Bringing in new classes

The three games we play have something big in common at the moment, they’re all introducing new classes to the game – so we thought we’d do a very brief look at how the introductions differ:

Knights of the Blazing Sun and Black Guards in WAR

Two of the ‘missing’ classes being introduced to the game sometime before the end of the year (pending date changes, of course). As everyone reading this will know, they’re both tank classes – the Knight is mirror to the Chosen and will use auras and twisting, the Black Guard mirrors the Ironbreaker but uses hate instead of grudges as a mechanic. They’re iconic classes and have been much missed, so there’s bound to be plenty of them.

Now, WAR might be the first MMO to introduce new classes so early on in the cycle, mainly because they were obviously close to being ready when cut out from release. This means that there won’t be any new starting areas, gear was already designed, and it’s still in the stages where people are testing out alts anyway. WAR has also chosen to herald the entrance of the new classes with a fairly interesting live event, which is going on in all zones at the moment. Hopefully it’s going well – some will do it for the fun, some for the chance to get a week headstart with the new classes – again, something that I believe is pretty new in the genre, but will probably be copied!

Rune Keepers and Wardens in LotRO

Came in with the Mines of Moria expansion. They can be various races (covering all of the races in-game, but each new class skips one race), but the starting areas remain the same. Turbine have added gear for the classes to each stage of the game, including raidsets etc.

Interestingly, both new classes are supposedly decent soloers, and together they form the tank-healer combo, with some good dps between them. A good design decision for the overwhelming number of the new classes that started in the game this week.

Death Knights in WoW

Came in as part of the new expansion, although none of the pre-expansion events specifically featured Death Knights. They’re well known as part of the lore, have featured previously as raid bosses in pre-Burning Crusade WoW and anyone who played Warcraft III will be familiar with them. This class also starts at level 55 so skips the bulk of the levelling process.

They have a full Death Knight specific questline when you create a new character of that type, in a semi-instanced setting that reminds me a lot of the LOTRO introductory quests. The questline is solid and fun, and features lots of WoW-trademark style quests with the customary pizzazz and sparkle. There’s an associated storyline to do with redemption from evil and choosing to fight against their previous overlord. It’s well written and  culminates in a fairly epic battle scene. They also get a full set of good quality gear and a fast mount thrown in for free, which you are awarded as part of the intro questline.

The gear they release you into the outside world with on a Death Knight also looks absolutely fantastic. (Well, until you start replacing it and look like a clown again, but it will last for awhile.)

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Nostalgia

After playing WAR for just over a month, I thought I’d knock up something quick with a list of things I miss from the other MMOs I’ve played (DAoC, WoW, LotRO and a month of Vanguard)?

  • Darkness Falls (RvR dungeon, for those that don’t know)
  • Relic Raids (don’t mock! -DAoC)
  • A class with speed (go go minstrel in Vanguard, especially)
  • Summoning (LotRO, WoW)
  • Epic storyline instances (LotRO)
  • Class-specific questlines (DAoC, LotRO)
  • A hand-to-hand class (DAoC)

It’s easy to add sarcastic ones too – like good community, though truthfully our server community is really picking up in Tier 4 as we get to know one another.. which is something we didn’t need to as much in the lower tiers.

And other than Darkness Falls, this isn’t meant as a wishlist for Warhammer Online. As previously mentioned I don’t really want it to mimic every game I’ve played before, but to stand out on its own. It’s just little stuff that I miss.

With a complete sense of freedom not to defend or explain your choices, and following my ‘one-liner’ pattern, is there anything you especially miss from other games?

My love/ hate affair with NPCs

A game world with no NPCs (non-player characters) would be a dull and lifeless place indeed. It isn’t that the NPCs inject a whole lot of life into the surroundings per se, but it helps us suspend disbelief if there are people walking around towns and apparently living in the world. Aside from giving out quests and quest rewards and buying our random junk, they help to flesh out the lore and give players something to compare themselves with. Even if it’s just checking out how the high level NPCs are dressed.

