Thursday 27 May 2010

Not tonight Joséphine

Ok it’s believed Napoleon Bonaparte never actually said that, but meh I wanted to use the line. Soooo, with historical accuracy debated and ignored, I shall continue. It was allegedly because Napoleon got tired of his poontang pie with Empress Joséphine (hmmm, I wonder if anyone has ever written that before). And just like Napoleon's withered bits, we too can have too much of a good thing.

I had yet more excellent city action tonight. Great fights, a few moments of drama and all round great good times. My only concern is, well actually it’s a long term concern, the city sieges are happening too often. At the moment sure that’s cool, it’s new and it is a lot of fun, going on regular city sieges are no bad thing in that respect. But what about in a months time? How will we feel about it after 3 months? Will we overdose on the new city and become immune to its charms?

Of course I hope not, but it is a sensible concern and one I’m fairly sure will get realised. I’m not trying to be negative, I do really, REALLY like the new city sieges and I’m very pleased with this patch. However, as I’ve banged on about many times before I do think the frequency of city sieges and the ping-pong zone locking has diluted the campaign and realm pride to levels a homeopathic scamster could only dream of. It won’t be far in my personal future where I once again don’t want to do a city siege every night, I want the drama and tension of fighting in a campaign where reaching the end prize is an “OMFG! YES! YES!” moment, not “oh it’s Altdorf again”.

Mythic have made a huge step forward with the new city, but the sooner we get a campaign system that is actually worthy of this new high quality end game, the better. Lets think positive, since Carrie has mentioned recently (I'm paraphrasing here...) that now the city is pretty much sorted they are going to be putting in a lot of work to the oRvR campaign, so maybe we will get more good news soon?

Tuesday 25 May 2010

First few days of 1.3.5

There was a lot riding on this patch, though it seems like I say something along those lines every single bloody patch. But it’s always true. After the WAR Street crash of 2009™ and the game’s dramatic decline, every patch is critical. Each patch is a chance for Mythic to keep hold of their existing subscribers, entice back old players and attract new blood. Unfortunately through WAR’s history in most cases the patches have been fairly underwhelming or downright disastrous, something that has done nothing to help the general MMO-gaming population’s now very poor perception of Mythic and WAR. Yet in recent times there’s been a bit of an improvement with the excellent revamping of tier 1, the free trial and so on. Whilst I have no numbers to back this up, it has felt like WAR’s population was picking up again, which meant it was really important for Mythic to deliver with 1.3.5. Mythic needed to consolidate their position, demonstrate clear improvements and finally give us the RvR end-game worth that the Warhammer name so deserves.

Thankfully it appears that 1.3.5 and the new city siege system is a huge first step in the right direction. Over the last few days I have had a bloody awesome time fighting in both Altdorf and the Inevitable City. I’ve done more city instances this weekend than I have in the last 6 months. Not because the cities are on constant siege (once or twice a day I believe it is), but because the sieges are now happening at prime times and it’s so much more fun now that I actually want to go take part. Everyone I’ve spoken to are loving the new city and this includes players that have returned specifically to try it out. There are of course a few people whinging in region chat, but then many will whinge no matter what happens, though there is also a fair bit of mewling after people lose an instance to one of Karak-Norn’s now infamous uber-bomb-warbands-of-doom. I do sympathise with those disappointed at the patch’s failure to nerf PBAoE bombing (a little more on that later), but not so much with the sour grapes PvE loot farmers that are crying because they’re not guaranteed to PvE their sovereign anymore, nor the “aint no pleasing you” brigade that would complain if they won the sodding lottery jackpot.

