Inevitable City attacked on Eltharion

That’s right folks, in a European first, Eltharion has seen its first attack on the Inevitable City and you can read all about it at Bugmans Best. It’s worth reading all the posts relating to the attack, especially if you’ve not seen one yourself yet (as I haven’t, perhaps due to an untimely server crash – but hey, we know they’re working on the stability). Anyway, really happy for all the players on the server – both attackers and defenders and will be watching with interest.

Oh, and they made the GOA front page too. It’s good to see such a quick reaction from GOA, who we’ve criticised in the past for being slow with exactly this kind of information.

Edit: Go over to Ninjagon’s blog also and check out some screenshots from the invasion force!

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29th January

Looks like that’s the date for whatever big announcement Mark Jacobs promised over at the Vault boards (he said end of January, which works for me). Keen and Graev have been sent orange hair dye and hair clippers, and the world is expecting some cool pictures of Slayer-style hair cuts. If you are planning a mohawk, I’ll let you in on a secret – it was my favourite hairstyle ever, and I had one hrrm…. around 3 years ago now. I’m tempted!

The community have been guessing at a Slayer since the Hammerer was delayed really, so this would count as one of the least surprising surprises – but one of the most welcome (unless you wanted to be part of a very under-played MDPS class, in which case you might be a little reticent about Slayers going in). For me personally it’s good news, because it means the MDPS classes will be announced soon and hopefully in-game sooner, and I have a friend who will be coming back to the game to play one – as his main interest in the game was originally the Hammerer.

In European news, we had some maintenance  which fixed something I hadn’t even noticed on my Knight. Sometimes, I think I’m a bit rubbish at noticing details, but in my defence she just hit rank 10.. so there wasn’t much to re-train!

Physician and Patient

Wotcha everyone,

I am the Healer.  Whilst Tanks might think they rule the battleground, and DPS might think they are gods, without me they are corpses.

That is my little bit of god complex out of the way.  I find that the arrogance that such a belief engenders helps focus me, and enables me to do a better job.  So it does vaguely annoy me when I hear that no Warrior Priests are healing.

Much has been said about Archmages, and the way that their grand gestures and sparkly effects light them up like Christmas trees bestrewn with little Renown filled presents for any Destruction characters in the area, but from my perspective, I don’t see much difference between twirling a staff and glowing and shoving your hammer in the air and glowing.

The only real difference is that when I do my poncey healing showing off, I’m stuck in the midst of the grand melee, with everyone *already* trying to smack me.

(I can’t really comment about Rune Priests; I believe they’re little healer show-offs too, but generally when they’re healing I’ve got my dander up, and am too busy annoying my neighbours by shouting “Sigmar!  Sigmar!” at the screen to notice them.  Sorry.)

So, this whole “keeping everyone alive” malarkey.  Well, I like to think I’m fabulous.  And the way I get to show how fabulous I am is by healing well enough that no-one dies.  In other games, this is easy (he says, nonchalantly.  I kill balrogs for fun, me).  Because most other games are designed as PvE games with PvP added to the mix, your pure and hybrid healers get big heals, flash heals, and heals over time.  Usually more than one of each.

Boy do I miss them…

Although I will admit, I do like the way that Warhammer Online is a PvP game with PvE added.  I can see why some of the design choices have been made; Nothing is more soul destroying than chipping away at someone, getting them most of the way to Mostly Dead, and suddenly they’ve been healed up to full.

Morale does let you have big heals, but they’re not that big, and they’re not that clever.  They most certainly can’t be spammed.

Instead, I get the ability to do damage, and heal at the same time.  Sort of novel, really.  But it does mean that whilst I get to show off with my hammer in the air (“Look Ma, I’m healing!”) most of the time when I’m healing, it’s not that noticeable in the midst of all the fighting.

It’s melee.  Weapons are flying all over the place, and every so often some ranged DPS decides to help out by lobbing some lovely particle-spamming aoe goodness in there.  Everyone’s adrenaline is up, and to be perfectly honest, I’d prefer it if the tanks and dps around me are doing their job of crushing my enemies, rather than watching their health bars.  Or looking for a little sparkly bit of healing goodness coalescing around their character.

So, all being well, you’re not going to die (or at the least, die slower), whilst I’m smacking Destruction in the face for Sigmar.  How will I do that?

I don’t see much point in giving out crunch here.  If you want crunch, there is a scary amount of scary statisticians feeding crunch to various sites on the interwebnet, without me failing to make any useful contribution to them.  So I’ll not bother with the numbers, but I’ll see if I can get some of the skill names right, at least.  Hopefully.

