WAR: Bottom of the tiers

I wrote a post a little while back about enjoying my time at the top end of Tier 1, playing my witch hunter. With WAR’s tiered RvR options, there are definite peaks and valleys in your relative power throughout your leveling progression.

I knew that the sense of power I experienced with the Witch Hunter at level 10 and 11 would fade quickly when I started fighting Destruction forces in Tier 2. I’ve been through it with my archmage and my shadow warrior, and the transition from strength to fragility is clearly evident.

That change in relative ability doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t enjoy yourself in oRvR or scenarios.

RvR is quite different than other PvE-based games. In Warcraft, or Everquest, to participate in dungeon groups, you generally have to be within a fairly small level range to be an equal contributor to a group, because there’s a limit to the number of players that can participate in an instance or raid. Additionally, as you increase in level in PvE-based games, you have to be properly geared for those encounters. Enough armor, enough hit points, enough DPS, etc.

One of the things I always enjoyed about Dark Age of Camelot was the open-ended aspect of RvR. There was always room for another player, and there was always some task that a lower-level or lesser-geared player could perform. The same has been true so far in WAR. Despite the fact that my archmage (at level 30) and my witch hunter (at level 14) are near the bottom of their tiers, they can be quite effective within specific roles in open RvR.

When I started play last night with my witch hunter, she was halfway through level 14. I started her mostly to take up the scavenging gathering skill, to provide materials to my archmage for apothecary tradeskilling, and I was planning on grinding through PQ’s and quests to get more scavenged goods.

As I ran through Troll Country, though, I realized there was some active T2 RvR going on, and I joined a warband. I was a bit hesitant about what I could contribute, but it’s hard for me to turn down a good RvR opportunity.

There were three groups in the warband, and we took back a couple Battlefield Objectives and beat back a couple smaller Destruction attacks. Having the advantage in numbers, we decided to take a keep.

I had to be careful in RvR. I can’t withstand a direct attack from a DPS class, and I can’t expect the healers to get off a big heal in time to save me if more than one person is ganging up on me. I definitely can’t survive long running a ram when there’s hot oil dropping on my head from above a keep gate. That said, if I’m patient and pick my spots for fighting, I can be quite effective.

I always try to bring siege gear with me when I go out to RvR. Knocking out the oil over the keep door is a great way for a lower-level character to contribute. Harassing the defenders with AoE ranged siege gear keeps them from plinking away at the healers trying to keep the ram operators alive. Trying to slow enemy reinforcements as they run for the keep doors gives my team more time to kill them.

Once the keep door is down, I can’t be part of the initial rush up the stairs to kill the keep lord, but I can defend from below, watching out for enemies sneaking in from behind, and I can harass enemy players who try to charge down the steps into our healing ranks. As much as possible, I try to assist higher-level players who are already engaged in a fight. I’ll always try to assist a DPS class who’s attacking a healer, provided I don’t get too deep into enemy lines and get myself killed. I’d rather chase a shaman for 20 seconds, keeping them from healing their own team, and escape back to my side of the fight with my life, than chase the shaman for 30 seconds and get myself killed. Sticking back with my healers also gives me a chance to give them a small measure of protection from Witch Elves unstealthing next to them. I can slow them with a pistol shot from behind, and I can do some damage to them while the healer hopefully keeps themselves alive. It’s rare I’ll get attacked in that situation; enemy players in the back lines are usually trying to kill healers or bright wizards.

I ended up getting a lot of Renown points from the Battlefield Objectives and all the enemy players we killed. I did pretty well with experience as well, although not nearly as much as I would have gained if I just worked on PvE stuff, or ran scenarios. The Renown gains are important, though, and open RvR was just so much fun that I didn’t really care about xp per hour gained.

I was probably out in open RvR for about 2 hours, and then I did a couple hours of questing, and I gained an entire level. I’m about 30% into 15 now, edging just a bit closer to even in Tier 2. I’m hoping the T2 oRvR on Badlands (and all the oRvR, for that matter) is this active on a regular basis. We’ll see if the Mythic plan for merging servers keeps things active. There were quite a few people running PvE stuff around me too. It’d be a nice trend if that continues.

