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Oh My RvR!

November 30, 2008

I know I’m pretty late to the party with the Open RvR announcements that Mark made last week — blame a great week away from it all in the sunny lands of Washington D.C. (lookit me, I’m palling around with Lincoln!) — but I’m back, and it’s time to tackle the leftovers of this news story.

As I said previous, Mythic’s newly stated priority on oRvR signifies a big shift in the game’s focus, putting a bulk of their chips into the hat they think will bring them the most fame, glory and subscriber numbers.  Time will tell on this — right now, my oRvR experience has been limited to joining roving bands of renown seekers who bounce from Keep to BO to BO to Keep, taking any that are undefended and avoiding actual conflict with enemy players.  That’s Boring and Pointless in my book, and I’ve shied away from oRvR until something changes.  Perhaps this will be the lure back into the RvR lakes of legend.

RvR Influence System – We’re getting this with 1.1, and while there are no specifics to it past a comparison to the PQ Influence system (so let’s assume an INF bar and tiered rewards), it does give us a measurable goal to shoot for while we dither around in PvP combat.  I’m interested in just how many tiers there will be, how many rewards, will the rewards rotate, will you max out a bar and be done with the tier, etc.  Lots of questions, but a really good addition.

Increased oRvR Visibility and Traveling – This is a catch-all for a number of features to get players aware of the oRvR conflict and get them there pronto: a second bind point, campaign HUD, and tier-wide messaging.  None of this is “sexy”, per se, but necessary — kind of more bricks and mortar to the foundation of the RvR program.  My only concern: does more increased travel equal an increasingly devalued sense of the world’s scope?  We’re already bouncing around the place with binds and scenarios and near-instant flight-points between zones — will we forever lose the sense of the world of Warhammer as an actual place with size versus a series of instanced maps?

RvR Incentives – Past the influence system, there will be a number of other goodies.  Daily RvR quests – definitely.  People like to be rewarded for what they’re doing already, kind of a two birds with one stone thing.  Keep Quests have me wondering if they’re going to go beyond “today’s quest is to take [named] Keep” that everyone will be gunning for — are they going to introduce scripted or variable elements to keep taking?

Keep Ownership Incentives – This is a no-brainer from how often we’ve been hearing about it — people need incentive to not only take keeps, but try to hold and defend them.  Giving guilds goodies… that’s a very positive thing.

Fame System – Another item that, y’know, sounds good, but I need more details or hands-on experience before making any sort of judgment.  But it does sound like Mythic’s going to be expanding the amount of player-set goals they can shoot for, and that might make folks actively look for combat instead of shy away from it.

This quote is the most catching, however:

It’s really as simple as this, oRvR should be a major focus for leveling, item gain, etc. in WAR. Some of the systems are already in place and in Tier 4, oRvR is alive and well. On other Tiers, however, oRvR is not being engaged in as often as we had hoped when we launched WAR. Our goal is to ensure that oRvR is the place where players can level the fastest, get the best items and overall, have a great time while doing it. It is supposed to be riskier, more challenging but ultimately, more rewarding than any other place within WAR.

People love to quote Mark Jacobs because he likes to say huge and sweeping things like this, that may or may not come back to bite him, or may or may not be a huge success.  This is Mythic drawing a line in the sand and saying, “PQs?  PvE Quests?  Scenarios?  All well and good, but oRvR is where you should be playing.  It’s the place that’ll be the most rewarding in all ways, and it’s where we want to funnel the bulk of our player base into.”  Perhaps some gamers might balk at this, viewing it as a deliberate limiting of their game time options (while they can do whatever they like in a game, players invariably head toward the most rewarding experience for the least effort/time involved).  But this is the most dynamic, variable element of WAR — player-versus-player combat — and I can’t fault them for wanting this to be the crown jewel that sparkles more than the rest.

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GameSpy Continues The Love

November 29, 2008

gamespy(I’m sure it’s not because this feature was sponsored by Warhammer Online or anything… right!)

