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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The Archmage Reloaded

Mythic have done a lot of unusual things for WAR players since the game was released. There have been new classes within the first few months, live events right off the bat, revamps of the PvP system, new event scenarios, and mass class tweaks.

But have they taken it a step too far this time?

Lost among the 1.2 patch notes, Mythic also presented a roadmap for changes to the Archmage/ Shaman which practically mean reworking the classes from the ground up. It is a long set of posts, and they are also asking for feedback. They emphasis that this is not set in stone, it is still early stage.

So I’ll go through the proposed changes and give my feedback right here!

What’s the goal?

The goal for the adjustment is to allow the Shaman / Archmages to become viable healers and nukers, but not necessarily be able to excel at both at the same time, because to do so would make them entirely too powerful in comparison to the other RDPS or healing careers. In addition, we wanted to work in a way for the AM / SH careers to generally be a bit more survivable, but they will have to sacrifice a little DPS or HPS to do so.

So, question is, what’s wrong with them at the moment. I’ll talk about Archmages because it is the class I have played.

My AM is a good healer. But she has some issues. She’s nowhere near as strong a healer or as survivable as a Warrior Priest, and although she is closer to the Rune Priest, she is still less survivable and doesn’t have as useful buffs (she has good debuffs but they are all very short and it’s difficult to see if they have much effect). Her HoTs aren’t really strong enough to be reliable, even though she has quite good mobility.

My AM is not a good damage dealer. When I have specced Asuryan for damage, I’ve had a lot of fun playing her but it was never a patch on what an actual dps class could throw out. And frankly, if I choose to play her as a dps caster with some emergency heals, there’s no reason for her to be so far behind. The price of versatility has been way too high for Archmages, and the same punishing ‘thou shalt not be as good as a dps’ does not seem to apply to the melee healers.

Survivability is going to be shot as long as Archmages are tall glowy elves who are easily picked out of the crowd. Only a disguise skill could help with that. Shamans absolutely do not have that issue, because they are short and look like Squig Herders.

Having to sacrifice dps or heals to be more survivable seems out of line with how the other healers play, but I’d expect my Archmage to be significantly more survivable even if it’s just over short periods if I’m asked to make that sacrifice. If it’s just a ‘bit’ more survivable then I don’t see the need to sacrifice anything.

I am on board with the notion that being able to excel at both healing and damage at the same time would put them out of whack. But the mission statement says ‘viable’ heals and damage and we don’t know what that means to Mythic. It does sound as though there is to be some penalty for versatility — they’ll not be quite as good as pure healers or pure dps.

But the raw numbers aren’t the end of the story. What I hope to see is better survivability for the AM via lifetaps. And maybe even a healing style that’s just a bit different from the Runepriest.

In Just 3 Stages, I can build you a new class

In any case, the revamp will take three stages.

  • 1.2.1 Minor tweaks, base adjustments to damage.
  • 1.3 Changing the Mastery Paths
  • 1.3.1 Changing the Mechanic

As I said, big sweeping changes. Whether or not it will even feel like the same class at the end, who knows?

And although I say minor tweaks, they are talking about a 25% increase in damage across the board to all abilities. That in itself is a large change and should make a big difference to how the classes play.

It is also a sad reflection on how far behind their damage really is, and how it has been left so long when a simple tweak like this could have fixed it.  I remember saying (with all the other Archmages) for some while that we needed more damage.

Mastery Changes

The current three mastery lines are heals/dps/debuffs.

The plan is to change this, to redistribute the buffs and debuffs and to end up with three mastery lines that are closer to: heals/ dps/ lifetaps

I had always thought that a lifetap was both a heal and a nuke (it’s a type of nuke that gives the caster some of the damage done back as health), but now you’ll have to choose which types of spells to specialise in. I predict that groups will not be overly excited to have a lifetap AM when they could have had a good healer or nuker, even though it’s probably the most fun spec to play.

The proposed mastery paths are currently in first draft form. It’s mostly the same spells as now, just shuffled around. The main thing I noted is that Cleansing Flare (the AE nuke/ knockback) makes an appearance at 5 points into Asuryan (ie. EVERYONE will take it) and Scatter the Winds (the heal debuff) is in the Asuryan tree also.

So Asuryan looks by far the strongest tree at the moment, it got assigned the strongest debuffs.

