To the Lighthouse!

There’s one thing Mythic are good at, listening to their players. It doesn’t always mean they can change things at the pace some would like, but they do pay attention. Since the game launched people have been arguing about the interest levels of the endgame, saying that the early levels are more fun (they just are, less skills to deal with etc etc) and waxing on with nostalgia about their days in Nordenwatch (when it was the only T1 scenario to pop).

And so Mythic give us the Nordenwatch Weekend, when all players, all tiers can go participate in Nordenwatch. Go. Play it. You KNOW you want to. I will be (tomorrow, since I work today). It runs through the bank holiday in the UK, so until 9am CEST on Tuesday. It’s great news and just the kind of mini-event that can be run for any scenario at any time. Definitely a good thing. And how much do I want to play Mourkain Temple with my rank 40 Rune Priest? A lot, make it the next one!! (then Tor Anroc, of course!).

We’re all a bit down on WAR at the moment, or the majority are. I have a lot of posts I’ve set to one side to comment on further here. But rather than go through things in order, I’ve stepped up to publicise a mini-event I think will be a ton of fun.

What are you still reading this for? Go grab the Fortress, and for heaven’s sake – fight BY the flag…

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Return of the WAR

As I think the majority of readers here knows, I took a bit of a break from WAR and have recently returned to playing more regularly with my little Warrior Priest (who dies a LOT thanks to a sea of Choppas, and contrary to popular belief!). Was talking with Spinks this morning about just how many positive things WAR had going for it, and rather than writing about it on Nerf the Cat, I thought I’d list some of  them here.

Not waiting around for looting (bags, choices, etc)

We were discussing how one of the problems I have with raiding in other games is the stopping and starting for loot, whatever choice of loot distribution the raid uses, and that’s when we realised that WAR really doesn’t have this problem because of the loot bags in PQs, dungeons, oRvR, etc and the way the need/greed system works. It’s so much better to have loot selections on offer, and to also have stuff that’s directly relevant to your class. I don’t think I realised how much I like the system, because previously I’ve focused on just how crappy my rolls have been, or how unfair 1 gold bag per keep used to be, and stuff like that. In the end it allows for some seamless play where looting doesn’t get in the way of the experience. It’s certainly not perfect, but it fits in well with the frenetic pace of  Warhammer Online.

Variety

Ok, a lot of this is due to the Slayers/Choppas and server merges, but for whatever reason, the server feels pretty damn busy at the moment across all tiers. I hear of fortress and city stuff going on via guild chat (merged guild, so new faces to learn and get used to also), while someone also mentioned Tier 3 is very busy and I know for myself that Tier 1 and 2 are. The general number of people and the spread have highlighted the variety of things to do in WAR, and I’m omitting crafting because I don’t feel any urge to do it at all!

But with public quests, scenarios, normal questing, capital city quests – there’s a lot to do to get from A to B, levelwise. Spinks and I spent a good portion of today doing PQs while waiting for scenarios to pop in Tier 2, and once the afternoon kicked in, we barely had time to hand in the scenario quests before another one popped. It was this variety that appealed from the start, and it’s great to see it there and being shown off so nicely. I hope this continues, though I fear it’s inevitable that the action eventually move firmly to Tiers 3 & 4.

Scenarios

In and of themselves, scenarios are great fun. Though, it interesting that people seem to like whichever the latest one is. I know I really enjoyed Reikland Factory and the Twisting Tower, but maybe just because they were new and fresh and after a while the others can get a bit frustratingly samey. But, having said that, something that takes you out of the normal run of the game and transports you into a fun 15-minute mini-game is to be applauded. It’s a bit like the solo instances in LotRO, something I can do that adds to my experience but doesn’t take too long. Of course, scenarios are desperately dependent on other people signing up… so they have a bit of a downside. But overall, still loving them and the concept of them!

Casual Hardcore

One thing that I’m enjoying about my return to WAR in contrast to other games, is that everything is pretty fancy-free and unstressful. If I want to try and get a group together to do something, I can give it a go. If not, I can toddle around doing random quests via red blobs, and just exploring the world and the game. Dying means very little to me, it’s too quick and easy to die when the odds are against you. It might be a pain during a dungeon, but in every other situation, I just shrug, get up and get on with things. The game is quick to pick up and also to put down, so it can be treated as more of a pastime and less of a chore. Of course, if I cared enough about the endgame, the ward armour, completing all the content or collecting every title, I might not feel this way, but at the moment, it’s a perfect game for me to decide on a daily basis if I want to be casual or hardcore or a mix of the two.

