Mar 26, 2009

Toeing the Line

Is it just my blog roll that's a bit quiet, a bit dismayed, a bit angry? Even Syp is feeling it and he's suppose to be the light to my shadow! It may just be tunnel vision or one of those things where you notice something once and so you start seeing it everywhere but there is more negativity floating around the blogsphere and forums that I can remember seeing in a long while. And a was Vangaurd: SoH player from beta to four months after launch. I know a negative community when I see one.

I have a love/hate relationship with WAR and I'm sad to say that aside from the IP it isn't anything Mythic has done that's kept me playing. It's been my friends, my guild and it's stellar, awesome roleplay and the great Phoenix Throne community that kept me going. The problem comes around when those same friends start to feel the "blahs" that so many other seem to be feeling. 

I think WAR has a lot going for it, it has a lot of potential. It feels to me though, as if it's standing on the edge of a pin and Mythic's actions over the coming months will push it one way or the other. 1.2 was the polar oposite of a miracle patch. There were a lot of little things that were good, I loved all the map updates, the easy PQs, the rallying cry system. I even like Conquest, when it works right. But they continue to break one thing for every two they fix and give half fixes to deep issues like server population.

I think Mythic is stuck in a situation that is going to get worse before it gets better. My complaint from the start of the game is that there isn't enough to do. The PvE can be fun, but it by far not the best I've ever played and the lock out timers on dungeons plus the limited amount of dungeons mean that even if you happen to focus on PvE there isn't enough to make up 10 hours a week of game play. I had hoped, six months after launch that they would have had the core of the game nailed. Back in October I was thinking of all the fun things that could have been added and improved upon by now, but instead I'm still playing RvR lakes and scenerios. Just in a different sort of broken state than they were at launch. 

I realize that I am not WARs target demographic, and so the things that would make me want to stick with the game are not likely to come around soon, if ever. I'd love to have things like guild housing, casual clothes, more expansion and diversification of trophies and the ToK, I'd kill for the other four cities to explore. But after six months I can't even /sit or /walk. I am a fluff lover. No one system, no one type of play is enough to keep me interested for 25+ hours every week. 

I can have a lot of fun playing Left 4 Dead on XBox Live. And Left 4 Dead does zombie slaying four player action -well-. But I can only explode heads for an hour or two before I get bored. The exact same thing is true of WAR. I play MMOs for their diversity, for the multiple things that I can have fun doing depending on my mood while hanging out with my friends and roleplaying. WAR lacks the diversity, it has always lacked the diversity and Mythic's inablity to fix what's wrong without breaking more things, to own up to the core problems with the game means that I doubt I'll be seeing any diversity for another six months if ever. 

It's example time. EVE is a PvP centric game but it is not solely a PvP game. Yet no matter what you're doing in EVE, you're likely interacting with the core PvP in one way or another. Either you're carefully cloaking through a low sec system trying to avoid gankers while you search for a wreck to salvage, you're praying that you can fill your hauler with ore before someone finds you or you're just safe back in the station producing items used by the PvPers. EVE holds PvP at the center of it's game with a myriad of others things to do that brush you up against the player versus player action. It offers both focused fighting for playeres who are very interested in it and a fun challenge of avoiding and a huge list of other things to do for those who aren't, or who just aren't in the mood at the time. It's a balance of risk vs. reward.

WAR sets it's core on an on and off switch. You're in the lakes, or you're not. You're qued for scenerios, or you're not. And if you're not, then you're probably not logged in because you're waiting on your three day lock out timers. 

So what am I doing in WAR? My current main character sits at 40/24. My previous main character is a WE, and that pretty much sums that up. I run the odd scenerio, I do ORvR when it looks like Order is making an organized push and destro is of course always in need of healers. I struggle through fort defenses and the pee soup lag and ten second Khaine's Embrace casts to do my part for my team. I log on to run dungeons with my friends a few times a week. Are the horrible drop rates and backwards arse ward system making the dungeon play less fun that it could be? Heck yes. But I'm still here, hoping that the game gets better. But how long can you really wait? Vanguard told me four months, and WARs already got two months on that. I'm not sure what my new number is :( 

Mar 19, 2009

Tradeskill Addons that Rock my Socks

I love crafting. I even loved crafting before 1.2 made it cool and everyone and their mother became a cultivator. It's not the most in deapth or fun crafting I've ever seen, but I really do love the recipe-less system and the experimentation that goes along with it. So, two crafting addons that I couldn't live without and you shouldn't have to either.

