Archive for August, 2008

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Breaking News! …from four days ago!

August 29, 2008

Maybe this is a tad hypocritical from a guy who stores up links and posts them once a week, but shouldn’t current news/blog aggregator sites like Massively keep a bit more up to date?

I mean, it’s Friday, and they’re posting on a bug report that Mark Jacobs put up, oh, on Monday.

Maybe next week they’ll post about how Warhammer Online was delayed until fall 2008!

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First Impressions – Swordmaster

August 28, 2008

The trudge through the High Elf careers continued with Wotworks, a Swordmaster who loves his sword perhaps a smidgen too much. I mean, the guy cradles it like it’s his first born child, except that instead of poop and kisses it delivers a very close shave.

As a tank class – one of Order’s only two, along with the Ironbreaker – I found the Swordmaster tolerable. He’s got a big honkin’ Final Fantasy VII-type sword that he dances around and swooshes through bad guys like solidified non-dairy creamer. Swordmasters function through a very simple combo chain: you start out at normal balance and do a skill that advances you to improved balance (as evidenced by an iron-on tattoo silhouette on the screen), then click on an improved balance skill to get it up to perfect balance. Perfect balance nets some fine skills, such as level 4 skill “Blurring Shock” that gives you instant damage for absolutely no cost whatsoever – except that it resets the combo to normal balance.

So, in summary, Swordmasters are gymnasts gone rogue.

Wotworks’ primary goal in his short, short pre-deleted life was to see how far he could run and explore the world without dying. Challenging, for a level 1 pointy-eared thing, but I felt cooped up by a lot of these newbie zones and wanted to see what was out there.

The first stop on his grand tour was the Ruins of Adunei, the main “Chapter Two” hub for the High Elves. The game divides its zones between Chapters, each one culminating in a major task – in every one I’ve seen, participating and beating the area’s Public Quest. I also noted that Adunei had crafting vendors, which had been previously denied in the lowbie areas.

Running further along, aggroing everything in sight, Wotworks found a big Empire ship at a dock along with a flight trainer. I got all excited – I’m going to go see Altdorf! – and began to quiver uncontrollably in my chair. My dog grew concerned. However, I lacked the funds to fly there, so oh well, woe is me and all that.

I did get a bit further down into the next major zone before a big beach orc chopped me in twain, and I ported back to Adunei.

Side note: I don’t know if this was a bug or just another lovely feature of the High Elf society, but it seemed like every NPC was on a non-stop “yes” or groan streak. They kept yelling out their “yes” dialogue bits, as well as groaning so much that I thought the whole town, guys included, was going into labor.

Wotworks then queued up for the HE scenario, Khaine’s Embrace, and jumped in shortly thereafter. Like the other scenarios I’ve seen, it mainly revolved around capturing two locations, although this one had a bit of a twist. When one side got ahold of both flags for 10 seconds at the same time, that side claimed partial victory and got a gob of points. Khaine also thought it was a good idea to reset the flags, so they go back to neutral as a massive atomic bomb explosion mushrooms out from each flag, obliterating good and bad guy alike. I kid not. We got used to capturing the flags and then high-tailing it out of there – it got to be pretty fun to swing the camera back and watch your guy outrunning the explosion while little naughty Night Elves got obliterated. I did pretty well, I think, capturing a few flags and placing 5th on the kill list.

Other than jumping off a high cliff to explore a waterfall – RPG creators always love stuffing secret spots behind waterfalls (although this one was a dud) – Wotworks’ time came to an end.

Quick Notes:

  • The Rally Master not only doles out influence rewards, but rebinds your map to that place, allowing you to port back when you need it.
  • You can select different map filters to show icons for various vendors and NPCs.
  • You can’t swim up or down, just along the plane of the surface of the water.
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Shadenfreude Much?

August 28, 2008

So remember way back when Mythic delayed Warhammer Online, and we chafed at the thought of Age of Conan having free reign to be the only bright new kid on the block for the entire summer? Yeah, guess that didn’t turn out so great for them.

