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April producer’s letter: Same server, different faction

By now most of us have had a chance to review the April 2010 Producer’s Letter, wherein Carrie dropped a bomb on us:

By 1.3.6 players will have the capability to play as both Order and Destruction on the same server.  We did this in Camelot, because we wanted to give players more choices about where they wanted to play and who they wanted to play with. We’re aware of the possible downsides (such as cross-realming) and we’re aware that people have a lot of realm pride, which we believe is very important, so we’re going to be introducing a significant lockout timer to switch between realms.

I have mixed feelings on this. I will not lie: there have been many a time when I’ve been tempted to roll Destro on Gorfang simply because Order has been outnumbered and all I want is a good fight where I am vastly outnumbered (most people want to be on the other side). Carrie admits that there’s a potential for cross realming, which is very real. I also think that some players will exploit whatever they can to gain a better advantage. A good example of this is the recent free-to-play trial. I know of a guild on Gorfang that rolled all new T1 toons and then proceeded to summon them (with summon stones before the ability to do so was removed) to several different zones to get tactics, gear, etc.

For me the main question is “What is the definition of significant (referring to the lockout timer)? This question may have already been answered somewhere, but I do have a life and work and a husband to spend time with. If someone knows the answer please post.

Shadow-WAR has a timer I could get behind: Six days.

The biggest trick of this entire deal is going to be the lockout timer.

If it’s too short, it won’t matter, people can hop from side to side at a whim, with no impact on their play. If Destro suddenly decides to come out and play today, they can hop over and zerg-surf to 80 and full sovereign in empty city instances, and do the same tomorrow if Order does it. If it’s too long, people won’t make use of it. So, the crux of the entire problem lies in timing.

The answer to the problem: 144 hours. That’s six days.

The reason? The final lockout for sovereign gear is 68 hours, just shy of 3 days. This lockout timer is short enough, that you can do it multiple times per billing cycle (5 times), and long enough, that you’ll think about it seriously before using it. It also ensures that you’ll most likely see at least two city siege attempts where you can gain loot.

Over at Backseatdev, Tyanon writes that people who want to cross realm are already doing it, and “paying for two accounts to do it.”

His other good points:

  • Obviously one of the biggest problems with the city siege being participation-based is you need to rely on realm pride to be greater then the desire to just roll over and let the enemy take your lands if you are locked out on offensive city timer and can get loot for defensive city timer.
  • It is going to hurt some guilds that have members jump to the other side with their main account, then be locked out of their current guild. (My comment: This leads to a degradation of community which is a bad thing for player retention. Players stay in a game longer than they normally would because of their guild.)

Healeroftru on Gorfang thinks this is going to be a huge detriment to the server and the game in general:

Mythic wants the player opinion?

Me: Good idea, maybe.
Gaentin: Stupid
Dominateme: Looks like 1.3.6 is the end for me.
Uthrax: Junk
Yel: Life will go on
Laudine: Proof the game is failing
Ravashack: …one more step towards the slippery slope of death.

Does the player base have a say in whether this happens or not? Hard to say. Most things that Mythic announces tends to come to fruition simply because they want to be trusted and don’t announce things that are iffy anyway. My opinion? I am not sure, but leaning toward no. I have no desire to play two realms. (My Destro character has only been logged in on Badlands to create a guild and maintain leadership.) I only want a good, fair fight. I am not sure that will happen if we have people switching factions all the time.

Posted by on May 4th, 2010 Comments Off

Sunday scens and /wave report

FOTF ran some pretty hot scens on Sunday. For a few of them the Destro even left or waited at the spawn. Other times while Destro technically won, we won in the kill count or RPs (I consider that a win).

fotf2

Destro healers seemed few and far between. I felt bad for them, especially when a marauder healed for more than three of their healers:

maraheals

Click to healinate.

Big props to Apollonas for trying! If I recall correctly his DPS was tops out of Destro as well. When you heal more than Norronis and Nij, even as a healer, it’s usually a good sign of a talented player. This shows, to me, that a few people weren’t trying their best and were probably just there to farm/AFK insignias. (Yet another example of bad player behavior in pursuit of the carrot.)

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Posted by on May 3rd, 2010 3 Comments

A good RVR night

Here is a pic from a Tuesday night battle. Order was out capping BOs like usual when all of a sudden, a few warbands of Destruction showed up!

zergincSMALL

Click to zergify.

Order was so happy to see so many Destro that we ran at them again and again and died over and over. Good fights all around. I was glad to see them out and about. I didn’t recognize any names but that doesn’t matter.

Posted by on April 30th, 2010 3 Comments

Following the carrot leads to deplorable player behavior

If you need any evidence of my recent post, “How our reward centered culture is killing the game,” please read the following screenshots of actual player dialogue within the last two days. I have blocked out player names because I am not really into naming and shaming them because it’s not the players’ faults that they are chasing the carrot:

renownwhores1

renownwhores2

Yes, players are advocating the renown-gain strategy of letting the Destruction take BOs so Order can cap it all back later.

