Archive for the ‘Realm vs. Realm’ Category

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Zone Control: Does It Matter?

November 9, 2008

In the recent Grab Bag post on the Herald, Missy Hatch tackled a subject that I’m sure was burning on no-one’s mind: Zone Control Overview. Zone Control was one of those features that was much-lauded in the beta previews, because it is a pretty nifty idea that plays into the concept of a dynamic, changing battlefield. Theoretically, Order and Destruction would vie for control of each zone, pushing their respective blue or red meters to a sweet spot that would trigger a takeover of the zone and make the opposing faction shake their fists and go “curses!” like a moustache-twirling villain.

Yet here we are a month and a half into the game, and zone control is all but forgotten in the mad rush for keeps, BOs, scenarios and PQs. Most people I know, myself included, only have a fuzzy idea what zone control does for us or how we can directly affect it through our actions. So Mythic has an uphill battle here: to educate us on Zone Control, to make us care about it, and to show that we can make a difference collectively while still feeling useful individually. Let’s see how they’re doing:

1. Educating us on Zone Control.

Missy’s article is a clear indicator that Mythic knows how few players are cognizant or caring about the Zone Control system — they even refer to it as “the mysteries of Zone Control”. Mysterious? Ooh! If you’re not up for reading the whole article, here’s the gist:

  • Zone Control is based on a percentage pool that is affected by players killed, quests completed, scenarios completed, and BOs and Keeps taken. If you’re doing more than the enemy in these collective areas, then your side’s meter will fill and theirs will shrink, and vice-versa.
  • Owning all the BOs and Keeps in the zone does not necessarily give you Zone Control, just contributes toward it.
  • You can get points for your zone if your side is queuing up for scenarios and the enemy is not (like forfeiting).
  • There’s something called “Prior Zone Control” that, as far as we can understand it from an incredibly confusing paragraph, looks to give your side a boost in control points if your side is dominating lower tiers in the same pairing. Or something. Seriously, there’s a lot of math involved in this and we’re sure it’s not explained as well as it should be.
  • Points degrade over time.

It’s sort of straight-forward and sort of not. What most players will take away from this — if I may make an assumption here — is that “if we do more stuff in a zone than the enemy, we’ll eventually take the zone.” The math behind it is pretty much invisible except for the red/blue bar above the map.

This is, I’ll grant, a good start to furthering player understanding of Zone Control — but does it go far enough? How do people learn about this in game? What about rewards? How do I easily see how each side is doing in that tier?

* A thought — the Tome of Knowledge should have a section that holds all of the information released in the Grab Bags (Q&As, articles, etc.).

2. Making us care about Zone Control.

Unfortunately, this is where Missy’s article ends, before telling us why we should care in the least about who controls what zone. Unless you’re the most idealistic player who fights for the glory of your side on principle, most people just won’t care. Why should they? They need a carrot to get motivated.

So let’s dig a bit deeper and figure out what rewards or punishments are meted out if your side or their side controls a zone. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • When your side flips a zone to your control, all players on your side in that zone receive a renown boost and a buff.
  • Hover your mouse over the Zone Control bar to see what buffs your side gets as long as you control the zone —
  • If you lose control of that zone, you no longer are able to fly into the zone from other flight masters, but may fly out of the zone.
  • Tier 4 is where Zone Control really matters: to take an enemy’s fortress, you have to flip Zone Control in different zones to push the fight to the doorsteps of the fortress, at which point it may be attacked. Take two out of the three enemy fortresses, and their capital city becomes available for siege.
  • Because of “Prior Zone Control”, players in lower tiers can contribute to the tier 4 battlefront in an indirect fashion.

Is this enough to make people care? In tiers 1-3, I’d have to say “no”. Why should they? For a buff and to avoid a travel penalty? That’s not going to make any gamers pee their pantsuits in excitement, I’d wager. For tier 4, it’s a system that helps to define a back-and-forth battlefield struggle, and since it is necessary to proceed to city sieges, people will have to care or simply not progress any further.

I’d like to see Mythic explore more “carrots” to entice players to care about that little Zone Control meter, especially in lower tiers. Another unique influence bar perhaps?

