Archive for August, 2008

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Testing Your Patience

August 31, 2008

Tomorrow morning is Labor Day (US), September 1 (World), T-Minus 17 days until Warhammer Online.

Right now, with the exception of Elder testers on separate servers, nobody is playing WAR, and there’s a general feeling of restlessness.

The wait. Oh, sweet Zeus, the wait.

How are you doing? Is WoW’s 3.0 patch luring you back or making you second-guess your future allegiance to WAR? Are you so antsy that you’ve subbed up with another MMO to make it through the next 17 days? Or are you spending the interval reading up on every last scrap of WAR info, forum and blog post out there?

Are you going to wait for release at this point, having already tasted the fruits of beta to see what they held? Or do you need your fix so bad that, come the 7th, you’ll be hopping around in game once more?

Me? I’m fine. School gears up this week, fall programs at church the next — busy work will not escape me. Plus, I just picked up Final Fantasy IV for the DS, and I’m determined to get through a huge chunk of it by the 14th.

Two weeks. I’ve waited seven months. I’ve dug my trenches and bunkered down. WoW can take a flying leap off a diving board into an empty pool of promises, and I’ll move on with a clear conscience.

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First Impressions – White Lion

August 31, 2008

Many people say that no lion will respect a person with the name of “Underpants”, but they haven’t met me. Or my mentally defective lion.

Hi, thanks for joining me. Today, we dive into the final Order class, and the final (thank ZEUS!) High Elf visitation with the White Lion. For the uninformed, the White Lion is a guy who thought, “Hey, I’m gonna make me a career out of killing big cats!” Which, frankly, I’m all for. Syp no likee the cats. But then, around Big Cat Kill #224, something went skewy, and the guy decides that he wants to adopt one of the little cubs who he just orphaned by hewing its mother in twain. So little cub begins a lifelong adventure of conflicted interests, and you end up with a very disturbed relationship. It’s kind of like if Skeletor finally won and killed He-Man and all of the He-Friends, but at the last minute had a change of heart and adopted Orko to be his faithful bodyguard. Any sane person would put good money on Orko planting a blade between Skeletor’s shoulders within a week, but oh well.

So here we go – the first of the two “true” pet classes in WAR that I’ve played, and the only HE career I’ve even partially anticipated. I guess I kind of thought this class was a pointed joke aimed at World of Warcraft’s hunter class, what with the whole Elf/cat combo plaguing the entire landscape. It’s as if players couldn’t even fathom a different race for hunter, or a different pet than a dumb cat, and an ugly stereotype was born. The White Lion takes a dig even further, by essentially making this a melee hunter class – which was universally scorned in WoW.

Yeah. While most pet classes consist of pure cowardace – sending in your pet to be horribly maimed while you plink away with arrows and munch on Triscuits – the WL mixes it up by demanding you get up into the fray with your pet as much as possible. This is made due in part by a grant from the Giant Axe Corporation, which you swing all willy-nilly while your cat flinches more in fear from your poor handling skills than the enemy’s bite.

Honestly? I found it refreshing. It’s always great fun to have a pet, and by the time you hit rank 3 or 4, the lion starts pulling his weight in DPS. But at the same time you get to smack the bad guys with a giant two-handed axe, which makes you feel like you’re in a buddy-buddy relationship with your pet, not just one of extreme dominance and cruelty.

Okay – where to start? With Underpants, my goal was to see how far I could advance in quests, levels and gear within the span of an afternoon. I think I did pretty well, zipping along without reading any quest text (saving that for release, thank you very much), and achieving rank 5 ½ along with 40 Tome unlocks within a couple hours. I also got my very first trophy (via a quest), some “Scab Red Dye” to pretty up my armor, a green amulet with resistances and toughness on it, and my very first bag of PQ loot. More on the last thing later.

