Expectations

Quick warning, this may be my first wall of text for a while and it’s very much based on my own personal journey…

I got very down about Tier 4 when I was new to it, my class kind of sucked at soloing from 31-33 (more than normal), and that was a big shock to the system. Plus, I don’t want to have to choose a levelling specline or have to choose gear for various purposes – I’m stubborn like that. And open RvR was quiet, Serpent’s Passage hurts my eyes after the 3rd consecutive run, etc etc. And I read around the place that others were having similar ‘fun’ problems. And then I had an enforced 5-day break. And I thought about it quite a lot, especially when chatting to my sisters and to a WoW gamer I spent some time with.

I got out of my funk. I love the game, I really do. That doesn’t mean I don’t wish open RvR was a bit more perky – but honestly, on our server there is open action in Tier 4 every day. It may not be at the perfect time for me, and some of it might mean taking empty keeps and waiting for defence and then scooting around to try and nudge control in various zones while many want a big fight… but it’s there. And that comforts me.

Then, at 33, my Rune Priest (not specced for Rune of Burning!) got better at soloing. Not great, but good enough for a primary healer. Which satisfies me there. In fact, my biggest concern is finding people to group up with to quest and do PQs (PQs are a bit pointless for influence rewards, but I see them as socialising with some free xp attached!). Even that is changing, I’m changing, I’m asking for help more. And trying to make myself more sociable and willing to help also. It’s a process, neither slow nor fast, but one that depends on mood.

So what really struck me about Warhammer Online while I was away? It’s a very different game to those I’m used to playing (DAoC, WoW, LotRO). And I asked myself the following:

  • How did I play my last MMO? (ie. level fast, solo/grouped, etc)
  • How many hours per day did I grind traits/influence/reputation/gear?
  • How many hours did I raid per week?
  • How many hours did I PvP?

WAR is a totally different kettle of fish for me, and for everyone. There’s a certain levelling ‘grind’ but I say it in inverted commas, cos it’s nothing like the grind I had in other games (I played WoW before they upped the lower level xp, I left before Burning Crusade). I have been known to play 12h straight in Dark Age of Camelot, whether in Caer Sidi or tree groups! All day is and has been pretty common for LotRO. And yet, when I try it in WAR I get a bit edgy and miserable.

Why, then? Well, the best I can do at describing it is that I’m finding WAR a completely different kettle of fish as an MMO. It’s the kind I like to dip in and out of, which is something I’ve never done before. And one of the reasons I’ve never had two MMOs at the same time before now. To me, MMO has always been a bit like a part-time job, occupying all hours to get all the things I want and need for my character while grouping up with friends to complete some fairly hefty challenges, or to just hang out and have some fun. Now we have WAR, where in a few hours I can take two or three keeps, or jump into scenarios while questing. For me, anyway, it’s not a game I want to spend 12h straight – and that’s the big difference.

Since coming back, and recognising this, I’ve been a much happier bunny. I log off when I’m tired or when I want to go watch TV or hang out with the cats or my husband. I play less, but I enjoy it more. I’ve reached rank 35 and renown rank 32 (well, I’m 95% there, and will be by the time this is published). I have titles for taking keeps and for restoring keeps. I am beginning to help people with their quests more and have recently seen Bastion Stair for the first time. All of this has been more fun than a couple of weeks ago, when I hit the Tier 4 doldrums.

I think the game still needs tweaks at the high levels, the influence rewards for PQs are lousy after ch16 and this has led to a desertion – one that makes questing where there are PQs quite tricky. Going back to help lower level characters has giving me a sense that my character is powerful and also, it’s more relaxing than trying to solo stuff. When these guys catch me up, we’ll all group and do ch18+ together. So I’m kind of fixing it myself, and the levelling curve is flattening all-round.

No solution to Serpent’s Passage Syndrome yet but I have faith Mythic will work something out. They’ve been very responsive and let’s face it, they know they have a problem with Tier 4 at the moment, you can’t fail to notice the threads and blog posts about it. But it’s not all down to the game company, we do have our own responsibility to do what’s fun for us.

