Where will Kaja go?

Burlok is dead, its remains smouldering in ashes. Kaja the dwarven Rune Priest stands ‘tall’ and looks around. She has a choice of new homes, aside from Karak-Azgal where the evil Ailil bounces on her disk.

Ok, I’ll prob move her to Karak Eight Peaks on monday. No idea what the new guild is doing, but these days I’m more of a soloer. And it sounded like a fun server on saturday.

RP server closures are sad to me, because they offer something that you just don’t find elsewhere. But WAR demands on numbers, and equality. And the numbers are so LOW on the RP servers, that these moves are inevitable. And wherever I go, I’ll be using Flimgoblin’s awesome new RP addon.

Hrrm, the move is on the same day my 6-month sub runs out. I was going to take a few weeks break from the game and then continue playing and move any new WAR commentary to my more general blog: Nerf the Cat. Yes folks, after a new breath of life for the Age of Blogging, the Book of Grudges is most definitely coming to an end.

It shows how things have progressed in 7  months. I’ve gone from uber-excited about every announcement, to slightly cynical and needing proof of things. I gave up on end-game and enjoyed the simplicity of tiers 1 and 2, and could play those all the time! I look forward to the Land of the Dead ‘expansion’ stuff. But I miss my guild, my friends, my server – and let’s face it, Book of Grudges is in no way as good as it was when I shared duties with Spinks and Hawley.

I am determined to keep an eye on WAR, I hope I enjoy my new server when I get back to playing there. It’s going to be a bit weird to make sure my friends (whose subs have run out) get to the same server. I’m not even sure it’s possible, so that will be seriously upsetting for all of us. I even got some great ideas for WAR blog posts at the pub gathering over the weekend. Those posts will be on Nerf the Cat, however. Not here.

Thanks to all for reading, commenting, visiting and keeping us in the feed-reader! It’s definitely appreciated.

The Dark(er) Side

Have decided to start a Destruction alt, finally, after all this time. These are my top choices, based on what I like and what I’d like to experiment with. So pick me a class and if you have suggestions of non-Burlok servers for me to go to, let me know those too (in comments). Oh, and if you want to join me for a night a week of alting in Destruction, also let me know!

Big Day Today

Here come the Slayers/Choppas! The new classes should be available to those who completed the Bitter Rivals event later today after the servers come down. But that’s not the only reason it’s a big day. There’s also a bunch of server moves happening to help players get to experience better RvR through more targets:

All characters on servers from which we have previously offered transfers will be moved to more lively servers…

…Here’s the full list of automatic transfers
Dragonback Mountains, Mount Silverspear, Sea Of Dreams, Tiranoc and Finuval Plain to Eltharion
Karak Ungor, Clar Karond and Karak-Vlag to Karak-Azgal
Karak-Hirn, Karaz-a-Karak, TorAnroc and Yvresse to Karak-Norn
Zhufbar, Worlds Edge Mountains, Axe Bite Pass, Karag Dron and Karag Orrud to Karak Eight Peaks
Makaisson, Ellyrion and Alarielle to Burlok

It’s quite a big deal and a couple of European bloggers have been talking about their experiences moving from Karak-Hirn to Karak-Norn. The server moves, along with the 10-day free trial available through WAR Europe and the return of players to see the new classes mean we should be getting some stellar play in over the next days and weeks, breathing new life into RvR and PvE (yes, time to get those hard PQs done). It’s quite a big deal to welcome new players to your server, especially when you’re used to the same old names – but give it a go, I intend to on Burlok and I’m not a naturally friendly person ;p! (btw, if you’re coming to Burlok as either Order or Destruction, I’ll be playing Idris the Warrior Priest, feel free to say hi or to kill me and report it here!).