I think I’ve done something like 7 city instances now, spread over 5 different sieges and I’ve had a great time win or lose. Due to real life interfering with my game time and having to play without vent a bit, I’ve only done one alliance warband instance (I tend to solo if I can’t get on vent, don’t like letting the team down because I can’t hear :P), which we won fairly comfortably against an Order guild warband, but other than that I’ve been PuGing. Apart from one match up with a PuG against some uber bombers (which was brutal), the fights have been fairly even, with the tides of battle sweeping back and forth. Every battle has been fun, or at least funny, including the one where we got slaughtered. If this version of the city siege had been in at launch, I don’t think it would have been enough to prevent the population crash on its own, but it would certainly have mitigated some of the damage so to speak. If Mythic can quickly combine this improvement with sorting out the oRvR system that gets us to the siege in the first place, then it could well lead to WAR seeing a dramatic resurgence. I believe that zone locking is the game’s biggest flaw and if that were to go… good times ahead. Whatever happens next, Mythic should strike while the iron is hot. Build on the positive reception of this patch with more news of great improvements to come. Cut out the viral marketing and slap us round the head with some OMFG news that shows everyone WAR is on the up and up AAAAAAAAND UP!!! Otherwise with this red plagued land and us leaping to conclusions, I'm worried we're setting ourselves up for a fall.

Ok a quick few words on the bombing nerf (or not). Basically the crap players that were face-rolling a keyboard bound to one spell can no longer bomb for toffee and die horribly. However, the players that really knew how to PBAoE bomb properly have not been nerfed at all, if anything they’ve been buffed with the improved single target options. The type of guilds that demonstrated real bombing on the EU PTS are still doing their uber-bomb-instant- killing bit and still wiping the floor with people, particularly in the confined city streets. Which is a shame, because the face-rollers weren’t much of a problem in warband vs warband combat, only in zerg vs whatever. So Mythic have dropped the ball with this particular change. I’m puzzled as to why really; I mean how hard can it be? Remove the stacking, just like with ranged AoE and job done.

Anyways, that’s my only real complaint so far and I don’t want that to distract from what is so far looking like the best WAR patch in… well, possibly ever.

Monday 24 May 2010

Post patch report soon, in the meantime here is a man playing the drums with icicles

An interesting, but rather brief (for obvious reasons) musical experiment..

Now clearly this is a man with a passion and talent to push music to whole new levels and I was delighted, stunned and a little spun out by his full music video "What's in a hurry"

Simon Cowell, are you listening?

Cor blimey guv.... I soooooo love the internet.

Oh and I started doing this twitter thing, so now you can know when I open a door, leave the room, sit down, eat a biscuit, shout at one of my retarded cats, change TV channel, etc, etc. So.... yeah, not really getting twitter, but I'll try :P

Thursday 20 May 2010

WAR Blogger Challenge - The Award Show

Back when WAR was new the internet was awash with WAR bloggers. There were loads of the buggers (myself included, as I am indeed a bugger) and quite quickly a friendly little WAR blog community was established, with things like the WCPI (War Community Promotion Initiative) and a bit of mutual back slapping to promote other bloggers. And then with a resounding slap, we got hit by the WAR Street crash of 2009… After a rocky launch the number of active bloggers declined dramatically, as people moved onto other MMOs or quit the genre entirely. The community was left with a mere handful of active WAR bloggers and seriously restricted the community’s alt-tab at work reading material. Yeah, that’s right… I know when I get the most hits, you slackers! Do some work! OK, nah screw work! Read more WAR! :D

In recent months the WAR community has seen some dramatic growth with a lot of new bloggers stepping out to join the long in the tooth little core of us WAR blogging veterans, which is a damn positive sign for the game in my humble opinion. However with a game that’s been as up and down as WAR, it’s sometimes hard to keep writing, it’s not like we get paid to do this and sometimes for whatever reason we will get times where we just can’t be arsed. At moments like that I personally find any recognition for the effort is a great motivator. It could be Mythic’s posts on the Herald, links from other bloggers, comments on our posts, or simply my ever growing amazement at the number of hits I’ve had for my rambling bollocks.

I think that anything giving WAR bloggers recognition for the effort they make is a good thing. So it’s about time we gave out some awards for both the long time servants of the WAR community and the hot prospects for the future of WAR blaaaaaaaghing, as Mythic would say. I’m going to give an award to one veteran and one promising youngster, it would be nice if they and other WAR bloggers could find some awards to give out for others ;)

For outstanding service to the WAR community I award Werit with a large slice of Squig Cake!
Werit has been a bloody hero. Not only does his most excellent blog have a smorgasbord of news, guides, info and videos from WAR, but every week Werit posts “News from the Front” highlighting other blogs, videos and more from the community. A one dwarf promotion machine!
I highly recommend you watch his vids btw, nice framerates, in decent resolution and always informative. A proper little trooper you are Werit, now go enjoy the cakey schmakey.

