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.

You’re never alone with a clone

Now it’s the EU servers’ turn to get some clones! This means that some of the servers are going to be copied (right down to every character and every content of every bank vault) and players who had a character on the old one can then decide which of the clones they wish to play on, without losing their characters.

Details are here.

The cloned servers will be as follows:

Karak Eight Peaks will be cloned to Tor Anroc
Karak Azgal will be cloned to Zhufbar
Karak Hirn will be cloned to Yvresse
Eltharion will be cloned to Tiranoc

Amusingly, my test Witch Elf from yesterday’s post is now going to be a clone. I hope the Order guys are as scared as I am.

Initial thoughts and stuff

So, we’ve had the game for a few days now, all our headstart people have been in since Monday, and we await the influx on Thursday. Here’s a few points on how it’s been:

GOA’s done a good job

There was a slight delay to the Collectors Edition Headstart, a couple of hours. Standard Edition headstart went well with people getting in smoothly. Queues haven’t been horrible (we’ve had none, but we’re Order and Core-RP), just haven’t seen too many complaints. And everyone who got an email back from a GM was very happy with it. Just Thursday to go and signs are positive! Also, there is nothing about it in the gaming news – which means it’s going well. (Obviously there are stories that the game is launching, but strictly they’re focusing on Thursday).

EA problems with keys an exercise in why to order elsewhere

I really feel for people who went with EAStore, because hey, it’s EA and they promised all sorts of goodies and for a while they were the only Standard Edition seller (soon joined by Direct 2 Drive) who said they were offering the headstart. Sending out the wrong keys was a cock-up, I hope everyone is in now and it wasn’t too painful. Having problems with manufacturing so that not all CEs have been sent out on time isn’t great either. On another note, looks like Play.com has some CE copies left. (This may be out-of-date when you get to read it).

Standard Edition Headstart

Because of Games Day, I started playing a few hours before the Standard Edition people came online. I was out of the starting area and at the first Dwarf PQ. Had to ask in-guild for some help finishing it and someone headed back to help (yay, guild). By the time we got to Stage 3 it became apparent the Standard Edition had come online as suddenly a whole gang of people entered the PQ, meaning we stormed it. Was a great sight and feeling. So enjoy that today America!

Guild

We have a separate post coming with names, screenshots, guild details – just making sure of Hawley’s first. But quickly, would just like to pause for a moment to say the guild is great. We’ve done a few things together and lots of things in smaller groups. Chat levels high, as is excitement. The guild is full of people we haven’t yet met, and Teamspeak is full of unfamiliar voices, but it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun learning about and meeting them all.

The Game

The game remains insanely fun, with a few collywobbles as I realised this character isn’t getting deleted so I better take it a bit more seriously. Scenarios have been plentiful (more so at night), open groups have invited me along, rather than waiting for me to invite myself, have done a bit of exploring in the mornings – but I intend to do more. I’m not sure why, but it feels better than either beta. I have a suspicion it’s the number of players and general level of excitement. Good stuff!

European server list announced!

English servers listed in full:

Core

Axe Bite Pass
Karag Dron
Karag Orrud
Karak Eight Peaks
Karak Ungor
Karak-Azgal
Karak-Hirn
Karak-Izor
Karak-Norn
Karak-Vlag
Karaz-a-Karak

Open RvR

Dragonback Mountains
Eltharion
Finuval Plain
Mount Silverspear
Sea of Dreams
Shifting Isles
Tiranoc

Role-Play

Burlok
Makaisson

Open RvR Role Play

Alarielle
Ellyrion

The full list of European servers can be found listed here, including all the foreign-language servers.

And a bit of further explanation from Magnus, which made me laugh…

So the German servers are based upon the Empire, the Italian based upon Tilea, the French based upon Bretonnia, the Spanish based upon Estalia. We were considering basing the English servers on Albion, but we soon realised that having dozens of servers which in one way or another relate to fog and rain would be quite depressing, so we went with Dwarf and Elf names instead.

Personally, I like the notion of being able to see which language community a server belong to just by its name. Regarding the many Karak- based names, I think we will soon grow to learn these names by heart, and I further doubt that the first half of the name will be mentioned in every-day conversations. Gamers are renown for their ability to abbreviate pretty much anything.

What is it about MMO designers and pigs?

It is a sad fact that as your character goes through its MMO life, you will end up fighting monsters that look very similar apart from minor colour changes. Those scary level 67 pigs that chased you all over the high level zone are only a quick paintjob away from the level 2 piglets that bothered you as a young orc.

