Restless gaming

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading lately, instead of playing games. I thought I was just burned out on MMO’s, but single player games are causing the same restless feeling I experienced with MMO’s. I’ll sit down at night to play, and no matter what game I choose, I don’t want to play it after about 20 minutes. Games used to be a way for me to disappear into the Sid Meier zone, where I could lose myself in an evening of play, and I loved that feeling. I’m chasing the dragon now, I guess, getting a “been there, done that” vibe, no matter what I choose to play. I hate that feeling, so after some TF2 I end up logging off and grabbing a book to read.

You know what I need? I need a punk rock MMO. In 1980, I was 14 years old. I got to listen to the punk vs. arena rock vs. crappy pop music/disco wars firsthand. MMO’s feel totally like arena rock at the moment. WoW is the Journey of MMO’s, and I can’t take it any more. And most things seem to be following in the WoW model, making the genre accessible and polished. I want an MMO that doesn’t want to be Journey or REO Speedwagon or Foreigner or Tears for Fears. Can I get a little Circle Jerks in my MMO, please? Because I really want to be playing MMO’s. I can enjoy a single player game, but too much single player is like going to restaurants by yourself all the time. I want the buzz of people around me, even if I don’t talk to them all. I want my MMO to be difficult again, or at least challenging.

I lived and worked in West Yellowstone, Montana (the west entrance to Yellowstone Park) for a couple of years, and I heard a statistic that said like 90% of the visitors to the park never get more than 100 yards from a road. That’s how I feel in the post-WoW era…as MMO players, developers never want us too far from the leveling path. That’s one of the things that pissed me off about WAR. I felt like the content was jammed together, like players couldn’t be trusted to travel through the landscape without signposts to content, like we’d need non-stop attractions to keep our attention. Theme park, right? I hate it.

I want a world that feels open, not a world that has billboards to content everywhere I go. I want more to do than just kill things or deliver things. I want to make things, sell things, collect things, display things…and useful things. I want to fight other players. Speaking of being mad at WAR, another thing that made me mad about WAR was the RvR overkill. DAoC, Counterstrike, and Team Fortress 2 are examples of why you don’t need to include RvR in every zone in three different areas with an overly complicated method of zone control. Those three games concentrated great fighting in a limited number of maps or zones, focusing on the quality of the fighting, not the making sure there was an RvR entrance just steps from any location in any zone. So instead of WAR focusing the people who wanted to RvR in a few meaningful areas, it ended up feeling like you were chasing fights all over the map, all over the factional areas. The fighting was diluted because it was so spread out. The PvE was jammed together, the RvR was too distributed. And they really needed a third faction. Ah well.

Eve’s got the PvP right. I wish Eve’s crafting model existed in other games. I like when players have to make everything. Putting all your good gear behind gated content bores the hell out of me. I guess I want a game like Eve, except with an avatar on the ground, harvesting stuff, making stuff, selling stuff, fighting for control of territory, not control of space. With a house. And a pony.

When did I start to sound so old, by the way? You kids get off my lawn.

Anyway, in my boredom, I picked up Chrono Trigger for the DS. My daughter is letting me “borrow” hers, so maybe some solid old school RPG action will get me through my MMO blues.

There’s a positive in my gaming doldrums, though; I’m getting a ton of reading and writing done for grad school. I bet you’ll never see a scientific study on the positive effects of too much gaming ๐Ÿ™‚


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.

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

WAR: When is it OK to tell your healer that he sucks?

I think I’ve admitted here in the past that I’m not a great healer. My main character in Warhammer is an Archmage, currently about 90% through level 28. I run a lot of scenarios, and manage to win quite a few, and manage to do fairly well on the Healing chart, but there are matches where I’ll get outhealed by a fellow Archmage or a Rune Priest by a substantial margin.

Part of that is due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time; I get killed too often, and that really hurts the healing totals. Part of it is probably due to old fingers working the keyboard. But occasionally, the problem is even more simple. I’m making dumb mistakes.

If you’ve run enough scenarios with pickup groups, you’ve probably seen spirited discussions revolving around something like “OMG, why the &%*$ didn’t you heal me? What the @&$! is wrong with you? You’re the worst healer EVER!”. It was my turn last night, except the person talking about me was much more polite, even though he was really annoyed.

Last night, I was on top of the volcano in Tor Anroc, the only healer in my group. There were a couple squishies in my group; witch hunters, bright wizards, shadow warriors. I can’t remember exactly the makeup, but we only had one tank.

When things go bad in a scenario, I’m often staring intently at the group displays, watching to see who’s health starts to tick down, and trying to heal as fast as possible. With squishies, they go down fast, and if I’m not quick, they’re dead before my three-second heal goes off. Destruction was charging up their side of the volcano, and health bars were dropping all over the place. I noticed our tank’s health dropping too, but I also spotted him, out of the corner of my eye as I stared at health bars, on top of the volcano next to me. Mentally, I slotted him about three heals down, as my bright wizards were in the process of melting.

I didn’t get that far. He died (for reasons I found out a few seconds later), and I died almost immediately afterwards to the Destruction charge.

