Monthly Archives: September 2009

Public Test Server and 1.3.2 Patch Notes

The Public Test Server is going live tomorrow, and Mythic has all sorts of goodies for players that dive on in.

There will be an event held on Wednesday at 8 p.m., and participants will have an opportunity to win either an Imperial Griffin mount or an Enslaved Manticore mount, depending on realm alignment.

Then on Saturday at 8 p.m. there will be a preview of the upcoming live event Daemon Moon Rising. Everyone who joins in will get a holiday mask. I, however, will be attending a birthday party. I wonder if my friend will let me commandeer his computer.

I doubt it.

Also, the fine people behind WAR posted the patch notes for 1.3.2 that we’ve all been looking forward to. There’s a whole lot of changes to be had, but here are some of the highlights.

Fortresses

The forts will no longer apply towards the Tier 4 campaign! That’s right, Order or Destruction could be coming soon to a capital city near you. Players will only need to control two out of the three pairings to unleash their fury on their opposing realm’s capital.

On the down side, the fortresses will just be sitting there as huge, empty landmarks that do nothing. Mythic said they do have plans for them, but “are not yet prepared to announce them.”

Keeps

Better loot for better battles. Keeps will start offering snazzier rewards to players who fight off large numbers of enemies. They’ll also drop some great swag when they’re upgraded and pose a bigger challenge.

Stagger

The removal of the Stun effect and the incorporation of Stagger will take place with this patch. Stagger will basically stun players for a set duration, but will immediately break if the player affected takes damage.

New User Journey

Mythic has made some very interesting changes to the process of starting a character. All careers will now begin in the Empire/Chaos pairing, as opposed to their current racial pairings. This change is meant to keep the action hopping in Tier 1.

Also, the game will be introducing New Player Guilds. When your new character enters Chapter 2, they’ll be placed in one of these guilds to “facilitate communication among those new to the game, or those who are rolling up an alt character, and to make finding a group a bit easier.”

Apprentice System

Players will be able to “apprentice” another player, temporarily changing his or her rank, stats and gear to their own. So, this way players who have mismatched ranks will be able to play the game together more enjoyably.

Global Chat Channels

Finally, 1.3.2 is adding two global chat channels: the Advice Channel and Realm War. The Advice Channel is pretty straightforward. Players can ask other players questions, and people can even designate themselves as Advisors, which will be a searchable term in the social window.

Realm War will create a global channel for the RvR areas for all four tiers. While the channels for the first three tiers will be completely open, the Tier 4 channel will be read-only unless a player is a “Realm War Captain.” The title is given to players in a guild, and guilds at maximum level can have a total of three captains.

Well, that’s the patch notes in a nutshell. Don’t forget to check out the career changes as well, there’s a ton of information there too.

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Armor Redesign

The weekend got off to a nice start Friday when Mythic released the second part of their series on armor redesign. It’s been just over a month since they unveiled the first six armor changes, so perhaps we can expect to wait another month for the final installation.

Anyway, here are the 14 armor changes that have been posted so far:

Order

Archmage

Bright Wizard

Engineer

Knight of the Blazing Sun

Swordmaster

White Lion

Witch Hunter

Destruction

Black Guard

Chosen

Marauder

Shaman

Squig Herder

Witch Elf

Zealot

I’m especially happy because I finally got a look at the new Witch Elf designs, which I’ve been absolutely itching to see since the first shots came out.

However, I have to agree with Skarbd that Order got the short end of the stick when it comes to visuals. The armor for the Destruction careers feels a lot more creative, intimidating, and, well, just plain cooler.

I think the redesigns are an improvement on the whole, but I feel bad for the poor Knight of the Blazing Sun in particular. Seriously, that career can kick my little Witch Elf tush. However, when my friends played WAR one of the reasons they refused to play the KotBS was because of how it looked.

Skarbd sums it up pretty well when he says, “I can imagine Rivs, seeing my character charge across the battlefield and the only thing he has to avoid, is being blinded by the dazzle of my armour. Though I don’t think he needs to worry about the dazzle, since he’d be bent over double in a fit of laughter.”

Want to help save Order from fashion purgatory? Let Mythic know you want to see your gosh darn career already?

Then head over to the thread on the official forums to give them a piece of your mind.

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Inside Winkl’s WAR Stats

Volkmar took a hit this past week when the server lost a sizeable chunk of active rank 40 players.

That’s 483 Order and Destruction players who, for one reason or another, did not increase their renown rank percentage, according to Winkl’s WAR Stats.

“You can’t lose more players than you add to have a viable game,” Winkl said in a private message interview, referencing Volkmar’s gain of 160 new rank 40 players.

