PVE: The means to an end in WAR, but that could be fixed.

LotD Mockup Map
LotD Mockup Map

I’ve been working hard at leveling my Ironbreaker on Phoenix Throne lately.  He’s almost level 35 now and most of my time online has been allocated to the PvE quest grind and the occasional PQ group.  While I was questing in Praag this afternoon it donned on me, as it has before, that this PvE is truly a means to an end.  I stop and think about what I am doing, here and now, and I think “Why?”.   I immediately think, “Because I want to hit rank 40 and RvR/city dungeon/Lost Vale/etc”.  Aside from the occasional item that I want from chapter influence, my only goal while doing these PvE quests is to level and move to the next one as quickly as possible so that I can do what I would rather be doing; experiencing the type of gameplay that I would rather be experiencing; seeing a side of the game I can not see until it’s done.  That is, at the core, the definition of a means to an end.

In World of Warcraft this feeling is present, I won’t deny that, but it’s different.  In WoW (especially WotLK questing/leveling) there was a story and a diverse form of gameplay and content to experience while leveling up.  When I am questing in WoW and I ask myself the “Why?” question, the answer is always because “this is what you do in WoW” and even though many quest to be able to do dungeons and raids at 80, that type of content is actually available throughout the leveling process.  So while it may be a means to an end in WoW, there is no clear distinction like there is in WAR’s means to an end where the content changes drastically.  “The game begins at level 40” in WAR, vs. “The game ends at level 80” in WoW.

The way that leveling is done in WAR, there is only one dungeon that you can really hit ‘on the way’ to level 40 – okay, 2 if you count the sewers at level 17 but really… it’s not even worth taking the time spent to zone into the place.  So with one dungeon, there’s really only one mindset that the player is tossed into in order to level and the gameplay does not veer far off course at all from 1-39 in PvE leveling.

This can all be fixed.  Land of the Dead or the deserts of Nehekhara (whatever they’ll be called) can completely revitalize the PvE experience in Warhammer Online if it’s designed correctly.  Right now, the only form of PvE leveling content that the game has rests solely in going chapter to chapter down a straight line completing quests.   You can stop along the way and grind some PQ’s that run like little events but I’m beginning to have a really big falling out with this mechanic and wouldn’t shed a single tear if it were to disappear from the game completely.  LotD has the potential of bringing back DAOC’s “camp” system where mobs congregate together in areas where groups can park themselves nearby or establish a roaming path, to pull these mobs and kill them for the sake of killing them.  This is what we did in Darkness Falls in DAOC – we entered and killed mobs because they gave us great experience – but also because they could drop seals(tokens) that could be turned in for gear.  The dungeon was laid out where near the entrance players could find lower level mobs and as they went in deeper the mobs gradually raised in level until the level cap and then increased in difficulty until they were group mobs and eventually raid mobs.

This type of content, a zone where players can form groups and wander deep into the deserts where they will find groups of mobs and encounters to really challenge them regardless of their level, is exactly what WAR needs.  If this type of content were in the game right now then I could log into my level 34 Ironbreaker and say “okay, do I want to quest and do PQ’s today or do I want to form/join a group for some good oldstyle camp killing?”.  I would have the option to work on my gear through PQ’s, or Questing, or RvR, or I could get them with tokens from LotD.  Just the idea of that gets me excited!

Dissolving the means to an end in WAR’s PvE would come naturally as players as low as level 10 (ideally) could enter LotD and begin to experience content that they’ll be able to continually unravel and explore as they get higher level.  I’m envisioning several dungeons spread out throughout the desert – one for level 12-20, one for 21-25, 25-30, 31-35, 35-39, and then raid content for level 40 (like Legion and the prince, etc. from Darkness Falls).  Spread throughout the desert there could be PQ’s offering various influence rewards but the one thing that must be left out of this zone are the chapter hubs with quests because they will destroy the concept completely and turn it into just another run-of-the-mill WAR zone that drops tokens – DO NOT DO THAT MYTHIC!  Make this content unique.

When players reach level 40, which they could have done solely in LotD, then they will be able to continue hunting in this zone because the reason for PvE’ing won’t have ended because they reached the level cap.  They’ll be able to continue collecting tokens for their own personal use (for armor) or they’ll be able to sell them (grey mobs won’t drop tokens so no farming lowbie ones).  This content won’t be a means to an end because it WON’T END!

