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.

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Destruction Eye for the Order Guy

Wotcha everyone,

I have always been somewhat bemused by the vaguaries of fashion.  It’s something that happens to other people, and to be perfectly honest, if I walk down the street and people don’t point and laugh at what I’m wearing, I take that as a “win”.

So I’m constantly surprised at how much I care about how my online characters look.  Lord of the Rings Online may have had (to my taste) some really duff clothing, but the cosmetic system was really, really well implemented.  And I loved being able to go and get a shave and a haircut whenever I fancied.  Similar to the amazing level of detail in Star Wars Galaxies, with cosmetic surgery added to the mix.

And yes, I do have a habit of continuing to wear something “out-grown” when the replacement looks rubbish.  Even in World of Warcraft, where it’s *all* about the stats.

Now, I don’t really have a “look” that I prefer in my gaming.  I tend to go with whatever I think makes the character look cool.  Or, in Warhammer Online’s case, “Cool” and “Yellow”.

Which looks like this:

Does my Fury look big in this?

Does my Fury look big in this?

One thing I’ve been constantly impressed by is the look of Warhammer Online.  I like the way that it references the models of the Games Workshop range, whilst making sure that each and every class has a distinctive, easily recognisable silhouette on the battlefield.  Even Dark Elf spotting is easy (for this hobby, you will need a pad, a pencil, and a flask of weak lemon drink).

This fashion parade also serves a valuable function in that it shows the ideological differences between Order and Destruction.  You dress for your class, not just for your role.  So Ironbreakers, Black Orcs and Chosen won’t be seen at a jumble sale arguing over who put their hands on a suit of platemail first.  But more than that, the Ironbreaker wears a suit of armour that is clean, well-formed, and designed to protect his chubby frame.  The Black Orc wears a set of armour that looks cobbled together from bits of his victims, and the Chosen clanks about in a baroque, disturbing suit of metal.  Looking like he doesn’t even take it off in the shower.

It’s echoed throughout the classes.  Order might not be all sweetness and light (between a bunch of humans who are willing to murder their own to stop the encroaches of their enemies, a group of elves who have trained for war for generations, and a gang of dwarves who positively enjoy gaining fanatical hatreds, is there *any* sweetness and light?) but Destruction look far worse.  No-one can complain that “they’re just like us, really”.  There are no hippy-peaceniks around here, demanding that we all just get along, because we all have a right to live.  No-one is “misunderstood”, and no-one looks “misunderstood”.

Oh, remember that clown suit I mentioned earlier?  Well, nothing was worse than Warcraft’s ultimate example of fashion chic, the red hat, purple armour, and lime green trousers ensemble.  Whilst the tiered armour sets could and did look fantastic, most people spent their time levelling (and possibly for some time later, dependant on how much raiding they did) wearing such outfits (I always worried that they would end up burning out my monitor, as I saw them jog past).  I was even forced to wear similar crimes against colour myself, at times.

Imagine my joy, then, when I discovered that each class got its own wardrobe.  Whilst the “special snowflake” players might rebel at having to dress like everyone else in their class, I’ve got no problem.  I’m in the Warrior Priest gang, can’t you tell?  I have my individuality packaged in little pots of dye, available at all good merchants.  And the benefit is that, through the experience and good taste of generations of Warrior Priests, we have outfits that don’t make us look like idiots.

Unless we choose to.

Cheers,
Hawley.

First, do no harm…

Wotcha everyone,

Well, I can tick another of the boxes in the “I-Spy Book of Healing: Warhammer Online Edition”…

It’s the “Why didn’t you heal me?” box.  It’s one of my favourites, because it always has the unspoken addendum “Is it because you’re an idiot, or just a rubbish healer?”

I only ever hear this from people outside my guild.  Generally, it’s from a dps class.  Normally, it’s someone I’m grouped with.  Usually, they’ve just died.

Is it my fault they’ve died?  No.  But I am a contributing factor in their untimely, unseemly demise.

Let me explain further:

There is a belief amongst players that anyone with healing skills and abilities has a duty, a requirement, to heal all the time.  That by not spending every second healing, the healer is not only letting himself down, but his class and his calling.  Witness the screams of agony from World of Warcraft: Shamans who want to melee, and Druids who turn into anything other than a tree.  Their screams are the manifestation of the prejudice that sees a class *with* healing, and *only* sees the healing.