Underpants had a couple melee attacks at the start. There’s an axe toss which I ended up not using, ever – it ended up being a lot easier to run up to an enemy, start whacking away at him, and having my lion automatically attack with me. Speaking of which, your lion (I couldn’t figure out how to rename him, and he was more brown than white, but such is life) has three settings – passive, aggressive, defensive – and on defensive, he’ll end up attacking whatever attacks you, or the current target you’re attacking, even to the point where if you switch targets in combat, he’ll switch with you. You can also use a few hotkey shortcuts to send your pet in and pull him back (left shift + C to attack, for example), but again, it was just easier most of the time to attack myself and expect Catty to follow my lead.

I also had my power axe swing, which was nice, but I really enjoyed a couple of later skills that gave my pet all sorts of new DPS abilities, along with another skill that allowed the both of us to attack simultaneously for a good chunk of damage. Looking down the skill list, there are other “pet training” abilities, so I’m guessing it’s up to you to pick which training skill to equip your pet with for different situations.

Other than questing, what did we do? We did a scenario, in which Destruction steamrolled over us mercilessly. This may have been because their team consisted entirely of Sorceresses and Witch Elves, or maybe because I suck, personally.

Catty and Underpants spent a lot of time running through the first PQ, because I was bound and determined to win PQ loot before the day was through. It was tough, though – no matter how much I felt I participated, my contribution score was terribly low each time, and I got 6th, 7th and 8th place for my first three goes. I had a theory one or two of the other guys were like level 20 and doing far more damage than I ever could, but I don’t know. It didn’t seem very fair, somehow. I came back later and mopped up stage 3 of the quest with a pair of guys, finally winning a roll! Because there were only three of us! And I got third place! My life is horrible! I got some no-bonuses gloves out of the deal, yay me.

There was a fun quest we did that involved entering the basement of a tower, which felt a bit dungeony/lairish. We fought our way down (level 4 vs. level 2s was no sweat) and had to activate four runes in a room within a short time frame of each other in order to make our quest objects visible. That was neat. I also unlocked the 100 Dark Elves killed, so I think I got a bit of my elf angst out today. Ahh.

Quick notes:

  • I’m not sure, exactly, where the killing spree bonus thing kicks in. I kept an eye out for it on Underpants and it never popped up. Is this a PQ only thing? I’m not sure.
  • If you don’t have time to check out the new Tome unlocks when they happen, then just open the Tome at your leisure and click on the “new entries” line at the table of contents. It lays all the recent entries you haven’t read out for you, which is nice when you have a moment to breathe.
  • If people tell you that WAR’s combat is slower than WoW’s, feel free to unleash spittle in their face region. It never, ever feels slow past level 1 or so, and the fact that you regenerate action points really, really fast means little to no downtime. Suck on that, mana users!
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ChaosCast #6: WAR Beta Extravaganza!

August 30, 2008

We promised we would be back with more delicious post-NDA goodies, and back we are! The fellas of ChaosCast — myself, Keen and Snafzg — sat down the other night to chat about all sorts of topics we previously had to keep on the down low, including:

  • What was being in the beta for over a half year like?
  • What feminine mysteries does Keen behold?
  • Why does Syp always choose the hard way to do everything?
  • Will Chaos Dog return?
  • Is Snafzg always a cranky old coot?
  • What are we planning to do for the first week of release?

That… and SO much more, we ought to charge you rent! Tune in — it’s a really great episode, even if we start singing a drunken sea shanty toward the end (or do we?)!

Fun trivia question: to date, what are the six cartoon theme songs we’ve used at the end of ChaosCasts #1-6?

LISTEN TO CHAOSCAST #6: WAR BETA EXTRAVAGANZA!

As always, we want listener questions for next episode’s Blow Hole! Just ask us anything in the comments section of this post, and I’ll add them in to the next show.

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A Keep Too Far

August 30, 2008

With the advent of a new patch, the beta servers shoved all of the playerbase to level 31 (36ish when we had the battle boosting level buff on) to test out the tier 4 combat. Unfortunately, that put a dead halt on my newbie zone “First Impressions” series (8 careers to go!), and I felt reluctant to leap into higher level content — I wanted to save that for when I first experienced it as the game went live.

But boredom, as it so often does, won out, and I quickly chose a Bright Wizard template to fight with. It was a bit of a hassle to get into the game, as you have to train up all of your skills and masteries without really knowing what any of them were for or did. I just closed my eyes and clicked on the “train” button until it was wheezing and gasping for air. Good enough, let’s go.