On top of the already amazing prospects of LotD’s PvE potential, for those worrying about “too much PvE in WAR”, if you never played DAOC to see the RvR that went on in Darkness Falls then you truly must wait to experience in WAR.  RvR in Darkness Falls was the only reason -some- people liked the place.  It had amazing fights and various ways that one could enjoy RvR.  When the zone changes hands and there are hundreds of players inside doing their thing, you can only imagine the chaos that ensues when your door closes and the enemy’s opens allowing them to come in.  You’ll be forced to either hide or defend the zone from the inside for however long you can hold out.  You’ll be able to form groups and seek out the other realm as they are perhaps grouped for a boss or grinding tokens.   It can be a total blast.

So.  That’s my ideal vision of how Land of the Dead will turn out if and only if it’s done right.  PvE content that isn’t a means to an end would revive the game for a lot of people that I know (aside from myself, obviously).  People could make alts without worrying about “experiencing the exact same thing all over again” like many dread when they consider having to do all the quests over again that they struggled through once already.  The avenues of dynamic exploration and group content are wide open when it comes to PvE content like this.  Cross your fingers and hope it’s done right.

Note: I’ve included a map to the right that I quickly threw together to show how the zone progression could go.  It’s not to scale and one dot isn’t one mob, but you’ll see that players starting from level 10 can work through way up to level 40.  There would be solo, small group, group, and raid content available.   There would be dungeons, lairs, and areas of the map that players, groups, and raids could explore and work through.

Note #2:  In a way, I want this zone to be a ‘sandbox’ (no pun intended) style.

  • I just cant see something like this working if the zone is standard WAR zone size. The hundreds (thousands?) of 30-40’s on the server that have been clamouring for more content have been squished into the top half of the map.
    All the geared 40’s have been compressed into a tiny part of the zone and will have farmed everything on offer in no time at all. Not to mention this forces zerg RVR as theres really nowhere to ‘spread out’

  • I always felt like leveling in WoW was a means to an end. At least, post first character I did. Questing everything was just so temporary that to me it didn’t feel worth the effort – I could run SM, and maybe get a nice blue or two – but I’d replace them with in a day or three, so why really bother? Same with crafting anything or pvping.

    I would say that in WoW the game actually began at 60(or 70 or 80) because that’s the point where your gear, and your spec, and your skill (to what extent skill mattered in WoW) mattered.

    The fact that there were so many people that made it to 70 in “of the boar” gear with random talents is pretty good proof that the “leveling” portion of the game was made dead easy to give extremely casual players something to do.

  • @Glen: It would have to be bigger than the normal WAR sized zone. As for it being big enough to accommodate the players, first of all everyone won’t be there at once. Just one realm has main control of it and can populate it and when the other realm gets control they kill the other side. Not everyone in that realm will be there either. There are other things to do in the game.

    And honestly, I wouldn’t mind a little overcrowding in a “massively multiplayer” game. I play on the two most populated WAR servers in the entire world and I have been questing for hours today – know how many people I’ve seen? ONE! It makes me feel like I’m grinding quests in a single-player game.

    The size isn’t an issue – this place will be bigger than DF and DF worked.

  • your right keen, the size isn’t the issues but the graphics lagg some people experience is. Im lucky enough to have a high end comp but from all accounts the game can become unplayable when more than a WB or 2 get together if you don’t. Im not saying it cant or wont work, just that the graphics problems have to be fixed before they bring LoTD out latter this year in order for it to really change the game.

  • Pve as a reason to be there and awesome RVR that happens because of it is the only way I see this working in the long run. Making it worth the while for all levels to participate in the area dungeons is a great idea though I think.

  • I don’t quite agree with your analysis of the game “ending” at level 80 in WoW….personally I’ve always felt that, despite the wonderful leveling experience, the real meat of the game happened at max level. I believe you’ve refered to that as the “meta game” though.

    At any rate, the news I’ve been reading about the upcoming changes for WAR are very exciting. If Land of the Dead is successful it will represent a test bed for integral features in upcoming MMO’s. Mythic is a company that can pull it off if anyone can. They’ve really been driving the innovation in MMO’s for the last 2 years.

