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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Cross-Server Scenarios?! No thanks.

I haven’t read up on this one on the forums, so excuse me if there’s tons of good links on the topic. I’ll endeavour to add some later if I find them. It’s just something that came up in an instant messenger chat with someone about WAR. Are cross-server scenarios a solution to lower-populated servers?

I can see how the idea would be appealing. It’s working on World of Warcraft to populate the battlegrounds, as far as I know (wow, how many times can I ask people to correct me in one post!). But, would I like to see it in Warhammer Online? I have to say it’s a resounding ‘NO’ from me on this.

Scenarios are great fun, but open RvR is the core of the game, and it’s something people learn as they progress through the game, in my experience. It may be frustrating at the moment to get as far as you can in the open world and not quite succeed in the end goal, but running scenarios over and over – well, it might get the xp and rp ticking up, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of the game.

Most importantly though, I think cross-server scenarios would be a short-term solution for some lower populations that want access to more regular scenarios. In its  turn I feel it would seriously damage server community. And, for me, server community is a lot more of an important part of the happiness equation. If I log on to my server and go out into a scenario, I like that I get to group with a variety of the people on my server, it forces us to mix, to get to know one another and to rely on one another – valuable lessons for when we bump into each other in the open field and are defending a keep or attacking a fortress. I like seeing the same names over and over again and slowly knowing they’re getting to know my name too, seeing that I actually stop to heal or res them in whatever situation. And I think any cross-server stuff could quickly erode some of this server spirit.

So I really hope this doesn’t come to Warhammer Online, but am prepared to listen to counter-arguments!!

Pretty diagrams!

GOA have presented us with a fun run-down of team play, in what we can safely assume is the start of a series of useful guides to the game.

The guide covers grouping in open RvR, including handy hints and tips on leading groups and a variety of tactics and skills. I definitely enjoyed it, and look forward to the rest of the series.

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.

Ultimate cassock devastation

Wotcha everyone,

I am beginning to wonder if my shiny Devastator Cassock is *actually* made of albatross feathers, and should be worn principally around the neck…  Let me explain…

I went on a Tier 3 Open RvR jolly a couple of weeks ago.  I was barely level 19, and went along expecting fun and frivolity whilst mooching a bit of renown for my poor, underappreciated Renown Rank.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I manage to win a purple bag after we’ve all given a Keep Lord a good drubbing.  At the same time as imagining myself with a “Gosh!” face on, you might also want to spare a moment to imagine the gnashing of teeth from all those people who felt they contributed a lot more than I did.

Fear not, teeth-gnashers.  Your revenge started the moment I took possession of that bag.  For inside it was the Devastator Cassock.  It’s got lovely stats.  It might even look good when worn, and dyed yellow.

It’s also Rank 27, and Renown Rank 26.

At the time, Hawley was Rank 19, and Renown Rank 16.

Now, I had been thinking of raising Hawley’s Renown Rank, but 10 levels seemed a bit…  daunting.  In a “grinding Renown” sort of way.  And, as anyone would, I’d like to be able to wear the item at the start of Rank 27, so I can get the most out of it.

The solution is simple, I’m sure.  Run scenarios.  It’s supposed to be the optimal way to level anyway, but the annoying thing is that I like variety.  It’s the Lemon Pepper of life, after all.  I enjoy doing quests.  The random nature of running about, following the bullet points to trez and xp (reading quests is for njubs, grandma!) is quite appealing.  I can switch my brain off and watch tv at the same time.  It’s relaxing.

But it only gives xp, not renown, and I need the renown far more than the xp.  In point of fact, it’s quite a novel situation; I have a levelling character that is running *away* from xp.

Open RvR isn’t so much of an option, seeing as most of the people I usually group with are now Tier 4.  And I’m too old, grumpy, and unsociable to go pugging for open RvR.  I get cranky having to watch my language around people who may well be a third of my age, and should be discovering such language for themselves (and probably thinking that they’re inventing swearing).

So scenarios it is.  Now, I generally enjoy scenarios.  They’re fun, they’re fast, and they’re frenetic.  They’re great to do whilst…  Yeah, whilst questing.  Being sat there twiddling my thumbs whilst waiting for the next scenario to pop is beginning to grate.  It’s taken a fun thing to be involved in, and turned it into a grind.

I hate feeling like I *have* to grind.  I play to have fun, and grinding isn’t fun.  I don’t want to come home from work and continue working (just without the prospect of real, filthy lucre).  I want to go and do things that take my mind *away* from the daily grind.

So I’m sat here, giggling.  The irony of it all overwhelms me.  I have a fantastic piece of kit, that I will probably never wear.  That would have done someone else far more use, as they would have happily ground their Renown Rank high enough, if it wasn’t already.

Heheh.  Heheh.  Heheheh.

Ah, don’t worry.  I’ll suck it up, and do more scenarios.  And stop being so whiny about it all.

Cheers,
Hawley.

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.

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!]