For showing great potential I’m going to let Keagan lick the bowl!
I was sorely tempted to let Krossus in on some hot bowl licking action, but I linked him recently and Keagan bless his floaty feet is playing a Magus. As a fellow Magus player I know how much they need some sweet love... (ARE YOU LISTENING MYTHIC!) Plus Keagan’s blog is really bloody good. He’s not the most regular poster, but what he puts out there is well worth a read. Excellent Magus guides are hard to find. Actually, any Magus guides are hard to find, uhm... no, no, Magus (Magi?) are hard to find, period! Anyways, it’s a great blog and an absolute must read for anyone considering or already playing a Magus.

Now I'm off to the after show party... Those Witch Elves gonna get some bowl lickin goodness.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

While waiting for patch goodness... time for something totally different

Uhm I don't know quite what to say... All hail Manakin!

They sure don't make them like they used to...

Almost there... Patchy patch patch

Final patch notes for 1.3.5 are out! Check the Herald for details. The patch itself goes live today for the US and tomorrow for the EU I believe.

It is one hell of a big patch and looks to be a big step forward for WAR. There is also a LOT of smaller goodies hidden amongst the wall of patchy text. New mounts for example...

Looking forward to this one :)

Monday 17 May 2010

What WAR needs from DAoC – Part 3

Seeing as this is part 3 it would seem a sensible moment to look at the whole 3rd realm malarkey. We’ve all talked about 3rd realms a lot in the past and I think everyone agrees that this far in to the game it is probably the most difficult change Mythic could make…

DAoC’s three-realm system provides the campaign with a couple of very important things: paranoia and fragile power.

Whenever you’re fighting in DAoC’s vast oRvR frontiers, you’re always paranoid, always suffering (or rather revelling in) a sense of nagging uncertainty. Any straightforward fight can escalate into utter carnage; you just can’t tell what’s going to happen...

I’m logged in and grouped up with my Midgard hunter and fighting the foul tree hugging Hibernians, when suddenly a large force from Albion appears from the forest to my east. They don’t engage at first, they just stand there, watching… In that brief moment a range of possibilities ran through my mind. Will they charge us, or the Hibs, or both? Will they let us kill each other and just mop up the survivors? Perhaps they will ignore us all, leave us unable to fight and use this as an opportunity to make a strategic move of some form… But then it’s not just down to them, what about us? Perhaps both Hibs and Mids will see the Albs as a greater threat and attack first, yet that is relying on both factions reacting in the same way… What if we break for the Albs, but the Hibs don’t? Bloody hell this could get messy fast!

In that particular fight I’m remembering the Albs charged, but unfortunately for them both Mids and Hibs saw them as the large threat. With almost psychic coordination both realms ceased fighting, swung round to meet the Albion charge and after a protracted fight defeated the new enemy. However it was then our turn for some misfortune as the Hibs finished that fight in a better state than us and kicked our arse immediately. It was epic fun though. When fighting in WAR’s 2 realm system you just can’t get those moments, it’s always going to simply be us and them.

It’s worth noting that above I’m referring to a particular sense of paranoia and tension when fighting the enemy and making strategic moves. However you’ll find a different kind of tension throughout all of your frontier oRvR experiences, but that’s more to do with the way the zones work than the 3rd realm. I guess the easiest way to compare it to WAR is it feels a bit like solo roaming in Land of the Dead, when the enemy has the zone controlled and death means game over.

Fragile power
The 3 realm system means any attempt at being the dominant realm is a fragile thing. If one realm starts to dominate the campaign, they will find themselves under attack from both of the other realms. Not normally in any kind of official alliance, more just an unspoken agreement to deal with the bigger menace. Really it is just like that fight I described above, but scaled up a lot. With the open zone system this means that if one realm gains a lot of territory, they now have to maintain control over a lot of territory and against a lot of enemies. If the only RvR you’ve played is in WAR, it’s hard for me to get across quite how vast a task it is to control a lot of land in DAoC. It would take a lot of effort with just 1 enemy realm to deal with, but with 2 enemies it doesn’t take much for the cracks to appear.

