No Warhammer beta as of yet

I finished downloading the client on Sunday, but then discovered I couldn’t play.

Mythic isn’t handling this phase exactly well. On the e-mail I received there were instructions about how to make a forum account. After I discovered I couldn’t connect to the server I tried to access the beta forums but discovered the instructions on the mail were wrong. Later on I spotted a post from Mark Jacobs stating that they invited a lot of players lately and had no intention to upgrade their forums in order to fit so many of them.

Without being able to read beta forums and figure out what was going on (or even troubleshooting why I couldn’t connect), it was kind of hard to find infos. At the end I had to ask to other beta players on another forum and discovered that the beta was open, but only for some.

Apparently all the recent invites cannot access the server where current beta players are playing in, and we have to wait the opening of a brand new server “later this week”.

I’m a bit disappointed about this. Not much because I can’t accept problems in beta, but because communication about these issues was poor and because it’s a bit irritating to know that there’s first-rate beta testers (who can play on any server and have access to forums) and second-rate beta testers (who have to wait their own server and can’t access forums).

Moreover I don’t have a lot of time to play these days and I still wanted to have something ready for when the NDA drops. That’s why I was hoping to get in as soon as possible in order to pack as much playtime as possible before writing my commentary. At this point I don’t know what I’ll do.

While looking around I spotted this:

After such a packed and satisfying questing experience, it’s a disappointment to arrive at the RVR battlefield – player-versus-player realm warfare being the hook Warhammer Online is hung on – and find it barren. Deserted. No scraps anywhere. That’s fine, you think, I’ll just queue up for a Scenario instead: Scenarios are WAR’s equivalent of Battlegrounds – instanced multiplayer maps, usually with a base-capture theme – and unlike WOW’s tiny handful, there are dozens of these, one for each zone. But you can queue all you like in the Greenskin starting zone: you won’t get a match.

That voices one of my main concerns from the very beginning when they announced so many options for PvP. And it didn’t start even there as I was already criticizing their design in DAoC, when while redoing the frontiers they decided to retain too many zones and not consolidate the space at all.

As I said in the past in my PvP game design posts, PvP requires convergence. You may have many zones and variations, if you want, but you need also to build a “flow”, so that at any time there’s one hotspot where the action concentrates, or other density balance systems. Then you can move the players. Variate gameplay, moving from one section to the other, but you just can’t support RvR or PvP contemporary on multiple zones and game modes.

It just doesn’t work and it’s the first requirement for PvP: reduce as much as possible the downtime and never have a lack of targets and battles to join. Low player activity kills PvP, no matter how the gameplay is great.

From my point of view, these problems are the very first thing you have to work on when you start putting together a project about a PvP MMO. From the previews it doesn’t seem Mythic is giving this as much consideration as it should have. So the worries are on the air, and when a game like this launches it is then hard to go down and change basic mechanics to solve the problems. And in the past Mythic kind of made an habit to never solve problems in core design and only endlessly work around them, complicating things and creating bigger problems in the longer term.

We’ll see. (and I continue to be convinced of my proposals to at least reduce the problem)

Sure is that even if I can actually play in this beta, I’ll hardly have enough elements to guess these long term issues. It just surprises and worries me that Mythic doesn’t seem to have any safe net ready.

As I wrote on some forums, it is crucial for the long term life of Warhammer Online that even the low level zones remain active and well populated for PvP. Or that may become, six months after launch, one of the biggest wall that makes new players bounce back and progressively erode the subscription base.

WoW’s success was made through growth. Warhammer here risks to launch big and then slowly lose pieces if Mythic doesn’t give those problems some serious consideration instead of being too worried about cutting cities or classes. The true problems are elsewhere.

Not in the lack of content, but in the lack of RvR convergence and activity flow.

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Will write commentary about Warhammer Online

I got lucky today. Won a book and was invited to the beta of Warhammer Online. The latter isn’t so much about being lucky as I expect they invited most of everyone now that they launch in one month.