For me, it’s to dip in and out of PvE, RvR, scenarios and dungeons and not to try and play WAR as if it’s LotRO/DAoC/WoW.

[And, as Syp said in a comment recently ‘great minds think alike’ – it would be remiss of me to leave out a link to Stylish Corpse whose words on the same topic I greatly enjoyed and who I totally agree with!]

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We want to learn!

There’s been a ton of talk about open RvR in Tier 4 of late. Why? Because all us pesky early-adopters are hitting Tier 4 and we write and gripe about the things we do. And I do take the ‘wait-and-see’ approach, especially as there are more and more tentative forays into Tier 4 RvR all the time on our server, and I think it’ll be the same everywhere, though not always at the same timescale. Mythic knows there’s a problem, they’ll do their best to fix it. And people signing up generally want to play an RvR game, not a game of Serpent’s-Passage-till-your-eyes-bleed.

I do have one complaint about Tier 4 and the campaign there though, and I personally believe it’s a valid one. Why didn’t they train us in how it all works at the lower tiers? I mean, we got to understand capture the flag, the various ways and means to capture battlefield objectives and increasingly larger keeps. We got to learn about siege weaponry (love!) and postern doors, and yet, the moment you get into Tier 4 you get a whole new set of things to get your head around if you don’t go and read up everything there is to read across the web on it.

Zones being locked. It’s a bit of a mindfuck, when you’ve not really seen it before. And then the campaign moving elsewhere.. and yet you can still drift around the open RvR areas (I use drift because I have a gyro!), and not see anyone. Yes, it’s locked, but it feels strange, almost eerie. And you still get nice xp for scouting the objectives! And then instinctively knowing all the stages you need to go through to capture a zone or to head for the Inevitable City. I’m not stupid, but it is quite tricky to go from ‘wander anywhere and take whatever keep feels nice’ to being directed for the good of the final campaign. We’ll get there, but I wonder if there was any way to do it differently. And I wonder if that’s some of the reason the spontaneous open RvR isn’t as plentiful in Tier 4 as everyone seems to be reporting it is in Tier 3.

Anyway, just another quick thought from my weekend away from the game.

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.

A swim in the RvR lakes

I’ve really enjoyed all the keep takes that I’ve either led or hopped into. Open world RvR has a different and less predictable rhythm to it than running end to end scenarios, questing, or putting groups together for Public Quests. Although you usually start a world RvR warband with a vague mission (ie. ‘lets’ take back the High Elf keeps’ or ‘Who wants to come to Bugman’s Brewery?’) you also know that you’ll be sending out scouts and trying to respond to any enemy action as well. Some nights you win, some nights you lose. If it was predictable, it wouldn’t be as grand in scope.

Our server, like many others, has adopted the habit of using an Order channel (so you sign up to it when you log on) to help arrange PUG raids and report any scouting information. It’s not only useful but pretty much compulsary to pull off this kind of organisation. I’m hoping that the new channels that Mythic are providing with the latest patch will help too but I know we’ll stick to our Order channel because everyone knows it, and it works.

So I’ve been leading a scheduled weekly raid — scheduled on the guild calendar at any rate — and also sometimes hopping into PUG raids, sometimes I end up leading them but often it’s just a chance to get some more keep practice, get to know the RvR monkeys in the realm, and kick Destruction out of our keeps. I would say they run with moderately good frequency, I’m not really seeing the lack of open world RvR that I’ve heard people complain about.

I have noticed that our raids are getting a little more sophisticated tactics-wise. We’re getting better at covering the postern door and sending groups out to harass Destruction players on their way to defend. People don’t need to be told to target the oil. We never run out of rams. Or in other words, the realm is learning how to RvR. Sure, this doesn’t apply to the hardcore but just talking about the regular PUG players here.

Now really, keep takes in Tier 2 and 3 are something we do for fun and practice and socialising and to help train the realm in siege warfare. We have the possibility to dominate areas but they don’t contribute (as far as I know) to the city siege mechanic. So we aren’t as motivated to stay and defend keeps as we are to take them, if we’re running with a large group. This is because when you take a keep you get lots of renown (and soon, lots of xp too) and the chance to roll on some decent loot. The only case where this isn’t true is when we know a keep is under attack, or guess correctly that it soon will be, so there will be plenty of enemies to fight.

