Heavy Metal Learning

Ten Ton Hammer has a great preview of the upcoming Heavy Metal live event for Warhammer Online.  The event is mostly focused on a new scenario, the Reikland Factory, which is availble to all tiers of gameplay.  In the event, players will be given daily tasks, which are completed in the new scenario, and by doing tasks and playing in the scenario you can rack up event influence to get some neat rewards (an event-unique trophy, a defensive cloak, and the chance to play the new classes a week before they are officially released).

I am really excited about this event for two reasons.  First, it is going to funnel people in to killing each other dead.  Warhammer Online, I think, needs population channeling moreso than any other MMO.  Second, and more importantly, I have a feeling that Reikland Factory is going to be what scenarios should have been from the start: quick tutorials on how to succeed at open RvR.  From the article, Mark Davis states that they added more content in the scenarios and made sure to include a broad swath of objectives for all types of play styles (PvE, scenario PvP, open RvR, Tome unlockers, etc.).  This focus seems to take a step away from the current e-sport-like nature of the current “balanced” scenarios and go for a more organic open RvR experience in an instanced content bite.

Turbine, developer for Lord of the Rings Online, put up an interesting article aimed at the Mines of Moria expansion on a game mechanic called a cluster.  In broad terms a cluster is a group of smaller bites of content surrounding the culminating larger, final piece of content.  The aim of the smaller bites of content is to provide a type of learning experience that a player can take with them when they choose to attack the final piece of content.

It seems to me that Mythic is taking this ideal to scenarios with the Reikland Factory to get players involved in a smaller piece of open RvR as they play instantly gratifying scenarios.  I think this is exactly the right move – making scenarios cluster around the open RvR experience.  Plus, more of the enemy (bloggers) to kill is always a good thing.

Guild Lord vs. Keep Lord

Keep assaults in Warhammer Online feels a lot like a Mirror World Guild vs. Guild (GvG) battle in Guild Wars, but the little elemental differences are enough that one can nearly feel like a PvE raid (on top of more PvE), while another feels like a pure PvP playstyle.  The fundamentals of the Keep assaults and GvG are nearly identical: kill other players and NPCs to break through to the Guild/Keep Lord NPC and kill him/her/it to win.  Both games also herald it as a large part of the meat of their PvP game experience, but which is better?  I’ll compare the two in classic beatdown compare and constrast style. Continue reading Guild Lord vs. Keep Lord

$15 Flatline

I really want to go back to Tabula Rasa.  I know that if I could afford to (or my wife would let me) subscribe to more than one game a month Tabula Rasa would be one of the top contendors.  I loved just going in an blasting the $#!& out of mobs with my knockdown shotgun.  Sometimes I would get so embroiled in a control point that an hour would pass… or I would run out of ammo and realize I hadn’t moved my character from a 200 ft. radius (filled with dead Bane) for 30 minutes.  But, I won’t be coming back (even with all the cool stuff you are adding).  Sorry, Richard.  Sorry, NCSoft.  A “better” game currently claims my $15 a month.

Continue reading $15 Flatline

The Amount in Question

I went on a few PvE keep raids in Warhammer Online this past weekend.  As a healer (Zealot), when I get in a keep raid without any opposition there is very, very little chance for me to make a contribution to the public quest.  I did my best… throwing my weak energy bolts of Tzeentch at the keep doors and healing for the 30 seconds that the Keep Lord stood.  But, in a warband with a few extra stragglers… I was getting in 20-26th place at each keep in contribution terms.  I would even over-heal, drawing agro from the Lord or his bodyguards to no avail.

Real life hit me for 3-5 minutes after approaching another undefended keep.  I went back to the computer and through busted keep door #1 (which I hit for maybe 2k damage but missed fall). Then through busted keep door #2 (which I completely missed fall).  Up the stairs to our zerg-band, which had the Keep Lord at 20% health on the patio-area.  Healed one or two people.  The Keep Lord died.  And, I got 3rd place in contribution to the public quest.

I am going to have to re-think my healer/weak-DPS strategy during one of my next PvE keep raids…

–Ravious
Want a twinkie, Genghis Khan?

