WAR’s new dungeon is a mistake. Here’s a better idea!

DAOC's battleground format would help turn WAR around.

Mythic made several mistakes when making Warhammer Online.  If you believe there is nothing wrong with the game then stop reading now because we already disagree greatly and I will not entertain yet another discussion which goes back and forth debating the issue.

What I want to present to you is a mistake they made and have not learned from because they’re about to repeat it again.  I’m talking about the purpose behind why things are done in Warhammer Online — the reason for players to participate in or perform certain activities.  This stretches beyond player action into the general feel of the game and into the spirit of the game and into the design as well.  Let’s just get right to it so that this starts to make sense.

Thanquol’s Incursion is an instanced, Skaven themed, 24 v. 24 RvR dungeon planned to be available in Tier 4 for players of Renown Rank 65 and above.

I like dungeons, especially ones with RvR.  That’s why I was so disappointed when Mythic did not bring along one of the most important ingredients from DAOC: Darkness Falls.  They attempted to remedy its absence in WAR by adding the Land of the Dead.  It didn’t do crap to fix the RvR in the rest of the world and thus had little purpose except being an isolated RvR lake with some PvE bosses.

Alright, so what’s so bad about this new dungeon?  I’m going to shoot some quotes your way from this article explaining Thanquol’s Incursion.

One very important thing to keep in mind: While there are Skaven Bosses in the dungeon, they do little more than “get in your way.”

That sounds like such a … stupid way of selling us on new boss fights.  Why would I want to go into a dungeon to kill bosses if they’re meant to just “get in your way”?  They go on to say that the bosses just stand their ground and from the sound of it are nothing but damage sponges.   It must be because it’s all about the RvR! Let’s look at how they plan to handle player vs. player interactions.

During Boss fights, you will see a new UI element; something we, in the office, lovingly refer to as the Win-o-Meter. A horizontal bar represents the total number of points possible in the current boss fight. Shields above and below this bar indicate your realms’ progress: the farther to the right the shield is, the greater number of points your realm has earned. At the end of a Win-o-Meter enabled fight, the side with the most points wins!

Am I the only one facepalming after reading that?  Win-o-Meter?  That sums up 50% of what’s wrong with Warhammer Online.  They’ve made it all about getting points and emphasizing point gain over a greater purpose such as realm pride or territory control.  It’s always just about accruing points to flip a zone or points to get into LotD or points gained in a BG or now points to win a boss fight.

I do not understand the reasoning behind it.  Mythic, are you sitting in your meetings and actually getting excited about this stuff? “I have an idea! Let’s have a win-o-meter!”  You guys just do not get it at all.  What’s even worse is that you’re gating your content to level 40’s with RR65 and above and maxing it out at 24 v 24.  It’s not just that the dungeon isn’t DF though.  The entire idea lacks depth, purpose, and shows that they’re not learning anything.

Here is where I once again try and provide feedback that will improve Warhammer Online.  I’m not just complaining.

Mythic desperately needs to create an area in the game with territory that has some meaningful reason to be fought over.  Fighting for PQ bags or just for slaughtering other players in an arcade-like way isn’t enough.  Look at how GW2 is creating a system where players within the servers (translates well to Realms) will want to care about and help each other because they’re all fighting for a common goal — the key word being goal because it plays into realm pride when you obtain it.  Consequence of loss is also important.  If the enemy takes your territory they not only push you back but owning the land/relic/whatever confers a bonus.

Right now there are no social dynamics.  Since it’s all about your individual points and not about the other players or the land, no one cares about anyone outside their circle of friends or guild.   Even when participating in city and keep sieges it’s so compartmentalized and put into such an autopilot mechanized procedure that you can simply watch TV and follow along tab targeting and pressing 1-2-3.  I know because I’ve done it!