  • I like this idea a lot even though I have no idea how it actually works. The map helped a lot to coneceptualize the idea, I’ve seen you talk about it before but now I think I get it more. To the poster above the zone could be made bigger to compensate if need be, or the whole zone more accessable to both sides (ie no destruction or order specific side, though they both enter in different possible spots).

  • @Fox: Well, right now the game does suffer performance issues. However, if Mythic lets those ruin potential content then we might as well all quit the game right now. I know that my account will be canceled the moment Mythic says “this is the best we can do about the performance issues”. Bottom line, they need to be fixed. However, I’ve seen hundreds of players together and not lagged much at all. It’s usually during keep sieges and defenses that it lags. In open-rvr I’ve done 50v50+ and had no issues. In a zone like LotD we’ll see the short big battles as one sides pushes against the other, but it won’t be anything like a fortress siege. That gives me hope.

    @Pignasty: To each his own on the subject of WoW. If you’re interested in reading more about why I say the ‘game ends’ at level 80 then you can read my thoughts here.

  • I’d agree with most of what you’re saying here Keen, except I don’t really see WoW’s questing experience as any better than WAR’s from an enjoyment point of view. It’s still just kill X number of X, collect X number of X. And IMHO the storyline in WAR is far superior to WoW’s gnome loving malarky. Back in vanilla WoW I stopped paying attention to the quest storylines very early on, for me they were just a means to an end game.. I’m full time in WAR now, but I tried out WotLK to see if it would grab me (4years of WoW can be hard to just drop..), but I found leveling so meh I gave up before hitting 71. Same old same old. At least with WAR there’s decent PvP as a distraction.

    What WoW does do though is give you a completely smooth journey to the top levels by questing alone. Never needing to grind mobs for the sake of grinding. Whilst I couldn’t give 2 turds for their storyline, at least every mob you kill has a purpose and a big fat XP reward. I leveled up four 70s in WoW (sad git I know) and never took exactly the same route through the zones.

    Where as if you don’t want to grind mobs once the quests dry up, then WAR forces you into scenarios, if there’s no oRvR anyway, which can get old fast. Tier 1 and 2 it’s no problem, you can do quests from one racial pairing and there’s lots of PvP. But then you hit Tier 3 and ugh…

    Certainly more dungeons would be good in the lower tiers and yet more encouragement to oRvR.

    Not sure if I may have rambled to a different point there, but it’s late and I got brain ache 😛

  • I do like the way you laid out the case and explain the DF mechanic. And I must admit, it sounds like an attractive option. Especially being able to go as deep as you want to experience as much challenge as you like.

    I’m not completely clear on the “capture” mechanic. Where does the RvR take place? in the dungeon itself? Outside? if the dungeon is currently held by one realm, how is the other one closed off? Also, once the zone flips and the opposing realm floods in, is there no escape for the other faction currently inside?

  • “okay, 2 if you count the sewers at level 17 but really… it’s not even worth taking the time spent to zone into the place”

    This sums up WAR for me. Mythic designed a bunch of sub-par content that is supposed to get you from 1 to 40…and they hoped people would zoom through it, ignoring the sub-paredness, to get to the “good stuff”. The trouble is, the “good stuff” is just as dodgy as the rest of the content. Witness: Open RvR, and the entire City Seige lead up mechanic. Also the one fairly good idea they had (PQs) was butchered by overuse and bad design.

  • Great idea Keen! Hopefully they’ll pay attention.
    Some of my fondest memories of DAOC were fighting on the frontiers. Starting out doing some PvE then getting attacked by the enemy and ending up in a good sized RvR brawl.
    I also wouldn’t mind them adding some more good PvE content along with the RvR stuff they have planned.
    I was always under the impression, from what I remember reading, that the game was going to be equally balanced between RvR and PvE as far as the loot quality and how you obtained it was concerned. Maybe just my wishful thinking. 🙂

  • WAR’s PvE needs a lot more fixing than just one new area, or even if they added a host of dungeons. It’s too flawed at the core.

