Warhammer will kill World of Warcraft!

July 31, 2007

The latest Virgin Worlds podcast was part 2 of a top ten MMOs of the future series. While the entire podcast is very entertaining, it was not a huge surprise that Warhammer Online was the groups #1 game. That said I was a bit surprised how far ahead it placed in terms of expectations and the feeling that it will be a quality game. This got me thinking, how huge will WAR be? 

I always laugh whenever a game is tagged a ‘WoW killer’. The only possible WoW killer is Blizzard’s WoW 2, and even then it would only be a killer if it had similar specs to allow the current fan base to switch without having to upgrade hardware. Back on point, no game is going to come out and ‘kill’ WoW, just like WoW did not kill every game before and after it (unless the game deserved to die like Motor City Online).

 

That said, it IS possible to cut into WoW’s 8 or 9 million subscribers, or post a sub base of 5 million plus. If any game has a chance, it’s going to be WAR. As noted in the podcast, it would seem that the next wave of MMOs will usher in a new era of PvP focused gameplay. With the harsh fan reaction to TBC’s raid-focused gameplay, the scene is set for PvP to come in and steal the show. Instead of a 5 hour grind, grab 5 friends and go compete verse other players on a battlefield, be it for 30 minutes or 10 hours, the ‘content’ is always there, ready and waiting.

 

The difficulty with PvP is that if the balance is off, the player base will be quick to catch on and demand changes, or simply leave. Yet again, if anyone has a chance to achieve that balance, my money is on Mythic. Say what you want about the shortcomings of Dark Age of Camelot, but the Realm vs Realm aspect was ahead of its time. While by no means perfect, it certainly brought PvP to a new level, and really expanded it beyond the simple ‘group and gank’ gameplay.

 

Now Mythic is set for round two with Warhammer. It’s RvR 2.0, and from all the info available it really seems that Mythic is focused on making that aspect the crown jewel of WAR. Let’s assume it works as well as it sounds, how big could WAR get? Will it steal the PvP players from WoW, along with those bored of raiding? Will it bring in Warhammer’s already considerable tabletop fan base? And perhaps most importantly, will it have the ‘snowball’ effect WoW had? Will it reach 2-3 million subs and become the new ‘it’ game that people will play based on word of mouth, leading to the massive growth that propelled WoW to the record-breaking numbers it enjoyed in its prime?

 

It could.

It has the buzz, the solid IP, a solid dev team, and EA’s marketing money.

It has that ‘perfect storm’ feel to it. Now it just has to deliver.

 (And it could gain more buzz if someone would slip me a beta invite and I could secretly blog about it, hint hint)


UO in Space.

July 30, 2007

After a re-roll over the weekend, and a much better understanding of the basic concepts, I had a very enjoyable time with EVE Online the last few days. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the early days of Ultima Online. It has basic rules and laws, an open-ended world for the players to work with, and a skill based system to mold a character how you see fit. Crafting and trade are just as viable as combat, and the entire game revolves around Corporation (guild) politics and zone control. It has a limited quest system, but it’s more of an after-though rather than the focus of the game. I think the biggest draw for me is the scope of the game. The fact that one of the early spaceships in the game cost around 50,000 ISK (the in-game currency), and you read about the cost of the biggest ships being in the area of 15 billion+ ISK. It’s an amazing amount of money, even for large Corporations. The crazy part? That 15 billion ISK ship can be destroyed by a rival Corp, especially since it takes a month to construct one in a space port, and that space port can be destroyed as well, capital ship going down with it. Very similar to UO, everything in EVE can be destroyed. A players ship, all weapons and equipment on it, everything in its cargo bay, even the player themselves can be killed, resulting in possible skill loss. It’s very possible to have a very, very bad day in EVE. Or a glorious one, if your enemy is on the receiving end of a well planned attack.

Speaking of massive destruction, it’s not uncommon to read about a battle involving massive amounts of giant ships, with both sides taking heavy losses financially. Fleet combat involving 50, even 100 pilots is something I can’t wait to see.

I think the most surprising thing about EVE is how different it is compared to all other MMOs, and it was released in 2003. In a market filled with EQ clones (WoW included), its nice to see a game break all those rules, set its own goals, and stick to its vision. It may not have 8 million subs, but for the 170k or so that it does have, it provides a very welcome breath of fresh air.

 

My trial account runs out in two days, and it’s going to be tough not to put down the $15 to keep going, if only to venture out into 0.0 space at some point and see all those stories I hear about first hand.


The gang reunited.

