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


  1. I love all these suggestions. Mythic should give you the keys!

    I had wanted to read an article like this for a while, about all the good stuff from DAoC and how it could work in WAR. I had never heard of DAoC until I started in WAR and people have very fond memories of it. I'm tempted to even go and check out it myself to get a feel of the massive environment you talk about.

    I do wonder why some of the cool stuff isn't already in WAR. I can only think it must've been a budget/time thing and that Mythic thought they could do something new and better. I get the feeling they are now realising that a lot of the stuff you mentioned would have great value in WAR. The RvR gated dungeon was a DAoC thing first wasn't it?

    Looking forward to the Siege Warfare post!

  2. Never played DAoC :( That all sounds very cool but I like the sound of the weather a lot!

    Imagine fighting in the dark with lightning flashes illuminating everything. :) :)

  3. Excellent post!

    Never playing DAOC I had no clue about so much of this. Thanks for pulling it together and shining a light on the coolness we should have in WAR.

    Why oh why did this stuff not come over from DAOC? I know, budget, time, etc. but jeesh.

  4. as one of those ppl that have gone back to DAoC I can clearly say Boots, don't quit DAoC just yet :p the last couple of days have been EPIC fights with the transfers from EU servers done. for instance, just this morning Albs were having a go at Mids relics and basicly invaded mid lands like a locust swarm, taking keeps and towers left and right, trying strategic assaults to devide the mid forces and we ended up having some really nice battles taking place in and around the keeps. Resulted in quite a bit of realm points and a REALLY fun morning. (one of tohse rare times I'm actualy happy to be a student :D )

    Anyways, the fights are picking up a lot now when there's not just americans on the servers (with that I mean that there's been a somewhat lack of RvR when the yanks are sleeping/at work).

    Another thing to consider for WAR is the size of the normal keeps, make them bigger! like... DAoC size... to compair it with something I'd say that the DAoC keeps are a big mansion while the WAR keeps are like a small cottage.. size makes difference. ooh and sige weapons to bring down the walls!! not just the keep door, nothing is more fun than to see 3 trebs bringing down a tower/keep wall so the entire thing collapse :D

  5. Already cancelled mate. DAoC just doesn't suit my gameplay time. Solo roaming is dead now (which was my big thing in the old days and proper solo too), there's too much PvE required and to do anything these days it seems you need hours and hours online. I just can't commit to that right now with real life stuff and WAR to balance.

    Plus as you know I have issues with how the combat has dated, but I'm not going to go into that now ;)

  6. Aeo - DAoC has a free trial, so no harm in having a look. Ignore the graphics, absorb the atmosphere :)

    Anon - That fight in a storm was a classic moment, I'll remember that for a while.

    Krossus - I'm not sure it was budget related. I heard (not 100% sure on this) that there was a clear direction in Mythic during development to not make WAR into DAoC 2. Regardless of if that is true or not, if WAR had truly been DAoC 2 then I don't think they would have lost the subs they did.

    I went to the new Minotaur Labryrinth RvR enabled dungeon today for the first time. It's amazing. The graphics are actually good even by today's standards, but it's the size of the place... Massive, huge, monstrous, bloody epic... it's so big that I can't actually explain it and be sure you've fully understood how big this place is.

    DAoC shows us what Mythic have forgotten or perhaps misunderstood the relevance of when creating WAR. BUT! It also shows us what Mythic can achieve, which perhaps should give us some faith for WAR's future.

  7. One solution:

    Bring with the land of the bretons a huge RvR-zone-set in the game. It allows to switch from human- to elf-realm.

  8. Weather change sounds really cool but in the games current state when fighting 100 vs 100 and it would start raining the servers would explode :)

  9. I played DaoC again last year for about 6 months. I totally agree with you, Bootae. The enviroment and atmosphere are still awesome by today's standards. The huge zones give you so much freedom and a chance for smaller teams to accomplish a lot more in the RvR zones.

    I played with a tight group of friends, about 8-10 of us. We would set up 1 or 2 groups almost every night and just go "hunting" and try to disrupt some of the bigger zergs by taking on stragglers, taking other towers and keeps so that the zerg would have to chase us and forget about their main objective... Of course, it didn't always work, but when it did, it was awesome! I've never felt that sense of accomplishment while playing WAR...

    DAoC is a good game. I believe Mythic should have used most of those concepts and just improved on them. They took a big step backwards with WAR in my opinion. Too bad DAoC does feel dated at this point. Combat is not as smooth as newer games and on some zones, the lag is terrible, like in the Labyrinth. Still a fun game to revisit, specially if you have friends to roll around with.

  10. Very nice suggestions and very well written. I do, however, have some questions;

    - In what way do you think larger zones will improve the experience. Large zones like Thunder Mountain and Black Crag for instance provide little entertainment if they are fought over, despite its size.

    - Regarding the open, non-lockable zones. Don't you think this will encourage the feared RvE with so many undefended keeps up for grabs?

    The thing I'm worried about is that with the current situation guild pride exceeds realm pride thus any content or situation encouraging that realm pride will not work.

    Thank you for your time and keep it up!

  11. Humanpony - Thanks for reading :)

    Larger, unlockable zones will make it impossible for a faction to move round in one huge zerg blob and capture everything, instead they will have to work in multiple small units. Otherwise they just cant keep control of everything, which in turn means there's people spread about all over the place in a zone. You get more roaming group to warband scale PvP. At least that is how it works in camelot.

    There is always the potential for RvE, but thats also something that in DAoC is generally negated by people being spread out. It's extremely unlikely that you won't run into a group of enemy players.

    I think the problem with zones like Black Crag is down to the zerg culture we have. A zone can feel empty when there's just 2 zergs moving round independently, simply cos there's only 2 parts of it with players in at any one point. On the few occassions I've been in Black Crag when there was lots of roaming 6 man groups, it's been great.

    The game needs to move away from zerg culture. It just promotes lag and frustration.

    IMHO anyway ;)

  12. KillTrash - I totally agree, I highly recommend anyone with an open mind to give DAoC's free trial a... uhm... trial.

  13. A couple of things.

    Because Warhammer is a game based on War, then your re arranging of the Tier 4 zones is totally workable. The zones in a battle are always moving. So rearranging is always going to be justifiable.

    One of the reasons that zergs were more stationary in DAOC compared to groups was speed. Alot of the speed effects were group only, so groups would get the benefit of the speed (Rune Speed/Skald Speed/Skald Speed++), thus leaving the main zerg behind. This helped in breaking up the larger bodies.

    One of the ideas I posted in Beta btw, was for the zergs to create mud patches, which slowed them down. As the ground was churned it slowed the zerg down, thus forcing people to spread out as they travelled.


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