Ideally, Mythic would scrap their entire game world and make the world contiguous.  Since that won’t happen, we need a very large land mass added to the game that resembles DAOC’s original Frontiers.  An Emain macha combined with a Yggdrasil Forest maybe.  Heck, to be honest I think a DAOC Caledonia/Thidranki type Battleground would solve it all.  You guys remember that, right?  DAOC was the first and last to get Battlegrounds right.  They were teleported to (just like everything in WAR) but instead of being instanced and temporary fights that could be “won”, they were persistent.  A keep was in the middle and it was fought over by all three realms.  Each realm has a big border keep where players can stage with 1 shot guards so no spawn camping occurred.  Fighting over the center keep seems simple in concept, but with a moat, bridges, all the amenities of a castle (walls, corridors, etc) it made for some pretty epic battles.

In fact, that sounds like an awesome idea.  Forget trying to make a contiguous world with meaningful RvR  (slap in the face: I don’t think they’re capable) and just give the game a DAOC Battleground.  They’re fairly large, having areas for players to PvE (make it really worthwhile), and provide an isolated way of providing a meaningful fight.  Let this battleground provide the realm that controls the center keep a really nice bonus that will get players wanting to work together — it has to be worth owning if it’s going to be worth fighting over!  Ideally this is where a dungeon like Darkness Falls comes in as a reward or even their new dungeon (if the bosses were worth killing).

  • You do realize that everything you stated should be in Warhammer already is, right? RvR lakes are fought over to get to the city siege. That’s the ultimate goal. Not to mention the bonuses they grant to the zone for controlling BOs in the lake. There will also be no more points to control a lake. It will just be keep sieges.

    Getting to a city siege effectively locks the opposing faction out of their city for 2 hours. Not to mention it reduces city rank. Which lowers the quality of PQs within the city, as well as restricting access to the cities dungeons. Which are among the best in the game, mind you. Until they’re able to rank their city up again. Which generally takes a few hours.

    Everything you want is already there. Everything. Zones that give bonuses. The ultimate goal for taking over those zones. All of it. So I don’t really see the problem there. The zones lock, yes, so that’s not exactly persistent. But it takes around 6 hours to get to a city siege. If the zones didn’t lock, you would NEVER see a siege. EVER. You have to lock 2 different entire zones. Which consists of 3 RvR lakes each. Which means you have to fight over 6 different battlegrounds just to get to a city siege.

    There would be no point in having a city siege if you couldn’t lock the zone.

  • Uh no, I completely disagree with you. Everything is -not- there. You’re overstating and twisting those things to try and make them something they are not.

  • “If the zones didn’t lock, you would NEVER see a siege. EVER. You have to lock 2 different entire zones. Which consists of 3 RvR lakes each. Which means you have to fight over 6 different battlegrounds just to get to a city siege.”

    Not “never”, but rarely. City sieges should be the exception. Trying to make it so everyone sees city sieges is ridiculous. Why make people work for rewards?

    PvP should not be a battleground but a persistant part of a game where ownership means something, not “oh well everyone is entitled to get this reward”.

  • It’s just a difference opinion about how to spend your time.

    The WAR dungeon described above is a straightforward (sub-)game with a victory condition. Darkness Falls was a place where you went to do stuff and other stuff might happen while you were there doing it, and to get into it you had to do more stuff.

    The people who enjoy A won’t necessarily enjoy B and vice versa. A subset may enjoy both or neither.

    Assuming Mythic have made their design decisions rationally (a big assumption, I know) they are presumably calculating that the group which likes the gameplay they are offering is larger than the group which prefers the old Darkness Falls model.

    Other designers have gone other way. It doesn’t look to me as though there’s really a huge number of people out there interested in either version when viewed as a percentage of the video-games market, let alone of the entertainment market as a whole.

  • Basically sums up why WAR didn’t do it for me. The tag line was “war is everywhere” the reality is “mini games are everywhere” If I want mini games, I’ll stick to WoW who does them best (hypothetically, because I’m not actually subscribed to WoW currently, nor do I want mini games). That kind of ongoing war is what appealed to me about the idea of WAR during pre-launch. Unfortunately, it was all smoke and mirrors. I still go to World War 2 Online for that kind of persistent war PvP, after all these years there is still nothing close to it. Yes, you might not like the game mechanics for WW2O, thats fine, but it isn’t my point, you could just as well have the spirit of that truly PvP on going war open world player driven game with a fantasy setting with swords, sorcery, an the like…..in fact, I’d buy that game if it existed.