3. Show that we can make a difference collectively while still feeling useful individually.

The general feeling of apathy surrounding Zone Control by the population probably stems from this point. Players are going to do what they’re already doing, and if it helps their side out, then great — yet if their side is losing control, what can they really be expected to do about it? I’d imagine the only real answer to that is to get control of the BOs or Keeps, as that’s the most visual indicator of what your side is currently doing. If I’m already queuing up for scenarios, or doing quests, or fighting in open RvR, what more can I be expected to do? Raze a few houses?

Some have suggested that the entire focus of Zone Control be boiled down to BOs, Keeps and oRvR kills. Period. Others worry that defending RvR players actually feed more victory points to the dominating side, thus giving them incentive NOT to fight. I’ve even heard that players try to stay away from certain zones if they’re highly contested, because by showing up and not contributing enough to the plus points, they’re actually leeching points away from their side (“defending by not defending”, etc.).

Also, in a time where players are concerned that there’s too much focus on scenarios and not enough on oRvR, scenario contribution to Zone Control gives little incentive for players to stop queuing up and head out to the world battlefield.

Suggestions:

  • Simplify Zone Control, especially how points are tallied. This is Mythic’s vision and I’m not here to say they have to hone it down to just oRvR, but the entire system needs to be easy and intuitive for players to understand.
  • Holding BOs or Keeps should give your side a steady stream of victory points, not just a one-time boost. Kind of like holding on to a murderball.
  • Using scenarios for Zone Control points should be seriously looked at, addressed or outright eliminated, especially with players queuing up for cross-pairing scenarios. They’re not realistically fighting for any one zone when they do that — even if it happens in the game, it’s not happening in their minds.
  • Give us more detailed numbers on how Zone Control is being tabulated.
  • Clear up the world map to help visually indicate how Zone Control is working along different tiers and zones.
  • Give players more incentives to contribute to Zone Control and care about the status of a zone — perhaps if your side “flips” a zone, special quest givers, vendors or areas are unlocked for your side alone (sort of how Halaa in WoW’s Burning Crusade functioned).  In a limited fashion we have this, such as certain Sergeants that give you healing or crafting buffs if your side controls that BO and you talk to them.
  • Along that line of thought, Battlefield Objectives should offer players rewards for attaining and holding it past just a renown/XP bump — much like how Keeps have loot bags, renown trainers and renown vendors.
  • For punishment, why not increase the number of roaming mobs hostile to the losing faction in that zone? For instance, if Order loses control to Destro, then there’s more mobs hostile solely to Order that start showing up everywhere, making it a more difficult place to traverse and quest for a time.
  • If a zone flips to one side’s control, there should be visual indicators across that zone — perhaps dead Destruction bodies litering the ground if Order wins, or Order buildings burnt down if Destruction wins.
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Death and the City

October 31, 2008

I am no stranger to the Grim Reaper (or whatever he is in the Warhammer universe) in WAR; heck, he and I have become poker buddies due to the amount of time I’ve spent in his realm, and I’ve asked him to be my kid’s godfather. Death doesn’t bother me — click, respawn, hit the healer (ouch!), get back in the game — but how I die does. Doing PvP in WAR is like playing tag with an invisible ghost; I plod along until something I can’t see taps me on the shoulder, and then I’m dead. Boof.

Oh, I’m getting hit. Hit for a LOT, apparently. Where is it coming from? Is it like manna from heaven, being freely given to me even though I did not ask for it? Is it the damage fairy coming by to bless me with hearty red numbers? I don’t know. Soon, I am dead, and the point is moot.

How did I die? As a guildie helpfully suggested, why don’t I just scroll up my combat log?  This is a problem, since it approaches Stephen King novel-size lengths in each engagement.   I could do that, sure, but my feeling is that I’m not paying by the month to do research after combat to figure out what happened. We depend a lot on visual cues in games to give us feedback on what’s going on. One-on-one combat is usually okay, especially with PvE mobs (who only have a couple abilities to begin with), but it seems to me that a lot of career abilities lack significant visual cues to help that move stand out and be recognized. This is especially bad when they’re long-range damage skills, and even worse when you have no idea who’s dishing it out (engage in zerg vs. zerg combat and you know what I mean).

