for one day only, here’s the start of a little whine/rant about Warhammer from someone who’s followed it, loved it and been frustrated with it. I play the game, but a lot less than I once did.

I’m not feeling all that connected with the Warrior Priest, despite the fun of clubbing people on the head and healing with hitting, I did feel a connect with the Rune Priest, so I will be heading back to playing little Kaja in the coming weeks and maybe getting my guild to help me with some of the end content.

So, what’s the whine about?

Well, while I appreciate all the changes WAR is having made to it, the game is changing rapidly, more rapidly than perhaps any other MMO I’ve played , and all as a result of devs listening to the playerbase. But. And it’s a BIG but. Really, the game should have had this stuff earlier and the launch delayed. I don’t mind inclusion of the missing classes, because let’s face it, both sets of class inclusions have given the game a huge PR boost and brought players back. But, the rest of this stuff? WAR is taking on as many good ideas from Dark Age of Camelot as possible, with the keep upgrades, the Darkness Falls-esque upcoming Dungeon and no doubt we’ll have relics-lite soon. With every upgrade I’m happy as a player and frustrated like hell as a commentator. If these devs are so great at game design, why wasn’t some of this stuff in earlier. We’re no longer silly consumers who have little choice in our gaming, we see polished games come elsewhere, and here we have a game that’s seemingly still testing concepts on a wide scale in order to find its identity.

But, it can still be fun, and the changes will enhance gameplay for all. So we should remember the positives. I suppose.

My First Fortress Attempt

A prominent Order guild on my server made the call for our forces to march on Caledor and push to the fortress. It’s exciting to see all these guilds come together and really push a singular goal. The anticipation is exhilarating, and much of the reason I wanted to play MMOs in the first place. This wasn’t my first fortress push, but it was the first that I was able to see it to the end… or so I thought.

When we reached the fortress, it was relatively easy to make our way through the outer and inner doors. What first struck me is the scale of the structure. It’s massive compared to the keeps I’ve been sacking. However, I was disappointed to see that while huge, the layout is relatively the same. In fact, know that I think about it, all the keeps layouts are the same! Did the armies of Warhammer only use pre-manufactured keeps from Germany or something? Next it will be Ikea interiors!

Anyway, after blasting through the doors we made our way up the first flight of stairs. We assembled at the base of the final single staircase as we faced with “The Infamous Tankwall of Doom!” For those of you unfamiliar, defenders of keeps generally form a “U” or actually more like a lazy “J” at the top of the staircase. Then their healers and range dps sit back rain death on the attackers and love bolts to the tankwall. Because of line of sight issues, it is very difficult for the attackers to heal their front line while also attacking the defending tankwall. Tankwalls often lead to stalemates, and I find them very frustrating. While attackers shouldn’t be able to just steamroll over defenders, these situations just aren’t very fun for a video game. Mythic seems to agree and has said they are planning to add additional staircases to keeps and fortresses. However, I’m disappointed to see this most welcome change missing from the 1.2 patch notes.

Finally, the call came, “PUSH!” As I made my way toward the staircase my computer was wheezing like an old man after playing the All Priests Over 75 Indoor Five-a-Side Football Match. There were probably about 100 or so players involved in this fortress battle, but it’s pretty bad still to have 3.3Ghz Core2Duo with 4GB of RAM and a kajillion other leet hardware brought to it’s knees while on the lowest graphical settings! As I stuttered my way over to the staircase without warning something got me, and I was deaded. Unfortunately that was the end of my fortress experience.

There are many negative things I’ve read about fortresses on the forums, and I have always taken that negativity with a grain of salt up until now. Mythic really does need to do something about the performance of their game. They keep saying they are improving it, but something in their engine altogether needs to be striped out and replaced. They need to add more ways for attackers to assault keeps and fortresses. We need destructible walls, ladders, and other siege equipment to make the experience more dynamic. And the biggest issue for me, they need to make these keeps and fortresses more varied. I think they have done an excellent job making each zone varied from one another, but the keeps have fallen short of this. What if keep lords where in a basement instead of the top? What if the structure wasn’t a keep at all, but maybe a holy shrine or a den of vicious beast?

There needs to be more variety in open RvR keeps and fortresses, it must perform well on the average gamer’s computer, and their needs to be more options in battle so that gameplay doesn’t become a repetitive tankwall versus zerg. Otherwise, I think the Warhammer end-game will become boring and stale all too soon for some.

You shall not pass!

[I dedicate this blog post title to my Dwarf-in-Arms, Gorak, who was desperate to yell it last night!]

