Hope feeds nostalgia

Apparently it was never really feasible to have an ever-REALLY-changing world as proposed by Atriarch (which, while technically still in development, I don’t expect to see anytime soon?). It’s not a huge surprise — the maintenance and attention that kind of thing would require, let alone the over-arching, constantly-amended plan for how the game would progress and how you’d keep newbies and oldies happy… Probably not something anyone wants to take on, not when they can make another static WoW-clone and do much better than if they wept blood and actually created something a little different.

Still, several games have had some measure of change in the game world, and I don’t mean simply the addition of new zones or the “many many years have passed, the world looks like this now” you get in EQ2. One town in Asheron’s Call was nuked to oblivion not long after the game launched… and a few years later, was in the process of being rebuilt. Another quiet, bucolic, mostly ignored town got nuked later on. There were bad guys, and they were serious about their nuking.

It wasn’t really a world in which what the players do change much of anything — the same monsters would keep spawning in the same dungeons and drop the same quest loot, but at least it wasn’t entirely frozen in amber. Adding wreaths and baubles for holiday-weeks doesn’t count as “change” by the way — that’s the MMO equivalent of getting a Glade plug-in: it’s not fresh, it just vaguely smells like it.

I’m not sure it’s possible to have an MMO world where player actions continuously and forever impact the world in major ways, since that could mean having to make content for almost every player individually, and not even Warren Buffet could pay for the legions of staff that kind of thing would need. Hell, my friends and I had a hard enough time coordinating a couple of tabletop campaigns with at most a dozen players that we decided to set in the same world — small actions, butterflies, DMs freaking out as their side of the world collapses around them, and so on. Not good.

Another thing Turbine did a few times in Asheron’s Call, however, was smaller events. Big enough to draw lots of players — “Quick, the Clantons have ridden into town! Asheron commands you!” — but small enough to have a rapidly diminishing impact-ripple. Fun if you were there, no big deal if you missed it.

That, I admit, I would like to see a lot more of, even though that also implies a great deal more on-the-spot work from the game staff. Which makes me realise — back in the day, we’d see Devs (or their non-player-side ilk) in game on a fairly regular basis. Sure, they were like Visitations from God, but you did occasionally get to see them and even *gasp* talk to them, or get stomped by them, or both. Maybe I’m just not playing the right games, but in my experience the only time you get that kind of interaction anymore is during betas (not counting QA-interaction on test servers, which is usually pretty consistent).

My point isn’t that I want to be visitationed by Devs, but rather that the reaching in of the Hand of God in the form of mini- (or mega-) events is something you won’t usually see players complaining about. Yes, it would have to be carefully designed. Yes, it would have to be carefully carried out, too, because one bad thing that tends to happen at these is that Joe McGratify-Me starts whining that Ben AverageGamer is getting all the Dev attention, that he’s a filthy teacher’s pet, and that these events are just little clique gatherings for the select few (from which the whiners are excluded or, presumably, they would be less busy whining and more busy trying to prevent anyone else from getting in the clique).

Yes, it’s probably utterly unrealistic in the current day and age of MMOs. What, have staff actually interact with players? Who am I kidding? Most MMO companies seem to want less and less player interaction, unless it’s through the much safer (and still combustible) medium of forums or some such. Lots of us crustier gamers remember the various “scandals” involving volunteer and/or paid in-game staff, as though one juicy (and possibly entirely made up) tidbit could cancel out all the GREAT community work and help those people provided. I guess the feeling these days is that any direct interaction with players is only asking for some kind of lawsuit, or at least a giant 187-page whine-fest thread.

Which is a shame. MMOs were a lot more fun and surprising (hence, you know, fun) when the membrane between players and makers in-game was a little more permeable.

(Thanks to Spinks for inspiring the thoughts that led to this. I may steal, but hey, I credit. 😉 )

Belated Metal

But better late than never. I have come to the Heavy Metal event almost at its end — I’m guessing it’ll be over in the next few days — but what I’ve seen of it has been fun, and has made it fun to be back in WAR.