A Witch Elf comes over to me, and even though I don’t see her do anything special — just a few knife thrusts — suddenly I’m dead. Did she use special abilities? Anything I could’ve blocked? I don’t know. A sorceress stands on a rock and waves her arms around. What’s she doing? Who’s she aiming at? No clue. She might be practicing cheers for all I know. A guy on my side heals me, I guess, because green numbers start flashing by me — but the little icons under my name are too small to see clearly, and I don’t have time to tooltip over them to see if an Archmage or Runepriest is helping me out.

This is why the skills that ARE very visually distinctive tend to be the ones players react the strongest to. It’s unsurprising to me how often my turrets are targeted by Destro — it’s not because they’re high damage-dealing machines, but because everyone a mile away can see me laying them down and see where the damage is coming from. Visual cue, kill.

Bright green stream coming from a goblin? Must be a Shaman, and now I have a new priority target. Large ugly purple circle on the ground (which a friend lovingly calls “cowpies”)? Get out ASAP, those hurt a lot. Big swirlie purple strings? Can’t be good to stick around those. The black raven over your head? You’re a marked man, my friend. A Runepriest’s moves are very flashy and distinctive, yet a Zealot’s tend to be flinging tiny flasks and hand waving. These are great visual cues that help out a lot, but unfortunately, there’s just not enough of them.

The end result is, really, mass chaos. That’s kind of fun for ten or twenty minutes, especially if you’re not being targeted for invisible death, but after a while I really want to know what’s going on, to be able to read the battle better. I’m sure some of that will come with more experience, or if I get that combat text scroll mod, but this needs to be looked at. I never know how far away I have to be to stay outside of someone’s melee range, and the lack of blood spurting on my person or flashy impact points give me little clue whether I’m getting hurt a lot from them at this second (and don’t even get started on combat lag, where people perform moves but the damage comes a lot earlier or later depending on the whim of the game hamster).

So that’s my plea. Continue to tighten up skill keys/responses (please, Mythic, tell me you’re not done working on that or the lag issue), and provide better visual cues for the battlefield.  RvR is fun, but give me the tools I need to become a master.

Of death.

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Altdorf Falls, Players Freak, Mark Responds, Trolls Abound

October 13, 2008

An actual, successful city capture is not something I really wanted to tackle first thing this week — it’s Monday morning, I’ve yet to down a single cup of coffee, and my workload is ramping up.  But since it’ll look kind of weird if I don’t talk about what everyone else is buzzing about… here goes nothing!

So yesterday (Sunday) a large group of Destructoids got together (I’ve heard anything from 300-700 players) to take the two fortresses and then besiege Altdorf on the Averheim server (US).  You can read a pretty good writeup at Stunty Stomper here.  Unlike the faux-siege of a week or so prior, this appears to be completely legit without any exploits, and took around 7 hours to complete.

From what I can tell, the player base seems divided on this news.  On the “cool!” side, people admire the effort it took, the coordination, the timing and the world (game) first.  Seven hours doesn’t make this a “pushover” event, and players who participated (against virtually no defenders) had an incredibly tough go of it.  The king did not fall, as the players lacked the gear to get in there and get the job done.

On the “bogus!” side, however, the feeling is that this major centerpiece of the RvR system in WAR came far too soon, did not offer much of a chance for Order players to respond at those early hours, and represents a failing on Mythic’s part.  There’s been many discussions over the past year how long it would take for the first city siege to happen, and now I guess we know the answer.  The more extreme voices on the forums are crying that it’s the end of the game as we know it, and everything from here on out will just be reheated grilled cheese sandwiches.

Mark responded, and I’ll repost his entire reply here:

Folks,

*Assuming* that no exploits were used and that destruction didn’t take advantage of any of the things that will be fixed/tweaked in the next patch, then they deserve congratulations for the first taking of a city. I’ll get the full scoop on this this week.

Now, as to the whole 2AM thing, well, if you want to play an RvR game, there will be times where one side will have a numbers advantage and they will use that advantage. The fact that this is the only city that has been taken out of our 55 servers means that the system is certainly not broken, borked or really messed up. If this had already happened on just our high pop servers, well, then maybe we’d be a little worried but we are 3 weeks since the game’s launch and a city has been taken on only one server. From what I’ve heard, destruction got real organized and did what a large organized force would do against a non-organized (not disorganized since there is no inherent overall organization unless the players make it so) force, they defeated that force. We will look at all the data, look at what’s going in 1.0.3 and if we need to make some new tweaks, we certainly will do so but again, a city has only been taken on one server so far in 3 weeks.

