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WAR Beta Update Part 1 – grrrr

I had another post planned for this morning but when I stumbled upon this post on the WAR Herald yesterday I could not resist the urge to post immediately.  James Nichols (EAMythic Community Coordinator) made a post on the WAR Herald titled War Beta Update Part 1.  In the rather lengthy update James cut and pastes a snippet of text prepared by many of the teams working on WAR.  If you want to read the entire article heres the link.  I’m going to highlight the areas that I feel require some insight, thought, and dissection.

Phase one of our improvements to open world RvR is under way, with changes to PvP flagging up first. Players can now PvP flag themselves, although the regular rules apply for removing the flag. Guards (and some other NPCs) in the Chapter hubs will PvP flag any enemy player foolish enough to engage them in combat. We’ve also added more guards to the warcamp entrances across all pairings and tiers. Still in progress are changes to the battlefield objectives, but we aren’t quite ready to share those details yet.

-RvR Team

Wait… what the…. flagging?  I had to reread this a dozen times to make sure that I actually saw the word “Flag” in there.  I’ll openly admit that I’m not in beta and have absolutely no idea what the reference to warcamps and chapter hubs means but my jaw is still on the floor after reading that there will be PvP flagging.  Where will the flagging be?  I’m direly seeking clarification.  Is this referring to PvE areas?  Some people are under the impression that it simply means while I’m hunting bears in the safety of my PvE area I can flag myself and if an enemy comes by he can gank me.  Hold the phone – why would I ever do that?  And secondly I was under the impression that, like DAOC, the PvE areas restricted access to enemy races.  Didn’t Games Workshop tell Mythic that there should be no neutral areas?  If I have correctly assumed that it means PvE area flagging then some of the spirit of the game just died.  Mortal enemies – Greenskins and Dwarves – could potentially stand next to each other and not be able to attack because one of them doesn’t have his flag on.

Now taking this to the extreme I can put on my tinfoil hat and go all doomsday by interpreting the flags will be in RvR areas and that it will be like WoW was in the early days where unless you flagged yourself you could run around untouched.  Basically meaning that the only true pvp would occur in Battlegrounds.  IF this is the direction WAR is taking then I’ll jump on the bandwagon with the cynics and join the chorus of “Wtf – WoW Much?”…

Hopefully Mythic you rethink the idea of flagging and go with your original statement that WAR is Everywhere.

Next is a topic that you should recognize from reading our blog here.  Loot binding.  How has Mythic decided to work it?:

One of the things we have been working hard on is player trading. I can’t wait to see it once the UI team has had a chance to reskin it. Player trading works just like you would imagine. Right clicking on a friend brings up a list of actions, with Trade now being one of them. Now you can trade off all those boots!

With trading, however, comes the question of binding. Trading is really, really good if loot doesn’t have any binding restrictions. So the next step was to “tag” all our items as Bind on Equip (BoE), Bind on Pickup (BoP), or “no binding”. Quest items, Influence Rewards, Renown store items have all been made BoP.

-Item Team

So far so good.  I’m glad that the renown store items are BoP (I assume these are purchased with renown earned in PvP so they are essentually status symbols for being higher up in PvP).  Quest rewards and influence rewards are also BoP – that’s good.  Now it’s time to start hoping and praying again that BoE items are done well.  I hope that there will be few BoE’s.  Too much binding means that instead of gearing everyone up for the war against the enemy realm you’re worried about having loot.  It takes the focus away from the realm and places it on the individual which defeats realm pride and what I thought was the purpose of the game.  So until I hear more I won’t pass judgement.

Okay, that was basically the the important stuff.  The rest is interesting but was nothing new.  Hopefully (there’s that word again) Mythic thinks a few rounds ahead and doesn’t cut off their nose to spite their face.  For whatever reasons you’re considering PvP flagging please rethink them or clarify with the community.  I certainly do not want to flag myself or wait for someone else to flag and I can bet neither do the majority of WAR fans.

