Thursday, October 30, 2008

Moving to a new address

The Battered Shield has moved.

Please update your links to:

Blogger has served me well in the past but Wordpress has some neat features I really like and, after tinkering around with it a bit, I think it will end up being a decent home.

Thank you for visiting!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Like shifting sands in the hourglass…

… thus passes the dwarves of our lives.

Warhammer: Age of Reconing
I’m still playing around in WAR but not with the enthusiasm with which I had originally started out. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I’ve decided to focus on my Squig Herder on the Destruction side. Environment-wise, I love Order lands, particularly the Empire areas, but class-wise I’m liking the Squig Herder. In every game, I usually end up playing the short, funny race and a goblin SH is both. His “Ow, My Eye!” exclamation when I click on him is hilarious.

One thing Mythic must address is the issue of level differences: as the mean level of the server increases, the lower-level areas are emptying out. This phenomena happens in most games, but it’s a real problem in WAR for Open RvR and Public Quests – both of which rely on teams of people for any significant progression. Most of the PQs for my level are empty. I have to grind the mobs until the second phase where I have to abandon the PQ area until the reset. Open RvR has been rather off-putting in that most of the groups I’ve ended up in are disorganized PUGs with little to no coordination.

MMO Doom
MBP has an interesting discussion about WAR and MMOs in general. Several gamer / bloggers such as Melmoth and Tobolds are also leaving WAR. In spite of the prominence of some that are moving on, I think that WAR’s future is still bright. Its niche of gamers, PvP fans who like fantasy worlds in general or Warhammer in particular, will likely continue to flock to the game. I predict a million or so active subs shortly after the holidays – not close to WoW’s numbers but still a very successful MMO.

MBP’s discussion also touched on new development and whether a new developer creating an EQ- or WoW- like game would make their money back. I have to agree with him: I doubt it. The problem: it’s been done before. Making a plain old copy of the mechanics of EQ or WoW when added to an unknown or uninteresting IP are doomed to failure. An IP like Harry Potter, might stand a chance as a game marketed for much younger gamers but less famous ones will end up with problems.

What the industry needs is a company willing to stand up and take things in a different direction or at least figure out what of the “new” stuff in more recent games is worth having and bring it all together into a newer, more interesting conglomeration. The bad news is: the only company, that I can see anyway, with the talent, drive and resources to create such a game is Blizzard, and they’re too busy resting on their laurels with WoW. A Diablo or Starcraft MMO would be great if they built it differently from the ground up. Until then, I suspect there will be decreasing returns in investments in the MMO genre as a whole.

Lord of the Rings Online
On the LotRO front, I’ve been playing less as a result of my Warhammer escapades though I am still playing. I upgraded my LotRO account in preparation for the Mines of Moria expansion and am looking forward to seeing all the new goodies in store for my wee hobbit adventurer. My WAR adventures do come with a certain guilt about playing another game. I’m an officer in a kinship in LotRO and while I’m enjoying WAR I most definitely do not want to let my kinship mates down. The other officers were understanding about my break from LotRO, and I was happy to be back last night.

Also in regard to Moria, the NDA has lifted for those beta-testing the Moria expansion so expect to hear more news leaking out. Thus far, I have it from some beta testers in my kinship that:

- Classes like hunters and champs will have their damage adjusted upwards to fight the buffed mobs.
- Guardians will have improved defensive capabilities (though there is a problem with their aggro-generating skills in the current state of the beta).
- Rift and other raid gear will remain relevant for two or three levels into the expansion. It will not become immediately useless like WoW’s raid gear with The Burning Crusade expansion. Even then, expect gradual replacement of items – not a sudden realization that everything you’re wearing is useless.
- Early MoM content is very solo-friendly. None of the beta testers I spoke to complained about not being able to make some progress in the Mines even when alone.
- Moria is a gorgeous zone but it is also dark. Tip: Alt+F10 is the key to use your “personal torch.” It’s not really a torch but it increases the ambient lighting around your character so you can see better. There appear to be three light settings: off, dim, bright.

The info above was provided by a couple kinship mates so I don’t have personal experience with it (except for the torch thing which I knew about before *flex*). :P

For those hungering for official news, check out the LotRO forum's Dev Diaries page and see the dev diaries. Unfortunately, there isn’t a consolidated page of info but the dev diaries should give clues about the class changes, etc.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lore Kick - Stingy Jack

I’ve been on a Lore kick for a number of months now – not just about the games I’ve been playing but really anything to do with traditional stories or fairy tales. Seeing as Halloween (my favoritest Holiday evar) is coming up, I thought I’d post something I found from the History Channel Halloween section.

