We’re mildly miffed and we won’t take this anymore!

Averheim Order guilds are banding together to declare that we’re not going to be Destruction’s speedbumps as they roll past our corpses to Altdorf. Well, they may still do that, but at least there WILL be speedbumps.

We are Order, hear us roar!

There were rumblings of an attack on Altdorf on Tuesday, and I took Ysh (R20) over there to see if there was anything I could do. For one thing, T4 zones are pretty confusing if you’ve never seen them before, but the easy way to get to them is to head out of Altdorf’s southern gate. That’ll take you to Reikwald, which can in turn take you to Reikland. (I assume the similarity in names is a cunning attempt to confuse Destruction by the old WWII trick of moving road signposts around. It seems to also work on us, which might be a minor flaw in said cunning plan.)

However, and I say this for everyone else who’s been confused to hear that Altdorf is under attack — We’re all doomed — doooomed, I tell ye! — without knowing if there was anything at all they could do. There is. If nothing else, you can head to Reikwald or Reikland, depending where the fighting is, and man the battlements there. Granted, if you’re a tank that may not help a lot but I think *any* resistance is better than none, and although lower level chars won’t stop the opposition for long, they might buy a little time all the same. Besides, even R20s can man siege/defense weaponry and pour boiling oil onto those nasty nasty witch elves.

Once the Tuesday stuff moved to check on a couple of the other T4 keeps I got horribly lost. The pairing map seems to indicate that riding east out of BlackFire Pass would take me to Kadrin Valley and thence to Stonewatch (where a keep was apparently under attack), but instead I ended up in Black Crag, which had me all confused. In any case, Stonewatch was apparently safe and the “attack” (more like a foray, I think) on Altdorf fizzled out.

Still. We’re much too civilised to be mad as hell, but we are rather miffed that you, Destruction, thinks Altdorf is your pharming phat lewtz byotch, and we’re going to at least stand in your way looking really stern. You have been warned!

Stalked!

Well, not really, but I got ya didn’t I?

Seems Casualties of WAR keep picking the same servers as another guild, whom I shall call Moon Pod to protect the innocent (and not give those asshats traffic). While I can entertain the possibility that some of these Moon Pods might be perfectly nice people, that notion contradicts every encounter I’ve ever had in any game with a collection of pixels wearing that tag. I think I’d rather get warts than be on the same server as that lot.

So far, CoW-Order have made 3 server calls, with half the guild watching breathlessly so they can start in the right place today. The password, by the way, is asparagus. (No it’s not. If you’re a CoW, go check the boards already.)

Server shenanigans

Folks all over the Blogspace, and elsewhere I’m sure, are wondering how the apparently staggered release of servers is going to work in the first week or two of WAR. I could throw in some links, but you could just scroll up and down your RSS-feed entries or, if you’re actually here, click on a random blogroll entry. Chances are you’ll see a post about server choices.

Back in 2004 when KSWN picked Icecrown for WoW, we ended up with just this kind of decision. Icecrown soon became known as Icedown and along with a handful of other servers, suffered all the tribulations everyone else did and then some, just for added buggy fun. We considered moving, but really, once a guild hits a certain size it becomes almost impossible to do without enormous amounts of effort and usually hassle.

Looks like CoW are just going to pick one Core-ruleset server for each side of the guild, Order and Destruction, and we’ll ride out whatever happens. It won’t please everyone but you never can do that anyway, especially not if you want to stay sane and prevent guild management from becoming a second (or third) job.

No, there’s no real point to this post. If you read this far, I’ll give you your money back. I’m just hoping the WAR launch is smoother than the WoW one was — which almost nobody seems to remember for the steaming heap of downtime, lag and ocean deaths it was — and that nobody has to consider a server move with a guild of more than about 5 people.

All you medium and large guilds out there — good luck.

The waiting is killing me!

Well ok, it isn’t, but I am SO pumped up for the release of WAR (on whichever bloody day) it’s unreal. I don’t think I’ve been that excited since WoW, and sadly WoW didn’t hold me.

Now that I think about it, I wasn’t even much excited for the Vanguard release, despite the gargantuan amounts of enthusiasm I’d poured into it in and before beta, because well before launch it was already painfully obvious what Vanguard was, and what it wasn’t. Shame that. Water under the bridge, too, and I hope GU6 works out well for them.

I’m not going to list the whys and wherefores, partly because I already did and partly because ultimately, you can get all excited about a heap of crap as easily as you can rave over the next best thing since sliced bread. Excitement isn’t really all that objective. But maybe this time around I’m getting all excited in a calmer, more mature kind of way. (Just ignore the squeals and hyperventilation, it’s not me, really.) WAR has flaws but unlike Vanguard I’m not having to play despite the flaws, around the flaws, or in the hopes that some of the cool stuff I was hoping for – and in some cases damn near promised – will eventually be added in. WAR is stable (for me). WAR is good.