As I respawned, I saw a “Dude, why didn’t you heal me??” in scenario chat from our tank. I said something like “Umm, because I was healing other people?”, thinking I had the moral high ground. Umm, wrong. He replied “Yeah, but I had the bauble!”. Doh. Somehow, while focusing so intently on the health bars, I managed to miss that huge glowing beacon to the sky. My bad.

And he let me know about it. He said something along the lines of “Do you know how this works? If you want to win, you have to keep me healed.” I was running back to my group by then, realized I was wrong, and didn’t have time to talk it out. I said “Sorry, k”, and got back to healing. He took that to mean that I was unaware of how the bauble worked, but it wasn’t true ๐Ÿ™‚ I just missed it, but I understood his frustration.

To my surprise, other people in the scenario spoke up, and told him to lighten up, and it’s tough being the only healer in a group. Very cool of them, but I don’t think our tank was being a jerk. He just wanted to win, and I said so in chat. I hadn’t said anything at that point (being busy healing and dying again) that told our tank that I had a clue how the scenario worked.

I hope I managed to state, as I was respawning and running back to heal and die one more time, that a) He was correct, I made an error, b) I know how the bauble works, I just blew it, c) don’t harsh on the tank too much for wanting to win, I appreciate that in a groupmate, and d) I really appreciated the backup from other players who were giving their healer some support. I’m pretty sure it didn’t come out that well in scenario chat, but I did want to say that, yeah, sometimes it IS the healer’s fault…but it was just a human mistake, not ignorance.

So Spiff, if you happen by this blog, I apologize for missing that huge glowing beacon over your head. It was a total brain freeze, and I’ll try to be more aware ๐Ÿ™‚ And if anyone else who was in that scenario who spoke up in defense of their healer, or if you speak up on any server supporting your healer, it’s appreciated.

WAR: The view from Hibernia

My post from yesterday, The Push to Tier 4, generated this quote from Heartless:

Averheim has the problem of having a heavily imbalanced hardcore crowd where Destruction has the majority of level 40โ€™s already and for 10 levels they get to make Orderโ€™s life hellโ€ฆ forcing most of us Averheim Order level 30-39 to solo PvE if we expect to get to 40.

I’m not quite in Tier 4 yet, but this is a disturbing statement. Now, I know it’s made by Heartless, so I’ll take it with a grain of salt (*grins at Heartless*), but it’s worth thinking about.

Last night on Averheim, some of the Casualties of War were in Praag, engaging in Tier 4 Open RvR. From what I understood from guild chat, there was an Order warband, and three or four or more Destruction warbands. Order would make a push, Order would get spanked, they’d respawn and try it again, with a similar result. Some of the CoWs sounded dispirited, and I think that speaks to what Heartless fears.

Back in the day, when I was a member of the Hibernian realm on Percival, we were the whipping boys of the server for a very long time. There were great individual players, excellent 8-man static groups, and a solid community of good people. However, as a realm, we got our asses kicked on a regular basis. Emain was the Midgard playground, and they beat us up at the milegates until they pushed into our frontier and grabbed our keeps. We didn’t see relics for a long time.

Here’s where Mythic needs to make a mysterious “something” happen in WAR. Despite the fact that RvR was often a difficult proposition for Hibernia, it was enough fun that we kept coming out to fight, night after night. We had good leaders who pushed into Midgard and Albion territory, we tried to play the role of spoilers in the three-realm matchups, and after months of losing, we learned a lot of lessons. We learned how to fight together as a realm. We learned that the game was a ton of fun, even if we were losing. And we learned that sometimes the people you die with are more important than the objectives you manage to capture. Eventually, Hibernia emerged as a serious power player on Percival, and I was around long enough to enjoy successful relic raids, frontier dominance, and a community of people hardened by defeat long enough to band together for victory.

As I read Heartless’s comment, and as I heard the groans from guild chat as Destruction was washing over our little warband in Tier 4 last night, I wondered if WAR is going to have that “something” that keeps Order out on the battlefield. Will we manage to come together as a realm, and will that spirit allow us to continue to face what might be an uphill climb through Tier 4 (if Heartless is correct, that is, and if the sky really is falling)? Will there be enough incentives in WAR to keep Order focused and working together?

I say that Mythic needs to provide a mysterious “something”, because there are two major components in DAoC that WAR lacks. The first factor, taking the most keeps, even if it ended up being at the end of the night when the Midgard or Albion bullies had gone to bed, opened up Darkness Falls for our realm. The second factor, since I just mentioned Albion, was the three-realm mechanic. We knew that it wasn’t just Hibernia against Midgard, or Hibernia against Albion. Each evening, there was the possibility of a third faction destroying the horde that was invading your keeps in your own frontier and providing some rock-paper-scissors balance to RvR.

I talked about both of those DAoC features quite a bit during my beta days, when we were just talking theoretically about the WAR mechanics. I think both of those factors were keys in the success of DAoC’s RvR, and I’m not sure yet what WAR offers.