    The PvE in the game is IMHO playable, especially if you roam in the large groups that Mythic seems to expect you to for all activities in the game. And even then only if you’re happy zerging over the mobs without paying attention that they’ve got circa 2000 mobs in a 2008 game.

    But playable does not equal good. Comparatively speaking it’s not even close to WoW’s PvE, EQ2’s PvE, LOTRO’s PvE– or even AoC’s PvE. Not in storytelling. Not in mob behaviour. Not in exploration of maps (or even overall map quality). Not in any sort of PvE balancing.

    We were supposed to forgive all that because it’s a PvP focused game.

    Mythic would have to completely overhaul much of their game to bring the PvE up to par.

    I pretty much quit because after trying really hard to like it, the game was one big zerg outside of Scenarios. I cannot see Mythic fixing PvE anywhere close to my expectations unless they change their base gameplay.

    I think, on this one Keen, you just want it so bad you’re propping it up too much.

  • For me PvE in WAR is sadly just a way to get to rank 40 and join the ‘real’ fun. I wrote ‘sadly’ because I really like Old World’s lore & had many great moments playing WFRPG many years ago. Now I just dash through quests – I stopped reading ‘fluff texts’ in quest descriptions around T2…
    Waiting for Slayer (Dawi fan here!) and will surely try to get him to Annihillator full set as quickly as possible. I don’t really think there should be some way to level your character faster, but I find rank grinding the only thing that bores me in WAR.

  • i try to read this blog, but keep coming across things like “the game begins at 40 with WAR, with WOW it ends at 80”. to each his own, but after warhammer launched and I played it for a month or so, my subscription there ended, while my wow subscription keeps going…

  • I imagined you and players like you will be the reason ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic’ will ultimately fail. They will put story and consequence in the game but to no avail. The players will see the shining end game and that coupled the standard World of Warcraft mentality just skip the content while levelling to get too content which is not quite finished and won’t be till a year after the games release. Then complain in blogs like this. How the game did not meet expectations while ignoring whole chunks of it.

  • @pressie: Seriously, you’re trying to say WAR has more story and consequence than WoW?

    Really. Honestly? That’s seriously messed up. I have my beefs with both games, but saying anyone that has a preference for WoW over WAR automatically has a ‘mentality’. That’s just ignorant.

  • @Rog: Nope… I don’t really care about WoW’s PVE.

    I am saying he chose to level through PvE not reading lore, and taking the path of least resistance just to see an end game which he will grumble about. I imagine Wows equivalent is just grinding mobs of equivalent level. In my mind War is not two games… levelling and end-game. You can do RvR, PQ’s from tier 1, why skip what the game is about, just to do it at level 40… when he could have been doing it from level 1.

  • My impression is that the Nehekhara will be a zone, which when locked, will open up the entrance to the Land of the Dead in your warcamp. Based on what Mythic has said (not much) that seems like the most likely course.

    @Keen: With your idea, is the whole zone a RvR lake? Is it made up of many tiered RvR lakes?

  • I’m somewhat confused about your intention for RvR in this zone as well. As Werit asked, is the entire area to be PvP enabled?

    Also, what kind of gear were you thinking to recieve from the token farming of mobs? Gear that’s more bent toward RvR or PvE?

    Additionaly, I don’t know how much I like the idea of spawn camping. I’ve done it before, I didn’t like it then, I don’t like it now. The reason you see games moving away from that concept is exactly because of people like me. The majority of people don’t like sitting in one spot, killing the same group of creatures over ad nauseum. It’s a step backwards in terms of design. However, if you could come up with an idea for people to roam around killing all the mobs and keep the experience diverse enough to maintain interest, that would be worthwhile at looking into.

    Lastly, I was with a lot of people on the disliking of the PvE of the game, all the way through my first 40 levels on a character, and then 28 on another. Now, at level 38 on my last one, I have found myself actually reading the epic quests that I’m doing. They’re amazing. The person above who states that the story in WAR is subpar, didn’t actually go through and read them, or pay attention to the reason behind. Much of this is to blame on “The Red Blotches”, but really, the add-on quest helper for WoW did the same damn thing in all regards.


  • @pressie: That’s an awful lot to assume of a person from stating they prefer X game’s endgame over Y game’s endgame.

