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.

I’ve got mail!

Thank god the mail is working as intended, finally. I can clear out all my expired auctions and put things back on the market. It was just torture trying to empty 20 messages out of my box.

If Mythic would just let me mail multiple items at once, I’d be a very happy customer.

It’s up to you

Way back in my tabletop gaming days, I learned that a good group makes all the difference in an evening of play.  You can put six random people at a table, on two successive Friday nights, and have everyone play the same adventure with the same dungeon master using the exact same rules, and your experiences can be completely different.

One group might be contentious, and have players who would rather argue with each other instead of getting into their characters and making it fun. They might not cooperate with each other, they might not follow the rules, they might nitpick and nag the DM to death. Or themselves to death, when the frustrated DM drops them all into a pit with sharpened and poisoned sticks at the bottom. Not that I’ve ever done that.

The other group might put their real life personalities aside for the evening, and get into playing a character. If there is a real life personality conflict, they might choose to act it out in-game, making the story more interesting and challenging. They take the DM decisions as opportunities to add their own actions to the story, instead of challenges to their fun. They put the game before their own need to be in control.

I’ve played in both types of groups, in tabletop sessions and in mmorpgs. MMO’s don’t have the rules lawyering wrangling, but you do get the online variant, which is bitching in General chat, in group chat, in Scenario chat, in tells, and on message boards, about how the game is broken and it’s keeping you from having fun.

I’m seeing a bit of that with WAR. I’ve seen complaints that everyone is in Scenarios, and PvE and PQ’s are suffering because of it. I’ve seen complaints that rolling an alt just a month after release finds you in deserted Tiers, and there’s nothing to do but grind. I’ve seen people gripe about the people they find in open groups, whether it’s RvR or Scenarios or PvE and PQ’s.

It’s tabletop time, folks. If you’re finding something lacking, it’s going to be up to you to create it, or search it out, or find it. I’m reminded of people who log into Eve and saying “There’s nothing to do but run missions and mine….boring!”, or people who don’t like Second Life because a game isn’t handed to them as soon as they log in.

There are times, in tabletop games and in online games, where a player has to take some responsibility for their environment. I was lucky to fall in with the Casualties of War, and I have people to group with for PQ’s, or PvE, or Scenarios and Open RvR. They’re good players, they communicate on Vent, we’re pretty organized, and I haven’t met anyone who qualifies as anything close to a jerk yet…not even close. If I hadn’t found the CoWs, I might not be having such a great time in WAR. Perhaps I’d be making the same complaints about a lack of people in PvE, or empty PQ’s, or everyone just running Scenario groups over and over. However, since I can reach out and usually find willing groupmates for assistance when I need it, I think I’m having a lot more fun in WAR than people who might be trying to solo their way through.

I’m going to strongly recommend, if you’re not finding WAR to your liking because it feels empty, or everyone is doing something other than what you want to be doing, that you search for a good guild. It might take a few tries…if you join a guild, and it’s not to your liking, keep looking. Quit, join another, talk to people in Region chat, start open groups, announce that you’re going to be running Chapter PQ’s for the evening and you’re looking for company, take note of the guild names of people you enjoy grouping with, if you’re lucky enough to find good Open groups. Take some responsibility for the social aspect of an MMO, even if you’re not normally a social person.

MMO’s don’t put you on a linear path with a gameplay guarantee. A lot of your fun will be determined by the people you associate with, and if you don’t take the time to evaluate who you want your friends to be, you might find WAR, or any MMO, a lonely place.

That’s the one place where WoW succeeded where WAR doesn’t. WoW made a game that could be played solo. WAR’s not so much fun solo, but I don’t think Mythic has to apologize for that. I don’t think that was ever their intention. Who wants to recreate a tabletop experience for one? The magic and brilliance of MMO’s happens when you find real people to share the game with; people who make you laugh, make you want to play better, selfless people who will drop what they’re doing to help out a guildmate, or to run a PQ they’ve already finished, or insist that you take a gear upgrade before they do.

It’s up to us to find our good gaming groups, whether it’s tabletop or online. WAR is an absolute blast when you’re playing with friends. I ran Scenarios until the cows came home last night, and there were absolutely epic battles. Being able to chat about the fights with my guildmates after we finished an exciting round made it that much more fun…there wasn’t an empty feeling after the Scenario finished and I went back to soloing. Find a good guild, get involved, and you’re going to find a MMO that offers an experience you almost can’t get in any other MMO out there. I’ll note DAoC and Eve as exceptions. I think they’re the only two other games that offer the type of epic battles and exhilarating gameplay that WAR provides. The only trick is, you can’t do it alone.