Time once again to ask: what if any of this could WAR introduce?

A third realm IS doable and DAoC’s “New Frontiers” expansion proved Mythic are capable of making changes on the scale required. However, that was a different game in a different time. There’s no escaping it would be a massive undertaking today and I imagine would cost so much money to do that it couldn’t be seriously considered by Mythic. Playing make-believe for a bit though, if they did go for it there are a few obstacles to clear.

Q) In the current oRvR zones, if 2 realms have little room for manoeuvre, how the hell do you squeeze a third in?
A)  As per my previous post you make Tier 4 zones full oRvR and give us much larger battlefields. And remember it’s not just the 3rd realm thing adding an extra sense of tension and paranoia to DAoC. The large openRvR zones and more dispersed roaming players create a much larger wilder feeling world. You can see how this could actually work in WAR when playing in Land of the Dead, only 2 realms but a large open zone without funnelling and a constant sense of danger.

Q) How do you connect new lands to the existing racial pairings?
A) You make a T-junction in the central zone of the existing pairings. I made a post about how this could work a while back. In that post I was working based upon the premise of zone-locking and went with Wood Elves as you can see, but the T-junction works regardless of zone-locking or the superior open zone campaign system. Slightly changing my original idea, take West Praag, Cinderfall or the Elf one I’ve forgotten the name of, and turn those into the gateways into the other realm’s lands. In my head this would require the least amount of change to existing zones.

Q) Who’s city gets sieged?
A) Again check out that post of mine from before, for more nice pictures with a suggestion for using the current locking zone lark. That said, I'd much prefer it if we also got rid of zone locks, in which case we could have a system linked to keep and territory control. Once your controlled points reaches a certain low, your city is attackable by the realm with the most controlled points.

Q) WAR’s realm’s have 3 races each, so what races for the new realm?
A) Disease. This is one discussed in comments plenty of times on here before, so credit to all involved in those discussions. Skaven, Beastmen and Nurgle Chaos (Nurgle is the rival of the already playable Tzeentch Chaos). This is the ONLY combination of the remaining primary races in the Warhammer lore that doesn’t have a serious lore conflict. Those 3 are made for each other.

However... time to stamp on this dream. :(

Whilst it could work (it really could, honest!), I very much doubt its feasible to do because of the scale of it and the costs I presume it would involve. No matter what we all want it all just boils down to this.
So when WAR gets new playable races I fully expect them to be part of the existing 2 realms, but maybe that's not such a bad thing...

Next: Summing it all up, what should and might actually be done.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Nerfage - Apparently this was one of the key moments...

This scoreboard is from a screenshot doing the rounds from the EU city testing that led to a sudden wave of Mythic's nerf bat. Though Mythic claim they had it planned long before, which is of course quite possible, but I would be surprised if this utter spanking didn't make a bit of an impression :P

The names look like a warband from the Norn guild VII, one of Order's best on our server. Not sure who took the screenie, full credit to them, whoever it was.

Click the image to enlarge.

Not much to say, since this tells it's own story really...

Friday 14 May 2010

Wizards and Sorcs to become ranged DPS?

I started writing a reply to the comments on my previous post, but it got too long, so I figured I might as well post it properly...

The more PBAoE gets nerfed the better as far as I'm concerned. It's just a shame it took Mythic visiting the EU PTS to actually see for themselves what can really be done with it. From what I've read around the net so far, it seems like the US servers just don't have bombing in the same way. I don’t mean that as an insult regarding US player’s skills, it just appears they’ve not had the dubious motivation to try and perfect bombing as much as a lot of European guilds. They're all talking about how you can beat the organised bomb groups or warbands, which is totally true, but it’s also totally not the point. You have to scale it up, a lot. It's not the small groups that are the problem, it's all about reaching critical mass where game-play goes out of the window and mathematics takes over.