What amuses me about some of the stuff people have been saying is that on one hand, people say “Gimme more open RvR!” but on the other hand *some* people are saying “But it’s not fair, they had more people than us!” and at the same time some people are saying “We hate scenarios!” If you want a true open RvR game then you should not complain about numerical or time-of-day advantages in terms of “Mythic FIX!” This is why it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to satisfy all the different needs/wants of the players. We can’t make sure that all realms have the exact same population no matter what we do even if we were draconian in our efforts. No MMORPG of this type (DAoC, WoW, etc.) has ever had an exact 50/50 split and I doubt any will. We can’t force the players to all log on to the game at the same time. If we were to say that city sieges could only happen during a certain time then we would still have people complaining, saying “It’s our time Mythic, let us attack it when we damn well want to!!!” or “Our alliance can’t get things going until late at night and Mythic is stopping us from attacking!!!!” and if we buffed up the defenses like crazy, people would say “OMG, now nobody has to defend the city, this isn’t fair. This isn’t an RvR game!” etc. People have been saying “Where’s the war in WAR Mythic????” and now that a very organized group has taken a city without exploiting (apparently), now some people are saying “OMG, you mean we could lose because they were more organized and willing to fight? That sucks!”

Again, I’m not saying that the taking of Altdorf was perfect, done beautifully, working as intended, etc. since I don’t have all that data yet. I’m also not saying that after looking at the data we aren’t going to tweak things. However, I will say that if destruction did everything they needed to do lead up to the siege *properly* and then took it over a 7 hour period, that was a pretty special event. And in the coming weeks as we add more rewards and incentives for defending a city as well as the disincentives, I hope that people will more readily leap to the defense of their cities if they come under siege.

As to the whole “But we didn’t know about city being under siege thing” well, I’ll talk to the team this week and make sure that the notification systems that are in the game currently are working as they should be and even if they are, I’ll do a review and see if they need to be buffed up some more. However, if people don’t want to leave what they are currently doing in order to defend their cities, that is their choice not ours. We’ll provide the incentives/disincentives for participating in the defense of a city but it is, as always, up to the players to make their own choices about this aspect of the game.

Mark

Perhaps it’s because I lack a cup of coffee in me yet, but I’m just not in a tizzy about all this as some folks are.  If this was a legit capture, then I say “kudos” to the players who did it, and I’ll go back to playing the game happily later on today.  The fact that the city was captured doesn’t spell the end of anything; city captures were going to happen — the game is built for that.  It doesn’t offer the players a permanent impact on the world, but it does make for a tremendous event, dole out special rewards, and reshape the battlefield.  Eventually, the pieces will reset and the game begin anew.  If anyone has a problem with this in WAR then they have a problem with pretty much all MMOs except for a small handful — there is no permanence in these games, it’s all an illusion to buy into to have fun and play something on a grand scale.

However, the valid concern that most people have here is that this just seems too soon for a game that hasn’t yet reached its launch-plus-one-month mark.  I’m amazed there’s that many rank 40 players (or at least upper-T4), although I have no idea what their gear looks like or what RR they’ve attained.  I have no doubt that Mythic will be examining this event very carefully to see if they’ve overlooked any gaping holes in their RvR pyramid, or if everything came together for these players like a perfect storm and allowed them to take over a city legitimately yet with minimum opposition.

Coffee.  Coffee now!

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Keep Trying

September 25, 2008

Miracle Max: Bye bye boys! Have fun stormin’ da castle!

Valerie: Think it’ll work?

Miracle Max: It would take a miracle. Bye bye!

After a long hard day at work, it’s a twisted thing to come home and immediately enlist in a grueling, bloody campaign to conquer a near-impenetrable fortress. “We’re storming the castle, Syp!” my guildies said. “Come! We need a battering ram!”

“I don’t have a…” I paused. “Is this because my helmet is made out of steel?”

I was thrilled. All a-quiver. Neck hairs standing up — finally, I would be able to partake in some down-and-dirty keep sieging for the first time (my previous experience was more of a mass battle at the side of a keep, but we never entered it) — I joined a warband and made my way down to Ostland/Troll Country, where two keeps and a slew of Battlefield Objectives, or “BO’s”, awaited.