I’m giving pigs as an example because designers seem obsessed with them. I noticed this in Warcraft. What’s the first thing you see on stepping out of your new hometown in Outland? It’s a frickin’ felboar. They can label it as a demon all they want, I know a pig when I see one! DaoC had major pig issues also. The whole of Albion was plagued with them, conveniently congregating in appropriate level zones. I’m sure WAR will also have some favourite monster models that we’ll learn to hate.

But it’s the level-appropriate zones I wanted to talk about. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking: “But what stops a level 35 pig from going into the newbie zone where it won’t have any predators? I’d do that if I was a pig!” Nothing stops it, just the internal logic of the game doesn’t work like that. Every creature has its allotted location and allowed roaming area, all laid out to make a comfortable progression path for player characters.

The level 35 pigs aren’t necessarily more powerful than the level 3 piglets. It’s not as if they will ever fight each other so that you could find out anyway. The level just indicates at what point in a characters’ ‘life’ they’re intended to be encountered. You could see each PvE zone as representing a spot on a timescale, which is why you start in the easiest zones and move on with the monsters changing with you.

Old school MMOs used to have very mixed zones with high and low level creatures in together. These days, you don’t expect to see much of that and where you do, the high and low level areas are well marked out. The zones are there to shepherd characters through their levelling curve. We like MMOs because we have the illusion of total freedom of action, but in practice they’re pretty much on rails. Still, the ability to go anywhere and get killed quickly (by pigs) if you weren’t ‘supposed’ to be there is probably more freedom than we get in real life …

Is that how WAR will manage things? Probably, it’s a convenient way to keep players of the same level together and we all seem to enjoy it, but we’ll have to wait for the NDA to drop before we find out. We know that the zones are arranged into tiers, where tier 1 is lowest level and tier 4 is where the capital cities and huge fortresses are. Will we be able to go explore higher level areas without pulling half the zone a la WoW? Will they leave it to the other players to keep the lowbies in their level appropriate areas via PvP/ ganking? And, more importantly, will there be pigs?

Physician heal thyself..

I’m not even going to start to link to all the various posts around the place about deciding on a class. It’s between two classes for me so I’ve been taking a look at how I prefer to play. I’ve come out of it unsatisfied because I think I might prefer different styles of gameplay in PvE to PvP. And that’s played holy hell with my class decisions.

When I was first being told about Warhammer Online some of the lure was the idea of the Warrior Priest, a melee/healer hybrid. In DAoC I had many alts but it was the friar that I loved best. In World of Warcraft I had a series of 5 druids from runnning from the alpha test through to one Horde and one Alliance in live, although not all at the same time. In Lord of the Rings Online, my main character is a Captain. So my mains have all been melee/healer hybrids. What’s the dilemma you say? It should be bloody obvious what I’ll play in Warhammer Online, right? Of course right!

But things are rarely that simple.

When I played a friar, I was often swamped in RvR, I didn’t quite ‘get’ PvP in those days and I tended to stand back and heal more than I hit stuff. All my druids (except right at the very end of my playing of WoW) were Restoration and stood at the back and healed. My captain… stands at the back and heals. Except in small groups or soloing/duoing, I’ve mostly preferred the healing to the melee.

And every time I think about the Warrior Priest and how much I love the sound of them, I’m back to that niggling little voice in my head (I think it’s a dwarf) saying ‘Warrior Priests can’t just stand at the back and heal, they need to be in melee’. In PvMP (ie. Monster Play) on LotRO I gave up my warg because I wasn’t enjoying melee in PvMP and switched to a weaver where I could, if I wanted, stand at the back and.. spit poison (it’s like healing, honest!). Maybe melee and me don’t go well in PvP.

Obviously, I’ll be testing both classes out in the open beta, and testing an Archmage also perhaps, although I don’t really like casters.

But what do you do if you recognise you prefer one type of gameplay in PvE and another in PvP? I’m hoping it’s not just me that has this problem, but I fully realise it might be!

Do we really need different server rulesets?

One of the questions asked at the Q&A session at Games Day Baltimore was about different server types:

Q: “We all know that there are, uh, PvE areas and RvR areas in every zone, but given that war is everywhere are there any plans to have server rulesets where there are no PvE areas and everything is an RvR area?”

Jeff: “Not at launch.”

Stepping carefully through the floods of tears of the guys who have convinced themselves that this means their dark elves will have to engage in winsome country dances with dwarf lasses when they should be murdering each other, this news makes me very happy.

All it means is that there won’t be open free for all PvP in every zone all the time. In particular, people will be able to choose when they PvP. Starting areas won’t be constantly camped. You might even be able to get to your trainer without dying 17 times.

