Long time coming

I’ve been neglecting my blogs, and as I’ve just compiled some links for Nerf the Cat later in the week, here’s the WAR-related ones I’ve been checking out amongst others:

Werit summarises info from the Land of the Dead video, neatly and succintly and it gave me just enough of a taster to go watch the video, since I’m a little distrustful of marketing at the moment! It’s nearly June too…

I’ll really miss the colourful and sensible diagrams and dots from Breakfast at WAR, so here’s Pancakez’ view on the old chestnut of Rock, Paper, Scissors. It’s plainly awesome.

Frustration at the endgame continues with Bootae’s comments on his recent experiences at trying to get into a city siege and what happened. I have to say, I’m still not tempted to try city sieges, I enjoy the early tiers too much these days.

Before WAR launched, there was speculation about population balances and what would happen when one side was frankly overpowered. Werit returns to look at what’s happened on his server, Averheim and it seems players do prefer to be overpowered. Perhaps not surprising, but still somehow revealing.

Podcasts, podcasts – Stonetroll Certified and Warhammer Alliance have new podcasts out, both worthy of being in your list. (OK, so due to twitter I know the WHA one is due out very soon, but keep an eye on their site, it’ll be worth it and has a special guest!)

Snafzg, over at The Greenskin, shows us exactly how and why his blog hit 1 million views with an awesome screenshot of Destruction standing in an orderly queue for a Live Event kill task. I ‘awwed’ at them. So cute, and so far from being chaotic, eh?

There’s no getting out of this one, the decrease in WAR blogs, highlighted by Blame the Healer. At some point soon, I’ll also be moving my main blogging over to my ‘catch-all’ blog, but I’ll still be peppering it with WAR posts and speculations… for me it’s just too hard to keep two blogs going with any sort of quality control!

Bootae provides my favourite headline for a while, raising the issues of how the game could possibly spread players out across zones to avoid 10+ warbands all going after the same goals. I still think bringing in the other Cities would have helped with this somewhat, but truthfully we as players often choose easy kills/keep takes over the more disputed ones, so it’s definitely one of WAR’s problems. He also touches on the recent Winds of Change controversy, which has been picked up by many many blogs, and which I read in quiet disbelief. Snafzg sums it up on Massively, Skar also keeps me up-to-date, and Roo gives the subsequent nerdrage it’s own made-up word. Awesome.

On a lighter and more impressive note, Gaarawarr continues his insane PQ trawl which makes for a fantastic read. I wish I’d thought of it! This time he’s at the home of the elves (ok, so now I’m glad I didn’t think of it…)

And back to The Greenskin for my final link of the day. Snafzg has decided to start a semi-regular column about what he’d do if he were Mark Jacobs. It’s a useful call for constructive criticism and an interesting read. The first article covers gear grinding, something close to all our hearts.

Phew, sorry for the wordiness, it’s been a while I know. There’s a lot of great stuff still being done in WAR and written about WAR, so keep an eye on it all! Later this week I’ll be back to discuss more about the London get-together where me & Spinks hope we get to meet many of you and take lots of photos!

Little Girl Lost…

So you came back to Warhammer to look at patches 1.2 and 1.2.1, but your guild just isn’t the same as it once was. You wish for the days of a chatty, casual guild with under 50 members… you’re in luck, the new guild search interface has hit with patch 1.2.1 and both me and Spinks had a good old play with it last night while hitting open RvR in Tier 1 on Karak Azgal. It’s great, within 5 minutes I wanted all games I play to have one. And you can read up Spinks’ play-by-play guide to it over at her solo blog: Spinksville.

Guessing at the announcement

There’s a dev chat scheduled on Tentonhammer later today at 7pm EST, at which it’s very likely that the developers will be chatting to all comers about today’s announcements.

7pm EST is midnight round where we live, so on the off-chance that we don’t hear anything before then, here’s some of our guesses at what Mythic may plan to announce.

  1. Slayers, Choppas, and a new event to introduce them. Despite Girl IRLs (can we stop pretending that no girls play these games yet?) best efforts, I remain unconvinced about female slayers 🙂
  2. A St Valentine’s Day massacre-style holiday.
  3. Official bulletin boards
  4. Revamps for some of the missing cities (if anyone was around for beta you may remember that the original idea was to have a full city for each race, rather than fortresses).
  5. New hats for High Elves!
  6. Pets. First ones available will be a groupie for dark elves and a walking beer keg for dwarves.
  7. New tradeskill: Topiary
  8. Mail revamp to allow multiple mails (Earendur)
  9. Paul and Josh returning to the mothership (Melmoth)
  10. Stunty Stew for dinner! Nom nom … (Warboss)
  11. Horse trousers and Naval Combat (Zoso, and I want some of what he’s been smoking)

Feel free to add your suggestions, we’ll add them to the end of the list.

