WAR party!

I’m sure those of you following Warhammer news have seen information about Open Parties. Let’s walk the NDA knife edge about the idea, shall we?

Without talking about my experiences with the Open Party system in the WAR beta, I’ll tell you a story about me and my typical MMO grouping habits.

My daughter was born 10 months after Everquest launched. That means, for most of my MMO lifespan, I’ve always had other responsibilities, or potential responsibilities, in the evenings while I’m playing games. My wife works quite a few evenings, and always has, so I’ve rarely been in the situation where I can find a static group to run with. Plus, when my wife isn’t working, I’m usually hanging out with her, so I’m not raiding or dungeon crawling then either.

That’s left me as mostly a solo player. The MMO’s where I could contribute consistently and significantly to a group were few. DAoC was the best, where if I left my RvR group, they could just pick up someone else from the mass of people out on the frontiers for fighting. And if their group was full when I logged in, it was fairly trivial to to join another group. Eve’s pretty good that way as well. It’s not just a group of 6 or 8 that you’re running with, there’s a whole fleet out there, and you’re not letting people down if you have to log off quickly when your kid has a bad dream or wants to talk about school or friends or Pokemon instead of going to sleep.

Most other games, I felt anxious grouping, because I didn’t want to either make my group wait for 15 minutes during a Deadmines run in WoW, or have to log off during an instance. It’s not trivial to add someone else to the group to replace someone who’s left. That was even more true in Everquest, where I played a druid as my main. “Hey guys? I know I’m the Snare guy to keep runners from wiping us, and the Evac guy in case things go bad here, but I’m going to have to go afk for…a while. You don’t mind, do you?”

The concept of Open Parties seems like a solid evolution. I haven’t yet played in an MMO where there was a great LFG tool. No matter what developers tried, there always seemed to be something in the LFG mechanic that led people to not use the tool, and depend instead on chat channels.  WAR does two things right that makes me think this LFG tool (really, an extension of their LFG tool, which I had never used, btw) is going to catch on and be used by the majority of people looking for a party.

First, Mythic has done a good job designing their zones, so there’s always something near you that likely involves other people as well. Second, as they say in the link above, they tell you how far away groups of people are, and what those people are doing. By looking at the Open Party tool, it’s immediately apparent if the open groups are doing Public Quests, PvE questing, or RvR. You also know how far away they are, so you can open your own map and quest list and kinda triangulate who’s working on tasks you also need to complete.

Once the NDA drops, I’ll talk more specifically, but I think that what Mythic has publically stated above is addressing a need that I, as a mostly-solo gamer who has difficulty with commitment (insert stereotype here), will greatly appreciate.

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Remind me, after the WAR NDA drops…

Remind me that I have stories to tell about Public Quests. Two stories, specifically, that happened in the past week. The stories are part of my own personal “Eureka!” moments in WAR, where I feel like Mythic’s hopes for new game mechanics is happening in my game experiences. Some “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” developer discussions while they were designing WAR beginning to bear fruit in my closed beta experience.

*sigh* I’ve backspaced over the stories a couple times now, trying to write enough that I’ll remember what I wanted to say, without breaking the NDA. Alas, I’m failing, so it’ll have to go into a draft in WordPress until I’m allowed to say more.

If you only have 45 minutes to review a game…

Dan O’Halloran takes on the very dangerous task of playing Warhammer for 45 minutes at Comic Con, and then attempting to write an article about it for Massively. It can’t be easy. Even with someone from Mythic attempting to point out all the highlights, there’s simply no way you can get a feel for a MMO in 45 minutes.

I want to give my impressions of the game from the perspective of a long-time MMOG player with little time to play these days and even less interest in PvP.

I think this qualifier probably set the tone for some of the commenters. I think it’s a setup to expect a negative article, and the entire article isn’t negative. I have issues with the way he phrased a couple things, but let’s not lose the forest for the trees.