Candy Corn Meatgrinder

Warhammer Online kicked off it’s Halloween-themed event, The Witching Night, yesterday.  I am usually excited about holiday events found in MMOs because it focuses people and draws them together.  Games will draw people to go trick or treating to the inns across the world, to play rock, paper, scissors with a mad demi-god, or even eschew the pagan festival for a happier harvest celebration.

In Warhammer Online it draws people together so that they will kill each other.  Last night I logged on and immediately flew to Black Fire Pass and joined the first RvR warband I found.  Order controlled the Keep and two Battlefield Objectives, and had pushed Destruction back to the warcamp.  We then started pushing back.  I think that I completely missed the event’s Public Quest, but I did have a blast racking up the Renown (especially since they recently buffed Renown gain from healing).  It was becoming such a meatgrinder at one point that people were running back to the warcamp after being rez’d multiple times to get their rez sickness healed.

Warhammer Online might have too much content.  But, when Mythic places the candy corn (read: carrots) in the right place to unabashedly lead the two sides together to fight over Halloween goodies, it is a beautiful thing.  I hope that the RvR zones containing the Witching Night Public Quests remain this active through the event because I think it will show how much the game can shine.

–Ravious
Someday this war’s gonna end…

Inigo’s Scenario Guide 1.04

I do not mean to pry, but Arkenor posted some of the 1.04 patch notes for Warhammer Online, along with some commentary.  As it stands there are only two scenarios that reliably launch, at least on my server.  In Tier 3 it is Tor Anroc, and in Tier 4 it is Serpent’s Passage.  This happens because Destruction queues for all the scenarios, and Order queues for one… the one where they feel or definitely have the advantage.  In my guild, we have unofficially embargoed play on Tor Anroc, and so we dutifully queue up for the other 5 scenarios in Tier 3.

With Mythic’s awesome change, Order can still do what they want.  They won’t be randomly forced to play one of the other 5 scenarios, BUT for the long run, it is going to hurt them as a faction.  That is the sound of ultimate suffering.

I think people are jumping the gun with “math” they cannot see.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

–Ravious

EDIT: And, I am jumping the gun with “logic” I cannot see.  I’ll eat the crow to this post.

MMO Mirror World – Storytelling

William Gibson wrote in his book Pattern Recognition about the concept of a Mirror World.  The Wikipedia masses define the newly-coined term “to acknowledge a locational-specific distinction in a manufactured object that emerged from a parallel development process, for example opposite-side driving or varied electrical outlets.”  I think the excellent term does not need to be so constrained, and it may be as broad as “fundamentally the same, but elementally different.”  This happens for better or worse all the time with MMOs.  Take, for instance, the way an MMO tells its story: Continue reading MMO Mirror World – Storytelling

Costume Brawl – PvP Done Right

As I explained in preparation for Guild Wars Halloween, Costume Brawl is something I was looking forward to big time, and now for this week I am having a blast playing the once-a-year PvP game.

The premise is quite simple.  Each profession has a set skill bar.  If you go in as a Warrior, every other Warrior will have the same skill/attribute set up as you.  The game is random 5 vs. 5 where the goal is to kill your opponents and control shrines (capture points).  Each shrine lends a bonus and increases the speed at which you get points for controlling the shrines.  First to 20 points wins.

I think it is brilliant for two reasons.  First, it is fast and fun.  You don’t have to wait for a party, and the gameplay is a great balance between deathmatch and zone control.  Killing people matters, but so does the skill of players surviving and snaring the other players.  If the battle is by one shrine, a good player can ninja-capture another shrine.  Winning is quick, and losing is quick.  If you lose you can go right back in with another team.  If you are stuck in a rut playing in the Random Arenas (4v4) or Alliance Battles (12v12) as your go to for casual PvP in Guild Wars, the game mechanic of Costume Brawl is a fresh breeze.

The second reason is the balance between professions.  Guild vs. Guild battles, Heroes’ Ascent, and to a lesser extent Team Arenas requires a web of protection and healing that normally comes from the PvP mainstay: Monks.  Without this crucial web, a team crumbles in the face of quick spikes of damage.  This places a daunting requirement on the Monks in Guild Wars PvP.  Costume Brawl takes out much of this required web and gives each profession one or two self-heals, which they must rely on more than their healbot teammate.  The average heal for each profession is about 100-150 so one profession does not clearly outshine another.  I would not say that Costume Brawl builds have a perfect one-on-one balance as some professions can easily beat down others, but all told, I think a team of 5 is usually balanced against the other random team.  In other words, PvP returns to its roots of being about skill, not build.