On Karak Norn we get full on uber blobs with a core made up of multiple tightly organised and skilled bomb warbands. These aren't random puggies, though the puggies follow these guys around ofc, these are seriously hardcore guild warbands that are well practiced and often optimised for bombing. People that have not witnessed this will be quick to yell L2P and other crap, but it is not a L2P issue, it is simple maths. If one warband has 8 Bright Wizards (or Sorcs) that PBAoE together, the damage is so high that everyone in range will instant die regardless of healing or mitigation. Now multiply that by 4+ warbands, add in the puggie warband followers and then mix in WAR’s funnelling of players into small RvR lakes… That “in range” is now unavoiadable. The end result is something you can't out manoeuvre, can’t fight with single target and delivers a massive area of instant death. They can only be beaten by equal number of bombers that detonate first. Seriously, when good bombing guilds like Red Guard, Crimson, VII, etc, etc hit you at the same time, how can you deal with that?

You can’t, unless you do the same thing, have equal numbers or more and detonate your PBAoE first. Now I have no problem losing fights against these guys, they are well organised, have excellent players and if we’re outnumbered, I quite rightly expect to die fast. However getting killed in under 2 seconds when I’m playing a well geared and defensive specced Chosen is ridiculous, I should at least have the option of a fight. Dying quicker than players can load on my screen is stupid. It is in no way fun and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it, other than blob up and bomb back. And then if we did actually win, where is the fun in instant killing people? Where’s the fighting? That’s the key here, the complete lack of any fun in this style of game play. In small scale (group to warband) fights PBAoE is still too dominant and we still might lose, but we at least get a chance to put up a fight and feel like we were beaten by players, not a calculator. It is this horrible PBAoE reaching Critical Mass that some people have either not seen, or are denying because of bias perception of their own class.

Our warband went round a corner of the zig-zag road in Dragonwake recently straight into a bomb warband (or two), we died in two seconds. I'm not exaggerating either. No room or time to move. It's a small area, so it emphasised the AoE of course. Oh and I counted 12 bright Wizards... If that PBAoE wasn't so ridiculous we would at least have had a time to put up a last stand and perhaps, you know, felt like we were playing a game.. Not too much to expect eh?
I know some people reading this will think I’m just another QQer who got killed in RvR, but you’re wrong. I’ve bombed the crap out of people, I’ve had the same done back, so from both sides of it I’ve seen how it is spoiling the game. There is no need for this PBAoE dominance. Oh and btw the “it’s the only way a small group can beat a PuG warband” argument only applies if all you fight is PUGs. Anyone that doesn’t think that PBAoE is an issue needs to consider they may not have seen the full potency of PBAoE damage. If they spent a night on Karak Norn Tier 4, then they would see, exactly like Mythic has, the genuine problem here. It's not often you see Mythic react with a nerf like this so quickly, so don’t assume they did this for the sake of it.

Bright Wizards and Sorcerers are central to this problem. It is unfortunate they keep getting nerfed, but it’s only because they've never been nerfed hard enough. From what I’ve read today, it might not be enough again. Both classes are meant to be ranged DPS, which they are actually great at, but currently they are almost exclusively played as melee DPS which they are exceptional at. This maybe a nerf to Sorcs and Wizards AoE, but it’s a buff to every other DPS in the game. And strangely enough the single target Sorcs I've been speaking to don't seem to have any complaints...

The dominance of AoE, Wizards and Sorcs has been one of the main contributors to people quitting WAR since launch. This is why the other week when I was talking to people in DAoC they we’re laughing about AoEhammer.

AoEhammer. So true it's tragic. Excellent move Mythic.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Sorcs & Bright Wizards get a big AoE nerf

Confirmation by Mythic here.

I'm not perfectly versed with the details of playing a Sorc or BW, but I'm reliably informed that this is a major nerf, in particular to Bombing.

Excellent news for all other WAR players if so, especially so if you play a class not in the holy trinity of bombing.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

It’s a plague and it’s red and it’s probably a portent

Public Test Server Q&A, transcript from Gaarawar.

Q – What is the Red Plague all about and how will it affect the game?

James - It’s a plague and it’s red and it’s probably a portent.