I headed out into Reikland, checking over the map to see how it was divided up between the dual PvE zones (western side of the map for Empire, and right side, presumably, for Chaos, with the contested RvR area in the middle). I couldn’t find a vendor for a mount, so I hoofed it over to where the action was, hit the “open grouping” button to join a Warband of 35 people, and engaged the enemy at the foot of a largish keep.

Two thoughts immediately impressed themselves into my brain. The first was that this was the first taste of massive RvR battles, and it was just downright awe-inspiring. It wasn’t mass chaos, not really, but instead two large armies pushing forward and falling back, trying to hook around to flanks, taking out the exposed idiots who ran ahead or fell behind, Engineers laying down a defensive line, ranged dps having fun, and tanks forming a wall. It wasn’t perfect, mind you, but to a newbie’s eye, it looked as if people instinctively knew what role they were supposed to be playing and stuck with the team. Spells, shots, clangs and grunts were everywhere. It was exciting.

And completely unplayable. That was my second impression. I’m not sure how many people were on the screen at one time — 100? 150? 200? — but it was enough to stutter my computer down to a slow crawl. I still didn’t have my new graphics card in, so I was relying on my old GeForce 6800 (which did me just fine in WoW, Tabula Rasa, LOTRO, Mass Effect and so on). Plus, at this point in the beta, Mythic had set the graphics to one untweakable setting (or so I assumed: I tried to fiddle with things, but it all looked the same). And who knows how far the code will go to smooth things out — or what the real working code is at this point? All I knew is that I wasn’t able to do much in terms of actual combat.

Part of the problem that I’ve been encountering in scenarios and whatnot is that the enemy targeting circle ‘n pointer is far, far too dim against the colorful screen. It’s tough to tab-target someone and figure out just where they were, and even when I manually clicked on a guy, he often got lost in the mob. It got so bad I didn’t know which way to face at times. Plus, I’m just not too experienced with the skill activation and feedback. It’s sometimes hard to know whether you’ve hit a button right, whether it is firing off, or if you can’t hit another button because of the cooldown (which forces you to constantly be flicking your eyes to your action bar). Granted, a lot of this is lack of experience with the character, but I just ended up trying to target someone in the mob, mashing my number buttons, and feeling pretty ineffective all around.

It worries me if the code can’t get those battles smoother, because people with faster processors, more RAM and (most importantly) better graphics cards will be able to hold a distinct advantage in PvP over the rest of us. And since Mythic’s trying to get WAR into as many hands as possible, they have to be straddling a sane line between graphic fidelity and graphic performance.

After a little bit the game lagged to a halt and crashed on me, and I couldn’t summon up the urge to log back in just to be frustrated again. Don’t take this as a denouncement of all things RvR — I really can’t wait to fight in those types of battles when my machine and the game can run a bit smoother, and it looked absolutely fantastic. Here’s hoping *crosses fingers*

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Ask The Magic WAAAGH! Ball

August 30, 2008

For all my wordiness, right now I’m probably the *worst* person to talk to about All Things Warhammer. I’ve spent 95% of my beta experience in the Chapter 1 newbie zones, I’ve only once played a character over level 7, and I’m deliberately ignoring a bulk of videos, guides and other info gluts out there in exchange for having a richer, perhaps more surprising gaming experience next month. I know from history that sooner or later I’ll be up to date on every skill and nuance of the game, but why rush it?

This is why I’ve shied away from opening myself up to questions, not because I am soaring in the clouds of knowledge while you tread on the surly earth of ignorance, but because my knowledge is pretty patchy in spots. For example, the article I posted on Public Quests? Read the comments. People out there are SO much more knowledgeable on the whole deal that it’s kind of embarrassing to even try to talk about it.

But, again, I’m wordy, so I’m compelled to do so anyway.