And the community feeling I haven’t really experienced to any great degree in my last 3-4 years of solitary/duo gaming is back! I didn’t even realise I’d missed it much till I turned to the hubby last night and said “You know, I haven’t had this much fun in a group since we used to mosh around* in Asheron’s Call.”

I don’t care where the fault lies for jadedness and tired dreams, I don’t care what the reasons are — I’m just looking forward to moshing around with in-game friends again, and maybe making some NEW friends I’ll still know 9 years down the line, as I did in Asheron’s Call.

Are we there yet?

* Moshing is not raiding. It is not anything in particular and usually doesn’t involve much of definite goal. In AC it used to involve running about the countryside to various locations various people wanted to see, or needed to “do” to get items, or whatever. It always involved a lot of getting lost, a fair bit of dying, and the occasional 8-hour domino-effect corpse run. Fun times.

WAR Casualty

It won’t be for everyone, but it will be WAR for me. Quick Yay/Boo:

YAY!

  • Open groups – Easy come, easy go and no strings attached. I like this. I hated having to struggle to form PUGs only to discover I was with 5 asshats (one of me is enough). Open groups you can join, do some stuff, move on.
  • Public Quests – They’re almost no fun when they’re heaving, as of course all the earliest ones are. They’re good fun when there are a couple of dozen people there, and even more fun when there are just enough (or less) because then they become a real challenge. What many haven’t noticed yet is that they don’t just come in different flavours, they come in different difficulty levels too. Chapter 2 seems to have 3 PQs in each area, and they’re not all the same challenge level.
  • RvR – I am still shocked at how much I’m enjoying this. I have learned to treat death more lightly than I usually do, though I have several names on my Open Beta-Chrace server shit list. It seems possible to have a shit list (as in if I see you I WILL try to kill you, [insert name]!) without really taking any of it personally. I am taking it as a compliment when I seem to make it on other people’s shit list — it means my RvR skills are improving.
  • Guild levelling – I tend to be cooperative, so seeing something that everyone contributes to and benefits from is great fun.
  • Playstyle compatibility – This is highly subjective, but I have yet to find a career I actively don’t like, though of course some are better fits than others. The fact that most careers have a mirror-image in the other faction is very clever — it makes development a little easier, but it also means people don’t have to stray too far from their comfort zone if they want to try the other side.
  • Stability – It’s great for me. It’s not so good for others. Mythic seem to be taking this seriously, which should be good news for the not-so-good camp.
  • Casualties of WAR. Say no more! Well, except maybe MOOOOO.

BOO!

  • The interface needs work, but I’m exceptionally picky about that. Right now, every time I log in my chat window has jumped a little higher up the left side of my screen. There’s some sort of weird snap-to-ing going on, because when I resize it with the customisation tool you can actually see the chat window jump. Click on the chat window again and it’ll return to where it should be. It’s minor, if a little exasperating.
  • All the little buglets still around, like “Target is not attackable” messages while said “Target” is happily beating the snot out of you. Eh, it’s beta.
  • Character models could use a LOT more work. I suspect this will never happen, because it’s part of keeping the load as light as possible for mass numbers on-screen.
  • Lack of fluff. I will always miss fluff. Right now it doesn’t matter much, but in 6 or 12 months when the newness has worn off and I’m pig-sick of RvRing all day, I think I’ll notice the gaping hole where “fun stuff to do that isn’t PvE or RvR” should be.
  • Crafting. I’m a craft ho, so for me crafting in WAR might as well be nonexistent. That said, what they have put in will probably work very nicely, and they appear to be thinking about repeat business for ALL crafts (well, all 2 of them) right from the get-go, which is heartening.
  • Auction Houses. I’m sorry, I hate those. Always have, always will. But I acknowledge that players need a way to exchange goods for money from each other… I just don’t like the way AHs implement it.

I actually had to dig into my minor-gripes bag for that BOO list, because Mythic appear committed to squashing most of the obvious must-fix issues as fast as possible. I have some longer-term gripes about certain classes I’ve played, but it’s very easy to armchair-dev without knowing the full picture. Also, I probably need to L2P, especially in RvR. Finally, I know from having tried a few R31 template chars in beta that what you see at Rank 5 really isn’t a good perspective from which to judge a career’s entire progression. They do progress, that’s the point. A R5 char is not just a cut-down version of a R40 char; new abilities, masteries, tactics and the rest make an ever-increasing difference.

