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.

Gunbad, good and bad

We’ve been playing a bit in Gunbad, a 3-wing public dungeon in the North-West corner of the Badlands. So once you know where it is, it really doesnt take much to organise a quick group and toddle along. The entrance is an impressive cavern mouth with a red crescent moon above it, signalling the presence of Night Goblins! And a swirly zone-change thingy. Go through that and discover a ton of quests, that cover all three wings of the dungeon.

The easiest wing starts with rank 23 champs, and is the right-hand one. You’ll see spiders, so you’ll know that’s the right one. The middle-ranked wing is off on the left-hand side and starts with rank 25 champs. So taking the middle path gets you to the hardest wing, I think they start at rank 28 champs – my group ran off and I was healing, so I didn’t pay as much attention.

You can do each wing as a warband or as a single group, and each consists of 3 PQs, followed by a boss fight. The PQs can  be fast and furious, especially if you do have a large warband, or there are more than just your group in there. Yes, it’s public, so it could be swarming with groups. We’ve never found it to have more than a couple though. And each PQ is pretty self-contained, usually helps with a quest and has 2-3 stages. They also drop purple, blue and gold bags with more regularity than we’ve seen elsewhere. You work along the influence bar for the zone, and when you get to the first bar of influence, you can go see the first boss, etc. That’s behind an instance swirly thing after the third PQ of the wing. But, be warned, you can’t go in in a warband, it’s a one-group fight.

That’s the good. You can jump straight into Gunbad with just one group, or announce you’re going and get quite a few interested parties and do some dungeon-bashing with nice rewards. The quests give a ton of xp compared to many (I had one quest from Dark Fire Pass just to go to Gunbad that netted me 10k xp), and the influence rewards are very nice too. So even if you don’t win anything at a PQ or boss fight, there’s a good chance of nice gear. And honestly, the PQs are pretty fast and can be redone with persistence points. Set pieces seem to drop from the bosses (not quite done the final boss yet!).

Also,  there’s a chance to work on your ‘kill night goblins’ tome achievements. And if you kill two named goblins in the final wing, you get an item unlock – a dark light for your pocket slot (buyable at city libraries). Can’t remember their names off the top of my head, but they’re on either side of a path and you need them both for a quest anyway!

So that’s the good. It’s a nicely accessible place with some fun PQs, nice loot, good xp and the ability to tromp through with a warband so you don’t have to turn people away. And each wing can be done in around 1.5h (possibly faster in big warband), so there’s no massive time commitment either.

But…

For the behind-instance boss fights you will need to separate out into balanced groups. If you took 10 people through the wing, you now need to discuss which 4 to leave outside. Bit of a bummer, but the lockout is only half an hour, so strictly those 4 people could hang out and then the whole group could burn half an hour doing PQs, reform the instance 6-man and do the boss again for those who missed out the first time. Or that’s the theory, I’ve not had a chance to try it.

Also, if you do go in in a warband, bear in mind that quest mobs (and tome unlock mobs) will need to be tagged by each group separately in order to tick the achievement/quest off. They respawn relatively quickly and is another encouragement to do the nearest PQ twice, but it’d be nice if some of these things did work better in warbands generally.

If there are other groups in there doing PQs, prepare to be a little underwhelmed at the epic-ness of some of the fights. I’ve done the first wing in a lowish level 6-man and in a mid-level warband, I’m sure you can guess which was more challenging! But you can challenge yourself and still find another couple of groups in there, so it’s probably best just to see it as a romp and enjoy the fighting and looting.

Overall, I really enjoy Gunbad. It’s a good way to bring people together and do something fun in PvE that’s also rewarding and a little different. I look forward to the other public dungeons around the place, since I believe they all follow a similar pattern and now we’re knocking on Tier 4 it’s nice to have the odd break from RvR!

