Daily Archives: August 27, 2008

WAR – The Other Stuff I Saw

I started off to write a piece about my impression after the Warhammer Preview Weekend.  Once I got through with the races and classes section however, I realized that it had legs of its own and cut it free of the rest of my post.  It never pays to cram too much into an article.

So this is the balance of my impressions, which probably still crams too much into one article.

Sudden Exposure

There certainly isn’t much there to guide you into the game.  Once you create a character and enter the game, you’re in the game and on your own.  No tutorial, newbie tips, or anything of the kind that I noticed.

Did I miss something?  Is there a feature to be implemented there or is WAR only targeted at those who have experience in the genre?  Or, heaven help us, does Mythic think that the operation of the game is so self evident that no intro is needed?

Having gotten into EverQuest in 1999, the transition into the game was not so bad.  I was able to figure out pretty quick that the green dot on the mini map was somebody with a quest for me, the orange dot was where to turn in a completed quest and a yellow dot was an as-yet-unsatisfied quest giver.

Why bother with the yellow dots?  Somebody at Mythic has a different relationship with quest givers than I do, since I only want them cluttering up my mini map when we have business to transact.  Can we lose the yellow dots?

Also  how about a little better physical orientation when you first jump into the game?  Of the eight classes I played over the preview weekend, all but one of them started in the game facing directly away from the first quest giver.  Only the black orc was looking in the right direction.  Of course, your tendency is to move forward when you enter the game, so I found myself running away from the first quest almost immediately.

And, for those keeping score, the reward for the first quest appears to be a new pair of shoes in all cases.

Tome of Knowledge

One of the two features being held up as the future of MMORPG design, I can see the point.  Sort of.  It consolidates in one area all the data that you would need to open 8-16 windows and run half a dozen slash commands to get in most MMOs. (And probably 100+ windows in EVE!)

And while I appreciate that consolidation, now I just have a more specific place to search through looking for the information I need.  Sometimes a window to itself is better than having to dig through half a dozen mouse clicks to find something.  For starters, and you can tag me as “Mr. PvE,” I want to get to my quest log with just one key stroke, thank you very much, not have to open the Tome and click a few times to see what I have on the menu.

So, I’ll rank this as good, but perhaps not as startlingly awesome as some would have you believe.

And I expect that somebody will say that the lack of tutorial I mentioned above is the result of having the Tome of Knowledge, which contains the answers to everything.

To that I can only ask, how well does RTFM work as an answer in your world?  Because it doesn’t fare so well in mine, so RTFVM isn’t going to fly. (V is for virtual for those who are still in shock after following that link and finding out what the F stood for.)

Public Quests

This is one of the things over which everybody has been fawning and making claims like:

Public Quests > Sliced Bread

To be honest, I did not really “get” what a public quest was until I actually found one.  Everybody goes on and on about how wonderful they are, but apparently cannot explain them very well. (It certainly couldn’t be my fault, right?)

Basically if you wander into the right geographic area, you will be notified in HUGE letters that you have entered a Public Quest area and what stage said Public Quest is in.

Feel free to join in.

I only got involved with two Public Quests, but as any student can tell you, two points of data is the most effecient way to draw a straight line to a conclusion.

That in mind, the pattern I got with public quests were that they fell into five parts.

The first part, you run around and kill some soloable mobs.  Everybody do their own thing.

The second part, you kill some mobs that you probably cannot solo.  People need to gang up on things.

The third part is some huge encounter that everybody needs to join in with to take down.

The fourth part is the loot distribution.  There is a lotto that everybody gets a chance at, but your odds are improved the more you contributed to the battle.  Some will win, most will lose.

And, the fifth and final part is a short wait until the cycle starts over again.

This is supposed to encourage community and cooperation.  It does so about as well as WoW battlegrounds do, from my own limited observations.  Everybody ran about in a mad rush at each stage with no plan or order.  However, the “everybody” was enough people that we defeated each stage and nobody died.

Public Quests are also supposed to give you some PvE content besides… well… regular quests.

Public quests score a little better in that regard.  There is something neat about running into this sort of encounter.  It is very dynamic… at least it is the first few times.  The encounter is exactly the same each time.  I am more of a “finish a quest and move on” sort of person, so I stayed through three cycles at each and went off to other activities.

Finally, there is the loot.  At the end of the quest you get told your ranking for you contribution.  I managed to get the number 2 spot in one public quest.  Being higher in the ranking improves your odds, or so I hear.  Then they draw for a couple tiers of loot.  I hit the second tier on the same one where I was ranked second.

If you win the loot lotto, you get to pick from a wide selection of items, including a “just give me some cash” option at the bottom.  The items were pretty good for my level and being able to select from a list was very nice.