    Getting specific about the comparisons: Blizzard may have emphasized endgame these days, but WoW still has a lot of fantastic leveling content for both solo and groups. I know players who only spend their time in WoW leveling alt after alt just for the enjoyment of leveling. There’s a brickload ton of content in that game.

    WAR on the other hand, in my summation, doesn’t have that same quality of leveling experience, but it makes up for it in part by leveling via PvP.

    After T2, I was bored to tears with WAR’s PvE content. Lore? Mythic should have put the lore more in the action and less in the ToK, where they pretty much copied and pasted from the Warhammer manuals (which I’d rather read than the ToK thankyouverymuchly).

    The whole RvR on the way up being a glorious concept? To me, that was a great concept, but the implementation is still being redesigned to actually make it work. The PvP side of it is good, especially in the Scenarios, but the open world RvR, while improving, still isn’t satisfying to me. There’s too much zerg and all of the PvE-connected parts (IE: Keep Lords) are just simple mobs with a bunch of hp to take down.

    If WAR is two games, leveling and endgame, then both in my summation are incomplete.

    As for SW:TOR, it will succeed or fail on its own merits, just as WAR does or WoW does. That’s just common sense.

    … But blaming some poster for pre-failing a game in development based on your assumption of some sort of automated mentality for their game choice– well that’s pretty far stretched.

  • Let me try to address the questions that I’ve seen. So far it looks like a lot of people don’t understand what Darkness Falls was in DAOC.

    Land of the Dead is NOT a RvR zone. It’s a PvE dungeon/region. A direct quote from Jeff Hickman when talking about Darkness Falls: “The funny thing is, there wasn’t usually that much RvR going on in the dungeon. It just always felt like it was. ” [Read the article here, 4th question.]

    RvR to take control of the zone went on OUTSIDE of the zone in DAOC. Players took keeps and whoever owned the most took control of the zone to go in and play. It was their reward. It was worth earning. Inside the dungeon there were players to fight who were left over from when their side owned it – they could be hiding to gank you or still PvEing while they can.

    Now I’ll try and answer you each individually.

    @Hiryu: I explained the capture mechanic above and how the RvR takes place. The dungeon closes off by the portal/door/whatever not allowing the other realm to zone in. There are ways to escape, but it would be extremely unlikely for anyone but a stealther to get past the enemy realm as they blockade your exit.

    @Rog #13: True, all of their PvE can’t be fixed with one zone. However, the idea behind their PvE being -completely- a means to an end could end if they implement LotD how I want it to be implemented. I agree with the rest of what you’ve said in comment #13 – PvE in WAR just sucks.

    @ixobelle #15: You’ve missed the point of “the game”. I’m not saying you run out of things to do or that you stop playing at that point. I’m talking about the “total package feeling”. WoW up to 80 is game – at 80 it’s a meta-game. WAR up to 40 is lackluster PvE quest grinding and scenarios with what ORvR you can participate in while undergeared and under-leveled just to reach 40 where the real dungeons begin and you can start gearing up to actually participate in the realm war. The WAR producers themselves went on record before the game launched to say the game doesn’t truly begin until 40.

    @Pressie: I have absolutely no response to your comments. Obviously you’re new around here if you think that’s how I play games. Please read the backlog of blog entries I’ve made to see that story, immersion, lore, group dynamics, and ultimately content throughout the entire game – not just the end-game – are what matter to me. In fact, do a search for “end-game” here on my blog. Thanks!

    @Werit: That’s how I took it too. In the Desert of Nehekhara players will compete to gain control of LotD. Once they have control, they can enter and the other realm can’t until they take control to block you out. Once inside LotD, players are free to engage the other realm at any time. This is how it -must- be and how it was in DAOC with Darkness Falls. I do feel that making people compete for just one zone (Nehekhara) is a big mistake since, in DAOC, it was the entire realm war that mattered.

    @ShadowWar: The gear would be comparable to everything else in its level/tier/difficulty to obtain. I would imagine that the basic 40 set would be comparable to Sentinel. I don’t see taking a step backwards as a bad thing when taking a step forward leads to nothing but quest grinding and AoE farming. If taking a step back means we can take a step forward in a new and better direction then I’m all for it.

