WAR: Heresy Mill, part 2

I’ve returned from making my information-gathering rounds for Inquisitrix Lady Stern and the Heresy Mill. The news is not as epic as the previous warning of a server-wide Armagaddon, but it’s still brand-new to the WAR community.

First, it seems that all the races in WAR are preparing for the upcoming holidays. Each race welcomes the winter solstice in their own unique manner, and it should be interesting to see how different cultures celebrate. I’ll wager a gold piece that the dwarven festivities include a lot of Winter Ale, and I have another gold piece that says I’ll be out drinking with them most of the night.

Second, I found out that the business of the Empire is…business. When we think about WAR, we think about battles, bloodshed, and mayhem. And we like it that way! But behind the scenes, little-noticed by swaggering adventurers, live the people who make the war effort possible. The Emperor’s accountants, the bankers, the tradespeople who supply the war effort, all of them crunching numbers day after day…I spent a long evening at the pub hearing about the price of metals that get turned into armor, the cost-benefits and qualitative differences of scavenged tradeskill materials versus what you can buy from a vendor, and the dye shortage, which is driving dye prices through the roof. I had to keep drinking through a lot of the discussion, but my ears perked up when they started talking about battles.

The bean-counters ran the numbers on the fights that occurred at Reikland Factory over the past couple weeks. From my notes on an alehouse napkin, I got these statistics out of the accountants:

The special event Reikland Factory Scenario launched over 150 times an hour. It was a close-run fight, but on overall points, Destruction just managed to beat Order. Reluctant to ever admit to the enemy they had been bested, both sides fell back when a tie was reached only 196 times…

I forget exactly how many days the fighting went on at Reikland Factory, but 3600 scenarios a day, times the number of days the scenario was available, is a pretty impressive number. I suspect, though, that we had been drinking in the pub quite a while by the time the accountant reported that Destruction was the overall winner on points….he was quite likely so drunk that he got confused. I’m sure he meant to say that ORDER was the overall winner.

Or maybe it was me who had one too many glasses of ale, causing some confusion 🙂


WAR: Keg End – Server-wide Thunderdome Armageddon

There’s a rumor afoot, about happenings on December 17th, a “server-wide Thunderdome Armageddon”.  While the story below is mostly in-character, the communication from the Inquisitrix Lady Stern is real, revealing information about upcoming events in WAR. This is the second time Lady Stern has passed on information about upcoming events in Warhammer that I know of; the first person contacted by the Inquisitrix to pass on information was Jobildo. Note: I edited this a bit after reading my email a bit more carefully, to conform with the requests from the Lady and the Heresy Mill…it’s important not to completely reveal your sources! Read on for the story of how I found this as-yet unrevealed information…

One of the things I enjoy about Warhammer is wandering the streets of Altdorf. There are a lot of hidden places to discover, and Altdorf citizens involved in a variety of activities; working, playing, fighting, scheming, living and dying.

I was running errands earlier today, traveling from the guild hall at Sigmar’s Hammer, north past the bank, when I noticed a figure I hadn’t seen before. A woman, cloaked, almost blending into the shadow at the edge of the alley in which she stood. In fact, I think I only noticed her because she wanted to be noticed. After our brief conversation, I was convinced that if she wanted to remain hidden, I would have walked right by her, never noticing a thing.

She caught my attention, though, and gave me a nod like she knew me, and like she had something to say. I started to ask her who she was, and what her business was, but she waved me off with a slight gesture of her hand. She inclined her head toward a nearby doorway – a door I also hadn’t noticed before – and indicated I should follow her.

Given that this is the setup in every scary theatrical show produced in Altdorf, leading to a quick and violent death for an unwary adventurer, I was on my guard as I followed her through the threshold. I needn’t have worried, though. Entering into the building, I realized it was a pub, and my caution turned to confusion. I mean, I’m good friends with dwarves, and I thought we had explored pretty much every pub in Altdorf together, but I never knew there was one on this street.