Dan says his reasons for considering WAR, despite those above-mentioned objections, is his desire for “revirginization”; he wants to recapture the magic of his time in earlier MMO’s, before he perhaps became jaded from constant leveling.

I can understand that, but I don’t think 45 minutes is enough time to see what Mythic has developed to address that very common complaint of leveling treadmill weariness. Perhaps when Dan gets more time with the game, he’ll discover that Mythic has attempted to evolve PvE advancement somehwat. It’s no revolution…it’s a level-based MMO. However, Mythic’s take on PvE does advance what we’ve experienced so far in other MMO PvE. I hope Dan finds something to enjoy there. I definitely share his leveling weariness, but I’m enjoying Mythic’s take on things so far.

Dan summed up his dislike of PvP:

As I stated earlier, I’m not a fan of PvP. I hate the ganking, the trash talking and the very idea that my limited game time can be ruined by someone else looking to stroke their e-peen by ambushing someone else. Also, I suck at it. I don’t have the twitch skills or reaction times to prevail.

I can agree with his reasons 100%. I dislike open PvP for the same reasons. However, I was surprised to see him making these claims about a Mythic game. The reason I liked DAoC so much was the elimination of much of those PvP complaints. The enemy couldn’t talk to you, and therefore couldn’t trash talk. They could trash-emote, but I think most of us are thick-skinned enough to weather an unkind emote. Plus, I was lucky enough to play on a server where that kind of behavior would get you scolded from your own realm. Percival didn’t dig e-peen strokers.

Plus, Mythic’s PvP had a shared purpose, and it was always easy, even for a committed solo player like me, to find groups for RvR. I rarely got ambushed alone, and if I did (like, if I got whacked while running alone out to a keep or mile gate, trying to join my group), there was plenty of incentive to dust yourself off and try it again, and perhaps to run out there with a realm mate also trying to avoid the solo gank. And individual 1 on 1 PvP suckage (a trait I share with Dan, unfortunately) is somewhat ameliorated in a group PvP situation.

I’m expecting the same sort of attention to PvP detail in WAR. I can’t see any reason why Mythic would suddenly say “Let’s make this more like EQ Zek servers”. I don’t think Dan has to fear that type of PvP experience in WAR.

Predictably, Dan’s getting killed in the comments for not jumping up and down for joy after getting a little time with WAR. Let’s try to remember that he only had 45 minutes with the game, though. To his credit, he does seem recognize Mythic’s major goals for WAR.

While the PvE game looks like most other fantasy MMORPGs, the RvR game looks like the real winner. The fact that they train you to play the PvP endgame is big draw for me and the reason I will be keeping an eye on the title as it approaches its September release date.

There are nuances to the PvE game that you need more than 45 minutes to uncover. Mythic has definitely added some fun to leveling. Perhaps when Dan has more time with the game, he’ll spot those improvements. I can’t blame him for not noticing everything that’s new or different after such a short time with the game. I am happy that, as a person who isn’t a huge PvP fan, he’s interested in Mythic’s approach to RvR.

I think Dan’s biggest faux pas was this statement:

WAR strikes me as WoW mechanics wrapped in different lore plus a couple of new features.

Keen has already addressed that in the comments for the thread, and I agree with Keen that it’s a weak sentence. Calling it WoW mechanics is giving Blizzard way too much credit. It’s simple MMO mechanics, and Blizzard doesn’t own ’em. Mythic was doing it before Blizzard, in fact. Each game increments what you can do within the MMO genre, but no one has re-invented the wheel yet.

I think Keen was right to ask if Dan felt the mechanics were the same because they were a clickable interface. It’s akin to someone saying that Battle for Middle Earth is just Warcraft III mechanics wrapped in different lore. Real RTS fans expect more in-depth comparisons, and so do we as MMO fans.

In fairness, though, no RTS or MMO fan can manage to gain enough insight in 45 minutes to give you that kind of depth.