Questing

The normal quests are often shrugged off as being a sideshow to the main attraction (the RvR, which we all know and mostly enjoy!). But actually, they’re not half bad at all. The red blobs might make questing fast and easy-ish (location-wise), but the areas have great flavour and interesting storylines to follow through, so that even when blasting through you get a good sense of them. I quite enjoy WAR questing as another fairly unstressy way of enjoying the game.

Anyway, a quick overview of things we were discussing today, and of my very basic feelings after not playing very seriously for a while. Feel free to add others, or disagree at will!

I’m feeling all Bitter, and Rivally

So 1.2 hit Europe yesterday and seemingly the patch went fairly smoothly, though there is more maintenance today to apply some stability hotfixes. I don’t mind that so much, mostly because I’m at work today (ah, enlightened self-interest!).

I didn’t get to do much with 1.2 yet, but I did sneak on last night and get to the Twisting Tower. Really, any incident of flying is a good one. I enjoyed it a lot – and I don’t even like ramps. Ok, so I may have thrown some pies instead of actually healing my group, but people were nice enough not to mention it. And then I got down to healing and it was actually a pretty fun session with some decent realm points.

I do hope Mythic continue to bring in some new scenarios, whether part of events or not. It seems a good way of inserting new content fairly seemlessly and changing it out if feedback is bad. I liked the Reikland Factory too, perhaps because it was new and different, but each new scenario builds on the lessons of what’s come before so is also benefitting from a ton of feedback we’re all giving on forums and stuff.

Missed the twitter-fest of codes last night, am sure some of them are apparent on the RSS feeds on the right-hand side here. Is a cool way to use twitter at least, so I approve -despite it being US-only, of course.

Lots of work coming up, so updates might be a bit patchy here! Thanks for continuing to read…

Cross-Server Scenarios?! No thanks.

I haven’t read up on this one on the forums, so excuse me if there’s tons of good links on the topic. I’ll endeavour to add some later if I find them. It’s just something that came up in an instant messenger chat with someone about WAR. Are cross-server scenarios a solution to lower-populated servers?

I can see how the idea would be appealing. It’s working on World of Warcraft to populate the battlegrounds, as far as I know (wow, how many times can I ask people to correct me in one post!). But, would I like to see it in Warhammer Online? I have to say it’s a resounding ‘NO’ from me on this.

Scenarios are great fun, but open RvR is the core of the game, and it’s something people learn as they progress through the game, in my experience. It may be frustrating at the moment to get as far as you can in the open world and not quite succeed in the end goal, but running scenarios over and over – well, it might get the xp and rp ticking up, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of the game.

Most importantly though, I think cross-server scenarios would be a short-term solution for some lower populations that want access to more regular scenarios. In its  turn I feel it would seriously damage server community. And, for me, server community is a lot more of an important part of the happiness equation. If I log on to my server and go out into a scenario, I like that I get to group with a variety of the people on my server, it forces us to mix, to get to know one another and to rely on one another – valuable lessons for when we bump into each other in the open field and are defending a keep or attacking a fortress. I like seeing the same names over and over again and slowly knowing they’re getting to know my name too, seeing that I actually stop to heal or res them in whatever situation. And I think any cross-server stuff could quickly erode some of this server spirit.

So I really hope this doesn’t come to Warhammer Online, but am prepared to listen to counter-arguments!!

Some Test Server changes coming sooner rather than later

As we all know, patch 1.05 is still on the Public Test Server, and if you go to any WAR forums, you’ll be sure to read lots of comments about how its affected various classes and archetypes. We’re all mostly interested in our own classes, but still – there were a bunch of interesting changes we have been wishing would be added sooner, rather than languishing on the test server to iron out the wrinkles. Lo and behold, patch 1.04b has been born and is due to go to the US servers today (also the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War, by the way).

It really does have everything in that we’ve been talking about wanting before we get the rest of 1.05, so good call Mythic! (I imagine Europeans will get it on 12th, if usual patterns apply). Anyway, here’s the highlights:

When conquered, Keeps will always provide three gold loot bags and Fortresses will now offer six guaranteed gold loot bags as part of the chest loot.

Rally Masters have been added to all warcamps. Now, players can set their rally point in a warcamp in the same manner as binding in a chapter hub.

To promote population balance among the various scenarios, we have added a feature that reduces the number of times a specific scenario can launch in a short period of time. This will give scenarios which are launched less frequently an opportunity to catch up in the queue population and launch more often.

It also contains the changes to Chaotic Rift/Electromagnet which we look forward to seeing in the variety of scenarios we hope to be able to play now, not just Serpent’s Passage/Tor Anroc/Mourkain Temple/Nordenwatch, depending on your tier.

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!

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.