They are also undoubtedly the place where MMOs have utterly failed to offer as good an experience as a pen and paper game. In a tabletop RPG, a game master brings the NPCs to life. Players can talk to them, interact with them, argue with them, trick or be tricked by them, and they let a GM get her amateur acting chops on. Now computer games have their fair share of zany and memorable NPCs and good voice acting goes a long long way to helping with characterisation (Deckard Caine anyone?), but you rarely get that sense of personal interaction. And players in tabletop love interacting with the “A list” NPCs in the campaign, even if just so that they can flip them off. You see the difference immediately with computer games, where players treat NPCs as quest and lootbots.

WAR does a particularly bad job in this respect. The big name NPCs are there alright, standing around and giving out quests while they wait for the other realm to storm the city and kill them. But that’s about the limit of their involvement.The Phoenix King has pretty armour, admittedly (although it doesn’t take any big strides in the ‘High Elves aren’t girly!’ campaign). I haven’t found many quests at all involving specific important NPCs and their personal lore and history.

Other games fare slightly better: LOTRO has some clever interactions with members of the fellowship including a particularly nice single-player quest instance where you get to walk around Rivendell with Frodo and talk to him about his fears. Sure, he talks and then pauses, but everyone I know who played that quest says that they typed back to him to fill in the gaps, even though they knew he was an NPC and wasn’t listening. I was impressed.

WoW mostly has static NPCs but there are a few stunning questlines where you get an actual response out of them (the Thrall greatmother chain, Sylvanas’ singing, the Alliance Onyxia chain — don’t worry if none of this means anything to you by the way). And reading about the zombie invasion event, I was impressed at how they’re laying the grounds for players to have a personal reason to hate the Lich King and trust the alchemist who found the cure to this particular plague.

I can name my least favourite NPC without breaking a sweat though. It’s Ostelle Blackwood, who wanders around High Elf Tier 2/3 asking for seeds. I can always find her to pick up the quests but can I ever find her when I want to give them in? No way.

But I’m not sure if I have a favourite, and that’s a bit sad. A whole world full of lore to work with and none of the NPCs have really come across yet as characters in their own right. I suppose I have to go with Teclis since he’s cool in Giantslayer — but he sure ain’t anything special in WAR.

Do you have any favourite or least favourite NPCs?

Mono-game-y?

I’ve had a number of chat with people over the weekend and they’ve all been around a similar topic. For the first time in our lives we’re going to have two MMOs active at one time. For me, it’s LotRO and WAR – and mostly because of LotRO’s lifetime subscription. But always in the background, during my WAR time, I’ll have my LotRO characters waiting for me to breath some life into them – especially when the Moria expansion comes out sometime towards the end of the year.

Others have WoW and Lich King around at the same time as WAR. That’s trickier in some ways because both games need their monthly fee to keep active. At least, after the free month that comes with the game purchase for WAR. So in that case I know at least a couple of people who are letting their WoW accounts come to an end, but not cancelling. The implication being that at some point they will switch from one to the other and probably back again, as required.

Whatever our own personal situations, it does strike me that for the first time I’m not making the choice of giving up one game to play another – and I honestly never thought I’d have two MMOs on the go at the same time. Maybe there’s someone out there with more experience of the time-split and how it can work successfully?

So how about it? Are you mono-game-ous or will you be splitting your time at all? Any tips on how it all works?

The Tortoise and the Hare

I was chatting to a friend over IM this morning (if you’re awake at 5am-8am UK time, and ever want to chat, let me know!), and he’s interested in trying out LotRO. He asked me a question I was totally unprepared for:

can you recommend a site that tells me how to power level? 

I was quite taken aback by it. Why? Because to me LotRO just isn’t a game that you ‘powerlevel’ in. The main reason I enjoy LotRO is because it’s set in Middle Earth and it’s beautiful and they’ve done a great job with it. Plus I have a fantastic guild there, and friends I’ve made through the game.

