Even In Death, WAR can’t be bothered to PvE

Remember how Mythic/Bioware/EA promised power ups for characters to enjoy the last month that they were giving away free?

From the forums:

I have seen players asking about that NPC in /advice so I will just post some info here.

First of all – its NOT power up NPC that offer anything unique or give u some high renown character with gear, gold, mounts etc. Also nothing is for free – war crests is what u need in this case.

War crests are new currency (instead of medailons, insignias and emblems). U get it for rvr activities – killing players, locking zones, doing scenarios and as reward in keep loot bag.

NPC is located in t1 warcamps (Nordland).

It was the beginning of their death within the first two months of the game’s existence, and it continues to be a disappointment right up until the last day. I wonder if WAR might have been successful if they had spent a little more time delivering the MMORPG they promised, and a little less time delivering a glorified MOBA nobody wanted.

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WAR is Over

Whether you want it or not.

News is probably old to most of you by now (being..what, 48 hours out now?) that Games Workshop is not renewing the license for EA/Mythic to continue running Warhammer Online. Is it just me, or does that sound like a blame game? “Well, we would love to keep it going, but…” I can’t see where the title really benefits GW as a company (outside of cash coming in I guess), but I can’t see that its really hurting them either. Surely they were not the ones pulling the plug.

In any case, this comes with a bit of sadness. My brother and I talked as we were wrapping up LotRO whether or not WAR might be a place to duck into for awhile. But neither of us really saw this coming. I just figured that they would eventually cave into the pressure and go F2P like everyone else.

So I am a bit saddened by the news. As Wilhelm points out, many of us started blogging with WAR and even banded together to form a guild.

So like other shutdowns I’ve endured (Shadowbane, EQOA, CoX), this one has a bit of personal bite to it as well. But unlike those others, I’m determined to do something different this time. I’m going to go back. Yep. I’m going to soil the nostalgia. I’m going to kill it with all the flaws I can find.

I’m going to play so that I can recall vividly how they abandoned the PvE game within 3 months, and how poorly tuned the leveling curves were, and how frustrating it was that even though in the tabletop my elf hero could wield whatever the hell he wanted to, in the MMO I could use only what they told me.

And I may not be doing it alone. If you want in – just say the words.

Either way, when December gets here, the plan is that I won’t feel so bad when the power goes out. I might come to feel vindicated and hope that it never sees the light of day again. I’ll remember why I quit playing and be happy to put this thing to bed.

I wonder…what will the world look like on the day Azeroth or (the real) Norrath goes dark forever? Or even the Three Realms of Camelot, which surely can’t be that far behind. And I wonder, when those days finally come – what will it feel like to know that a realm that not just 300k people – but 12m+ people have played (lived?) in will go dark forever.

Day Two – I Started A Blog Because…

I couldn’t fit everything I wanted to say in the comment box.  Seriously.

 

I started out reading Genda’s Grouchy Gamer and Wilhelm’s Ancient Gaming Noob, along with Ysharros’ Stylish Corpse and West Karana.   And they had such awesome posts and neat things to say, I often wanted to give my own perspective.   I probably would have been a content reader, but for the perfect storm of Warhammer Online:  Age of Reckoning.

 

You see the summer before I started this blog my dad and brother and I had attended a Games Workshop Gameday and had a blast.  And we also won a closed beta account in a drawing that day.  I had done EQOA, passed on Vanguard, and settled into WoW.   I had flirted around with Everquest II and City of Heroes, but nothing serious.   Mostly I was looking for a game that I could convince our little gaming group to go for after I had dropped my WoW sub and refused to go back (not the most sporting of things).   WAR looked like it might be the way to go – my brother and I played tabletop and our third party member was a big Blood Bowl aficionado.

 

My very first posted image and screenshot!

