Looking for MOAR in WO:AR

You knuckleheads have driven me to altaholicism…

There’s been much idle gnashing of teeth in Warhammer Online for me lately. It started back last week when I was writing my strategy guides, or perhaps even earlier as I was playing my Archmage, and realized that, “goodness, when it comes to allowing a team member to live, a Tank is even more influential than my healer…”

MOAR LOL-Cat

It's a less cute word when you know it was coined by children demanding more pornography over 4Chan.

… and this was not an incorrect thought – while a healer may attempt to counteract enemy damage, a competently played Tank can nullify between 50% to 85% of the damage applied to whatever they’re guarding.  Healers may cure what ails you, but it was the Tanks that save lives.

Thus, the seeds of flow-ruining altaholicism were planted… but, as we’re about to see, in this case it wasn’t entirely my choice.

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Warhammer Online Order Class Capabilities Simplified Guide

Having decided to do a bit of shopping from my Archmage last night, I came under an interesting realization that the balance in Warhammer online is even simpler to grok than I previously thought  This is good for altaholics like myself as it causes a marked reduction in time spent spinning my wheels.  I thought I’d share the spoils.

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The Drawing Board

At rank 18, I’m still probably well ahead of the casual players.   However, I surprised myself by playing absolutely no Warhammer Online this Saturday, probably very little on Friday or Thursday.  Maybe the game is starting to wear on a bit… I’m starting to notice things that need improvement.

For example, the grind decelerates a little too sharply by my current rank, leading to my least favorite thing in MMORPGs: monotony.   As an apothecary/cultivator, my inventory restrictions are murderous, giving me another reason to believe I should already by rank 20 (where, among other things, I get another bag to hold my inventory).  Finally, it’s just a tad counterintuitive to lock players out of earlier PvP tiers as they level past them.  (I apply this mostly to RvR, but this applies to the scenarios as well.) I could understand dropping them in potency as to not bully the lower rank players, but turning them into chickens that can’t fight just isolates players from their fellow guild members.  (My brother has been afraid to take his Ironbreaker over 20 for days.)

At this point, I'm mostly looking forward to Fallout 3.

At this point, I'm mostly looking forward to Fallout 3. End of October, baby.

That said, the game is still fun.  Though my ever-erratic inner muse is ever hard to gauge the motivations of, I anticipate that I’m far from canceling my account.  If anything, I’m likely to start some alts now that the grind on my Archmage is beginning to wear.  I’ve already noticed a lack of Order Tanks (or else capably played Order Tanks), and have a fledgling Swordsmaster in development for when the Archmages seem to be running overly thick.  I think all my harping about the power of a capable tank when I created the PvP guide has twisted my mind towards this end.

Better news is that I’ve redirected much of my leisure time back into my BYOND game development.  Generally speaking, this is a good idea. I’m learning a craft (albeit one that I’d be pleasantly delighted if I’ll ever get paid for) and producing genuine tangible artifacts of toil as opposed to the usual intangible pissing away of time.  BYOND hobbism is actually very good mental exercise – as arrogant as it might sound to you to say it, I believe that taking a little time to program makes me genuinely smarter in a noticeable way.  All that patient discussion of real-world logic to a stupid adding machine is the mental muscle building equivalent of refrigerator moving.

For the rest of this entry, that’s pretty much what’s on the menu: talk about what I’ve been up to in BYOND, and a little talk about the virtues of the drawing board.

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Game Design: Rested Experience, Flow, Emergence

With a little suspended judgment, you can draw many awkward if interesting tangents in life, and one of them is this tangent between BYOND and Warhammer Online’s “rested experience.”

The idea behind rested experience (perhaps originally pioneered by a temporary Ultima Online change) is that by not playing constantly your character builds up a bit of a buffer in which they advance faster.  This was done to give the casual players a bit of an edge against the hardcore.

However, in terms of game design, I’m finding I’ve gained a bit of real life rested experience as well.

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Warhammer Online PVP Survival Guide

I’m done venting about my Internet pet peeves (for the time being) and am noticing that the most popular entry thus far is clearly my Warhammer Online Survival Guide.  Why not?  Hot new game off the presses, everybody’s picking up the ropes, so perhaps I aught to bend some of that game playing expertise of mine towards tips that may assist in mastering the PvP.

Primarily, I play a combination healer/nuker – an Archmage.   It’s an interesting role because I’m basically at the center of offense and defense of a team.  I think I picked up some pretty good insight as to how things work in Warhammer Online PvP, as opposed to the dozens of MMORPGs I’ve played before.

Know Your Role…

The best way to succeed in Warhammer Online PvP is in recognizing you’re not going this alone.  You have an important role to play alongside your fellow players, and your ability to perform this role well will determine your success or failure in the game.

