Category Archives: Warhammer Online

Looking Back on 2008

A few reflections on my gaming and blogging in 2008 with a few follow ups from last year’s post.

The Blog

On the stat line:

Total Hits: just over 100,000
Posts: 228
Comments: 825

My blogging has been a bit uneven this year which coincides with my equally unpredictable work pattern.  Feast or famine it seems, coupled with a few periods of just plain nothing much to say.

While the pace of my posting has remained about the same, its nice to see many more comments coming in.  Something I attribute largely to getting picked up on the VirginWorlds feeds and cross traffic from other friendly denizens of the blogosphere.

My top 5 referring sites were 1) VirginWorlds, 2) The Ancient Gaming Noob, 3) Tobold’s, 4) Kill Ten Rats and 5) Keen and Graev’s.  Many thanks to them and all who visit and comment.

Games in 2008

World of Warcraft. Our instance group slogged our way through The Burning Crusade to cap out at 70 just as burnout set in and before Warhammer released.  The group has been diligently pursuing its ultra casual, keep everyone together approach for more than two years at this point playing together just a few hours each week.  After diverting to WAR briefly, we are back in Azeroth with the Wrath of the Lich King where we’re having a good time.  I’m looking forward to continuing our weekly adventures with a great group of friends.

So far, Lich King has been much more of what I loved about the WoW 1.0 and much less of WoW 2.0.  Still, progress is fast and even for our group, we’ll likely cap long long before there is another WoW expansion on the horizon.

Eve Online. I’ve been mostly diligently pursuing my two box strategy with Eve having built my miner up to Hulk-capability and my hauler up to an Iteron V.  Along the way, I managed to get both pilots into Drake battlecruisers and have developed their social skills to the point where mission running and mining the mission spaces is a fun hybrid way to experience the game.

Wilhelm and Gaff and I were going great guns for a while but Gaff ran of to Norrath and then Middle Earth while Wil has caught the EQ2 bug on Guk.  So for now, I’ll continue to pursue my Eve objectives since it can be so forgiving of RL scheduling conflicts (the game you can play off line!).  Real time skill training FTW.

Everquest 2.  I was convinced to fire up EQ2 again as an alternative to WoW burnout and WAR disappointment.  Mrs. P and I followed multi boxing Gaff and Wilhelm to a new server and new guild where Jaye and Darren are resident.  Revelry and Honor is a wonderful group and they have a gorgeous guild hall.

Leveling is much accelerated since my last visit.  I was enjoying myself with this year’s offering The Shadow Odyssey until RL conflicts and the inevitable schedule chaos that are the holidays interrupted our adventures.  I’m on the fence whether to keep our EQ2 accounts going since I’m not playing very much and the horizon is a bit fuzzy in that regard.

Warhammer Online.  I had little enthusiasm for WAR until the open beta and then I fell for it.  It was certainly something quite different from WoW and EQ2 at exactly the right time for me.  Unfortunately, as the month wore on, performance issues and dubious design choices made clear that it just wasn’t going to be the next big thing.  The open world RvR, when it happened, was great, but the performance of the client and the incentives were too undeveloped or misconceived to make it a good fit for our group.

Pirates of the Burning Sea.  I beta’d PotBS and gave it a luke warm reception.  I really wanted to love this game, but it suffers/ed from a few serious design problems.  When I left the game, it was apparent that the fundamental port contention system was in desperate need of a complete overhaul.  Its a beautiful game and I intend on checking back in a bit, maybe with Station Access.  The thing that really killed it for me despite the rocky state was the the lack of a real open world feel to it.  Instanced battle rooms with questionable entry mechanics made it feel too much like a game of boxes.

Likewise, the much vaunted economy was seriously out of balance and, imho, poorly executed.  I’m still secretly hoping someone makes an MMO set in something like the 1600-1700 age of exploration/fighting age of sail era.  Eve with scurvy please.

Age of Conan.  I beta’d AoC and while parts were promising, it became clear that Funcom was rushing it out the door.  PvE underdeveloped, system requirements too high, PvP not really implemented as well as game breaking bugs meant I was going to pass before release.