Favourite monsters

(spinks) Everyone has some kind of enemy they really love to kill. For me, it’s undead and nazis. You can’t actually go wrong with either of those enemy types. There’s no such thing as a game with too many nazis or too many zombies.

So imagine how I felt when I got to fight a GIANT skeleton in Ellyrion? The only way it could have been better would have been if it had an SS uniform.

( arbitrary) Nurglings! They’re small and fat and need to be squished underfoot. They’re kind of a pest, but if I could have a cuddly toy one, I probably would. Which means I like to kill them, obviously. Don’t even go there with analysing that!

When the tier 3 quest train got derailed

Tier 3 is the level 21-32 stretch of the game. There are two zones per racial pairing to cover this level range, and an increase of scenarios to two per pairing (making six in total). Like tier 2, there are two keeps to attack per pairing, but the keeps are much larger than the ‘baby’ versions and have an outer wall as well as an inner bailey, making twice as many doors to knock down.

And just as tier 2 had an instances (sewers in Altdorf, I assume there’s a Destruction equivalent), tier 3 has Gunbad. It’s an underground area in the Badlands with oddles of quests, public quests, and instances with bosses – lots to do and nice rewards if you do them.

Other than that, business as usual! So how’s tier 3 treating you?

Slow, Slow, slowslowslow

The big difference that we, and everyone else, has noticed is that it takes longer and longer to level up via PvE. Where before we were struggling not to outlevel our quests because we were getting so much xp from pretty much everything, now the opposite is true. It’s quite easy to finish all the quests in an area and not yet be high enough level to easily tackle the next set of quests. Snafzg has a good rant about this. I agree that questing feels too slow at this level but not that grinding does — that depends more on what class you are playing and who is with you.

What’s more, scenarios give xp at a hugely better rate than quests. If a quest gives about 2500xp, I can pull at least 10k xp from a scenario (if we win), and that’s not including the associated scenario quests from the warcamps. Plus scenarios generate a lot of renown too, it’s a no-brainer if they are up. So people congregate at warcamps so as to be able to hand the quests in after every run.

I’m not  inclined to work up to a major rant because I haven’t been personally frustrated. We play Order on a well populated server so we never have to wait long for a scenario at prime time. So what we tend to do is quest/grind xp in the mornings (or when not many people are on), and try to run scenarios or groups to Gunbad or world RvR (doesn’t give much xp but is fun!) in prime time. Still, it is the first time I have found myself grinding out some xp and on a healer that’s a fairly slow proposition.

All aboard for the quest train

Questing is the fancy package holiday levelling version of an MMO. Hop onto the quest train and get a guided tour around  story and lore mixed with bits of killing^D^D^D^Dmeeting the natives and exploring. Sometimes there will be clips of cool scripted dialogue or encounters too. And eventually you end up at the max level quest terminus with connecting flights to whatever you plan to do at end game.

So when you hit a brick wall, it hurts hard. Not only has it interrupted the questing rhythm, but when you wander into an area to talk to a quest person and all the creatures that you see are 4 or 5 levels above you, you have to wonder what your dumb character is doing there. If you decide that it isn’t possible,  you now need to think about how you can (in time honored fashion) go off and kill some wandering monsters so that you can go back to your quests later when you are a bit tougher. And when it’s slow to get xp from wandering monsters — suddenly the fun light-hearted game starts to look like work. Lots of work. Stray off the beaten track of your package holiday and you don’t know where you might end up.

I don’t think it is necessary to be able to level purely by questing in one area but it should be possible to do so by questing in all available areas. That way, if you chose to stick to one pairing you still have the option to grind xp or  scenario, but if you prefer to just quest you can.  So while the best possible option would be to add an entire new zone full of quests into T3 for each pairing, the easiest would be to tweak quest and PQ xp upwards. Mythic should do this.