Your roles have changed.  To its credit, Warhammer Online tries to make this easy by slapping on the labels we know so well: Tank, Healer, Ranged DPS, Melee DPS.  But it changes what you do to play those roles well.  That’s the major focus of this guide.  (Hey, if we know how to play the game from the start, that would be boring, right?)

1. Healers

There’s essentially three kinds of healers in Warhammer Online.  It is here where the mirrors are best preserved, and you can see how they differ in execution based off of type of healer.

Melee Healers: Warrior Priest (Order)  and Disciple of Kaine (Destruction)

These enhance their healing effectiveness by fighting up close and personal.  They have access to a goodly amount of melee attacks, few ranged attacks, and armor mitigation just a step below the Tanks.  They’re not as durable as tank, but they’re closer to it than any other healer.  Consequently, they tend to operate at close range.

Support Healers: Rune Priest (Order) and Zealot (Destruction)

These are pretty traditional healers in that they heal, have some nukes, and throw buffs/debuffs.  Rather than have a specialty that enhances their spells, their buffs/debuffs allow them to shift the odds.  They’ve a smattering of melee attacks, ranged attacks, and medium armor.  They’re more durable than Nuker Healers, but not as durable as Melee Healers.  Consequently, they can operate fairly comfortably at medium range.

Nuker Healers: Archmage (Order) and Goblin Shaman (Destruction)

These are for fellows like me who want the power of a flimsy cloth mage but can’t seem to make up their mind on if they’d rather be nuking or healing.  Even though their primary function is healing, they can do enough ranged damage (mostly damage over time spells) to make a difference, and their specialty rewards them for doing both.  They have no melee attacks and the lightest armor.  Consequently, they operate most comfortably at long range.

The Healer’s Role

In short (greatly one-sided) skirmishes, healing may not be necessary, because everybody regenerates health rapidly between fights.  The Healers really shine during longer (more even) fights, where damage can add up and needs to be counteracted.  In these fights, the difference between the team with and without a healer is incredible.

By all means, heal (and resurrect – I know a lot of my fellow healers are bad at that. ) After all, it’s your primary function… but don’t only heal.  If all you’re doing is healing, you’re doing a very poor job. Yes, I know that (thanks to the balance in many other MMORPGs) you may have been ridden by pushy tanks in the past to just keep spamming those heals.  However, Warhammer Online gives you a valid excuse not to because it’s balanced in such a way that your secondary function is required to support your heals.

How?  I broke down the healers into their subclasses because the execution of this is quite different:

  • For melee healers, getting shoulder to shoulder with your tanks and participating in melee combat provides the necessary fuel to cast the spells that keep everyone near you alive.
  • For Support Healers, you’ll not need to heal as much if you make sure all the applicable buffs/debuffs are in place, and throwing a bit of nuke in there when no healing needs doing is only efficient.
  • For Nuker Healers, that Nuke/Heal seesaw specialty means that you need to be nuking as well as healing, even if it’s only 1 per every 5 of the other, for optimum efficiency.

A healer is especially effective when paired with a tank, so stick with one and keep them healed.  If you’re lucky, they’ll keep you alive as well via their Guard ability.  If not, well, at least your heals are well spent on a fellow whose mitigation is that good – try not to get attacked by too many enemies if you’re being that poorly screened.

The Healers’ Crux

By default, healers are the first people who need to die.  If the enemy team was smart, you’re going down.  Healers are persistent targets in that a solo Tank or Healer is not going to be able to inflict enough damage to take them down, and even a specialized DPS class will find them tricky.  However, by focusing fire on the healers and defeating them, victory becomes possible: only then is damage inflicted to the enemy permanent, and the battle can then be quickly concluded in your favor.

However, if the defending team is smart, they’ll change the default.  They realize that the enemy team will know the healers need to die first, and so they’ll use many means to help the healer survive.  As I’m about to explain, the Tanks play a large role in this.  However, the DPS and other Healers can also contribute greatly to assuring the survival of the Healer.  A healer can help do this by making their defeat extremely difficult, by using the terrain and range to make them difficult to engage or by dragging out their defeat to where the enemy should not tread.   However, do not neglect healing if the diversion is not worth it.

2. Tanks

With the elimination of the Knights of the Blazing Sun and Blackguards, there’s not as many types of tanks as there are healers in Warhammer Online, and the mirrors don’t hold together as well.

Going through them quickly, the Swordmaster counters the Black Orc in using a variety of combos to bolster their offense and defense, the Chosen is essentially a mutating and debuffing tank, while the Ironbreaker builds up grudge points that make enemies regret attacking the target they are protecting.