None of this surprised me until this discussion just now in Caledor:

renownwhores3

Really? Really?
/sigh

I suppose nobody should be surprised. Groups of Order have always done RVE to get renown. I’m saddened that they want to work together with Destruction to maximize renown gain.

Posted by on April 28th, 2010 4 Comments

Photobomb, Temple style

FOTF was running some scens this weekend and I felt like taking a pic of our BW faceroll zerg.

Prebomb

But in the middle of our photo shoot, a Destro jumped in the middle of scorched earth spam and promptly died. I didn’t catch the name.

Click to embiggen.

photobomb

“I know what you’re thinking. “Did they have three Bright Wizards or only two?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a facerolling class, the most powerful in the game, and would burn you to a crisp, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

Posted by on April 27th, 2010 Comments Off

How our reward-centered culture is killing the game

Games have long used the carrot and the stick to motivate players to do what designers intend. Players have also tried to use bugs and game mechanics to their advantage to game the system.

In Warhammer, WAR is everywhere, right? Yet every day I log in, I see barely a single crossed sword on the map. ORVR seems incredibly rare. Genuine pushes on zones by Destruction tends to only happen in the very early morning or in midday when most people are at work.

When Warhammer first came out, the only reason to flip a zone was to get to the fortress. There was no flip renown, not for keeps, BOs or for zones. The only way to get renown was to fight people — run scenarios, go into ORVR and slaughter until the ground ran slick with blood. The only reason to take a keep was to get annihilator gear. When a zone flipped it was because we wanted it to happen.

Then the game designers decided to add renown for taking objectives and keeps, and then for taking zones. This meant that people who might work hard for a zone flip could be anywhere in the zone and get renown for just standing around:

mailbox

Mailbox is safe!

In theory you don’t ever have to step into the RVR lake to make it to RR 80. You can just hop from warcamp to warcamp and enjoy the flip renown while reading a book, writing a blog post or doing chores around the house. Just keep an eye on State of the Realm and it can tell you when zones are ready to flip.

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Posted by on April 25th, 2010 5 Comments

Top five problems WAR needs to solve

Warhammer is a decent game or I wouldn’t be playing it. But if a viable alternative were out there I’d probably jump ship. It actually pains me to write that. It was a hard decision to leave Warhammer for Aion last year (Aion’s mindless grind made it so easy to return). And if you want to avoid elitist jerks in Warcraft this is the game for you.

I wanted to include a top five list of things to improve because I do want Warhammer to continue to be an enjoyable game.

1. Population balance

praagzerg

To see corresponding Order zerg pics, click here.

The bane of every PVP MMO seems to be population balance and Warhammer is no different. It seems every other month is feast or famine in this game. We switched factions a couple of times to Destruction to allow our server to recover from the effects of too many Order.

Population problems have been around for a long time. DAOC had problems but DAOC also had three factions. If one faction was doing badly the other two usually showed them some mercy (after taking their relics of course). If another faction was doing really well, the two underdogs ganged up on them.

I think the easiest solution to this one is to add a third faction. I bet devs are really tired of hearing this. But I really think it could a) revitalize the game and create more excitement b) help the underdogs gang up on the overdog (for lack of a better word) and c) (most importantly) bring in new players.

The problem with this is how do you redo the rest of the zones? That’s a hard one. It would probably have to be some sort of underground race so they wouldn’t have to redo the surface zones. It would be a lot of new content to create if they wanted to make it as rich as the other campaigns. I also don’t think it would realistically happen.

2. Game performance

Warhammer is not the most stable game out there. Every night at least one guildie crashes — and it’s not because their computer or their ISP sucks. I can run Guild Wars all day long and never crash. Warhammer, on the other hand, is a different story. I recently built a new machine that has more than respectable components. It should run Warhammer with ease. Yet I have the same problems that most of my friends are having. I get about 10-15 frames per second at any one time. I can have settings at “fastest framerate” or “oooh shiny” and it doesn’t make a difference and I have no idea why.

Game performance is a huge issue, especially with the upcoming city sieges. If you crash to desktop in the new city siege, you automatically get lockouts for the city encounter.

3. Rewards for RVR should be a choice and not a problem

If you are unfamiliar with the principle of game design regarding choices and problems, please watch this fun video. But if you don’t have seven minutes, here’s the gist using the example of the recent scenario changes where you earn an insignia upon completion of the scenario.

You can get insignias from winning a city PQ or by taking a keep, but by far the easiest way to get insignias is by doing scenarios. It is not a choice for players to do scenarios. If you want your weapon before 2012, you need to do scenarios. I think this is a perfect example of problem vs choice.

Is the goal of the game designers to remove players from the ORVR lakes? It sure seems like it.

4-5. If we MUST PVE to get better gear, make it less frustrating

This will count as two items because it deals with PVE.