But it’s a game about WAR and that means you want to kill the other side, not quest alongside them.

What does the (current) community have to say about this?

Opinions are mixed. In general, the people who played DaoC or EVE are in favour of the single server type. The people who mostly played WoW are not.

James (Community Coordinator from Mythic), drops into the Vault to note that server type plans aren’t finalised yet.

On WHA, a lot of players are concerned that separate rulesets would fracture the community.

Epicone@WHA also started a thread to discuss Core Ruleset doesn’t equal Carebear

The Appeal of Open PvP

It’s exciting to level in an environment where you have to watch out for other players all the time. But in a game where it’s possible to level purely via PvP, the people who want to do that can already do it. I’ll be amazed if there aren’t quests and PvE type content out in the PvP zones also.

But it is key to the idea of open-PvP that it isn’t optional. It can happen any time, any place, anywhere. There is no safe area. If you know where the other realm’s favourite questing spots are, you can go and attack them there. You can jump on people who aren’t trying to PvP. In practice, on WoW’s PvP servers, this has made some favourite levelling spots into no-go areas.

But if world PvP is readily available and the game is fun and lots of other hardcore PvP players are around, how many people would find it a total showstopper to not have the option of an open-PvP server? It will be a small minority. The vast majority will settle for the single ruleset.

That doesn’t sound great – why should anyone have to ‘settle’ for anything? Because splitting up the community is worse. And in the long run, keeping the community vibrant and non-segregated is the best way for the game to grow.

How about RP servers?

I’ve enjoyed playing on RP servers. I’m not a hardcore RP type, but I like to be able to charge into battle yelling “For the Horde!” from time to time without having my own realm fall around laughing at me. I like being able to walk through a city and hear RPed conversations, it makes the place feel more ‘alive’. I like not having to see character names that are wildly out of place in the setting. Plus RP servers tend to get a more mature playerbase, for whatever reason.

Although this can split the community, the RP community does need to stay together because they need people to roleplay with. But they don’t need a different ruleset.

So it’s fine for these guys to just designate a RP server and let the playerbase decide if they want to play there or not.

A Single Server Ruleset

WoW made the mistake of splitting up the player base pretty hard on this issue. They compounded it when they introduced server transfers by saying that you can never move from a PvP to a PvE server. Players saw this and were nervous of having their choices limited … so a lot of people play on PvP servers who don’t enjoy it but wanted to be with their friends, or didn’t want to get stuck on a server type that might limit their options for raiding guilds.

A single server type keeps the community together. Yes, there will be hardcore PvP guys who will leap enthusiastically on any fight that’s going. Yes, there will be cautious players who don’t seek out PvP so enthusiastically or wait until they have friends around. But they will all be playing on the same team, may even be in the same guilds/armies, and will all be playing the same game.

That means that if a player nervously heads out to the PvP zone and is ganked, they’ll be able to call on the more hardcore PvPers in their own realm to come help them take out the gankers. It’s not like being ganked on a PvE server (or having your quest giver NPCs ganked, more likely) where you already know most players don’t prefer PvP because if they did, they wouldn’t be there. So the PvPers get their fun fight, the original player gets some payback, the gankers also get their fun fight, it’s a win-win scenario.

This isn’t purely theoretical, it’s how PvP and the single server type worked in DaoC. (Yes, they later introduced open PvP, and fully PvE servers but they weren’t particularly successful.) Personally, given the choice I might have picked a PvE server, but I would have missed out on some of the most fun gaming experiences I’ve had in a MMORPG.

Warhammer is all about building server communities out of different types of players. Public quests and huge PvP battles all encourage the hardcore and the less hardcore to play side by side. I hope people don’t feel forced to play on a server type they hate just to be with their friends. I hope Mythic have the guts to stick with the single server ruleset. Anything else would be selling the community short.

Does it matter whether the decision is made before launch?

It matters a lot. Theoretically, of course Mythic could decide later to launch an open-PvP server or three and all the players who really wanted a wild-gankfest would go there. In practice, people like to stay with their friends, guilds, and communities. Communities on the servers will start to form as soon as the servers go live and early access begins. (Players are always at their most sociable when no one knows anyone and few cliques have formed.) So some players would go to the new servers, but the majority wouldn’t make it their new home.

If Mythic do decide to go with a single ruleset, they need to make it very clear that this is the case and there are no plans for alternatives. Otherwise people may wait for the open RvR servers before they buy the game.

So watch out for more news from Mythic on this as we get closer to launch.