A portent indeed, exactly as the warhammer lore tells us...

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Public Test.... Pig???

Lots of new WAR blogs appearing in recent months, but this one in particular has caught my eye. Testpig vs Warhammer!

First off his banner is awesome, I mean come on…. who wouldn’t want to see a pig in boxing gloves?

Secondly Testpig has put a lot of effort in to creating videos that demonstrate his ideas for improving WAR. It can take enough time just writing and editing blog posts, let alone making videos with all the diagrams, animations and so on. /salute

And finally the ideas themselves are well worth considering, particularly regarding PQs and Fortresses.
Go check it out.

Mythic are NOT suing Warhammer Alliance. Gamesworkshop are suing Curse.

Big difference.

Lot of people getting all in a stress about this situation, but keep in mind folks this is not really anything to do with Warhammer Online and Mythic. Gamesworkshop see Curse, which is a business, making money and using their IP without permission. From the comments posted by the previous owner of WHA, the WHA site did have permission before the site was sold to Curse, but alas for WHA it was sold and as a result in GW's eyes will have become a business and no longer a fan site. So no matter what Mythic or Warhammer Online players may think, Gamesworkshop will always sue.

To them no matter how well WAR did it would always have been just a sideline, a licence they sold and get a little bit of cash from. It’s a small priority compared with protecting their intellectual property, since failure to do so even once can lead to difficulties when making a legal challenge in future. Gamesworkshop have a history of aggressively protecting their IP against anyone that could be seen as making money from it. And to be honest they don’t really have much choice, their IP is their entire business. They have to be aggressive, that's just how it works. It’s like with the Damnatus warhammer 40k film, GW didn’t want to give them the legal slap, but because of the way German copyright laws work, to protect themselves in future they had no choice. That one is still rumbling on I believe.

Do I like it? Of course not, whilst I couldn’t give a monkey’s about Curse (due to apathy, not some random hatred), I do like WHA and regularly read the forums. But this situation is just about business, is far from uncommon and totally understandable. Hopefully Gamesworkshop and Curse will work something out, after all that’s what usually happens in these situations. The whole suing thing is probably just a kick up the arse and a statement, rather than an attempt at taking Curse for a milllllllllllion dollars.

But don't get dragged into blaming Mythic. Feel free to shout at Mythic for not giving us news on an expansion though. I mean come on, Age of Conan gets one and we're not? Now is not the time for viral marketing, hints or just plain silence. Now is the time to kick arse and take names, it's time to stake a claim! A fitting tune considering the UK's political mess at the moment. Lib Dems get 24% of the vote, but only 8% of the seats in the House of Parliment, how the fuck is that democracy working? In fact while I'm getting cross... 52% of the population make clear votes to keep the Tories out, yet somehow with a mere 36% it looks like they'll get in. No please, no return to eighties rich person buffing! Do not want! Broken system is broken.

Ooh man now that was a tangent.

Anyways....... don't blame Mythic, this is not their fault. The sue Curse bit I mean, not the politics. Though I'm sure there is an ex-WAR playing Troll that can think up why the political mess is Mythic's fault. :P

Friday 7 May 2010

What WAR needs from DAoC - part 2 - siege warfare

Siege warfare: Castles, keeps, towers and flight-masters?

To really understand why siege warfare in DAoC is seen as being much better than in WAR, just like in my previous post you once again have to take a step back, look at the big picture and consider more than just the details of the combat itself. Not just the how we fight, but the why we fight. So the first thing to think about is what is the actual purpose of keeps? In the most basic sense within both games the purpose is the same; the keeps are there to provide us with something to fight for, they are battle objectives if you like. However beyond that basic reasoning the two games go in very different directions.

In WAR capturing a keep gives points towards the score required to lock the zone it’s in... The only reason to attack a keep is when trying to lock the zone, and in return the only reason to defend a keep is if you want to prevent the enemy getting the points towards the aforementioned zone lock. Unfortunately other than that point score and a bit of extra loot for a guild claiming the keep, ownership provides no benefits of any form. And it must be stressed, once you get the zone lock and the active zone changes, that keep is now completely irrelevant. This is why you very rarely see a guild in WAR take and hold a keep in any serious manner, unlike in DAoC where they will often end up staying there for hours defending their ground. In WAR keeps are just cap it, get the points, lock the zone, move on and repeat back and forth. Am I being too harsh? Not really. Ask yourself, what does holding a keep give you?