Rant ahead: MMO leveling speed

I don’t do too much ranting on this blog. I’m usually a mediator, the voice of reason between two divergent opinions. I’m going to rant today, though, with one caveat. This isn’t directed at anyone in particular. It’s a complaint I’ve heard in various places (mostly through my RSS feed), and I couldn’t point to one specific post or person that I’m ranting about.

My rant is about leveling speed in WAR. After two months of the game being live, I’ve leveled an Archmage to level 30, a Shadow Warrior to 18, and a Witch Hunter to 14. If I spent all my time on the Archmage, I’d probably be 35+.

How the hell can you say that leveling is slow in WAR? How long should it take to hit a level cap? Do we really need to hit MMO level caps in two months or less for the leveling speed to be acceptable? If that’s true, is it time to just get rid of levels entirely, and make your advancement and achievement skill-based somehow?

In no other MMO that I’ve ever played have I reached 75% of the level cap two months after release, and I’m playing WAR much more casually than I ever played EQ, DAoC, SWG, or WoW. I level in WAR accidentally, rarely glancing at my experience bar. When I do notice the xp bar, I’m usually surprised how much I’ve gained. I don’t just grind scenarios, either. My archmage has done a lot of PvE content in the last couple levels, and a lot of open RvR. There’s never been a time where I think “Jesus, this is going to take forever.” In fact, I’m pretty damn surprised how little time it’s going to take me to hit 40 with the archmage.

I’ve got three ways to advance my character, and I enjoy all of them wholeheartedly. If the zone is buzzing about open RvR, I can get involved and my character advances while I’m having fun. If I feel the need for organized RvR more immediately than oRvR is providing, I can hit scenarios (my sympathies to those who weren’t on servers with scenarios popping regularly, that’s a valid response to my rant…but that’s still only one way to level). If I’m in a PvE state of mind, I can knock out quests, or organize a Public Quest group.

Almost everything you do in WAR gives you experience. If you sit back and enjoy what you’re doing, you’re going to advance without having to watch your experience bar like a hawk. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, then it’s not WAR’s leveling curve that’s at fault. You have every right not to enjoy the tasks you’re doing to advance, and there are plenty of valid reasons why you might not be able to advance doing what you enjoy (can’t find PvE or PQ groups due to low population, or population dispersed through too many pairings and tiers, scenarios aren’t popping regularly, not enough oRvR action), but when those things are working, leveling is easy.

I think it would be a mistake to increase leveling speed. Instead of making leveling faster, I think Mythic is smart to try and merge server populations and provide a critical mass of players for PvE, scenarios, and oRvR. That way, no matter how you choose to play on a given evening, you’ll be able to find players and make progress toward the level cap.

We’re not there yet, not for every server. But we’re only two months in, and I suspect leveling will seem much easier in a couple months when server populations have stabilized.

Darren’s right, but I still don’t want to play WoW

Over at The Common Sense Gamer, Darren is talking about being pleasantly surprised by the WoW expansion, enjoying the finely-crafted brilliance of a Blizzard game.

I expected to hear reports like this from people who went to play WoW. Blizzard has given me no reason to doubt that they can produce excellent expansions for a game that I enjoyed for many years. However, hearing Darren talk about what he’s enjoying also reinforces my feeling that I’m done playing World of Warcraft, at least for this expansion.

Since this is a blog, this post is purely personal opinion, and sums up where I’m at with MMO’s after 9 and a half years of playing them, pretty much continuously. EQ, DAoC, SWG, WoW, and Eve have taken up most of my gaming entertainment since EQ’s launch in March of ’99, as well as brief forays into many of the other major MMO titles.

