I got my MTV!

I was the perfect age when MTV launched…oodles of free time, not old enough to drive, old enough to score beer and other…stuff…that greatly increased my enjoyment of the Music Television Network back in the day when they actually, you know, played videos.

I miss the old MTV. I remember arguments about how MTV was killing the music industry, how bands didn’t write songs any more, they made videos and the music was an afterthought…if I had a blog back then, there would have been plenty of epic flame wars.

Personally, I loved MTV. I thought it was a great confluence of music and theater, and MTV was always on in the background of whatever we were doing in high school. Yeah, screw off, I was in like 8th grade when MTV launched. Save me the “Dude, I wasn’t even BORN yet” comments ;) I know I’m old!

Anyway, I saw an article over on Digg that linked to the MTV Music site, with the entire library of MTV videos available for free online. Wicked. I will be torturing my friends with 80’s music links, and possibly torturing you as well!

Go ahead, browse the site, find stuff you used to listen to (if you’re old enough!). I’d love to check it out!

I’ll leave you with something a little better than my previous link. Trust me!

WAR PvE – One more thought

Why doesn’t zone control matter more? Why don’t I notice zone control as a game element? I mean, I know when Altdorf is threated, but what I don’t really know is how Tier 1, 2, and 3 zones contribute toward that happening.

I mean, I know on a theoretical level that it affects the game somehow, but practically, I don’t think it really matters one damn bit, does it?

My question relates to PvE in the title because I think Public Quests and regular PvE questing contribute somehow to zone control, don’t they?

Mythic really seems to have missed making the connnection between zone control and PvE content. Even the RvR contributions are mysterious to me. I don’t know how many Scenarios are being run, and I don’t know who’s winning more often. All I can see is the Open RvR objectives and keeps.

Is it ever going to matter who controls the most zones? Are we really going to feel it if Altdorf or the Inevitable City are conquered? Is each faction going to care about conquering the opposing capital city in the same way DAoC players cared about controlling the most keeps, so we could open the Darkness Falls dungeon for our realm?

Would it make a difference, at lower tiers, if the faction in control of the zone had big PvE bonuses? Experience, money, etc.? Would it make a difference if contributions through PvE had a larger effect on zone control than Scenarios? Would people begin to realize that putting together one well-balanced group was an excellent way to reap really excellent gear rewards?

It seems there are plenty of people stating that they’re unhappy with the lack of PvE companions. What would it take to get those players together? They’re taking time to post on forums and blogs; why aren’t they taking that time to seek out other players who are wishing they could join up to complete PQ’s or bigger quests? I’ve been in a group that ran PQ’s all night, and the gear rewards are pretty decent. If you’re well-geared, you can get nice crafting items, or just take the cash. Running PQ’s are profitable; what’s keeping the non-Scenario fans from getting together? And it’s not a rhetorical question; I really don’t know what would help people organize beyond what’s already available.

I think after the rush of Open Group availability in the first couple weeks, in crowded zones, that people have lost a bit of faith in the tool. If they check Open Groups and see nothing available, they don’t start a group, advertise it in Region chat, ask in Guild chat, ask in Order chat, etc., if anyone is interested in getting together for an evening of PQ mayhem.

But there’s something more than that. One thing I loved about Dark Age RvR was that the effects of taking or losing keeps was readily apparent. Your relics were at risk, you gained entry to Darkness Falls, your guild got PvE experience bonuses for fighting in the area around a keep you had claimed. I know that I felt pretty invested in how the war was going in DAoC.

It doesn’t appear that zone control matters as much in WAR, at least if you judge it by how much people talk about it. If Altdorf isn’t threatened, I don’t hear anything about zone control, at least in T2 and T3 areas. Is there some way to make zone control matter, and use that to encourage people to participate in PvE as much as they’re currently involved in running scenarios?

WAR PvE

Ok, I’ve spent a couple posts talking about RvR, what’s good about WAR, why we (the internet community) is mostly focused on the negatives, and why I think Mythic’s error in pushing RvR over PvE isn’t the worst mistake in the world.

