Tenfold Hate

Back At It
October 23, 2009, 12:13 pm
Filed under: MMORPGs, Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

After a healthy MMORPG hiatus, it’s hard to believe it has been nine months since I’ve posted. I was in Champions beta for a wee bit, but got bored after clocking in a few hours of game play. Nothing particularly wrong with it–but there was nothing “right” for me about this game either. Plug highly customizable superheroes into the most tired, played out, massively multiplayer cookie cutter formulas. If that’s your bag, you’ll be pleased as punch.

It’s not so much that I’ve given up on MMORPGs as I feel MMORPGs have given up on me–or more accurately–turned their backs on fans looking for something they haven’t seen a thousand times before. Despite all this, I’ve been itching to play something, and that something equaled resubscribing to Warhammer Online. I’ve been playing very casually and having a swell old time in Tier One.

Mostly, I’m trying some of the classes I didn’t bother with the first time around (magus, shaman, and Knight of the Blazing Sun). Server consolidation, new open world RvR incentives, and 10-day free trials have made Tier One RvR a very healthy, fun place to spend a couple hours a night if you enjoy PvP.

Over a year after launch, I still feel this game has some of the best classes in any MMO–and the PvP is as close to being done right as anything out there at the moment. Which admittedly, may not be saying a hell of a lot. I love the Warhammer books, so being a tourist in that world again is a great deal of fun for me too.

That’s not to say there still aren’t issues.

1) While the outcome of RvR results in the victors having access to buffs, experience bonuses, and special vendors, these massive battles still have little to no bearing on the game environment itself (barring flight path accessibility). This is my old hang-up with all MMORPGs (phasing, while a clever immediate fix, would not be a cure-all).

2) Tier One RvR has been great–everything I’d hoped for the game the first time around. I had a blast RvR’ing a Knight of the Blazing Sun all the way through Tier One, but once I reached Tier Two, the RvR action quieted down considerably. I found myself back where I was left during my first go at WAR: queuing for scenarios. Again, these are great fun but should not serve as the focal point of a game.

The two Tier 3 characters I played after launch are on the last remaining Open RvR server. The pop on that server is painfully quiet so I really can’t speak to the Tier 3 experience at the moment.

If I could transfer these characters to a more populated server I would in a flash, but I think at the moment, there are no Open RvR to standard server transfers permitted.

3) After a few web browser searches, it appears the WAR blogging community is virtually non-existent–either burnt out, faded away, or simply not vocal enough. I know from my time back in-game, the players are out there. Are any of you WAR bloggers still kicking around?

While I’m having a great time, I’m not forgetting my initial zeal for this game that slowly faded after a couple months’ play when “War Is Everywhere” slowly began to feel like “Grind Is Everywhere.”

In my opinion, WAR’s Tier One experience is second-to-none and the vibrant Tier One RvR makes it the most casual-friendly game I’ve ever played.

My big question is, will the healthy Tier One population translate to the higher tiers as time goes by, or will I end up playing a bunch of different classes through Tier One and find myself hitting the wall I hit a year ago?

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WAR: Making Tanking Fun Again
October 23, 2008, 3:06 pm
Filed under: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

This has been a week of heavy public questing for me in WAR. I’m probably as surprised as you are by that statement. It all started this past weekend. While waiting around for scenarios to pop for my Warrior Priest, I darted over to Troll Country to lend a hand to an RP and BW who were working on an Empire Chapter 6 PQ. At that point, my WP was rank 20 so I was able to breeze in and help them complete all 3 stages with relative ease.

We hit it off, and while shooting the shit and swapping our likes/dislikes about the game thus far, I mentioned, “Hey, I have a Swordmaster around your level if you guys ever need a tank.” A few nights later, who should send me a /tell but the Runepriest.

After spending way too much time repeating Stages 1 and 2 of PQs to max out my influence on my other characters (due to lack of primary healers and/or tanks floating around), I really appreciate the good fortune of finding a regular PQ group of like-minded players. A group that just happens, as fate would have it, to be a balanced group (tank, healer, DPS).

On any given night we’re all on, we’ve been able to spam regional chat, get a handful of group members, and barrel through 2-3 PQs. And as anyone who’s played Empire knows, that means it’s usually the 3 of us (SM, RP, and BW), 3 WPs, and 3 WH.