  • I read the first two sentences and was all set to loudly argue. Then I read the rest and realized I agreed with pretty much everything. Except maybe the inference that there exist people who think nothing’s wrong with WAR. That I elect to disbelieve.

  • As much as I love the idea of an open world PvP battle over a single target, don’t you really need a 1v1v1 type of scenario for that to work? I could see a “Wintergrasp” type situation where one side owns it 95% of the time. With a 1v1v1 battle that seems more appropriate…hell and more fun. Working together just to see who back stabs the other first. I may be off because I didn’t experience that part in DAOC.

    Man I really do miss the knock backs in WAR. Probably their best combat feature by far. I loved how well you could mess up the battle fiend by knocking folks around (healers off cliffs, etc). Glad to see more of that coming to WoW, but still needs a bit more IMO.

  • “Am I the only one facepalming after reading that? Win-o-Meter? That sums up 50% of what’s wrong with Warhammer Online. They’ve made it all about getting points and emphasizing point gain over a greater purpose such as realm pride or territory control. It’s always just about accruing points to flip a zone or points to get into LotD or points gained in a BG or now points to win a boss fight.”


    “Kill more mobs, need more PQs, we almost have the bar moved all the way to the right!”

  • I don’t think I’ve twisted anything. Everything you asked for is already in the game. Just because it’s not there how you want it to be doesn’t mean it’s not there. I think you’re the one twisting and understating things. Especially if you’re going to say the one thing that it needs is something it already has. Just because it’s not like DAoC does NOT mean it isn’t there. Period.

  • Keen, DAoC is still around, correct? I never played it, but in a quick Google search it seems to be (http://www.darkageofcamelot.com/) and Wikipedia points to server emulation also (http://www.dolserver.net/).

    Do you still play it? Invariably every PvP-oriented MMO on this blog will at some point be compared to DAoC, a game you obviously hold in high regard. You seem to be disillusioned with the current choice of MMO’s and would like them to measure up to the DAoC standard, but I haven’t read any blogs about the fun you had last night playing with guildies in DAoC.

    Is it worth checking out, or doesn’t DAoC measure up to DAoC anymore?

  • DAOC was ruined with an expansion referred to as “ToA”, and in my mind continued to be hurt by further expansions. The game is still around, but as any game would be after 9 years it is older and winding down with far too few people playing.

    There are emulators, which I want to try to get working, but they are not really the same thing. There’s one that is close called “Uthgard” but I had trouble downloading it. If you want to perhaps give the game a try then that’s the one I would recommend based upon what I’ve been told by friends.

    @Shadrah: This is what I’m reading from you: “Apples are Strawberries because I think they taste the same and since they are both fruit they must be the same since they taste the same to me!” In other words? What you are saying is so far fetched and ‘out there’ that I’m unable to understand where you might be coming from. How you can believe that what I’m saying is missing from WAR is actually there has me so perplexed that I have no words. I’m trying hard to continue a discussion with you, but the more you go on the more I struggle to even respond. We simply disagree and are now at an impasse.

  • Thanks Keen, I will be motorcycling around SE Asia for 2 months and then am moving to Australia for a position, but after all that, I would be interested in giving it a try as it sounds quite nice.

    Perhaps you and Shad could discuss point for point what are the perceived differences, quantitative and qualitative, between the two positions; this sounds interesting, especially since you both obviously have experience with the games, and yet have such disparate opinions! I could actually learn something vicariously from you two…

  • I like what Shad has to say especially as he (?) remains calm and focused in his discussions; whether I agree or not depends on the topic of course…

  • @Howdy Doody: Sadly, you’re very right about needing three realms for it to be working as intended. I wish they would have just made the Skaven a third realm, added a little spot on each map for a skaven keep, and added the DAOC style battleground. I would be so tempted to return and subscribe.