- Buggy PVE encounters

I can’t think of anything more frustrating in a PVP game other than being forced to PVE. Oh wait, I can. Being forced to PVE in a game that has buggy PVE encounters (see earlier post: A TOVL Rant: Why don’t they fix this?).

It seems the best way Mythic has addressed this problem in the past is by removing the content altogether. We all remember fortress encounters, which were so buggy that it was nigh impossible to win (or or allowed you to win, see post of Destro’s first Altdorf siege here, which was assisted by a bugged Reikwald fort lord that warped to the bottom where they easily killed him).

Do they read bug reports? I submit one every time. Do they have time to fix them? I would guess not.

- Remove luck from the equation

I cannot remember where I read this but I think I heard that the devs are going to include a system where if you have the ward for a piece of equipment then you can actually buy the piece (someone in the know please correct me if I am wrong). That would be awesome, especially if they did it for every encounter.

Anyone who has been to the Tomb of the Vulture Lord knows that the loot drops are amazing and the drop rate is abysmal. We have gone through entire clears without seeing a single piece of Tyrant gear drop. Other guilds who have been doing this much longer than Fight on the Flag can tell you they’ve never seen a breastplate drop, or have seen multiple back pieces drop for classes not in attendance. This is sooo frustrating for players! Spending five hours in a dungeon to get nothing for anyone in the group is not fun. Yet the gear is so good we can’t not try.

So there’s my list. Please let me know what you think and if you would add or remove anything.

Posted by on April 20th, 2010 3 Comments

Guilds vs single players, who do you please?

Let’s face it, players will stick with a game much longer if they feel like they are part of a community than if they are playing by themselves. Great guilds make a huge difference.

But you can’t go full bore and please the only guilds because then casual players would get left out of the mix. Guilds make people want to log in and play when there are other things they can be doing.

I know this from personal experience and from what other people tell me about Fight on the Flag. When Warhammer first came out we formed a single-group guild and did scenarios all the time. But as we got to know more people, our ranks grew to the point where we could field two groups.

ORVR was awesome with everyone in Ventrilo and assisting our MA. We would only do scenarios when RVR was slow. At the very least, don’t hurt guilds on purpose, and that’s almost what the recent changes feel like.

Earning insignias via RVR was a great idea, but the only viable way to earn them was via scenarios. That simple change to the game has changed the way players view ORVR and I think that’s bad news for guilds, especially those like mine.

Most of the players in FOTF when I asked them this week have said scenarios are actually less fun.

Why?

  1. Collecting scenario currency has made scenarios more of a grind and less fun.
  2. The fact that it does not matter if you win or lose the scenario encourages AFK players, which in turn demoralizes the rest of us who care.
  3. Queueing solo means you can get more crests per hour than if you queue as a group. There is a disincentive for grouping with a friend or friends.
  4. Because of the grind, people do not want to ORVR anymore, and those who love ORVR are sad pandas :( We love ORVR if you couldn’t tell.

I think the situation can be fixed, if they would only make the insignias obtained from scenarios drop in ORVR as well (possibly at a 1:5 ratio to crests).

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Posted by on April 18th, 2010 1 Comment

Mythic: Penalty for instance hoppers in new city

Ever have an awesome fight against a challenging enemy — and then they leave?

Ugh! I hate that! Fortunately any fight dodgers will get punished in the upcoming city changes by receiving a full complement of lockout timers for stages 1-3.

Unfortunately, CTDers are caught in the crossfire:

http://anshumanpandey.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/computer_crash_again.jpg

From Gaarawarr’s recent post regarding the new city instance:

GG - So one of our fellow WAR players would like to know if there’s going to be some way around strong groups.  Like leaving and rejoining as in scenarios.

Mike - This is the one where my gut reaction was to just penalize the crap out of people for doing that…

GG - ~whispers~ Go with your gut!

Mike - …but then it screws the people who went link-dead and came back or crashed, whatever the case may be.

GG - No one crashes in WAR…

Mykiel - Get better Internet…

Mike - Yeah…call your net provider, flush your DNS cache…

~all laughing~

In a Twitter conversation, Gaarawarr assured me it was a lighthearted conversation so don’t read too much into the text.

Currently as the city stands, if you CTD (crash to desktop) you are booted outside and have to requeue. I understand why they want to do this. (I would be a fan except I would be more likely to leave an instance to FIND a fight not to leave one.)

I really, really hope they can give the CTD player a break, maybe a 5-minute grace period, before they are permanently booted from the city and given lockout timers.

Posted by on April 15th, 2010 1 Comment

More reports from the WARfront: Mythic HQ

I’ve been reading up on the latest posts from last week’s “blogger invasion” of Mythic HQ in Virginia. There was a time when the four selected bloggers were able to ask questions (along with Twitter helpers) of the Devs on various issues.

Here is a list of recent posts:

Mine these posts for information (but they were also told that the information could change at any time). My guess is if it’s out in the public then it’s close to ready for player consumption.

EDIT: I will add more posts as I find them.

Posted by on April 14th, 2010 Comments Off