I just thought this was a cool excerpt from GameSpy’s Holiday Buyer’s Guide:

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

World of Warcraft finally has some decent competition. We here at GameSpy have steadily played quite a bit of WoW since it came out in 2004, but Warhammer Online finally stole away some of our thralldom. It’s easy to see why. Warhammer borrows liberally from the undisputed market leader, but advances many ideas a few steps further. Foremost amongst these is PvP. In Warhammer, it’s the way you’re meant to play, and the execution is brilliant.

I played WoW for four years, and I feel that the majority of the time I spent was essentially a preamble to PvP. Warhammer Online helped me to realize this by putting this crucial aspect of the game at its front and center. As a PvP gamer, I previously had to quest, level, and partake of every other aspect of the “grind” in order to graduate into the experience I was after to begin with. If you’re anything like me, then WAR is probably for you. — Miguel

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Return to the Promised Land

November 26, 2008

Because a lot of fret and worry has been spilled over the number of WAR players who (supposedly) returned to WoW for the expansion pack — including, it seems, the formerly WAR-only Casualties of WAR guild/blogger social network — I’ve tried to stay aware of what’s been going on over there in Blizzardtown. As far as I can tell, a majority of people are giving the following two reports:

  1. Wrath of the Lich King is very well-done, interesting, pretty and caters well to the casual player.
  2. And it’s very, very quick.

“Quick” not as in “someone hit level 80 within a day of launch”, which is the sort of insane goal that’s expected from hardcore geeks, but “quick” as in “the bulk of the pre-launch level 70s are now, or shortly hereafter will be, level 80.” The Burning Crusade wasn’t anywhere near this speedy with its population ascent — trust me, I was there.  It remains to be seen how much of the new end game Blizzard’s rolled out will retain the current crop of players, but this lightning-fast chow down of the new content gives me a gut feeling that after another month or two, gamers are going to get restless once more. Including and especially the ones who returned from WoW from WAR.

I mention this because this is a narrow time window that may be a blessing in disguise for Mythic. They have a few months of being able to blame Wrath of the Lich King for subscriber drops before the onus falls fully on them — and they have a few months before the famous game-hopping crowd could be searching once more, possibly looking to give WAR a second chance.

If WAR beefs up, shores up its weaknesses, incorporates the new tank classes, gets the ball rolling on serious oRvR fun, improves game performance, and really ups their PR — EA should be throwing a lot more muscle behind this property than I’ve witnessed — then, sure, it could be a second, “soft” launch of WAR, one to fully convince players that the title’s on the way up in the world, and is so much more worth playing now than ever before.

Of course, that’s a lot of “if’s”, including the presumption that WoW-WAR gamers will get bored with Lich King in that time period. In any case, the public profile of Lich King should die down enough to let the other MMOs regain their voice and slice of the journalistic pie — and that might just be the right time to begin trumpeting WAR anew.

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Shh… my wife’s asleep!

November 25, 2008

So I guess it’s okay to log onto the internet during vacation, y’know, just this once.  See what e-mail I’ve gotten (I need to enlarge my spleen why?).  Check up on the news (I think there was a presidential election or something, either Pinky or the Brain won).  Google Reader?  Hmm… 675 new posts…

/glance at wife, who is currently hogging all seven pillows in our hotel room.  Yeah, I guess I have time.

Read read read scan scan scan.

Reminded once again that Book of Grudges has hung up its hat, and I feel tremendously sad.  Happy, indeed, for what they gave to the community and that the reason they’re leaving is to play more WAR, not to abandon it.  If you haven’t paid your respects yet, now’s a good a time as any.  I remember when they started blogging in these 5-times-a-day microposts, and since developed into a WAR blog powerhouse.

Read read read your blog, read it down the stream…

Guess there’s nothing else major to… oh, wait, apparently contribution is a total sham.  And Santa Claus is actually your mom and dad.  And the tooth fairy is your creepy Uncle Ernie.  If this is false, Mythic needs NEEDS to prove so and reassure us with healthy numbers that our contribution is anything but a random number generator.  If it’s true, well, Mythic needs NEEDS to own up to the fact and fix it, ASAP.  Like, before 1.06.  If they stay silent, they’ve just lost a huge chunk of respect from their customers.  I’ll check back in on this when I return home.