That said, I’ll offer up my opinions on PvE. As much as I think WAR can survive and prosper despite the perceived PvE imbalances, I do think there are lessons to be learned from the launch.

First, splitting the community into 3 separate pairings seems a mistake in a game that offered tools like Open Grouping and PvE events like Public Quests, and in a game that offers greater rewards for Scenario RvR. I think both Open Groups and PQ’s are great advancements in MMO design, but only with enough players around to participate in ‘em. Most MMO’s start you out in different areas, and then funnel you together as you advance in level. I think WAR would have benefitted from this model, maybe pushing everyone into the same zones around level 20 or 25.

I think it’s safe to say that Mythic thought Open Groups and Public Quests would solve PvE issues that have plagued every MMO. They thought it would lower the barrier to entry for grouping. They thought they could encourage players to get out of the single-player mindset, and team up on challenges larger than a solo player can accomplish by themselves. I think they suspect, like many of us, that instanced WoW content (and EQ and EQ2 content) is only enjoyed by a relatively small percentage of subscribers. The rest of us prefer to figure out how to solo our way through, and WoW was the consummate solo MMORPG. To a large extent, Mythic succeeded in overcoming the solo mindset and obstacles to grouping on more difficult objectives, or just finding group mates for companionship…but, they succeeded in beta, and in the first couple weeks of the game, when everyone was concentrated in certain play areas.

That leads to the second problem with WAR PvE, which is the perception that the “best” way to level is through Scenarios, and the main contributor to the emptying of PvE areas. If you just look at the numbers, it’s probably correct that you advance fastest through Scenarios, and as I’ve argued before, I think Mythic did that because they thought it would be more difficult to coax players out of PvE and into RvR. Still, the situation exists that players who want a more social PvE experience are really having to work to pull together a group for PvE. I should say “some players”, because I personally find it pretty easy to start an Open Group, ask in guild chat if anyone wants to work on Chapter PQ’s, ask in Region chat, and get a couple people that want to participate. That said, it’s nowhere nearly as easy to do that now as it was in beta, but it’s also just as much work as you have to do for PvE in every other MMO out there.

I think the second problem, incentive for PvE, can be addressed. I’m not sure there’s much that Mythic can do to address the first problem, the way they split their factions into three separate pairings. In hindsight, this is probably a detriment only because Scenario RvR is so rewarding. Every other MMO survived just fine with different starting areas for different races, but that’s partially because there’s no other option for advancement in those MMO’s.

There’s a pretty decent PvE experience to be had in WAR. I’m playing WAR PvE the same way I played WoW, EQ, LoTRO, etc. I mostly solo, I sometimes have to search out a group at tougher objectives, I skip things that are either too tough for the group I can assemble, and I’ve found plenty of content to fuel my advancement. The questing system isn’t revolutionary, but it’s thoughtful, introducing me to the Warhammer world, giving me plenty to do in each zone, and I’m advancing just fine. If Mythic can offer enough incentive to get more people out in the PvE areas, I think we’ll start to see an even better experience emerge, due to Open Groups and PQ’s. The question is, can Mythic offer enough incentive to get people out of Scenarios? Time will tell.

The one caveat I’ll add to my WAR PvE observations is dungeon crawling. As I’ve been writing this, I was thinking about Wilhelm’s post at the Ancient Gaming Noob about trying to port his static group into WAR. He was disappointed in the dungeon content, feeling like it was too short, and either not challenging enough or too challenging. I do think WoW and EQ do dungeon crawling a lot better than WAR, at least as far as I’ve gotten in WAR. For a static group who’s battle-tested in PvE encounters, WAR seems to be fairly thin. Their challenge would be taking their PvE skills and trying to succeed in PvP…but the unpredictable nature of RvR sometimes leads to nights of no action, or little success when you do find action, and I suspect the static groups who are used to predictability from their PvE content are going to be frustrated by RvR’s sometimes cyclical nature.