I want to sponsore your WAR guild

I was busy dying in PQ’s tonight, trying to keep three DPS classes healed during Stage 2’s and Stage 3’s (and doing a poor job of it to boot) when I got a tell out of the blue.

I’m quite an anti-social gamer, I fear. It takes a lot for me to get talking (although once I do, I usually don’t shut up), so /tells make me think “Oh no…”, especially because I have to tell people our guild closed recruiting, sorry, can’t add you, etc.

Tonight was different, though. This random /tell wanted to chat about our guild. We seem like a big guild, we have a keep claimed, isn’t it expensive to claim a keep, how many members do we have…I thought it was leading up to asking for an invite, but no, he wanted to talk about “helping us” with our “guild contrution”, which I think meant construction.

Ahh, an alliance, perhaps? I made something up and told him that our guild wasn’t looking to get into alliances until we get into T4 and we figure out who we’re fighting with.

Oh, no, not an alliance. They want to sponsore our guild. Ok, now I’m intrigued. I tell the guild that I think there’s a deal with the devil in the offing, and a farmer is offering to support our guild. When I asked what he meant by “sponsoring”, he said, and I quote, typos and all, “when you need have some guild’s events or support your keep or more .we could offer some help and provide some gold for free to you”.

I told him thanks, but we have a guild tax, and plenty of money, and I don’t think claiming T2 keeps is expensive anyway. He’s a salesman, though, and says “lol well . we can cooperate on other ways , if you like , we can finaice your website .” I think I’m going to start including spaces before all my punctuation now. Seems like some sort of pre-l337 meme, maybe I can get in on the “space before punctuation” ground floor.

He then says “or your can tell what you need and your ideas , and we can talk about .”

I told him hookers and beer would go a long way toward increasing my level of cooperation, but he didn’t responsore. Oh, actually, he just ignored that part and said “hello?”. C’mon. I know how much money farmers are making. If they can’t lobby with hookers and booze, and maybe a free flight to a Caribbean island for a weekend junket, then I can’t risk my guild’s integrity. I’m easy, but I’m not cheap!

I told him that I don’t think we’ll need that kind of cooperation, and we’re doing fine just playing the game, and I didn’t hear from him again. Sheesh.

State of WAR

I haven’t blogged much in the past month because I’ve been busy playing WAR. I’m having a blast, it’s mostly the game I expected (although it’s not my dream MMO, I can see myself playing for a long time), and I’ve been lucky enough to join up with a great group of players in Casualties of WAR.

I wanted to take a little time tonight (possibly a lot of time!) to offer my opinions on the game, what Mythic has done right and wrong, the challenges they face, and why I think a lot of the current semi-negative post-honeymoon buzz is a little premature, albeit accurate.

Before I dive in, I wanted to acknowledge the inspiration for this post. Often times, it takes another blogger or podcaster to help me organize my thoughts, to spark an idea for a post. This time, it was Van Hemlock’s podcast episode #22, which I’d link to on his site, but hey, he’s slacking while he builds stuff in the Egyptian desert and hasn’t actually linked to his own show yet :) I couldn’t find the link on Virginworlds either, but it’s on iTunes! Apologies if I’ve overlooked it on either of the two appropriate sites.

Van Hemlock hasn’t actually played WAR yet, but his co-host Jon has played, and he’s not going to be subscribing to the game. As he started explaining what he didn’t like about the game, I initially felt my fanboi ire beginning to rise, but as I listened to his experience with the game, I realized there was nothing to explain further or defend about WAR; Jon took a good run at the game, found a couple things he liked, found quite a few more things that got in the way of having fun, and he felt underwhelmed and won’t continue playing.

Briefly, I’ll try to summarize what he disliked, as well as I can remember it from the podcast on my train ride home. If I was getting paid for this, I’d listen to it again, take notes, and write a more detailed post, but I’m too lazy to do it for free. Apologies if it’s not 100% accurate, but it should be close.

  • Jon is in Europe, so the population is thin when he’s online, both for PvE and RvR.
  • He didn’t enjoy the Scenarios
  • He felt the PvE was light on content, and not really the point of the game, and consequently not done as well as some other PvE-centric games (I’m guessing WoW for sure, and perhaps LoTRO, or EQ, he didn’t make too many direct comparisons here)
  • The crafting really is dead simple, and not compelling
  • He felt you really needed a guild to feel like you’re part of the game

I can quibble about some of this (and I will!), but overall, I think he made great points, and if I quibble, I can’t quibble about his feelings. No amount of fanboi explaining is going to make someone suddenly like a game they didn’t enjoy before. It’s not like anyone has to explain the magic of MMO’s to Jon; he gets MMO’s. He just didn’t enjoy WAR.