And with the recent release of Aion by NCsoft, the odds aren’t looking too good for next week’s stats either.

More mergers?

Winkl said in his post on the forums yesterday that he expects more server mergers to be coming our way soon.

“If they merged Dark Crag, Iron Rock and Volkmar together, we’d end up with 3,135 Destruction (50%) vs. 3,014 Order (50%),” he said in the interview. “Of course, that’s assuming everyone continued to play and they actually merged the servers.”

Obviously, a major problem with merging those three servers is the people who play for both Order and Destruction. Unless Mythic comes up with a solution, they’d be forced to choose between their characters, as many did during the summer mergers.

The nitty gritty

After Mythic announced their second round of mergers, Winkl began collecting data on the game. He pulled his information from third-party sources and posted them on the forum.

On the same forums, Community Coordinator Andy Belford made a remark in response to concerns of population imbalance.

Actually, according to the actual Tier 4 and overall numbers we have, Volkmar will be pretty much 50/50 once all of the active server transfers are completed.

After being told by Belford that his information was incorrect, Winkl said he decided to get his own stats, from warhammeronline.com’s very own Realm War.

From there, he automatically issues queries to pull characters, guilds, Realm Rank activity and gear.

“For a server such as Volkmar, that results in 8,112 career queries, 2,260 guild queries and 12,835 player queries,” Winkl said. “It’s a roundabout way of gathering information, but it gets the job done.”

The data is separated into “lists of players by RR (so you know who the big-ticket players are), active/inactive counts, net gain/loss for the week, Destruction vs. Order by renown rank, Players by career, Top 25 Active Guilds and more.”

Player activity was originally determined by whoever gained at least one percent of renown in a week. He has since added activity designations based on renown gain from 10 percent to 50 percent.

What about the endless debate over who outnumbers whom?

In the interview, Winkl said the general breakdown for Dark Crag, Iron Rock and Volkmar is as follows:

Dark Crag: 1,024 Destruction (60%) vs. 677 Order (40%)

Iron Rock: 863 Destruction (53%) vs. 760 Order (47%)

Volkmar: 1,248 Destruction (44%) vs. 1,577 Order (56%)

So guess what?

According to Winkl, Belford was wrong and Volkmar “hasn’t come anywhere close to 50/50.”

Listen up

When asked what steps he felt Mythic should take with Warhammer, Winkl outlined five suggestions:

WAR is supposed to be everywhere, so class/population balance should be top priority. Address these issues and folks may come back.

Listen to the player base. If we are telling you that the Absorb trinket is broken, fix it. If Bright Wizards are using a new “feature” that is game-breaking, fix it. Don’t add a new event in which the scenarios never pop or bother fixing tooltips. These are obvious issues will lead and have led to people quitting.

Make all scenarios available all the time. When the game already has a limited number of scenarios, why limit someone’s choices because ZoneX was captured. Since all we can do some nights is queue for scenarios, having 2 to choose from isn’t much incentive to login. More variety, more fun.

More patches, more frequently. Rather than saving everything up for one huge patch that will, unfortunately, seem to break more than it fixes, release smaller patches. This way it seems as if you are actually doing something to address the game. I don’t need more posts from DevX telling me about how good potions are going to be “sometime in the future”. What I want is a patch where I can test it and they act upon the feedback.

Be proactive on server merges. I think they waited far too long for the first few rounds of merges and I’d really hate for them to make the same mistake again.

Ultimately, Winkl hopes his stats can help people get an idea of the health of the servers and affect Mythic’s course of action.

“I know they’ve looked at my stats as I see in the domain logs,” he said. “They have all of this information available to them instantly. One can only hope that they learn how to use it and make better informed decisions in the future.”

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Mythic at GDC Austin

Jeff Hickman, the executive producer at Mythic, spoke at Game Developers Conference Austin yesterday. Gamasutra has a nice article summarizing the points Hickman made on WAR in his talk, which was titled “Out of the box(ed product) thinking for an Online Age,” according to the GDC Austin Web site.

Hickman outlined three of Warhammer’s biggest mistakes, which you can view in more detail in the Gamasutra article. In a nutshell, game’s beginning PvE is too easy, “the game gave players ‘little reason to socialize'” and the game’s economy lacked importance.

Honestly, I can’t say I’ve ever seen someone’s reason for unsubscribing attributed to starting Player vs Environment play being too easy. There’s been plenty of noise made regarding end game content, though, but I don’t see that mentioned anywhere in the article.

