Why Warhammer goes nowhere

When I thought I was done being surprised I find this.

Mark Jacobs answers a player who brings up the same complaint I’ve been reading for the last four months: players avoid the fights and run in a circle around the maps.

– Tier 4: problems with everyone farming renown and inf by avoiding each other faction, instead of that “War is everywhere” that all we want.

This is Mark’s comment to this long standing problem:

avoiding other factions in a RvR/PvP game are always tough to solve even if you could only level through RvR/Pvp since many players/groups tend to always want to have an edge on the other group

I’m honestly baffled.

He doesn’t have even a VAGUE idea of how the game works. He thinks that players run in circles and avoid fighting because THEY ARE SCARED TO LOSE.

Could he be more out of touch? The problem is game design giving out RvR rewards (exp, gear, renown) for PvE action. The system TRAINS players to realize that it’s faster and more convenient to bypass the enemy than to put on a fight because the rewards don’t come from PvP itself. Players avoid fighting because the system can be exploited, not because the players don’t want to PvP because they are cowards.

For all the time Mark Jacobs wastes justifying his work, for once he should stop and actually listen what others are saying. BECAUSE HE IS CLUELESS.

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Famous Last Words

I was digging the archive to see if I could find the quote where Mark Jacobs said that Warhammer will never be like DAoC (since the announce of Darkness Falls).

I didn’t find it, but I found this:

“The initial partnership between Mythic and GOA resulted in Dark Age of Camelot being the number one MMORPG in Europe for many years,” said Mark Jacobs, CEO and President of Mythic Entertainment. “With WAR our goal is nothing less than to take Europe by storm and regain that leadership position in the European market.”

We love DAoC and by continuing to improve and invest in the game, it will be able stand up in the face of current and future competition. We believe by continuing to drive DAoC’s evolution, it will remain the top RvR-based MMORPG as well as one of the top MMORPGs in the world. If you agree with us, we’re willing to put in the time and investment to make it happen.

Yes, I agree. But I’m not that gullible so I don’t believe (and didn’t).

P.S.
For once we agree.

On building false hype

I’m strongly against this new habit across game companies of announcing the announcement. Hype should be built on the merit of things, not on false expectations or projections. I say this not as a personal preference, but because I believe that hype built without a foundation is hype that will hurt in ALL cases, even the best ones.

Mythic will announce something next week. Dunno if it’s a free expansion, a patch or whatever, but these are the small expectations Mark Jacobs is building:

While our patch notes for the next version are certainly worth reading, I think the new content is pretty good as well. Now, whether players consider them totally over-the-top, mega brilliance or simply, kewl, interesting, next generation stuff will be interesting to see. There are other options of course, but I’ll stick with those for now.

Imho, things should be talked about in two cases. Before the fact, if devs want to participate in a discussion and and confront and integrate players feedback. After the fact, to discuss the merit of things.

But announcing and hyping the announce, without anything concrete and objective to say. Why? What for? It’s since release that MJ hypes patch notes, only to have real patch notes out deluding players and him ready to hype the next. This policy operates at a loss, every time it’s a little worse. You’re training customers to not trust you.

Especially when your customers have a critical eye for what you do and you keep going with blind self-praise. It creates a disconnection with the players that won’t bode well at all. There isn’t anything worse than self-praise in the face of your customers.

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At loss for words

Yes, Warhammer again.

It’s like the perfect manual on how to be COMPLETELY out of touch with your game and community. Full denial of problems. Head in the sand attitude, and some of the stupidest ideas coming out of the blue.

Apparently as the first players rush onto the system and spread out across the servers, a ton of information and feedback will come flooding in via game forums, initial reviews as well as raw internal data. The temptation then is for the team to rush in and immediately start fixing things based on extremely small data sets and subjective interpretations. What the Warhammer Online team did instead was what might be referred to as “game triage.” They needed to decide which problems were truly game-threatening and focus on those and which could wait.

So they weren’t fooled. They wisely waited to address the real problems. Oh, really?

“When we look at game balance, we look at it in terms of realm vs. realm balance,” said Jeff Skalski, Warhammer Online’s RvR Strike Team Lead. “As long as we’re hitting that realm balance, we’re happy. Factional, racial or career population imbalances aren’t as critical.”

In fact, the team asserts that one of the biggest criticisms and fears around launch time — the potential for population or class imbalancehasn’t really materialized.

Yes, denial will help. As always.

The team also takes message board and player feedback very seriously and will address issues when they reach certain critical thresholds. A recent shift to healers, for example, occurred because the complaint by healers that their big healing spells were essentially useless in combat was backed up by internal data that showed how often such spells were used. As a result, many big healing spells were jazzed up to become more attractive for players.

Interesting, because the latest patch just reset the timers on those “big healing spells” to how they were previously.

Of all the problems the most crucial one the game had was one that many players doing other things missed — there weren’t enough people playing in the lower tier open realm RvR. While this had always been an anticipated problem as the player base aged and leveled up, all the data indicated that it was happening faster than it should. It was clearly something that needed to be addressed.