  • It’s not that I necessarily believe both are the same, Keen. I just feel that what you’re looking for in Warhammer is already there. Not in a persistent sense, but the basics of what you’re asking are there. The way zones work and the ultimate reward of taking over those zones. Be it in the individual zones/lakes or the city sieges that will almost always follow a long battle.

    I don’t think that WAR and DAoC are interchangeable. I just see the very things you want from the game already. Maybe not exactly in the forms you want, but they are there. I really don’t mean to continue the argument. I just do feel strongly that what you’re looking for can, or will be there in the future. Especially with the upcoming RvR changes. Sure, we won’t have a persistent battleground. I agree, that would be nice. I just think that Warhammer offers plenty in it’s current state. It’s just not DAoC. Which I think is the problem you ultimately have with it.

  • Can you make a list for me of the things that you see already in the game that I have said do not exist? You say “The basics” — please, elaborate.

  • 1: Why things are done in Warhammer Online: Aside from leveling, pretty much everything done in WAR goes toward realm victory. Which ultimately leads to a city siege, effectively crippling just what a faction can do for a few hours. That’s the ultimate end to everything that happens over the course of the day.

    2: On the fact of the “Win-O-Meter”. That brings a competitive element within the game itself to raiding. They already have competitions such as this in WoW. Where two guilds will run a timed raid instance and the first to finish is the winner. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad idea. It gives a little bit more to the PvE crowd. Something that is pretty scarce in WAR right now.

    3: Matter of Point-based gameplay: That effectively changes with the next patch. Sure, there’s one instance for it. That’s fine. RvR, however, will no longer be points. They’ll be keep sieges. Under the new system those sieges will take a bit longer, from what I can tell, than the current system. It will also open the door for a lot of back and forth.

    4: LoTD issue: You have points to unlock Land of The Dead. It’s not bad, honestly. The only way to get to LoTD is by killing players. Which promotes RvR and keeps the action going in the lakes. It was the right way to do it. When you get into LoTD you can then do a PQ to effectively force out the opposing faction. Which then takes over the zone for around half an hour or so.

    5: Controlling lands for bonuses/goals: All RvR lakes already offer these things. When you control a lake, you get Increase EXP/RR for the lake. As well as vendors selling/buying things for cheaper/more. You also get increased EXP/Inf gains across the zone. Which are plenty of buffs. The game already circulates around the very tedious balancing of every class being able to buff/debuff in some way. For controlling some, you advance faster, make more money, etc. As for the goal of doing these things, that’s the siege. I stated that earlier in this post.

    6: City/Keep sieges are fine as they are. City Siege already takes enough coordination and effort to complete unless you just massively outgear whoeever you’re facing. There’s no need to change it. You’re not just getting gear for yourself when you siege a city. You’re stopping the opposing factions ability to do anything meaningful for around 2 hours.

    Keep sieges are changing soon. So, I can’t completely comment on how they will end up. However, I think it’s for the better. Battles over a keep will take vastly longer due to new mechanics. Which will give you a far greater sense of accomplishment when you finally do break down it’s walls.

    7: Finally. Bonuses. I can’t really comment on those. I think the bonuses you get from taking over a zone are sufficient already. I don’t really see a huge point in giving one realm substantial bonuses over another just because they control a piece of virtual land. That’s not, in my eyes, how WAR was meant to work. Realm pride isn’t developed in getting buffs because you took over a keep. Realm pride is developed through hindering the progress of your enemies. Which is effectively what you do in Warhammer when progressing across RvR lakes.

  • So, I did actually start up my own blog today. I went through Blogger to get it going. It’s nothing spectacular to look at right now, but maybe I’ll let it grow into something larger. This blog has actually inspired me to do so as of late.


    I started out with a pretty simple post. I’ll probably update it on a weekly basis at the start. Until I possibly get rolling. We’re kind of at a stale point for gaming right now, so there’s not too terrible much to post about.