During closed beta, I preferred using a Path of Grace build.  I’d looked at Salvation a lot, but found that Grace allowed me to get in and mix it a lot more than Salvation.  I’d choose my tank, stand next to him, and by using Divine Strike and Sigmar’s Radiance (with the tactic Grace of Sigmar slotted) it meant that I could do quite a bit of group healing to the melee contingent around me without having to retarget.  If you’re within 10 feet of me, you get healed for a small amount every time I swing that hammer.  Add Sigmar’s Shield (for the next few seconds, you’ll get healed every time you’re hit), and you get a lovely damage mitigator that will eat my Righteous Fury, but there’s nothing to worry about, as I’ll be getting it all back again soon enough.

Prayer of Devotion also rewards a group for getting stuck in there (20% of the time, you’ll get a heal just for smacking something.  See?  Sigmar loves you too), and Divine Assault is also a good heal, and the nearest I can find to (and I laugh) burst damage that a Warrior Priest can do, even if Path of Grace doesn’t enhance it.

All of these heals can add up, in time.  At the very least, they’re great damage mitigation, allowing my Rune Priest and Archmage comrades the opportunity to get some healing in and save all our souls from a distance.

But in order for me to do that, I need to be in combat, swinging the hammer.  Same goes for other Warrior Priests as well.  So whilst it might not *look* like we’re healing you, we most probably are.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Popularity vs Population

As I write this, the game has been live for exactly a fortnight. In those two weeks, many elves have been slaughtered (1000 by me alone, apparently), many seeds have been sown, many keeps have fallen, many guilds and alliances have been created, and the paths around Nordenwatch have probably been haunting the dreams of tens of thousands of people. It’s been great!

And Destruction outnumbers Order on pretty much every single server, both EU and US/Oz. We knew by the end of closed beta that this was a possibility. All the surveys backed it up. But we didn’t know for sure how much of an issue it was going to be. In a sense we still don’t — the majority of players who started at the outset are not yet into Tier 4 so balance in the endgame is still something of an enigma.

It certainly hasn’t stopped people from having fun and levelling characters. Order has way fewer queues and shorter waits for scenarios on average. We’ve been able to take keeps and hold them- then they get retaken. Tier 3 on Burlok has been pretty solidly in Destruction hands all week, for example. But we’re still levelling (mostly) and when people are struggling through the windswept tundra of their 20s towards the heady climes of Tier 4, they won’t always want to take time off for keep take operations.

I’m expecting that we’ll usually be able to take keeps when we want to, assuming we can put some kind of organised force together. But it will be an uphill struggle to hold them for any length of time, especially if Destruction is bored and spoiling for a fight. As Order, we can get fights pretty much whenever we like; we set the terms on which PvP is played. If we don’t go out into world PvP then there simply won’t be any.

And in the endgame, Tier 3 and Tier 4 keeps both contribute towards being able to ‘lock down’ the zones. What we don’t know yet is how difficult it will be for an outnumbered side to be able to do this. In a few weeks time, we’ll know if any Order teams have been able to stage a city siege themselves. Certainly it’s an uphill struggle when the numbers are against you. But certainly I know that I intend to siege The Inevitable City, alongside my guild and alliance and friends. I don’t entirely know how yet but I know that we will find a way to do it.

In the worst case, if there are servers where Destruction constantly knocks Altdorf over and Order never get a chance to regroup, then people will get demoralised and leave or swap sides. This is one of the big balancing points with PvP in general. You want to win. But unless you are a griefer you don’t want your opponents to actually throw in the towel and quit. And if people feel like they have no chance, a lot of them will decide not to bother.

So what can be done?

The main thing is that the Order players need to feel that they have a chance. You can do a lot with a ball of string, a couple of warrior priests, a keg of ale, and hope.

Some of this comes down to the players. It’s down to us to forge strong alliances, sort ourselves out, and make sure people know that our faction/server is welcoming to new players, well organised, and has a lot going on. And to keep our spirits high and keep trying. Nothing is inevitable.

Some of it comes down to Mythic. The underpopulated side will need tougher NPCs and tougher keep defences, especially on the fortresses, to make up for the lack of numbers. They’ll need to fix this anyhow after the Karak Eight Peaks city siege this week, and I’m expecting to see some kind of announcement from them on the subject soon. Unlike Tobold, I don’t like the idea of forcibly eliminating alarm clock raids. If raid leaders can muster 40 players who are willing to get up at stupid o’clock to play a game, good luck to them. I wouldn’t do it, but the servers are up 24/7 so it’s fair play. It’s important to a lot of players that we have the illusion of free will, so if we think of a (non exploiting) tactic, we’re able to try it out.