Vaul loses its identity as a debuffing tree and becomes a sort of lifetap tree instead, but gets the Shield of Saphery as well, and Law of Gold (the AE toughness reducing debuff). Those lifetaps would have to get very good indeed to get anyone to spec this over one of the other trees.

Isha looks in reasonable shape. It picks up Mistress of the Marsh (not a great debuff because of being ground targetted but it is an AE snare) and all the usual healing spells. Plus Isha AMs would be able to pick up Cleansing Flare as well. That would be a fun build to play.

And .. the Mechanic Revamp

This is pretty much a complete 180. Instead of your heals reducing the casting time of nukes and vice versa, your heals will increase the power of your heals. So there’s to be a meter which swings between max heal buffs and max damage buffs. Every time you heal it moves towards the max heal. Every time you nuke it moves towards max damage. And every time you cast some kind of lifetap/ debuff it moves towards the centre.

It should make it easier for the AM to play as a dedicated healer or nuker. To encourage players to use the mechanic, base heals/ damage would be reduced when this came in. With the idea that if you were maxed out on heals/damage it would be better than it is now, and if you weren’t it would be similar or worse.

The intention is very much that players NOT be able to switch quickly from heals to damage, at least not without losing some effectiveness. So this is looking quite similar to the LOTRO Runekeeper but without the emergency switching ability.

And this is the part of the change which is least set in stone. A complete mechanic revamp is very similar to making a new class.

Will it blend?

Don’t know. People who are interested will have to try it out and see how it goes. It’s clear that nuking AMs will lose the ability to throw an emergency instant heal.

It is also clear that Mythic worry far too much about appeasing other classes.

Question: Are you considering how these changes affect other classes and that it may make them obsolete? And if so, will you be altering these other classes in the same cycle to compensate?

Answer: In short we are most definitely considering this. We have no intention to Obsolete any other career in favor of a newly revamped one. That being said please keep in mind if we go with the more dramatic mechanic changes the AM/SH will likely have their base healing reduced. Giving many of the existing healers a good solid head start in burst or instantaneous healing.

You’re trying to fix a class that is notably behind the others. Do not start by saying that they’ll never  be allowed to do anything better if you want to encourage people to keep playing them.

Everyone wants to feel that they have a niche. Saying ‘We’ll revamp your class but please don’t worry everyone else, it’s never gonna be allowed to get too good,’ is not really encouraging. And like, maybe we’ll give you a bit more survivability but it probably won’t be as good as the other healers and you’ll have to sacrifice heals/damage to get it …. again, not really setting the world on fire.

Survivability in a PvP game should be baked into healers. If one class  has to sacrifice heals for survivability then they should be able to become a freaking cockroach on the battlefields every minute or so!

Game update 1.04 – let’s take a look

Coming to a US server near you on 29th October, and soon after to Europe, no doubt. Here’s 1.04.

The Witching Night live event has begun! For details, see the Warhammer Online Herald.

We look forward to this! Hope the first live event goes really well and they’re encouraged to do a lot more, not always based on time of year.

With the arrival of 1.0.4 we are now one step closer to offering Character Transfers from low population servers to medium population servers and the final stages of testing have begun…

Random news of something coming up in the next few days, and something a lot of people won’t need. But for those who need/want it, this is great news and pretty fast after launch. And being offered free.

We have added three new guild rewards in the form of dungeon teleport scrolls…Gunbad Teleport Scroll – This reward is unlocked at guild rank 29…Bastion Stair Teleport Scroll – This reward is unlocked at guild rank 32…Lost Vale Teleport Scroll – This reward is unlocked at guild rank 35…

Nice, but weren’t these in the list anyway or am I going mad? And.. by the time our guild is that high rank.. well, let’s just say it’ll be nice for alts! It’s not a bad thing, it’s just one of those things that’ll be nice but not effect too many people as yet.

Once a city has become contested, the attacking realm will now have 6 hours to capture it. If the invaders do not conquer the city in that time, the defenders will be declared victorious and the campaign will reset.

I think, on the whole, this brings a whole new challenge to the city capture which is a Good Thing(TM), but I dread the night we start on this at 11pm! (Only cos I’m old and need  my sleep). Nice tweak though!

Pets set to follow will now path properly to their master, and will no longer teleport instantly to their master’s side. Fixed an issue that was causing pets to stop attacking their current target and return to their master’s side…

White Lions rejoice? We’ll find out soon. But improving pets is never a bad thing, it’s really just getting them to where they needed to be on launch.