Stop! Hammer Time!

Wotcha everyone,

Many of you may have noticed, if I haven’t made it completely obvious anyway, that when it comes to games I’m more than a little obsessed by the way things look.  I am fully cognizant of the fact that, just as in real life, in online games looks are most certainly not everything.

But having said that, underneath the looks in an online game, you get a lot of meaningless technomagical mumbo-jumbo that somehow makes things…  work.

So when Hawley swings his hammer, all that mumbo-jumbo does stuff.  Arcane, obscure, technomagical stuff.  That is then translated into numbers on my screen, so I can understand what just happened.

Now, when it comes to those looks, I do like a bit of variety.  Frankly, I don’t give a tinker’s cuss whether or not I look like anyone else.  I have no need to look like a unique special snowflake.  But I do like a change every so often.

If I’m wearing an outfit for too long, I get a bit antsy for the next piece of kit.  Not for the stat upgrades, but for the opportunity to change the way the character looks.  To look at something new, and hopefully cool looking.  And yes, in the past I have chosen not to upgrade to something that looks nasty and most decidedly uncool.

But.  And it’s an important but…  I’m still using hammers.  I swap from the two-hander to book and hammer when I need the extra healing stats (more from a sense of propriety than anything else – I don’t usually care over-much for carrying multiple item sets) but at the end of the day, they’re both hammers.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the looks of the hammer.  Sledge hammers look cool, in a 70’s British Crime film way, but in the real world, if you start hefting one people start looking at you as if you’re some sort of weird stalker with a  diy issue.  Same for any sort of hammer really.  Grinning at any viewers, to help allay any fears they might have, never helps.  And the other styles of hammer out there just look worse.

Most of the time, in online games, I lust after axes (I lust after other things in the real world.  Sometimes this includes Monica Bellucci in a vat of tea, but that mainly happens when it’s been at least 10 minutes since my last brew) .  Sort of brutal looking, with a bit of wood-choppy utility.  Couple that with an innate ability to choose every class that isn’t allowed to wield axes, and I spend the whole time playing with the self-imposed quest “Find Usable Axe” running in the background.

Warhammer Online is different, though.  I get the ability to use “Hammers”, and “Great Hammers”.  That’s it.  Even the ability to use “Harsh Language” is a hard skill, not a software skill.  Have I missed the usual arbitrarily (it sometimes seems) set of weapon skills for my chosen class?

No.  And I’m wondering why.

I am the sort of person that has a favoured weapon type for a character.  I like my dps murderers to carry knives, my clanky-tanks to carry swords or axes, and my healers to carry something fun and funky, to make up for the fact that swinging it in anger usually means it’s all gone a bit frantic.  In a “special” sort of way.

Having said that, I also like variety.  Sometimes it’s nice for a dps murderer to carry something longer than a shiv.  Sometimes I let the tank put down his sword and shield, and put a honking great double-handed axe in his hands.  Variety is, apparently, the spice of life (despite the fact that Lemon Pepper seems to go with everything).

Yet here I am, and I’ve forgotten all about that.  Weapon choice is practically down to a binary option; wield your allotted weapon, or don’t.  And when I first started a Hawley, all that time ago in beta, I did notice the fact that weapon choices were one handed hammer, or two-handed hammer.

And, as mentioned previously, promptly forgot.  To the extent that I only remembered recently, when I was looking at one of the empire NPCs and started having covetous thoughts about his pretty shield.  Almost to the extent of luring him down an alley for a quick coshing (No, that’s not a weird, or even not-weird, sex-thing.  It’s the sharp, nasty contact between a leather-wrapped bag of sand and lead pellets, and the back of an unsuspecting head).  So there I was, wishing that I could carry a shield for a bit, because even though books are cool, they don’t quite have the level of protection that a shield does.

Unless it’s “War and Peace”.  As the old saying goes; “No-one gets through War and Peace” (thankyou, HOL).

The fact remains that I’m not missing the variety in class weapons.  For once, I’m enjoying the game enough to just not care.  I might be coming down with something…

Cheers,
Hawley.

Expansion vs New Game

So the big news this week is that Warhammer is shaping up to be a great success (EA shipped 1.5 mil boxes which is a sign of confidence any way you look at it), and WoW announced a release date for their next expansion. There are other MMO expansions coming too in November: LOTRO and EQ2 are also due to release some around that time. (EQ and AC have expansions coming up too, for the old skool players out there.)