Oh, and I guess there was a little matter of State of the Game II: The Quickening, which everyone’s already dissected, and it’s a little too late in the day for me to start doing so myself.

However.

If I may.

Since this is a pretty bold proclamation that Mythic’s evaluated their strengths and weaknesses and is throwing the bulk of their chips into Open RvR as their primary priority, then I will quietly mourn the malnourished PvE content and ask for the following as PvE consolation prizes:

One: PQs are still a great idea — you just need to make them more playable once more.  Make all of them as simple to max out the INF bar as it was in the first chapter (c’mon, the influence loot isn’t that awesome anyway).  Give people incentive to “catch them all!” by rewarding players who complete all of the stages of all of the PQs in their pairing, and then all of the PQs in all three pairings.  And fix contribution, if it indeed be borked.

Two: Reduce mob strength, hit points and XP earned from killing them — and vastly increase their numbers.  Populate your world and make me feel like a hero by wading through dozens of mobs, hacking through them left and right, without wasting time pulling them one by one, slowly watching a HP bar go down.

Three: Speed up leveling.  Seriously.  I know some people claim that WAR is silly fast to level, but that’s not my experience, and I don’t see a lot of that around me, either.  Leveling in beta was fun because it was quick and it encouraged you to try out all sorts of alts.  As it stands, I don’t want to make an alt in WAR, ever, because of the hefty time commitment it takes to getting one to 40.  Ranking up to 40 should be quick — get me in the end game!  Encourage me to try out one of the other many careers you’ve designed!

Four: Unveil at least the majority of the Tome unlocks so that I can be better informed as to fun goals I want to set and achieve in PvE.  Make the Tome work more for me, not against me.

Five: Give me a good reason — give me lots of good reasons — why I should want to bind in a capital city and actually use it on a daily basis, instead as a tourist attraction.

Six: Evaluate and uptweak crafting in a big way.  Realize that in trying to protect your game’s economy from gold sellers you’ve become an overprotective parent who never lets their kid have any fun at all.  Give us ways to attain or make stuff worth buying and selling on the AH.

And although this isn’t a PvE thing so much as a game-wide thing, I have to agree with Heartless here — for the love of all that is holy, your number one priority should be fixing the hitching, lag, stuttering and generally poor graphical performance of massive combat.  For some reason, Reikland factory has been a near-slideshow for me, which apparently hits some players and not others (it could be a NVidia card problem, I dunno).  My card and computer can handle maxed-out settings on Fallout 3 with no problem.  I shouldn’t have to learn to live with this, and we should be hearing more about what Mythic’s doing to fix these severe issues instead of vague “game client running more smoothly” nonsense that we get in patch notes.

But, yeah, there’s some good stuff to be excited about in this new state of the game, and I’m cool with Mythic choosing oRvR to be their primary game focus.  It’s what can really set them apart (already does, to some extent) and provide unlimited end game combat that has insane variety and replayability.  This news isn’t going anywhere, so when I get back we’ll have a fireside chat or something and we’ll see what this will do to WAR at large.

Until then, I need to get to bed.  I have to fight to get a pillow back, and that’s a scenario that I’m already behind in.

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Behave Yourselves

November 22, 2008

I’m taking the next week off blogging, work, school and the internet to take my wife on a much-deserved vacation away from it all.  Fret not — I shall return, more hearty and hale for the undertaking.

In the meanwhile, avail yourselves of all of the Warhammer Online links on the right-hand side there — there are literally tons, metric tons of great WAR blogs, and I expect you to get addicted to the huge variety of voice and opinion out there.

Take care, keep up the good fight, and until a week from now, may you find your own very special sand castle.

sand-castle

And then claim it!

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Any Publicity is Good Publicity, Right? Right?

November 22, 2008

I thought I was the only one who found the recent Warhammer Vault article “Kid kills family because he is unable to dye cloak, Warhammer to blame” in poor taste, until I read a pretty harsh condemnation of that title on Ark’s Ark.

It’s an arresting title because it sounds like an actual news item, one of those ridiculously overused “games kill people” news items that the media loves to latch onto.  However, it’s just a rant about the author’s frustration with the limitations of the dye system — nobody was killed or anything.