Not that I’m here to gloat or anything. But this goes to show that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to be an experienced MMO vet — the more games I go through, the more apt I am at reading the signs of a MMO re-release, particularly when it comes to red flags. Vanguard had loads of them, for sure. Age of Conan did as well. Nudity and ramped up gore isn’t a long-lasting game feature — they’re the staples of disposable horror flicks like Leprechaun 4: In Space. When you hear that spellcasters were highly underpowered compared to melee (and far more conventional), when players discover that female characters had slower combat animation times and FunCom claimed they couldn’t fix it “for weeks” even after they acknowledged it, when nobody at launch could point to any significant end game features as a goal to shoot for… then I step out of the way and let the bulls charge at all of the red waving flags.

People got enthusiastic for Conan because it was pretty much the only player in town during May, and they gobbled it up with the desperation of a junkie needing a quick fix.

When WAR launches, it won’t have the luxury of being the only major fall 2008 MMO release — obviously, Lich King is going to get its fair share of press and acclaim as well. But the silver lining to this release window is that when — not if — WAR succeeds and rises on the shoulders of critical and player acclaim, nobody will be able to say it happened because there weren’t any other viable new options around.

Heck, right now, the biggest complaints leveled at WAR from the beta client are mostly limited to: (1) it not being “fun” because it’s too much like a MMO, (2) pet pathing awry and bugged mob AI — both of which were problems introduced by the preview weekend patch but were perfectly fine beforehand and will be again, (3) questionable level of graphic detail — which should be upped considerably at release including the lighting, and (4) potential, speculated gameplay issues involving faction balance (which nobody can predict accurately pre-launch), over/underpowered classes (valid, being looked into), and wondering whether or not there will be enough people to man all of the public quests. These aren’t horrible red flags, like a lack of end game content, missing promised features or completely broken gameplay. Even the biggest critics of WAR grudgingly admit that it is a well-made game that will most likely be a rousing success in terms of subscribers. And there are far, far more positive reviewers and critics for WAR than there are against right now, even with the ammunition that the flawed preview weekend gave them.

It gives a new level of confidence and security, and going into a new MMO, those are valuable assets indeed to ease this player’s mind.

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Da Bloody Twenty – August 28

August 28, 2008

Da Bloody Twenty is a weekly countdown of the 20 most interesting, well-written or weirdest Warhammer Online articles and posts… to me.

Twenty…

Welcome to the community: The Raven Calls, Altdorf Gunnery, The Battle Standard, Warhammer Tank, WAAAGH! Hammer!

Nineteen…

“Now THAT’S a Witch Hunter” @ Josh Drescher’s blog – They’re kind of molesting this guy in this picture… poor Witch Hunter…

Eighteen…

“What Role Will You Play?” @ Prima – Take this quiz and find out what WAR career might suit you best! I got “exotic dancer”, but I’m not sure how.

Seventeen…

“Beta Review” @ Gamespy – Mikey, I thinks they like it!

Sixteen…

“Is It a Healer? Is it a Nuker? No, it’s an Archmage!” @ Book of Grudges – And it’s also my #1 priority to kill in RvR combat!

Fifteen…

“What I Didn’t Like About The WAR Beta” @ Boathammer – He’s mostly upset he doesn’t get to play with me. Yet.

Fourteen…

“Couple Words For Brent” @ /random – No, they’re not what you might expect. “Cheese monkey!”

Thirteen…

“War Combat Is Slow” @ Tobold’s – But that’s not necessarily a BAD thing…

Twelve…

“Beta Review” @ Classy Gamer – Wall of text crits you, you die, you are camped by wall of text, wall of text /spits on you, you log out.

Eleven…

“More Thoughts From Preview Weekend” @ Echoes of Nonsense – A great mishmash of tidbits and tiddlywinks!

Ten…

“Bob Mull GenCon Interview” @ Ten Ton Hammer – Bob, did you ever know that you’re my hero? You’re everything I wish I could be?

Nine…

“How Much Market Share Can WAR Steal From Blizzard?” @ Serial Ganker – Charts! Graphs! Numbers! There’s a lot of them, so it must be good.

