Paying Attention…

As noted before, doing scenarios in WAR is one of the fastest ways to gain experience while at the same time earning some gold and more importantly, gaining renown which gives you access to renown gear sold from renown gear merchants.

While I’m sure there are plenty of random drops that might be better, etc. (insert your own discussion regarding renown v. influence v. random/quest loot itemization here), the renown gear is at least more certain to come by, affordable and IMHO pretty darned nice over all.

Of course, that only applies when you can actually purchase the gear.  In Nordland where I’ve been playing my tank and healer to help out the understaffed Empire, there are two renown merchants at the Breuer’s Regiment warcamp.  I guess I never really gave it much thought why there were two…

Bountyman Lipschultz and his colleague a few feet away:

I’ve been playing a few different alts through these scenarios which pop pretty frequently on the Order side, so leveling is quick and sometimes there’s hardly any time to turn in the scenario and kill quests nearby.  So when I’ve been hitting the next renown or regular rank, I tend to run down to a nearby carear trainer and the quickly back to pick up the new scenario quest and oh yeah, find the nearest renown merchant to see if I’m up for new gear.

Long story short, I’m fumbling my way through scenarios and realized I’m starting to get undergeared and wondering when that next tier of armor becomes available… Check with Lipschultz and I got nothing.  Nothing even in the near future.  Damn, must be in the next tier then.

So I run around a bit, then I happen upon the Chapter 3 influence rewards which would be a good upgrade.  Ok, I’ll grind that a bit and get my upgrade.  For whatever reason, I had some crap to sell, so I clicked on Cohen, whom I seldom visit because she’s all of two more steps away from her colleague (time is renown, my friends) and woe is me, she has all the damned armor rewards. /facepalm

How I could have overlooked this, I have no idea.  To much back and forth in and out of scenarios not paying attention.  Of course, it would have been a bit easier for dumbshits like myself to simply label the two vendors “Renown Weapons Merchant” and “Renown Armor Merchant” (especially since the one renown vendor in Grimmenhagen sells both…), but ultimately, it was me being a stoop.

Knowledge in hand, now all my alts are appropriately equiped…

Life During WARtime

…or the Fall and Rise of the Empire.

Its not just the U.S. economy thats falling on hard times.  The Empire’s got it bad.

I spent a few hours in WAR with my Iron Breaker doing all kinds of things, including some Open world RvR (and taking names btw).  Four of us even ran off and captured a battlefield objective.

Anyway, Mars might need women, but Order needs tanks.

Here’s a typical Nordenwatch scenario group:

Two Witch Hunters and three Bright Wizards.  Of course things got better on the next draw.

Two Witch Hunters, two Bright Wizards and one (!) Rune Priest.  Huzzah!

Amazingly enough, Order won more than we lost last night including a few amazing come from behind victories.  I’ve learned not to requeue right away for these scenarios or I WONT HAVE TIME BETWEEN THEM TO TURN IN THE SCENARIO QUEST or even think about taking a bio.  Yes, its the Somme for Order and no rest for the wicked. Non stop action for as long as you can stand it.  No, really.

The upside is that I think I’m starting to see the RvR experience differential showing up.  I don’t know what Destruction queue times are like on Averheim, but with the short queue times for Order, I’m starting to see peeps “get it” and be able to push back the tide of Destruction even with groups like you see above.

While I’d love to see more tanks and healers (same as it ever was), WAR on the Order side is like riding a gravy train on biscuit wheels if you’re looking for scenario action.

Need is Greed?

Generally having a great time in WAR at the moment.  Seems that there is something “productive” that can be done in almost any block of playing time, especially if you are doing scenarios.

Great for learning your RvR skills (especially if you’re a recovering carebear like me), great xp, great renown and you can get geared very quickly.  My lowbie Ironbreaker went from Rank 1 to Rank 6/Renown 6 last night with full Militia gear almost without doing a single quest other than the scenario turn in.

That said, while almost all the scenarios have been fun, a bit of the old asshattery has started to rear its ugly head.  Random loot drops of green or better quality in scenarios will pop up a Need/Greed/Pass button.  Now granted that RvR can be a bit fast and furious, and it seems that most of the green drops are crafting items or potions and the like for which I click greed and continue fighting.

With green and better gear items though, I’m starting to see people going need on stuff that character obviously can’t use– bright wizard rolling need on great axe, etc.  Now, like a typical chump that I am, I’ve been generally “passing” on items that my current career couldn’t use.  Even if those items would be useful for one of my alts which I am playing in good faith.