And I know you’re all waiting for stuff about the Dublin trip, so here’s a quick overview:

  • lots of GOA, not so many players – we intend to change this at a London get-together (maybe check 9th May in your calendars…more on that soon)
  • GOA were really friendly, their offices all bright and decorated WAR-style
  • T-shirts rock 🙂
  • So do female Rune Priest birthday presents (thanks to Nic and Magnus for this, it has pride of place away from ALL cats!!!)
  • Go bother Tuffmudda to start the ‘recipes for MMO players’ meme. I reckon we can get at least one recipe out of every WAR blogger

I guess what I took away from it the most is that the individuals at GOA who work with WAR are incredibly enthusiastic and joyful about their work. Many of them are dedicated Warhammer junkies and however much we all love the game and the community, they do too. They just get to see all the other sides of it! And yes, there will be pictures and an interview with Nic and Magnus for quieter days!

Karak Izor – Come on Down!!

Today’s the day Karak-Izor players get to start the transfer process and pick their new server out of a few choices (Karak Eight Peaks, Karak-Hirn, Karak-Norn, Karak-Azgal). For information about the transfer process, take a look here.

We wish all the players find happy homes on more populated servers and get to kick butt alongside their new realm mates. And for the receiving servers – be nice to your new additions!

They call me MISTER Poppet!

Wotcha everyone,

Yes, it’s another part of my ongoing random musing about names.  Particularly on Role-Playing servers, seeing as that is my server type of choice, and at the moment, I’m musing about second names.  Surnames.  This one’s particularly rambly, so you might want to get a brew in and relax.  And enjoy the journey.  Sorry.

So, here I am at level 20.  I get me a horse and a surname.  It’s almost like a coming of age ceremony, similar to your first legal beer, or your provisional driving license.  Just with less fanfare from your parents.

And seeing as I was in Altdorf sorting horse (no, I haven’t named it.  I make it a policy never to name something I might one day eat.  And there’s good eating on a horse) and surname, I decided to do my bit for Altdorf, and finish off some of the quests sitting in my Tome of Knowledge.  No, it wasn’t about clearing some space in there, and it wasn’t about getting some easy cash and quest xp.  No.  Honest.

Booting down doors, taking names.  Investigating corpses floating in rivers, and generally being seconded to the Altdorf Rozzers.  Quite fun, really.  And within I few minutes, I’ve got the line; “They call me MISTER Poppet!” running around in the Movie-In-My-Head(tm).  Lots of fun, really, and as mentioned earlier, the side effect of helping Altdorf out left me with a warm feeling in my tummy.

It was only later that I started checking out other people’s surnames.  Sometimes things are just going too quickly to take note of *any* names, never mind two for the same set of pixels that I’m chasing around a battlefield.  And I’m visually lazy.  I spend a lot of time at work having to be very accurate about what I’m reading, so on my own time I slack.

But every so often, a name registers in my subconscious, and batters through the wall to my… umm… very conscious.  Sometimes it’s a really nice name, one that makes me immediately hate the owner for having a better imagination than me.  Hates them!  Really hates them!  Whilst congratulating them!  And others, I read a name that makes me wince.  Anyone that thinks the name “Shadowbladedeathdancer” is ok for a name, or even worse chose it because “It’s cool” deserves to have their internet rights removed.  I apologise if there actually is a “Shadowbladedeathdancer” out there.  It’s a name I chose at random, and I wasn’t singling you out for scorn.  Even if you deserve it, for having a name like that.  It’s not cool.  It’s not a name.  It’s words stuck together!

In between the two extremes we get the “comedy” names.  Sometimes it’s an innocuous enough name, whose comedy is only released at level 20 with the addition of the surname.  Sometimes not.  Either way, the question of whether or not comedy names are acceptable is not something that will be resolved in this rambling pondering; I first encountered the “issue” of comedy names in a forum post shortly after I started playing Everquest.  It’s going to be going for a long, long while.