In DAoC taking and holding keeps provides an entirely different set of benefits, but to understand why, first I have to explain the difference between WAR’s flight-masters and DAoC’s teleporting. As you know, in WAR when you want to go to a different zone you simply talk to a flight-master in any warcamp, a loading screen appears and then you are in the new zone, instantly. However in DAoC there no flight-masters, instead there are Border Keeps and teleport stones. Each realm’s frontier (which consists of multiple seamlessly linked zones) has a couple of Border keeps. These are massive un-attackable keeps that separate the PvE levelling zones from the full RvR enabled frontier zones, in other words these are the doorways to RvR. Once inside you will find no flight-master for quick travel, instead you will discover a teleport stone, that works like a flight-master, sort of … Same-same but different!

Spread across the frontiers are DAoC’s many attackable keeps, each of which have 4 towers fairly nearby in the surrounding landscape. If your realm controls a keep and all 4 towers, then a teleport stone within that main keep becomes active and under your realms control. You can use these to instantly travel between ANY teleport stones also under your realm control. So if you capture a keep and towers deep in the enemy frontier lands, this means your realm buddies can then teleport yourself from the Border keep (or other controlled keeps) directly into that newly captured keep within the enemy frontier… as long as you also control the 4 related towers.

Think about that for a minute. Control of DAoC’s keeps effectively give you supply lines into enemy territory. It allows you to pin your enemy back and bring your armies in to their lands. Remember this is a campaign without zone locks, where anywhere can come under attack at any point, as such this is a campaign where your ability to manoeuvre is an extremely significant factor. These keeps provide a way of controlling territory. They let you turn segments of the enemy frontier into your own territory, restrict enemy movement and provide beachheads to launch your attacks from. When you look at the frontier map in DAoC you can see effectively lines of battle as control of the land is gained and lost. Like an old school war map! REAL strategic choices. Do you push for the keeps nearest to your frontier and try to directly expand your territory, or do you send raids deep into the enemy frontier and try to capture a strongpoint and make a push directly from the heart of the enemy frontier? What about both? Could you hit 3 enemy keeps at once and potentially control 3 different routes into the enemy frontier?!

But full control of keeps is a fragile thing. Control means having the keep and all 4 towers (tower image to the right)… You can’t just hole up in the central keep, because the enemy will launch attacks on multiple towers at once and you’ll lose the ability to teleport. You’ll end up trapped in the castle with reinforcements having to reach you on foot or by boat, neither of which is that quick in zones this size. Unless of course that’s the point and you holding this keep is merely a diversion for an attack elsewhere… which is a definite possibility with the open zones and freedom of choosing where to fight.
So comparing the two games, in WAR keeps give you nothing more than points on a scoreboard towards a ping-pong campaign nobody cares about (sorry WAR), but in DAoC the keeps define territory, give major travel options and are actually the defining feature of DAoC’s campaign, instead of a score board.

So what of the keeps and siege warfare itself?
At first glance it’s very similar to WAR, with oil, rams, doors and keep lords. The big difference is once again the options you have. Not only do keeps in Camelot have destructible walls, siege weapons can be placed anywhere (no silly siege pads), you’re able to build siege towers and there are other abilities that let attackers climb the walls, which means you’re not limited to just attacking or defending a single doorway. Defenders will be spread around the battlements, as the attacks could come from anywhere. Just spamming AoE on a doorway will not work. All told this is much more like those images of sieges we see in the movies and it makes for much more epic feeling battles. Much more epic, simply because we’re spread out more and we have options in how we play. Visually and in layout terms the keeps are quite different, DAoC’s having a much more traditional, but not necessarily better, theme. DAoC’s feel bigger, but I’m not entirely convinced they are. I think it’s a more a case of placement, which is just like real castles being often on hills and raised areas, which makes them quite imposing as you approach. A key point is that you’re not funnelled to the doorways in the same way as WAR, so you will always see much more of the keep and be fighting over a much larger area, which I think gives it a more dramatic ambiance

I think it’s time to ask: what if any of this could WAR introduce?