I said, somewhere back during beta, that MMO’s are still in their infancy, and we’re going to see the genre go in a lot of different directions, with a lot of design choices that make individual games quite different from each other, despite the shared MMO tag. As much as people want to call WAR a WoW clone (Jon didn’t, btw), they really have quite different goals at the end of the game. I don’t want to go as far as saying they serve completely different MMO demographics; there are definitely some players who overlap in the WAR/WoW Venn diagram, but listening to Jon made me realize that overlap may be smaller than a “clone” tag would warrant.

WAR’s goals don’t include depth in the crafting model (thinking SWG, or Eve, or even LoTRO), a detailed market economy (Eve, SWG’s player vendors, the simple elegance of WoW’s Auction House), player housing (UO, EQ2, LoTRO, SWG, even Dark Age of Camelot), or massive endgame raiding (EQ, WoW). That’s a ton of stuff to exclude, but I think you have to have serious focus to create a AAA MMO title, and you can’t include everything from every game, do it well, and get your game out in five years.

When you look at everything WAR left out, and when you listen to what MMO fans consider their dream MMO (usually, me included, covering everything on my list above plus great RvR, pizza delivery, and booth babes doing my shopping so I can raid), it’s really no wonder that there’s a post-honeymoon let down. There are a lot of game elements that perhaps people were hoping for, and they’re disappointed to find WAR lacking, or not even attempting, some of those elements.

I’m having a blast, but there are three reasons for that. Maybe four. Well, pretty much three, I’ll deal with reason four at the end.

First, I know what’s coming at end game. I played a hell of a lot of Dark Age of Camelot, and I know that the first 30 levels are just a warm up for end game RvR. I hear people saying that the PvE is too grindy, and that it’s empty in PvE because everyone feels Scenarios are faster, etc. I understand what they’re saying, but I’m going to disagree pretty strongly, and here’s why.

You’re going to have to point to the MMO, any MMO at all, that was faster to level in at launch, even if you skip scenarios and just grind PvE content. I’m level 23 after a month of very casual play, and I should easily make Tier 4 endgame RvR, the real game in WAR, by the end of my second month. That’s equivalent to raiding Stratholme and Blackrock in WoW at the end of the second month of full release. This is, by far, the simplest MMO to level in at launch ever released.

So why are people complaining? First, because I think we’re all burned out on leveling. Most of us have been leveling characters nonstop since UO or EQ, and damn, that’s a long time on the hamster wheel :) I enjoy it, but I do occassionally get fatigued. I suspect a lot of the complaining has to do with fatigue.

Also, and I think this is Mythic’s greatest challenge, is pressure to get to the RvR end game. Everyone knows that’s where the real game goal lies. In my opinon, Mythic has done the best job of any MMO giving players a variety of ways to get to the end game content, but that has not removed the compulsion to race to 40. I happen to enjoy the PvE (I’m enjoying learning about the Warhammer universe through the Tome and the quests), and I’d happily level to 40 in PvE even if there was no RvR options, but I can certainly sympathize with people who are just over it, and just over “Kill Ten More” quests. I think the pressure of wanting to race to 40 makes it difficult to enjoy the PvE for some people.

Jon and Van Hemlock briefly said that if WAR is all about the end game, why not just get rid of the leveling? Van Hemlock called it heretical, but I think he’s right on. Levels are another reason people are feeling stressed about grinding; their friends are either a tier in front of them, or a tier behind them, and we just want to play together. Even if it’s just a couple months to run up to Tier 4, where we’re all reunited in RvR heaven, there’s a separation effect that affects how people feel connected to the game. I know I was sad when I leveled out of Tier 2 and left a lot of my guildmates behind, people who I really enjoyed running scenarios with. I also have guildmates in T4 already, and I’d like to be able to play with them too.

I have the advantage of knowing what’s coming in just a few weeks, or a month or two. Everyone will be in Tier 4, and we’ll see a blooming of gameplay that’s going to be pretty damn exciting. Just because I know it’s going to be great, though, doesn’t mean Jon or anyone else suddenly has to say “Hey! I just realized! I like grinding!”. Nope. Some game developer is going to realize (SWG and UO already kind of did it) that levels and grinding are not requirements for fun. Mythic made the curve pretty darn light, but the fact that players are still feeling a “mid level slowdown” signals to me that players would be receptive to a game that maybe lets everyone into the endgame at the start of the game. Look at what Eve is doing…there are lessons to be learned for level-based fantasy MMO’s there.