July 27, 2007

Before I quit WoW, I was raiding 5-6 nights a week with a guild I had been a part of for close to two years. Over that time span, we saw a great deal of players come and go, yet we maintained a very solid core. It was this core that I got to know very well on a personal level, to the point that I would consider those people friends. After I quit WoW, the guild split shortly after and I lost contact to many of them, due to our vent server being brought down, along with our webpage and forums.

It was only recently that I got in contact with one of the players, and had a quick talk about how it would be cool to bring the core back, to get into some game together and have a little ‘return to glory’. While all of us have different schedules now, and many of us would be hard pressed to dedicate time like we did back in WoW to any game, the idea of once again playing with a very solid group of people I truly enjoy is very tempting.

Now the question was which game. I talked about what I currently play, but LoTRO is a bit too casual to really play the way we intend to, and EVE Online seems too established to jump in and form a new guild in. Going back to WoW was out of the question, as I simply have no interest based on everything I’ve read about TBC. It was decided we needed something new and upcoming. Learn the game in beta, start at launch, and just see what we can do. A good number of us favor PvP over PvM, despite playing the raid grind that is WoW. While there is a large number of new games on the horizon, Warhammer Online is the one that really stands out as attempting to get PvP right, or at least focus on it. The Warhammer world is also one I’m familiar with having played the table top game back in high school. So with that it was decided, Warhammer would be our game. It’s hard not to get ahead of oneself and start to think of all the cool things a 10 man group could pull off in a Realm vs Realm setup, but at this point that would all be theorycraft (is that a term exclusive to WoW, or a MMO term in general?).

First things first, we need to get into beta…


Beyond the Expansion.

July 26, 2007

EVE Online was down just long enough last night for me to give in and buy the new Civilization expansion, Beyond the Sword. This was made possible by the site Direct2Drive, basically letting you download any game you want, no hassle. The site is fast, the layout is nice, and the prices are very fair, plus for an impulse buyer like me, it works well (other than the hit to the credit card, but eh). 

The interesting thing about Civ expansions is that when you play the Epic game, it’s still basically the same game. Each expansion adds on to the Epic game, how much depends on the expansion, but the overall basics remain the same. You still start with a settler; you still build cities using the same basic logic, combat is overall still the same. Compare that to Warcraft 3 and its expansion, with a new campaign, new units, new terrain, etc. It’s easy to be initially disappointed by a Civ expansion; it feels like you just paid $30 for some minor changes. 

This of course is not exactly true. Those ‘minor’ changes have a great impact on how the game unfolds, and your strategy options. Even one new unit can change the entire feel of warfare in a given time period. One new technology in the tree can alter a tech build, shuffle what a player feels is a ‘must’ at a given time.  

Then there is the effect on the mod community, who now have new tools and game mechanics to play with. In time you will see great mods that further expand Civ in new and interesting way, extending the life of the game far beyond what you got in the original box.


North Downs hunting

July 25, 2007

Finally got a decent chunk of time to play some LoTRO last night, and with about 15 quests in the North Downs tab, it was time to head over and finish as many as possible. Having so many quests for one area, I figured basically anything we kill or any place we go is sure to be a quest goal, so with that in mind we started in the northern area of the zone and just made a large sweeping arc south, killing and collecting as we went. At the end of our loop, we had a good 6 or 7 quests checked off, with a few others halfway done. Some quick searching and a question or two to our Kinship, and a solid 10 quests had been completed and sat ready to be turned in.

As is the case with most LoTRO quests, you get a follow-up, either to kill a tougher version of wolf/spider/orc, or deliver whatever you had just collected to some NPC. The nice thing about this is that it furthers the story of each quest (assuming it had a decent one to begin with, but many in LoTRO do), and also brings further xp/money/rewards your way, often with limited effort.

Out of the 10 completed quests, I would say a good 7 had a follow-up, giving us another nice set of goals for tonight, ones that should go a bit quicker now that we are familiar with the lay of the land and its various camps and landmarks. LoTRO has done a very nice job in balancing ‘search for x’ quests with ‘go to this exact location and do x’. That balance reduces the often common problem of being on what feels like one continuous Easter egg hunt. If you have limited time on a given night, head over to the orc camp you discovered on a previous pass and take out the named mob you saw before. A quick and clean quest completed in a set amount of time, a very rare thing in MMOs these days.


A ‘World First’ to remember.

July 24, 2007

The idea of a world first has been around long before MMOs. Humans in general strive to be the first or best at something, be it sports, exploration, science, or even something abstract like making the worlds largest rubber band ball. It’s a good feeling to know you are the best at something, no matter how silly.