The issue here is that, just like World of Warcraft, comedy is a part of the world.  And therefore, part of the lore.  So when the self-appointed Lore-Police start screaming about names, and comedy names at that, they don’t have a leg to stand on.  When the NPCs have comedy names, how can reporting comedy player character names be enforced.  It gets worse; the original Intellectual Property evolved over many years, and there are scary amounts of incidental and obvious humour;  One of the early army lists for 1st edition was called “The Insane Conjurations of the Necromancer Colin”, or some such.  And one of the 2nd edition Regiments of Renown, whose name I cannot remember despite getting all het up about it, was a regiment of sea-elves tasked with guarding ports.  Their usual challenge (in Elven, of course) was “Elo cailor, gotda leit?”  Even when I first read it, I groaned.  [I await anyone who has the original information who can correct my shoddy failing memory.  I was about 15 when I first encountered Warhammer, so it’s been a while since I have seen the original.  If you could correct it, well done.  Not only do you get 25 Hawley-points, but you’ll be making the inner child in me happy for getting some of it’s history back accurately.]

No, you don’t need to ask me, I will happily volunteer the information:  Yes, I am considering starting to greet Elves with that phrase in game.  It’s part of the lore, after all…  I just need the correction/confirmation to arrive, and I’m away.

So when the self-appointed Lore-Police report your comedy name, do you get to report the Van-Rentls of Marienburg for their comedy name?  Yes, another old piece of the world, there.

And I suppose the other question is this;  Do game designers get a “Get out of jail, free” card from what some people might refer to as the “Lore-Wielding Assassins of Joy”?  No, I don’t use that term.  Never.  But the point is that we don’t get to even comment on NPC names, so why do they get to change ours?

Personally, I hate to see an obvious gag name.  With a passion.  But I understand that they are a part of the world, so I turn a blind eye.  Of course, that blind eye means I won’t be healing them and won’t be helping them.  Swings and roundabouts, really.  With a comedy name, you need to be able to duck and weave…  But I respect them enough to not start reaching for the “report” button whenever someone with a comedy name batters me into the ground.  Again.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to…

Wotcha everyone,

Spinks put up a link to this story from Gamespot, but here is the BBC’s version.

God bless the BBC.  Instead of the usual tabloid shocker of “Online Gamer in mass serial murder with ritualistic cannibalism!”, they put this lovely little cautionary tale of the perils of the online quicky divorce.

Now, this is still all part of the whole “Online Gamers being a bit strange” theme, but…  Well, I giggled.  It’s bad of me, because I am taking delight in not just one but two people’s misfortunes, but the strangeness of the situation almost demands it.  Obsessive behaviour in any way shape or form is bad for all involved, but to my mind Online Gamers are always far more interesting and zany when compared to other obsessives.

Aaaaanyway.  Back to the divorce.  Which got me thinking about Role-Playing relationships.  Personally, I don’t do it.  I did once try out the wedding thing in the original Fable.  I really got into Fable.  It may have been short, it may have had it’s flaws.  But I loved the story, and did find myself shouting “Oi!  Fuckface!  You killed my mam!” when it came to the final showdown with the bad guy.  Just before he got many arrows to the face, in fact.

Ahem.

So, even though I was that emotionally involved in the story, I still didn’t do the “your character can get married” thing.  I did the side quest where you get to put various silly haircuts and beards/moustachios on your character, and whilst doing it did the “flirt” emote at the lady hairdresser.  To the extent that she fell in love with my little fella (no, not that, you filthy lot!) and I did do the marriage thing (okay, so I’ve done the marriage thing once.  But read on.  And it was a single player game anyway, so it doesn’t count).  Hey, wife with a career, good for a bit of extra cash, I thought.  No, no such luck.  She retired, I had a change of mind about the haircut, so back a-reloadin’ we went, and the wedding was off.  Yes, I am the last of the (not) romantics.

I’ve never even dared to go anywhere near a “relationship” in an online game.  I’ll happily role-play about most things, but I run like a startled bunny when that sort of topic rears it’s head.  Does this make me a bad role-player?  Maybe it’s because some things are easy to draw the line with, but I’m worried that my emotions might run away with me, and I think there’s more to it than there really is.

Or even worse, the other person thinks there’s more to it.  Real life relationships are enough of a minefield, how does one navigate a pretend one?  And anyway, this is WAR now.  Do we have time to get all lovey-dovey when there’s zealots to chase around a scenario map?