I just can’t get enough of the Swordmaster. So much so that my WP may take a backseat to her. Besides the standard tanking abilities any MMORPG player would expect, Swordmasters have a series of abilities that cripple their opponents spiritually as well as physically, including several sword maneuvers that culminate in a magic AOE burst and knockback–handy for grabbing aggro from multiple mobs–and even more fun as chaotic “crowd control” in the middle of a group of enemies in RvR.

The magic element of the class is key for me–cheers to Mythic for designing an elf tanking class that still retains some of it’s elfishness.

Prelaunch, the class was intended to be a shieldless tank, which is still an option, but it’s much more viable from a survivability standpoint to go with a one-hander and a shield. I find the two-handed swords look much more imposing than the High Elf’s signature tower shields and I’m hoping in future patches Mythic makes survivability for greatsword SMs more realistic, since its one of the unique attributes that distinguishes them from their sword-and-board brethren.

The only time I really use a two-hander at the moment is if I’m doing some solo PvE and wanna crank out a bit more damage–or if I feel like mixing things up in RvR–though I usually go for survivability over damage output in any player versus player scenario.

For anyone who enjoys tanking and hasn’t tried WAR, my recommendation would be to ignore the hype from both sides, and take a WAR tank for a spin. I bet you won’t regret it.

Giddy Up!
October 21, 2008, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

After close to a year of blogging, I finally discovered how remarkably easy it is to post photos on WordPress. One would think I’d have noticed the “Add media” bar a bit sooner. Duh. I generally post during downtime at my tedious job, where I don’t have access to my photo cache anyways. Shhh…don’t tell the boss.

Here's my Warrior Priest from the Chaos Wastes server on his brandy new horsie.

October 20, 2008, 12:30 pm
Filed under: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

The Chicken Little “Sky is Falling” brigade has come out in full force for Warhammer Online. WAR is not a perfect game. Nor is it a game for everyone. Some fixes and rethinking need to be done on the part of Mythic regarding some pretty big issues, including getting players out of scenarios and into the open world and doing something with PQs so they don’t turn into the oft-ignored, unmined gems they seem to be turning into across many zones on many servers.

The thing is, WAR needs a hell of a lot less fixing than 90% of MMORPGs on the market. That’s why I can’t help but sigh and throw my hands in the air when I hear some of the more outlandish criticisms being leveled at this title at the moment.

My personal favorite? WAR is a failure because several shut-ins with too much time on their hands reached “endgame” and staged a successful city siege. The problem? No developer has yet had the foresight to thwart determined players with no goals, responsibilities, or obligations outside of “beating” a game. Though I’ve heard whining of exploits and bugs in endgame throughout the troll-o-sphere, I think we all need to take a deep breath and reevaluate something: WAR is one of the sole titles that actually bothered to release with an endgame to participate in.

If this were Vanguard or Age of Conan or World of Warcraft a month into release, players would have reached endgame to find…nothing. Nada. “But, but, but,” stammer the naysayers, “But it was so easy. Endgame’s not supposed to be so easy.” Yes, but endgame in WAR is about player combatants versus player combatants. If 3/4 of your opponent’s army is still in boot camp, guess what? You’re probably gonna win the war, and win pretty easily.

And why are MMORPG players so concerned about what the other guy (or woman, or greenskin) is doing anyway? Why should the fact that people invested way too much Mountain Dew and Hot Pockets into maxing out their characters in two or three weeks and toppled a city detract from anyone else’s fun? Who cares? It’ll easily be another month or two before I max out one of my characters in WAR–and since there are substantial numbers leveling at my pace (or well ahead of me on the leveling curve), I’m guaranteed a pretty challenging fight once I eventually make it to the gates of the Inevitable City.

I’d level the “epic fail” not at the development team, but at players who gloss over content to race to the end of the line, failing to stop and smell the roses and appreciate the gorgeous world a lot of designers put their blood, sweat, and tears into. I’d level the epic fail at players who are so single-mindedly driven to rush to their destination, that they’re blind to the random encounters and casual socializing with other people that color the journey. It’s fitting that their destination was as empty as their frantic sprint to get there: a bunch of scripted NPCs to fight, just like any other MMORPG. Devoid of the life and spontaneity that other players bring to the mix.

Until more of these folks realize it’s not what you experience in an MMORPG, but how you experience it, and who you experience with, there’ll always be the chronically unsatisfied legions knocking on the gates of the castle, only to find nobody home.

TGIF and Random WAR Thoughts
October 17, 2008, 11:43 am
Filed under: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

After tiring of huffing it to a war camp each night for the first flight to Altdorf so I could empty bags and hit the Auction House, I created a bank alt. I went with a White Lion. Does anyone else find it weird that there’s now a class in an MMO named after a hair band from the eighties?

