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.

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Big world, small world, open RvR, scenarios

Scenarios have been one of the most wildly successful parts of Warhammer Online since the game went live. I love them too. I love that I can queue for a Scenario from anywhere in the game world and have 15 minute soundbites of PvP fun to break up my exploring and questing. It’s an absolutely brilliant mechanic. It’s also perfect for players who simply don’t have hours of time to play at a stretch, may have to afk from time to time (as long as it isn’t in a scenario), or like to get straight into a guaranteed skirmish with no muss or fuss. And it is still, and always will be, brilliant that you can queue for scenarios as soon as you create your character.

And yet, in so many of the developer comments, we see signs that they would like to prod people out of their scenarios and get them into open world RvR.

I enjoy both. But I have noticed something strange recently with my ventures into Tier 4 lands. In Tiers 2 and 3, Open World RvR is quite active on Burlok. Keeps often change hands. There are often people on alliance channels or the custom ‘Order’ channel recruiting for Tier 2/3 raids. They did this before there was any extra xp involved at all. They’re still doing it. I ran weekly raids myself.  But in Tier 4 …. silence. And since Order owns all the keeps and has done for days (yes we are bizarro server), I’m not sure there’s much point in me scheduling anything right now either. Guild nature ramble through Tier 4 Open RvR areas just doesn’t sound as enticing as an actual fight.

So far, Mythic have been offering increasing xp bonuses for fighting in Open RvR, but will it work? Well, to know that, we need to think about why it’s been so quiet. Some of this may be server specific — we have one pretty hardcore guild on Order side so maybe Destruction on our server is … nervous? Waiting for more people to get to 40? I think they still outnumber us but it’s hard to know by how much.

I think a lot of this comes down to the painful levelling curve in Tier 4. If you thought Tier 3 xp was slow, it gets worse. My experience with leading is that people love Open RvR but don’t look to it for levelling. It’s fun, but more of a fun diversion than an xp fest. It’s the nature of the beast that you can never predict where the enemy will be, or in what numbers. It will never be as predictable as Scenarios or PvE for offering xp opportunities.

However, for the game to really rock, Open RvR needs to be active most nights. At least during prime time. I don’t think the xp bonus will hurt but I also don’t think it will get people out of Scenarios right now while they’re so focussed on levelling. It intrigues me that they didn’t offer increased renown for Open RvR, which I suspect may need to happen also. They may be concerned about how quickly people could get to max renown, which is a reasonable concern but renown is the best way to get level 40s out there.

What I think Mythic needs to do is increase non-scenario xp across the board. Boost xp from Public Quests in particular. Once people are happier with their levelling speed, they’ll be more interested in Tier 4 PvP. This sounds non-intuitive but I’m convinced that the main reason Tier 4 is stuck in scenario grind is because everyone just wants to get all their talent points and abilities by reaching rank 40 and … it’s so slow otherwise. It isn’t because people hate Open RvR.

They also need to look at ways to entice the losing side into the Open RvR areas to retake objectives and keeps — better rewards for keep capture would keep (sic) them moving. In addition, better rewards for a guild that is claiming a T4 keep would encourage more guilds to go and do it. The keeps are expensive to hold, so a good but temporary guild bonus would work fine.

For small group RvR to flourish, there needs to be small group PvE content in the RvR zones. Mobs which have an increased drop rate on desirable items would encourage brave soloers into the RvR areas too. Praag already has Public Quests, and that’s my personal next plan for an open RvR raid, as at least if Destruction doesn’t turn up we can kill mobs.

But at the end of the day, it takes players to organise raids. I see a lot of bored level 40s complaining that there’s never any action but I don’t see them organising stuff or helping anyone else to level. So they’ll just have to wait till we’re done. Sorry guys, we just were having too much fun taking keeps in Tier 3 to hurry along. But we’ll get there.

Postcard from Praag. Wish you were here?

Wotcha everyone,

Burning Tower?  Check.  Open Space?  Check.  People fighting?  Check!

Burning Tower? Check. Open Space? Check. People fighting? Check!

For those who have not seen it previously, welcome to Martyr Square, in Praag.  It’s hard to get in one screenshot, but it’s about the largest single space in Praag, and is almost slap bang in the middle of the zone slap bang in the middle of Tier 4.  For all you lore/role-playing fans. not only is it a city in Kislev, but at times it felt like battling in a medieval Leningrad.  Cool.

I took this picture when it was “quiet”.  I could have taken it when there was about 300 people fighting hard, with bodies flying everywhere, but there will no doubt be plenty of those on the interwebnet soon enough.

No, I wanted to check out what it was like on a Sunday morning.  This Sunday happened to be just before the end of Closed Beta, and Order must have been busy little beavers overnight, because every Tier 4 zone clear to the Inevitable City had been locked for Order.

Now that was rare enough as it was.

But what surprised me was to discover that my sneaking suspicion was right; there were people fighting at Martyr’s Square.

Now, I’m not going to start shouting “Njubs!” in my best “leet speek” (that’s about all the “leet speek” I know.  “Njubs”, “leet” and “speek”.  Someone should shout “Get with the times, grand-dad!” at me.  In “leet speek”, of course) at them.  They’re PvPing, they’re having fun, and they’re ideally placed when the front makes it’s way back to Praag.  It has become *the* place to go if you can’t find RvR anywhere else.

Personally, I’d want to follow the front, be it attacking or defending where appropriate.  But I do think it’s entertaining that whilst the marketing men might be wrong that “War is everywhere!”, it’s comforting to know that it will always be at Martyr Square.

Cheers,
Hawley.