Note to self: don’t do ORvR while on painkillers. I’m not the sharpest tack in the PvP box at the best of times, but yesterday I let a poor Witch Hunter die like a dog in the road 20′ behind me while I ran on, obliviously ignoring chat. Crow pie followed. Thank you Sir may I have another! (I did — they killed me next, of course, since I was standing there like a KillMe flavour lemon in the middle of the road.)

The Witch Hunter was surprisingly gracious about it, considering.

And Reikland Factory scenario is fun, I think. It’s hard to tell — it takes me a half dozen or so runs through a scenario before I have a clue what’s going on, and RF is kinda laggy for me, so it’s difficult to rubberneck AND figure out what partridge I’m supposed to pluck out of what pie tree in what location AND kill the bad guys AND, you know, if there’s time, take the flags and win the scenario. Not to mention that it hasn’t popped that often for me — I’m playing a T2 character, which helps, but my playtime has been unintentionally off-peak lately, which doesn’t. I have a few tasks left to go, but I did get my spiffy Heavy Metal cloak. I’m wondering, in fact, whether I won’t simply run a few other characters through the non-scenario tasks just to see if I can get their cloaks. Nice looking, especially when normal cloaks are still broken.

And now the neat segue to what still really, REALLY irks me about WAR. I think I can probably encapsulate it thus, in the age-old, many-games-company-uttered line: “Client issues? What client issues? The client has no issues.” Inevitably followed a few months later by “Oh, those client issues. Yeah, we’ll look into them, someday. Maybe.”

One, the memory leak. Oh yeah, there is one. Running WAR + Firefox is funny, for a very short while.

Two,  the fact that when I turn off my cloak and helm on MY client, those changes are not reflected on anyone else’s client. I know that since the spousal unit’s desk is right next to mine, so it’s not hard to check. So even though I go to all the trouble to turn off the fugly elf helm and the fugly white (which shouldn’t be white, but it’s broken) cloak, it only works ON MY OWN CLIENT. What, exactly, is the point of that? Oh, and of course it only works if I don’t zone anywhere, either. Pfft. Two (b), I also really don’t like that it takes forever to log in and out, and forever squared to quit the client. What’s up with that, anyway?

Three, performance, especially in RvR, but apparently that’s going to be looked into.

Four — there was a four, but I don’t remember what it was now, so we’ll Holy Hand Grenade it and pretend we never got this high.

For all its issues though, Warhammer is a fun game. The issues I have with it are irritating over time, and I may need sanity breaks so I don’t start to hate the game when what bothers me is really client stuff for the most part; but I’m also relatively confident those issues will be addressed.

Now, if only they’d move up the career tweaks. It was nice doing a little more damage with my SW on the test server, and coming back to the creaky PVE with Ysharros… naaah. I’m playing my Warrior Priest instead, since there isn’t anything much in PvE they can’t handle.

Heavy Metal looms, patch recedes (slightly)

I’d say “Like my hairline” except I’m not male so that, at least, isn’t currently one of my issues.

I’m mildly anticipating this WAR Heavy Metal event, so I’ll most likely be logging on to see what that’s all about. I was also interested to see this come up on the Mythic Herald feed — I’ll quote the first part, if you want to read the rest just clicky this linky. In short, Mythic remain attentive and responsive to their players, by which I don’t mean they run headlessly to and fro trying to please whoever yells loudest (at least I don’t think so, but I don’t read Warhammer Alliance or Vault Network boards). They do, however, listen… and then they even take action — the former would be amazing in itself to a scarred, bitter old SWG veteran like me*, but former + latter is like mana from heaven. They still can’t get me logged in or out in any timeframe quicker than a short ice-age, but I do believe that might one day happen because I might possibly just start to acknowledge the remote possibility that Mythic might actually care about its game and playerbase. I know, it’s insane, right?