Eight…

Warhammer Wins “Best Online Game” @ Games Convention 2008 – Go WAR go!

Seven…

“The Shallow Player’s Guide to WAR” @ Book of Grudges – Judge not, lest ye be judged with a witty one-liner.

Six…

“Memoirs of a WAR Beta Tester” @ Massively – I’m temporarily lifting my ban on Massively, because this article gives a great overview of this guy’s entire beta experience dating back to the middle of 2007.

Five…

“When 0% of a Healer is Better Than 40% of a Healer” @ Player vs. Developer – Will the hybrid healers get the shaft in WAR?

Four…

“RPS Impressions: Warhammer Online Beta” @ Rock Paper Shotgun – I like how they did this, it’s a round-table interview format.

Three…

Mythic Outtakes Podcast – More bleeped swearing than you can shake a squig at!

Two…

“Q&A With Mythic” @ WHA – Watch a dev dance, weave, tango and waltz to questions concerning stability, auction houses, graphics, character customization, open RvR and more!

One…

“Warhammer Online Beta Q&A” @ The Greenskin – The only thing it doesn’t answer is the meaning of life!

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During a random IM conversation…

August 27, 2008

Snafzg says: scathing blog incoming
Snafzg says: title: A Really Great Way to Piss Me Off!
Syp says: content: pretty much anything anyone ever does
Snafzg says: conclusion: bingo!
Syp says: comments: cry more noob

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The WAR Timeline

August 27, 2008

Off and on over the past month, I’ve been cobbling together a timeline of the events surrounding Warhammer Online — its inception, events, milestones and so on. It’s not the sort of thing that’s complete, as I had to find these dates all over the place and I know I’m missing a bunch, but I wanted to get it out to you guys so that you could help me complete it:

waaagh.wordpress.com/war-timeline

I think this’ll be a valuable resource for new players down the road who want to know how it all went down, as well as for veterans who have been there since the beginning and wish to reminisce.

Give it a good read-over, and let me know (with sources, if possible) if I’m missing any key dates!

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Fortune Telling With The Power of POLLS!

August 27, 2008

It’s like we’ve devolved into early summer 2008 again, what with this lull between the preview weekend and open beta. So why not launch yet another huge “What class am I going to play?” poll at WHA, and why not check in with master numba cruncher, Snafzg!

What say you, Snaffy?

He’s pleased to note that the population seems to be balancing out a bit, but the grain of salt you’d have to take with all that would kill a mature moose. I think it’s absolutely hilarious that the three least popular classes — according to this scientific poll — is the White Lion, Witch Elf and Magus.

I don’t think any of these three classes will be hurting at launch, so why is the poll slanting in this direction?

White Lion – As Snafzg mentioned, this class is suffering from a relatively late introduction to the playerbase, but since it received such monumental fanfare (as the last new career for launch), I’d think that would balance out. Pet pathing issues and subsequent reports of lions gone haywire probably drove a lot of potential WL’ers away this past weekend, but those will be fixed. In the end, it’s an elf, with an axe, and a huge lion. That seemed to work pretty well for WoW, and I doubt they’ll be hurting after the first month of play. The White Lion is probably the most pure pet class there is, with one steady pet that grows and gets decorated and (hopefully) will be renamed.

Magus – This is an odd duck of a career, for sure: a “defensive” casting class with a unique movement style (floating on a disc) and stationary pets. Maybe the disc will turn people off to the class, but this is by far and away one of the most visually arresting careers in WAR, and when you throw in pets to boot… yeah, it’ll be okay.

Witch Elf – The sole problem here is painful dps, flagging behind other melee-burst dps classes like the Witch Hunter. If and when the dps is bumped up, people will flood to this class, I guarantee. You got the looks, you got dual blades, you got semi-stealth and a whole rogue vibe… this sort of class is always favored in PvP situations.

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First Impressions – Archmage

August 26, 2008

So this is how much Mythic hates me, personally. They go ahead and yank out four careers from the game, yet none of them happen to be High Elves, which are – to me – fingernail-pulling painful of a concept. So whereas I had a lovely three classes to peruse through with the Dwarfs and Empire, I’m staring down four High Elf haughty faces in this next phase of testing.