Something crazy about me says that my alt should go earn his keep and if one of my scenario team mates could use it, the good for him.

So, with a new game the old need/greed debate is revived.  After the great job Mythic did with the PQ contribution system, we’re left with the same old problems in RvR scenarios where grouping is fleeting.  In longer term, PvE groups, you can choose not to group with individuals who aren’t considerate, but not so in the scenarios.

So what do you think?  Any point in NOT rolling need against the selfish bastards or should Mythic just loose the entire need/greed mechanic for random scenario loot?

I’m preferring the latter since it avoids the screw you or screw me problem in these transitory groups.  I for one think the whole thing is a giant buzzkill in a scenario furball that is so dependent on cooperation.

Once a healer…

Not sure what my main in Warhammer will be yet, but for most of my WoW career (including the last 2 years with our regular instance group) I played a pure healer. I didn’t start out that way, but in trying to put a balanced group together, I thought I’d take one for the team and take the “who’s gonna be the healer?” question off the table.

So, with the opportunity to try new things with WAR, I rolled up a placeholder Rune Priest and parked him while I tried other things. After running around as a Witch Hunter for a while, it felt a bit squishy to me, and yes, there’s quite a bit of maneuvering to do like all melee dpsers. Likewise, I rolled an Archmage, a Warrior Priest, and Iron Breaker, an Engineer and a Bright Wizard.

After futzing about for quite a while since Thursday, and seeing how poorly the mostly-Empire groups were doing in Nordenwatch — I decided to do a little experiment. I’d fire up my Rune Priest Skronk (now a proud, if for the time being a silent, member of Casualties of War), hop over to Nordenwatch and see if I could help turn the tide.

I may have done one or two quests with him, only to get bus fare from the dwarf area to Breuer’s Regiment, but then exclusively ran Nordenwatch and collected Renown Gear. Suffice it to say that it wasn’t too hard to end up finishing in the top few slots in the healing department in short order, with the XP and Renown bonuses to boot. Well out of rested XP, I managed to ding Rank 10/ Renown 10 while having a bit of fun along the way. The addition of a few AMs and RPs as well as a SM or IB or two really made a big difference.  Scenarios were popping almost non-stop.  I had to skip a few just to do training and gear upgrades.

There must be something hardwired in healers’ brains, but fundamentally, a healer’s success depends on his or her team’s success. Sure, there are dpsing AMs and RPs out there, but I suspect that just can’t be that fun in RvR. The group dependency is what makes it a challenge and the win more satisfying.

Those of you who say “I don’t want to play a healbot” should roll one and try it, especially in RvR. Its a totally different game.

With the RPs survivability, it makes doing RvR fun as a healer. I have a enough tricks that I found I could usually escape the clutches of almost any melee attacker with collision maneuvering, detaunts, instant hots and small and big heals. In many scenarios, we turned all-but-lost flag stands into victories by simply out lasting our enemies. Once in a while of course, focus fire calls you to oblivion.

WAR does seem to have made healing pretty powerful which is good. I am still dismayed by seeing the same “complaints” arise in the blogosphere about not enough healers, healers not healing, etc. Still yet to see anyone complaining about not enough snaring or not enough dpsing (though you do hear about not enough tanking, the second most thankless profession in MMOs).

Anyway, suffice it to say that the apple doesn’t seem to fall too far from the tree, so I expect I’ll be reprising my role as Skronk the healer (whether as a main or a significant alt).

And while I’m at it, let me suggest that everyone should adopt a “Don’t heal/help the Naked Dude/Chick” in a scenario rule. It was funny exactly zero times.

News from the Front

Warhammer Online:  Age of Reckoning officially launched yesterday.  The collector’s edition people have been in since Sunday and the cheap bastard mere-pre-order folks like me since Tuesday, but still, live official release in a new virtual world is still an event.

Since pre-orders were sold out at Humongous (aka Fry’s) near me, I ended up going to the dreaded Worst Buy.  Worst Buy only had a couple pre-orders stocked back by the carbon paper and cuneiform scribes, so I anticipated the worst when full release came around and I would have to go back to get the retail box.  Kudos to them, they actually had 88 on hand (85 after I left) though I had to ask the clerk where they were.  Rather than the corner next to the 8-Track tapes, they had actually move a whopping 5 of them up to a front end cap.