Lots of other folks seem to be disappointed by the graphics, which is somewhat understandable. It’s not as pretty as LOTRO by a long shot, nor are insanely detailed as Vanguard. However, it runs relatively smoothly for me even when there are 30+ people all moshing about on my screen in RvR, and that matters. Besides, it’s hardly ugly.

See you on the battlefield. Or the PQ. Or the guild tavern. Cheers!

EDIT – and a shoutout to my Ni buds. I may be WARring with a different guild, but you won’t get rid of me from the meta-tribe that easily. I may come stalk you on the ArmPitz server! May your WAR be long and bloody.

Putting the “face” back into interface

Keen’s post on WAR’s game world over at Keen & Graev’s made me think, as apparently someone else’s words sparked that post. The blogger hive mind is alive and well. Bzzzzzz.

I started my gaming “career” in Asheron’s Call and Star Wars: Galaxies, with only brief forays into EQ and UO. This undoubtedly colours my experiences and opinions, because both AC and SWG featured very large worlds and very little “help” in terms of quests, zones, all the stuff we take for granted today. They had none of the modern things we associate with games, and in many ways they were better for it, even if it wasn’t intentional.

Most of all, nobody had exclamation marks over their heads, or little bags, or trainer icons, or whatever. In AC nobody had anything over their heads, not even names, not even the other players. You had to mouse over them to see who they were (or recognise them by their avatar); I got really good at mousing over dots on my minimap as I ran past/through/to places. (Tangentially, no running has ever been as much fun as it was in AC, where you actually had a run skill you could improve; well, except maybe CoX where you can fly.) SWG had player names but nothing else — then again, SWG really didn’t have anything else. There were very few “quests” and many of those were either broken or extremely short (“go find my criminal brother in the wilderness and I’ll give you this briefcase as a reward!”); but boy, those planets were BIG. Empty, but big.

I am undoubtedly nostalgic for my personal “golden age” of gaming, but I do think there’s a wider issue here. Metagame symbols over stuff in the in-game world are incredibly distancing for me. I’ll even say it breaks my immersion, and you’ll either get that or you won’t. (Don’t tell me there’s no way to make a non-real-by-definition video world real, hence immersion is a chimera at best — maybe I’ll talk about that in another post.) Further, I’ll say it hampers the creation of genuine in-game communities, because everyone is so busy going from one shiny icon to another shiny icon, and then on to the next zone for that area’s set of shiny icons.

Metagame information in-game does several things, some of them good, some less so. It makes it much, much easier for people new to the game to get their bearings, and for total MMO-newbs to have some idea of what they should do. Quest lines and level zones make it much, much easier for game designers to put their content together in a “coherent” manner. Easier for players, easier for designers = no brainer. On the downside, it leads to worlds that aren’t worlds but rather rat mazes where you thread your way from A to B to C, with occasional forays to A-2 (other race starting area) or C-3 (just another level 23-28 area). Very pretty, often very large and complex rat mazes, but still rat mazes.

The worst thing about level-divided zones & activities (quests) is that it also level-divides the players. Back in my day (barefoot, uphill, in the snow), I hung out with my game buds — what level they were had absolutely NO bearing on it. Now, if I’m level 30 somewhere, I’m unlikely to spend “face” time with my non-50ish friends. Community isn’t just about being able to find the right tools so that you can get PhatLewtItem1006; and it’s not just about being able to create groups, though I gather that seems to be what “the masses” think it is. I need to get me a guild so I can get me some groups to get mah shiny loot and get into those 8-man instances! Screw actually getting to KNOW people — if it happens, it’s purely a fringe benefit.

Of course now, I hang out with my buds from 8 different games on IMs, IRC, voice chat, or even just in-game on guild chat and whatnot. There’s no real requirement to be in the same game-area at all — one of the reasons AC had so much face-time was probably because it had such godawful chat tools.

As in-game community strength has waned, so metagame (all games, everywhere) community strength has waxed. Our internet community tools are orders of magnitude stronger than they were even 5 years ago, so now I don’t need to log on to chat with Thrang the Orange-Helmeted Barbarian (aka my friend George).* This is good for keeping in touch; it’s less good for creating a “game home” like the one I wrote about a few days ago. (Quoting myself, how needy!)

Casualties of WAR is of course a prime example of this. We have a wild, thriving, growing-like-a-fungus guild going before the game is even released, and most of us haven’t met in-game yet. It should be a wild ride when we do.