Oh well, I’ll try not to whine too much. I began with the Archmage, keeping in mind that Archmagery will eviscerate me if I say anything negative about the class. You will, won’t you? Thus, Spleensearcher began her career and I felt a little part of me die. Although I did get my initial angst out on elves in carrying a long tradition of my newbie MMO experiences.

Let’s back up a bit. I have two personal traditions I always do when starting a new character. The first is that I almost always roll a female toon. That topic’s been beaten to death – shocker: guys play GIRL characters!?! – so we’ll just get past it. It’s what I do, I don’t care what you think, na na boo boo. My other tradition involves de-robing right out of the gate. Now, I’m not a streaker at heart, but I like just getting rid of the crap gear (except for the weapon, obviously) that MMO devs seem to bless us with at level 1. Get rid of it, I say! Cast it to the wind! Let’s really start with nothing and see where we can go!

So, Spleensearcher got nekked. Although I’m not one to be really into this sort of thing, if playing virtual Barbie doll with your MMO characters is “thrilling” to you, then WAR will probably satisfy. I think every character, guys included, look like they just popped out of a lingerie catalogue. Spleen had a teeny tiny bra and a pink thong (!). I think she just wanted full Kevlar body armor, but unfortunately the commissary was closed.

Archmage. Right. The Archmage is a mix between a traditional caster and a traditional healer, pretty much split down the line 50/50. Of course, when you have a class that can heal it almost doesn’t matter what else they can do – they’re a HEALER, shut up and heal me nub. You start out with one healing spell, Healing Energy, and one direct damage spell Radiant Lance. By the way, I’m renaming Radiant Lance to “Rainbow Static”, because it shoots out a Care Bear Shine and sounds like someone’s TV is on the fritz.

The mechanic of the class is a yin-yang ball in the center that’s divided between Focus and Tranquility. The more damage spells you cast, the higher the Tranquility number goes up (to 5), and vice versa. Once you get that number high, skills that use Tranquility (such as healing) have their icons light on fire. Then you can cast those skills cheaper or to more effect. It’s an okay mechanic, but nothing terribly special.

So I went about trying to bring down the High Elf society from within, which mostly meant running around in my skivvies and trying to jump off cliffs. I do have to admit that the newbie area is pretty neat, with the Dark Elves’ Black Arks assaulting the island – those things do look imposing.

I completed a few quests, found one quest in the middle of nowhere where a Dark Elf was being tortured by a ball of light (yet, hilariously, if I clicked on him he gave very calm voiceover comments like “I will eat your liver for dinner”). Like the Dwarfs, there is a quest that uses huge ballistas to shoot down harpies – fun, although I really, REALLY wish I could inverse the mouse movements on it.

I drifted through a few quest zones, la de da, nothing special. At levels 3 and 4, the Archmage gets a pair of nice DOTs, which are types of spells I’m pretty fond of from my WoW warlock days. I’m still impressed (and something a bit overwhelmed) with how much “war” is really going on. There’s not a lot of peace and quiet in the newbie zones – NPCs are running everywhere, fighting, and cannon blasts puncture the air from time to time.

I finished my time with Spleensearcher doing the first PQ in the area. It was similar to the newbie Empire one – stage one was to kill guards, stage two was to protect good guys (by making sure that no more than 19 of them are killed), and stage three was the boss – in this case a beastmaster and his pet hydra. We only had two people to fight the boss, and Mr. White Lion over there couldn’t hold his aggro. So heals aside, it was a quick trip to the “Quit Game” prompt.

Oh, and I did get a cool Tome unlock! It’s hardly a secret, but if you click on yourself 100 times, you get the “Ow My Eye” title, which is so worth feeling foolish for going clickclickclickclick for about five minutes.