OK this is following on from my previous post and the changes I’ve suggested there regarding the overall environment.

Teleport stones = Flight Masters
Having already removed the zone locking system, opened up tier 4 to be fully RvR and added some more objectives to the former pure PvE sections, it’s time to give the keeps and objectives some real meaning. Flight masters should only work if your realm controls a keep and a certain number of associated objectives. Otherwise you have to fly to the nearest zone (with a controlled flight master) and then ride. Alternatively you could choose to leave your city gates or a lower tier entrance and ride there. A racial pairing will now actually have a feeling of going into enemy territory as you travel from one city to the other. While this will mean it can sometimes take longer to get into a fight (though we have scenarios for instant action still), I think the trade off for a proper campaign with a real tangible feeling of pushing into enemy lands is more than worth it.

Upgrade siege warfare
I gather destructible walls are hard to implement now, as are freely deployable siege weapons. OK, so give us siege towers and ladders that work on inner and outer walls. This will mean both attacking and defending melee has more of a role in sieges, the combat is spread around more, it’s a hell of a lot less boring and it brings an end to the DOORhammer Online era.

As before I think these are feasible changes. I’m not asking for 2 years worth of new artwork, or in fact anything that requires structural changes to the game world (I don’t think?). It’s about moving us away from the too prescriptive campaign and not making everything too easy for us. Actually I think that’s a big contributor to Mythic’s errors (and some of the great things too) with WAR, they have really tried to make everything as accessible as possible. They’ve tried so hard to make it easy for us to take part in anything, that they have actually made it a bit too easy.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

What WAR needs from DAoC

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.
Third faction
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

Monday 3 May 2010

A question of time

The big question with this faction switching lark is: how long to wait between switching sides?

If it’s a short duration it will make the whole faction system farcical, but if it’s a few days... OK I agree with Shadow-war, yes that could work out.

Hopefully Mythic will give us an answer soon.

Saturday 1 May 2010

Having had a few hours to discuss and think about the cross-realming change…

…I still think it’s a very bad idea. It won’t be a surprise to hear this was the big topic of debate on our guild’s ventrilo tonight and it’s probably not a shock either to discover than everyone thought it is a horrible idea. Unless it is to help the introduction of a third faction, in which case it was universally accepted as a worthy cause for such a change. If it there was an expansion coming that adds races to the existing factions, well I don’t really see how this would help, but I'm open to hearing how. Problem is as we don’t have anything concrete to suggest an expansion, we’re left hoping it’s a third faction expansion and praying this was just a poorly timed comment in advance of an announcement.

Putting in a changing faction lock out timer of say 12 hours after logging in with a character will prevent much of the spiteful and tactical cross-realming, but it still leaves us with problems to deal with. Some guilds will be fractured as people decide to jump ship; the grass is greener and all that. And what about a strict no cross realming guild? How do they manage this change? It will also be much easier (with no extra cost) and more common for people to infiltrate enemy guilds and cause all manner of problems. I just can’t see what positive purpose this change has, unless it is related to an expansion. It makes no sense.

In the producer’s letter thread Andy has confirmed they are not considering server merges, so that thankfully is ruled out. I’ve no idea what the US servers are like, but the 2 English speaking EU ones I play on are both very busy, so server merges seemed odd anyway.

Just to throw a little more hope in there; the grab bag video is broken at the time of posting, it only plays for about a minute, but the Bretonnia background is there again. We also have to hope this line from the Producer's Letter means something decent:

"Also keep on the lookout for a special announcement video coming straight from the bloggers to you!"

I think we really need some reassurance from Mythic here. Feel free to email me something positive Mythic (hey if you don't ask you don't get!) :P Everyone I’ve spoken to is very worried about what this means. Everyone is hopeful for an expansion. And everyone will be devastated if that’s not what is coming and we just get Mythic sponsored cross-realming.

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Half man half pixel. Music obsessive, likes a drink, occasional bastard.