For the vast majority of MMO players, though (people who largely solo…we know from WoW that the majority of players didn’t raid at endgame or run instances regularly), I don’t think WAR’s PvE is levels of magnitude worse than any other game at launch. If it wasn’t for the scenario reward discrepancy, and if more people were around for grouping, it’d actually be a pretty damn good PvE setup, even with the three pairing setup. It’s a problem that Mythic needs to solve, but I think they have good tools in place to make PvE more enjoyable once people feel the incentive is there to advance via PvE.

WAR: And, another thing…

Two years ago, if you were on the planning team for WAR, imagine these two (pardon the phrase) scenarios: Which would you choose as being a bigger issue for game design?

  1. WAR is going to be an RvR-focused game. Our concern is that gamers don’t naturally gravitate toward RvR, and we want to give them incentives to give it a try, to get over the PvP fears that open-griefing PvP MMO’s have instilled in our audience. What kind of incentives can we offer for RvR?
  2. WAR is going to be so successful in RvR that we’ll have to offer incentives to get people into PvE.

Where would you have concentrated your development time? As much as we can, in hindsight, point out places where Mythic could have made changes in PvE, I don’t think I would have imagined bullet point #2 as being a huge concern for the success of my game.

Yeah, WAR PvE has some challenges, but what would you rather being facing if you were Mythic? Would you rather have Yet Another PvE Game, while you beg people to try RvR, or would you rather have tons of people enjoying RvR, enjoying what makes your game different than other MMO’s, and trying to figure out how to fix the PvE perception?

Compared to most other MMO’s, WAR’s PvE isn’t that bad, isn’t that far off the bar set by other games. It suffers when you compare it to the rate of advancement in Scenarios, and it suffers because we’re quite divided into three pairings, and then quite divided over large zones in each pairing, not finding a critical mass of PvE companions. I think the first problem, incentive for PvE, can be addressed. I’m not sure there’s much that Mythic can do to address the way they split their factions into three separate pairings, isolating people from each other. That’s a topic for another post, though.

I think it’s pretty safe to say, though, that if Mythic had to be facing a problem at this point, a month into release, you’d rather have the problem of people enjoying RvR so much that PvE needs a boost. It’s a hell of a lot better than everyone crowding in PvE because RvR is perceived as not fun, or not rewarding.

WAR: What is not being said

By now, it’s pretty clear that there’s a portion of the MMO community that feels Mythic missed the boat with PvE. The common culprit in this observation is the Scenario system. The rewards for running Scenarios are so great that PvE cannot get a critical mass of people involved to participate in Mythic’s Public Quests and standard PvE questing.

Since we’re talking about this on the internet, it’s natural that we spend most of our time speaking negatively about PvE in WAR. Those of us like myself, who happen to be enjoying the reasons PvE is emptier than RvR, are too busy playing the game to hop on our blogs and talk about why we’re in RvR much more often than PvE. Hint: It’s not only because Scenarios are perceived to be more rewarding than PvE.

As long as I’ve been playing MMO’s, one constant cry for a future MMO was “I want to be able to level entirely through PvR”. Granted, not everyone felt that way; some people (myself included) avoided PvP like the plague, because we hated being griefed. Mythic solved the griefing problem in Dark Age of Camelot (players could only communicate through emotes, separate PvE and PvP areas) but it wasn’t possible to level 1-15 in RvR.

WAR fixes that. Now, it’s quite possible to level a long way into the game (I’m only at level 25, can’t speak for 26-40 yet) doing mostly PvP. In fact, PvP is such a great way to advance that PvE feels comparitively empty, and people are floundering trying to find groups.

For a minute, let’s not dwell on the perception that PvE is wasting your time compared to running Scenarios. First, I don’t believe that, and second, it gets in the way of recognizing exactly what Mythic has accomplished with RvR. I don’t think people run Scenarios non-stop solely because it’s the fastest way to advance. I think we’re seeing a ton of people in Scenarios because, finally, an MMO has finally figured out how to give us a leveling alternative comparable to PvE. Gotta say, I’m happy to have another viable option, after PvE leveling in pretty much every game since EQ came out (as always, Eve Online doesn’t fit neatly into MMO comparisons).