Yes, it was an unfortunate acronym: “Hey, get a load of that BO!” “This BO feels right at home.” “I can’t wait until we’re done with this BO.”

I forget the name of the keep we first attacked, but it was a gorgeous-looking castle squatting in the twilight, and prime for plucking, as no serious Destruction defense was present. We charged in through the front doors, screaming like banshees, and then stumbled back to avoid picking up aggro from the NPC defenders. “MEDIC!” someone screamed. Another person merely sobbed for their mama as the battle heated up.

I discovered that, as you may have noticed, it’s somewhat of a futile exercise to take screenshots of people fighting in a keep battle. Sure, it seems all dramatic and Braveheartish, but it’s like you’re thrown into a rave full of highly armored dancers who have giant neon signs above their head announcing who they are and what their nickname is. Being a dwarf, most of my view was kneecaps anyway, so I tried to stay out of the way, lay down turrets, and blindly toss grenades onto whatever red name I’d targeted.

Soon enough we had the keep under our command, but since our guild is only rank 11, we couldn’t claim it as our own and start throwing futons down everywhere.  We did manage to get a few screenies of our victory:

All high on success, we linked hands and skipped merrily to our next conquest, another keep in the area that was home to all manner of dirty elves and crusty chaoses and gross greenies.  The attack this time around was more brutal — as we set up a battering ram, the defenders rained down death, insults and a very tasty pudding that I like to describe as “vanilla strawberry” upon our heads.  I quickly learned that ranged attackers and defenders are important to this stage in a siege — the defenders, because they can obviously try to whittle our ranks down somewhat, and for us attackers, because it keeps the bad guys at bay.  I couldn’t count the number of times I fired a couple rounds into an enemy on the parapet, only to have them duck away quickly.  Hey, anything that keeps them from attacking us is a plus sign in my book.

Once inside, our luck quickly turned.  Defenders obviously have the advantage, with powerful NPCs aiding them in the fight.  It’s hard to decide where to allocate attention — do you take out the NPCs first, letting the enemy players have a free hand in slapping you around, or do you take your punishment from the NPCs while you push back the baddies, or do you try to deal with both?  Mass panic and confusion were the order of the night, after two failed attempts to surge in and reach the second floor, we resigned ourselves to the fact that it wasn’t going to happen with the numbers at our command.  So off to more BOs and yummy renown we went!

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On PvP

September 22, 2008

One of my biggest holdups from initially getting interesting in WAR was the concept of a game built around a solid PvP core. One of my biggest reservations since I started following the title was that I would just end up hating PvP, and by association, the entire game as well. It’s a heckuva leap of faith that Mythic’s asked of me, considering just how much I’ve come to dislike PvP in other MMOs and first person shooters.

Partially, it’s because I’m 32 and have slowly lost the cutting edge twitch skills I used to have as a teenager, and any game where twitch > strategy/skill is a game I’m going to suck at. Partially it’s because of the community in those games, where PvP is something only nasty, foul-mouthed pit bull-types engage in, trying their hardest not only to dominate you, but to actually hurt you so bad that you never want to play that game again. It’s pretty much the opposite of “sportsmanship”, where teams try their hardest but at the end there’s high fives and mutual respect. I think the most mutual respect I ever got in a WoW battleground was a one-minute macro of a rogue /spit, /laugh, /point, /dance on my corpse.

So into Warhammer Online I went, a guy who’s always been more partial to the challenges of PvE than the raving chaos of PvP. I am exactly the type of person that Mythic wants to convert to the secret joys of PvP… but that depended on how they constructed and safeguarded their PvP system against griefers, idiots and morbidly unfair matchups.

Notice I didn’t say “RvR” — I’ve yet to participate in a full-fledged keep siege or any significant open world PvP since launch, but I have been diligently hacking away at T1 and T2 scenarios like the little Engineer with a death wish that I am.