I understand why Mythic would consider those to be mistakes, but I don’t agree that they are the biggest. I was also very surprised to see that Hickman made no mention of character imbalance, or the uneven population distribution. Go to the forums and you’ll see any number of people complaining about those issues and unsubbing because of them.

With all the server merges and closures happening lately, how could Mythic not see these as being major problems? Just this week the European server Karak Eight Peaks began transferring players into two other servers, as documented by Skarbd on his blog.

On an interesting and unrelated note, the last bit of the article dealt with how Mythic is modifying the game for audiences in Korea. Hickman says there are 78 pages of adjustments and that animations specifically are up for changes. Also, he mentions in the article that Mythic is “looking at core gameplay elements where our Korean partners are saying ‘these don’t work for Koreans.'”

I am quite intrigued to see how different Warhammer will be for Koreans. I just hope Mythic doesn’t get too caught up in another release to fix what’s already going awry.

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What to Play: Witch Hunter

There are tons of posts on Warhammer’s official forums where players ask each other for advice on what career they should play in WAR. Sooner or later, a response will pop up along the lines of, “Try them all. Play what you like.”

So, I decided to go a bit further and help those uncertain people out. In this What to Play series, I plan on interviewing someone from each career in the game, Order and Destruction.

First up is Foxrunner, who plays a Witch Hunter on the Volkmar server. All of his responses were obtained via private message on WAR’s official forums.

When did you begin playing Warhammer Online? What got you into the game?

I started playing in closed Beta with my brother.  I had previously played Dark Age of Camelot for about 6 years prior many of my guildys were moving from there to WAR so I followed with them.

What is your character’s rank and renown rank?

I play a Rank 40 Renown Rank 61 Witch Hunter

What guild and alliance do you belong to?

I am currently in the guild Moonspur <3  Awesome bunch of guys and we are in the Learn to Play Alliance

Why did you choose to play a Witch Hunter?

I had played a Nightshade in Dark Age of Camelot which was a stealth class.  Had my buddies decided to go Destro I would have been a Witch Elf.  Plus I thought it was kind of cool carrying a sword and pistol around

What are the Witch Hunter’s advantages?

Stealth sometimes you are able to pick your fights.  Witch Hunters are also more defensive by nature then Witch Elves with tools like Repel Blasphemy and Morale Ability Confusing moments we can have up to 12 seconds of 100% parry which is a life time in a fight.  Also using a well timed stun in conjunction with a torment and Burn Away Lies adds up to a lot of damage in our favor.  For a WH to really shine though you need the good gear and Renown Ranks.  High melee crit seems to be at the top of the list for most of the better Witch Hunters and having tinkered with it myself I can definitely agree.  Those Witch Hunters you see dishing out 180-300K damage in a scenario are running high strength, high melee power, high melee crit.

What are the Witch Hunter’s disadvantages?

We are after all glass canons.  We were light armor most of us even low toughness.  Unfortunately in a small man setting all of our parry buffs only delay the inevitable which is our demise.  When our targets have heals etc its imperative that we run in the assist train so our targets die.

What is your favorite part of playing a Witch Hunter?

I like the look and feel of my class.  I enjoy sneaking into back lines in a fight and taking out a healer or even just running an interrupt.  If it’s a 6v6 fight its a pretty big deal when all of the sudden you lose one of your healers.  Sometimes its a sacrifice though but well worth it.

What strategies do you use?

Aside from proper gear, spec, and tactic setup the fights dont vary all that much.  Usually drop my opener, torment, stun, torment, Burn Away Lies, Repel Blasphemy etc hehe  Don’t let melee DPS classes behind you!  Do the dance or circle strafing like everyone else does.  All of the DPS classes get some kind of bonus from being behind their target and typically those attacks hurt.  I would run the Shroud of Magnus in the confession tree.  7 seconds of 100% disrupt against a caster is just pure win.

What advice would you give someone considering playing a Witch Hunter?

Be prepared to die…. A lot.  The Witch Hunters don’t really seem to shine till later in the ranks when compared to the Witch Elves.  We don’t get a lot of our defensive abilities till Rank 40 either.  I will say that having a good guild or group with healers is most ideal for us seeing how we are able to die pretty quickly.  I run in  a guild group all the time now I love it.  Although prior to finding my  new guild I ran solo for a long time so I had a lot of experience figuring out all the ins and outs of the class.  Hehe on a lighter note stay away from Chosen in a 1v1 setting it usually doesn’t go well     Oh and Detaunt and Declare Anathema (self knockback) are sorely over looked abilities they get me out of a jam a lot!  Sometimes its just that extra second or two that you need in order to get heals! Right now I run 13 points into Judgement (burn away lies, pistol whip, atonement, and fanatical cleansing) the rest of my spec goes 9 into Confession (repel blasphemy and shroud of magnus)  keep in mind this build isnt 100% feasible for everyone seeing how im relying on my bonus points from Renown Rank.  For the lower ranks I would suggest 13 into Judgement (burn away lies, pistol whip and fanatical cleansing) 9 into Confession with Repel Blasphemy.