Anyway, here’s the quote:

When we launched our Public Test Server last week our goal was to create a place where we could test and iterate on ideas/initiatives/bugs with our subscribers in a non-LIVE environment.  Our plan was that no patch would make it through the PTS until we were sure that it was tested thoroughly and properly.  Patch 1.0.5 (Combat and Careers) is a perfect example of how this system is supposed to work. Thanks to the data and feedback we’ve gathered over the last week we are going to make some major changes to 1.0.5.  First, the Combat and Careers portion of the patch is being moved to 1.0.6.  We have made enough changes that we have decided to let them stay on PTS a while longer for additional testing.  As I’ve said before, we will not rush these changes on to the LIVE servers until we are sure that they have been thoroughly tested and that the changes are working the way that the designers planned.  It was evident throughout the testing process that some of the changes needed to be reconsidered and some changed outright.  Thus and secondly, we are making the following changes to certain careers:

* Though actually some parts of the NGE aren’t that bad and others are outright improvements. Hey, put away the pitchforks!

Witching Night in WAR

So far I’m a little ambivalent about this event, or what I’ve seen of it today — which was only tier 2, with Amariel (the Archmage).

The good includes how much fun it is to have gigantic moshes in open RvR; at one point there were 30+ on the Order side in the Troll Country Witching Night PQ, and probably 20-25 Destruction. We owned them several times over, despite having to continually ask our own side to move back *inside* the PQ area. Kill someone outside of it, and there’s no PQ kill-credit. The line wasn’t exactly drawn in blood on the ground, but it wasn’t all that hard to work out, either… and yet a handful of people just kept charging past it.

Mask of the Bloodletter

I need to learn to be lean and mean in RvR — if you’re not in the right spot, no heals for YOU! No rezes, either! No more Ms Nice Archmage!

The second part of the PQ, which is a giant Lord-level skelly, was remarkably anticlimactic, though maybe that’s just because nothing is going to resist two dozen wound up players for very long. I think he’s also only around R14 or so, which makes it a pretty quick kill. The really BAD downside of this is that old Warband-credit bug: only the group that does the most damage (?) to that mob actually gets the Tome of Knowledge kill credit. Given that 10 credits are required for… whatever it is you get for killing 50 ghosts, 25 crones and 10 lords, that’s going to be tough for almost everyone to complete. Not so good.

The other major downside, at least of the T2 PQ, is that the influence bar needs something like 48,000 influence to fill up. Yes, 48 thousand. (I know this thanks to my handy dandy Influence Text mod.) We spent most of the afternoon doing that PQ, call it somewhere around 6 hours, and we managed about 8k. The event runs for 5 days, so… assuming you can play 6 hours on each of the 5 days, you will still only end up with 40k of that 48k you need. Again, more disappointed people, and again, not so good.

Time to add to the Good side: the PQ roll pixies were looking the other way tonight, and I won not one but two gold bags from that RvR PQ. I feel a little bad about that given that the only really neat thing in it is the very snazzy Mask of the Bloodletter, which Amariel is modeling for your viewing pleasure. Reminds me of the bad guy (you know, Tim Curry) in Legend, only skinnier. It has no stats, but doesn’t need em — its coolness is enough.

The second item of choice was a purple jewellery bit, R15 I think, with +11Wis/+9Tough/+80Elem resist… Nice, but not The Cool Mask(TM). I actually wish I’d rolled lower so that someone else could have picked up a mask. Shame you can’t pass to the next person down.

And finally, the really REALLY bad part of this patch — loading and logging times. There has supposedly been a hotfix tonight to resolve this, but don’t believe it. Poor Mort spent upwards of 10 minutes in transit every single time we used a flight master, and both times I tried to log out today I just ended up hanging in limbo, never even reaching char select.

A mixed bag so far, pardon the pun. I’ve heard horror stories about scenario load times too, and who wants to spend 10 minutes loading into a 15-minutes (tops!) scenario? Mostly, I wish more people had more of a chance at the fun stuff. I’ll be impressed if a majority of folks fill up that INF bar (unless it’s a per-account thing? now that would be neat), which means that there are likely to be quite a few either disappointed or not very impressed WARriors come Monday morning. We shall see.

EDIT – I’m told the loadtimes hotfix did have a positive effect on the times people were experiencing. Jolly good.