Success.  I had a copy on release day.  Not that it mattered much as EA Mythic had learned from other war stories (no pun intended) about getting boxes out to people on release day and providing a reasonable grace period for rolling start pre-order customers.  Still, I wanted to be done with the entering of account codes and not worry about turning into a pumpkin if a retailer screwed up.

Account page visited, retail code entered, subscription plan adopted and that was it.  Utterly painless.  Unlike most of my SOE experiences, a) it was done in less than two minutes and b) I felt reasonably sure that I had actually done what I intended to do.

I logged in about 7 pm pacific, deep in the heart of U.S. prime time to see what there was to see.  On the Order side, I had an initial log in queue of about 28 people with an estimated time of about 2 minutes.  And, about 2 minutes later I was in.

Surprisingly, on Averheim at least, the noob zone was not wall to wall though there were plenty of people around.  I wandered around just to see if performance was wanting and was delightfully surprised to find very little lag even in crowded areas and I had no crashes.

Being Thursday, the West Coast members of our little WoW group converged with no particular agenda at the appointed hour to see what there was to see and do what there was to do.  Without any particular plan, we ended up spread across a few levels (3-6 at the start) and in three different starting areas (2 in the Elf zone, 1 Dwarf and 1 Empire).

We skyped up and decided since we were in far flung areas (and being noobs) we should just queue the party for the Khaine’s Embrace RvR Scenario and play there rather than burn travel time to find each other.  A nice feature of WAR since you can join the scenarios from anywhere.

After a few minutes since Khaine’s Embrace was not popping for us, one of our other group members who was in an Empire Zone queued us for Nordenwatch.  Another nice feature– any party member can queue the group for any scenario they have available.  Since at that time 3 out of 4 of us were in Elf-land, having someone in Empire let us simultaneously queue for two scenarios.  Had we known we could do this, we would have had our dwarf brother queue for the Gates of Ekrund before he left Dwarf-land as well.

Despite the ease of getting peeps from across the far flung world in multiple queues for RvR scenarios, something must have been up as absolutely ZERO scenarios popped in the 2+ hours we were in queue.  Had we been level 20 on release day, I might have said, ok, we’re too far ahead of the population curve.  But we were all between 3-6 starting the evening.  Every retail Day One noob should have been queuing for the noob scenarios and doubly so for the Destruction side so Order should have been popping like popcorn.

Alas, no. So I hope it was merely a launch day bug with the scenarios.

Still, in our “free time” we collected quests and migrated our way to the Chapter 2 public quests in the Blighted Isle.  Two of our group managed to find the flight paths in their home zones and make their way to the two of us starting out in the Elf lands.

A brief moment here to comment on yet another barrier to grouping that doesn’t exist– in a WoW world, while the humans, dwarves and gnomes could find each other fairly easily via the tram between Stormwind and Ironforge, the poor Elves would have to suffer the trials of the damned to brave the journey across the Wetlands and through Dun Morogh to get to IF.  Simply not so here.  While something of the sense of immensity of the world might be sacrificed, the trade off in terms of mutual play time is worth it to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I remember every exhilarating lowbie trip across the Wetlands, but I also remember countless hours of wasted travel time that everyone spent in an effort to converge for a nights adventures.  Various group travel paradigms have mitigated this in WoW somewhat, but WAR does this out of the gate in a way that is not trivial while also not so significant a hurdle as to dissuade one from the undertaking.

When united, our little group spend a good deal of time biding our time with several nearby PQs.  The one thing that bugs me is that I haven’t figured out if there is an easy way to determine if other party members are on a quest.  If there is and I missed it, then I’m an idiot (and it wouldn’t be the first time), so tell me.  Otherwise, I’m a bit disappointed that while WAR has done so much to facillitate group collaboration, it still requires an inventory check of quests with fellow party members though a combination of “do you have quest X” and share quest X, a already has quest x, b is not eligible, c has completed quest x, etc.

I still thing EQ2 has the best solution for this I’ve seen with its “shared” quests display when in a group.  Mythic, please fix this soon.

Other than those minor quibbles, and the potentially major one about scenarios not popping, launch day was extremely smooth, stable and incident free.  For me at least, it was utterly devoid of drama and showed no particular stress.  Good job Mythic.  From my perspective this should be a launch to be remembered for how it should be done.  I think it was smoother than the LotRO launch and probably had more folks trying to pile in.  While I saw Destruction side queues of up to 380 on the server screen, nothing in game indicated that full servers were struggling to keep up.

I assume that this weekend will be the real test as everyone everywhere will be trying to get in game, but for now, a wholly succesful launch from my perspective.