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*


  1. Many optimisations came through and (though I’ll admit my machine is quite powerful) the tier 4 testing became a pleasant experience.

    I think the main idea for the focused tier 4 testing was for precisely that – server/client optimisation. Graphics in rvr scale down to provide better performance, and server stability and client responsiveness went way up.

  2. How much RAM does your comp have?

    I sure hope my computer will be able to handle that awesome action. >.>

  3. The issue may not have been entirely graphical. Each player action (movement, spell cast, target, etc) has to be communicated to the server AND then to all the other players in that particular area. The more players in an area, the more actions needed to be communicated to/from each player.

  4. That doesnt sound very good, but luckily im in Open Beta so I can test things out.

  5. This was my only real issue with Preview Weekend, laggin. Of course I blame the 50 some other newly minted level 1s next to me and the action, but when I turned the graphics down to Fastest Frame Rate and turned spells all off except for my own and it still lags in medium populated areas I worry. Not for the game itself, but I don’t plan on upgrading any time soon. I too hope the way they optimise the large RvR helps, as it should offer some trickle down effects to everywhere else in the game. (That’s not to say I don’t have a beefy pc, it’s a bit old in pc terms but I could run Quake 4 on Max settings without lag at all online or off yet I lag to stuttering amounts here. Old maybe, but still better than average joe casual gamer, and if I’m lagging on a better pc I know they’d be lagging worse. I think it would behoove Mythic to allow a 800×600 mode. High end gamers will still have their big resolution options and the ‘little guy’ that can’t afford a beefy pc will be praising the ability to actually do more than watch a fight. Slowly.)

  6. I was in one fight with 100-ish people on the screen. All I was rocking was a 8400GS. Was getting solid frame rates 20-50fps give or take. Never dropped below 15, though i got close when order decided to do a Bright Wizard alpha strike. That was a lot of explosions.

  7. […] Pre-order locked and loaded for 9/7. Everything is very encouraging… Very excited!! except… A Keep Too Far « Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog This is the only potentially negative issue on large scale RVR I have read. I am comforting myself […]

  8. 6800 is 4 GPU generations old,though supported, is not advisable to play with. Using a 6800 is like showing up to your first day of college and having your counselor assign you to Quantum Physics when your mind’s limits is in the intro Physics stage. Sure you can do it, but you cannot do it very well. Go into WAR with a computer that will keep you going in WAR for years to come, like many people did in WoW. Invest now, pays of later in little or no FPS drops.


  9. This is the second time I have read that you have had trouble targetting friends or foes. When I was playing in closed beta (CE version of it) I noticed a red arrow above enemies and a light blue arrow over friends. This was in addition to the directions shown on targetting circle around the base of our characters. That should help next time.

  10. My wife and I run GeForce 8600gt 512mb DDR3 video cards, with 2.5 and 3 gigs ram respectivly on P4s and the game runs like butter even in huge battles.

    I was actually amazed with the system performance at this stage of the games life cycle. When I started WoW in beta and early launch, the servers were so terrible that even my (at the time) uber compter had major problems until they replaced the server structure and optimized the client maybe 4-5 months in.


  11. Targeting in WAR is “twitch” while the rest of the gameplay is not. Try targeting a dwarf that is surrounded by a group of Orc for example. They need to move to a Cone of Fire\AOE system like in Planetside.

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