Hybrid classes will always get it rough.  The ability to perform two or three roles becomes the ability to do one, and not as well as a pure healer class.

There is also the belief that a healer should heal, no matter what the situation, or the danger to the healer themselves.  DPS classes do damage.  Well-played dps classes don’t draw too much aggro, and therefore don’t need silly amounts of healing, which then draws the aggro onto the healer.  In a standard mob fight this means the healer has to waste time keeping themselves alive, as well as everyone else.  In a boss fight, this usually means the healer gets one-shotted, followed by the rest of the group.

Finally, there is the belief that just because you’re in a group with a healer, you *deserve* healing.  That it is your unassailable right.

Sorry, but it isn’t.

I am not a healbot.  I’m not going to follow you around and heal you constantly, *just* because we’re in the same group.  As the one with the healing skills, I get to choose how and when to use them.  If you’re a dps class that is incapable of managing your aggro, you will annoy me, and that means less healing.  If you keep getting aggro where you shouldn’t, I will stop healing you.  And every so often, that means you get to “take one for the team”.  Especially if you’re taking my attention away from the tank in A Bad Way(tm).  Because the tank gets priority for heals every day of the week…

It’s a harsh truth, but truth all the same.

I would feel it to the day I die if I let a real person die.  I would feel awful if I let a small furry animal die.  I’d feel bad if I let down a friend.  Do I feel bad about letting a character in an online game die?  No.  Sometimes it makes me giggle.  Gosh, I am a bad, bad man.

Cheers,
Hawley.

What does it take to be a front line healer?

Wotcha everyone,

Warrior Priests.  God I love’em!

What feels like forever ago, I decided that Warrior Priests were for me.  They ticked all the boxes; they healed, they smacked things, they wore armour, and they looked like angry eggs in a human power-suit.  Many of you know how much I like Warrior Priests already, but hey, I need an introduction.

Now that we’re here, and the game is live?  Nothing has changed.

Every time I’m in combat, and I hear the words “Bugger!” and “Nadgers!”, not only does Sigmar smile, but I smile too.

I’ve said “Bugger!” in PvE, in open RvR, and in scenarios.  I have also been smiling my way through them.  Why?  Well, I’m really enjoying my Warrior Priest.  He’s a feisty little fellow, with a good range of skills (even at level 11, which is rare in an online game), that allows me to fight using differing styles, so each fight is as different as I want it to be.  It also means I can perform multiple roles, dependant on situation.

Not only that, but for the first time in PvP gaming, when I see one of my enemies charging towards me, I’m not immediately looking to run like a startled bunny towards my nearest ally.  I’m confident that I’ve been given the tools to really make a go of a one-on-one fight, and not only that, but I won’t be punished unduly for making the odd mistake.  I have emerged victorious from these fights due to good play, and knowing my class.  Through use of strategy and tactics, rather than by spamming my “I win” button as fast as possible, as much as possible.

This, more than anything else, makes me happy.  The developers haven’t made the Warrior Priest overpowered; they’ve made it viable.  To the same level as the other classes.  Hell, I have been charging stragglers, uncaring if I’m being followed by allies, I’m that confident.  Sometimes I do the happy Hawley dance, and sometimes I’m danced on.  Either way, I know it’s going to be a fun fight.

Group RvR is also a lot of fun.  Healing with a Warrior Priest is different to playing a healer in most other online games that I’ve played previously, and at the moment I’m thinking he’s a great “top-up” healer.  I don’t have big heals, I have a few Heal Over Time spells that will keep people out of harm’s way, as opposed to saving them when they’re at death’s door.  They can also be pretty short ranged, so the moral of the story is; Get in the front line, with your Warrior Priest!

Which brings me to the melee part.  Mmm.  I’m not a melee powerhouse.  Witch Hunters have nothing to fear in terms of damage output, and Iron Breakers and Swoooshmasters have nothing to fear from the amount of pain I can take.  But smacking people in the face with a hammer is wonderfully cathartic, and it’s most certainly not a case of melee only being useful for regaining Righteous Fury in a rush.  During beta I tended to concentrate on learning how to heal with a Warrior Priest, but with launch I am learning how to smack things at the same time as healing, and it’s fun.  Challenging for me, as I am at heart a slacker, but still fun.

So for me, the Warrior Priest has sailed out of Launch day having lost none of it’s fun factor.  Nice one, Devs.

Cheers,
Hawley.

For Sigmar! For the Empire!