LotRO.  Generally unplayed this year.  With Moria out, I’m almost convinced to hop in and join Gaff in his return to Middle Earth.  Time will be the limiting factor, but I do intend to see Moria at some point.

Games in 2009

I hate to say it, but after the disappointment of 2008, I’m not really looking forward to anything in particular.  I’m interested in what 38 Studio’s has going on.  I’m interested in what Guildwars 2 might be shaping up to be, but details on both of those have been scarce.

Likewise, I’m somewhat interested in watch the two most cursed IPs develop as well– Star Wars:  The Old Republic and Star Trek Online.  Both seem to be in capable hands, but if past is prologue, we’re doomed.

Goals for the Blog

Keep on keeping on.  The key to any kind of writing is to actually do it.  It gets easier and it (hopefully) gets better the more you do it.  I’ve been less concerned about my frequency of posting and generally pleased with quality and the type and number of comments I get.

A blog is a blog.  It doesn’t need to be a daily news feed unless you want it to be.

Goals for Gaming

I’ll completely rehash my last year’s goals because they STILL apply:

New Game #1. Find a game other than WoW in which to continue our group adventures. I love Thanksgiving, but I can’t eat turkey sandwiches everyday all year long. Some of us have a one game time budget, so it needs to be accessible and afford the opportunity to progress through the game in relatively small blocks of time– the mythical 2-hour casual gamer block maybe once or twice a week. If its that accessible, consider roping in some new blood for more fun and adventure. I’m not necessarily seeing anything on the horizon that fits the bill, but I’m willing to be surprised.

New Game #2. Find a game #2 that offers me a different experience than game #1 but that grabs me enough to cap out. I think you need to have a #2 that you can integrate into your game life in order not to burn out on game #1 or life for that matter.”

Thanks for visiting and Happy New Year!


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Can RvR Ever Work?

Been reading a few of the “Woe is WAR” posts floating around like Keen’s and on The Greenskin.  I’m reminded of similar discussions around Pirates of the Burning Sea (technical issues aside) as the struggle for the soul of the game evolved.

I’m left with the question in my brain of whether a primarily Realm versus Realm MMO can really have any chance of succeeding, or whether the MMO genre is really just too poorly suited to this kind of gameplay.

A persistent world with persistent characters comes with a price that may have some inherent limitations or conflicts when brought into contact with most MMO character progression models.  I didn’t play DAOC in its heyday, so forgive the lack of insight there.

I wonder what discussions roiled around the conference room tables when the Mythics and Flying Labs of the world discussed designing a faction oriented pvp game.  Without being exhaustive, I’d think they have to have pretty good answers to questions like these, and more importantly, the answers to any of them can’t conflict with answers to others.  No small task indeed.

What happens if:

  • one side is more popular than another?
  • one class is more popular than others?
  • there are not enough people to overcome PvE objectives?
  • there are not enough pople to overcome RvR objectives?
  • the population is spread across a number of regions?
  • the population is spread across a range of experience?
  • one faction dominates RvR objectives?
  • no one engages in RvR?
  • if RvR objectives are only undertaken when there are no likely defenders?
  • if there are players that don’t want to engage in RvR?
  • if a faction is “victorious”?
  • if a faction is “defeated”?
  • players only have a 2-hour block of time to play?
  • if players are unable to coordinate with each other?

and on and on.  I’m beginning to think that as soon as you replace factional progression with individual advancement, you’ve lost the RvR game.  Likewise, the opposite seems true too– as soon as you replace individual advancement with RvR progression, you lose the MMO game.

A game about “us” seems incompatible with a game about “me” and vice versa.  I’m hoping someone proves me wrong.

Just to avoid any confusion, PvP /= RvR and doesn’t suffer the same conflicts.  “Warfare” in a PvP game like Eve, for example, is an extrapolation of a one v. one conflict to a many v. many conflict.  Though complicated conflicts require specialization and coordination (just like PvE games), Eve remains an individual experience, whether or not you are part of a big corporation, whether or not you are Gallente, Caldari, Minmatar or Amarr.