One major problem with world firsts in a MMO is that in a lot of games you have different servers, each one a mirror of the other. The server you pick to play on is the one you are concerned with, which brings about the idea of a ‘server first’. While a server first is still something special, its significance is greatly diminished in a game like WoW where you have 100+ servers. Even a world first can only be announced on a forum for the rest of the servers to see. If you are the first player to obtain the sword of awesomeness, only players on your server are able to see it, everyone else has to read about it. If Joe Newbie does not read the forums, and most don’t, he has no idea of anything that happens outside his server; no chance to have you and the sword of awesomeness run by him in town and leave him open-mouthed in amazement.

This goes beyond being the first to beat the toughest raid mob. Given a solid, deep crafting system, those that pursue a craft could reach world firsts for the finest items, perhaps locking up exclusivity in some way. First weapon smith to reach point x would be able to exclusively craft a sword with a red tint; everyone else would be able to craft the sword without the tint; something along those lines.

Given today’s technology, one would think it would be possible for a developer to craft a ‘single world’ game, similar to how EVE Online has it. Granted, that’s a galaxy and not a fantasy kingdom, but it shows that the technology is there. I’m sure with some pre-planning they would be able to solve issues like overcrowding in popular areas.

 

Aside from world first, a single world also gives a game a single history. Anything major that happens can be recorded and remembered. The world could be shaped and changed in meaningful ways without having to consider how it might affect other servers. If a major battle goes down, you can erect a monument for all others to see, the main combatants going down in history with their names on it.

Perhaps a single world is one step to fixing the current rut MMOs are stuck in, mainly being a cookie cutter experience, one that leads us through the world holding our hand. Instead we should be given an open canvas to paint the world’s history; based on the actions of its players and guilds


Weekend without gaming, shocker!

July 23, 2007

No big post for today, as the weekend was relatively gaming-free due to a Poker trip to Cape Cod. I did get in some more time with EVE Online, and while I still don’t totally understand it, I think I’m a bit more familiar with the basics now. Hopefully in the next few days I can actually get off my starter ship and go hunt down some pirates.

 

The next Civilization expansion is out this week, so you might be seeing a post or two about that. Hopefully it lives up to the hype of “biggest Civ xpac ever”. I’ll be happy if the main game is changed enough to make it feel fresh without destroying the balance; I never really cared too much about the scenarios.


Lost in Space.

July 20, 2007

Note: The following is based off of about two hours of game play.

 

Having setup my trail account on EVE Online, I logged in and got started. As expected, character creation was up first. Unlike the games of today however, the number of choices, and their direct impact, was a bit overwhelming. Figuring I would most likely have to re-roll anyway, I just picked what caught my eye first and did not really attempt to fine-tune anything. Once that was done, I found myself looking at a ship in space, with a tutorial window taking me through the first few actions. Two things immediately struck me; space looks REALLY good in EVE, and the interface is very overwhelming at first glance. You easily have 10+ different menu buttons on the left side of the screen, a radar in the top right, a character sheet in the top left, a multi-tab chat window near the bottom left, and the tutorial window near the middle. It’s funny how accustomed you get to hitting ‘c’ for your character window, ‘i’ for inventory, etc. Not the case in EVE. The entire setup is unlike what you see in most games today, down to how you move about in space. You have the option to double click to a location, or you select spots to travel towards off different menus. No WASD here.

 

To be honest, I thought about just logging off and forgetting EVE about 30 minutes into it. So much gets thrown at you so quickly, and you get so little feedback on any of your actions. It makes, IMO, a very poor first impression, and I could easily see many potential players simply giving up and forgetting it. However, I do want to give EVE a fair shot, especially since I’ve read some very interesting stories about its PvP and political aspects, plus I’m looking to experience something different than WoW, so I figure the steep learning curve is to be somewhat expected.

 

I have a 14 day trial, and I plan to stick with EVE until that runs out. My hope is that by the end, I’ll be comfortable enough with the game to evaluate whether or not it’s something I want to continue, based not on the interface but on the depth of the game play.


No. No, man. Shit, no, man. I believe you’d get your ass kicked sayin’ something like that, man

July 19, 2007

Not much to write today, somehow I have a case of the Mondays on Thursday. Not sure if that’s better or worse, regardless it’s sad.

 

We finished Garth Aragwen last night, tearing through it with a great group. We managed to down every master elite inside, including the Red Maiden. Our minstrel died right at the beginning of our fight with the Maiden, but luckily we had a captain to rez her, and we were able to recover. I would say this was one of the better fights in LoTRO so far, with her huge AoE knock back and rooting spell making things very interesting. Good visuals and a fitting end to what was overall an enjoyable instance.

