All About The Artifacts

One thing that bothers me about newer MMOs is they are all designed to have an endpoint, like a single player RPG.  The world gets built around an endpoint the developer creates; and zones, quests and gear all get based around it.

Players view the endpoint from a gear point of view usually, it’s all about the gear, and when you have the best gear you’ve reached the endpoint.  Unfortunately once you do it almost feels like the game’s over.  There is nothing left to do.  You have the best gear you can get!  So you become bored.  The developers know this will happen, so what do they do?  They define a new endpoint and update the game, adding new content and gear focused on the new endpoint.  And then everything is exciting again until you reach that endpoint.  So they create another endpoint, and so on and so on..

I am not a fan of this design at all, it’s just a gear treadmill you get tricked into repeating over and over.  There must be an alternative?  A better way?  Perhaps…

Items and Gear
First, gear needs to stop being used as a carrot to force players to do things.  Too much gear just gets handed out because of that damn carrot mentality.  The more special gear that gets handed to you, the less special each piece seems – so lets tone down the amount of gear handed out for carrots.

Next, crafting needs to be the main source of special gear players want.  Special gear shouldn’t drop nearly as much in the game world, instead players should turn to crafters for their gear.  This promotes a better economy and features like auction houses and player shops.  It also puts more emphasis on crafting recipes and special metals, gems and other materials.  All this helps to make tradeskills an important part of the game, which is a good thing.

So if the best special gear is made by crafters, what do raid bosses and other epic encounters reward players with?  Welcome to your introduction to Artifacts.

What is an Artifact?  Artifacts are the best gear available in the game, always better than any special gear that can be found or crafted in the world.  But with great power comes great restrictions, and Artifacts need at least two – the first is they should be unique items, not unique-equipped but actually unique, only one of each Artifact exists in the game world; the second is Artifacts should be temporary items with a one week duration, after which they are destroyed and reset to their loading spot to be found by another player.

Benefits from Artifacts
The first benefit is that the “Best set of gear” endpoint vanishes.  It’s gone!  Players will never have the best gear because Artifacts always trump their special gear, and Artifacts only last one week and are rare because they are each unique.  This setup allows players to have a good set of special gear, but to always be working towards a better set with Artifacts, but never reaching it and becoming bored.

The second benefit is crafting never becomes useless due to overpowered sets being introduced by new raid bosses – raid bosses drop Artifacts, not special gear, and those Artifacts are temporary.  So players will always need special gear, even with their Artifacts, which keeps crafters always in demand.

PvP and Artifacts
How would Artifacts factor into PvP?  Easy – they need to be lootable from your victim’s corpse!  This may sound crazy to some people at first, especially ex-WoW players who spend weeks or even months raiding to earn their “Best set” and may scream at the thought of losing it so easily.

But rather then thinking of how this may work in WoW or another gear treadmill game, imagine how it would work in a world where special gear is fairly easy to come by, and you’re instead focused on the Artifacts.  Now imagine there is around 1,000 different Artifacts available in the game and you’re playing with about 5,000 players online.  And looting only affects Artifacts, not your special gear or coins or other items.

How might this play out?  When you kill someone it would surely be exciting to see what Artifacts you may have just received.  And when you die you still have your special gear and other items so its not too harsh; you can get back into the action quickly.  Really this just adds more reasons to want to kill and stay alive, which are both good – PvP needs purpose!

Personally I would love to play in such a setting.  Anyone else with me, or am i way out in left field? =p

Goodbye Warhammer… Hello Aion!

Well, I think I am done with Warhammer.  My hand is still messed up (though improving!), so I can’t play yet, but having not logged in to war for over a month I don’t miss it.  So what better time then now to take a look back at the journey =)

The Early Days
I followed Warhammer Online since the very day it was announced.  In the beginning I was extremely excited, convinced this would be my dream game.  I love PvP, I love Warhammer, I love Orcs and Goblins and I liked a lot of what Mythic did with Dark Age of Camelot.  How could it not be my dream game!?