Ultimately the rewards of the corporate warrior or the doughty miner inure to the individual, and any collective effort via corps and alliances, etc. are at their core still motivated by that individual advancement mechanic.  In Eve, thats mostly pecuniary.  ISK is King, and all good things come from ISK.  In PvE games, that’s levels and loot.

Self selective collaborative group effort is still built on an individual achievement model, just like PvE MMOs.  We run the instance to get the loot for ourselves and for our group mates’ “selves” but not for any conceptualized “us”.

My individual interests may have been aligned with those of Varian Wrynn from time to time, but if the King of Stormwind said “Go slay 1,000 scourge”, the first thing that comes to mind is “What’s in it for me?”  PvP and PvE allow us to keep individual score.  An RvR game has yet to crack that nut.

So can it be done or are we all doomed to me first MMOs?


Posted by on November 17, 2008 in Eve Online, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft


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Getting out of WAR

I’m done. Its just not doing it for me. There’s the core of a great game in there somewhere, but somewhere between the beta and release, it got lost.

The reason I went to WAR was to engage in open RvR. War is everywhere. Except its not.

Scenarios, in and of themselves, are not solely to blame. In my opinion, and its only my opinion, the game lacks the overall balance sufficient to make it compelling for a wide audience.

The open RvR, when it happens, has been some of the most fun I’ve had in an MMO to date. The main problem is it just doesn’t happen enough or perform well enough and mean enough when it does happen.

I’ll probably check back in a bit to see how things evolve, but at the moment, its just not a great fit.


Posted by on October 30, 2008 in Warhammer Online



Poll: WAR Referendum

With the initial month up, how many are sticking with WAR at this point?


Posted by on October 24, 2008 in Warhammer Online


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Fixing WAR RvR Redux

As reported on the Warhammer Herald , open RvR XP is now double that of scenarios. This is after a previous boost last week of 50% which, in my excursions, still doesn’t seem to have dramatically increased open RvR (i.e. blasted people out of the scenarios). So continuing a trend of suggested improvements to open RvR, here are a few more I think would be helpful in addition to the many good ones floating around the blogosphere.

As I mentioned in my Five C’s post, and others in the commentariat have mentioned, scenarios are just so damned convenient. Queue anywhere, wait a bit, and you’re magically whisked away to the scenario and delivered back where you were when you’re done. Hard to beat. Maybe impossible.

Somewhere among the 20 or so blogs I surf almost daily, someone mentioned people still queuing for scenarios while engaged in open RvR and getting teleported out of battle into a scenario (!). Definitely a symptom…

The image of someone disappearing from a keep defense to go to a scenario struck home with me. It just seemed wrong. It seemed like it should actually be just the opposite (or at best, no worse or more inconvenient). This coupled with our own group’s frustration at looking and not finding any RvR got me procrastinating thinking… How to make open RvR as convenient as scenarios….


This has got to be the hands down biggest hurdle. When a scenario is “ready,” players that have expressed an interest in participating are given an option to be teleported from wherever they are straight to the scenario.

Lets even the playing field. Players that want to open RvR should also be able to “queue” for open RvR. A similar queue-like mechanism could be added– call it King’s Militia, or Guard Duty, or Defense of the Realm, or Goon Squad or whatever. When some kind of bona fide* attack occurs somewhere, the King sends out a call to arms– “Help! The Bug People are huffing and puffing and blowing my keep in! Mr Watson — Come here — I want to see you” etc.

If you have “signed up” for Defense of the Realm(tm) duty, then you get an oh-so-scenario like pop up that asks you if you want to answer the King’s call and go defend keep X in zone Y. Answer yes, and you’re whisked away to the warcamp nearest the battle. To keep things in balance, only a limited number of folks would be allowed to teleport in for defense. The rest would have to hoof it like now.

Yes, this makes taking a keep more difficult, but at least it fosters actual RvR and evens the playing field with scenarios on the geographical convenience angle.


Queuing and Teleporting works great for defense, but doesn’t help so much on O. Well, the increase XP given for killing other players unfortunately doesn’t really create any incentive to do it if there is no one there to fight. Providing a defensive scramble response would help ensure that there are some punching bags to hit when you do go on O.