 

It feels good to have all those GA quests out of the log, not to mention the very nice upgrades we got from completing them. Now its back to Evendim and North Downs to finish the quests we have there, hopefully getting us into 40+ territory. The kinship has been asking to run Fornost, and it will be nice to catch up and join them.

 

I also tried EVE Online. Rough start so far, but I’ll give it another shot tonight. Hopefully I’ll have some first impressions tomorrow.


Click blue damnit, click it!

July 18, 2007

In my post about duel boxing, I made a point that raiding is somewhat trivial on an individual basis and that the challenge comes from coordinating all the players. Last night I ran into an interesting scenario that proved the exact opposite is also possible.

 

At level 34 in LoTRO it was finally time to get into Garth Agarwen and see what it’s all about. Putting out the call in kin chat, we put together a group of five, consisting of a 34 Guardian, 34 Hunter, 33 Champion, 33 Lore Master, 40 Burglar. After some searching, we found a 34 Minstrel willing to join us, and off to GA we went.

 

After a rough start, and our inability to coordinate any type of combo fellowship maneuver, we finally got our act together and starting making some decent progress. We downed a few master elite mobs inside, collected some keys, and had made our way near the main baddy, Ivar. It was at this point that our Champ and Lore Master went link dead on us. After a bit of waiting, it was clear we had lost them, and I figured our night was done. Our burglar, Toxil, wanted to press on, and at least give Ivar a shot. I figured why not, might as well see him and get a first look at the encounter. No way could we down the main boss of the instance with only four in our group.

 

Toxil goes over the encounter, assigning myself to Ivar while she and our hunter would deal with all the adds. This is important due to the fact that Ivar heals himself a great deal if the adds stay up for too long. We begin the fight, and right off the bat it looks like it’s going to be a quick end for us. Ivar hits quite hard and I could see the life bars of my group mates dropping as well. With our minstrel having to spread his heals, he was running low on power quick. We had agreed that during fellowship maneuvers, we would go all power regen. Toxil pops the first FM, we all hit blue, and get a full refill. This allows me to ensure I have Ivar’s attention, allows our hunter and burglar to deal maximum damage, and most importantly keeps our minstrel with some power to healing us. After the tough start, we kill the initial adds and are able to focus a bit on Ivar before the next wave arrives. At 15,000 hit points (I have less than 2000 as a tank), his life bar is dropping very slowly, and we are only able to execute a FM every few minutes. For the next 10 minutes or so, we wage a desperate battle, seeing our power drop to zero, being on the edge of defeat, and pulling off a FM just in the nick of time, putting us back in the fight. At one point, our hunter caught hard agro from an add and I was unable to pull it off. Despite his best efforts, the minstrel was unable to save our hunter, and we were down to three with Ivar sitting at 5000 hit points. Again I thought we were done for, yet somehow we managed to pull off a final FM, giving us just enough juice to finish the bastard off. After 10 minutes, everyone was finally able to breathe a hard earned sigh of relief.

 

During the fight, I literally pulled out every guardian trick to stay alive and allow our minstrel to catch a quick break, and it was at this time that the brilliant balance and functionality of the class came out. Yes you have a taunt (a few actually), you carry a shield, and the main goal is to hold agro. What really separates the Guardian in LoTRO from the Warrior in WoW are all your other abilities. In WoW, if you spec prot you gain Last Stand, an instant HP boost ability for a few seconds with a fairly long cooldown. For the most part, Last Stand is somewhat useless for anything other than a quick ‘oh shit’ button, and is only good for one use. Aside from that, you have shield wall, a 30 minute cooldown ability that again only lasts a few seconds, and little else. In LoTRO, the guardian has some very key skills at his disposal. You have an ability that leeches power off your enemies and transfer’s it to you, an instant dodge/parry boost that lasts for a minute, and a skill very similar to Last Stand, but one that again lasts for a minute. Along with these, you also have a ‘skill reset’ ability that when used, makes all other skills instantly available. This skill is on a 5 minute cooldown, making it very useable during a prolonged encounter like Ivar. This allows a good Guardian to rotate his skills, giving his minstrel key breaks to regain some power or focus on others, or allows a guardian to gain the agro of multiple mobs and not be brought down instantly. After two years of raiding as a MT, this variety and additional depth is a very welcome change to the traditional tanking roll.

 

After seeing our group of four play to its peak, working together and following a solid plan, the overall balance of such an encounter reveals itself. If we had gone in and just tried to brute force the encounter, we would have failed miserably. By using all of our individual abilities, playing each class to its max, we were able to end the night on a major high, one that makes playing MMOs worth the occasional grind.


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