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End-game equipment balance – What type of game do you prefer? Part 6

Alrighty it’s time for the next part of my blog series titled “What type of game do you prefer?”. We’re already up to Part 6 and that means it’s time to talk about end-game PvE gear and since I want to streamline these a bit I’m throwing in PvP gear as well. This question was inspired by the issue currently facing Lord of the Rings Online. What type of equipment or reward system do you prefer?

– Raiding = The Best Loot. Nothing comes close.
– Normal groups in a normal dungeon can get gear just as good as raids. Crafted gear is inferior.
– Normal groups, raiding, and crafting all yield the same quality of gear. There’s no clear path.
– Crafted gear is superior to all.
– Gear obtained from PvP is superior to all.
– Something else (perhaps no loot at all! dun dun dun!)

There are plenty more ways you can combine the above options but you get the idea. Where is your ideal game’s best loot? I mentioned above that I was inspired to write this particular article based on the issues LOTRO is currently facing; and it’s a big problem. Right now in LOTRO there is no clear defined way to obtain the best gear. Raiding, grouping, questing, and if you’re incredibly lucky PVPing, all yield loot that is relatively equal. A paradise, right? For a very long time players from all playstyles have shouted that their favored way of gaming be given a chance to have equal reward as others. Well now players in LOTRO have it (not that they haven’t always had it… for some reason they’re just NOW deciding to be vocal) and they’re starting to get upset in a way that’s reversed from the original problem! The raiders are complaining that crafters are getting gear as easily as they are so what’s the point of raiding, and crafter are complaining that raiding gives gear just as good as crafting so why bother crafting! The conclusion? No one will ever be happy, but that’s not the point of this entry.

Where do you see the best loot in your game? Obviously this will be your favored play style, right? Or will it. We as players often become wound up and swept away by the emotion of wanting something we can’t have, or something something now instead of later. I’m guilty of this myself when it comes to wanting good gear to come outside of raiding or dungeons but then find when I go to do the dungeons I feel like it’s pointless to exert the effort. If you remove yourself from the emotion of the situation and thinking with clarity, where do you see the proper balance? I think that LOTRO was on the right track with their efforts. Good gear should come from multiple sources but each of the sets of gear should serve a purpose!

World of Warcraft failed in this department up until shortly after I quit. WoW added PvP gear that gave another stat crucial to PvP. WoW added dungeons that require certain resists and gear that only came from certain locations (So it served a purpose). WoW had crafted gear with resists serve a purpose. While somewhat narrow-minded in their approach WoW now has a decent approach to balanced gear. What Blizzard is missing seems to be the ideal that raiding isn’t the ONLY purpose. Moving on…

One ideal equipment balance would incorporate a need for crafted gear, a need for gear from dungeons, and a need for gear in PvP. The overall driving force for obtaining this gear would not be in order to raid and then rinsing just to repeat. Each gear would be obtained from playing in that particular playstyle. Pvping would give you gear to help you PvP better. Raiding would give you gear to better raid. Gear from group dungeons would give you some sort of benefit to completing more group dungeons. I’ll be completely honest right now and say that I do not have a solution that sounds right for balancing grouping vs raiding; I could probably sit here for months and not get any closer to a solution. However there needs to exist enough content and purpose to serve everything – Or maybe in your ideal game it’s different.

Since my ideal game is one of RVR there would no need to struggle between grouping and raiding in PvE because the ultimate goal never changes – pvp is the ultimate goal. To be honest I think I would only have PvE raids serve one purpose and that would be to have really freaking cool bosses! I’m not a fan of 5 hours crawls through dungeons to get to a boss fight that lasts a few minutes. I’m into the epic encounters! Onyxia was my favorite WoW boss ever – GREAT battle and GREAT implementation. PvE raid bosses in my game would give rewards that are the very top end of what is able to be acquired through PvP or something else. Bottom line my end-game loot system would be balanced with a very obvious bias towards RvR. I have to add that I think the public quest system in WAR sounds fantastic!