The first year and a half of Waiting on Warhammer felt like f-o-r-e-v-e-r, but there was little to shake the faith that it would be a game worth waiting for.  I remember my only two real concerns back then were when Mythic announced there would be only two realms, which everyone seemed to be pretty against and I still feel was their single greatest mistake, and that the PvP would be heavily dependent on scenarios, which was also hotly contested on fansites at the time and something I disagreed with (I detest scenarios/instances for PvP).  Still, given all the excitement abound for the game, in no small part due to the great videos by Paul Barnett and the rest of the staff, you couldn’t help but give Mythic the benefit of the doubt and continue with high hopes.

Beta Access!
The second year and a half was much more interesting for me, because I was one of the very first beta testers – 16 months prior to launch!  When I first got in I was ecstatic!  Everything was fun due to the initial rush of trying a game you waited so long for.  I would “oooo” and “aaaah” at everything, even the loading screens, in those first few weeks.  But after that initial excitement wore off and I saw more of the “vision” for Warhammer, I grew more concerned with the game.

The game was still very much in development, so there were the expected bugs, lack of polish and missing features; but I was mostly concerned with their PvP design.  Their concept for PvP seemed bizarre to me for a game being marketed the way it was.  PvP felt so disconnected from the game; the RvR lakes were separated from the PvE environments, and they contained absolutely nothing to do.  I often roamed the RvR lakes in beta only to find them empty; no quests, no mobs, no npcs, no outposts, no shops, no keeps, no mobs – literally nothing!  Unless there was enemy players standing around in that void, you had nothing to do, but as anyone who entered had no reason to stay, they were always empty in beta – it felt broken and wasn’t much fun.

As launch approached things improved a little, with keeps and a few PvP quests added to the RvR lakes, but still no where near what I was hoping for.  By launch my hopes for the game were far down from what they once were; but I still had some hope, perhaps it would improve after launch, and perhaps it would be more fun once I got to play with some friends..

Launch And The First Few Months
The launch of Warhammer Online I can only categorize as a disaster.  Going from 1.2 million boxes sold to only 300k subscribers within 4 months, it’s clear Warhammer Online wasn’t the game many were hoping it would be.  The loss of so many players so quickly I attribute to at least two big mistakes Mythic made.  The first was they did far too many things to make the game world feel empty, launching with too many servers, splitting up players too much between tiers, fronts, instances and scenarios, and not having enough social aspects (remember when chat channels didn’t even work across the whole map you were on?).  The second was their love of scenarios they tried to force on the players, by making them the best path of advancement for your character, sucking more players into instances and simplifying the game world to basically a lobby waiting for a team fortress 2 map to launch; and likely burning out their playerbase quicker as they played the same instanced map over and over.  The plethora of bugs and broken combat didn’t help either.

We had a strong guild going into the game at launch, and recruited quite a few players in the first few months, but our playerbase dwindled far too fast; within about two months our 60 some players from our guild resulted in usually less than 5 online at a time.  It wasn’t just our guild, it happened to everyone.  Mythic started merging servers to try and keep healthy populations, but the retention rate was just too low.

Mythic realized many of their mistakes early, fixing some of the social aspects, and putting less emphasize on scenarios and more on Open RvR by adding more PvP quests and influence gear to the RvR lakes, and enhancing gains from killing players within the lakes.  But by this point they were fighting against their own original design, which was a more scenario style pvp game, and the maps and game design with only two factions just do not support it well enough.

The Final Months of WAR
In my final months of WAR I was actually having a fair amount of fun, but I was seriously fighting the game’s design to accomplish it.  I roamed solo in the RvR lakes looking for solo or small groups of enemies I could attack and hope for a fun fight.  I gained nothing for doing it, would sometimes be critized for not helping “push the campaign”, and often got ran over or chased all over by large zergs, but despite all that it would still be enough fun to still play, though I knew it was never going to be the game I hoped for by this point.