I actually had no plans to participate into the beta or even play the game at release (or write comments about it), but some things changed and it’s wise if I give a look in advance.

I didn’t see anything first-hand for now, just noticed I have a key for the beta and launching the torrent on the other PC to download the client. Since the NDA will be released next week I’ll do a write up as I expect to have something to say.

For once I’ll try to not write 100 pages of text and summarize what’s most relevant, both from the point of view of game design and the average player.

Richard Morgan’s fantasy book shipping now

But only from, as the american release is still to come (January, next year).

I just got confirmation on my mail that my order was shipped, so the book is out and in stock.

For those who have no idea about who he is, he mostly wrote edgy, contemporary sci-fi. This is his first foray into epic fantasy, still edgy.

It looks to be a good read, if you can stomach it.

Since it’s coming, new and without requiring to read previous installments, for once I’ll try and comment while it’s fresh. So I guess I’ll start reading it when I’m done with Erikson’s novellas (I’m a few pages onto the second of the three).

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Some old time readers of this blog may find amusing what I’m writing here. But it isn’t a second-thought. I just believe that criticism is useful, but only useful when it is motivated. No matter what I wrote about these years, I hope that I always explained the best I could those motivations, and avoided gratuitous attacks.

This is just a post from the forums where I was defending Erikson from some criticism, but it makes sense on a general level.

Erikson himself has explained that he doesn’t know how much the books sold, nor he really cares. He is interested in the possibility of writing them and being paid so he can continue, and the new contract for six more books confirms that things aren’t going so bad.

GotM is some sort of selective process. He’s not writing something for the commercial success, and he is content enough if some of the people make through it and love it for what it is. It is about building your niche of passionate readers and know that at least some of them appreciate what you are doing, the way you’re doing it. If not everyone loves it, it doesn’t really matter as long you can still connect to some readers.

On these forums there are multiple threads just dedicated to mock some writer. And that writer is one of the most successful commercially. Does this mean that commercial success univocally defines quality? If that was true one of the best new writers would be Stephanie Meyer, who already has her own mocking thread.

Every time a writer reaches some level of exposition all kind of readers try the books. More readers also brings more naysayers, especially on forums. What is silly is the obstinacy. If you don’t like the books, then read something else, as the market isn’t so shallow to not present good alternatives. But do not pretend to be the ultimate judge and that your idea of quality is absolute.

Confrontation is always good, but it’s ultimately the writer who decides what to do with it. If embody it in the work as an attempt to improve, or just discard it. Erikson especially is one who was always open to criticism in his interviews, but in many cases he explained his choices and confirmed they were deliberate and that, even with the possibility of going back, he wouldn’t change them.

That’s authorship, and it deserves some respect. Not unanimous consensus, just respect.

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Erikson is the modern Shakespeare

Exaggerating, but for some weird reason there’s a passage toward the end of “Blood Follows” (the first Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novella) that I just love and kept reciting to myself (the same with some sentences of Iskaral Pust in DG, I had to recite them aloud instead of merely reading them).

Context is: there’s a sergeant of the City Watch who’s investigating on a series of murders and who’s now going to interrogate two weird guys. These two are camping atop a grassy barrow, dressed in rags and cooking some ratmeat on a skewer, with some good wine nearby, since you can’t really appreciate the ratmeat without a good wine.

One of the two sees the sergeant approaching and addresses him as a ‘lowborn’, and the sergeant answers asking what’s so special about them two instead.

This the reply:

‘Singular intent, poor sergeant, is the most cleansing of endeavours. Witness here before you amiable myself and, at my side, himself. We two are most singular.’

There. I love it.

On the other side I officially have a problem with Erikson’s endings. Thought the ending of GotM wasn’t fully realized, didn’t like the one of DG, now even Blood Follows didn’t end in a way that I considered satisfactory (I kept waiting for a plot twist that didn’t arrive). Loved the novel, but it needed something at the end.

Now onto “The Lees of Laughter’s End”.