Oh, wait, can Warrior Priests officiate at a wedding?  Or would you be better off getting in a Rune Priest?

Cheers,
Hawley.

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 😉

Would you swap your guildie for an NPC ‘companion’

So among all the press releases and interviews about Star Wars: The Old Republic last week, one of the features of the game that Bioware has been pimping is the companion NPC. Not to be confused with a pet (oh, who are we kidding?), the companions can be recruited, will have storylines attached to them and can even be romantic interests for characters. We assume they will also fight with you. In any case, the idea is that players will be more involved with the companion NPCs.

And I don’t know about anyone else but although this sounds fun and all, it leaves me with a chill down my spine. I feel as though I am looking into the future of MMOs and there is less and less place for that whole annoying ‘interacting with real people’ thing.

Real people are annoying. They aren’t always there when you want them to be. They don’t always want to do the same things that you want to do. Sometimes they play badly, or not the way you think they should play. They mess up your schedule, they cause drama, they make it difficult for you to do the stuff in game that you want to do. They cause frustration.

NPC companions could solve a lot of that. In games like Guild Wars, you can have a whole party of fairly competent NPC companions which makes the levelling game a solo affair when it may not have been before. And people love them. Guild Wars isn’t my game of choice (difficult to explain why. I like a lot of things about it but I never felt the immersion; maybe because the trade channel is so amazingly horrid. An auction house would have improved that game immeasurably) but I liked having a whole group to control. I think most players would love to be able to grab some NPCs with which to complete all the group content in an MMO up to and including raids! Not only that but the NPC never bitches at you, can be programmed to be a well behaved love interest, and will admire you and pander to your every whim at the press of a button.

The other issue with real people ™ is that it takes time to form relationships and make a community in a game. That means time hanging out and chatting. Time in instances. Even time in scenarios if you see the same people around a lot. You can’t really short-cut it. That means sometimes you’ll be sitting around bored because other people are doing something else. There’s a random factor. A lot of players would prefer to focus their time completely on progressing their character and leave that socialising stuff to other people. The NPC companion/s remove that necessity, they may or may not require time but at least they are decent enough to keep to the player’s schedule. They don’t deliberately organise all the most fun events for when the player is offline or has their mother-in-law turn up for an unexpected visit. They don’t level without you.

There is no doubt that NPCs are more convenient, and no doubt in my mind that if you gave most people the choice, they’d vote for more NPC AI and less reliance on other real people. I was talking with Arbitrary this weekend about why we dislike the term healbot. I wonder if part of it is because we know that most people would LOVE the chance to replace a ‘real person’ healer with an actual bot that would follow them around whenever they wanted, always prioritise them for healing, have a minimal programmed reaction time, never complain, and best of all … never want loot for its alts.

I’m left feeling that this more than anything else is why PvP is such an important element for MMOs to get right (if they do it). It isn’t impossible to use pets and NPCs in PvP but real people are better allies AND better enemies. The PvE bot-based MMO is going to happen and it will be fun for lots and lots of people. But I like the mad drama, the stupid conversations on TS, the daft people you end up grouping with, and the whole gamut of playing with real people. There’s no reason why PvE can’t be a solo experience and great fun, but all my best MMO memories involve real people and I would hate to see that die because producers decided that most people would find it too much hassle.

Are you looking forwards to NPC companions? And why is it that games so rarely give us the option of having healing pets?

Updates upon updates

We don’t talk that much about what we’re doing in-game, we think other bloggers have that pretty well-covered and we’re in that kind of crazy first month of running around madly and trying to fit in work, life, TV and gaming all in one messy pot. I’ll write a little more about how it’s affecting me personally this weekend, I think.

But here’s a quick rundown.

Hawley’s offline (boo!), he’s got himself a fancy new job which meant relocating, and thanks to a certain big company not being very .. good, he’s delayed getting back online. We miss him.

Me and Spinks are still playing Archmage and Rune Priest as our mains and enjoying them, finding ways through the Tier 3 slowdown. Spinks has been organising some guild keep takes/defences, while I’ve been knuckling down and getting to grips with mastery specs. If you can bear angst, I might talk more about that also. We’ve also got alts of various levels that might enter the blog at some point.