Wotcha everyone,

I have a sneaking suspicion that when Mythic first started to put the Warrior Priest together, they circulated a mugshot of my ugly face, and told everyone; “Make the class for this guy”.

Because they did.

I’ve always liked healers. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve played a lot of characters over many different games. But there’s something about playing a healer that calls to me. I think it’s because my first ever MMO character – an Everquest Shaman – showed me the joys of playing a class that could not only heal itself, but could heal others too. Knowing I could influence other people’s gaming through heals and buffs somehow made it *more* online, *more* massively, than a dps role, or a tank role. It meant I could influence other players, and therefore the world.

So here we are at Warhammer Online. I’ve more or less grown up with Warhammer, in one form or another. I remember during one boring chemistry lesson (sorry, Mr Judson) a mate first telling me all about Warhammer. I played the battle-game, and I was there when the role-playing game was released, as well as the science fiction version. I’ve also played the pc games, so coming to the MMO seems like a natural progression.

I decided to check out what classes were available. After all, what can one do when the game hasn’t even started taking applications for the Closed Beta? I needed a fix… So, here I am checking out classes. And of course, the first thing I do is check out the healers. Order or Destruction didn’t matter – that choice would most probably revolve around whom I would be playing with – so I checked them all.

My criteria were simple.

1) Must look cool.
2) Must be able to heal.
3) Forget “cool” – must look *really* cool.

And I found the Warrior Priest. A dangerous looking bald guy with heavy armour and a big stick.

Okay, the armour isn’t going to be as heavy as the Chosen’s plate, and the big stick won’t do as much damage as the Witch Hunter’s blade, and anyone can be bald. But I’m not playing the numbers, I’m following the cool looking avatar around the world, and if I don’t think he looks good, I won’t follow him for long.

Then there’s the mechanic. “Righteous Fury”. Even the name sounds cool. I build up Righteous Fury slowly between fights, in a walking ball of rage sort of way. And in combat, I build it up at speed by whacking my enemies, well, Righteously, with my big stick. I then use the Righteous Fury to heal my comrades.

So, for the first time in a long time (since my very short and disappointing time as a Cleric in Everquest 2), I get to play an honest-to-goodness front line healer. Even Lord of the RIngs Online didn’t let me do that with a Minstrel, and World of Warcraft seemed to have convinced the world that healers should wear tissue-paper based “armour”, stand at the back and shut up.

But would my rather brutal looking walking ball of rage stand up in combat?

Thanks to the Closed Beta, I got to find out. And I found out that he did. He did! My joy was released upon the world! I started kissing babies, I helped little old ladies across the road, I danced through fields of lavendar hand in hand with my bald-headed avatar… Ok, might be going a bit too far, there. But I was happy to note that I could go toe-to-toe in the front lines, and not go the way of the dodo inside ten seconds. I could last minutes. Which, in a PvP fight, is like saying “forever”. And whilst I was fighting, I was healing. How cool is that!

There are, however, a number of important caveats.

I had to learn how to play a Warrior Priest. Which I found refreshing. You don’t get a big direct heal to get you out of trouble. You get a big heal over time, and a few other “support” heals. They’re all small, and they’re there to supplement your heal over time, not replace it.

You will not be a healing powerhouse. At least, not at first. You can’t sit at the back and heal without a bit of practice. And knowing how to use your heals to their best effect will take time and effort to find out exactly what they do, and how they do it.

You will not be a damage powerhouse. That big stick looks scary, and the animations tend to be at just the right height to show your hammer smacking some misbegotten heretic in the face (in a remarkably satisfying way). But you’re like a tank, with none of the aggro-generation/survival skills. Your melee capabilities are mainly there to get you all Righteously Furious, not to turn the tide of a battle with your ‘leet dps’.

You are not a one-man army. You will still fold like a cheap suit when there’s a small gang of Destruction-based nastiness all over you. If you go toe-to-toe with someone, the fight will last a loooooong time. And against another healer, it could end up being more of a career than a fight.

Having said all that, I can’t think of a healer I’ve enjoyed this much for ages. I’m not even saying I’m any good at playing one, here. But I love the way that the melee capabilities mean I’m not easy meat for prowling dps, and the healing means I can play a role I really enjoy. At the same time, I get the fun of figuring out how best to play the class, without it feeling like I’ve just changed skins from my last online healer class.

Cheers,
Hawley.