Other things of note about T3

There are some really good Public Quests available in the T3 areas. Syp mentioned a skaven one which we all love. There is one in Saphery which I liked that involved helping an ancient Archmage defend his tower; I think I prefer the PQs which have badass NPCs in them. (But where’s my tower? What, that garden shed …) But people aren’t flocking to the PQs any more. My guess is that this is mostly because they don’t give as good xp as scenarios, plus people wanting to stick to warcamps to maximise scenario xp.

In Tier 3 you also notice that healers and tanks don’t feel as competent at soloing as they did in earlier levels, if they spec to heal/tank. This also contributes to the ‘slowing down’ feeling. Tier 3 feels slow compared with what went before.

We do think it’s an issue and are sympathetic to anyone who doesn’t have the option to pad out quest xp with regular scenarios due to server population. But we also have some suggestions:

– grinding xp on pqs. it isn’t exciting but you get a lot of xp and gold and you might meet people, you never know. If you don’t want to meet people, pick a less exciting or more out of the way PQ.  This is almost certainly the fastest way to grind xp if scenarios are not running, just if it drives you nuts after awhile take a break and do one of the other things on this list instead.

– check out quests and PQs in your capital city. Altdorf is now level 3 for us and there is new stuff turning up all the time. It passes the time and has nice xp attached, plus helps to level the city more.

– scenarios. I know, not helpful if you are on a low pop server but if you are playing in prime time and scenarios are running and you don’t utterly hate them, queue at a war camp and give the quests in as much as you can.

– grab some people and go to Gunbad. Most people will be curious to see it, and you can take a warband and zip through some PQs and get cool influence rewards and nice xp from quests. If you have a balanced 6 man group, you can check out the instanced bosses as well.

-Log out in a capital city. It will increase your rest bonus. if your guild has access to the guild tavern, make sure you have a scroll of return on you at all times to make this easier.

– I’m hoping that with the chat system revamp, mythic will add more realmwide channels to help with group forming but meanwhile, see if your server has an order/destruction channel and use it if so.

– tome unlocks. Explore everywhere. Kill anything you haven’t seen before. Talk to other people about unlocks they have found or check lists on the net. All tome unlocks give xp. If you want to spend some time exploring you can try to hit a load of these in one go.

– world pvp. not really great for xp although it is good for renown. But anything is better than nothing, right? And you can always ask people if they want to knock out some PQs when you’re done storming the castle.

Best Zone so Far?

So, the game has been launched for a week. We’ve all had a chance to explore some of the earlier zones and scenarios. And I don’t know about anyone else but I already have some loves and hates. I’ve been finding myself drawn to the zones for my own race, and it’s not just because you are more likely to get drops for your race there (you are more likely to get drops for your own race in your own zones by the way). It’s because the storyline is telling me more background about the race I play, and that’s something I really enjoy.

I always regretted in WoW that once you were out of the starting zones, with their very different themes, that’s about all you get for race-specific quests. WAR isn’t like that at all. As I wander through High Elf lands, I’m constantly getting more background about the High Elves and their various regiments. I feel like I know my own character and her background better too.

This is a screenshot I took in the Shadowlands, which is my favourite zone so far. It’s a very dark zone (in colour palette as well as theme), and for me it has a strange stark beauty. Questing through it, you get the story very clearly of past tragedies and a race beset and struggling to fight back. There is also a strong theme to the zone and it’s quests of ‘How do you fight an enemy who has no scruples, without becoming as bad as they are?’ I’d love to see more of this kind of thoughtful storytelling — although I dunno if I really expect that of this game. It also has zombies, which I personally appreciate. Unlike boars, you can never have too many zombies in an MMO.

I find it a moody, gothic kind of fantasy zone which is far different in tone to most of the other High Elf areas which I have seen. I was sorry to leave it and move on to Ellyrion with its gaggle of NPCs who are obsessed with their pretty white ponies — I’m surprised none of the horses have sprouted wings or spoken yet. For a short period of time, High Elves were captivatingly cool and tragic.

Admittedly, now I have a pony of my own  I am definitely appreciating their good points!