Fixed an issue that could sometimes cause trainer icons not to appear on the minimaps.

The successful capture of an enemy battlefield objective now rewards the capturing players with experience.

Finally! We’ve been musing that this would be a Good Thing(TM) for a while. Getting people out of scenarios needs to reward them with the things they get in a scenario in other ways. I see lots more fights at Battlefield Objectives, again, a good move!

In response to player feedback, the amount of renown earned from healing players has been increased slightly.

Hurrah! Well, we say that cos we’re all healers. But in reality it took a bit of a hit, players proved it, the games company listened to actual player feedback (along with the odd whine, let’s not fool ourselves). It’s a good change because it again shows that Mythic is willing to change things if they’re a bit ‘off’. And that real feedback actually can make a difference. So, next time you have an issue with something, or a great idea. Don’t just blog it or talk about it, use the ‘submit feedback’ button!

Tier 4 zones now require fewer scenario victory points to be captured.  The mechanics of capturing a zone have not changed however.  Zones which have no scenario opposition can still be captured if players join the queue for scenarios based on that Zone.  Victory points towards zone control will be granted if a realm has enough players in the queue to launch the scenario and the other realm doesn’t.  If players in those queues join a launched scenario or leave the queue, the victory points towards zone control will be forfeit.

In other words, using “Join All” to queue for all available scenarios is still the fastest way to get into a scenario, but joining the scenarios in a specific zone will have the greatest impact on control of that zone, and by extension the greatest impact on the campaign in that pairing.

Now… I would say something about this particularly. But I think Ark does it perfectly. This change, while being made for the best of intentions sounds a bit weird to me. Will see how it plays out before final judgement.

Archmage: Balance Essence: The damage of this ability has been increased.

Archmages rejoice!

The minimum number of players required to launch scenarios in Praag, Dragonwake and Thunder Mountain has been equalized to ensure even population distribution between all scenarios available when the campaign is in its default state.

Can we have this through all scenarios? We did Grovod Caverns and Serpent’s Passage with at least a 4 person disparity in numbers and they were no fun like that at all!

There’s also the usual small fixes and tweaks, so for the full story, go check out the Warhammer Herald and read through all the bits down to the bottom, I tried to stick to the ones that will effect people the most, and it’s already a hefty post!

More tweaks and fixes and another patch

First of all, this is from the US Herald and any dates and stuff relate to US patching. No word on when Europe will get any of this stuff, we’re still waiting for some hotfixes, so maybe we’re being made to wait till it’s all in one package. NOT something we want to do, for the record. We’ve had a few days when the extra xp in Tier 3 & 4 would  have gone down nicely, thank you.

First of all, more bug fixes on their way. I particularly like this one that’s annoyed me for a while:

We corrected an issue that was preventing players from completing the “Battle at Doomfist Crater” quest. 

and these are good too:

  • We fixed an issue that would sometimes cause a player in the Logrin’s Forge scenario to respawn at the enemy spawn point after dying.
  • Players will no longer be able to destroy the postern doors of keeps. This will focus the battle at the keep’s front gate, providing a more fair and balanced experience for both attackers and defenders.
  • After these hotfixes, which are pretty small-fry compared with what’s to come, we move onto more xp tweaks relating to keep capture (once again, ignore the ‘today’ if in Europe):

    Players who capture an RvR keep previously received only renown. As of today, players of the appropriate rank (actual, not bolstered) will also earn an experience bonus for successfully defeating a keep lord.

    As with Public Quests and defeating monsters, the experience awarded for the successful capture of a keep will vary depending on a player’s rank relative to the difficulty of the keep.

    The article goes on to list appropriate levels for the various Tier Keep takes.. useful if you want to know at what level you’ll get the most xp for it. Not sure about that, but we’ll see how it plays out.

    Finally, the Big Stuff ™. The next patch notes. A mixed bag here, and you should definitely visit the Herald to get the full picture, because instead of copying and pasting, we’re only going to list a few:

    We’re pleased to announce the addition of a new regional chat system. This item has been one of our most requested features, and you can find the details below…Region Chat consists of two channels, Region and Region-RvR…

    Needed, not surprised it was most requested. Been needed for a while. Look forward to this. Wonder which area will become ‘Barrens chat’ – place your bets!