The Tank’s Role

In PvE, the Tank’s role would seem to be the same as any other MMORPG: constantly taunt, keep those NPCs on you while the healers keep you vertical.  Warhammer Online changed the Tank’s function a bit, and this has some major ramifications in PvP.

First, there’s a minor balance adjustment to consider in that Tanks can do some pretty decent damage – all classes in WO:AR can, really, though DPS classes naturally can do more.

What this means in PvP terms is that you can now be a genuine threat, at least against a target that is not receiving additional protection.  It also means that it is here where the Tank gets their own if you’re only doing one thing you’re not doing your best argument.  As a Tank, you’ve got decent damage and probably other offensive secondary affects.  So don’t just be a meatshield, use them!

Second, there’s a major function adjustment in that Tanks have a number of powerful guarding moves you won’t see in most MMORPGs.  Mastery of these moves is a vital part of success as a Tank in WO:AR.  All four Tanks – the Black Orc, Chosen, Swordmaster, and Ironbreaker – get these moves.

  • The first is “Guard” and this moves half (50%) of all damage inflicted on that target to the Tank.  The Tank has a whole lot more hitpoints and better damage mitigation, so taking half of a weaker classes’ damage comes out as an incredible bargain.
  • The second is “Challenge” which is a taunt-like ability that affects all foes in a 30 foot cone in front of you.  This can take another 30% of damage off targets you are protecting.

I would not use Challenge instead of Guard because it’s not much compared to it, but combined it adds up to 80%.  Also, unlike Guard, Challenge’s damage is not applied to you so it’s essentially a 30% “Tank Heal” every time your challenge goes unheeded.  Consider that you could not find armor or a spell that would reduce damage by 80%, yet using Guard and Challenge alone give 80% worth of protection to even a cloth-wearing ally.  If you’re not using these abilities, you’re throwing away what might be the most influential abilities in the game.

These are not the only two means you have to protect your allies.  Check abilities, tactics, and morale list for a wide range of class-specific means to make the enemies lives hell if they fail to acknowledge your role as a tank.

A Tank’s Role From A Healer’s Perspective

As a healer, I know that there’s a general misconception that healers like me are the ones who decide who lives or dies based off of who gets healing or not.  I apply my heals over time as much as I can, but emergency heals are generally rare or slow.  What I need to do my job is time to heal.

Whose role is it to mitigate the rate in which damage is taken long enough that I can keep them alive?  The Tanks: they wear the best armor and have abilities which allow them to mitigate damage for others.  That’s why I say that tanks are the ones who decide who lives or dies.

Because so many Tanks do not seem to understand this, it is my belief that for now and many months ahead, success or failure in Warhammer Onlne PvP will be based on how many Tanks know how to use Guard or Guard-like abilities effectively.

The Tank’s Crux

The other two types of classes detailed in this guide have a crux that they’re priority targets trying to avoid attention while remaining effective.  As a tank, your crux is the opposite along one extreme: while you’re still trying to be effective, part of that effectiveness is in forcing the enemy to pay attention to you.  When the enemy is hitting you, and not the Healer who is healing you, the DPS specialist who is killing them, or even the other Tank they’re trying to focus on, then (in most situations) your team is winning.

That said, there’s much more to being a Tank than just taking damage, and it involves being able to think on your feet.  A good tank is able to take and deal damage better than the average player.  However, a master tank takes and deals damage with a purpose in mind.   What this means is that you need to learn how to recognize the situation you’re in and calculate if your sacrifice is worth it, as opposed to just being a pointless respawn.

3. Damage Over Time: Ranged or Melee

You know, I’m just going to lump you guys together.  Witch Hunter, Witch Elf, White Lion, Marauder, Bright Wizard, Sorceress, Engineer, Magus, Shadow Warrior, Squig Herder.  You’re all “DPS”, and I’ll drop the “Ranged” or “Melee” between you so long as you understand that you’re built to operate a short range (e.g. Marauder, White Lion) medium range (e.g. Witch Hunter, Witch Elf) long range (e.g. Bright Wizard, Sorcerer) or even variable ranges (e.g. Shadow Warrior).

I know this is doing a disservice to secondary roles of these classes.  However, generally speaking, whatever you’re playing your main role is to do damage, and that hasn’t changed much from most MMORPGs.   What has changed, however, may be the importance of doing damage.  Consider how prevalent mitigation and healing is in Warhammer Online, and understand that as a DPS class, you’re one of the few who has the power to overcome this.

The DPS Classes’ Role

Lets be clear: the DPS classes role is equally important to a Tank and a Healer.  If you have no Healers or Tanks, your defensive line is undermined by a critical weakness.  Yet, if you have two teams built up entirely of Tanks and Healers, nothing gets done, and you’ll probably be in a perpetual stalemate.  In this way, a holy trinity is well in tact in Warhammer Online.