Guild is going well, it’s big and we’re currently on closed status, but am sure eventually it’ll open. Getting some more officers for what is likely to be an interesting November. I’ll definitely be spending time on Moria, and obviously Lich King will take some people’s attention away from WAR for awhile. So anyway, that’s behind-the-scenes guild stuff. Generally we’re all pretty happy with the guild I think! We’ve got a great bunch of people and there’s always something going on (often spontaneous, sometimes organised).

We’ve run some small roleplay events, claimed our first keep (thankfully the server reset it before we went bankrupt), a little chicken run to explore some areas, a couple of runs through bits of Gunbad with either groups or warbands and many many sets of PQs and scenario groups. Oh, and we’re part of an Alliance!

Order on our server is getting to know one another, and becoming more organised, we have channels set up to discuss open field RvR and it appears to be effective. There’s a roleplay event set up for saturday for guilds to meet up and chat.

Last night I spoke to Zizlak online too, he moonlighted as Order to come say hi. Though we were in the boss fight of a Gunbad wing, so I think I was a bit lame in my responses. Sorry Ziz!

What is Blizzard thinking with WoW PvP?

I’ve been keeping vaguely up to date with the Wrath of the Lich King beta. And because it’s in beta and a lot of decisions still aren’t set in stone, I never thought there was much point pontificating too much on their plans. But what they are planning with PvP and the PvP gear right now puzzles me a lot.

Currently you can run battlegrounds (like scenarios in WAR) and earn honor points from them which you can spend to get gear. You can run arena (a totally separate ladder system based on 2/3/5 man group deathmatches in small arenas) and get a different set of arena points which you can spend to get better gear. Some pieces can only be bought with honor gear.

Arena can be much more of a hardcore prospect, battlegrounds can be queued for solo (like scenarios, you get put into a raid group when you zone in) so can be more casual.

They had originally planned to wipe all of the honor and arena points when the new expansion hit so that people couldn’t save them up and use them later to buy level 80 PvP gear. The idea being that everyone started with a blank slate and would be running battlegrounds together. Which is not a bad plan. Then due to screams of overreaction, they decided instead to leave the existing points but heavily inflate the prices for the level 80 gear, whilst giving out more points at level 80. So effectively doing the same thing but letting people keep ‘their’ points, even though they’ll be mostly worthless.

So far so good. But then Kalgan (one of the Lead Game Designers) posts this on the forums. And here he sets out their plans very clearly. There will be craftable gear for people starting out in PvP to use in battlegrounds. But all the better quality gear will require both arena points and battleground points. So the casual players who ran a few battlegrounds for fun will be pushed into arena if they want to upgrade, and the arena players will have to run battlegrounds.

See this is exactly what I mean about giving players the illusion of choice. If I hate arena (and a lot of people do, it’s very different from queueing up for Alterac Valley when you’re bored and have a free moment) then why force me to do it? And in PvP, the quality of your gear directly affects your survivability which affects your FUN. It really isn’t fun to be rolled the whole time by people with better gear. In the current system, although the arena gear is better, the stuff you can get from battlegrounds is still good. So there are effectively 2 upgrade paths. They don’t plan to do this in the expansion.

Kalgan’s comment:

That aside, it is important for me to point out that the arenas were never really meant to become quite as much of a focal point for the overall pvp game as they have (part of why we set the system up so players could get the full benefit from the system with only 10 total games per week), it’s more of a natural consequence of the fact that because we have a way to measure success that feels reasonably balanced against pve, we’re able to put high-end items there, which on its own creates the focus of importance.

So arenas weren’t planned to be so dominant but they’re going to go with it anyway. He has no answer for people who hate arena and liked battlegrounds for their casual-friendly nature except ‘get skills, noob!’. I’m reading this and thinking about how much fun I’ve had with PvP in WAR, and I’m sad to see a good game like WoW deliberately make itself unfun in that aspect.