So they realized something wasn’t working. Now let’s see what it is:

“What we’ve found is that Scenarios tend to be their own reward,” Drescher said. “People who really want to do Open RvR, though, were falling behind PvE and scenario players in terms of gear. We needed to do something to draw people back into the ‘RvR lakes.'”

What!? Scenarios being “their own reward”? People in ORvR falling behind in terms of gear?

Do you have EVER played your own game? Scenarios weren’t their own reward. Scenarios were played because they gave HUGE boosts to experience and renown. ORvR players were falling behind in experience and renown. They are still falling behind.

In fact Scenarios didn’t provide gear in any way. If not through renown, which is again proportional to the experience.

If anything playing in ORvR will make your renown level advance FASTER than your experience level. This means that you proportionally get more gear via ORvR than what you get via Scenarios at the same level. The exact opposite of what you said.

And you are saying that in ORvR players were falling behind IN TERMS OF GEAR? And that, since you realized this, you fixed the problem by adding influence as another system to obtain gear WHILE YOU LEAVE EXPERIENCE UNTOUCHED?

Excuse me, this is nothing else than a plain display of utter incompetence. This is not a blogger with an axe to grind, this is just not having a clue about what you are doing.

Working on the Open RvR system also allowed the team to try and get ahead of another problem — the aging of the player base. The first element of this is the addition of “chicken content.” This is a series of quests that encourage higher tier player to revisit lower-tier zones (where they get turned into a chicken) in exchange for a fun series of Tome unlocks and quests that also provide interesting content for lower level characters as well. Apparently players will get experience for killing high level player-chickens and according to the team, there are as many Tome unlocks involving them as there were for fighting while naked.

…Speechless.

Josh Drescher, a name to remember.

If you had said we’d be where we are just a few months after launch last year, we’d have called you a liar,” Drescher concluded. “We’re ecstatically happy with where we are

Good for you then. If only you could persuade me you’re convinced of what you are saying.

In fact it sounds simply pathetic.

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Warhammer 1.1a patch aggravating ORvR instead of improving it

Had to be expected. After the gold bags at keeps encouraged avoidance instead of conflict (keep trading) now there’s the new influence system that takes player kills in very little consideration while it hugely rewards keeps takeovers.

Result: another incentive to avoid a fight and cooperate with the enemy faction. You trade keeps and maximize the rewards. Before it was gold bags for gear, now it is gold bags + influence. I also note that now there are three overlapping systems just in ORvR that provide gear: gold bags, renown vendors and influence system. How many broken systems you are going to pile up before you start to make work what’s already in the game?

This is a perfect example of Mythic not understanding the basic of game design. Not only they made the mistake with the gold bags, but instead of recognizing it, they make it worse.

Official response from a CM:

James Nichols: Unfortunately the path of least resistance is also tempting,

Nope, it’s not tempting. It’s the way the game is designed. Doing quests in WoW isn’t “tempting” it’s the way the game was designed.

Simply put: You continue to design RvR so it promotes avoidance. You got many occasion to correct this, instead you make it worse.

James Nichols: rest assured though we’ll continue to improve RvR to make it so that conflict is a common occurrence as best we can,

How? Does your team even recognize how game design works? Because with every step they are making things worse.

James Nichols: but players adjust to massive RvR may still have yet to learn that a lot of the fun of RvR has to do with what you make of it.

It’s hard to be fun in a game when bad game design is an obstacle. Blaming the players because they don’t know how to have fun is blaming them for your very own faults and failures.

James Nichols: We expect to see players naturally migrate towards conflict as the initial influence frenzy calms down.

After the players understand even better than avoidance maximizes the reward? I don’t know what trends you see in games, but over time things get “gamed” more and more. If players pursue the path of least resistance NOW, in a week or a month they’ll do it even more.

Making mistakes is one thing, but making them over, and over, and over… well, there are no excuses for that. See below, Warhammer had its chances. It wasted them all.

Warhammer selling less than EQ2?

From PC World.

Top PC Game Sales for November 2008

1. World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King ($36)
2. World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King CE ($70)
3. Call of Duty: World at War ($50)
4. Spore ($48)
5. Fallout 3 ($49)
6. World of Warcraft: Battle Chest ($34)
7. The Sims 2: Double Deluxe ($19)
8. Left 4 Dead ($48)
9. The Sims 2: Apartment Life ($21)
10. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 ($49)

WoW wasn’t the only MMO to make November’s top 20. Sneaking in at #14? Sony’s Everquest II: The Shadow Odyssey expansion pack.

No Warhammer?

EDIT: Aye, confirmed.

11. World Of Warcraft – (Activision Blizzard) – $18
12. The Sims 2 Mansion & Garden Stuff Expansion Pack – Electronic Arts – $19
13. Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy – Her Interactive – $20
14. EverQuest II: The Shadow Odyssey Expansion Pack – Sony Online Ent. – $40
15. Far Cry 2 – Ubisoft – $50
16. World Of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Expansion Pack – (Activision Blizzard) – $29
17. Bioshock – 2K Games ( Take 2) – $14
18. Spore Creepy & Cute Parts Pack – Electronic Arts – $19
19. IGT Slots: Little Green Men – Masque – $20
20. Assassin’s Creed: Director’s Cut Edition – Ubisoft – $17

Oops!… I did it again

But at least there’s no hate nor arguing.