So last night a couple of friends re-subbed to get ready for the Bitter Rivals event. I was peacefully planning an evening of web-browsing and twitter-trouble, when I realised they were both playing their level-capped dwarfs and hanging around in the dodgier neighbourhoods of Praag. Time for their little Rune Priest to go out and help. And we ran around in a smallish group, following a smallish warband for the rest of the evening. We did RvR around the city of Praag, including taking both keeps and most of the battlefield objectives before moving on to Black Crag and continuing the rampage. It wasn’t really a rampage though, many of the keeps had some defense from Destruction, just not quite enough. I didn’t stay long enough to really see them try and push a zone, but we were very close to flipping Caledor and Black Crag before we logged off. It was a fun and nostalgic night and reminded me it’s all about good company and good fights.

There was one thing that amused and annoyed me equally. And it’s something that’s cropped up recently on the Vault boards and received a response from Mark Jacobs. Do we want to be able to pass on loot bags? Hell yes. It’s slightly counter-intuitive to me, and at first I was against it. But last night I won 2 gold bags and 1 blue bag from 4 keep takes. I have full Annihilator set, so it was all pretty pointless and I begrudged winning them, after the initial excitement of getting some awesome rolls!

I’d like either the option to pass on bag rolls, or the option to get a token instead that could be collected and exchanged for better gear (the next set up, I guess). I don’t really mind which. I’d do the keep takes anyway, but to take a gold bag from someone else through a random rolling procedure and then to take the cash… that’s miserable. Tokens would make it a fair reward for all, but I don’t know how many tokens you’d have to have to get the better gear and I don’t know how accessible they want the gear to be. I think it’d be workable. But I want one of the two systems in place, because right now winning two gold bags put a damper on my evening (even though others would be delighted to win even one!).

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.

Say hello to my little friend

my dps is fine, thanks

I’m Spinks and I am addicted to siege weapons. Even when I’m supposed to be healing people in a keep siege I’m probably fiddling with the Heavy Empire Organ Gun in my pack and trying to decide if I am in a Ballista or a Heavy Cannon mood.

We’ve been doing keep takes recently with far fewer people if there are enough of us online in the mornings. Yesterday we were taking keeps with one group. Obviously this is because they were undefended, and amusingly it also shows that T4 keeps are easier to flip than T2 ones (I am thinking of you, annoying keep lord in the Shadowlands!).

In any case, the siege weapons help a lot. You can certainly take a keep without them but it is a slow and painful experience, and defending without siege weapons makes the job much harder than it should be.

The basics of siege weapons are that you can place them on siege pads that are laid out around the keep. Some pads only take specific weapons – for example you can only place a ram in front of a keep door and you can only place oil above the door. Other than that, you get a free choice and it doesn’t matter which race you bought your siege weapons from. The only thing that does matter is that it was at a vendor appropriate for your current tier. So buy your T4 kit from T4 warcamps.

The siege weapons that you buy from the vendor are only useful in keep takes or keep defenses. There are no other places to use them. This doesn’t mean that you can’t man the siege weapons at a warcamp if it is under attack but your vendor won’t be useful there.

The siege weapons are simple to operate once you have the hang of it, and each one can take multiple operators. So if you see someone working a ram, feel free to click on the ram and see if there are any operator slots free (if there aren’t nothing will happen). The goal with multiple operators is for them to all use the siege engine at the same time, to multiply its effects.

The ram works like a golf game where you left click to stop the swing in the yellow zone. When you have four operators, you can see how they all scored after each swing. (It’s given as a percentage where if you miss the zone altogether you score 50%).

The single target siege engine (cannon or ballista) is my personal favourite and you use it to target other siege engines. In particular there are some keeps where using a siege engine is the only way to take out the oil above the outer door because it is placed too high for a caster to reach. They are also the simplest to operate, just aim the crosshairs at the thing you no longer wish to keep and click to fire. Then it takes a short period to reload.

Boiling oil is also simple to use. When it is loaded, click to use it. You don’t even need to target (it’s a cauldron of boiling oil, you don’t so much target it as tip it).

And last up is the multi-target cannon, ballista or organ gun. This is the one you use against other players. It has a combination three click firing system and a ground target that you get to place.

Repairing the Siege Engine

I put up a bold header for this because a lot of people don’t realise that you can do it. But when you take control of a siege engine you are given a bar with three icons — one to release the siege engine (ie. and let someone else operate it), one to use the siege engine, and the last one … to repair it. So a siege engine can have multiple operators, each of whom could be either using it or repairing it. This gets more important if the siege engine is actually under attack, which happens a lot with oil and rams.

If you are targeting some oil and it doesn’t seem to be losing ‘health’ the chances are that the enemy has someone up there healing it. That’s the time to switch to the organ gun and nuke their sorry arses! *cough* but I digress. Conversely, if you are bored at a keep defense, feel free to go and help repair the oil or heal the guys who are repairing the oil.

I really enjoy the siege weapons, they’re cheap and cheerful and I’m one of those bad bad healers who runs to the siege pads when I get a chance. Although in a big keep siege it is generally more polite to let the guys who would otherwise be twiddling their fingers use the cannons. And tanks onto the rams. In a small group no one will mind though.

If you haven’t tried using siege weapons at a keep take, go do it!