And allow me to take this opportunity to state how happy I am that the hair metal power ballad is almost two decades dead-and-buried. Though things are seriously frightening in the good old U.S. of A right now, it wasn’t all wine and roses back then either. We have the scary talent of White Lion to remind us of that.

But even scarier then bad hair bands is my recent fixation with High Elves in WAR. I’ve hated elves of every shape and form as long as I can remember, whether we’re talking Tolkien, D&D, Santa’s helpers (yes, they’re not exempt), Oliver Stone’s Legend, or on a box of Keebler’s (that little bastard is not exempt either, though he makes delicious cookies). I never could stomach the new agey-ness of them or the too precious way they are always portrayed. But WAR High Elves have something that makes them palatable for me–something that makes me not want to pummel them (unlike Dark Elves, blah).

In fact, I’m enjoying my High Elf Swordmaster just as much as my “main” Warrior Priest. They’re still snooty, pompous, and pretty-as-a-picture, but WAR’s environment kind of forces them off that pedestal they are placed upon in much fantasy lore. They may THINK and ACT like they’re the prom kings and queens of medieval mythos, but in WAR, they’re not. They’re scrappy. They’re screwed. Fending off attacks from their Hot Topic reject cousins on one side, in an uneasy alliance with the crass humans and even more crass dwarfs on the other.

I know what you’re thinking. ‘STFU, you made a bank alt who’s an elf. Big deal.’ Well, for whatever twisted psychoses I harbor, this is a huge step for me. Thank you for listening.

My WP was busy this week, jumping from Rank 19 to 21–so this weekend, I’m planning on giving my beloved Swordmaster some exercise and working on my gobbo shaman a bit.

In other news, my WP earned the title “The Fashionable” last night. I love the armor customization options in WAR, so every time I get a new piece, I tend to head straight to a merchant to screw around with the dying options. Do this 25 times, and earn the title.

Previously, I’d stuck with the title “The Purifier”–which in my mind is pretty bad ass (and fitting for a WP). But the concept of heretics being hunted down by a bald guy in orange and purple robes with the title “The Fashionable” under his name is just too fun to pass up.

Should Mythic Rethink Public Quests?
October 15, 2008, 9:43 am
Filed under: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

I’m three weeks in and WAR is just as engaging as the first day I booted it up. Last night, my Warrior Priest became my first character to get his mount, I’m having a ton of fun with the fight mechanics of my Swordmaster, and I rolled a goblin shaman on the Phoenix Throne server to participate in the Warpath podcast guild started by Phillip and Stephen (whom some of you might know from The Drone Bay podcast). On a side note, I’m glad I didn’t roll a shaman earlier. The greenskin zone–and the shaman’s healing mechanics–are so damn fun that I probably never would’ve rolled alts if this had been my first.

This is the first Destruction character I’ve spent some time with. I’m not sure if it’s just Phoenix Throne or what, but I seem to have dodged the bullet on the whole “Destruction have obscenely long wait times for scenarios to pop” issue. Sure, scenarios don’t pop as frequently as they do for my Order characters, but the longest wait I’ve had during prime time for the Tier One scenarios was three or four minutes.

I must say though, the mail on Phoenix Throne is lagtastic. It took me a good five minutes to extract all my Collector’s Edition bonus items from the mailbox when I rolled the gobbo this weekend. This may have been remedied in yesterday’s patch, but I was having too much fun on my WP last night to check things out on the green side.

While Open World RvR on my main server (Chaos Wastes) is relatively healthy compared to some of the core servers where it seems people cling to that “open world is for questing/scenarios are for PvP” mentality, I’m sure we’ll see an influx of new players moving towards taking keeps and siege warfare over the next month or two as they reach level cap.

My only moderate gripe so far has been with the lack of public participation in PQs after I hit around Chapter 7. I’ve tried High Elves, Empire, Dwarfs, Chaos, and Greenskins across three different servers (2 Open RvR, 1 Core) and I’ve never had problems grouping for PQs through those initial chapters. I wouldn’t be so grouchy about it if I hadn’t gotten a taste for how fun PQs can be.

Though my lower level characters still see plenty of PQ action, since his late teens, my WP has had to grind out Stage One of each PQ repeatedly if I wanted to reap a particular influence reward. And as any WAR player knows, though easily soloable, Stage One is really designed as a group activity–since it frequently involves killing 50-100 mobs in order to set the more challenging stages of the event in motion.