  • Thanks for the detailed explanation Shadrah. I can at least see where you’re coming from when saying that you think what DAOC had exists in WAR.

    While I still do not agree with you, I can concede that if you’re happy with WAR’s offering of features/qualities to the extent that you feel they’re on par or better than DAOC’s then there is absolutely no reason for me to attempt to dissuade you.

    I set the bar very high, especially when I see it already accomplished by the same company in a previous title.

    For the sake of finding common ground, let’s assume that I will agree that to a certain extent WAR has those qualities. Would you meet me halfway and agree that they are not of the same caliber and that there was more depth and quality to how DAOC implemented those qualities into the rest of their game? It’s like striving for a ‘C’ instead of an A. Both pass, but one is excellence.

  • I can actually agree with that. I do think that some things DAoC did are superior to WAR. However, I feel WAR has some superior qualities in retort. I can definitely meet in the middle on this, though. I understand your points behind it as well. DAoC was one of the best games I’d ever played, even if it was only for a little while. I’m only so passionate about WAR because it’s the first game in a few years that I’ve actually felt good about playing. Even including WoW. It’s not a game I stick around in because I know people that play. It’s a game I stick around in because I truly enjoy it.

  • Shadrah I think the biggest difference in the end is how easily things change hands. For example city siege.. they happen so often does anyone actually care? at all? Relics mechanic in DAOC was good because they tended to stick around. So if you beat others down you might have +10 or even 20% for a week or two or perhaps a month.. not few hours.

    This is actually the biggest issue I have with what they are doing with GW. With weekly reset, if the war is not going your way will anyone actually bother? or wait for reset? (I bet on wait)

  • What smthin says ties into what I call “meaningful” gameplay. You might be able to take a keep, but was it truly meaningful like it was back in DAOC? My opinion is no.

    @smithin: I agree about GW2’s reset.

  • I think what I like about the keep/city sieges in WAR is this. I can choose to play casual, or play Hardcore and reap the benefits of a day well fought. Then the next day, I get to fight for it all over again. I get to feel like a war over land is back and forth. It is hard. It can be overwhelming. Simply because if I want to keep my rewards, it is something I have to keep doing every day that I play. Because it is something that changes hands so often.

  • It’s more of a superficial experience, but that does allow for a more casual experience. That’s good or bad depending on who you ask.

  • I agree. It is a little more superficial but that’s not -always- a bad thing. It can be, but sometimes it can be nice.

  • The underlying system, including how the RvR lakes are designed, victory point systems, city sieges, etc., are just some of the many problems with WAR’s version of RvR.

    The amount of CC and AoE abilities (some AoE had CC components as well) was/is ridiculous. Very little thought or tactics were required for RvR because it just boiled down to who had the numbers and who could spam their AoEs fast enough.

    Sieges were boring and uninteresting. All the keeps had the same layout and there were no variations on the strategies or methods used to capture them. Most of the time taking a keep did not even involve PvP because there was no point to defending. 90% of the keeps footprint was never even set foot on by players because it is pointless to be anywhere other than the main gates or the lord room. DAoC had some issues in this vein too, but ultimately WAR even took what good DAoC had out.

    There also was no real feeling of ownership or realm pride with keeps being in enemy hands. I never really got the same feeling of wanting to kick someone out of my backyard just because they were there that I got in DAoC.

    I was stunned when I found out that WAR had no PvE in the RvR lakes. This is one of my biggest personal gripes about the game. Why the RvR lakes weren’t more like the DAoC frontiers, I have no idea. Those were fun and dangerous places to be even when nothing much was going on. Outside of player activity, the RvR lakes in WAR were completely dull and lifeless.

    RvR lakes were design poorly. There were so few places to go and most of the main travel arteries were also the EXCLUSIVE travel arteries. Therefore, there were few ways to flank a zerg or avoid the zerg to attack another position, etc. There were so many more viable RvR strategies in DAoC than WAR because of this.

    Further, the sub-par PvP/RvR experience WAR offered was just one of WAR’s many shortcomings.