To play a DPS class acceptably, you need to be organized: loose cannons accomplish little.  Focus fire on specific designated targets.  If the designated target is proving too difficult to kill (perhaps because the Tanks and Healers are doing their job right) then rapidly shift en masse to another target.  Kill em’ quick, don’t give the enemy enough time to react.

To play a DPS class well, you need to also use your secondary functions.  Like the Tank who only guards or attacks, or the Healer who only heals (or nukes), if you’re only doing one thing, you’re not doing your best.  Not coincidentally, DPS classes are also the ones that tend to get potent effects like snares and roots, and applying these to the right place at the right time can make a massive difference.

The DPS-class Crux

As I’ve tried to make clear, you DPS guys are the deciders.  You make things happen.  Consequently, you’re next on the target list, right after the healers, to die.  Sorry, that’s the breaks, you can’t be an effective DPS player without being a juicy target.  DPS classes are even less durable than either Tank or Healers because the first is by definition durable and the second has the persistence of heals.

So, much like a healer, you and your team should make prioritizing you a costly choice.  When you’re injured (or about to be) healers should be healing you.  When you’re under fire, tanks should be guarding you.  If you’re not getting enough of either, try making taking you down costly – make the enemy chase you to where they shouldn’t be or simply buy as much time as you can.  If you have enough of a lead and the enemy is smart, they’ll break off.  Otherwise, while half the enemy team is foolishly chasing you down, your allies may well be securing victory.

The trick to playing a DPS-class is to be clever in your damage doing.  Don’t boldly run up to the front of your team and start hitting things: you’ll come under fire by too many enemies at the same time, and dead characters do 0 DPS (at least once their DoT effects wear off).  Back off and choose your targets, and put your damage where it’s needed the most.  Focusing fire on what everybody else is hitting is likely to generate a successful kill, but keep an eye out for ideal targets of opportunity, such as Healers or enemy DPS who you can estimate won’t survive a sudden onslaught.

Conclusion: Work well with what you have but, above all, work together!

The Shadow Warrior is spun as generally the tactician who decides where and when to land his abilities most effectively.  Really, that’s what all well-played classes do.  Learn how to exploit each of your abilities well, and you’ll find your influence in battle increased several-fold.

As I said at the beginning of this, each class has a strength and weakness.  Hopefully, it’s a little clearer now just what those weaknesses and strengths are, and how you can apply them well.  How you overcome this is to work with others.  If you play it alone, you’ll find your strengths aren’t strong enough and your weaknesses overbearing.

I titled this as “Warhammer Online PVP Survival Guide” because this is the core truth behind all the PvP in the game.  Whether it’s Scenario or Realm versus Realm, the team that wins will always have a combination of two things: the most players who know how to use their individual abilities most effectively, and the most players who know how to work together.  Keep that in mind, and you’ll go far in Warhammer Online PVP.

An Internet Antibody Simulation

I can understand the concept of freedom and capitalism, and that standing up against fascism and ruthless oppression is only possible thanks to each individuals’ capacity to tolerate the flaws of their neighbor.

That said, there’s a number of things that have occurred in my monkeysphere lately that cause me sympathize overmuch with the Dr. Horrible approach to world reform.  My inner dictator fantasy has crossed well over the level of “freeze ray,” even past “death ray,” and into “horde of robotic death machines.”

Zappo!

Zappo!

The thing is that there once was a time, back when the Internet was young, that there were adequate moderation to keep things relatively under control.   No place was immune, of course, but at least the disease of Internet tomfoolery was kept to a reasonable level.  That’s no longer the case.  Either our online police are sorely outnumbered, or too many outsourced clueless ones have taken their place.

When organized arbitration fails to resolve the injustices of the world, it’s human nature to eventually reach a breaking point, and grisly consequences result.  Lets see who’s on my list.

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Clone love: My own little pocket of hypocrisy

I like to be honest fellow whenever I can.  Not because I think divine forces will smite me for my dishonesty, but rather for the most legitimate reason: because one can logically reason that being an honest fellow is simply a better policy in accordance to forwarding the agendas of the human race.

So it is with some concern that I notice I tend to lie inadvertently.

For example, I say I’m absolutely sick of EverQuest clones, over and over again for months or perhaps years.  I notice I can’t stop wanting to try out those new EverQuest clones when they’re released – that should have been an early warning sign.  Finally, I play Warhammer Online, a game which (despite its many advances) is essentially another EverQuest clone, and (currently) feel it’s fan-freaking-tastic.

Forgive me.  After all, the more you learn about life, the more you realize you don’t know.  Thus, any learning person is fated to become their own little pocket of hypocrisy in time.

What is it that WO:AR has taught me about game design that makes me feel so pensive, anyway?

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