The clientele was different as well. Instead of rowdy soldiers back from the wars, and hard-working Altdorf citizens blowing off steam, the crowd gave the impression of being…professional. No one stared directly at me as I entered, but I got the feeling they were all weighing my potential threat level. To my chagrin, no one seemed unduly worried by my appearance; I was being sized up by experienced adventurers, cool and confident men and women who, I noticed belatedly, all seemed very well armed.

As my companion and I sat in a small booth at the rear of the pub, I wondered what I was getting myself into. I wasn’t sure who’s attention I had managed to attract during my last couple months in Altdorf, making war upon the forces of Destruction, but I was hoping these folks were on my side.

Drinks were brought without being ordered. Great, she’s a regular. That means the rest of ’em in the pub must be her friends.

She raised her glass to me, and I responded in kind. We drank, she put her mug back on the table, and she leaned back against the cushions of the booth. Pulling the hood back from her cloak, she looked me in the eye and said “Let me introduce myself. I am Inquisitrix Lady Stern.”

Oh shit.

This could go one of two ways. When you get noticed by the Emperor’s Witch Huntress, you’ve either already been tried and convicted of heresy (without even being aware that you were on trial, and no chance at appeal), or…well, hell, I didn’t know what the “or” might be. Most stories including Lady Stern ended with “And she finished him off with pistol shot to the head after pinning him to the wall with her rapier…ran him straight through and stuck’m right to the wall”.

I had a moment of wild panic, thinking about making a run for it, but I knew I’d never even make the door…and the tiny remaining rational part of my brain reminded me that there were never stories about Lady Stern buying someone a drink before the Stab/Bang finishing move.

“You’re right,” she said, “I’m not here to kill you.” I think I sighed out loud in relief, because a whisper of a smile passed over her face.

“I need you to pass on some information for me,” she continued. And thus began my involvement in the Heresy Mill.

The Heresy Mill searches out information for the Emperor. Spies, smugglers, traders, thieves, politicians, priests…they all have information the Emperor is interested in, and Lady Stern has direct responsibility for gathering and disseminating that information. I’ve heard stories about the gathering portion of the operation; sometimes the Mill pays for information, sometimes they “convince” people to tell what they know. Blackmail, threats, or outright torture…they’ll use whatever gets information for the Emperor.

And the information the Lady had for me today? The information she wanted me to pass on to everyone else at war? Beware the night of Keg End, all of you. All of us! We thought we’ve seen battles before…it seems that the greatest night of fighting is being planned for the 17th, during the Keg End celebration. It’s a devious time for an attack, likely hoping to catch everyone drunk and unprepared…although fighting alongside a drunk dwarf on the 17th will be pretty much like the other 364 nights of the year…and the attacks are expected to occur in massive fashion. Her exact quote to me was ” server wide thunderdome Armageddon”.

How does she know, you ask? It appears the Mill kidnapped the Boss Nurgling in charge of Events, and stretched him on the rack until he spilled the plans for the event. By the time they got that bit of information out of him, he was too far gone to get further details, but the attack seems epic. Prepare for epic adventure on the night of the 17th!

That was the major story she wanted me to pass along, but there are other bits of information coming as well. I have to do a bit of investigation, more tramping about the streets of Altdorf (hopefully more time in pubs!), tracking down some leads and verifying some information. I’ll be back soon with news!

WAR: Good night, post-patch

I wasn’t going to play WAR tonight, actually. I played quite a bit of Team Fortress 2 (man, I suck at TF2…I used to be good at FPS games! Back before Everquest came out, I guess…lol, that’s a long time ago), and I was just going to hop into WAR to check mail, do a bit of crafting, etc.

I wanted to get a good night’s sleep, so I wasn’t planning to stay long. I swear!

Then I heard the Vent crew talking about doing some T1 scenarios, and I thought “T1 doesn’t take much investment, that’s easy in-and-out, I might as well join them, right?”