I’d like to take away a positive feeling from the article; someone who’s not a PvP fan is intrigued by what Mythic is offering. And I hope that those of us who disagree with the “just like WoW” statements can take some time to offer reasoned arguments why we disagree, and can avoid “You’re wrong! You suck!” rejoinders. That’s not going to help win any new fans 🙂 It’s difficult to see what’s different in an MMO until you’ve played it for a bit. There are going to be “Eureka!” moments for people playing WAR, but we can’t force those moments upon them. They’ll have to experience it themselves before they’re going to understand what those of us in beta (and who can’t talk fully about our experiences) are so excited about.

Boathammer’s WAR blogger proposal

Boathammer (I want to know how you came up with your name!) posted about WAR bloggers possibly trying to choose the same server when WAR is released, or at least trying to play together during open beta (whenever that begins). While he’s not overly sanguine about the chances for success, ( saying it “is insane (I like that) and won’t work (don’t like that)), it’s always a fun discussion. Herding cats, MMO-style.

Someone else did mention this for WAR, and Syncaine and I have discussed it for Eve bloggers as well (although Eve is already well-established and there’s only one server, so really, we can just pick a channel to chat in…Crazykinx suggested “The Drone Bay” channel, without the quotes, which I really need to join…sorry, tangent).

Ever since Everquest, I’ve had absolutely terrible luck trying to recapture the magic of in-game friendships in new games, or internet/discussion forum/blog relationship in new games. I’ve met great people in every game I’ve played; it just seems like I don’t carry those relationships from game to game. I blame myself, my attention span is too short to watch Short Attention Span Theater, but I’ve watched other focused and competent people fail miserably trying to come to a consensus on server choice, or actually succeed on choosing a server, but then discovering your relationship is far different when you’re actually playing a game.

For me, I probably wrote more in this post than I do in a week of playing an online game. I’m oddly silent playing games (and I can be like that in real life as well, until I get to know someone), and I’m sure that’s jarring for people who might have expected me to contribute to guild chat the same way I blather on in my blog.

Actually, perhaps they’re grateful for the silence. Another tangent, but I’m not exploring that one without my therapist.

Anyway, I’m definitely in for an open beta blogger’s guild. If it lasts through release, that’d be fine with me. I don’t have any firm plans for release yet; it seems WAR hasn’t really hit the radar for most of my old guilds.

I prefer Order to Chaos, but I’m flexible for open beta. It’d be good to know the capabilities of my enemies when launch day rolls around.

If anyone else is up for it, post over at Boathammer’s blog, and think about names!

Jeff Green posts about Warhammer

If you don’t have Jeff Green on your blogroll, he talked about playing Warhammer at E3 last week. What he wrote on his blog is short enough to copy entirely here, but I’ll give you a link back to his blog just because I was a history major and I like to cite my sources. Plus, I think Jeff and the guys from CGW are now making their living on page views instead of magazine sales, so it’d be cool if they got lots of hits and kept writing good PC coverage and recording great podcasts.

Anyway, here’s the Warhammer quotes from Jeff, lifted from the link above.

I need to be careful what I say here because I am on the closed beta right now, which I can’t talk about, but I did see it at the show, which I CAN talk about…but I have to remember what I saw at the show and what I am playing, which is hard when you’re old and stupid like me. However! I can tell you that, really, truly, it’s looking great, with a strong emphasis on PvP that, somehow, is not sacrificing the solo experience at all. And the public quests are the best MMO innovation I’ve seen in a long time, from a genre that really, at this point, needs all the innovation it can get. I get very skeptical about new MMOs, but with this one…I’m a believer.

Glad to have you aboard the WAR wagon, Jeff 🙂

Warhammer: Why pay full price?

Over at The Book of Grudges, spinks is talking about the difference between playing an MMO at launch, and playing an MMO after it’s been out for months or years.