I recently received an e-mail from Johnny “Koala Bear of Doom” S., and he asked me a whole bunch of questions that my limited one month of newbie zone beta experience probably can’t handle. Let’s see:

1) Zoning and instances. Please, above all else, go into depth about how the game is zoned, load screens, instances, If there are different instances of each zone, etc,etc. Also, when will I encounter a load screen? and in your opinion and that of your fellow podcasters, how badly do the load screens and gameplay overall break immersion? And what are the biggest immersion killers?

The only load screens I’ve seen are (a) when the game initially loads up, (b) when you log into the game, (c) when you take a flight path to a completely new zone (but not when you run from one zone to another, (d) and when you zone into a scenario. They have tips or lore on the loading screens, so at least there’s something to read. I’ll ask about “immersion killers” on ChaosCast #6.

2) Pre-Scripted PVP: aka battlegrounds, PVP where, well….how do I explain it? Its…premade for you? Such as arenas and battlegrounds. How are they setting that up? also, any special pvp deal such as arenas at lvl 40? Dont get me wrong, I think arenas are the wrong way to go, but I do enjoy some prescripted pvp.

Scenarios, scenarios, scenarios. If you want set up, structured PvP (verses the often-chaotic open world PvP), queue up for a balanced scenario. No arenas that I know of (thank God).

3) I’m confused about Raids….I like raids. I like pvp. I just do pvp more because I can pvp within 5 minutes of logging on. I cant get a raid together if I log on out of the blue. I enjoy both. How are they doing raids (if any) in this game?

Never done a raid, outside of joining a warband for a PQ.

4) Can you do a class review of the Black Orc for me? please 🙂

One is upcoming 🙂

5) I was interested in playing the shaman class, and I enjoyed the direction MYTHIC is taking it, where you are encouraged to heal and nuke. I played a shaman in wow, my biggest drawback was how I needed to go respec everytime I wanted to heal, and I needed different gear. The shaman class is not sounding too hot since I’m hearing its the most overplayed class. This leads me to my next point..

MYTHIC! Okay, I do know this: WoW Shaman != WAR Shaman. Sure, they both sort of nuke and sort of heal, but WAR’s shammies are much more vulnerable, with no melee value to speak of. I don’t think they’re going to be “overplayed” — healing classes rarely are — and while they’re fun, they’re reportedly not as durable as Runepriests or even Archmages.

6) Talent Trees(Mastery branches?). How are they doing ’em? What do I have to do to respec? And final question….

Mastery Paths, actually. You have three paths to choose from, one for each specialty in your career. It’s very linear, you just plug points into them (which boost the skills affiliated with that branch), and then an extra point for new skills, morales, or tactics along the way.

You can respec, I’m not sure for how much though.

7) Shaman mastery branches….If they are being encouraged to nuke AND heal, how do they choose a branch that dictates which one they will be better at? How are they doing the talent trees for the shaman?

You know what, go check out this article by Keen. He’s got it pretty well covered 😀

So, see? What do I know! I’m just a small town girl living in a lonely world.

(and I took the midnight train going anywaaagh…)

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Between Now And Then

August 29, 2008

There’s a lot of info flying about the WAR-webs (I coin that phrase! You must pay royalties or at least a tasty cupcake to use it!) concerning dates and patches and info concerning Warhammer Online. A lot of this will probably be old news to many of you, but it bears repeating because others still are confused about what’s going to happen over the next 20 days.

Currently: Mark Jacobs released a series of notes concerning fixes and tweaks from the Preview Weekend 3.3 patch — presumably, these notes detail a patch that’s currently loaded onto the servers. The notes include: pet pathing fixed and improved, NPC pathing, texture and graphic updates, stability, global cooldown fix, the tier 2 renown gear presumably tweaked so you can’t use it in tier one, and several updates to the widely-lauded Public Quest system, including better loot and more loot winners in general. Good stuff!

Soon: A new major patch — 3.4? — is in the works with several big features we’ve yet to see in WAR, such as player & guild vaults, auction houses (yay!), emotes, and a PQ/regular quest tracker. This should hit in time for September 7. Mark Jacobs has stated that there will be no “miracle patch” (a la Age of Conan’s infamous launch patch), just a few beefy ones between now and the period following launch.