Ark makes a very valid point — humorous intent or no, feeds everywhere will rebroadcast that title and some people won’t read past those words before passing along this information as actual fact.  The internet a breeding ground of rumors small and big, and if a lie gets told often enough it eventually is accepted as truth.

This may very well be nothing, a blip before readers move on.  But the danger of extremely bad PR for Warhammer Online is present, especially if a larger media outlet picks up on the title and runs with it without fact-checking anything.  Recently, World of Warcraft’s expansion launch received some ugly PR when a kid in Netherlands collapsed while playing a marathon session — a small blip in a sea of millions of players, but this is the sort of thing that grabs headlines.

The Vault may be backing up this article title as it wonts, but I would hope that common sense would reign over stupidity in this case.  It’s a bad title, it could give the game unnecessarily bad PR, and they should change it.

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Then and Now

November 22, 2008

We in the blogosphere are especially susceptible to the news cycle when it rears up — big, meaty issues that suddenly become the Talk of the Town until just about every blog’s weighed in with their opinion, dawdled on it a little, and then moved on.

Today… we’re not moving on. Today, we’re moving back.

Since writing WAAAGH! is both an exercise in documenting my mental breakdown AND the history of the community and development of a AAA MMO title, I have on hand many, many articles in which the collective “we” wigged out about some issue or another. What I’m wondering is, are any of these issues still relevant, did any come true according to our predictions, or was it all just brew-ha-ha?

I went back through WAAAGH!’s nine month history (really? nine?) and picked one major news cycle issue from each month, along with commentary on how it panned out. Let us see:

MARCH’S ISSUE: Warhammer Gets Delayed A Second Time

  • Only a couple weeks after starting up WAAAGH! and getting prematurely excited for what I thought would be a June release, Mythic announced that the game would be moved to a “fall 2008” release. From the non-player’s perspective, WAR seemed to be just about done, by everything we’d heard. Yet from inside sources in the closed beta, the delay wasn’t just needed, it was actively requested and supported by the testers. Personally, I was pretty upset that they announced the Collector’s Edition first, then the delay immediately afterwards (a PR bait-and-switch that we’d see yet again in the summer).
  • Still relevant? Since the game is out, I’d have to say “no”. Although, for all my passion for wanting the game released ASAP in March, with the current state of WAR I can’t imagine how it was back then. I’ve come to fully agree with Snafzg: this game needed a longer beta testing period.

APRIL’S ISSUE: Stealth and WoW vs. WAR

  • I couldn’t pick between these two (please don’t make me!), because both struck me as fascinating for different reasons. The so-called “stealth controversy” — fueled by Mark Jacob’s previous pronouncement of hatred of stealth mechanics and a promise that stealth would not be in WAR, followed by news that WH/WE would have stealth mechanics — blew up in a huge way early on, yet fizzled out quickly as well. Today, stealth is pretty much of a non-issue in game, perhaps just an annoyance as players decloak around you, but nothing terribly game-breaking.
  • On the other hand, it is interesting that so early on we were rightfully concerned about the possible WAR vs. WoW release date double-header. It didn’t quite turn out to be the same weekend, but even two months apart feels awfully close together, and even with Warhammer’s head start, Wrath managed to take the wind out of WAR’s sails — hopefully temporarily.

MAY’S ISSUE: Age of Conan’s Launch

  • Since the May/June period was originally supposed to be Warhammer’s launch date as well, before the second delay, WAR fans were a little steamed that AoC got a large head start and all of the spotlight for the time being. However, even with that incredible advantage and 700K boxes shipped, we know what happened: AoC had a miserable pre-launch period, a very shaky launch and post-launch period, had little dev interaction, and was missing some of the big “back of the box” features that were promised. Today, AoC limps on, doing okay, but not that great, not that great at all.

JUNE’S ISSUE: Richard Bartle Disses WAR

  • In an interview reposted at Massively, MMO father Richard Bartle apparently dismisses WAR with the following quote: “I’ve already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft.” Many bloggers, including yours truly, take offense to the casual dismissal of a game that had yet to be released, and Bartle engaged in a lot of back-and-forth in various blog comment sections. It really wasn’t as big of an issue as we all made it out to be, but if I was pressed to put my finger on when the WAR blog community really started making waves, that would be it, right there. People reacted, overreacted, discussed, and bounced back and forth between blogs like mad.

