Question Time

It may not have escaped the notice of regular readers here that I’m off to Dublin to meet up with GOA, Ardua from Echoes of Nonsense and hopefully a bevvy of WAR fans on March 9th. Ardua has put up some excellent travel info about getting to Dublin on the page I linked to, so check it out if you fancy a trip (for the record, it’s only costing me £20 on Ryanair for the overnight trip from Newcastle!).

The pub chosen for the WAR fan get-together is the Bull and Castle and though we haven’t hammered out exact times yet, it’ll be after work until we get sleepy!

But what I need from you all now – is some questions for GOA? Magnus and Nic have been good enough to offer us some time to interview them and chat with them, and I know people out there will come up with a bunch more questions that me, Spinks and Ardua can think up. So let people know, drop a comment in here and leave us some questions, I promise to try and ask them ALL, but can’t promise they’ll all get answered.

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Random poll time

Just something that’s been on my mind for a while – does the European Warhammer Online community want a get-together? I picked fairly random options for answers, but gave each poll the chance to add your own comments, so pass the link on, get people discussing it and maybe it’ll one day happen! At least we should poll interest I think, so if you can direct people to these polls, I’d be very happy. Also, please use the comments to add to the mix. Something I just thought of that I didn’t have a question about – would it be better to attach it to something like Games Day or GenCon? Think about it!

(and before anyone even accuses me of it, yes.. I put in London for GB option, all the cities I picked, bar Dublin perhaps, were simply suggestions – I’d be happier to have it in Newcastle, if I had my way!!!)

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.)

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?

Mark Jacobs talks about the bottom line

Interesting interview today with Mythic’s CEO on Venturebeat. As you can kind of guess from the name, this is a business site so he talks about the business model for MMOs and how Mythic has changed under Electronic Arts.

They talk about release dates also.

VB: So when are you going to war?
MJ:
The announced date is this fall. One of the advantages of EA is we won’t release this game until it’s great. With Camelot, we ran out of money and so we released the game. It’s really important for EA to get the quality of our games out. We let the top EA executives into our game, even at the earliest stages. We have nothing to hide. We have almost 700,000 people signed up for our beta test. That’s ridiculous. I want a million. We have people inside now working 24/7 trying to break the game. To compete with Blizzard, we have to use our extra time to polish it.

We’d like to see more people in beta too! My email is in the records somewhere …

Is PvP really just for the hardcore?!

Earnest Cavelli writes an opinion piece in Wired’s blog where he rants about how MMORPGs have run out of ideas and are only including more PvP to keep the vocal hardcore fan happy.

What utter toss.

He loses me right at the beginning with the comment: Even long-standing, well-respected games such as space opera MMO EVE Online have shown a renewed interest in the phenomenon. EVE, in case anyone doesn’t know, is and has always been one of the most cut-throat PvP games on the market. The no holds barred nature of 0.0 space AND the ability to opt out from gaming there if you don’t want to PvP is one of the game’s biggest draws. So no surprise really if they’ve decided to focus on PvP for their next expansion.

You only have to look at the popularity of PvP servers in WoW to see that a large proportion of players not only enjoy occasional PvP but like it so much that any associated issues (like being ganked by high levels) don’t put them off.

As a form of endgame, it’s also relatively cheap compared to creating and stocking new dungeons or areas to explore. Players can literally entertain themselves.

I don’t understand why Cavelli thinks that adding better PvP will result in games that only appeal to a tiny minority. The examples he gives of earlier, smaller games LACKED PvP or implemented it very badly (Ultima Online was notorious for this, back in the day). So of course a lot of people who tried it then hated it. But then again, I also don’t understand why he thinks that MMORPGs evolved from online shooters (clue-by-4: They didn’t, they evolved from MUDs.)

PvP, when it’s done well, is terrifically attractive to players in a MMORPG environment. Forming up into a fighting army with a load of friends and heading off to attack an enemy base or just throw yourselves at another zerg is good fun. Fighting other players will always have an edge to it that fighting monsters never can. Especially if you see names you recognise and can rib them about it afterwards in the game or on forums or IRC.

It’s not just the hardcore who PvP. Most players will try it out. And there is definitely scope for improvements in MMORPG PvP and I’m excited to see developers recognise this and try to address it.

Checking out Altdorf

I am really hyped by the latest set of Altdorf screenshots. The more I see of the visual design of the game, the more I like it.

The engine does look similar to an upgraded DaoC one, which I think is what they based the code on. That isn’t a bad thing, it looked good for its time and the Altdorf architecture looks great in the screenies. I’m trying not to be reminded of Camelot (or Stratholme, for the pics where the place is in flames) but there’s definitely a strong consistent visual feel to the location that fits right in with warhammer.

The other thing I am really liking is that each class and race has a strong visual style. This is absolutely key to warhammer as a game and setting, all the armies are immediately identifiable. Even from the screenshots, you can pick out the warrior priests, bright wizards, tart^D^D^D^Dwitch elves and so on very quickly.

I’m guessing and hoping that this will prove true in play also. Right now, it’s quite likely that the beta testers get given some gear and told to go fight so their visuals may be very fixed. But I like that in PvP you can run into a group from the opposite faction and take some quick on-the-fly guesses at to who and what you are fighting.

I do wonder if you’ll be able to ‘fly false colours’ though. In DaoC, I remember paladin friends who loved dressing up as casters to surprise any lazy stealthers …. or maybe they just liked the dresses. Never can tell with paladins ..