Now, I’m first to admit I have a faster levelling pace than some, but it’s never my goal to level as fast as possible (except maybe when alting!). I simply have more time than most because I only work part-time, so I tend to level a bit faster. But in LotRO I just went through quests, ground through traits I needed, did instances with friends, PuGs, guildmates however many times we all needed them for class items. I completed the epic books.. and through all that I levelled pretty fast. But I never entered the game to discover the endgame and that served me fairly well, because content at the higher levels wasn’t as great when I reached them as it is now. And there’s still not many raids or instances that are for ‘endgame’ chars. The appeal remains the world of Tolkein and the way Turbine have created it. And monster play has been a very welcome excursion that reminded me I enjoy PvP.

Back to my time in WoW. And to what I hear now about WoW. The levelling curve has been reduced massively, all the interesting stuff is happening endgame, which has led to a generation of MMO players who feel that achieving endgame is the goal, and levelling is the pesky bit in-between that you have to go through. It won’t be too long before WoW allows you to create higher level chars, I imagine (as DAoC did, though you only got to skip the first 20 levels in DAoC).

I prefer the non power-levelling model, I have to say. I like to not feel rushed to complete content, even though I know others, when playing with me, think I go at too fast a pace. I guess we’re all comfortable at different rates and we all know what it’s like to be rushed, and yet frustrated someone else is levelling faster. But that’s still not the point here. Being rushed isn’t even the same as power-levelling.

To me, power-levelling is skipping content to get to the endgame. Now currently, from all I’m reading, in WAR the endgame seems like it’s mostly RvR, open field and city sieges with the occasional dungeon and exploration. That’s a never-ending battle, as it should be. I’m sure there will be people who try and get as close to rank 40 in the headstart as they can – the advantages to that are what.. a little fame for having done something first?

And then some empty scenarios while the rest of the server catches up.

If WAR’s endgame is open field RvR, scenarios, keep takes, city sieges, dungeons – well, I can do a lot of that at rank 1 (obviously not the city sieges and dungeons), or to take a less extreme example, I can do a lot of it as I level through the game. At tier 2 we get keep takes, and that’s fairly early on in the levelling cycle. So they’re feeding us the ‘endgame’ throughout. Worth bearing in mind!

Personally, I’ll continue to play at my own pace, faster than many, slower than many too. I pay for the game, I intend to enjoy as much of every aspect of it as I can!

Comparisons…

It’s no secret that we get very protective about the MMORPGs we play. That’s partially a good thing, and displays the power of immersive gaming. But it also leads to the bitching and one upmanship that means we *must* pick a side when it comes to the war of the MMORPGs.

Am I really threatened that someone enjoys Age of Conan, when I have no intention of playing it? I might miss them, and I do, but I have other ways of staying in touch and I know we’ll play together again. Does it really matter if someone splits their time between World of Warcraft and City of Heroes, or if they just dabble in LotRO while spending most of their time in EVE. As consumers, can’t we play any we enjoy without worrying about which is the “best”?

Also, there’s no actual need to bitch at people who don’t enjoy the same aspects of gaming as we do, the beauty of the MMO, to me, is to mix with people who can show me the positive sides of things I haven’t enjoyed before, and to do the same for them… but also to find like-minded people who share some of my basic gaming pleasures and to socialise with them while enjoying the game.

While comparisons can be a really healthy and interesting pastime they can also be a little troubling and I don’t think it’d hurt anyone to remember that there’s a chance a forceful defense can also sometimes feel a bit like an attack.

It seems quite a few people are blogging about comparisons recently. Keen and Graev have a couple of relevant posts, one asks if we’re more excited about WAR having played AoC, the other is about designing an ideal MMO. Syp, over at the Waaagh! blog also ponder the comparison curse, sparked by a post from Tobold on his MMO blog. We’ll no doubt see a lot more comparing and the recent spate is undoubtably because of Conan’s release, but I hope people don’t take it too personally as I’m trying not to, myself.