There are two other frequent and well known problems in Warhammer Online that I think my old proposal would address nicely.

Problem 1: Warbands camping Warcamps
This is a frequent situation that players should be accustomed to. Beside trading keeps to quickly collect loot, the other popular form of RvR is “sieging” the enemy warcamp while staying outside the range of the guards. This because the respawn timers are short and so they provide a continuous stream of enemies to kill, so points. The situation partially bandaided with diminishing returns (making recently killed players worth fewer points).

Problem 2: Players throwing themselves at the enemy and respawning over and over
This is a similar problem to the once above, but from a different perspective. The players are disappointed because with constantly respawning enemy players it is kind of pointless to kill them and battles become simply a matter of attrition. This situation makes players suggest all kinds of foul solutions, like longer travel times or respawn timers. In DAoC one example of these foul solutions was to make players wait for 20 minutes on a pad waiting for a port to the frontier zones.

How to solve or at least improve Open RvR in these situations? Long term this can be done with a strategic layer to the battle that is currently missing from the game (making players care more about the campaign than the single skirmish), but since this is a complex solution and the game is nowhere close to make it possible, I’ll go with the simpler fixes.

The first problem is entirely solvable by rewarding players to fight around the objectives. If these rewards existed then it wouldn’t be convenient for anyone to siege the spawn points. the players would stay around BOs and Keeps and fight there. More details about this idea can be found again here.

The second problem can be consistently reduced, without doing more damage, by using another of my old proposals. You revert the approach. Instead of punishing players if they die, you reward those who survive. You make a new rule so that the more players you kill without dying, the more points you earn, increasing a bonus.

At the same time you also make these “hero” players who survive for long like “preys”. In the same way they build a bonus for killing players, they also start to be worth more points progressively, so becoming very enticing targets for the enemy. There should also be some kind of visual recognition so that enemy players would spot easily these “special” players and hunt them. The details of this kind of “visual cues” should be discussed with Mythic’s art team.

This is what I’d do.

P.S.
While I think those two changes alone would be enough to make a much better game, there’s also one other aspect that should go in:
– Make BOs linked to the keeps, so that the more BOs you have under your faction control, the weaker are the defenses of the keep and much easier the siege. Keeps should be very hard to conquer if the enemy doesn’t hold any BO, and very easy if it holds them all before the siege to the keep. This would also start to shape some kind of strategical layer.

Mark Jacobs on ORVR

If today’s announce on ORVR future plans doesn’t prove how Mythic is out of touch with their game, nothing else can.

P.S.
Quoting a random message from VN as a slight elaboration on what I said up here:

Seems like your adding a bunch of stuff but not fixing any of the underlying problems. Why add an RVR influence system when you already have renown ranks? Just make the renown ranks actually mean something would seem a better idea instead of adding yet another grind to your game.

Or, in F13 way of putting things:

YET ANOTHER FUCKING EXPERIENCE BAR

P.P.S.
Fanboys.

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The game sucks? Talk to a CSR

If the game design sucks then blame the players and talk to a CSR.

From a thread on Warhammer Alliance, the well known problem of keep trading (plus a variation on the theme):

Basically the leaders of the biggest order and destruction guilds get together online and agree to work together for easy/free renown. One side takes all the BO’s and keeps in a zone like Dragon wake, while the other side takes all the BO’s and keeps in a zone like Thunder Mountain. They then recapture each zone as a large group with no resistance. Both sides agree to leave each other alone and then set up the next zone to continue the renown swap. It’s general about 6k a zone, plus free keep loot, though it’s broken.

Sometimes a few “scrub” guilds will attack but they are generally too small or too lowbie to change anything.

In effect, the two sides have stopped fighting to make renown ranks go faster.

Brilliant answer from Mythic community manager:

If you have evidence that there are infractions of the ToS occurring on your server I would recommend that you submit an ingame appeal for it to be investigated.

As this is a Customer Service issue, I’m afraid that there is little more that I can say on the subject.

The job of a community manager is to read feedback, understand it and then get back to developers to point out that there are problems in the game and that some mechanics aren’t having the intended effect. This is clearly a problem of game design that needs to be communicated to devs and urgently addressed. Instead this community manager puts the blame solely on the players and tells them to swamp CSRs with problems that not compete to them.

So, the few of you who still play the game, get ready to send appeals for all the broken systems in the game and all those players who rightfully indulge with bad game design. All of them.

Please go on, it will be a memorable show. Go on and ban all those players who bother engaging into open RvR. Ban them and blame them for Mythic’s bad game design. Blame the players because Mythic didn’t think they needed a game designer and thought Mark Jacobs is fit for the job.

In the meantime I read that Mythic has already retreated into their ivory tower of “positive thinking”, purged of all heretics. Two ivory towers to be precise. The perfect ostrich head in the sand strategy. If you ignore the critics, they won’t exist.

Keep around you only those who agree with you. It’s the perfect world.

(my opinion was here)

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