Still… what with “oo look, that guy has a quest icon!” and linear, zone-based progress, I kind of miss just hanging out in person. In AC, lots of us kicked back in a place called “Adventurers’ Haven” (how could you not love that?), several guilds and groups, and there was usually someone to chat with after a long hunting trip (they call it grinding now — in those days we didn’t know any better, and it was still fun).

Maybe the “Guild tarverns” Mythic are adding to WAR will help. But maybe, just maybe, some of the onus for putting the face back into game-interface lies with me, the player. Taking out quest icons and un-level-limiting the zones isn’t going to happen; games have changed, mostly for the better, and aren’t changing back. So I need to change myself. I can always turn those icon displays off if I want a taste of the old country. I can try to ensure I actually meet up, god forbid, with some of these folks I’m going to be pixel-meeting over the next few weeks. I can try to find somewhere congenial to hang out, hopefully somewhere that isn’t too hard to anyone to get to. I can *gasp* make an effort beyond what the game serves up to me on a platter.

Games are good at being games. But no matter how hard the designers and devs try, games cannot make communities. They can encourage, they can provide tools, but the actual building is down to us.

I’m looking forward to it.

* Names have been altered to protect the innocent.

Earth-shattering KABOOM?

It seems many of my Casualties guildies and other, unaffiliated pundits think there will be oodles of drama and explosions due to CoW’s very nature and base composition, that being a whole bunch of opinionated, articulate people who blog and/or read blogs and maybe even play the games they’re talking about, and therefore know about stuff better than anyone else. (Do I need /sarcasm tags?)

I guess it depends on one’s definition of drama and on the kind of drama it is. Like stress, drama is inevitable and some of it is actually good. Disagreement, however, isn’t automatically dramatic, nor does it have to be. Continue reading

D’you wanna be in my gang my gang? More RvR impressons.

(Note – if the WAR acronyms and terminology give you a headache, check out just about any of the Blogroll blogs. Many have wonderful and in-depth reviews and impressions of WAR to date.)

Back in Asheron’s Call, I grouped (fellowed) with strangers pretty often, usually for a little xp grinding since AC wasn’t really heavily quest-driven back then. (Which I rather liked – they were there, but they didn’t get rammed down your throat. Anyway, tangent.) In WoW, EQ2, Vanguard, LOTRO and the rest, I ended up only grouping when I a) had no choice or b) knew the folks involved, or all of the above. I developed a strong dislike of PUGs in WoW especially, but it wasn’t the only culprit.

A lot of that has to do with my playstyle. I like to take my time. I like to know what’s around me. I like to move by consensus, and not by whoever can run the fastest in a given direction, pulling the rest of the group along like so many brainless sheep. I don’t like being a brainless sheep, especially when the idiot running around gets themselves, and usually the rest of the group, repeatedly killed. I’m discovering that it’s not dying I mind, per se: it’s useless dying.

The point? Well, this morning Mort (the spousal unit) and I hopped on to WAR preview for a couple of hours, hoping to hit Rank 10 to go with the Renown Rank 6 we’d hit yesterday, thus enabling us to get and wear our Tier1 “Godmode” gear for a couple of levels before we got too big for the T1 arena. We hit the T1 Elven RvR area, since we had a few “find this place” quests to do there, only to discover that the place was being held — and held well — by 6-12 Destruction types. We got spanked.

By then, however, we’d been guilded up (CoWs say GeroniMOOO!). A guildie in the area joined us, and we picked up a couple more people in or near the T1 RvR Warcamp. A couple of forays back in to the RvR area saw us, again, soundly spanked.

Long story short — we made a warband, and opened it up (meaning anyone can join at will). After that, it was sort of like gathering speed on snow with a steamroller. By the time there were 10-12 of us, Destruction seemed to have given up, and we went around the area picking up each Battlefield Objective in turn. After that, at a loose end, we hopped into the local scenario (Khaine’s Embrace) for a little more hearty killing.

And it was FUN! By Jove, it was HUGE FUN! I need to emphasise this, because of my usual wariness of PUGs, PvP/RvR, and related things.

WAR isn’t flawless. Many details about it bug me, though none are gamebreaking for me (top of my list is the godawful UI and chat, though even those aren’t entirely without redeeming features, like kickass scaling). I can handle the Cons, right now, and the Pros are turning this into a game where I’m trying out stuff I don’t usually try out, and having a whale of a time doing it. Props to Casualties for being such a great bunch of people even BEFORE we all know each other — but props to everyone I met this morning, and new friends made. It’s been a long, long time since it was so easy to make so many friends in a game. And that’s really one of the things MMOs are for.

Any MMO that can make instant, no-strings-attached, easy-come/easy-go grouping so much fun is, I think, on to a winner in the long run.