Decide where you want to attack (or multiple coordinated attacks? oooh stategery) and poof, XP pinatas start zoning in.

Still that might not be enough to populate the RvR lakes. One problem is that once the BOs and keeps are taken, there’s no reason for the controlling side to set foot anywhere near the place unless there are other things to do in there that don’t require the enemy to be present.

Enter, the PvE Bait Quest. Something, anything, to do inside the RvR lake that would yield significant XP/Renown (over regular PvE) to attract [unwitting] players into the zone [to be squashed like bugs]. PQs in the RvR area as well as ordinary but enhanced PvE quests would at least create some traffic that might end up getting enough people in there that the light bulb might go on “hey, there’s two whole warbands of us whacking foozles, why don’t we go take that keep back…”

Again, not perfect, but anything that raises the chance that a critical mass might be present in an RvR lake would be a good thing.

Auto Warband

Communication and coordination is still a pain across groups, zones, etc. Step into an RvR lake and you should get dumped into a default warband just like a scenario. Everyone can see everyone else, you can see where they are in the zone. Of course, that whole zone boundary down the middle of the RvR lake issue is still a bit problematic (I mean, WTF, who made that fucking crosseyed hityourself in the nutsack design decision?).

If I’m solo or a small group, but as soon as I step into an RvR lake and see there are others already there, I’m much more likely to start something or participate in something.

Who knows, probably shouting in the wind, but the WAR bathwater is starting to get lukewarm, so unless things heat up, its getting close to the time to get out.


*bona fide, as in there has to be some kind of “real” attack going on. One dude plinking an NPC guard at a keep does not an attack make.


Posted by on October 23, 2008 in Warhammer Online



A Map Makes a World

I’ve forever been mesmerized by maps. You map people out there are already nodding your heads. Its the E gene in my Bartle EASK personality.

I know I spent more time studying the maps in the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion than I ever did reveling in Tolkien’s, ahem, poetry or songs… In my table top days (modules, blech), when I was GM, the world always started with a map– a world of mystery in which to reveal adventure. Dark and wild forests, high frozen wastes, searing deserts, storm tossed seas, windswept isles and perilous journeys in between…

The geography creates half the story. Consider the Caradhras Pass and Moria.

One of the things that grabbed me on day one about EQ’s Norrath was the map. As a wee noob, I could make the death defying run from Ak-Anon to Qeynos and see first hand the wide and dangerous world. Simply, the world was a place and that place was subdivided into wonderfully diverse and mysterious zones, all interconnected (zoning or no zoning, it still had the feel of being one world).

The map created that sense of space on Day One.

One of the things I’m missing a bit from Warhammer is the same feeling of one giant world. I’m told (though I haven’t tried) you can run from the noob zone to a capital city. I’ve no doubt it can be done with a certain amount of dying. Part of that feeling comes less from the way the game is designed (3 factions with four tiers of progression, each with matched pair zones) and more from simply the way the world is presented in the map.

The Warhammer map is kind of a chopped up affair. Somewhat sensibly, the default view is your zone view. But there are three relevant viewpoints for Warhammer maps– zone, “Campaign” or “pairing” and world. Unfortunately, switching between these views is a bit clunky, only marginally useful and frankly very unworld like despite the fact that the zones are contiguous. To go from viewing the Empire starting area, you need to either select a different campaign pairing from a menu selection in the upper right or select world or pairing view from buttons below the zone map.

In a Google maps world, I would hazard a guess that most users have some expectation to be able to zoom in and zoom out by simple left and right clicking. In a post-WoW world, I’d hazard a guess that MMO players would expect to be able to left click to zoom in and right click to zoom out to shift their frame of reference. Its not trivial whats lost in the translation.

The WoW world map is made up of actual clickable zones. Even if all the landmass isn’t accessible within them, each zone butts up against all the others (and is depicted as such) or is separated by some immersion consistent barrier (i.e. the ocean). Zone, right click, continent, right click, world, left click, other continent, etc. Like nested dolls, they all fit together. Ditto for LoTRO. Ditto for EQ2.