As much as we’re hearing complaints in the blogosphere bemoaning PvE issues, there are just a ton of people totally loving the RvR in WAR. Instead of trumpeting their satisfaction from the rooftops (or blogtops), they’re spending their time playing the game. It’s human nature; if we’re happy, we don’t complain. If we’re unhappy, we run to the internet and get it all out :) The lack of posting here since WAR launched is definitely due to me having just a ton of fun in WAR.

I’ll address my PvE opinions in another post. I just wanted to acknowledge, publically, what I’ve been saying privately about WAR. We finally have an MMO that makes it possible to level your character doing something other than non-stop PvE. This is a huge achievement for Mythic, and something we should keep in mind when we bemoan PvE being empty.

You can’t tell ANYONE

I’m playing a new MMO. It’s the first MMO where my daughter and I have actually grouped up tonight, playing two different characters. In the past, she’s just run around game worlds on charqacters on my account, only leveling accidentally, leaving the real work of leveling up to me. This game, though, she wants her own character.

God help me, it’s friggin’ Pixie Hollow, from Disney. And the sad part is, once I got over scarring caused by the the character creation experience (it’s about the cutest damn fairy ever, in leafy clothes with lots of jewelry and stuff), I actually found myself falling into total MMO mode. “Oh, we have to collect these materials to make clothes? Ok, I like crafting…oh, you can get even more materials if you play the mini-games? I like mini-games…Oh, there are badges if you complete certain things? I’m a badge whore, what do I need to do?”

It’s a damn shame. It IS a lot of fun to run around with my daughter, though. She was very excited to show me her house, and how she had decorated it, and she was really laughing at some of the silly emotes. That alone makes it worth the Disney post-traumatic stress.

Can anyone explain to me why friggin’ Pixie Hollow can have instanced housing, but WAR doesn’t? Huh? Can you? I can’t explain it.

I’ll let you know when I’ve bought a new leaf skirt and new boots and learned how to sew and stuff. I think the RvR must be at the end game? Or is that FvF? I could use a little Fairie versus Fairie bloodshed about now. I need a drink, a big gin and tonic, and I need some WAR.

Hype Night

The Greenskin asked “Where did the hype go?” about WAR. It’s a good question. I’ve been dead quiet here since WAR launched, and it’s mostly because I’m having an absolute blast. This is the most fun I’ve had in an MMO since…shoot, I don’t know? The glory days of SWG? Dark Age? It’s right up there with my favorite MMO moments.

I read plenty of blogs stating that WAR isn’t capturing their attention. I can understand why. I’ve seen this movie before.

When Everquest was king, and Dark Age of Camelot was launched, I heard the same things about Dark Age that I’m hearing about WAR now. The PvE isn’t great, you have to get to the end game to see what Mythic’s really done, EQ has better this, better that, bla bla bla. That’s cool. It was pretty clear to me that they were two vastly different games, offering very different experiences, even though they both belonged to the same MMO space. It’s ok to prefer one over the other. To me, MMO’s are like music. You might really like Pearl Jam. Or Toto. Or the Bay City Rollers. It’s not up to me to judge. Well, I can judge, but I can’t dictate your tastes :) As my wife likes to say, “Everyone is entitled to their own wrong opinion.” Three guesses who she’s usually talking about. First two don’t count.

Yeah, WAR has some challenges. Wilhelm was disappointed with the early dungeon content. (Wilhelm, for what it’s worth, CoWs were checking out Gunbad last night, it sounds a lot bigger, multiple wings, I think you have to be 17 to get quests for it? Just have your tank grind scenarios for 7 levels and…wait, come back! Was it something I said??). Another challenge is leveling. Mythic’s balancing is off between scenarios and open RvR. I don’t think they thought through the replay-ability of zones without a critical mass of players available…or they at least made it difficult to be social and just talk to people in your zone to see if you could get a group together for PQ’s or PvE. I love the Open Group tool, that’s how I find most of my PvE/PQ groups…but dudes, you made it super-easy to group through a tool, but people can’t chat in the region to get together? Huh?