What changes, if any, do you think Mythic should make to the class?

I wish they could fix stealth hehe  Either make it break when damaged ALL the time or not at all.  Right now the stealth mechanic seems to be so hit and miss.  I have dueled many Witch Elves and one of them (the best on our server) runs a high initiative build (at least 60 or so more than myself) and at times I have seen her coming at me in stealth from a  mile away.  Others I am popped on without the slightest clue she is even coming.  In my opinion this presents a strange “issue” in my eyes that something isnt quite right.

I would like to give a big thank you to Foxrunner for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope to see him on the battlefields.

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Behold, the Zerg

Over on Werit’s Warhammer blog, he is taking readers time traveling this week as he re-publishes old posts. He went all the way back to June 2008 for Wednesday’s post, which deals with the issue of zerging.

Zerging, as Werit defines it, “is basically getting a large group of players and going from objective to objective, laying waste to anything in your path.”

He gets right to the point in explaining why zergs work. Healers keep these massive swarms of players alive and stabbing. They can out-heal enemy DPS, and they can even heal and resurrect each other, which makes for a very frustrating and unproductive time trying to take out the zerg’s backbone.

Werit also points out that the relatively close placement of objectives allows for an easy mass migration from one point to another. This means that gigantic sea of red names will quickly drown your puny attempt to attack another objective.

At the end of his post, Werit asked his readers if WAR, which at that time had not been released, would have such issues with zerging. Now, over a year later, he is asking if he was right.

Yes, he was. Terrifyingly so.

Both Order and Destruction have had their own turns leading zerglings from zone lock to zone lock. That’s ok. It’s not fun being vastly outnumbered, but it’s bound to happen and players brace themselves, grit their teeth and deal with it.

Massively-multiplayer is in the name for a reason, but sometimes the imbalance gets to be a bit much.

In his post, Werit wrote, “The problem with a zerg is, it becomes pointless to even fight it. You will just end up feeding renown to your enemy. All you can do is make your own large group or wait until the zerg breaks up, then go recapture everything. The whole battlefield becomes a flipping affair.”

The big problem WAR had, and is still working on, is making sure the zergfest doesn’t stick around 24/7. That’s when it gets demoralizing, and players begin to quit or reroll elsewhere. I remember being on Vortex and getting absolutely steamrolled over and over by Order, until I left to play Destruction on Dark Crag for about a month.

Luckily, Mythic seems to be getting its act together. Server transfers saved active players from dying servers (good riddance Vortex!) and I’m looking forward to the coming crowd control modifications.

I’m on Volkmar now, and while I find myself against Order zergs occasionally, the RvR is nothing like it was on Vortex. One side usually has the upper hand in numbers, but lately I’ve been seeing relatively equal forces smashing each other’s skulls.

Zergs are an inevitable part of WAR, but are unhealthy in excess, just like anything else (coughbrightwizardscough).

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Crowd Control Adjustments

It looks like some big changes for Crowd Control abilities are going to be rolling out with game patch 1.3.2.

Two days ago, the WAR Herald put up a Dev Diary entry from Nate Levy, the production lead for the Combat and Careers Team, discussing what the future holds for Crowd Control.

Important to note is the loving that tanks will be getting. Levy is right when he says that players usually bypass attacking those careers to target squishier prey. Seriously, as a witch elf armed with only two skinny daggers, I’ll head toward that mage with a staff over someone in plate armor any day.

Tanks will still be tough to take down, while leaving the DPS to the DPS careers. Instead, the team plans to make them more of an obstacle by giving them more CC abilities of their own on the battlefield. According to Levy, the goal is to give tanks “a more imposing role in the fight and let them grow into the battlefield commanders that we want them to be.”

Another piece of news is the introduction of the Stagger effect. Stagger will restrain a player like Knockdowns and Stuns, but instead of having just a general duration timer, the effect can end early if the player takes damage. The new effect will be replacing Stuns, which will be removed from the game.

While Levy says the effect will break if players affected “suffer any damage,” he doesn’t specify if Stagger excludes harm from Damage over Time abilities. If Stagger doesn’t take that into account, it could be broken immediately after being cast if the player is taking damage from a DoT that was applied earlier.

If that’s the case, I might just come to appreciate all those DoTs that bleed me dry.

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