Combining Parts 1-6: I prefer a good looking game that runs well with great content, where the focus is on RVR and fighting for your realm’s mutual goals. Any PvE content should be fully developed and friendly to both soloing and grouping and be beneficial in some way to both. The death penalty should be light yet reasonable enough to discourage death. Certain items should bind on acquire/equip but in general gear should be available to everyone. The game would not revolve around the gear, the gear would revolve around the game. All items in the game would have the same goal – to gear you up for RVR.

I think you will find that this is the hardest of the questions yet. It takes more thought than the previous parts and requires that you be selfless for a few minutes and think about other playstyles that are not like your own. In my attempt to hopefully relay my favored approach to end-game you will see that I have given thought to each play style. I am definitely looking forward to any replies, emails, comments you guys have on this one. My advice to you is simple: Don’t try and make your game revolve around the gear. Make your gear revolve around your game. As soon as I started thinking in that frame of mind it became a little easier.

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Rick Saada on PotBS Nation Balance

More goodies for those of you looking forward to PotBS!  In response to whether or not everyone will go Pirate and what impact that will have, Rick Saada had this to say:

“A couple things. You know how when you pick a server in WoW you get a load indication of how packed the server is? We give you four, one for each nation. So when you pick your server you can see if the Spanish are totally overwhelming on a server, and choose if you want to support the opposition or go elsewhere.

There are quite a few national guilds forming, and the various surveys we’ve seen lead us to believe that Pirate/English will be fairly balanced with French/Spanish a bit behind them. But it’s not going to be 90% pirate by any means.

Also, server victory isn’t just based on number of ports held for a moment. It’s a question of accumulating points over time, where you get more points if you hold more ports. So you can’t just sit on 29 or whatever and try to maintain the status quo.”

I’m a fan of the nation meters.  Knowing what you’re getting yourself into is definitely an awesome way for players to determine which nation they want to choose.  In the beginning I suppose this will have little use to players since people will be creating characters and likely abandoning them the next day, but in the long run this will definitely be informative.  The clarification to port battles and winning a server comes from another question posed to Rick as to whether or not one nation can completely dominate yet not  cap that last port to maintain a server dominance.  Some pretty good information here.

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You can learn a lot from Pen and Paper RPGs

I’m one of the few oldschool ‘gamers’ that never really had the opportunity to enjoy the Pen and Paper RPGs. Dungeons and Dragons always appealed in one form or another but the circumstances never allowed. Graev at one point was really into the whole DnD scene and collected all the books in hardback and several campaigns and adventures but due to how the concept works, without having more than 1 player and a DM, the experience could never be right. On occasion a friend would come over and we could get a little game or adventure going and what little time I spent playing was enjoyable. To fast forward a few years I had a long-time school chum of mine give me a call one day and invite me to a session of DnD with him and his buddies. Knowing none of them except for me friend it made the experience awkward yet still slightly enjoyable as I was given a character to play and brought up to speed with their game. I learned the basics and established a basic like for the game.

Jumping to the present now, Graev and I have recently revisited the Pen and Paper style of gaming with two of our online friends. Using the Fantasy Grounds program all four of us are able to connect together and have countless invaluable DnD resources at our disposal. With Maps, manuals/rules, dice, Ventrilo and other DnD tools at our fingertips in graphical representation form it’s almost, almost, just as if we were sitting next to eachother. One of our friends has been playing PnP games for over a decade and expressed his interest in Dungeon Mastering (DMing) so Graev, myself, and the other friend get to be players. Our DM friend is really into creating PnP content and as a result we have jumped right in to our first adventure.

Over the past week we have had three sessions. The first sessions was mostly about feeling out the situation and getting to know how the DM and other players like to do things. Being mostly a complete noob at DnD and PnP I had to have a lot of help filling out my character sheet and doing the stats and skills. Surprisingly, I knew a lot more than I thought I would. Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 have paid off! Many if not all the feats and skills are at the very least familiar to me and I have a basic understanding of how everything works. During our sessions I have found myself a little timid as to what I can and can not do. As we go along playing Graev always has these weird outlandish ideas of how to incorporate his environment into the game. I’m struggling somewhat with knowing how much or how little I can do. The combat side of things in DnD is probably one of the most interesting and possibly dynamic elements. When played well, and imagined just right, the combat can be extremely involved and evolve into whatever you want. We had a town siege last night where skeletons broke through the gate to the city and my only thought was to shoot arrows at them as they came in – Graev however grabbed a cart nearby and rammed the wave of skeletons with it causing two of them to be pinned against the wall – ingenious!