 

The problem was that we never got the beta account (and the contact info GW gave us ended up being bogus), so I had to go looking for a beta key.  And I had never done a game at launch.  One of the reasons I did not dive into EQ2 despite how much I loved it was I felt so far behind.   So armed with a beta key and the opportunity to get into what looked to be the next big MMO at launch was the perfect setup and gave me the perfect reason to start a blog.

 

And I wasn’t the only one.   Lots of us started blogs around that time as I recall  (how many of you started around August of 2008?).  Enough that the Casualties of War guild got off the ground with a band and a ton of members.

 

Turns out I was right, I did have a lot to say.  Here I am nearly five years later and I’m still blabbing on.

How Not To Do an MMO Newsletter

 

So I get the new WAR newsletter in my inbox.  I no longer subscribe, but I always check to see what’s going on with maybe the hopes that the developers will one day remember that they have PvE content in the game (no such luck, btw).  So I open the email and here is the lead story on the newsletter – sent to all current players to inform them and former players to intice them back:

Awesome - links to the store and official forums! What more could I ask for!

Gee, thanks.  That’s about the most boring, technical, non-exciting newsletter one could possibly get.  I wonder how many former players you will win back with that?  New players?  How many existing players are excited by this?  From the looks of things and from reading the article, I can only conclude that anyone who cares hangs out in the official forums, which begs the question – why is this in a newsletter format?

I would think you would use this time and energy on a newsletter for other things, or find a new purpose for the newsletter.  Is it possible that marketing was one of the weak points of WAR and I am only just now recognizing it?  Not the campaign itself, because certainly it was everywhere, but matching what was on the poster to what was under the hood.  More than one Hollywood big budget title has fallen like a slain giant because somebody couldn’t be bothered to put together an accurate (or coherent in some cases) trailer for the movie.

Huh.  Makes me wonder. I also wonder if I spelled “intice” wrong at the beginning of this post.  But I’m too tired to look it up.

Well What Do You Know

I never (ever) thougth that WAR would be the first ones to pick up on something that I, at least, have been kicking and screaming about for at least the last two years publically.   Kudos to you Mythic for being the first to have the light bulb come on.

Our solution is to introduce a new system that will let you set your armor and weapon appearance independently of your armor stats, so that you can look how you want to look and yet keep the statistics that you personally prefer. The goal is to give players the added benefit of having the new armor sets available to them, but the ability to change their appearance if they don’t like the way they look. We also think this will introduce a level of customization that players want to have for their characters.

Having said that – seriously why did it take this long for said bulb to go off?  Pull the camera back a bit folks, sheesh.

The next step – finally convince someone, somewhere (preferably that’s working on a game) that this can go far beyond this.  Tank, DPS, Heal, Control – they are not classes, they are playstyles.   But we force players that wish to play a given playstyle into certain classes.  In other words – character creation and customization is a joke from the word “go.”

Why not let players choose a class – and then determine how they will play that class?  Is there any reason why I can’t play a Mage who Tanks, while my buddy plays a Mage who Heals?  No, there isn’t.  It’s a big wide MMO world out there.  Somebody kick down these doors and lets get the party started, thanks.

Destruction, or How I Met A Twisted Sister. Part I.

The last post was a little long so I’m going to break this one up a bit.  So basically there are two things in this post:

1) Me telling the joys and perks of starting as Chaos.

2) Me fawning over the Zealot.  Again.

 

Chaos

First off, a little confession:  I’d seen the Chaos starting area before.  And it wasn’t through an NDA leak.  I attended Games Workshop’s GamesDay in Atlanta last year, and they had a booth set up with a half dozen machines running the beta.  The crowd was sparse (probably why they didn’t come back this year, though I would have readily gone again), and so I got a solid 15 minutes of Chaos Magus playtime in the opening area.

Of course there were some things that were different.  The Magus did not have his nifty flying disc at the time (that would come later), and if I remember right, I was able to purchase abilities from my character panel rather than from a merchant.  In any case, I did enjoy the class and the atmosphere at the time.