Holy &%$*. I warned you this might be long. Let’s move on to the second reason that I’m having fun in WAR, where some other people might not be feeling the love.

I had six months in the beta. I knew what game elements were going to be available. I knew there was no housing, limited crafting. I suspected the auction house wasn’t going to be a priority. There was no letdown for me at launch. I was also lucky enough to play quite a bit at the end game during beta, and I know what’s waiting for me when I’m done with my PvE climb. I know that what feels like a grind for other players will actually be fairly brief compared to the amount of time I’m going to have fun in WAR. That doesn’t mean other people have to like the grind; see point number one. Still, I knew what I was getting into, so there was no letdown.

The third reason I’m having a blast in WAR, which Jon acknowledged, is because of the Casualties of WAR. Some of Jon’s biggest complaints were feeling like he couldn’t participate in Public Quests or open RvR because he didn’t have a group of dedicated people around him. Given the fact that he was playing at non-peak times, I can understand how he felt that way. He was saying that the CoWs have a big advantage, having so many people committed to to playing together, and playing a lot. I’d like to slightly disagree with him there…we really are a casual guild, and I’m only on a couple times a week, there’s absolutely no compulsion to play; it’s less pressure than a WoW raid guild for sure, and less than what seems to be required of serious Eve 0.0 corp. But, he’s right that always having someone around, even if it’s just someone to chat with, makes the game feel less lonely.

Jon, if you see this, I’m curious; are you playing in EU time on a US server? Why not hook up with the Book of Grudges folks, and play on EU time? (that was point number four from above, if you’re keeping track).

I’m out of gas…I have a lot more to say, but I’ll try to get it out in smaller chunks over the next couple weeks. I have a raid starting in a few minutes, I have to get online. Check out Van Hemlock’s site, or the Virginworlds site, and look for podcast #22. It’s good WAR talk, and damn it, they’re getting me interested in A Tale in the Desert, too. I can’t afford another MMO!

Tip for CoW healers

If you’re an archmage or rune priest on Averheim, and you want to rack up some serious T2 experience and Renown, get in a group with Dorgun, Pend, Regex, and Helfire. I was joining scenarios solo last night, and having the usual mixed success with PUG assigments, when I entered a scenario that had those four Casualties of War members in the other group.

Dorgun had been complaining in guild chat about a previous scenario where he wasn’t getting any healing for his ironbreaker. I jokingly said I’d try to keep him healed when I saw him in the other group at the start of Mourkain Temple, but actually, it worked out really well. We dominated that first scenario, and they were kind enough to invite me to their group. We must have run 8 or 9 more matches, and I think we only lost one. Illluminaris joined us near the end, and it was awesome to have another heavy tank in the group.

Dorgun’s ironbreaker and Iluminaris’ swordmaster manned the front lines, Regex and Helfire nuked the holy bejesus out of everyone with bright wizard firebombs, Pend was everywhere with his engineer, dropping turrets, helping with crowd control, shootin’ and killin’, and I just tried to stay alive and heal. The only time we had trouble was when the opposition managed to focus on me, either with tank assist trains or with stealther witch elves popping me from behind. Most of the time, we dominated ball control and kept Destruction on their side of the Temple.

I went from halfway through 20 to halfway through 21 last night, and dinged Renown Rank 17. Actually, I was pretty close to RR 18 by the end of the night. It’s a shame I only have a half-level of Tier 2 RvR left, but I’m excited to see T3 content, especially since most of the CoW’s I just mentioned are pretty close to T3 as well.

I may have been grumpy about WAR’s lack of fluff earlier in the week, but it’s the kind of gaming I experienced last night that makes me love Mythic. I don’t think there’s anyone else like them in the MMO market. It’s difficult to compare them straight-up to other MMO’s, because they’re providing a gameplay experience that no other developer can really touch. And this is just the warmup to the endgame. I can’t wait until most of us are at the level cap, and the whole server really gets involved in zone control and attacking cities and keeps. The RvR we’re seeing now is just a preview. Wait until there’s a critical mass of players all focusing on the same objectives. WAR has the potential for absolutely epic battles, and I can’t wait to see it.

Thanks for the group last night, CoWs! It was a rockin’ good time.

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