So what can you do without restricting player choice?

The population issues in WAR remind me that this style of game relies entirely on player preference to sort out the numbers of classes and sides. We had these discussions months ago about the lack of tanks in WoW. Without a mechanic to encourage or enforce people to play under-represented roles or sides, these imbalances can and do happen. Over time, it’s assumed that players will tend to balance things out. But what if they don’t?

The trouble for Mythic is that in this case, it’s mostly to do with the look and feel of the sides which is something they don’t have a lot of control over. Was it crazy not to have at least one big and imposing tank on the Order side? In retrospect yes, but there’s a limit to what you can do within the IP. I know people have suggested that bringing back the Knight of the Blazing Sun as an Empire tank would help but have you seen those guys? (The first quest giver in the Empire starter zone is a knight if you want to check an NPC out.) Yes they have plate armour. Yes they also have fwoofy feathers in their hats. They aren’t big ugly lumps of meat like the Black Orc and Chaos Chosen. They were never all that popular in beta polls and I don’t think that people would find them very imposing now. They look great, I’d love to see them back, but I don’t think it would miraculously get large numbers of people on-side.

Dwarf slayers would be a better enticement. They’re iconic and loads of people love playing hit-it-with-an-axe-until-it-stops-moving melee classes. It might even be possible to add the Order classes in but not the Destruction ones. That wouldn’t really affect balance, Destruction already has its aura tank and a few extra melee here or there would only counterbalance the tank-tastic armies that Destruction likes to send out (ie. the counter classes for any new melee are already present in large numbers).

I think Mythic are right to take a hands off approach. This is a genre that thrives on the illusion of player freedom. People like to play what they like, where they like, when they like. People get attached to their characters. Forcing anyone to play anything is a sure way to piss off the player base. But they also can’t conjure new players from nowhere.

It’s also key to the game that the classes and PvP are balanced for each other. There has to be no question of making the Order classes more powerful in order to make them more appealing. It would work, but it would totally undermine the game. Besides which, we don’t want to storm every scenario because of imbalances. We want good fights too.

Inducements for people to play Order might work, as long as they don’t affect PvP balance. Levelling and renown boosts aren’t really needed at the moment, but they probably would be the easiest way to encourage new players to give the realm a look. A better way to balance would be to reward Destruction players who switch to Order alts; it’s a very tough sell but people who were considering the idea anyway might be open to it.

We won’t really know how this will work out for a few more weeks yet. And it’s down to the Order players to try to pull together on their servers even with a numbers disadvantage. It is our game to lose. But you have to wonder whether a balanced MMO PvP game can ever really work when you give players total freedom to pick what they play.

Adding Skaven as a Destruction race in an expansion could deal a deathblow to Order. Unless they could be added as a third side …  maybe that’s where the longterm answer will lie.

Born to Rune

First, full acknowledgement to Terry Pratchett for the above pun (found in ‘Soul Music’ as far as I recollect).

We’re just over a couple of weeks into WAR – how’s it going for you?

Me, I made my little Rune Priest (Kaja) and I’ve been having both good and bad times stomping and kicking the enemy as well as twirling my staff as if I’m auditioning for the role of Claire Bennett in Heroes. I know I love to heal, and the Rune Priest ticks all my boxes. It’s also meant I’ve had to learn a bit about self-preservation, with the detaunts and Grimnir’s Shield (rank 21 skill), as well as the fine art of actually doing a little damage in-between healing.

Everyone who recommended I try out a Rune Priest after all my angsting, you were right. It’s just what I needs right now, and though I am tempted to still try out a Warrior Priest and I have one made and ready, I like the freedom of being mechanic-less, and I can take the lesser dps I get from that.

First – I love the dwarf look. I even like the Rune Priest robe models (and I’m no fan of dresses, believe me!). And I love the big, clompy clogs. They make me feel like I’m wearing big DMs with a girly dress, something I might have been inclined to do if I ever wore a dress, but they make the Rune Priest a little more tomboyish – again, something that appeals. I like the hefty staff, it looks like it could knock an elf out if needed, and that makes me feel more.. like I could hit something with it, even if that wouldn’t be the best idea dps-wise.