And then I traveled from the Dwarven area with my Ironbreaker alt (they had plenty of healing) to Nordland, and open RvR was hopping, and suddenly I was in for a couple hours of gaming 🙂 I dinged 8 and 9, and RR 6 and 7, all from the oRvR and a handful of scenarios.

If you felt like you got left behind in WAR, now’s a good time to get back in. With the launch of the new careers to everyone in this patch, T1 is hopping, and I’m sure T2 will be busy as well. We had some really good fights tonight. Our last scenario, Gates of Ekrund, ended up 500-495 in Destruction’s favor. The oRvR fights were pretty epic, on the scale of the beta fights, maybe 100 people fighting in and around Festenplatz, Harvest Shrine, and along the beaches.

Performance was great, I had nary a hitch, so I’m hoping the patch is pretty stable. There are some nice new Influence rewards for the first stage reward with Rally Masters, instead of potions, although your Renown rank has to be as high as your level.

I really do have to sleep now, unfortunately. Gametap released S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Shadow of Chernobyl today, and I want to take a run through before bed…but I know myself too well. I’ll see the sun rising if I don’t get up and go to bed right now. One more turn!

I’m also talking myself out of “just one more” TF2 map. Bed!

WAR Mods: Am I the only one not using any?

There’s nothing I like less than patching my MMO client, and then having to spend time patching my mods. I did it in WoW for a while, but I got so tired of maintaining them that I ended up going with just the stock interface.

I haven’t tried a mod yet in WAR. Some people mentioned mail mods that will let me mail multiple items at once, and that’s great, but this is definitely one place where I wish something in WAR works like it does in WoW.

Speaking of that, maybe I’m getting old and my memory is going, but Syncaine left a comment saying that mail in WAR is made better by mods, just like WoW was for four years. It’s been a long time now that WoW’s natively supported multiple items in one mail, without needing a mod to do it, hasn’t it? I haven’t played WoW regularly in over a year, and I remember being able to mail multiple items, without mods, for a long time before I quit playing.

I’m a little hesitant to try out healing addons, because I don’t want to get dependent on ’em, only to have them not get updated right after a patch, and then I have to re-adjust to the default healing style. Ya know? Is it just me? Do you love your add-ons, or do you avoid them at all costs?

Agreement about the little things

I read a post by Risset over at The Inevitable City describing the little things that bother him about Warhammer. He hits on a couple things that irk me as well, and I have some additions. Thanks to Syp, who moved blog locations when I wasn’t looking, for posting the link to Risset’s post…good luck in the new home, Syp!

On to the little things…

Queuing for scenarios: God, I hate not being able to queue from Altdorf, or for T3 scenarios when I’m questing in Eataine. Spot on, Risset.

I also hate that my text box location is never saved when I log out, and every time I log in, I have to move it and re-lock it.

Risset’s right about the auction house. I hate searching for class-specific items and getting returns for items used by different races. I also don’t like that you can’t search for crafting supplies by level. I shouldn’t have to click through 500 seeds if I just want to search for crafting level 75 seeds, or crafting level 125 seeds, or water for apothecary potions between 100 and 150, stuff like that. There’s not enough granularity available in the searches.

And omg, could I please be able to mail multiple items at once now? And could the mail stop telling me that I’m trying to delete a message I haven’t read, when I’ve already detached the item and it’s sitting in my backpack? Really, I’ve read it, I can delete it now. Thanks though!

I’m tired of getting stuck on things. Is it just me, or does your character fail to slide off gracefully when you encounter an object in the world? Is it just me, or can running through a ram to go through recently-broken keep doors be an exercise in futility? Does anyone else try to run under tent poles in the Bank/Flight Master/Auction House/Crafting merchant section of Altdorf and get stuck when it seems like there should be plenty of room to pass through? Is it just me, or do you have to line up doorways perfectly to avoid getting stuck?

These are indeed little things that I don’t really pay attention to while I’m playing, but it does frustrate me. I’m good at ignoring glitches if I’m enjoying the rest of the game, but a little smoother would be good.