So what do I mean when I say you can learn a lot from Pen and Paper RPGs? The entire time we have been playing I have visualized our entire experience as though it were a MMORPG. When our characters talk to merchants or Lords I am envisioning them talking to NPCs. Everything we do I am relating or trying to relate to MMORPG gameplay – and I think that’s my problem. DnD/PnP games have no limits like MMOs and are not constrained or held back by the inability of gameplay mechanics or code. If you want to grab a bucket of oil and pour it over a wall then light it on fire you can do that in DnD. If you want to randomly assassinate someone you can do it – or try to at least. I’ve been going over in my head how I can block out the MMO gamer inside and channel that active unbarred imagination.

Applying these experiences I have some new insight into how MMOs are really, unfortunately, limiting. I’m on the fence right now if I like this new way of thinking that’s causing me to feel held back in LOTRO because I can’t just stab Frodo and take the ring for myself (just an example). On the flip side I have gained insight into what MMOs CAN have that they don’t. If done correctly many DnD/PnP gameplay elements can be introduced into a MMO and there could be a heck of a lot of fun. I think I also understand more now the disappointment people had for the DnD MMO.

Who would have thought that rolling a dice and writing a few numbers down on paper could not only be fun but teach you more about your favorite pass-time in one night than you could learn in years? I’ve been missing out on this archaic way of gaming for too long. I look forward to enjoying all the adventures that I can with my friends and then some. Taking what I learn, I look forward to trying my hand at impacting MMO development in ways I never thought possible. This should be fun!

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Make it tougher you scurvy sea dogs!

Is solo play in MMORPGs the equivalent of easy mode?  It depends on who you ask.  It’s been discussed and dissected then beaten to death a thousand times over the past few years as everyone defends their position on the timeless battle of solo vs grouping in MMOs.  In Pirates of the Burning Sea you’re going to have more options than the usual MMO experience.  In response to a forum post stating that solo play could not possibly be anything but easy-mode, Rick Saada of FLS had this to say.

“The difficulty of quests is also scalable if you like. You have the option of saying “make my missions tougher” if you feel you’re enough of a badass to handle it. CoH did something like this with their “toughness” rating, and we did a similar thing. You can adjust a setting on your character that makes all the enemies you face a step or two or more harder than “normal”. Higher level, bigger ships, more ships, what have you. No matter how skilled you get with your class, if you face enough opponents in bigger ships, it’s not going to be easy. It’s kind of like the difficulty mode in single player games. I play Halo on Easy because I suck at FPS’s and I want to have fun. For others this is boring and they pride themselves on playing on Legendary (which for me would be suicide). So if you want our missions to be truly epic, you have it in your power to make it so.

Rick Saada – FLS Dev & EPFBM“

Pirates of the Burning Sea is taking giant steps every day to be that social casual solo’ers paradise.  Scaling content to be as tough or easy as you want?  The idea itself takes the experience nearly out of the devs hands and places it into that of the players.  Giving us the decision if we want our quests more difficult, or our encounters more difficult, is actually an interesting idea that could really only work with instanced content.  Many developers seem to be moving in the ‘instanced’ direction lately with reasoning that it is must easier to control an environment and introduce elements of gameplay that would be impossible otherwise.  From a PvE perspective this system could be implemented in other aspects of MMO gaming.  In FFXI encounters would lock with you and no one else could interfere without your consent.  This could be used to introduce difficulty settings in non-instanced PvE gameplay.  The possibilities are out there.

So, will your ideal encounter against a 101gun Ship of the Line be as difficult as mine?

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