Quick Notes:

  • High Elves do, in fact, put their noses in the air a lot in their idle animations.
  • It’s subtle, but I finally noticed that questgivers have a color scheme to their quests: a green ball by the quest name means you have yet to get it; a yellow ball means you’re still in the middle of the quest; and an orange ball means you’re ready to turn the quest in.
  • At this point in the beta, many of the emotes were nonfunctioning, and the /katadance sent my character in to an unstoppable jiggly dance thing, which continued even if I was in combat.
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Gold – The Color of WAR

August 26, 2008

Another panty-bunching moment of joy — Warhammer Online’s officially gone gold as of today. It’s one of those milestones that may or may not mean anything to you, but to many devs and players, it’s the day where the game passes the point of no return and is confirmed to actually launch. Discs are being printed, boxes assembled, and somewhere out there, a lone Collector’s Edition is being put together in the hopes that it will find me come September 18.

This is… cool. Undeniably cool. But I’m still in that mode where I’ve been anticipating something for so long that I’m emotionally neutral… I guess that’ll definitely change come September 17, eh? I’m just never doing that thing again where I stand outside a store at midnight to get a video game that I could get just as easily if I drove in at 8:00am.

There was a comment on my last post I wanted to answer directly, in regards to “Where do I go to read what the Mythic devs are saying?” The three best places for this are: the Herald, WHA’s Dev Post forum, and VN boards (look for red posters).  Hope that helps!

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Are You Calling Me… Chicken?

August 26, 2008

In his latest post at Player vs. Developer (PvD combat is so sweet), Green Armadillo taunted me personally with the news/speculation that Blizzard is ramping up its Wrath of the Lich King profile to try to counter Warhammer’s tsunami of publicity. I am not an oak; I am a weak-willed chicken who has to take the fight whenever Biff Tannen calls me out. Nobody… calls me chicken.

Well, nobody did either [sideways smiley face]. Really, it’s not anything new — we’ve seen this tug-o-war for press mindshare between Blizzard and Mythic ramping up for months now, and it only stands that just as WAR is nipping hard at the heels of Blizzard’s aging buffalo, the beast won’t take it without a few horn swipes of its own.

I actually still keep up a bit with World of Warcraft by subscribing to WoW Insider, but I have to tell you, even if I was still playing, the news about WotLK would leave me cold.  They’re once again trying to reinvent/overhaul the entire game, wiping out years of hard-earned progress in exchange for a giant RESET button.  If you thought you knew your class, you probably don’t any longer, as new talents and skills and heavy-handed manipulation of the roles have sent several classes into disarray.  It’s a game where, for all intents and purposes, Blizzard would much rather forget levels 1-60 and just start every character at 61… and, oh, hey, they’re sort of doing that with the Death Knight.

I remember way back when they first announced the DK and my immediate thought was: ONE new class?  And they don’t expect the servers to suddenly become flooded with them?  I really feel bad for any current tank classes… but really, this is all indicative of Blizzard’s standard operating proceedure.

One of the greatest things about getting to know Mythic this year is that this is a dev team that isn’t bunkered down inside walls of secrecy, obfuscation and arrogance (although they sometimes have their moments).  They’ve just been terrific talking to the community, going above and beyond to communicate when hot button issues pop up, and they’re not taking the Hillary Clinton route of inevitability.  They’re a scrappy fighter, a David standing up to Goliath on the battlefield, except that David has his own giant publisher at his back as well.

I’ve read it again and again — people from all MMO backgrounds wish that their previous game’s devs would just talk with them as much as Mythic does.  City of Heroes did a terrific job as well, but Funcom?  Blizzard?  Turbine?  Meh.  By allowing the playerbase to see a bit of the inner workings at Mythic, the decision making processes, the admission of mistakes or problems, we get the feeling of being invited into an inner circle of trust that isn’t too common in this genre.  It’s a huge step toward getting both players and devs on the same side of the fence, instead of separated by miles of mines, barbed wire and exploded chickens.

The “I wanna be on the side of right” part of Syp really hopes that Lich King stumbles in sales, Warhammer does surprisingly awesome, and other MMO titles will realize that Blizzard isn’t infallible or unassailable.  But hey, if Lich King does great and WAR does great and life goes on?  I’m okay with that too.  There’s room enough online for both.

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