When I hear people complain about PvE in Warhammer, I do understand where they’re coming from. Having people disappear into instances removed some of the liveliness from PvE, I think. A lot of the time, without organizing groups within your guild, or talking up groups in Region chat, you’re left soloing your way through PvE content. For me, though, moving to WoW wouldn’t be any kind of fix for that situation. In fact, WoW would be like doing PvE in WAR, while subtracting the opportunity to participate in oRvR or Scenarios. WoW is a straight grind. Do quests, upgrade gear, do more quests, upgrade gear, only to top out at the level cap with nothing left to do but raid.

Here’s the rub, and probably where I differ from people who really enjoy WoW PvE. I don’t enjoy PvE raiding. It’s dead boring for me. I get impatient moving at group speed, instead of solo speed. I don’t care a lot about gear upgrades from dungeon crawls, because the gear doesn’t get me anything except the ability to do more dungeon crawls. All that time grinding, collecting, upgrading, rinsing and repeating, and I feel like I’m dressed up for a party that’s never going to occur. There’s a predictability to PvE raiding that makes me feel like I’m working.

I don’t mind PvE soloing, though. It’s pretty much how I’ve leveled in every MMO I’ve played (WAR being a very pleasant exception), and for me, there’s little difference between WAR solo PvE and WoW solo PvE. Well, beyond the fact that I did WoW solo PvE for three years, and I really don’t want to do any more. If I’m going to do solo PvE, I’d rather be doing it in Warhammer.

There are a couple reasons I’m content with solo PvE in WAR right now.

First, there’s a point to gaining levels; I get to compete against other players in ever-larger RvR tiers (note: if I enjoyed PvE raiding, there’d be a point to grinding PvE in WoW…but I don’t).

Second, if I don’t feel like PvE grinding in WAR, I can do scenarios or Open RvR. When I decide to do some WAR PvE, it’s because I want to do it, and I’m choosing it from one of three fun options for advancement. I don’t have that choice in WoW. It’s either solo PvE, or group PvE, and I’m tired of not having options.

Third, I’m actually taking my time, reading the stories in the quests, and having fun getting to know a bit about the Warhammer universe. Azeroth feels stale to me. That’s purely personal, and probably has as much to do with my WoW PvE burnout as it has to do with the worlds Blizzard produces. I’m not trying to say that the WAR universe is any better than WoW; WAR is just fresher for me at this point in time.

I’m posting this because I don’t think I’m alone. My blog has been pretty quiet since WAR released, mostly because I’m spending most of my free time enjoying the game Mythic created. It seems like most of the blogs I’m reading are talking about what’s wrong with WAR. I wanted to post what I’m enjoying, in case there’s a silent majority out there who’s also content with WAR PvE (alongside scenarios and oRvR), and doesn’t plan on leaving Warhammer and returning to old familiar grinds.

I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind. You don’t have to like WAR PvE just because I do. I don’t have to convince you that WoW is dull and uninteresting, because I don’t believe that’s true for everyone. It’s true for me, but who the hell cares what I think? πŸ™‚ If you still get a blast out of playing WoW, I can remember back to my glory days and appreciate what you’re enjoying. That’s a chapter in my past, though. WAR is my present and my future, and I’m having a damn good time.

WAR: Love being top of my tier :)

I’ve been playing a Witch Hunter the last couple days, and I hit levels 10 and 11 tonight. I ran scenarios and ran around the Empire open RvR Tier 1 area for a couple of hours, and I can’t remember when I’ve had this much fun playing a video game. It’s gotta go all the way back to DAoC, or early Quake days online.

First of all, there’s the revenge factor. My archmage gets ruined by coordinated Witch Elf attacks all the time. They’re the bane of my existence, and I spent most of tonight getting my revenge. Shaman, DoK, Sorcs, Zealots…give me anything squishy!

I did die a lot during a stretch of scenarios runs where Order didn’t have ANY healers in either scenario group, but we still managed to win quite a few of those. I don’t mind dying; if I can occupy the back rank healers and casters long enough for our groups to make a push on an objective, then my death wasn’t in vain.