Originally I had hoped Warhammer would be something like WoW’s Alterac Valley, but non-instanced, out in the real world.  Each RvR lake would be this interactive battlefield like Alterac Valley, with mobs you can summon and rescue, quests, buildings to destroy, resources to collect, just tons of things to do; and actual objectives, like capturing a mine that provides gold to your npcs who eventually use it to build a giant battering ram that gets pushed down a road where you must destroy an outpost for it to get past, so it can knock down a gate to a keep that you then invade and sack, which then captures the map; Alterac Valley had real objectives and goals, and I thought Mythic would basically pull that concept into the real world, make each map have unique objectives and goals.  Instead we got empty maps with a few rocks and keeps plopped onto them which had no meaning or purpose, that often flipped or got captured for no apparant reason.

But after playing Warhammer i now realize that isn’t what I want; I hate objective driven, guided PvP where you are expected to work towards a set goal.  What I want is a well designed world with a lot of things to do in it, where you can explore, quest, gather resources, kill bosses, group up and venture into dungeons, fight mobs; just a well-designed immersive world that encourages people to wander through it and be active.  And then I just want that world to be PvP-enabled, with some rewards for doing well at pvp (titles, points, etc.).  I like questing while being on guard for ambushes in a PvP area, I like ambushing groups while solo, I like hunting for prey..

The Approach of Aion
I never really knew about Aion until a few months ago, but after some research into the game and their “Abyss” setup,
I became absolutely stoked to try it.  The Abyss is really exactly what I want to play in, one large pvp-enabled map with the best of everything in it, xp spots, quests, dungeons, flying raid bosses, crafting supplies, artifacts, and even a few keeps.  And the game is built as a vertical world where everyone can fly to add even more variation and tactics to it.  Hawt!

Their PvP setup I absolutely adore.  You gain points for killing players, and lose them when you die; making you actually have to think about who you attack to advance.  And the pvp ranks have limits to them, only 1 person can be the top spot at a time, 3 the rank below, 10 the rank below, etc.  A real ranked pvp system!  You also gain titles, visual enhancements and even gear from pvp.  woot!

Aion is already doing incredibly well everywhere it has launched, and those that have tried it rave about how smooth and polished it is.  Monkeyfish made a nice post with some videos from a beta event recently, and he states “Combat is more involved and engaging than WAR even at this level”.

It seems a lot of Warhammer players are planning to give Aion a go, which is not good news for Mythic.  When Darkfall came out, the amount of players on my server in War felt noticably diminished for a few weeks; and that’s from a small PvP game not even released in North America.  The Phoenix Throne subforums on Warhammer Alliance has an Aion thread with over 600 posts already, and there is over 500 active threads discussing Aion on Warhammer Alliance just within the past month!  Interest in Aion has definitely picked up in the past few months!

So with that, I suppose I shall say “Goodbye Warhammer, thanks for the fun!”; I’ll be shifting my blog to post more about Aion now as it nears release and my hand gets better, and to those going to Aion hopefully I get to see a few of you in game =)

A warning to fellow gamers

In case you are wondering why I haven't posted in over two weeks, I got injured!  Not through sports, or an accident, or a failed kidnapping attempt of Jeff Hickman so we could live out Grimnir's comic.  Nope, nothing exciting.  I got injured by my blasted computer.

Apparently its called RSI – Repetitive Stress Injury – which can occur from lots of things, but actions such as typing and mousing use a lot of the same muscles in your hands repeatedly, which over time, can build up stress on your arms and cause injury.  And since I code most of the day and then often put in extra time playing games or browsing the web, my computer use is probably a little beyond excessive.. perhaps I had it coming =p

Anyways, the point of sharing my little story is apparently this could have all been avoided if I had just stopped using my computer for a few days when this first started occurring.  But since originally it was just a dull ache that persisted when I tried to work or play, I ignored it… until a few weeks later when it started causing sharp shooting pains up my arm, and by then it was too late.  Now I must minimize my computer time for another week or two to rest my hands so they recover, so I won't be playing or posting much in the meantime, but I'll be back =)

So, learn from the little gobbo's pain and if your hands start hurting, don't ignore it!  take a few days off!