WoW and LOTRO are both taking the same approach to their expansions. New areas that players will get excited about for thematic reasons, 10 new levels, lots of new shinies, and after that … probably more of the same as the current endgame, but shinier. They both also offer new classes to players as well.

And if you have been playing any of these games already, that means there is a choice coming up. New game vs expansion? New friends vs old ones? Is it possible to play more than one MMO without feeling shortchanged in both? And how hard is it really to dump an old character that you may have sunk months or years of work into?

Pros and Cons of Playing Expansions

The great bonus of playing an expansion when you already know the game is that you already know the game. Presumably you like it. You’ve sunk a lot of time into it, you know all the little tricks and strategies. you like the lore and the geography and know your way around. And you have friends there. Probably a guild. You have alts, and tradeskills and lots of in-game cash. You have reputation with all the important factions. These are things you worked hard on and you are reluctant to throw them away. Also being offered more of the same is great when you know you liked it in the first place.

Much as people claim not to be interested in lore, in practice it means that they don’t like reading quest text. Most players are vaguely attached to the lore, at least the bits they have personally experienced in game. Some games do better than others at immersing players into their game worlds, but a big draw of an expansion is to see what happens next, and to get involved in it.

The downside of an old game is that the player community tends to get more elitist. I remember what WoW was like when it first went live. The player community now is less welcoming, more judgemental, more likely to know how the game works and more likely to comment on when other people are ‘doing it wrong.’ How fun is it really to mess around with new classes and abilities when in the back of your mind you are worrying about whether you are good enough to play with your friends?

A sign of this is from my old WoW guild, who are great. They were involved in a casual raid alliance with no class quotas, no attendance restrictions, very basic DKP. And they’ve decided that they need to tighten up for the next expansion, and will be introducing all of those things. With a hint of ‘if you aren’t good enough or we have too many of your spec, you’ll be asked to sit out.’ Its a perfectly reasonable way to organise and I wish them luck, but if I was still playing I would be fretting over which alt to level and whether it would be a spec that could get raid spots. I personally find that stressful but I know a lot of people enjoy it. More to the point, the game encourages it. The game forces people who want to raid to get elitist, whether they want to or not. LOTRO doesn’t have quite the same issues but still … every time a game introduces a new class, people get nervous about how the play balance will work out. Will the new class replace them? How will things work out? And uncertainty of whether your friends will still want you around in game (even if it is a silly thing to worry about because, hey, they are your friends!) is not fun.

And what if you hadn’t played the game before?

An old game has huge barriers to entry. Even if the game itself is newbie friendly, the player base may not be after a few years. And each expansion introduces new complexity into the game to keep the existing players busy. In many cases, Devs try to make an easy learning path for new players with every new complex system that they introduce. It doesn’t always work. If you were new to the genre also, playing an old game could seem overwhelming. That is, if you could even find anyone to play with in the starting zones.

This is one of the great things about introducing new classes in the way that LOTRO is. A lot of old players will want to pick one up, it provides lots of press, and newbies will have more people to group with. The fact that WoW is starting the Death Knights at level 55 shows that they are not really aiming this expansion at new players. The game is about as newbie friendly as it is ever going to get, they are more about retaining existing players and getting ex-players to resub these days.

I know that a lot of people bitch about getting new levels with each expansion because it means that they have to throw away most of the achievements of the current expansion and start again. The upside is that it means that devs can keep the complexity manageable. It gives them a way to reset the endgame cleanly, give everyone an even start, and let players feel that they are on a level playing field again. For awhile at least. The alternatives are more tricky. Different advancement paths do add a layer of complexity to the game. Letting people forever build on old achievements makes the game more stratified and makes it harder for new players to catch up.

The great thing about a new game is that the in-built stratification simply isn’t there yet. Everyone starts equal. Everyone has to learn at the same time. And people are motivated to be more social in a new game because the server community is just being built. It’s a chance to be in at the ground floor. And in many ways it’s the most fun time for any game. People are less likely to have fixed ideas about classes and how to play them. Enjoy it, it won’t last long.

I’m quite intrigued about why Matt@Bloghammer decided that he preferred to play the Wrath Beta to the WAR launch. Dude, you’ll be playing it again in two months time anyway, and it’ll be less buggy then! Meanwhile, you’re missing the most fun part of any MMO.

Playing 2 MMOs Side by Side

I’ve never really been able to do this. My husband is a huge fan of CoH which does seem to be very casual friendly. He happily logs in to his one man supergroup and finds PUGs when he is bored. In many ways, it is an ideal backup game (just wish I liked it more, I love a lot of the design).