JULY’S ISSUE: Four Classes, Four Cities Cut From Launch

  • Whew. I really don’t know what Mythic would ever have to do to get the community so stirred up to this insane level ever again, but I assume it’d have to be something involving selling the game to SOE or adding a third faction of all pygmy clowns or something. Anyway, this is when the poop hit the fan: Mythic announced that in order to release on time, four capital cities and four classes would be cut from the launch version of the game. Readers, posters and bloggers went BALLISTIC. Emotions were at an all-time high, and people eagerly awaiting this MMO felt a huge stab of fear that the end result would be much less than it should’ve been. People were mad — Snafzg threw the biggest hissy fit I’ve ever seen — and people were sad. Some called for restraint and all those other futile terms that don’t work with an internet community.
  • So how’d this pan out? Well, the game did launch in the fall 2008 window, and I can’t say that we’re really “missing” the four cut capital cities so much — in fact, if they were in the game, we’d have even less centralized population than we do now. However, the four cut classes — the two tanks in particular — really did hurt the population balance, especially on the side of Order, where tanks have been in short supply ever since launch. Happily, the 1.1 patch will get the tank classes back in — but no word on the other two classes or the cities as of yet.

AUGUST’S ISSUE: Third Faction/Expansion Speculation

  • Previous to WAR’s launch, we received confirmation at one of the conventions that Mythic was already in the pre-production stage of the expansion pack. If there’s something that all gamers are great at, it’s endless speculation, and this flared up like nobody’s business. Obviously, we haven’t heard anything more about this, but it is interesting how many people got passionate and excited about these ideas. Passion and excitement — we could use a little of that these days!

SEPTEMBER’S ISSUE: Pick one – The Huge Queue, Launch Week Mess-Ups, War Against Gold Spammers, The Annoying EUALA

  • Warhammer’s launch really did go smoothly, all things considered, but that didn’t stop me or anyone else from taking a look at the lows as well as the highs of that week. What do all those four issues have in common? That they were big two months ago, and are virtually non-existent now. When’s the last time you had to suffer through a queue to log on? Or saw a gold spammer sending you a /tell? (Although now they’re doing it through the mailboxes, yay). And just recently, we got news that the EUALA box will be disabled from the login screen unless something in it changes.
  • I think it’s morbidly hilarious that we’ve swung between two extremes in terms of population. In the beginning, it was all about overly crowded servers that people wanted to flee from just so they could play the game. Mythic opens up new servers, clones entire populations, and the mess is cleaned up. Now, we’re spread too thin, Mythic opens up character transfers back to populated servers, and people are bemoaning the absence of high/high pop servers.

OCTOBER’S ISSUE: Smacktalk Between MMOs

  • Egos. Game devs have them, and they are mighty. I think this is a constant, really. In any case, a bit of escalating smacktalk between Mark Jacobs and various Blizzard devs escalated into a blogger’s feast, and people leaped on the issue as if they were speculators at a monkey fight. Was it professional? Nope. Entertaining? Sure. Helpful to either title in the long run? Not by anyone who read either side’s comments.

NOVEMBER’S ISSUE: WAR Exodus

  • It’s no secret that a lot of bloggers have left WAR, temporarily or forever, and expressed their dissatisfaction along the way. It’s no secret that a lot of bloggers have stayed as well, and expressed support for what they see as a solid title in need of additional work and polish. In any case, it’s hard to overlook the gloomy atmosphere that’s been covering WAR as of late, and people are hoping for a strong gust of headwind to blow out from Mythic and pick things back up once more.

I realize that a lot of these “issues” are negative, but that’s usually what gets the most discussion, for what it’s worth. It is interesting to see how our attention and priorities have shifted over the months, how some of these issues go away and some are left unresolved (hey, my game still hitches like MAD, by the way!), and how we might be to blame for blowing some of these stories way out of proportion.

What will it be like a year from now? I’ll get back to you on that tomorrow! Or, in a year!