People have been making jack o'lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern."

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o'lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack o'lanterns.

(Story from the Stingy Jack entry.)

Wikipedia also has a Stingy Jack article.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Much Ado About Scenarios

There’s been much ado about the lack of Open RvR participation in WAR around the blargh-o-sphere. Bildo has a post about it as does PotShot (you have to imagine the funny “o”s he uses). The issue, in a nutshell, is that no one is doing Open RvR because they’re all in Scenarios which are currently the best means of progression in the game. A losing scenario at level eighteen can still net upwards of five-thousand XP for five-to-ten minutes work. A winning scenario at level eighteen can grant upwards of ten-thousand XP. I can’t get five-thousand XP for half-an-hour’s worth of work in the PvE content and I’d probably get significantly less for Open RvR. Forget ten-thousand.

The only thing I can liken Open RvR to in my recent experience is the Ettenmoors in LotRO. It’s an open, instanced place where players are free to do what they want. There’s no particular goal, but there are rewards for taking keeps, etc. When both sides have raids put together, the battles are epic and a lot of fun. Sadly, it's usually a raid on one side hunting around the map for odd players on the other side. To make the area the most fun, you really need players, lots of players, fighting on both sides. With two Freep raids and two Creep raids marauding across the map, the place is alive and exciting. There was no place you could go where there wasn’t troop movement or a battle raging. Without a population engaged in that kind of content, it’s just a boring map.

I hope Mythic can do a better job of getting lots of people in *each* tier to want to participate in open RvR battles - whether it's making those battles easier to put together or some kind of incentive system to help players progress via open RvR (and enough of a progression scheme to compete with Scenarios). The idea of the armies of Destruction and Order hashing it out in open battle is cool and a lot of players would really enjoy themselves. However, currently, it would interfere with their progression. The Ancient Gaming Noob has a recap of a keep battle on his site today for those interested in seeing what one is like.

A lot of the discussion around the keeps is centered on the argument that the Scenario grinders aren't having fun. “Why don’t they stop grinding and have fun with some Open RvR?” I suspect that either a) they are having fun as speedy progression is fun to them or b) they aren't having fun and wouldn't have fun at anything they do below max level. I disagree with both mindsets. I can’t stand grinding anything, whether mobs or battlegrounds, for any reason; and if the “getting there” part isn’t also fun, I couldn’t care less what happens at end-game – I’m gone. People are hell-bent to get to max level so they can begin complaining about the lack of things to do there.

“Why is there no Open RvR going on?!?”

Umm … there was: It was the blur on your left when you were rocketing up the ranks in your PvP sport matches. *shrug*”

PotShot’s suggestions will certainly make battles easier to get into for Open RvR and Bildo’s would address some of the concerns of the progression-minded. I hope Mythic does something to inspire the troops on both sides to get some fun world battles going for players in each tier. It would be pretty sad to get to the level cap without having even visited the Open RvR areas because there was nothing going on there.

In the interim, perhaps the large guilds on each server could sponsor Open RvR battle nights? Might make things more exciting on the servers and rather than waiting for Mythic to do something you’d be taking matters into your own hands. Declare, oh from 7 pm EST until whenever people lose interest on, let’s say, Friday as open battle night. Enter the RvR area of your choice and have at. I realize that with the three pairings, each having its own RvR area available, it would still be a crap-shoot as to whether there’s anyone there to fight BUT that could be part of the fun. You head off and take the Greenskin area and notice that the Empire area shows it’s under attack. So rally your troops to stop the attack in the Greenskin area.

Or you could put an end-time on it and then say that whoever controls the most areas of all the tiers when the time-limit hits is the winner. Based on the demographics (Order seems to be on earlier while Destruction on later) I’d make the limit something like 11pm EST – late enough that Destruction should be in full swing but ideally not too late for Order players either.

A big problem with the idea above: no gaming forums. Players would have to coordinate it and cross-faction cooperation in this case would be difficult. Sadly, I think it's Mythic that's going to need to solve this problem and there may not be much the players can do.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tanking in WAR Scenarios

I play a Dwarf Ironbreaker, currently Rank Twelve. I’ve been leveling mostly by doing either public quests or scenarios. The public quest part isn’t that interesting for being a tank: the mechanics are already similar in other MMOs – taunt, fight, debuff, snare, taunt again, etc. The interesting part of my WAR experience, however, has been tanking in PvP scenarios. Below are some observations I’ve made along the way.