It isn’t entirely about scoring points and loot. Sitting in an empty keep is dull compared to running around and fighting stuff, even just NPCs at objectives. I don’t think this needs to be changed, there has to come a point where you RvR because you want your side to win rather than purely for points scoring and there’s no way to reward people for preparing a defence that won’t unduly avoid the afk crowd. We’ll see this come up more in Tier 4 where defence is more important because the keeps actually count.

I enjoy RvR raid leading very much. I’d encourage anyone who is intrigued to give it a go. All you really need to do is announce on the channel of your choice ‘Anyone want to join me for taking keep X’ and if it’s like my server, the people will come pouring in. Then you say something like, ‘OK everyone, meet at warcamp Y.’ Then when they get there, issue a pre-battle pep talk such as ‘OK, lets’ go.’ And watch as your warband zooms off and does it all without you. It really can be that straightforwards. You can leave the warband open if you don’t want to be fussed with invites (the main reason not to do this is so that you can boot anyone who is being a dick – hopefully it won’t come up often). People in the warband will usually offer advice and suggestions so even if you aren’t sure what to do, just pick one and repeat it.

But that’s not the fun part. The fun is when you start chatting to other warbands and getting reports in from other zones about where the enemy are, and then you get to pick your next objective with a view to getting fun fights for your warband which will play to your advantage. It is always ALWAYS rewarding when you pick the right option and your guys get to charge and slaughter the enemy while they’re busy on a keep door. It is always rewarding when you can sneak your guys through a postern door and hold onto a keep even when you are outnumbered. I love the tactical side to world RvR. And that means I love the unpredictability.

These are the exciting encounters that people remember.

Now, Tobold posted last week wondering where all the PvP was. When he sees Open RvR, he sees raid leaders avoiding open confrontation. and I wanted to pick up on that (this is not to do with the PvE PQs that you run when you sack the opposite city, which isn’t PvP at all, which was his other point). Scheduling for off-peak times. Looking to avoid the big battles.

So it’s fair to ask, what is the goal of an RvR raid? Have fun, take objectives and keeps, earn renown/xp for raiders, find some good fights, raiders to feel a sense of accomplishment? Yes, all of those things. But a good fight in RvR is not necessarily a fair one. If you try to take a keep that is defended by the same number of people as are attacking, it won’t necessarily be fun for the attackers if the defenders play well. They’ll be throwing themselves at the chokepoints for a long frustrating session. Keeps are designed to be favour the defenders. Similarly, if one raid surprises an enemy raid at an objective and charges in from behind before they can react, it’s not necessarily fun for the losing side (although they can regroup and come back for payback).

RvR is not the same as PvP. We’ll get good fights along the road, but it’s perfectly legit to try to outnumber an enemy or attack at his weak points. These are possibilities that give the game its massive scope. If you want fair, there are scenarios which guarantee you the same number of players (roughly). And sometimes it genuinely is the better strategy to pull your warband back from what might turn out to be a slow keep assault and send them off to grab more objectives or a less heavily defended keep instead. I don’t think of it as people avoiding PvP, but more as people playing RvR the way it was meant to be played, as a game with a large tactical scope that you play to win over a longer term.

Having said all this, I think Tier 4 will be different. Just hit 29 on my Archmage yesterday so I haven’t seen much of it yet but keeps matter more in Tier 4. Guilds will be more motivated to take and hold them, and when that happens guild pride comes into it. We still won’t go out of our way to pick losing fights but the terms of the game will have changed. Tier 2 and 3 were for fun, Tier 4 is for keeps (sic).

And on another note, has any other raid leader noticed that people really really really love to take the beer related objectives ? Unless I’m very specific with people and watch the map like a hawk, they tend to drift to Bugman’s Brewery and the tavern in High Pass. I get a lot of, “Why aren’t you guys at Passwatch?” “Coming soon, we’re at the pub.” Ah well, plus ca change. Mine’s a pint.

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.