Once we got some healers, though, holy cow, I haven’t had a successful run like that in a game in a long, long time.

In one Nordenwatch match, with good healing behind me, I got 18 killing blows and did over 20k damage. It felt like “300” there for a little bit, sword flashing, pistol blasting, Destruction players dropping like flies. That kind of success is only possible with good healing and teammates who focus fire, and we were ripping through opponents like they were paper. I’ve been on the other side of that train plenty of times, and it was awesome to be on the winning side in most matches tonight.

I was also undefeated running solo throught the Empire open RvR area. I took out two Marauders, individuall, both who initially tried to run from me. Bad idea when I can snare you with pistol shots πŸ™‚ It’s also helping me build up my Morale ability while you’re trying to run and losing health.

I also came up on 3 sorcs and a Marauder who were trying to take the Nordland Docks. I had a quest to scout the BO, and I initially thought I was out of luck. The four Destro characters were pulling NPC’s one at a time, and they were much lower level than me…I was 11, the sorcs were 6, 6, and 8. I didn’t notice the Marauder’s level, because I didn’t think I’d make it to trying to kill him. Since the sorcs were low, though, I thought maybe I could take one out before they noticed me and focused-fired me down.

I popped into stealth, positioned myself, waited until they pulled another NPC, and I attacked one of the level 6’s. He went down fast, and I jumped the other level 6. They noticed me, and my health was dropping, but they pursued me right into an approaching NPC patrol πŸ™‚ I finished off the second sorc while the NPC’s ripped up the other sorc and the Marauder. Woot! Single-handedly defended the BO! Well, with the help of a patrol, but hey, they would have died without me!

I’m definitely enjoying this while it lasts. I know what’s waiting for me at level 12 in Tier 2 πŸ™‚ I think that’s when it’ll be time to hop back on the archmage and push him to 30.

I’ve seen lots of posts lately about what WAR lacks, and people are leaving, bored, returning to WoW, etc., but damn, what WAR does right, it does better than any MMO ever. Tonight was the most fun I’ve had in a game in years.

FAS Virtual Worlds Almanac

I received an email today from the Federation of American Scientists announcing the launch of the Virtual Worlds Almanac Wiki. Unfortunately, they didn’t provide a link to their long press release in the email. Here’s a snippet, and I’ll post the entire thing in another blog post.

The first three paragraphs state:

WASHINGTON DC – Do you know the difference between Active Worlds and Whyville? Curious to learn how your simulation of racing sailboats will work in There instead of Second Life? The Federation of American Scientists unveiled an ambitious infrastructure for cataloguing virtual environments called the Virtual Worlds Almanac. This wiki currently classifies 74 virtual worlds and includes extensive links to tools, news, and other useful online reference materials.

There is great potential for virtual worlds to facilitate the development and testing of powerful new learning technologies.

People worldwide can edit and contribute to this comprehensive guide to virtual worlds,” said Henry Kelly, President of the Federation of American Scientists. “We hope this wiki will make it easier for the community to collaborate and to keep abreast of innovations and new product offerings. FAS is interested in the potential virtual worlds offer for educational and learning.

I work for a university computer services department, and I work with faculty helping them integrate technology in their teaching. The Virtual World Almanac interests me because there is a “Scholarly Research” section, which I hope could turn into a great place to collect published papers on virtual worlds. I think virtual worlds offer possible educational benefits, and I was excited to see the FAS create a site to take this type of scholarship seriously.

Henry Kelly,Β  the president of the Federation of American Scientists, has a Virtual Worlds Whitepaper linked on the wiki. It outlines why the FAS thinks a collection of virtual world resources is important, and why creating baselines for studying them is a necessary step in their evolution.

If you’re still in school, and you’ve thought about marrying your gaming hobby with some sort of scholarly pursuit, the white paper lays out a lot of issues for further research. I know Keen is working on a paper about gaming this semester , and I suspect a lot of other students have had similar ideas, but maybe didn’t know how to phrase their interest in a manner suited for academic study. The Virtual Worlds Almanac is a clear sign that the academic community continues to take seriously inquiries into the nature and scope of virtual worlds.