Personally, I’m not a chatter in General chat. I prefer the lack of bla bla bla in an Open Group model, but your game really should support chat to group and the Open Group tool. Yeah, Mytic is fixing it, but in hindsight, it should have been in there all along. Maybe Mythic was thinking regional chat was an obstacle to being immersed in the game?

Challenges or not, though, WAR is the game for me (at least until someone makes a game with the crafting/market economy and player housing/city building of SWG, the RvR of a Mythic game, the PvE of WoW, the territory claiming and offline training of Eve (no more levels!), and maybe hookers and beer).

I honestly haven’t been frustrated in WAR. When I don’t feel like doing Scenarios, I enjoy PQ’s. When I’ve had enough PQ’s, I’ll knock out some quests. I keep my ears open for good RvR, and jump out in the lakes when I hear something good is going on. The crafting is simple, but it’s a good diversion when none of the other options leap out at me.

I think maybe I’m more flexible than some gamers? Or more forgiving? I don’t go into the game and say “I’m going to do PQ’s tonight NO MATTER WHAT.” If I stumble on a group of people in a PQ doing a quest, I’ll ask if they want to do a couple more. If I don’t stumble on enough people for a PQ, I’ll do PvE with them. If we have fun, sometimes we’ll queue for a Scenario, or head out to RvR together if the call to attack or defend arises. If I can’t find absolutely anything going on, I’m usually perfects happy soloing. Hell, it’s what I’d be doing in WoW or LoTRO or EQ anyway!

It’d be easy to say that I have all these options because I’m part of a large guild, but honestly, I’m a quiet person. I don’t invite myself into guild groups all that much. I find that I encounter partners for PvE and PQ’s while I’m out in the world. I don’t know, maybe after leveling in like a dozen MMO’s since EQ in ’99, I’ve become a more patient person. I don’t feel like WAR is grindy at all. I’m playing very casually, and I’m level 25 on my main with a handful of alts between 8 and 10. If you choose to ONLY run Scenarios because that’s the fastest way to 40…well, I can understand where you’d feel bored. I’m having no trouble progressing without being Scenario-obsessed, though.

I think it’s like music. I enjoy this band. It’s got a good beat, I can dance to it. I give it an 8, Dick.

No, I’m not calling you a dick. There’s a capital D there. If you’re too old for American Bandstand and Soul Train, don’t take the Dick thing personally.

When I was growing up, I liked art rock. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. King Crimson. Fripp and Eno. Rush. Yes. Early Genesis, before Peter Gabriel left and the whole thing became Phil Collins singing about love. The man’s been married like 3 times now…stick to the drums, Petey, let Peter G. write the songs, k?

My point is, it’s a pretty specific music genre, and my friends who liked Black Flag or the Circle Jerks or The Allman Brothers or Cheap Trick thought my music sucked. Ya know, it doesn’t suck, you just might not enjoy it the same way I do.

I’ve been in absolutely epic RvR, both in Scenarios and Open RvR. Total nailbiters, last-minute victories AND defeats, heroic moments, saving group mates with heals a nick from death, being saved by team mates, heart-pounding, adrenaline surging MMO goodness. I can’t think of another game that’s given me this sort of fun, at least not since DAoC, and it’s exactly what I wanted to experience in WAR. I’ll hype WAR, but it’s going to fall on deaf ears if people don’t enjoy that kind of gameplay, or if they think that kind of gameplay falls off a tree each time you run into an RvR lake or a Scenario. I’ve had bad RvR runs too, but damn, I’ll take a few clunkers over leveling Yet Another Alt in Azeroth, or doing another 10 levels on my WoW main, just to be faced with the same cookie-cutter PvE raiding. Yeah, WoW dungeons are awesome, but seriously, compared to playing against real people, it bores me to tears. I’d rather play Bejeweled than run WoW raid dungeons.

I just don’t enjoy that band. It’s ok if you do. We can still get along. I’ll go to my concerts, you go to your concerts, and we can still talk to each other. I’ll still be your friend. And I’m not going to insist my music is better. It’s not. It’s just what I like. And I like it a lot! WAR friggin’ rocks. For me.

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