But I do have a severe knock against them though.  At the end of the day, they did a drawing for closed beta, and wonder of wonders, my brother got one of the slots!  We were terribly excited, and I pestered him constantly about if he had gotten the email they had said would come with the download links, etc.  That was April of ’07.  Fast forward almost 17 months, and they still haven’t sent that email.    That’s wrong on many, many levels. 

Anyway, the starting area for Chaos is suitably creepy and lore based, though I was wishing there was a bit more to firing the Hellcannon.  Again it strikes me that this area felt more complete at least in part because of the full deck of classes playing – tank, dps, and healer.

The choice to focus the Chaos forces as the hordes of Tzeentch seemed odd at first, but I think it was a good choice.  It allows more detailed lore than just “chaos undivided” and makes more sense than the significantly less stable factions of Khorne (no quests, just kill?), Nurgle (everyone keeps dying!), or Slaanesh (make love, not war!).

Kudos also for including the beatmen of Chaos early on, and for the introduction of the other races in the first quest hub.  If I had any knock for the Chaos starting area, it would again be the quest bottlenecks.  The chests took too long to spawn, buildings too long to spawn fire bundles for burning, etc.

This was also the only place I came in first in a PQ, using the Zealot in an insane frenzy of healing and damage.  And I got some hand armor, that was uber…and looked exactly like my un-uber hand armor.  Gee, thanks.

I tried out, beyond the zealot, a level or two of marauder and chosen.  I wish I had had more time with both, as I think they would have been fun.  The Marauder in particular has a certain flair that makes up for the lack of innovation in the stance mechanic.

 

The Zealot

As I mentioned, my favorite class by far.  First of all, the fluff: its hard to argue with the blue-eyed skull you wave around in your off hand.  It starts off almost as a mocking item – something that demonstrates how unhinged you are and the fragile mental state the Norsicans exist in.  But as the game goes on and you see yourself channeling energy and power through the skull – as well as interact with it through the idle emotes, its becomes a symbol of your wisdom and power.  Zealots have a locust and wild honey, desert prophet feeling to them that is a nice touch. 

Ability wise, its a nice mix.  A solid DD and DoT mixed with an instand heal and a more powerful HOT.  And your first “Mark” or ability granting buff.  This one buffs your intelligence and strength and gives you a nice direct damage ability that has a 60s cooldown timer on it.  Still, its a nice dps burst, especially when you place the mark on yourself.

Mostly though, I love it because it was an idea that I’ve been enamored with since my first days in EQOA.  The Magician class there had the ability to create items – armor, a mage-only shield(!), weapons, all of which most people rolled their eyes at – because they were inferior to normal items, and for good reason – to prevent imbalance.  But it could also create something that most everyone in my groups learned to love – damage stones.  These bad boys were non-equip items that had three charges that cast the second most recent damage spell for the Magician class.  For example, say you got a damage ability at 16 and again at 20 (there was a 4 level leap between abilities in the old days – remember?  ::shudders::).  The stone you could summon at 20 emulated the 16 spell and could be handed out to anyone.  Tanks in particular relished the extra DPS that allowed them to hold even more aggro, and casters enjoyed having a fall back contribution when they needed to recharge their power.

Still it was annoying to have to hand out another round after each monster or two, and generally speaking, they didn’t get as much use as their coolness factor should have given them, because of the limitations in the design.

The Zealot/Rune Priest usable buff mechanic fixes that.  Replace the charges with a cooldown timer, and the awkward mechanics are no longer a stumbling block.

Maybe its just me, and you don’t care much about this idea, and think its odd that I’m so excited about it.  But for me, there is something extra exciting about being able to actively give support to group mates in a way other than healing!  In a way that is customized and tailor-made for each player/class, given that the classes have access to a number of different types of these buffs – including some AOE ones!