It’s not that bad when it comes down to it–it’s fine filler when waiting for scenarios to pop–but it gets a little disheartening when Stage Two hits and it’s just you and some Witch Hunter staring at each other blankly, knowing you’re about to engage in a drawn out fight with a bunch of champions just to have the timer reset on you, or you’re about to receive a royal ass-kicking from a mob of heroes.

Do I think Mythic should nerf Stage One PQs to eliminate the grindy WoW feel of them for solo players? Not necessarily. How about nerfing Stages Two and Three to make them more accessible to smaller groups of adventurers? Absolutely not. Not if it means compromising the “public” in PQ. How about boosting rewards for players who participate in PQs? I wouldn’t.

As anyone who’s participated in PQs knows, those loot bags are pretty sweet as is. Is there a solution–or does there really need to be–in a game with so much other stuff to do? I think if there is a solution, it has to be something that does not compromise the integrity and initial concept of what PQs are. I just don’t know what the solution might be. After all, this is more a community issue than a design issue, IMHO.

WAR’s greatest strength is it’s greatest weakness–the reliance on it’s population to make things gel. But isn’t this what a massive, multiplayer game should be? At the end of the day, the bumper cars aren’t gonna drive themselves, kiddies.

Weekend Warrior (Priest)
October 6, 2008, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

My first full weekend in Warhammer Online was a blast. I got in a solid five plus hours’ playtime both Saturday and Sunday, tooled around with some different classes, and got my Warrior Priest to Rank 15. Despite my anti-elf tirade last week, I created a Swordmaster and I’m really enjoying it.

The High Elves are so stereotypically, annoyingly, exaggeratedly elfish that I actually have a soft spot for them. I also found her a relaxing break from the micromanagement and constant thinking-on-your-toes necessary to play a WP. I tried a Magus too and I think I can safely say I’m just not meant to play a caster. I always like the idea of reigning hellfire and massive amounts of DPS on my adversaries, but outside of the ultra-fun warlock class in WoW, it seems squishy magic users just aren’t my bag. I’m gonna give the sorceress a shot before I make any final decisions in WAR.

So far, this game has been strangely zen for me–playing in the moment and enjoying the new journey with complete disregard for the destination. I don’t care what the “golden carrot” is awaiting me at journey’s end, I just hope it’s as sweet as what I’m experiencing now if I get there. There’s no “Oh sheesh, gotta plow through to this level so I can PvP” or “I need to race to this level so I can group up for a viable dungeon crawl.” Progression seems to occur AS I’m enjoying myself–it’s not some hoop I have to jump through in order to get to where I “really” wanna be or what I “really” wanna be doing. Go figure!

Traditional PvE questing is generally bland in WAR, but only because PvE questing is generally bland in any game after the first fifty thousand times you do it, be it EQ or WoW or whatever. There’s only so many ways you can reposition kill-and-collect quests and keep them fresh. In this sense, WAR is beginning to spoil me. I still quest, don’t get me wrong. But I use traditional questing more as a springboard–an excuse to explore and get to know an area and its inhabitants when I arrive in a new region. WAR has been the first game to show me I don’t have to grin and bear it anymore.

The tiered scenario system came as a bit of a shock to my system once my WP hit 12. I was really having fun with the three Tier One scenarios and kind of didn’t wanna grow up quite yet. Once you think you’re finally grasping the ins-and-outs of say, Nordenwatch, you hit Rank 12 and have to move along to Stone Troll Crossing. Outside of stumbling upon New Emskrank and having my ass handed to me by some higher level Destruction players, I haven’t even gotten my feet wet in the open world contested areas yet. But when they say “War is everywhere,” they mean it.

I only need reflect upon the ignored objective towers strewn across Azeroth and the Outlands (that no one bothered with) to remember how PvP can be handled poorly–and how that was reflected in the attitude of a game’s community. There was no sense of urgency, no sense of threat, no sense of genuine allegiance to one’s faction. Not in WAR, my friend.

Last night, I was working on a PQ in Troll Country. When a Chaos Chosen and a Squig Herder ran down the road, all five of us (a PUG mind you) without speaking, stopped what we were doing and went after the Destruction players. Because that’s the play environment Mythic (with ample source material from Games Workshop) so masterfully created. We weren’t debating in party chat whether we should kill the last 6 zombies to finish that leg of the PQ first. Our little avatars are brutal little avatars fighting for their virtual survival in a brutal virtual landscape, dammit! Fun stuff.

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