You can’t dictate what enemy players will fight but you can get them to want to fight you. IBs have a taunt skill which, in PvP, acts more like a debuff: I will do a percentage more damage to that target until the debuff is gone or they hit me three times. If I put this on the enemy healer and start whomping away, they should probably focus on hitting me a bit. If they are hitting me, they’re not healing. My damage against a healer gets amplified if I have a lot of grudge built up as grudge amplifies my DOT hamstring attack (it’s not called a “hamstring” but the actual name escapes me).

An IB makes a great roadblock. With collision-detection in place, I can effectively pick players off my teammates. If the teammate is running towards me, I step between them and their pursuers. If the pursuer doesn’t change course, they’ll stop dead in their tracks when they run into me, thus allowing my teammate to escape. Hint for others if fighting along-side an IB: if someone is after you and an IB steps in the way, take a couple steps back – you’ll be out of range of the target (if they are melee) while they struggle to get around me and a healer can get a break at healing you (or you healing yourself). IBs can also block doorways and create bottlenecks in halls.

IBs also have an ability called Oathfriend. With Oathfriend on a teammate, my plus-to-armor and plus-to-defense skills also proc on them as well. I’m sure there’s a “best” person to put it on, but since I’ve been PUGing the scenarios thus far, I usually save it for the least clueless person I find (ie: the healer that heals or the other IB that actually tries to protect their teammates). Putting Oathfriend on a Warrior-Priest is a huge benefit for them, unfortunately, most of the WPs I’ve met fall into the nub category and I can’t be bothered helping them if they’re not going to throw an occasional heal around. Two IBs with their Oathfriends on each other is a thing of beauty. Myself and another IB defended a node and led the charge against another one. With a healer in the back keeping us up, the result was one of the most epic battles I’ve been in: two surly dwarves hammering away with axe and shield against the orcish horde (small “H”) while their teammates conquered the objective behind the lines. That was some of the most fun I’ve had in any MMO.

PvP tanking is a new concept for many people and it’s fun for those of us, like me, who are really good at getting in the way and making people angry with us. :)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Gaming Update

A couple things to report on the gaming front this week:

I'm still enjoying my time in LotRO but have pretty much maxed out my interest in the game until the Mines of Moria expansion this Fall. I still log in daily to run groups or go on raids or just to say hello but I've also been poking around some other titles both old and new.

I returned to City of Heroes for a little bit. It’s still the same game I remember with the added problem of now all my friends have moved on. Atlas Park, once the social hub of the whole game with anywhere between twenty-five and fifty players at a time chatting, dancing, etc is a graveyard. It was me and three other players last time I was there (and I’m pretty sure two of the others were afk). I’m still goofing off a bit with some villains (CoH and CoV merged into one game recently) but once the shininess wears off there I’ll be closing it down again.

And for the record, I am completely and totally NOT going to try WAR … except for the fact that I totally AM. Yes, thanks to Saylah’s stories and Bildo’s screenies, I felt compelled to try the whole thing out. I am currently playing a rank 11 Ironbreaker and a rank 12 Squig Herder. Thanks to collision detection and a new taunt skill which acts like an interrupt and debuff, PvP tanking is actually a possibility. I may no longer have the reflexes to do the uber, split-second dps casts but I should be able to get in people’s way which I’m pretty good at anyway.

I won’t go so far as to create a review of the whole game as that has been done better elsewhere. Overall, I am enjoying the scenarios and public quests. I find that the PvE is mediocre but I so enjoy exploring the different zones that at the moment, I don’t mind much. I’ve been to the major city for Order all of once and enjoyed the trip (except for the level twenty-something skeleton that kicked my lowbie ass near the docks).

Saturday, September 27, 2008

LotRO: Harvest Festival

The Lord of the Rings Online is having another Harvest Festival from September 26th until October 12th. I've run around a bit doing some of the festival content and am enjoying it. The dance instructors are back as is the race for the Harvestmath pony. One of the new additions this time around is a trick-or-treat type game you can play. Talk to the trickster near the festival area (the one for Men is actually in Bree and the one in Thorin's Hall is in the main entryway) and run around looking for people to talk to. The person will have a text blurb for you to read, then you do the emote the text is hinting at. It's a timed quest (20 minutes, I believe). Rewards include three festival tokens or a receipt for a special mask (pictured is the "bucket" mask from Thorin's Hall).

Edited for picture and technical detail.