In a game that does not seem to have speed buffs, has no SoW, I can easily see the Zealot/Rune Priest becoming the new class that gets bugged at the high traffic areas – “dd mark plz!”  Because they are able to provide something that every class would like to have.  If you are one of those junkies who grumbled mightily about how many times a session you had to cast SoW, but secretly loved being able to help out the players around you with it, then this may be the class for you.

BTW, she was a twisted sister indeed – not just hunched over (twisted), but but also fully sister as well – I played a female.  Hormonal teens may prefer the Witch Elf in all her SI Swimsuit Issue glory, but the Zealot ain’t half bad herself.  And lets face it, she has way more personality.

Watch out for that skull charm though – hopefully he’s not the jealous type…Bwahaha!

Order in all its Glory.

Well, I did have a couple of videos to show you, including a nice clip of a bunch of elves against a hydra in one of the early public quests, but I’ve had problems the last two days getting them uploaded.  But I didn’t want to hold up this train anymore.  So, some insight into the starting areas and classes of Order:

The High Elves

Takin it to the Sprites...
Takin' it to the Sprites...

 

Going into preview weekend, the plan was for my little gaming trio to go High Elves.  My brother enjoys tanking more than anything, and the Swordmaster was his first choice.  The White Lion’s motiff drew our friend, and I, having a propensity for playing elves and fighting at a distance, figured I’d either land on a Shadow Warrior or an Archmage.  Add to that the fact that I play High Elves in tabletop, and it seemed like a shoe in for first choice.

I saved them for last and intended only to try the Shadow Warrior briefly to see if it was cool enough to outweigh the need/desire to operate a healer with the Archmage.  My brother picked up a Swordmaster, not having the hesitation I do about overplaying my main class at launch.  And I have to tell you, the High Elf starting area was by far the most disappointing of all the opening areas.  The opening quest was nonsensical to the storyline – “Hey these sprites are annoying our mourners.  Could you kill a few of them before your go help the Prince.  Yeah, I know, he’s getting his butt kicked and the city is overrun and he needs reinforcements to hold..blah blah blah…seriously though, these sprites are super annoying.”

Strike two was the bizarre bottleneck just down the hill leading to the main quest series for the area.  Its the tutorial for seige weapons, as every area has, but for some odd reason – there is only one seige weapon.  Yeah, so you have to wait your turn while someone shoots down six harpies, and waits 5s or so between each shot as the bolt thrower reloads.  That’s a griefer’s dream.  They can stand around spamming the thrower and lock down the quest and annoy the heck out of alot of people.

This winning combo of loreplay disconnects and area design flaws continue throughout the first set of levels.

I played a Shadow Warrior and a White Lion up through level 5, and both were the most buggy classes in the game.  Every stance in the SW has its own set of toolbars, meaning you have to reset the toolbar for each stance with the abilities you want in the order you want.  Honestly, the option wasn’t worth it, as I see the SW as a class that will be stance dancing for most conflicts, and thus will need a standardized set on the toolbar to cut down on player hesitation and mistakes. 

The White Lion has received much press for the broken pet mechanics, but I’ve been scratching my head a bit on this.  Even with my broken pet wandering around killing nothing during the first public quest, I placed fifth out of a dozen people.  So…either the pet is not going to account for as much of the classes DPS as I was anticipating, or this is a very high DPS class once its done and polished.  Add into that the ranking points you would get for the hate aggro that the pet can put out…wow.

Overall there’s just alot not right with this area yet.  This makes some sense to me, as the Elf classes were the last to be announced, and really have been developed only in the last year.  On a side note, I hope there is more dye options for the robes – again, it’s boring to have the same white robe on for 40 levels, even if your mantle does change colors.

 

The Empire

Glowing Eyes
Bright Wizard Character Option #1138: "Glowing Eyes"

 

I didn’t intend to spend as much time in this area as I did.  It was a little too reminiscent of WoW’s opening human stages, but that’s probably one of the few knocks you could level at it.  Outside of that, its pretty good.  There’s a good variety of quests, some interesting lore bits, the semi-hidden named mobs for good measure, and what has to be one of the best opening public quests in the game trying to defend the local priest against marauders, champions, and then finally a giant!  The lore here is great and really draws you in quickly and the progression from one area to the next is logical and flows well.