The reason I have issues is because the MMOs I like reward intensive play, both mechanically and socially. You play a game a lot, you’ll meet more people and they’ll get to know you. You’ll make more friends, get more involved in whatever is going on. Log on once a week and no one will know who you are. Mechanically, if you want the flashy gear and the great reputation, you need to put in the hours.

It’s possible, of course, to play casually, but you are going in from the start knowing that you may not be able to do some of the really cool stuff. Its not meant for players like you and that can be offputting, depending on how good you are at setting your own goals and enjoying what is available rather than fretting over what isn’t. You could instead just play a single player game where you set your own pace and can accomplish anything the game allows. Single player games don’t lock you out in the same way. It might be possible to play one game casually and one intensively, if your time management skills are very good.

There is also the possibility of playing one intensively now, and then another intensively in a few months time. Hopefully the period of intense play would let you level one character and fit it out to a point where you could then start to play casually (ie. in WoW, just log in on raid nights, etc.)

I think a lot of people will be levelling quickly in WAR with a view to doing exactly this. Hoping that by the time the new expansions come out, their WAR character will be at a point where they can log in less regularly but still keep up with friends. From what I’ve seen, the game would be quite friendly to that playstyle. You can certainly participate in guild PvP nights without too much trouble.

For me, I’m planning to play through Lich King when it comes out. But I’ll be playing casually and mostly solo (or in duos). My main goal is to try out a Death Knight and see the levelling zones because I always did think that those were the strongest aspects to WoW. Having seen WAR, I have no real interest in WoW PvP or endgame raiding. WoW for me will just be filling the gap until Diablo III comes out.

And I’ll plan to keep playing WAR — I’ll never be as hardcore as I was previously in WoW but that’s a good thing and I think the game supports it.

ps. for Games Day

Have decided to twitter our trip to Games Day and have just set it all up to take twitters from my mobile, so hopefully there will be good reception there! Not sure what kind of stuff I’ll have to say except ‘whee, big tank battle’, but if you want to follow it, the twitter is bookofgrudges. Who knows, we might be able to persuade random people there to steal my phone and send messages! (seriously, do not steal my phone!)

If there are no updates after 10am UK time, you know the NEC is somehow getting in the way of my mobile phone. We might pay for some wifi access – but since it’s something like £5/hr we’re more likely to make you wait till we’re home that evening (I’m staying with Spinks for the Games Day experience!).

Don’t forget to bring your Games Day I-Spy along, I’ll be bringing a copy amended for me & Spinks (we get quarter points if we meet someone who’s read the blog!). It’s had some tweaks since I originally made it up, mostly to reflect the fact we know Paul Barnett will be there, but probably not any other Mythic types.. and Iain C and Magnus are unable to attend due to the headstart launch, so have changed it to generic-GOA staff. Also a generic 20 points for grumbling you’re missing the headstart launch!

  • Will we get skaven skin cloak codes like the US Games Days? Hope so!
  • Will we go gawk at the huge tank? Definitely!
  • Will we be happy to chat to anyone despite our nerves? Yes, though forgive us if we seem a little nervous, we’re used to this cloak of anonymity we won.

I’d suggest a big meet-up sometime, but honestly – we’ll be at the GOA booth, am sure you all will be too!

And, here’s the GOA press release about the Games Day presence as an added bonus:

GOA today announced that they will be bringing the highly anticipated MMORPG, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR), to Games Workshop’s annual Games Day on September 14th, 10am-4pm at Birmingham’s NEC Arena.

GOA will present Warhammer Online on 24 PC’s, guaranteeing hours of non-stop Realm vs. Realm action for legions of attending Games Workshop enthusiasts.

WAR’s Creative Director, Paul Barnett, will also be on hand to meet fans and speak with press as GOA publicly presents the game one final time before its global launch on the Day of Reckoning – 18th September.

Good news x 2

[please excuse lack of links, am at work and hurrying to get to my ‘desk’ by 2pm]

From Paul’s blog:

I am off to Europe, to games day on Sunday the 14th of September in Birmingham. I will be there all day to wave and say hello.

Also in Paris around the 26th of September for the Paris computer show.

Also in Birmingham the evening of the 27th for PC Gamers LAN show.

From GOA site:

…those of you who have entered an open beta code need not wait any longer. All valid codes entered will be able to log in and play within a few minutes of successfully submitting your details. All players who have already entered a code should be able to log in immediately. There is no need to wait for the confirmation email