And after a good week of post-launch play, I have to say… it ain’t half bad. I mean, of course I stink at it like curdled milk. If you’re Destruction on the Phoenix Throne server and you want an easy kill, just look for my name and I’d be glad to oblige. I’m like the fast food drive-thru of renown points for that side. It’s partially because, like I said, I’m kind of suicidal with my character. I will not hesitate to jump off a cliff if you’re running below, just to get all up in your “bid’nes”, even though it means my health will fall to a meager little green sliver and you’ll just have to cough on me to finish the job. I follow the zerg until something interesting catches my eye, and then I’m all like Homer Simpson with ADD. I have illogical grudge matches against enemy players I feel have wronged me somehow, and I will charge deep into their zerg just to throw a couple shotgun blasts to his face before being flayed alive.

I have seen death, and I am not afraid of it. It is most agreeable.

This is not to say that I’m not a team player, or trying to hone my skillz (the “z” is silent) significantly. I’m all about protecting flag carriers with my barb wire fart (my dwarf makes a kind of squat-and-grunt motion when she throws barbed wire onto the field, so I just assumed it was a by-product of too much cheese), or keeping ranged distance as often as possible to plink away at Witch Elves (oh, how I loathe you, Witchies) from a football field’s distance away.

Part of the discovered joy for me is that PvP is quick, exciting and once dead, I can quickly get back into the game. Enemy players, thus far, have not spent loads of time emoting to my corpse and making me feel bad, and the complete lack of corpse camping is a wonder for the ages. I don’t even feel like I’m wasting my time in scenarios — often I’m working on multiple quests (last night I killed a guy in a T2 scenario and no less than FIVE quest update popups filled my screen), gathering renown and xp, and even getting the occasional scrap of loot that isn’t needed by a Bright Wizard who must be starting a museum collection for Engineer armor which is the only reason I can think of of trying to ninja my gear since it CLEARLY states “ENGINEER” you nimrod!

Our guild is fairly casual, yet growing in numbers and ranks, and before too much longer we’re anticipating taking keeps — or barring that, throwing our bloody corpses against keep doors in a futile effort to induce sympathy on the part of the defenders. “Hal… look at that. Let’s let them in.” “No.” “C’mon, they’ve been trying to take this place for five days straight… they could use a scrap of victory.” “No.” “I peed on your toothbrush.” “WHAT?!?” “Dude, I’m Destruction… I’m eeeeeevil!”

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Open Servers: Closed For Fun

September 6, 2008

See what I did there?

Let’s walk through a bit of the current furor/discussion/light-hearted murder over the new Open Server ruleset. In the 4.1 patch, Mythic has tentatively put out Open Servers, with the following restrictions features:

-Players are always RvR flagged from the moment they log in
-Chapter 1 hubs and capital cities are safe
-There is no bolster buff in RvR lakes
-Players will be chickened when entering lower tiers of content

This is what we might call in other MMOs a “PvP Server”, except that because WAR is already so heavily dominated by a PvP presence, they had to think of a new term to emphasize “More PvP: Even When You Don’t Feel Like Doing It”. Hence, “Open” Servers, where PvP is all the rage, WAR truly is everywhere, and frustration will mount to extreme levels yet players will still call it “fun” because they don’t want to admit that they screwed up by picking the server.

A disclaimer: I spent a year on a World of Warcraft PvP server, first because it was a brand-new server and I wanted a fresh start, and then stuck with it because I found a great group of friends to adventure with and I hated the thought of leaving. Yet leave I did, finally, because I quickly learned the lesson of open-PvP servers: they’re breeding grounds for jerks who are given free reign to be even more jerky. Ganking, camping, completely unfair fights, etc. I couldn’t find a game fun where I had to constantly swivel the camera to look for ambushing rogues, where I couldn’t get a break from PvP if I wanted to peacefully quest, and where I could be free from harassment.

Because let’s be honest: nobody rolls on a PvP server looking for a fair fight, just the fights they can win. Snafzg tells part of a story about how a dwarf successfully ganked us mid-fight (scroll down to the comments to get a bit of my perspective on it). But there were two separate issues with this tale: one is that we were flagged for RvR having recently left the RvR area and the dwarf was not (which won’t be an extremely common occurrence on Core servers), and the second is that the dwarf got the drop on us only after we were engaged. Now the second issue, well, that’s life, and that will happen more often than not on open servers. The fact that it got Snaffy mad so that he wished he could’ve pre-ganked the guy (with 2 of us against 1 of him) doesn’t change the fact that ganking is what these servers are known for.