For quite a while I used a cultivation addon called PlantMe. It hasn't been updated in a while and 1.2 pretty much killed it on my PC at least so when I went looking for another one I was a bit scared. The default cultivation interface is clunky to say the least. It's impossible to do anything else while you babysit four little windows that need your constant attention and since the activty isn't particularly engaging or fun, it feels like work. Luckily I found this little gem which I actually like alot more than my old PlantMe.

Miracle Grow Remix takes the bloated cultivation interface and shrinks it down into a little black box, placeable anywhere on your screen. It takes up less screen space than character portrait. 

It gives you little boxes for seed, soil, water and nutriant and allows you to que up each thing before it's needed. PlantMe didn't allow for queing so it still needed to be clicked on whenever a stage of growth was completed. This system, coupled with the brilliant "Repeat Process" button that allows you a one click fill if you have the exact same materials in your bag make cultivation so quick and simple that I can now do it while RvRing. If you're a cultivator, you should have this.

I should give Czarnal at The Homunculus candy for pointing this out to me, seriously. Despite it's lack of spandy name this little baby may be the coolest addon I have, next to Tome Titan. It takes all of those hidden properties of crafting items and puts them in the tool tip. For example, did you know that cultivation soil increases your crital chance % while water increases your special moment chance %? Now you do.

This takes that recipe-less, experimentation thing that I raved about loving above and lays it all out on the table. I've yet to find a crafting material that didn't have new information on it's tooltip and it's really increased my productivity. I just have to wonder ... how does it know?

Mar 14, 2009

Vacation in Altdorf

I'm so terrible about timely news. I was going to post this the day after it happened but my server was beset by "OMG Destro exploits!" drama after the keep lords bugged on us and leaped downstairs. Not willing to "gloat" while people were still hot under the collar I waited until Order took a fortress a few days ago and the lord bugged on -them-. I now do not feel bad.

So a day after Order hit the Inevitable City and I was shocked at the lack of fun of it all Destro dragged themselves out of inactivity and spent six teen hours pushing for Altdorf. And I got to see, for the very first time, what a truelly organized force can do in T4. Organization in ORvR is like the difference between a pick up group and a pre-made in scenerios. It was incredably fun. My warband was a bit of a "swing group", set to bounce between the southern BOs and keeps defending as needed. We managed to keep Order on a total lock down in Reikland for the hour and half the domination timers needed and it was pure fun.

So both forts fell and we got to contest Atldorf. I was ready for my PC to sieze up and die here since the only time I'd been to Altdorf on an alt I could hardly move. But pleasantly, it wasn't that bad. What was bad was  ... it was the same exact damn PQ that we did in the Inevitable City. I couldn't believe it. It was the same burn things/capture BOs/face a lord that no one can kill set up. It was a lot more fun from the offensive side though.

We were also once again beset by the same disconnect and que bugs as before. We started out in relativly balanced numbers but as people d/ced and no one was able to get back in things swung the other way and we ended up being spawn camped. We also weren't able to find these fabled PvE PQs so no one in my instance saw a single bag after all that work.

Needless to say, it all needs work. I was pleased and not too suprised to see that reworking of the city based endgame was mentioned in the State of the Game. It needs several things in my opinion to work better. In spandy list format!

  • Smaller numbers. We only get half of the city to fight in and putting 80+ people there makes it very zergy. It's not really that much bigger than an average scenerio, less numbers would make it more fun ... as is almost always the case in my opinion. Perhaps 24 vs 24. 48 vs 48 is just too many in that small a space
  • Rework the PQ so that it doesn't require superior wards to finish. The whole idea of throwing a lord mob that must be killed into the middle of 48 defenders with little to no way to set up any sort of defense to block them while we beat the NPC down seems silly.  
  • Clear indication of what needs to be done to lock the city. As was the case in ORvR at the start, no one seems to have any idea what needs to be done to lock the zone. From my experience defending it seems very much to lean toward scenerios. Order rocked us in the scenerios with pre-mades and we lost the city. I have no idea why we didn't manage to lock the city ourselves.
  • Make the ques work properly. Both times, defensive and offense, I was in a half empty instance with more than a warband waiting at the city gates wanted to get in and help. Both times I had members of my warband unable to get back into our instance even though count showed that we had empty room.
  • Never remove defenders from the zone. Currently, once the city is locked all defenders remain inside the city until they die. Once they're all dead it's the offenders turn to PvE. While I'd enjoy the chance to roam around Altdorf and do PvE things there should always be at least a section of the city that has better rewards and a constant stream of players wanting to beat the crap out of you. Perhaps set gear should only come from the RvR area of the city while the rest remains for the fun "sack and loot" prize. 