There is, of course, a community already dedicated to the research and study of virtual worlds over at Terra Nova, but the Virtual Worlds wiki is a place where anyone can dive in and get their hands dirty offering their opinions on the state of various virtual worlds.

For hardcore gamers, there are a ton of mmorpgs missing from the worlds listed in the wiki. I took a few minutes to start a Warhammer Online page, and it was pretty simple. Most of the major MMO’s from Meridian 59 onward are missing, so there’s plenty of opportunity to contribute!

Anyone want to start a pool on how long it takes for flame wars about class nerfs on the WoW wiki page? πŸ™‚

No WoW for me

Just for the record, I won’t be buying the Lich King expansion immediately. I’m having a blast in WAR, and I’m so so so tired of PvE in WoW. There’s nothing compelling to make me want to check it out. If I want to grind PvE levels, I’d rather do it in WAR where it’ll mean something, rather than WoW, where I’d level to 80 and unsubscribe again.

I’m not entirely ruling out buying it. I may pick it up at Christmas for my daughter, who still logs in to play with her army of characters, but I don’t think I’ll ever play WoW seriously again.

I do hope those of you who buy the WoW expansion have a lot of fun. It’s a great game, and I’m certainly not trying to knock Blizzard’s game. I played it for years, but I feel the same way about WoW now that I feel about EQ when DAoC was released. Those chapters are closed, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

I’m really looking forward to Tier 4 Warhammer with the Casualties of War! I see a lot of people breaking into T4 now, and I think we’re going to have a lot of fun.

WAR: Random thoughts about PQ’s and PvE

I was queued for scenarios with some guildmates the other night, and nothing was popping. Tier 3 on Averheim seems to be slowing down on the Order side, and I was running PvE quests in Saphery while I was in between pops.

My groupmates were scattered all over the three pairings, and I was wondering about Mythic’s decision to allow people to queue when they were in different zones. I know it was helpful in one sense; it was annoying to have to travel to each other just to group up and queue. However, I do wonder how this decision has negatively affected PvE and Public Quests.

If my whole group had to be in the same zone to queue for scenarios, I think it would be much more likely that we’d be hanging out in Chapter PQ’s. If we were in a chapter PQ, then anyone who randomly wandered by would also be able to participate in the PQ. I think it would have had a positive effect on making the world seem more populated, and it would be easier to make it through all three stages of a Public Quest.

I know that, post-WoW, things need to be easier to appeal to players. I don’t underestimate the benefits of being able to queue from anywhere, but I think there could have been other solutions.

First, I’d have flight paths in every zone. Half the hassle of requiring people to be in the same zone to queue came from when you were in the 50% of a tier that didn’t have a flight point.

Second, I’d increase inventory space, or have crafting components take up a separate tab in your backpack. When you’re questing, you have to empty inventory pretty frequently, and that made it difficult to stay in the same zone.

Third, I’d add support to the mail system to allow multiple attachments in a single mail. I know there are add-ons that will do this for you, to some extent, but it should be available out of the box. If I could hit a mailbox, send my items destined for the auction house to a bank alt in one mail, and clear space in my inventory, I wouldn’t have to leave the zone so often, and I wouldn’t have to worry about being able to queue in different zones than the rest of my group.

Fourth, I’d figure out an alternate way to award the experience you get for finishing quests in a scenario. Part of the reason people stand around warcamps between scenarios is because they want that extra 5k xp for finishing a specific scenario and killing X number of players. Give each scenario quest-giver a writ that they hand out to players, and let the players “record” their completion of a scenario and the number of players killed on the write in the Quest section of our backpacks. Each time you finish a scenario, or kill X number of players, you right-click the writ, you get your xp, and the writ resets.

What do you think? I’m just thinking out loud. Are there benefits to queueing from different zones that I’m overlooking? Do you think it would help the PvE and PQ situation if scenario groups were in the same zone?