Now I’ll admit that the choice to play on a PvP — or Open — server is one of personal preference. If you can’t stand the thought of an enemy player passing peacefully by you without you having a shot at knocking their head off, if you couldn’t care less about non-PvP activities, or if you feel as though the prestige of playing on an open server is worth the extra difficulty, then more power to you. Really. This post isn’t here trying to sway people from the ruleset, because there are a lot of folks out there who find this sort of thing right up their alley. It’s a shame that they use this preference to constantly look down on people who play on regular/core servers and call them names, but oh well. Such is the burden of an internet ego.

Second disclaimer: since a few of my friends look like they’re going to play on an Open Server, I probably will have some characters there as well. But it doesn’t mean I have to like what Mythic’s doing in 4.1.

The real issue that’s popped up over the 4.1 patch and its Open Server ruleset is the last point in that section of the patch notes: “Players will be chickened when entering lower tiers of content.” We’re going to reserve full judgment until (1) we’re able to test this out or see other people test it extensively, and (2) we see if Mythic keeps this in after open beta or not. However, I take this to mean that if you’re in the level range for Tier 2 content and you go down to any of the Tier 1 zones, you get instantly chickened. Same with Tier 3’s going down to 2 or 1, and Tier 4’s going to 3, 2 or 1. And although Keen calls me “in the vast minority here… less than 1% of the total population” for considering this as anything other then a small restriction, I think he’s talking out of a part of his anatomy best reserved for post-Taco Bell ruminations.

Since I am going to play, part-time, on this ruleset, I have strong feelings about this, because it attacks or outright eliminates content in WAR — something I thought most people cared pretty passionately against:

  1. I am deeply concerned that restricting full-combat access to lower-tiered zones will make certain Tome unlocks impossible or near-impossible to attain. Of course, you may not care about Tome unlocks, and Keen might not care, but I do. And I’m sure the “<1% crowd” cares too. You know why? Because people are nuts for achievements and unlocks — look at any casual XBox Live player and the rampant obsession for getting every unlock in a certain game. Some hardcore players might poo-poo Tome unlocks as frivolous wastes of time, but I think — I know — they are going to be surprised how powerfully this sort of thing resonates with the majority of the gaming population. And to have anything threaten those potential achievements is a nerve-wracking thought.
  2. If you include fortresses and capital cities as playable zones, then the Open Server ruleset will chickenize you in 18 out of 37 zones. 18! That’s just a smidgen under half of the entire game zones, walled off from any effective use by Tier 4 players. As I said to Snafzg, people were howling for blood when 4 of the 6 capital cities were cut from the launch of the game, and yet the pro-Open Server peeps don’t seem to bat an eye at half of the rest of their content eventually being denied to them. I don’t know about you, but I value being able to go anywhere in a gameworld that I’m paying for, without being penalized being I’m “too high” for the area.
  3. Part of the fun of achieving a high level/rank in any MMO is the feeling of power and achievement. Almost everyone I know has enjoyed feeling like they’re in “God mode” by going back to earlier zones and smacking around formerly-feared mobs and flowing through the battlefield like a red-hot iron against the butter brigade. Not to mention that content, such as dungeons, that are skipped over (accidentally or due to other circumstances) are incredibly fun to go back and revisit as a high level. WoW made a pasttime out of it. It’s a small thing, but again, it’ll be denied to you on the open servers.
  4. It’ll penalize collectors and possibly crafters. Collectors because some suits of armor will be available only in lower-tiered zones (for example, from PQs), which also result in a Tome unlock in the Armory section. Crafters because you won’t be able to grind any low-level mobs for mats, but instead either have to purchase them from vendors or other players. Again, not a big thing, but again, it’s restricting content. See a running theme?
  5. And forget about running back to help out any friends who might need a big brother to power through a particularly tough quest or mob. But hey, being anti-social is what PvP servers are about, right?

Now, remember that I’m not saying Open Servers are evil, but it boggles my mind that any player can accept the denial of content without putting up a fight. And whether or not the lower-tiered chickenization is a bother to you, there’s absolutely no way you can deny that it isn’t closing off content. Congrats, you’ve reached the highest level in Warhammer Online: now you get less of the game for the same cost.

There has to be a better way for Mythic to handle this that will give the open-RvR crowd exactly what they want while not taking so much content away from the players.

But hey, what do I know. I’m under 1%, remember?

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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*