Keen did a great job covering the Darkness Falls idea the other day, and Syncaine mentions the three-realm factor in the comments of that thread. It’s a good discussion. It will be interesting to see if Mythic manages to keep everyone motivated through Tier 4 and at the end game. Without a compelling reason to venture out to RvR, and without a third realm to offset the dominance of one faction over another, I’d be concerned that Open RvR will feel like an exercise in frustration if one faction is much stronger than another.

I’m just a blogger, babbling my way through work and life, and I’m sure Mythic has thought of this, and I hope they have a plan for it. I do have faith that Mythic thinks they have the motivations for RvR in place, and has ideas how to balance a two-realm game mechanic. I also have faith that if those design elements don’t prove sufficient to address motivation and a sense of hope, Mythic will make adjustments.

However, it’s not 2001 any more. There’s a lot more competition in the MMO market, and Mythic has to get it right sooner rather than later if they’re going to keep anywhere near a million subscribers. It’s going to be fun to watch! I don’t have any particular predictions, but I will enjoy watching how things unfold over the next couple of months.

WAR Story

My Archmage dinged 28 on Averheim last night. I’m still fairly balanced between scenarios and PvE leveling, although I have begun to encounter the dreaded empty PQ phenomenon as I’ve moved out of Avelorn and into Saphery.

I really enjoy Scenarios, though, and they usually pop fast enough that I just use PvE leveling to gather crafting components and to crank out quests between scenario pops. Friday and Saturday were both good nights, with a good variety of scenarios popping in T3.

I don’t think I’m a great healer. I do a decent job of getting my healing numbers near the top of the charts in the Scenario summaries (by healing scenario team members who need it, not by dropping HoTs nonstop on everyone in sight), but I put myself at risk too often, die too often, and that hurts the scenario team. I’m trying to be more conservative, hanging back a bit, giving my teammates a chance to keep me alive when I get assist-trained by tanks or DPS classes, but I have a lot to learn still.

All of my counter-tactics for surviving Witch Elf ambushes came in really handy Saturday night in Tor Anroc. I had been killed up near the top of the volcano and respawned alone. Instead of waiting for teammates to respawn, I rushed back to the action, trying to get some healing power back in the equation.

Unfortunately, as I jumped off the ledge from the spawn cave, a Black Orc and Witch Elf were hiding around the corner and ambused me. I knew my chances of surviving were pretty thin, but I ran forward anyway, hoping to run into retreating teammates so they could assist me.

I’m getting faster on the “Holy shit, it’s a Witch Elf uncloaking right behind me!!” drill. Detaunt WE if possible, shield myself, HoT, potion, run. Keep re-hotting as I run, and hope I don’t die before I get help. It wasn’t working this time, though…as I passed the big rockand turned onto the path between the two lava lakes heading for the top of the volcano, the orc and WE had me slowed and were chipping away at my health.

There were no teammates in sight, and I knew I wouldn’t survive long enough to to make it to the volcano. I only had one chance left. I turned, tried to line up the onrushing opponents, and used my Knockback. Perfection! I caught them both in my blast radius, and they were launched far into the lava. I healed up and waited long enough to confirm both were cooked by the lava, and I ran back to my group, cackling the entire way. It’s pretty rare that I survive getting jumped by a WE without help, let alone a WE and a teammate. A WE plus a teammate usually results in a very fast, very bloody death. Score one for the squishy Archmage!

It was immensely satisfying.

WAR: And, another thing…

Two years ago, if you were on the planning team for WAR, imagine these two (pardon the phrase) scenarios: Which would you choose as being a bigger issue for game design?

  1. WAR is going to be an RvR-focused game. Our concern is that gamers don’t naturally gravitate toward RvR, and we want to give them incentives to give it a try, to get over the PvP fears that open-griefing PvP MMO’s have instilled in our audience. What kind of incentives can we offer for RvR?
  2. WAR is going to be so successful in RvR that we’ll have to offer incentives to get people into PvE.

Where would you have concentrated your development time? As much as we can, in hindsight, point out places where Mythic could have made changes in PvE, I don’t think I would have imagined bullet point #2 as being a huge concern for the success of my game.

Yeah, WAR PvE has some challenges, but what would you rather being facing if you were Mythic? Would you rather have Yet Another PvE Game, while you beg people to try RvR, or would you rather have tons of people enjoying RvR, enjoying what makes your game different than other MMO’s, and trying to figure out how to fix the PvE perception?

Compared to most other MMO’s, WAR’s PvE isn’t that bad, isn’t that far off the bar set by other games. It suffers when you compare it to the rate of advancement in Scenarios, and it suffers because we’re quite divided into three pairings, and then quite divided over large zones in each pairing, not finding a critical mass of PvE companions. I think the first problem, incentive for PvE, can be addressed. I’m not sure there’s much that Mythic can do to address the way they split their factions into three separate pairings, isolating people from each other. That’s a topic for another post, though.

I think it’s pretty safe to say, though, that if Mythic had to be facing a problem at this point, a month into release, you’d rather have the problem of people enjoying RvR so much that PvE needs a boost. It’s a hell of a lot better than everyone crowding in PvE because RvR is perceived as not fun, or not rewarding.