Patch 1.3 seems interesting!

Nazgum evokes Darkness!

Nazgum evokes Darkness!

Before I go into patch 1.3 let me first say, I finally got my Conqueror shirt!!  Mythic reduced the medallion prices for the RvR gear which meant I finally had enough to purchase it, allowing me to wear 4 conqueror and 2 bloodlord as my set, providing set bonuses of +138 Intelligence, +66 Willpower and +66 Toughness.  Woot!  Not too shabby for a DPS shammy!

Now on to patch 1.3, which is a pretty monster patch!  This will surely shake up Warhammer when it goes live.  I’m only going to cover the parts of the patch which affect or interest me, so if you haven’t yet go read the notes!

To start with, and perhaps the most needed change coming with the patch, is the near global reduction in power of AoE abilities.  AoE completely dominates the game at the moment, both in damage and healing.  I sometimes group heal myself even when not grouped, because it heals for just as much and casts faster!  AoE needed a reduction and this is a very welcome change!

To offset the AoE reduction, Mythic is making a bizarre move however.  They are increasing single target DPS for nearly all classes.  Witch Hunters are perhaps receiving the most benefit, with 18 of their abilities going up in damage!  As someone who sees a lot of 1vs1, I think single target DPS is already too high.  As a DPS shaman I can burst down most classes in less than 20 seconds, and I consider that quick.  But I don’t kill fast, not in comparison to witch hunters, slayers or other true dps classes.  I’ve been hit for over 4000 from a single ability by a witch hunter, and I only have 5000hp (6000 with the +100 wounds potion).  I lose over half my life if a slayer gets in melee range of me for 2 seconds.  Scooter, an engie on Phoenix Throne once caught me and dropped me from full to dead in 5 seconds.  Personally, I think this game would be far better if both healing and damage were toned down some so you had more time to react and use abilities before pressing respawn.

Now for the real goodies!  Shamans are getting their mastery trees shuffled this patch and the possibilities sure look exciting!  Hybrids are being crippled, and Mythic is making you choose to be either a DPS shaman or a healing shaman, but both options each look excellent.  Here’s a few of the changes I’m excited to see:

First up is Eeeek!  This ability is being changed to now snare the enemies it knocks back, and no longer knock yourself back.  There is mixed feelings on this in the forums, and I’m sort of torn over it too.  On one hand, the snare is awesome, and I have way more control with it in combat now.  On the other hand there will be no more amazing escapes by eeeking off cliffs or bridges.

And then there is the tree changes.

Personally I think this looks awesome.  Gork is receiving few changes, but Mork and Green are getting a good shuffle.  The two popular choices for 1.3 will likely be Mork/Green and Gork/Green, and Gork/Green will be Nazgum’s choice!  The healing power of a hybrid is getting nerfed, so willpower based heals won’t be so useful, but Green is receiving our shield and we’ll have 3 lifetaps, which heal based on the damage dealt (intelligence based), so I’m hoping those 3 lifetaps + a shield will be enough.

The final thing that interests me in the patch notes is of course the Land of the Dead.  I’m not very excited about it however, the more I read the more it sounds like a giant PvE zone where PvP may occur, but likely won’t be too common.  I hope I am wrong.

Nazgum’s RvR videos for May 13th

Its been a while since I posted some videos.  Mostly due to me not playing as much, as Phoenix Throne got pretty unbalanced for a while which made the game a lot less fun; but Order has been making a comeback recently and there’s been a lot more fighting, which means I gots some videos! =)

Gratuitous Use of Eeek!