    Performance issues abounded in the months following release and I understand it has improved, but is still below expectations given the “epic” battles everyone anticipated. The fact that they are still only allowing scenarios to have 48 in a battle speaks to their lack of confidence in their engine to handle large groups of player duking it out.

    I still find it hard to believe that Mythic, of all the lessons they could have learned from DAoC and didn’t, did not learn this particular lesson and build an engine from the ground up that could handle the kind of battles they were shooting for.

    The PvE was lackluster. The world was not a contiguous landmass that felt like a real world. Zone design was horrible. Zones were too linear. There are no wide open or far away places to explore and kill cool and interesting. It’s just follow the road to each Chapter camp, do these quests, kill these mobs. Any character that goes through the various pairings has the exact same PvE experience. It just doesn’t feel like one contiguous wide-open world where you can step out of the gates of your city and say, “Wow, where should I go today?”

    Raids were cumbersome undertakings, which is to be expected, but they yielded little reward for their effort and were very basic and generally un-enjoyable.

    There were no other cities, interesting factions, or other areas to explore/interact with.

    There was no incentive to group up with people. The game split XP and reputation gains evenly amongst members with no group bonuses. This meant a group of 3 characters had to kill 3 times as many mobs to get the same XP or reputation that they could alone.

    Some of this may have changed since I played, but I don’t think much has as I still check the WAR forums almost daily and listen to what people currently playing have to say.

    I could go on, but I think I’ve typed too much already. Sorry for the long post, but I had such high hopes for WAR. I don’t think I will ever follow another game’s pre-release development as closely as I did WAR for this reason.

  • Keen — I have an honest question for you. It’s one that I’ve been struggling with myself when I think about how to balance RvR in MMOs and I haven’t really come up with a good answer yet. I agree with you that RvR needs to be meaningful and the sense of realm pride etc. is important. The problem is that when RvR is meaningful (in the sense that it rewards the faction that succeeds), how do you prevent that from snowballing into faction imbalance (either due to people jumping ship to the winning faction or simply due to the aggregate bonuses and access to content that the winning realm accrues over time)?

    If you look at Aion you’ll see an example where meaningful RvR all but ruined the game. In that game, fortress battles were very important in that they gave access to instances which gave the winning side a means to accrue pvp gear more quickly. Over time one sided on each server tended to gain a massive advantage over the other because they controlled the forts and thus attracted more players and geared up faster.

    The best solution to this problem that I can think of is the three faction system of DAoC, where the two weaker realms could at least theoretically gang up on the stronger one. As I never played DAoC to endgame I don’t really know if this worked out that well in practice, and even if it was viable then I don’t know if it would be now. Back then with a relatively narrower demographic, one might posit that the population as a whole was easier to organize. Now I’m not so sure you’d be able to consistently organize across factions when so many people just have the red=dead mentality.

    Anyway, if you have any other ideas about how to address this issue I’d love to hear them — I think it’s one of the most critical problems facing RvR games today.

  • Imbalance is just a given and I do not think you can stop it. If you try, you just mess things up. The three realm system naturally tries the correct the issue, but in the end you can’t heave meaningful AND try to make it equal for everyone.

    It’s not a win if you can’t lose.

  • Agreed, but at the same time the imbalance has to have some sort of self correcting mechanism or the game will die very quickly. If the side that loses initially’s position becomes intractable then people will most likely jump ship en masse, either to the winning faction or by outright unsubbing. Before long the losing side doesn’t even bother to show up to fight (this absolutely happened in Aion), so even the winning side gets bored due to lack of rvr and starts to quit as well.

    I think that the server vs. server RvR idea in GW 2 is a good one, especially if the game rotates what servers face what other ones in a way that tries to adjust for balance. Winners play other winners, losers play other losers and so on. The more I think about it, multi faction systems (either through multiple actual factions or multiple server vs. server combinations) is the only way to do it. I’d bet anything that the only reason why designers stick to a 2 faction design now is because it takes more work to design three realms instead of two. Lord knows most of these games launch with one faction feeling unfinished as it is!