Play-wise I don’t always stand at the back. Which is something I guess all healers are a little worried about. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have said before and meant it that standing at the back gives me one of the things I feel I need in gaming – perspective. I can see what’s going on, and take a second to take it all in. And I like that. But if I feel the need to run forward, I do. I have my shield, my detaunt, my self-healing – I can last long enough to annoy the enemy. I’ve picked up the Mourkain Artifact a few times and lived quite well to talk about it, I’ve blown up Talabec Dam (with some helpful cheerleading from my group, because I was terrified of the thing). But hey, don’t get me wrong or bitch and moan about it, I get slaughtered in moments as long as I’ve been noticed. Just, when I do get slaughtered I don’t have to feel like it was something I did wrong. It happens, we all get slaughtered and we all slaughter (or help others stay alive to slaughter). I’ve just entered Tier 3, and being at the bottom of the ladder there it’s a whole new learning process on how to play best in RvR. New skills, new masteries, etc – but I enjoy the kickstart every 10 or so ranks when you go from being big fish to little fish, learning to swim all over again.

In PvE I’m finding soloing as slow as it should be for a healer. And don’t get me wrong there, I’m managing, I plod away at quests or join others or ask friends. But I like the slowness sometimes, it gives me time to think about out-of-game things. There was part of Badlands where I thought I wouldn’t survive the respawn rate, but I found a place to fight more safely and managed the quest. Then I grouped up with someone I ran into and we ploughed through a few things. I like that changing pace.

In Public Quests.. well, here we come to something I’m not sure I should even say, but perhaps the contribution is occasionally skewed too much towards healing, but I’m doing generally well in them. When I get to do them. I did chapter 8 through grinding stage 1s, I haven’t done much of chapter 9 and I organised a guild event to do chapter 10.. so my Public Quest ratio isn’t the best ever, just noting that healing seems to perform pretty well, even when part of a warband! Your mileage may vary. Some of my feelings about PQ loot could be down to some extreme good rolls – which I have been having the last few days, so I’m expecting a downturn of luck soon.

As for masteries, etc. I’m not really an expert, I’m going with my gut which has dictated a Grungni/Grimnir mix. I’m not going to post the build, because it’s changing all the time. I did just get Master Rune of Fury which is a ground-targeted Rune that gives groupmates a 20% chance to restore 50AP every time they use an ability. It can be a bit hard to lay in RvR, scenarios anyway, but we’ve found it useful in PvE. And it’s pretty good just for me!

So basically I’m still really enjoying it, not finding the need for great number-crunching, still kind of bedding-in to the character. Even going to take her out for some roleplay tomorrow night which I’m greatly looking forward to. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about her adventures as the weeks go on!

What does it take to be a front line healer?

Wotcha everyone,

Warrior Priests.  God I love’em!

What feels like forever ago, I decided that Warrior Priests were for me.  They ticked all the boxes; they healed, they smacked things, they wore armour, and they looked like angry eggs in a human power-suit.  Many of you know how much I like Warrior Priests already, but hey, I need an introduction.

Now that we’re here, and the game is live?  Nothing has changed.

Every time I’m in combat, and I hear the words “Bugger!” and “Nadgers!”, not only does Sigmar smile, but I smile too.

I’ve said “Bugger!” in PvE, in open RvR, and in scenarios.  I have also been smiling my way through them.  Why?  Well, I’m really enjoying my Warrior Priest.  He’s a feisty little fellow, with a good range of skills (even at level 11, which is rare in an online game), that allows me to fight using differing styles, so each fight is as different as I want it to be.  It also means I can perform multiple roles, dependant on situation.

Not only that, but for the first time in PvP gaming, when I see one of my enemies charging towards me, I’m not immediately looking to run like a startled bunny towards my nearest ally.  I’m confident that I’ve been given the tools to really make a go of a one-on-one fight, and not only that, but I won’t be punished unduly for making the odd mistake.  I have emerged victorious from these fights due to good play, and knowing my class.  Through use of strategy and tactics, rather than by spamming my “I win” button as fast as possible, as much as possible.

This, more than anything else, makes me happy.  The developers haven’t made the Warrior Priest overpowered; they’ve made it viable.  To the same level as the other classes.  Hell, I have been charging stragglers, uncaring if I’m being followed by allies, I’m that confident.  Sometimes I do the happy Hawley dance, and sometimes I’m danced on.  Either way, I know it’s going to be a fun fight.

Group RvR is also a lot of fun.  Healing with a Warrior Priest is different to playing a healer in most other online games that I’ve played previously, and at the moment I’m thinking he’s a great “top-up” healer.  I don’t have big heals, I have a few Heal Over Time spells that will keep people out of harm’s way, as opposed to saving them when they’re at death’s door.  They can also be pretty short ranged, so the moral of the story is; Get in the front line, with your Warrior Priest!