    @Rog #22: Again, I agree with you completely.

  • I’m not sure if the servers can handle this. No city has still been taken primarly because of latency.

    The more I play WoW/WAR lately the more I miss EQ. For all of it’s downfalls it had one thing that current MMO’s have abandoned. You leveled by grouping in dungeons. I miss it.

    Blizzard and Mythic took the MM out of the MMO.

  • If we are looking at just WAR, I don’t think it really ‘starts’ at 40. The end-game city campaign obviously does, but everything else is there pre-40.

    You have the 20s city dungeons, Gunbad, and BS pre 40.
    You have T1-T3 oRvR pre 40 (which some argue is currently the better oRvR)
    You have the same gear/no gear disparity between players, only instead of who has DP gear it’s who has the most blues or near-rank items.
    Access to similar scenarios, which play out differently only because of skills available (which again some argue is more balanced than rank 40)

    Now, if you MUST grind a character because you feel the only part of the game you want to play is the city campaign, then sure, quest after quest gets boring. But to say that pre-40 WAR is just one focused grind to 40 is a bit off I think.

  • I like the vision Keen. The one thing missing though is what REALLY drove the need to own DF in DAoC – economic advantage. DF token gear was the worst in the game. The armor and weaps were of the lowest quality and therefore least dps/armor factor. It was great for salvaging down to base mats though, so even if you weren’t a crafted you sold tokens to crafters. Everyone wins in that case. How do you make that work in WAR though?

  • Re: gear… from the link I posted above:

    “The Tomb of the Vulture Lord is a super intense, super high level dungeon that caters to people that are looking for something even more difficult than the Lost Vale (their most dangerous PvE adventure). This is a little bit higher level with a little bit higher level rewards. ”

    Re: other levels…

    “There was a sort of “upper” area, which you have in the Land of the Dead as the necropolis. It’s a bit lower level – you can get in at low level 32 and stay there till around your mid-30s – and there’s lots of interesting things going on.”

  • @Coppertopper: There was a time, pre-toa, when DF gear was pretty darn good. Sure, you could get better, but it was the staple for most people. If you read a couple blog entries before this one you’ll see that I believe strongly in LotD being an economic factor.

    @Werit: yep, so it sounds like they’re planning on Bastion Stair quality gear up to post-Lost Vale. That’s a good thing since it will keep players working towards something and the content will last a while.

    They’ll be making a big mistake if they limit it to just T4+ though. I strongly feel that it would be a mistake of epic proportions to change the concept to being “end-game” content only, when Darkness Falls catered to almost everyone.

  • Epic proportions? dun dun duuuun! 😉 Things change. It may fail. It may be better than DF. It is all in the implementation.

    The Delving in LoTRO (based off of DF) seems like it is the model they are going for. 1 zone, both sides fight for control and then get to enter the dungeon. I must say, it was pretty fun when I played LoTRO. It was a very small part of the game, but many players ditched the PvE game in lived there.

  • @Werit: Yes, it’s very very similar to The Delving of Fror. It just needs to be bigger and accommodate players of all levels with multiple tiers within the “level tiers” of content – especially for the 35-40 range.

  • As someone who played DaoC on and off since its launch i can’t agree with the need for a DF style zone. I personally found that DF did not help the RvR situation. Yes, you had people form up to open DF, however once it opened they poured out of the rvr zones and invariably logged in DF, meaning those players were out of the frontiers for 24hours or so. I remember struggling to hold onto keeps while we had dozens of 50’s farming DF. I’d prefer a progressive overhaul of current zones to fix both rvr and pve.

  • An absolutely wonderful article. I wish I had sen this sooner. You touch on all the things PvE could really benefit from without even needing an overhaul.

  • I just don’t understand this DAOC mentality that says the most fun you can have is standing in one spot killing the same group of mobs over and over and over and over. Then you ding. Move to the next pack along and grind them over and over and over and over.

    If you like this sort of gameplay why can’t you just go to the PQs and grind them through phase 1 activate phase 2 and move on to the next while the first resets.

    I just think the idea of asking players to grind the same pack of mobs over and over and over will be a disaster. Is there any more tedious grind than just farming the same pack for hours on end?