My Mythic Valentine

Clue number 3/13 arrived in my mailbox yesterday.

Mythic Valentine

Mythic Valentine

I used to have a girlfriend who talked about hunting me down. She made it sound like a good thing, but, really, it wasn’t a good thing.

You know, when someone first jokes about stalking you (at least, you want to believe it’s a joke), you’re flattered, kinda. It’s nice to get that kind of attention, right? “She’s paying attention to me? Cool! She’s funny, too, all that talk about how all she thinks about is me, all the time…yeah, right. Who’s that crazy?” You don’t realize it at the time, but that’s a crucially important question you’re about to overlook.

But, then, there’s a slow realization that she’s not joking. Maybe the first sign is that you’re running in to her earlier each day, and without really looking for you…she’s just there, with a look that you used to think was adoring, but it’s starting to get a little creepy. Maybe your friend has a friend who knew a guy who used to date her, until he suddenly moved to Tierra Del Fuego because he wanted to “flyfish”, but all his friends thought that was odd, because he never talked about enjoying flyfishing before. Yeah, there are warning signs, but you’re a guy. You’re weak. You have a few drinks, you think about the way she looks at you, it’s been a long time since anyone’s looked at you like that…and sure, if she invites you to the Twisting Tower at the right moment? Sure, you’ll go. In hindsight, it’s a terrible idea, like three people splitting up at Camp Crystal Lake to see what those funny noises are outside the cabin, but in the moment, you think “Maybe she’s not really crazy…maybe it’s just kinky? Maybe we’ll have fun!”

And that’s all it takes. A few moments of wishful thinking, and you’re about to have the worst, and last, Valentine’s Day of your life, up there in the Twisting Tower, with the full horror of what you should have faced weeks ago right there in your face, like Kathy Bates tying James Caan to the bed.

I hate Valentine’s Day.


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!

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.

WAR: Embracing losing

When I logged on last night, I picked my Shadow Warrior first, thinking I’d check out the new changes from the patch. There were quite a few Knights of the Burning Crusade…err, Knights of the Bloody Roundtab…no, that’s not it…Knights of the Burning Sea? Screw it. There were quite a few Knight alts, and they were getting together to run T1 scenarios.

I mentioned earlier that I might roll a Rune Priest to heal all those new tank alts, and the T1 guild group said they’d be happy to have a level 1 gimpy healer, so I quickly rolled up an RP and joined the scenario group.

Holy cow, T1 scenarios are the wrong place for a level 1 healer in noob clothing 🙂 I knew I was going to be ineffective for a while, and I was right, but man, I had a good time running with the guild group. We lost a lot of scenarios; we lost badly in a good percentage of them. Somehow, people didn’t let it get them down, though, and we laughed and had fun through the entire evening.

When I was a kid, I never minded losing. If I got my ass kicked at Risk or Monopoly or chess or cards, I never got mad and quit. As soon as I lost, I was ready to play another game. It’s a challenge, and a talented opponent means I have to work hard to win, and it’s satisfying when I’m competitive, whether I win or lose.

WAR scenarios give players a lot of opportunities for moral victories, even if you’re getting smoked in the overall score. We’d cheer if we managed to corner a shaman and take him out, pounding him into the dust. We’d take solace in defeating one opponent before the Blackguard zerg with an army of Zealots and DoK’s healing them overwhelmed us. We were underdogs (most of us were level 6 or lower), and I think we reveled in the underdog role.

This happened a lot in DAoC, on my server. Hibernia was a heavy underdog, and my little guild was fairly casual. We’d get rolled a lot, and it was an uphill battle for months before the realm came together as a force to be feared. It would have been easy to quit because we weren’t dominant, feeling like we never had a chance to “win”, but even on nights where little seemed to go our way, there were opportunities for success. Over the course of an evening of RvR, there are many little opportunities to be a thorn in the side of a superior opposing force, and I take great pleasure in challenging a stronger opponent. Well, not directly challenging them, maybe, but harassing them, harrying them, annoying them.

We had a lot of good fights last night, even if we lost more than we won, and even if the scoreboard was pretty lopsided in the opponent’s favor. Someone’s going to lose every night, and I’ve been on the winning side in the past. The only way to get back to the winning side is to keep showing up, and we finally managed to win our last scenario in Khaine’s Embrace. It was a satisfying end to a night of losing. Fun losing! And my little Rune Priest alt is level 5 and climbing.

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.