    • In order to ensure that the Apothecary skill remains a valuable crafting profession potions will no longer drop as frequently.
    • Seeds for Cultivation will no longer drop as frequently throughout the world.

    If you already levelled cultivation – well done! As for you apothecaries, I expect potions for my vials please 🙂 Especially now.

    Nurglings will no longer continue to make aggressive sounds after they have been killed.

    I love them, but hurray!

    Capturing an enemy standard will now reward the capturing player and his nearby allies with renown.

    Very nice change, making it just cost someone 2g to get a new standard and having some bragging rights, not as good as renown!

    • Renown gained from healing players was granting more renown than intended over long periods of time. Players who heal other players will still earn renown for aiding their friends in combat, but large heals or repeated heal-over-time spells will result in lesser renown gains than before. 
    • While going over the data collected for renown gained by healing, we discovered a few incorrect values that led to players earning far more renown than designed.  To ensure equal renown gains for players regardless of their chosen career and whether they group or not inside scenarios, we have made several adjustments to the way renown is granted from healing other players…

    You should go read all the changes here, especially if you play a healer. And especially if you play one that uses heal-over-time and large heals. I notice there are no changes to the xp earned by soloing dps classes. Not that we don’t welcome this being seen as a problem – just want to see how it plays out and what kind of knock-on effect we get as healers who have never gone solo.  Like how you slipped that one in right at the end of the list though, Mythic!

    The sky has not fallen — yet

    We wanted to present different points of view on the news yesterday. It’s not that one is right and one is wrong.

    So Mark dropped a bombshell on the community yesterday evening and when I went to sleep last night, I already had seen the initial reactions. We’re going through the typical shock that people have when they get bad news. When I saw all the waves of empathy towards those who had planned to play one of the cut classes, it was as if someone had died. Well, no one died. No one’s dog died. Even my annoying cat didn’t die (just kidding!).

    Seriously. The game is in beta, that means that things are getting tested and if they don’t work then they either get fixed or cut. And if it looks as though the initial scope was impractical, then the scope gets changed, and that’s what we saw yesterday. So sure, I’m shocked, but it’s still in beta dammit.

    What are the alternatives really? Delay, go with something half-arsed, or cut what isn’t working. The last thing I want to see is another delay — it’s been long enough already, we know the game is playable, and it’s in the nature of MMORPGs that content will be added continually through the lifetime of the game. Even if the content that was cut now doesn’t get added later, there will be more and different things instead.

    And by the way, what’s with making these announcements in a random interview and comments on random boards? Surely if anything justified a video blog or explanation on the main site, this would be it? I see GOA still haven’t caught up — can you guys not just get a feed from Mythic’s site, then add your own news in underneath??

    Changing the Scope

    Going to two cities instead of six changes the scope of the war. I don’t know by how much, I haven’t played the game yet, but it takes some choices away from the players. It’s not necessarily a bad thing in itself, letting people focus on one objective will end up with more people working together. But the game feels smaller now and the scope a bit less epic.

    I expect to see these cities sometime. But from the comments about rotating in and out of RvR (I guess that means that there will be one objective for the tier 4 campaign, just it may change), it doesn’t sound as though they want us to be able to choose where we attack. That means that no in-game bait and switch tactics with a fake assault to draw out the defenders. It means that the scope of the RvR has gotten smaller.

    Effects on the IP

    The Warhammer fans that Mythic was hoping to capture want to see their basic orcs and their empire knights. For some people, that’s non-negotiable. But the thing is, there’s no alternative game that provides those. If they want the MMORPG experience with the Warhammer IP and RvR, this is the only option. When people cool down, they’ll just have to decide if it’s a critical for them. I’m not going to try to talk anyone out of this, if it’s a deal breaker then it’s a deal breaker.

    I think Mythic will lose some customers over it. But not as many as if they’d gone live with broken classes.

    Changing Expectations

    For me this is the big thing. To justify cutting this much content, I now expect that game to be pretty spot-on when it gets released. There’s no more goodwill towards the company, no more making allowances for MMORPGs not being perfect when they first go live. If any of the other classes are broken on release, I’ll be wondering what was so bad about these ones that they couldn’t have patched something in.

    I feel like we’ve been told that these things have been cut so that the game can be spectacular. It better deliver on that.