This also excites me for Guild Wars future with Guild Wars 2.  ArenaNet basically has a get out of jail free card with the restart, and they can remake Guild Wars 2 so that one profession (the Monk) is not absolutely required to win.  I think that across the MMO genre, players are getting tired of needing healbots for PvE and PvP.  It is nice to play Costume Brawl, which remains fun without the requisite of a spambot friend.
–Ravious

WAR-oboros, take two

I wanted to return to the concept of WAR-oboros because I saw the concept evolve, if only in my own perception, the other night.  The early play was glorious.  I signed on and saw some Tier 3 alliance activity for defending the Keep in Talabecland, Passwatch Castle.  I took it as a sign and flew there immediately while a hearty band of Destruction refused to let the overbearing Order through the second door.  Our vengeance was swift was we pushed the enemy players that refused to flee from the RvR lake all the way back to the other Keep, Stoneclaw Castle.  We decided to sweep all the objectives, and while on our way to the distant Hallenfurt Manor Battlefield Objective a message came up that Stoneclaw Castle was falling.  Over ventrilo I heard Aliens-esque battle cries of my comrades-in-arms dying.  “There must have been 70 Order in there.  My screen was just red text.”  We knew the Order-zerg would be heading to Passwatch Castle for their revenge, and so they did.  There were so many that the second Keep door fell within nearly 1 minute of the outer Keep door breaking open.

While my warband did its best to slow down the horde of Order, another Destruction warband remained in the orclands.  They refused to heed our multiple calls for help; the leader booting one of my guildmates for suggesting that they go fight Order where Order seemed to be.  The leader pronounced with his boot mid-swing that they just wanted to take Keeps.  Vanilla War-oboros mentality.

Bitter from the lack of help from the stupid Greenskins and licking our wounds at Hellfang Ridge Warcamp, the warband started discussing the best way to take on the Order zerg.  It was decided that the best we could do is attack an undefended Keep in the hopes of either being ignored or splitting their zerg into people that wanted to keep attacking and those that wanted to defend their newly claimed treasures.  We could only attack the tail.  It would take a strong leadership to reverse the course of nearly 3 warbands of Order players.  So we retook Passwatch Castle, undefended.  It seemed that Order’s hydra-headed snake would not be easily split.
–Ravious

Funneling WAR

I am going to address something that was said on Warhammer Alliance. Lemming Jesus, in a rather pouty post, said that Warhammer Online was “neither massive nor multiplayer” because the the population was far too split up.  I agree for the mid-levels (but not to the degree of rage-quitting), and suggest a different route.

I would have had ONLY one racial pairing to begin with as the main part of the game.  Tier 1 would remain the same as it is now.  Tiers 2-3 would NOT have any Dark Elf vs. High Elf (DEvHE) or Greenskin vs. Dwarf zones (GvD).  Tiers 2-3 would all be Empire vs. Chaos (EvC) as it is now.  However, Tiers 2 and 3 would have an additional “contested” map (like Prague for Tier 4) between the two current maps.  Then Tier 4 would begin to umbrella back out to include the DEvHE and GvD zones with future released Tier 4 zones focusing on their story and conflict.  In other words, DEvHE and GvD get the shaft with initial content, but later content would go to those racial pairings.  This would kill two birds with one stone by making the mid-level areas have higher population density, and giving more end-game later on.

This is not wholly my idea, as Lord of the Rings Online nearly does the exact same thing (only they don’t umbrella back to the Shire for the end game… yet).  It allows the race to matter in terms of story, and for the player to get a feel for the race.  But, then it elegantly funnels the population together to start moving en masse to the end game.  At the end game you want lots of content, and I think Mythic made a big error in providing so much population spreading content for the slow-moving mid-levels.

For alt-oholics and what not, the three racial pairings with so many zones is fantastic, but it makes for a lot of ghost towns, empty RvR lakes, and sad and lonely public quests whose final Hero boss sits in a dark corner and cries himself to sleep while holding a shrunken dwarf head because no one will ever get to his stage.  It’s too late now, and my hindsight is not even 20/20.
–Ravious