Oh, and my Morale buttons are still pretty unreliable. I hate dying trying to get a Morale ability to fire.

Some WAR links and thoughts

There are a couple WAR blog posts that I wanted to comment on, and I figured since I’m referencing more than one, I’d just make it a new post here.

Ravious over at Kill Ten Rats is wondering about the value of a subscription to a PvP MMO. I was interested in this post, because his reasons for not wanting to subscribe to a PvP MMO over a PvE MMO is similar to my reasons for the exact opposite conclusion; I don’t have much interest in subscribing to a mainly PvE MMO right now.

Ravious says:

In PvE MMO games, like Lord of the Rings Online, there is that feeling of the developer updating “further along.”  When Turbine updates the game with a Book update (as opposed to just a balance, optimization, and bug patch) they push the story further down the road.  We get new quests that expand the storytelling of the world, new instances and dungeons, and sometimes even new regions.  There is the value in receiving the content, but I think the bigger value is knowing that over the next big rise there will be more.

Fair enough. I won’t argue that WAR’s PvE rivals LoTRO, or EQ2, or WoW. Instead of feeling like I’m missing out on great PvE, though, I’m happy that WAR is offering me something I can’t get in any of those games; unpredictable gaming on a nightly basis. I guess I’m bored with PvE and the sense of sameness that I get in every PvE game. The setting is different, the stories are different, but the encounters are too predictable for me. I don’t derive much satisfaction from beating PvE challenges. What really gets me excited is knowing a mob of enemy players is out there, and our encounters will be much more unpredictable than anything a PvE situation can provide.

Does that mean Ravious (or anyone else who misses greater PvE options than WAR offers) is wrong? Absolutely not. I’m glad that there are games available that cater to both preferences.

The next post that caught my eye was Scarybooster’s “Hot for WAR“. Scary is praising Mythic for their attention to their game and their efforts to continually improve it. Now, I fully expect someone in the comments over there to say “Blizzard doesn’t have to put in that much work to fix their game because they don’t release a game as broken as WAR!” I don’t think WAR is broken, for the record, but a sarcastic comment like that still has a ring of truth to it.

One of the reasons that I’m happy in Warhammer is precisely because of Mythic’s attention to their product. I think Mythic is a little more ambitious than Blizzard, and I appreciate their type of gameplay. We really can’t get MMO gaming like Mythic makes anywhere else in the genre. Eve is always an exception; they really have a unique environment with lots of opportunity for excellent unpredictable PvP. At the end of the day, Mythic’s RvR design is more exciting to me than the PvE available in LoTRO, EQ2, or WoW, and I appreciate Mythic’s attempts to provide a gaming experience different from other MMOs.

I’m not going to deny that I enjoy different things in an MMO than many other MMO gamers. I don’t like raiding or dungeon crawling very much. It makes me feel constricted, closed in, like my role is very carefully scripted, and varying from what you’re expected to do will lead to failure. Apparently, the way I enjoy PvE is quite different from a lot players who are unhappy with Mythic’s PvE. I happen to enjoy it very much, and I don’t find PvE leveling much different in WAR than the way I played WoW or EQ or LoTRO. I get quests, I run out and do my quests, I get tradeskill supplies while I’m questing, I do some tradeskilling before bed. For my money, I’m just as happy with WAR’s PvE environment as I was in Azeroth or Norrath, and my progress leveling in WAR is faster than it ever was in EQ or WoW or LoTRO.

I think that the blogging community has to start acknowledging that there’s a lot of different ways to enjoy MMOs, and quite a few different experiences available. Just because a game falls into the MMO genre doesn’t mean it’s going to be similar to other MMOs out there, and it’s quite possible that games are going to go far enough down their own game-design path that we end up disliking the final product, despite the fact that they all start off in a very similar manner.