Mar 7, 2009

My first tastes of the RvR "endgame"

Phoenix Throne saw it's first ever contested city last night and if you'd told me back in November that it would the Inevitable City that fell first I'd have called you nuts. 

We all know I'm not much of an RvRer but that I am an insane RPer. Given that, I can not think of anything more out of character and immersion breaking than not being smack dab in the middle of the front lines when things looked as dire as they did a few days ago. It started off with Fell Landing, something that always gets my dark elf behind in gear to defend (though I rarely make it before the population caps, thank you five minutes load screens of doom). So when I heard the call and I happened to be in Caledor I booked it. Fell Landing ... fell. First time Order had ever taken a fortress and I could tell just based on the numbers they were fielding and the way they were playing that chances were very good that things were going to be ugly.

We held Black Crag by the skin of our teeth for an hour or two. I will admit here also that we held it stupidly. Menkara refered to most of the defending force as "un trained rabble". There were attempts by several members of my alliance, Black Blood Pact, to organize but it was like herding cats. Again based on the numbers fielded and the way we were playing I knew things weren't likely to go well. Black Crag fell and Butcher's Pass soon after.

This it where the failure started. Incomming Pull has a run down of what happened at the city that's probably better written and less wordy than mine so feel free to skip my rambling and scamper over there. I would not blame you.

For six months now the population of Phoenix Throne has been working toward cities. From the early days of multiple weekly Destro pushes for fortresses met with zone crash after zone crash to the population shift after the Avelorn transfers leading to daily fort defenses for Destro the point has always been to see this legendary, mysterious end game.

Well I saw it. At least part of it and here is the secret ...

It's a PQ and most of it is PvE.

I know right? Blasphemy you say! I remember reading about the dynamics of city capture, of burning buildings and rampant looting of houses and thinking how freaking awesome it sounded. I had visions of pure chaos in the streets of the cities, masses of people and the feel of a city under seige. What I got was a slight change in the look of the city (The runic glowies on the walls turned from blue to red), NPCs disappeared and freaking barrels were burning as if the chaos touched hobbos of the Inevitable City had stepped out to pee and left them there. There was one central PQ taking up the Apex, Temple and Monolith, the front half of the city. Objectives including holding two flags, killing the oposite side and either making those hobo fires or putting them out depending on the side. My warband was very on and we managed to win the PQ three times but the mobs and the difficulty of the lord that needed to be killed in stage two meant that we never actually got past that stage. (Lord required Dark Promise level wards to tank, more than two at least and there was no reason for all of the invading force not to be piled on top of the lord. Said lord was also tethered and could not be fought anywhere but within a small radius.)

Here's where the bugs started. Members of my warband qued up for the scenerio tied to the city and entered when it popped. Scenerios were unablanced (24 vs 4 for example) but didn't close properly and once they finally did gave victory points to the invaders for their win. When the players exited the scenerio instead of rejoining us all in our instance of the city they ended up outside. Trying to reenter told them that all instances were full and they should join the que, which they did. With the scenerio mess up, the usual DCs and CTDs that happen in mass RvR toward the end of the two hours my warband had twindled to about one and half or two groups actually in the city. And yet dozens were standing around outside the city being told the instances were full and to wait. Why? Because apparently there's a bug that incorrectly tells you that if you happen to be grouped. Had they dropped party and tried to join solo they could have chosen their instance and hopped right back in. 

Order took the city in the end and out of the both sides two pieces of gear dropped, both on Order side and both from the PvE only PQs that they aparently have on their side that don't show up on our map. One piece also happened to go to a base rank 32. We're talking RR 50+ gear here. And after the city was locked? Order continued to PvE inside the city for several ours while we sat and twiddled our thumbs.

All in all, it was extrememly lack luster, not terribly fun and buggy. I was left feeling a bit like, if this is the end game ...what have we been working toward all these months? The daily RvR battle is a while lot more fun than the cities.  The ORvR lake PQs for the Bitter Rivals event are more fun than the one in the city. 

Mar 4, 2009

Starting over ... again.

I've written and re-written this post a dozen times and can't seem to get it as I wish but it's for certain a key moment in my little WAR world and I really want to both share and chronicle it. 

