As you may have noticed, I always have a secondary MMO, something I dabble with to prevent me overplaying and burning out on my main game. Recently this secondary MMO has been my return to Dark Age of Camelot, a game I quit something like 8 years ago. I decided to dabble with DAoC because a bunch of my friends have already returned and I was curious to see if my memories of “the greatest RvR game ever” stood up to modern inspection. Returning to old favourite games is always risky, since there’s a very good chance that you will discover your memories were viewed through rose-tinted spectacles and you end up tarnishing those memories. Returning to DAoC has shattered one lens of those oh-so fragrant spectacles, but at the same time it delicately polished the other and confirmed a lot of what I (and many others) have always said WAR needs.
I think I’ve decided to stop playing DAoC now, for a range of reasons, but I’ve decided that I’m not going to post details about the many things that have been a disappointment on returning to the game, simply because it doesn’t really serve any purpose. It’s an old game, there were obviously going to be things that felt dated and things that changed over time. As gamers we tend to revere our old favourite games and when we do return it’s easy for us to be overly dismissive of things that are probably changes for the better and/or live in denial of things that by modern standards are a bit crap. With DAoC I have seen and felt both sides of that and I’m well aware that my break from the game was so long that it has probably made me overly biased. In 8 years a lot will change… So I’m going to ignore the negative things and instead explore the great things that I’ve re-discovered in DAoC and feel WAR really should look at adopting.
To avoid post reaching truly monstrous length, I’m going to split this over a few. Starting with:
Good game-play in an MMO is about far more than the intricate details of what button X and ability Z does. It is just as much (perhaps even more so) to do with the overall environment the combat takes place in. And believe me, the environment in DAoC is magnificent. Forget about quality of graphics, they alone do not make up a game’s environment and when I use the word environment I mean it in a broad sense, encompassing everything that makes up the world and the situations you play in. DAoC’s magnificence is all about its huge scale, the ambiance, it’s sense of place, the three-realm system and the freedom you have.
Each realm has it’s own frontier lands. These frontiers are fully PvP enabled areas each of which include multiple zones, though note there is no loading going from one zone to another, or even between different realm’s frontiers. So in WAR terms it’s not just a case of walking from the Chaos Wastes to Praag, imagine being able to walk from the Chaos Wastes to Black Crag and with no loading at all! You see in DAoC all 3 realms RvR areas (frontiers) are linked together. You can travel between them on foot over ground, via a vast network of underground tunnels, by boat and in a very limited fashion by teleporting (like flight masters, sort of…. I shall explain why this is different later). And the frontiers are huge, actually... scratch that, they are HUGE!!!11 Yes indeed, of such monstrous scale that they deserve upper case and a couple of 1s. This gives it the feeling of a big world, not just a series of levels to load. And crucially it backs this big world up by putting far less restriction on your routes of travel than WAR does. You are not funnelled into one small valley all the time with invisible walls or strangely impassable hills. Likewise, you are not going to find your mighty army defeated by a 3ft high iron fence (Praag I’m looking at you!). This all means that in DAoC wherever the terrain forms bottlenecks there will nearly always be another route you could take, longer or more dangerous perhaps, but there are options. Options, options, options and for both attackers and defenders!
Objectives (I use the word in a more general sense, not in WAR’s Battle Objectives) are spread all across these frontier zones. These give you reasons to go pretty much everywhere and due to the factors mentioned above, this means you can find people (or they find you…) at almost any part of the map. You know how Land of the Dead has all the best drops and is also the best XP? Well that’s what the frontiers are like. They are populated by mobs to fight for excellent reward and not just RvR objectives in the way WAR defines them. There are also the keeps, towers and relic fortresses providing defensive and strategically important positions. Now combine this VAST world, freedom of movement and wide range of objectives, stir it up a bit. Looks nice yes? OK now chuck in the third realm and you have not only an amazing sense of freedom and scale, but also tension and paranoia. Every moment you are in a frontier is a risk, over every hill and round any corner there could be enemies lurking. A single faction cannot dominate like in WAR, because it will end up being attacked on multiple fronts. To stay on top you will have to work hard and can’t just zerg your way to the win.
There are also cosmetic things that I think really add to the world’s ambiance. It’s easy to write off cosmetic improvements as distractions, but they can really add to the big world feeling. Night and day cycles where it actually gets dark at night adds a lot of atmosphere as well as the ability to be sneaky (names only show up when fairly close in DAoC). Oh and sunsets, everyone loves a good sunset. Though my personal favourite little touch is the random weather. I was in a big fight a couple of days ago and suddenly the sky darkened, rain started pouring down and thunder rumbled above the battlefield. A huge battle in a proper thunderstorm… Epic.
The question therefore is: what if any of this could WAR introduce?
Almost all of it!
But not this
Camelot’s 3 way linked frontiers will not work with WAR. The Warhammer world has a pre-defined map and some of the distances involved are just too big. The Elf zones for example are on the High Elf island of Ulthuan, it’s in the middle of the ocean and is not a place you can walk to from Praag. It is physically impossible. There are similar issues between the other areas. Which unfortunately means that the 3 racial pairings have to remain separate. However, there is something else that could be done…
Remove zone locking
Thanks to the zone locking campaign system, in tier 4 we only ever had 3 areas to fight in at any one point. This is too restrictive and is a big contributor to WAR’s zerg culture. Scrap it. Have all tier 4 oRvR zones active all the time. Getting to the enemy city should be about reducing the number of keeps and objectives the enemy control across the entire world. Once their faction controlled objectives drops below a certain number then the outer walls of their city become vulnerable. This system would work for both a 2 or 3 faction game by the way. An open system like this would allow for more strategy, make the game more varied, reduce lag and give small group/single warband warfare a much needed boost.
Lots of debate in the past and with the rumours recently, lots of debate in the present too. It IS possible, but it is a big ask. Should it be introduced? Abso-bloody-lutely! Will it? Oh man I’d like to think so, but I just don’t know.
Expand the oRvR lakes
I’ve banged on about this in numerous posts before. All that wasted space in tier 4, all that terrain that nobody goes to (particularly since tier 4 XP levelling is now done in Land of the Dead). Mythic simply need to change some of the PQs and/or buildings into battle objectives of some form, turn on RvR and tada! HUGE open world zones in WAR! OK maybe it’s not simple, but it can be done and it’s not pie in the sky thinking. I’m not suggesting full terrain changes like New Frontiers, just some tinkering and changing of boundaries.
Weather, all day, all night
Make it properly dark at night and get rid of player names at a distance. As well as the obvious improvement to atmosphere, we can now use the cover of night to sneak about and set ambushes, etc. Put in weather effects, rain, mist, thunder and lightning… what harm could it do? AND we can then say cheesy shit like “we attack at first light!” or “dead by dawn!”
What do you think? Pie in a rainy sky? Or a case of why on earth did they not use more of the lessons learnt in DAoC?
Next: Siege warfare