I won’t try to convince people (like Heartless, perhaps, or Pete), that Warhammer is a good game, or a game they should be playing. I think we’re starting to see people with more specific requirements for enjoying an MMO, and people branching off into the games that best meet those requirements. I don’t think each MMO should try to be everything for everyone. I respect that Ravious really likes LoTRO’s books and the PvE it provides, and I think Turbine has done a wonderful job incorporating a story into their PvE group encounters. I completely understand players who love the product Blizzard offers, and the excellent challenges they provide for small group or raid group gameplay. For players who prefer Eve’s universe, or EQ2, or any other game that’s meeting their MMO gaming needs, I say right on. All we have to do is be happy with our game, and let everyone else enjoy theirs.

And for me, there’s no greater thrill in MMO gaming than seeing 20 or 30 realm mates running alongside me through a zone, looking for trouble, seeing a crowd of Destruction headed our way, crashing together like a scene from Braveheart or Lord of the Rings. I love it when a big fight breaks down into 8 or 10 smaller fights, rolling across the green grass of Avelorn, and the ebb and flow of the battle is frantic and unpredictable, ending in glorious triumph or bitter defeat. Keep battles, siege warfare, flanking manuevers from postern doors, tactics barked through Warband or Region channels, dozens of people switching focus and wondering if the defenders will respond in time, staving off an hour-long keep take attempt from a determined foe, or finally breaking through a spirited defense to lay claim to a keep…

That’s what I’ve found in WAR. That’s what keeps me happily moving through PvE, knowing that at any moment, I might have the opportunity for something epic, something magical created out of the efforts of dozens of players.

In DAoC, on the Percival server, it wasn’t uncommon to get smoked by an opposing realm and lie dead in the grass watching them swarm over the objective you had attempted to defend. Instead of opponents laughing at your corpse, though, or dancing on it, or worse (/spit, /slit, etc.), it also wasn’t uncommon to be saluted at or bowed to by the victors.

As much as players on Percival enjoyed their moments of triumph, we all knew that those moments were made possible by the valiant efforts of our opponents. Without skilled and dedicated opponents, the victory would not have been so sweet. Maybe that’s the difference between PvE raiding and RvR for me. When I’ve beaten a dungeon or a boss, I never go home thinking “Man, they put up a hell of a fight, they’re a really good player, or that was a really good tactic”. After a good RvR fight, win or lose, as I sit there grinning at my computer with the adrenaline still pumping through my body, I know there’s someone on the other side of their computer grinning as well. They helped make my fun possible, and I helped with theirs.

I think that’s the essence of Mythic’s RvR for me, and I won’t tire of it any time soon. And for the record, I’m not really a fan of individual PvP. There’s something about running into battle with a group of friends that creates a shared magic I haven’t experienced anywhere else in the MMO world.

If you get that sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from big PvE encounters, I respect that. I’m just glad that Mythic gives me a chance to experience that in competition against other players.

Get your game face on: The Immersion Project

Gamers know about the game face. Friends staring blankly at the screen, lost in game-land, lost to the outside world. I know that I’ve laughed at my friends when I’ve caught them out there, completely unaware of their facial or body reactions to a video game, and I’ve definitely been laughed at for the same thing.

The Immersion Project is a very cool idea, filming gamers from a camera angled like it’s in the game and analyzing their reactions Instead of explaining it poorly, I’ll give you a quote, and a link to a good article in the Telegraph where there’s also a video of the kids at play. The girl playing GTA with a complete absence of expression is fascinating.

Here’s the first couple paragraphs from the article:

Robbie Cooper’s film stills capture children’s faces as they play violent videogames and form the basis of an art project that could also help us understand the effects of spending time in a virtual world. Sam Leith reports

There is an account, apocryphally, from medieval times, of a person walking into a room and being confronted with the sight of a man transfixed. The man in the room is holding something in his hands, staring at it. His eyes are glazed. His lips are moving soundlessly. His soul is elsewhere. The onlooker, unsettled, concludes that the man has been possessed by an evil spirit. In fact, he is simply doing something the onlooker has never seen done before: reading a book.

Check out the video and the rest of the story on the Telegraph website.