September 7: Open beta. If you’re currently in the closed beta, elder beta or pre-ordered any version of Warhammer Online, you’ll be allowed to join in for a free week of beta preview. Presumably, other players will be allowed in as well. The closed beta client will patch up to this version — in fact, closed beta players won’t need to delete and reinstall the client at all between now and release; it’ll just keep patching up.

September 14 (Sunday): Head start for Collector’s Edition pre-orders only. CE pre-order players can access and play the live game client — for the first time ever — on this date.

September 15 (Monday): Head start for Standard Edition pre-orders (a three-day lead).

September 18 (Thursday): Warhammer Online’s official launch!

All in all, September is going to be a very busy month. Blizzard is trying to counter-program with a World of Warcraft 3.0 patch, so we’ll see if that will hold back a flood of potential defectors.

I do appreciate Mythic’s stance on patches to date. They’re very willing to (a) admit that there are problems in the game, (b) state what they’re working on and in what priority, and (c) keep us in the loop about future patches. Not to keep harping on Blizzard, but whenever Blizzard admitted to a mistake outside of “working as intended”, the world would grind to a halt for a bit as humanity looked on in total awe. MMOs are works in progress — yes, they are, so get over it — and I like that Mythic isn’t going to try to weasel its way under the radar when everyone knows what the problems are and where they are.

Snafzg will back me up on this — throughout all of beta, Mythic became famous for producing enormous patches on a regular basis that would severely upgrade huge chunks of the game, especially complaints from players. I’m sure there are probably bug reports that haven’t been addressed since the beginning of beta, but they have to be in the minority. We get the picture that Mythic is in serious crunch mode, and they’re not going to take half-assed as an excuse for release. They really can’t afford to. On September 18, it really is all on the line — EA’s funding and support of this gigantic project, fans’ multi-year following of the game, and the reputation of Mythic as a company that not only learns from its mistakes, but builds upon its successes.

On September 18, we’re going to see if lightning can strike twice.

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First Impressions – Shadow Warrior

August 29, 2008

I guess Mythic needed a dump class to gather up all the clichéd nutbars out there for the safety of the rest of us, and Shadow Warrior got the short end of that straw. What, you’re going to play Shadow Warrior? Oh, I’m sure you’ll be the exception to the Legolas-clone crowd who’s instantly attracted to anything with the word “shadow” in it, but I’m going to be over here sipping chai tea.

Nicotine the Shadow Warrior didn’t stand much of a chance with me. Bows and arrows, whoop-de-do. The SW is a high-dps class that offers a unique choice to players – do you want to be the long-range bow-and-arrow dps player, the short-range shoot-on-the-run fighter, or the in-your-face-with-a-pointy-sword guy? Heck, why not all three? Shadow Warriors have the ability to switch between Scout, Skirmish and Assault stances, with corresponding mastery trees depending on your lifestyle. And playstyle. It all boils down to how you want to do a butt-load of damage – I can see Skirmish as being particularly useful in PvP.

Although I’m never too thrilled to be playing Virtual Archery (I prefer shotguns, thank you very much), the SW’s handling of the bow felt a bit different and more authentic. For instance, the Eagle Eye shot skill had my guy lean back and shoot an arrow at a nice fat arc, with resulting twang and thunk. Nevermind that at this point in the beta you couldn’t see the string or arrow when he was pulling back, it still carried some weight to it. Later on, I got a quicker DOT arrow that I could shoot instantly, so it felt a bit more kickbutt to do an Eagle Eye followed by an instant shot and see both arrows land at the same time. Later on, at level 4, Nicotine got a damage boost skill that I’m sure would’ve come in handy if I had not already fed him to the woodchipper.

I did a couple rounds in scenarios, which was nice when I could shoot at a distance without anyone actually attacking me, but direct assaults usually ended badly. As I said, I would probably prefer a Skirmish attack style, just to be able to run and gun a bit more in heavy RvR.

All in all, if this class is what will fill your gullet, then you already know that. It’s not overly complicated – you just need to decide which of three ways you want to pour red hot damage down your enemy’s throat.

Quick Notes:

  • If you get snared or disabled, you get an “Unstoppable” buff that makes you immune to snares for a short time thereafter.