Of course, if you don’t win, you get nothing, not even a couple of brass coins for your time or a crappy home version of the quest.

I am going to bet that, within a year, that will change and that public quests will give all participants something, cash or some token redeemable for prizes when accumulated in mass quantities.

All in all though, it is something new and interesting for the genre.

Off on a tangent for a moment.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Paul Barnett say that other games could copy the Public Quests, but they would never be as good because they weren’t integrated into the game from the outset or some such nonsense?  I didn’t dream that, did I?

Sorry Paul.  Public Quests are really a splendid idea, but Rob Pardo could make them appear in WoW with the expansion after next (tentative title: The Lukewarm Malaise) with a mere wave of his hand and they would probably be better, faster, and hand out fabulous welfare epics to everybody who participated.  Be satisfied that you were first, don’t try to stake out being best now and forever.

Unless he didn’t say that, in which case, never mind.

The Environment

War is certainly everywhere.  Let’s hear it for truth in advertising.  In almost all cases when I went into the game with a new character, stuff was on fire, things were exploding, and fighting was within sight.

The dwarves had squigs in the compound. It is no wonder they were running around in their night shirts.

The greenskins were facing a drunken onslaught, literally 20 paces from where you start, by dwarves who had apparently drawn the short straw so it was their turn in the barrel.

In The Empire the homes on the edge of the starting town were ablaze and overrun with Chaos!

And the high elves… they had some sort of fairy infestation issue going on and a lot of white lion crap right out in the road where you might step in it.

Okay, they high elves had bad stuff too, things on fire, bad guys running around, men down… er, elves down, and all that, but it was a bit further away than some of the other starting areas.  But you did have to kill some fairies first, once you learned to distinguish them from the high elves.

Anyway, you were put right into some very active environments, and they looked very good.  They all had a good organic feel to them.  I would put the graphic style more in the LOTRO end of the scale, though the WAR graphics engine handles things a bit more smoothly with things at a distance.  It did not look or feel like WoW to me, which you can take either as a compliment or an insult.  It can be both, believe me.

The Interface

I happened to play WAR, then WoW, then WAR again at one point over the weekend, so I had a pretty solid comparison in the responsiveness of the UI.  While I think WAR feels a lot better than LOTRO did on day one, it still isn’t up there with WoW yet.  The button bar is close, but some clicking on objects in the window wasn’t very snappy, and dealing with things in my inventory was almost painful.  Work needs to be done on this.

The interface itself is pretty standard.  Button bar at the bottom, minimap in the upper right, text chat box in the lower left, quest tracker text appears below the minimap, and so on.  I did have to scale it down quite a bit, as everything seemed HUGE on my 1600×1200 monitor.

Things moved in odd ways when I changed the scale a few times and I had to go into Mythic’s Interface Construction Set to get things lined up again properly.  That seems like a whole lot of tool to do the simple things I wanted.  Generally I keep the game interface as close to default as I can, since updates happen that break things or reinstalls are required once in a while and I get tired of resetting things yet again.

Stability & Performance

In more than six hours of play, I did not see the dread crash to desktop.  Go me.

Friday night was lag central on the server I chose.  I varied servers as well as classes, just in case I was on a bad one at some point, but after Friday night things seemed to run well enough.

The game ran well on my 2.4GHz QuadCore with 2GB of RAM and a 512MB 8800GT video card.  But it had bloody well better!

Best Feature

I just wanted to say that the method used to mark the game map and minimap for quests is just right.  A red border on the map surrounds the area you need to get to in order to complete your task.  And, if you are like me and grabbed all the quests you could so have red marks all over your map, mousing over them puts up a hover help window with the name or names of the quests in that give red zone.

Well done Mythic.

Most of the time when I go to some web site for quest information, it is to get a general location.  I would rank this well ahead of the Tome of Knowledge for things other games should copy.  Free me from external web sites and addons like Quest Helper!

Things I Didn’t Do

I did not do any PvP, RvR, or anything else I did not mention.  I’ll save all that for when the game goes live.  I chose to use the preview weekend to explore somewhat mundane things.  I’ve already pre-ordered the collectors edition and entered the keys.  I am committed.  I’m gonna play.  There is no point in trying to rush through everything in just a weekend.


Was it fun?

Well, you know, I wasn’t beside myself to stay logged into the game.  I didn’t play every possible hour I could. I didn’t lose track of time (Mythic, a clock please) and stay up way too late playing.  It wasn’t day one EverQuest where I wanted to stick that needle in my vein and never pull it out.

But I did try to log in on Monday evening, just to see if the servers were still up.

They weren’t.  Darn.

We’ll see in September.

In the mean time, we return you to your normally scheduled nonsense.