Also, this starting area had, by my count, more options to upgrade your gear than any other.  By the end of the first segment, you will have gotten at least two weapons upgrades.  Other starting areas it feels lucky if you get one!

I played a Bright Wizard and a Witch Hunter both to around level 7, which was again, more time than I had intended with either.  I was not going to do anything in Empire but the Warrior Priest, and I still regret not having seen it in action yet (10 days to Open Beta!).  But my brother suggested the Witch Hunter when I had fun trying the Witch Elf, and I played the Bright Wizard for our friend, who was not in on the weekend, to give him some feedback.

Both were good classes, and I enjoyed them both, but I don’t think either will be my main.  The Witch Hunter, while sold, just kinda feels blah – like you’ve been there and done that before.  Plus for being a DPS class, it clearly plays second fiddle to the Bright Wizard who seems to put out damage several orders of magnitude higher than the WH does.  Also I found it a bit humorous that your pistol has a DPS stat attached to it – since that has nothing to do with your ability damage (a good move given the RvR/PvP nature of the game) and you don’t seem to attack with it in hand to hand.

The Bright Wizard really capture my attention as I didn’t expect it too though.  The class mechanic makes for some great edge of your seat decisions about when to clear out your built up Combustion.  Still, our guild has attested to their squishiness in RvR as there was a thread going on everyones BW kill count over the weekend, with some numbers that were frighteningly high.  As someone new to RvR and with not a whole lot of PvP experience, I’m going to steer away from a class that seems to need some definite expertise and finesse to play well.

The public quest, while awesome, highlights how much that tank is missed in this area.  The waves of enemies usualy die quickly to the front line of squishy WH and BW, with WP healing in the mix, but there tends to be a lot of death as well because there is no one to pull an enemy off of you, and sometimes you are one spell resist away from visiting the graveyard and losing out on PQ loot!

 

The Dwarfs

I spend very little time here, playing with what I thought would be a favorite class coming into the weekend, the Engineer.  Again the starting area was very blah, and laid out in a much more confusing manner than other starting areas.  There was no real flow to the quests, which would send you sprinting in a number of different directions as opposed to walking you down a starting path.  I have no problem with quests doing that, but its something that should be saved for higher levels and not for new players still trying to learn the areas.

The Engineer was very disappointing.  The Ancient Gaming Noob said it best:  “How to describe him… If you crossed Rip Taylor, Herve Villechaize, and a warthog then had him run around in my grandmother’s night gown carrying a bronze pipe wrench… that is about what I ended up with.”  The class is just plain ugly.  And I thought it would be fun to play with, but…

The static nature of his pets (gun turrets) are nice for defensive RvR play, but they are a nightmare in PvE quests that that require alot of movement – a double knock in this starting area with its “put out fires in every direction” mentality to quest location.  So you end up with a class thats ugly and not fun to play.  That’s a double whammy.

The Rune Priest is the mirror of the Zealot, which I’ll talk *alot* about in the next update, so I didn’t spend any time with it, thinking that if we do go order, that’s probably the class I’ll play (that or an Archmage, if the elf-lands improve).

The Ironbreaker may get significant play time in Open Beta, as my plan there is to pick one class and level the heck out of it while playing alot of RvR/PvP to get a feel for that side of the game, which I essentially ignored this time around.

 

Order Overall

If I seem down on Order, its not because things were terrible here, its just that it never seemed to quite shine the way the Destruction starting areas did.  My brother noticed that as well, and its created something of a delimma for us that we will have to resolve in Open Beta.  Of the two sides, Order definitely needs the most development/polish time.  But…that may mean that come launch, Order is in better shape than Destruction.  We’ll see I guess.

Next up, Destruction in all its twistedness.