Which brings me to the melee part.  Mmm.  I’m not a melee powerhouse.  Witch Hunters have nothing to fear in terms of damage output, and Iron Breakers and Swoooshmasters have nothing to fear from the amount of pain I can take.  But smacking people in the face with a hammer is wonderfully cathartic, and it’s most certainly not a case of melee only being useful for regaining Righteous Fury in a rush.  During beta I tended to concentrate on learning how to heal with a Warrior Priest, but with launch I am learning how to smack things at the same time as healing, and it’s fun.  Challenging for me, as I am at heart a slacker, but still fun.

So for me, the Warrior Priest has sailed out of Launch day having lost none of it’s fun factor.  Nice one, Devs.

Cheers,
Hawley.

*click* BOOM! Aaaahahahahahahhahah!

Or: How I learned to stop worrying, and love my rifle.

Wotcha everyone,

One of the things I love about online gaming is that every so often I’m hit with a class that just surprises me about how much I enjoy playing it.

The Engineer is one.

Let me put this in perspective. I don’t like playing “short” races. It’s a cosmetic thing, as much as anything else. In online games, the short races are generally squashed humans, with crazy facial hair. I’m also not a huge fan of playing ranged dps classes. It’s the whole “bow-boy” thing. Generally, you do lethal damage with a bit of string and a few sticks, but given a sharp metal pointy thing, you hit like a 4-stone weakling.

But this is a closed beta, and I’m supposed to be testing the game, so I decided to just have a short go in the dwarf area, to see what the area was like, see if I could find any bugs, and reinforce my opinion that dwarfs were “just short”.

I didn’t want a Rune Priest. I already had a Warrior Priest and an Archmage, and decided to keep some healing mystery in the beta. And an Ironbreaker looked like too much hard work. So Engineer it was.

Now, I can be all repressed Englishman here, and say that I was “mildly surprised at the enjoyable nature of the class”. Or I can be honest, and say that it was huge amounts of fun. I’m not going to go through the class features and skills, because someone with more patience and skill has probably already got a class guide ready to go with the NDA drop.

I will tell you what made the whole experience more than I thought it would be.

The gun. It’s not some sticky/stringy affair. It’s a proper shooter. And the sound it made as it fired just appealed to me on some subconscious, caveman level. I’d find myself shouting “Boom!” when it fired, and giggling like a maniac. Well, giggling more than usual.

The grenades. They’re lovely little debuffs that you lob about the place, that explode. It’s so cool! They’re just a lovely cosmetic for delivering debuffs, that was designed to make me smile.

The turrets. I’m not a fan of pets. They run about the place, and get you shouted at by the rest of your group when they pull an *entire zone*. But one that’s static? Novel. I can’t think of another fantasy game that has a static pet. And I wasn’t sure of it myself, at first. But I started using it, and suddenly it was more than just a flat surface to rest my pint on whilst shooting. For a start, I could have one that fired bullets, and later the range increases to grenades, or a flame thrower. So at later levels, I can decide which is best for the occasion. You can repair it in combat, and it doesn’t need feeding, loving, or training.

The wrench. Well, you start with a wrench. And later on you get ones with better stats. But you will probably use the odd hammer in between wrenches. Anything that gets past the shooter, the grenades and the turret gets a crack over the head with the wrench (or hammer). Ok, you’re never going to rival the Witch Hunter in melee, but you don’t hit like a 4-stone weakling either. It works well enough for PvE, and is satisfying at exactly the same caveman level that the gun noise works at. “Me Engineer! You lunch!” and all that.

Would I have an Engineer at release? Yes, I will. There will most certainly be an Engineer in my stable of alts. I’m a convert. Normally, and with no disrespect to the dps fans out there, I feel something is missing in dps classes. Generally, it’s the ability to heal. I can’t run past someone and heal them if they’re in a spot of bother. I can’t sort myself out with a heal if I’m in a spot of bother. And they never (usually) seem to have the same amount of options in combat that a healer does. But there’s something really satisfying about blowing greenskins away at range, to the extent that I forgot all about healing. And with the fact that you get more options in a fight, whether solo or grouped, than most dps classes out there makes combat more fun for me.

But most of all, the Engineer plays well in the “Movie-in-my-Head”. Playing one was an immersive experience, and I loved that. And my “short go” in the dwarf areas became a long stay, and a tall order of fun (sorry, I’ll get my coat).

Cheers,
Hawley.