Archive for August, 2008

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What A Difference Four Days Make

August 29, 2008

Way back when, in the yonder days of early 2007, I pre-ordered Lord of the Rings Online and got into their “founding fathers” program or whatever they called it. The biggest incentive for me to do so was their promise that founders would be granted early access to the live game client, a head start of a week or more (I forget exactly how many days). There was a level cap of 15 put into place for that time period, but it was one of the most exciting opening days of a MMO I’ve ever experienced, and yes, I include WoW’s launch day in that.

The joy of it all was that, for that period of time, I felt like I was bumped up to the first class cabin — I got a bit of extra legroom, some more space between me and my neighbor, and the privilege to sample the goodies before anyone else. Guilds used that time to form, players started earning some money by gathering and crafting, and the level 15 cap made for a very interesting “end game”, which also encouraged you to try several alts in that time period.

Ever since they first announced the Collector’s Edition, I’ve been buzzed at the thought of the promised head start program. Having seen Warhammer Online’s newbie areas just swamped with players during the preview weekend, I’m looking forward to a short breather where it isn’t quite so nuts. Today, it looks like Mythic (or at least GOA) has announced the two head start dates: September 14 for Collector’s Edition pre-orders, and the 15th for Standard Edition pre-orders. Everyone else, including those who pick up the game off the shelf, will have to wait until the 18th to play.

Four days doesn’t seem like a lot, and in truth, it isn’t. I guess if you’re a mad, mad gamer, you could push yourself to getting to a decent level (I’ve yet to hear concrete “to level” times, so I’m not going to even speculate on how high a person might rank in four days), but for most people, it’s going to spread a good chunk of the initial playerbase between tier 1 and 2 zones, and get some good open world RvR going by that Thursday.

For me, the head start is important for two reasons. One, I want to reserve my favorite names, and I know I’m not alone in this. I wouldn’t be surprised if some folks had pre-ordered for the sole purpose of reserving names and nothing else. The CE head start is on a Sunday, which is a pretty heavy work day for me — I’m going to log on, snag names, and log off. The second reason is that I’m a completionist, and I like to explore and complete a zone before moving on. This’ll be easier to do in tier 1 without a million other players running all willy nilly all over the place.

And to be honest, I feel like I’ve been waiting on Warhammer for so very long that I hardly remember back when I wasn’t anticipating the title. Four days might not be much, but it’s four days sooner than it would otherwise be.

The only question I’m left to deal with is whether I’m going to take that Monday off work, or just wait until my typical day off — Thursday, WAR’s launch day.

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Hey Mythic?

August 29, 2008

Since you’re not keen on official forums and yet perfectly fine with letting Warhammer Alliance mods take up the slack by providing a forum for you to communicate with players, why don’t you just go ahead and put these mods on the payroll?

Added: Because the more I think about it, the more it gnaws away at me — all of the reasons why Mythic stated they wanted to avoid public forums are pretty much reversed by their over-dependence on WHA’s forums as a method of dev-player communication, except they don’t have to foot the bill for mods or do the dirty work of keeping the posters in line.

I think if Mythic wants their “no official forums” comment to hold water, they should’ve stuck with only the Herald as their official mouthpiece, or created a blog that lets them communicate in a structured way with players.

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A Third Faction: How Could It Work?

August 29, 2008

It seems to be a hot topic these days (see: /random, Keen, Tobold), and I’m just the sort of person who doesn’t mind hopping on a media train now and then as long as they’re serving all-beef hot dogs on the trip. The topic is: why doesn’t Warhammer Online have three factions? Or could it? Or will it?

This is a bizarre set of questions unless you consider that Mythic made a name for itself with a three-faction battle MMO — Dark Age of Camelot. In it, players aligned with Albion, Midgard and Hibernia to battle to see which of the three was just the duckiest of them all. It’s been proven to be done, but the question remains: why did WAR pare it down to two factions, and is there the possibility of a third in the future?

The answer to first question is obvious and has been answered already. In short, people identify most strongly with good-vs-evil, side A versus side B. Plus, having two factions keeps the game manageable. WAR was built from the ground-up to be a two-faction game, with tug o’ wars between zones and the overall world RvR war. I’ve never heard of an easy way to do a three-way tug o’ war, have you? Can you even imagine how complicated it might be to have a third faction competing for each zone, messing up the area influence meters, or tipping the scales by siding with one faction against another? I mean, if you thought people cry now because of perceived population imbalance, can you imagine how insane it would be with a third?

I think it’s most logical to assume that Mythic will keep the two-faction war from now until the end of Warhammer’s run. But it’s fun to speculate, eh? Here’s a few ideas that popped into my head, particularly when it comes to the next expansion or two:

(1) The safest bet for expansions is that they’re come out and feature a new racial pairing. It would be relatively easy to do and would plug in nicely into WAR’s dual-pairing zone structure. One race would be for Order, one for Destruction, and the war would continue, just a bit more broad. (As you might recall, I’ve predicted a Lizardmen vs. Undead pairing.)

(2) A third faction is introduced as a neutral faction that has the choice for fighting for either side. Roll this around in your mouth a bit — Warhammer Online: Dogs of War. Doesn’t it just… flow? Think of them as a hodge-podge of 3-5 races/careers that would start out in a new zone that has Order vs. Destruction NPCs competing, but the characters wouldn’t be aligned with either of them. Over the course of the zone, the Dogs of War (or whatever you’d like to call them) would be seduced and wooed and paid by both sides to come join them, and eventually the player would make a choice: to join Order or Destruction. Then, at the end of the zone there would be a RvR fight between the two newly-joined factions, and following that players would hop a flight to whatever tier 2 zone they’d wish.

(3) A third faction is introduced but is limited to fighting amongst itself. I’m thinking Warhammer: The Undead as a title and focus. One side would be the Tomb Kings, the other the Vampire Counts. They’d be plopped into their own tier 1-4 zones with a capital city struggle at the end, but wouldn’t be for or against Chaos/Order. Almost a separate game in its own right, but still connected to the larger game world via economy and perhaps scenarios.

(4) Mythic reworks the game from the bottom up to accommodate a third faction into the struggle (triangles will need to be used), and what is already chaotic war will get even more so.

Other than that, I don’t know how a third faction will come into play. As I said, option (1) is the most likely, but I really like the idea of (2) as well. What do you think?

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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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