I stumbled upon Ceelee (WH), Phez (SH) and Izzzo (Choppa) near the ambush stump in Reikland, engaged with about 4 order.  And they were losing!  Ack!  I start recording as I approach the fight and within the first 15 seconds Izzzo and Ceelee both die and Phez kites out of my range, things weren’t looking too good… and to make things worse even more order shows up!

Back and Forth at the Fortress
The Shining Way fortress was under siege and order was hanging out near the front, preventing destruction from approaching.  I found a small group of order there and we played a bit of back and forth attacking, with their ranged dps pelting me and their witch hunter constantly trying to flank me =)

That’s all I got for today, hope you enjoyed =)

Dragonica looks fun

Today I came across a post about Dragonica, a game I hadn’t heard of before.  I wasn’t initially too interested, but being a lazy Sunday I decided to do a quick google search on it and find a bit more info.  I’m glad I did, this game seems it may be quite fun =)

secret-of-manaIf anyone remembers way back in the old days, before the Internet took over our lives, we used to actually visit our friends houses to play games.  And in those times, when Super Nintendo ruled the world, Secret of Mana was an awesome game to have a few people over for.  It was a fairly straight-forward RPG, but with a very action-oriented combat system, rather unheard of back then.  And it was multiplayer, allowing up to 3 people to hack and slash together and adventure through the story.

I had such fond memories of Secret of Mana that after Super Nintendo’s time had passed I once tried setting up an SNES Emulator on my PC, grabbed the japanese sequel and an english patch and hoped to get a few friends to come play.  But alas, the Internet is here now, and few people will be up for abandoning a 3D MMO to come play a 16bit 2D scrolling game through an emulator at a friend’s house..

Which is why Dragonica makes me excited =)  This game reminds me a good deal of Secret of Mana.  It has the same action combat feel to it, where you can play with your friends and progress through a story.  It even has a similar graphics style.  Curious to see how this game actually plays?  Check out their trailor:

Dragonica will be free to play and is currently in beta.  I couldn’t find any estimation of a release date, but when it arrives I think I shall definitely have to give this a shot =)

5 Suggestions To Make Warhammer More Fun

If the other servers are anything like Phoenix Throne, a lot of people are frustrated with Warhammer.  Maybe not so much in the lower tiers, but tier 4 has a lot of problems.  With enough time, hopefully Mythic can work most of them out, but in the meantime, I got 5 suggestions for Mythic that can perhaps make their game more fun until they get around to it.  So ‘ere we go!

1.  Disable City Sieges

I think it cannot be denied at this point, the majority do not find city sieging fun.  I personally find Mythic’s concept for city sieging horrible; after a long, hard fought PvP battle with other players in the open world you get shoved into instances, where you repeat a public quest over and over for two hours, with a super boss that hits for 30,000 damage and one shots anyone except warded tanks, that is nearly impossible to complete with defenders.  Whut?  While city sieges are underway, the rest of the PvP game is effectively shut down, all the zones are locked preventing you from doing anything but participating in the city siege.  It’s either suck it up and city siege or log off.  And worse, should a city actually be captured, the PvP lockdown persists for up to 16 hours afterwards, no scenarios, no RvR lakes, nothing!

It was pretty much unanimous way back in beta, and not much has changed since then.  No one likes city sieging.  If you removed the loot aspect from it who would subject themselves to this voluntarily?  Not only are city sieges not enjoyable by a large portion of your playerbase, they are literally forced on us by just playing in the RvR lakes.  Until they can be improved to the point where they are enjoyable and do not remove large portions of the rest of the game when they’re active, they should be disabled.