Let's start with the obvious. Guilds in WAR are much more than the glorified chat channel that they are in many other games. There are a lot of really key gameplay elements that come from guilds, not just fluff items like cloaks but important things that make the game richer, easier to travel etc. The guild recall scrolls that let you warp to directly to your city are a god send as anyone who has them will tell you. For crafters like me there's NPCs in the guild only area with items that can only be bought from them and the list of items gets better depending on the level of your guild. There's guild banners, which are customizable AoE buff machines that are a huge, huge boon in both RvR and PvE. With 1.2 there's more fluff to be had as well, uniquely colored mounts and as well as better mounts with increased speed, reduced dismounting etc.

All of this stuff takes a lot of effort to gain.  I have triends in very small guilds who though they've been around since launch (six months ago) are barely level 10. As far as I know, no one has yet reached the maximum guild rank 40 on my server. Leveling a guild takes people and a lot of time, it's something you gain as a collective effort of all your friends as they go about their WAR lives. 

Up until last night I belonged to a wonderful heavy 100% RP guild. We were guild level 22, I joined up in October before we'd gotten basic cloaks. I was there doing flips of joy when we unlocked the teleport scrolls, I went out and did PQs like a maniac the night we were a sliver from 20 and the fully unlocked cloaks. We were one of the top 20 guilds on Phoenix Throne. Really, for a heavy RP guild to be in the top 20 of one of the most populated servers in WAR? That is really, really freaking awesome and I was really proud of it.

A few nights ago though we all learned that both our guild leaders were quitting WAR. That enough would be a sad day for any guild but totally understandable. We all know I've had my issues with the game and I don't begrudge anyone leaving. The sticker though was that they had also decided to disband the guild. Fifty or so active players were all freaking floored. We asked, we begged and then we pleaded for the next few days for leadership to simply pass the guild and let us keep going. We netted however, absolutely no response accept for another officer who was their friend and leaving as well coming onto the forums to say basically "We never liked you anyway, screw off." Guild drama, even when you're in a mature, grown up guild I suppose you can't ever avoid it can you? People do the wierdest, stupidest things under the anomity of the internet. 

Once the preverbial shit hit the fan we all accepted that we were going to lose the guild, that six months of the collective effort of probably at least 100 people was going down the drain because ... someone decided to send it there. I'm really not clear, it's nothing I would ever, ever do my online friends so I really can't understand it. I've certainly passed on my number of guilds and fansite in my gaming life.

We scrambled and over the course of few days managed to come up with the RP basis of a new guild, reformed and restructured leadership, I created a website for us and last night formed Umbral Retribution on the Phoenix Throne server.  The guild was only two hours old and we had 30 members, all of them active mains. The guild was six hours old and we had seven applications on our forums from prior members of the old guild who wished to come back under new leadership and from people who had never joined but always wished to prompted by the new change to move on from their own stagnant alliances. 

Our alliance, Black Blood Pact, has been so incredably stellar through all this. From the moment the disband was announced we have been flooded with offers of welcoming members into their guilds, offers of a CSR ticket blitz to attempt to get guid leadership transfered to one of us, to alts to help level up our new guild, to gold and items to make up for all that mysterious disappear from our vault. They started the vote to kick the old guild from the alliance as soon as we announced we were just going to bite the bullet and leave and they are eagerly awaiting our new guild reaching level 6 to reinvite us. Really ... I have just been totally blown away by the friendliness and helpfulness of our server. And I'm going to get mushy and say that I heart Phoneix Throne. Yes, even you Syp. I heart a dwarf.

Goodbye Arha Khaladh. You were flat out the most active RP guild I've had the joy of taking part in throughout my years of gaming.

Hello Umbral Retribution, may you eclipse the levels of awesome and show me what creative, mature, adults can rock out.

... I was going to compare the numbers of guild xp there and say how much was left to go... but it's just too painful. You all do the math. 

Mar 2, 2009

Drama Equals Fan Art

In the face of hellish real life stress and now with bonus in game drama on top, my original plan for my Monday morning post has flown out the window. With that in mind, I give you something simple. Fan art! 

This is my two main characters Sevren (the witch elf) and Menkara (the DoK) as drawn by my wonderful guild mate Laryu. I can not believe how fantasticly she captured Menkara's personality. Revel in the awesome. 

(click for full size)

Revel I tell you! 

(God guild drama sucks.)