A while back, I asked why we should be paying full price for MMO’s. Tabula Rasa’s price dropped dramatically in the first few months. I got LoTRO for $19.99 about 10 months after launch. Vanguard’s free trial…oh, wait, that holy mess still hasn’t offered a free trial to let players in to see “improvements”. I ain’t payin’ for McQuaid trash, sorry. Let me in for free if you suddenly believe so much in your re-designed game. If it’s that good, the subscriptions after the free trial will reflect it.

Sorry. Sidetracked. Vanguard still gives me hives.

Anyway, I was feeling like I wasn’t missing much by skipping recent MMO launches. In fact, I felt like I was saving a lot of money on so-so MMO’s by waiting for the price to drop significantly.  spinks had some good reasons for wanting to be in at launch, though, echoed what mbp said in the comments of my post. He said

  • because there is nothing like the first heady days on a new server in a new game
  • because the noobie zones are crowded and groups are easy to get
  • because the internet isn’t saturated with wikis and help sites yet and people have to work things out for themselves
  • because your discoveries about the game world actually feel important and not just stuff that a hundred thousand other players already know
  • because the game community is new and fresh and eager to talk about their new obsession. People will read your blog posts about the game and reply to your forum posts
  • because this honeymoon period doesn’t last very long for most games. Perhaps until the first hardcore players hit the level cap

Those are all great reasons, but they only apply to games I care about. I didn’t care so much about LoTRO or Tabula Rasa (or Vanguard, clearly), or Age of Conan.

WAR, though…you know I’m in the closed beta. Warhammer will be the first MMO I’ve been in at launch since…wow, has it been since World of Warcraft? I think this is the first MMO to get me excited enough that I don’t want to miss all the good things mbp posted, or spinks posted.

I’m absolutely planning to be there first day. I think, barring usual MMO launch issues, that Warhammer is going to be a lot of fun in zones packed with new players. It’s going to be chaotic. It’s going to be somewhat of a unique experience, given Mythic’s new game elements (Public Quests, RvR Scenarios and open-world PvP available from the very earliest levels). It’s something I don’t want to miss. It’ll be crowded and messy  and fun, and I hope the servers stand up to the load 🙂

Hell yes. Quit yer bitchin’.

Syncaine, I’m in total agreement. Eve’s skill point system is far from a handicap for new players. In fact, it’s the newbie-friendliest advancement system in any current MMO.

I posted almost a year ago that Eve Online is a casual mmorpg, and I still believe that. It offers the most accessible, most laid-back mmorpg experience possible, if you choose to play that way. The strength of Eve is that you can play it any way you want. Clearly, it’s not just a casual game. You can be an absolute min/max spreadsheet-creazy hardcore PvP lunatic in Eve as well, which is one of CCP’s great achievements.

However, Syncaine’s exactly right. You can fly alongside friends who have been playing for years almost instantly, definitely by the time your 14 day free trial is ending. There’s no other mmorpg on the market that offers that kind of flexibility. You can fulfill a variety of useful roles, depending on the needs of your friends, with a minium amount of training time.

You want to be immediately equal in strength to people who have already been playing for months, or for years? Go play Team Fortress 2, or any other FPS multiplayer game. You don’t want to play an mmorpg. People who think the skill point system in Eve is a handicap haven’t carefully considered what you’d have to do to catch up in any other level-based MMO.

Why is it ok for level-based mmorpg’s to make you advance to the end cap to play alongside your friends who have already been there for years, but Eve somehow gets attacked for what turns out to be a better, more flexible, system? If I wanted to start playing WoW now, and play with my friends from the Well, it’d be months and months before I’d be high enough level and geared properly to actually make a contribution.

I’d like to see Eve’s model used more widely in MMO design. I’m hoping whatever they do with the White Wolf IP has a similar skill system.

I’m not going to repeat all the things you can do in Eve at a very low skill point level, because Syncaine already covered it in the post I linked to up above. I did want to say I’m in complete agreement, though. Well said.