WARs zones are depicted as merely boxes on a world map underlay or they’re circles connected by dotted lines on the pairing map. Quite frankly, I feel like I’m living in boxes despite the fact that the world is quite broad and interconnected and the main roads (mostly) “line up” between them. Even though the world is much more WoW or EQ2 like (contigous zones) the map makes it feel like Age of Conan’s world in boxes! The truth is, Norsca connects directly with Troll Lands, so why the dotted line of mystery?

When you flip perspectives, you lose the sense of interconnectedness of the zones. Within a zone map, I’d like to be able to click to go to the immediately adjacent zone without going “back out” and “back in”. This is particularly cumbersome in the RvR lakes where the lake and objectives are spread across zone boundaries (separate discussion about whether having a battleground span a zone boundary is a good idea…).

A perfect example is the Tier 2 Empire/Chaos pairing of Troll Country and Ostland. In the RvR lake there, there is a battlefield objective (Monestary of Morr) and a keep (Stone Troll Keep) in Troll Country and another battle field objective (Crypt of Weapons) and a keep (Mandred’s Hold) in the adjacent Ostland zone. Mandred, the Crypt and the Monastery and the warcamps are a very short distance from each other.

Each faction has a warcamp conveniently located nearby and battles often zerg from one objective or keep to another depending on where the attackers and defenders might be tied up. Its quite a pain to see if a battle is happening just down the road which is technically in another zone by opening your map, selecting the pairing map, selecting the next zone and then clicking into that to see if there are any RvR battles going on, ooops shanked by a Witch Elf, gurgle dead.

Question whether it would have been a better design decision to make RvR lakes an indepdent zone between each of the pairing zones… Discuss.

Then there’s the mysterious criss cross between Tier 2 and Tier 3 in Empire/Chaos. Not being Tier 3 yet, I can’t verify what’s going on, but I’m getting a real EQ/Boat on the Ocean of Tears feeling about those zones…

Another aspect of the disjointed clunkiness of the map is the loss of navigational sense. Here, I’m mostly thinking of Saylah’s post regarding the defense of Altdorf. Altdorf is, ahem, a challenging city to navigate. That’s made more difficult by the fact that the Altdorf map, even if discovered, offers no labels for major landmarks, let alone zone access points.

Case in point. I’m a noob, Destro is making their move on Altdorf, I’m in Altdorf, and even if I’m aware of the attack and that I’m supposed to go to defend the Reikwald or the Reikland, where do I go? The Altdorf map offers no clue. Had I not happened across a swirly when I was looking for the entrance to the Sewers, I wouldn’t have been aware of it. Apparently, I’m not alone.

All of the activity in Altdorf revolves around market square, the flight master, the auction house and bank, etc. Even the noob “Tour of Altdorf” quest doesn’t take you near the War Quarters which are gigantic and largely deserted. A better depiction of Altdorf and its physical placement in the world answers that basic navigational issue. Where the hell is the gate to the city?

Its an irony of an RvR game that a faction’s capital city is entirely unaccessible to the low level player EXCEPT by flying in. Just like when we fly to a city we’ve never been to, we have no real sense of geographical place in our minds. Airports, taxis, buildings, traffic, hotels, but what lies beyond?

Consider EQ2 or WoW where all noob roads eventually lead to the big city and its sense of awe and wonder. No wonder all those peasants stay inside the walls, its a dangerous world out there! Goldshire it ain’t.

So that’s my rambling directionless Friday rant on WAR maps. Anybody else get the same feeling? The maps shape my virtual world view and my worldview feels like a bunch of boxes even though I know its not the case. I’d love to see some tweaks to the map to “bring the world together” a bit and make RvR FEEL like there’s a real R there.


Posted by on October 17, 2008 in Everquest 2, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft


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What if you had a WAR and no one showed up?

Folks like Tobold and Bildo (and many others) have been discussing ways to get people out of the scenarios and into open world RvR in Warhammer Online.  Even Mythic seems like its trying to put the scenario genie back in the bottle.

Nerf this, pimp that, blah blah.  Performance issues aside, and that is a big aside at the moment, and assuming that “rewards” were made to be roughly equivalent in open RvR as in scenarios, I got to thinking about the things that made scenario play so much easier.