2.  Completely Remove Morale
The concept of morale, as I first heard it described, was to allow swings in battle as each zerg charged and released their morale abilities.  In reality, morale in Warhammer is often used in situations such as DoTing a siege pad and then running into a player and firing off a powerful attack.  Or an enemy zerg that is attacking a keep and is high morale from nuking the door fires off their 7 second stuns at defenders trying to get in, who then get focused down and die.  The morale system in Warhammer takes more away from the game then it adds to it.  It is a crowd control haven.  There are 42 crowd control affects distributed across the different morales!  And, as you can imagine, people will slot the ones which have those affects, making most morale abilities that get fired off just result in a stun, silence, AoE knockdown or some other form of CC.

Too much Crowd Control is an issue frustrating many players in Warhammer.  It is unbearable in zergs and even running in small groups or solo I lose control of my character far too often.  Going from full life to dead while stunned is not fun.  Removing Morale from the game would go miles towards fixing the horrific amounts of CC you get hit with while trying to play.  And yes, I love my Gork Sez Stop, but take it if it means I can actually control my character while fighting.

3.  Make Leveling Faster

Warhammer was built well for leveling alts, in theory, as there are 6 different PvE leveling paths all the way up to 40.  Except, leveling is so slow in Warhammer I only have one level 40 character and little interest in investing a month or more to level a second.  Making it faster to level would make alts a much more enjoyable experience past level 20.

4.  Remove Random Loot Distribution For Set Items
Mythic choose to follow the same model most MMOs use to distribute the majority of their loot – the random loot roll.  Unfortunately, Warhammer is not setup well to support this due to the class restrictions on nearly all items and the fact there is 12 classes, more than most MMOs.  Because of this, it makes it that much harder to obtain items you want in Warhammer compared to other MMOs.  Running a dungeon and killing a boss you need something from with a 1/12 chance of getting the item is just slightly disheartening.  Especially on your 23rd trip through the place.  There is people who have been running Blood/Bile for months, every 3 days, without completing their Sentinal set.  Just ask poor Snafzg.  To add even further pain, you need those sets to progress, so you need to keep investing 3 hours every 3 days, hoping you get lucky.  Why?  Mythic decided to apply this same concept to the loot they offer from PvP, combining two random rolls for a bag in a chest..

Random loot distribution isn’t too bad in some cases, but when you use it to block the progression you force on players it just builds frustration.  Many new players to tier4 are going to have a seriously rough time completing their annihilator set, which they need for fortresses, yet alone their conqueror set, which they need for city sieges; why block progression with astronomically small chances of receiving the items you need (such as a conqueror piece, which breaks down to a 6 in 200 chance of receiving after 5+ hours of work; I know of no one, on any server, with a full set)

Either scrap the wards system entirely, or remove the random loot distribution from set pieces and replace it with a pure token system, in both PvE and PvP and make the tokens faster to obtain.  Use random loot distribution for weapons, jewelry and other items which are nice to get but not mandatory to progress.  And, while I’m on the topic, why can’t some rare weapons, jewely and other items drop from players?  Why just set piece gloves and boots?  Would be nice for some more variety ;)

5.  Separate Bug Patches From Content Patches
I know I’ve said it a few times before, and while I do find Warhammer fun, it is still by far the buggest game I have ever played.  Nearly every play sessions I sigh in frustration from some bug that just shouldn’t exist in the game at this point.  The combat bugs are the worst for me, a PvP game with broken combat gets old fast.  But its not just combat, everything is just plagued by bugs; logging in, questing, viewing a map, viewing an item tooltip, clicking an ability, viewing the realmwar site, submitting an appeal, training renown, training masteries, clicking a postern door, messages for BOs being taken, keeps not showing as under attack on the map, logging into the official forums, searching the auction house, retrieving items from mail, seeing group member locations on the minimap.. just everything is broken!  I could go on and on.  The bug fixes need to come faster.  Wrapping 500+ bug fixes into your content patches that only come every six weeks is no good.

So that’s my list.  Besides for my plea for quicker bug fixes I tried to list items that can be tweaked quickly (xp increase) or just simply removed.