Sunday, October 12, 2008

Good times in Nordenwatch and elsewhere in Warhammer

Cheerydeth Lives!

I haven't quite decided what to do with the Cheerydeth name on my WoW server just yet, but it appears that there will be a Cheerydeth after the Wrath beta servers come down - I couldn't come up with a new name I liked better, so I stuck with it for my Witch Hunter in Warhammer. It's hard to top a motorcycle-riding pink pigtailed gnome Death Knight with a name that combines the word "cheery" with a deliberate misspelling of the word "death" on the irony scale. That said, a member of the inquisition who runs around with a rapier in one hand and a gun in the other isn't bad.

Trying to lure players to an Order-challenged server
As I noted earlier, I'm playing on one of the first servers to be given an exp bonus in an attempt to lure in fresh Order players. This was a nice attempt, but it looks like it may fall short.

There are enough low-level Order players to make an attempt to control the newbie zones, but the increases certainly have yet to trickle up into tier 2 content. There's also the question of what happens when the bonus expires on Thursday. If the bonus was what actually swayed people to roll Order, taking it away just as players are getting out of T1 and into the content where it takes longer to level is not a good plan. However, by pre-announcing that the bonus is for one week only, Mythic painted themselves into a corner. If they extend the bonus, they will create the perception that it hasn't been successful (and, by extension, that the server's Order side is REALLY underpopulated), which may further hurt recruitment. If, on the other hand, the job actually isn't done, not extending the bonus means, well, not getting the job done.

Treating the wrong symptom, instead of the disease
Meanwhile, Syp reports that Mythic is considering releasing a no-scenario ruleset. This is a backwards and potentially damaging mis-reaction to the problem. On most servers, the population heavily favors Destruction. As a symptom of this problem, the few Order players tend to go play instanced scenarios (battlegrounds if you're from the WoW crowd), where they can't be stomped into the ground by superior numbers, and the Destruction side sits in their fortified keeps wondering why no one is attacking them. Given that Destruction is the majority, and that non-instanced RVR was intended to be the game's real endgame, this means that a large number of players are unhappy.

Taking away scenarios won't magically make those out-numbered Order players mindlessly throw themselves at Destruction-controlled keeps solely for the Destruction players' amusement. Instead, they will either re-roll somewhere else in the hopes of gathering together enough Order players to field a competitive battle, or they will quit the game. Worse, the false promise of more RVR on the no-scenario servers would lure players from existing servers, gutting their communities. I hope Mythic does NOT go this route, cause I think they will regret it.

No Chickens in Scenarios

Someone posted a while back that, if you managed to gain a level that made you ineligible for the scenario you were currently in, you would be turned into a chicken for attempted ganking of lowbies. It appears that this is no longer true. I carefully killed nigh-trivial wolves to get my exp just shy of level 12 before entering Nordenwatch, where I promptly gained level 12... and failed to turn into a harmless chicken. I apparently took out my frustration on the hides of twelve destruction players. Boo to Mythic for nerfing chickens in scenarios! :)

Beta testing the exp curves
Cheerydeth has had her progress hindered by exp curve issues before. The difference is, that was during a BETA. Mythic has been making some major changes to Warhammer's exp curve, especially in the higher end content. (At the risk of harping on this point, Mythic did not allow access to during the open beta, but they assured everyone that it had been thoroughly tested, and the community promptly decided that anyone who doubted their word was just a carebear WoW-playing naysayer.)

Obviously, fixing problems is better than not fixing problems, but I'm not sure how many points you give back to a company for fixing problems after they're charging money for the game when the issues should have been obvious during testing. (Lest Warhammer fans think I'm being unduly harsh to Mythic, take a look at my coverage of LOTRO, or, for that matter, WoW - I'm working on a TBC retrospective that would warm your hearts. I named the blog "Player vs Developer" precisely because game design is sometimes an adversarial activity.)

What are you waiting for, go get it back!
The other curve Cheery is having trouble with is the gear reward curve. I'm leveling almost entirely via scenarios, because I'm having a lot of fun in scenarios. The problem is, I haven't gotten any gear upgrades in five levels. You see, the PVP reward gear vendors are located in keeps. The keeps that Destruction owns 24/7 because there are so many more of them. Mythic's loading screen "helpfully" suggests that, if the enemy has a keep, I should go get it back, as if there actually are enough players from my side on the server to accomplish this task.

There is a workaround - guilds that have reached level 6 are allowed into a tavern (provided their faction's capitol city is not currently in the possession of the enemy, which has not happened yet but may happen sooner than Mythic expects) with a gear vendor. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of Order guilds on my server that have reached level 6 on my server, and none of them appear to be wandering the low level content recruiting. (Not that ANYONE other than gold spammers uses the in-game chat for any reason.) So, I'm reduced to solo grinding the first stage of deserted public quests for gear (since there are few, if any, groups working the local public quest scene).

Maybe I'm just on the most deserted Order side in all of Warhammer, but it would have been nice if Mythic had anticipated that this type of situation might arise.

So.... you really hate this game, don't you?
Not at all! I realize that you might get that impression from reading several pages of criticism, but there's a reason why I'm STILL PLAYING this game despite all those points. I'm playing lots and lots of PUG RVR scenarios. This is content that I hate being forced to do in WoW, and I love it in Warhammer, even when I get a terrible group that gets steamrolled. That's a tremendous accomplishment on Mythic's part.

At the end of the day, when I'm disappointed with Mythic, it's because getting this part of the game right was the hard part. Getting the incentives right to balance the rest of the game should have been easier. I'm like a disappointed family member here - I'm disappointed because I like the game, and I really feel like it has a lot more potential than it's living up to at the moment. The tragedy would be for the game to finally get into shape after many players have already left. Life, war, and WAR, aren't fair like that sometimes.

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