I came up with a handy list of five “C”s.  Catchy, no?  And yes, there’s a lot of overlap.


Even if there were a way to equalize advancement potential between them, without more, scenarios beat open world RvR on the five Cs.

Communication.  To engage in open RvR, you need to know where its happening, or be able to communicate to other players to try to make it happen.  The by-default-hidden objective tracker does a poor job of letting peeps know where the action is.  Until the latest patch, there was no reliable region wide chat to alert folks as to where any RvR was going on.  Even with, how are people who might be in another location become aware of an offensive in Zone X?

Once you find some action and travel there (more on that in a minute), there is no automatic grouping and RvR chat channel to coordinate activity.  Simply not a problem in scenarios.

Coordination.  More than just fighting as a team, open world RvR takes two factions to tango.  People might have incentive to defend when attacked (if they heard about it), but unless you’re part of a decently large, organized, well coordinated guild its pretty hard to organize a PUG keep raid.  Defense is relatively easy to join once the assault has begun, but whats the incentive to launch an attack?

Scenarios focus the objective and meter the players into it taking all the guess and hope and wait out of it.  Queue up and it will pop and your opponents will be there.  As I mentioned on Tobold’s blog, Mythic could foster this kind of open RvR activity by creating hot zones or meta quests where the king decides to launch an objective and calls all his loyal citizens to take up arms in Zone X, capture certain objectives and hold them for some period of time.

If I log on and see two of my buddies online, the last thing I think of is, “hey, lets see if we can get a warband or two of randoms and go launch a keep raid.”  Given the relative ease of getting into the action in scenarios, that’s a laughable proposition.  Nudging folks in that direction would help quite a bit.

Convenience.  Oh the irony.  The join queue button works world wide.  Click, pop and poof! In you go.  And, by and large, most scenario runners are already standing around in a warcamp requeuing to turn in the kill and scenario quests.  Waiting for a queue, you can go anywhere and do anything.

While getting around is not terribly difficult in WAR, queuing acts like an instant recall to battle.  For open RvR, its just the opposite but even worse.  Players can only instantly recall to their rally point and by and large, rally masters are located in towns while flight paths are located in warcamps.  If you were questing or doing PQs in Troll Country for example, I could instantly recall (once an hour) to Felde Castle and then have to run half way across the zone to the warcamp or all the way through the PvP lake.  When the action happens, its simply no contest, convenience wise.

Not quite sure what the fix would be, but I’ll hazard a suggestion– some mechanism that is the rough equivalent of an RvR summon.  Call it Writ of Mobilization or some such that would allow players to summon to the warcamp nearest an open RvR battle when the king’s battle cry goes up to defend the realm.  How is that any more unbalancing that sucking people out of the world to a scenario, the win or loss of which actually contributes to the overall zone control?

Yes, that takes some of the old “element of surprise” out of it, but I’ll take epic battles over stealth capping any day.  If you want to stealth cap, do it at 3am eastern, nobody will be on anyway.

Cooperation.  IMHO, each open RvR objective, whether BO or Keep, needs to be treated like a PQ or a scenario.  Once you enter a contested objective’s zone, you are placed in a default warband and like scenarios and PQs, XP and renown get shared and peeps get access to an objective specific chat channel to foster communication and coordination.  Just like scenario chat (not that many use it).

Competition.  Something for the Achiever in all of us, peeps love a leader board.  Add a PQ or scenario like leader board for each objective battle.  When hostilities cease for X minutes within its zone, it resets.  I suspect a big reason people like the scenarios is the fact that progress and contribution is literally measured and can be examined objectively.  Hard to measure your contribution to a battle (or appreciate others as well) without a stat line.

Like I’ve posted other places, easily the most fun I’ve had is in open RvR engaging in keep warfare, but as engaging as that might be, there are simply too few reliable opportunities to engage in it, and when it does happen, its not as rewarding as other activities.

I’m hoping that Mythic is listening and has a few tricks up their sleeves.  The open RvR stuff is just too good to let die.


Posted by on October 16, 2008 in Warhammer Online