PvP vs PvE

So I’ve been pondering the PvP (or RvR, if you prefer) vs PvE question, as it applies to my own play styles. Specifically after others pointed out (accurately) that PvP requires player skill to do well at. For every PvP encounter, one human wins, one human loses. In RvR, one group of humans win, one group of humans lose, but assuming the encounters are balanced, 50% of the players are going to lose every encounter.

But what is player skill in this context? I think that’s where things start to rub me wrong. If I’m playing Team Fortress, my win/loss record depends almost entirely on player skill (the only other variable being lag). In an MMO there are other factors; namely your character and gear stats. So if what you’re looking for is a chance to prove that your skills are better than the next guy’s, why not play something that relies only on player skill?

Now, I’m the first to admit I’m a dinosaur. I had the “Chainmail” rule-set from which the first edition of D&D sprang. To me, these are still ROLE-PLAYING Games, and I embrace and enjoy the ‘spreadsheet’ factors involved in them. When I get into an RvR or PvP battle, and the opponent is “bunny hopping” around so I constantly get “You must be facing your target” or “Your target is out of range” over and over, I’ll happily admit he’s a better key-puncher than I am, but to me, that’s not why I play these games and frankly that’s not fun for me. When I read a fantasy novel, the opponents aren’t rapidly circle-strafing each other and leaping behind each other like frenzied crickets. They’re looking each other in the eye and using their sword-fighting skills and strength to try to overcome each other. Until an MMORPG can capture that feeling, I can’t see myself giving up PvE. Because yeah, a Mob is in my ways a puzzle to figure out, but at least fighting them feels more Arthur/Robin Hood/Conan/Arragorn-esque than spinning in place trying to keep an eye on an opponent with limitless energy. (I’d love to see an MMO give each character an energy level that drains constantly while fighting, and drains really quickly when jumping or running sideways {aka circle-strafing} during a fight. Heavier armor could make energy drain faster, so you could opt for light armor and be very nimble/mobile, or a real tank that basically has to stand there and trade blows.)

Or to look at things from a purely gameplay point of view, my roots are in turn-based strategy games. When I play single-player RPGs, I vastly prefer ones with turn-based combat systems. I take joy out of understanding my characters strengths and weaknesses, and his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and using my brain to win the encounter, not my eye-hand coordination (which, as I approach the half-century mark, grow weaker every year). I’ll happily grant the hypocrisy in that statement… stopping to think about what kind of attack to use next isn’t very Arthurian, either. Which is why MMO PvE battles are kind of the sweet spot. You know your character’s skills, and after a few encounters you understand what your enemies weak points are, and now you can use that knowledge to watch the flow of battle and quickly react, based on knowledge more than on how adeptly you can punch in commands.

Hmm, again, just kind of thinking out loud. I apologize if I send mixed signals in this blog, sometimes saying one thing, sometimes another. But I don’t compose these posts ahead of time. Writing them is my way of exploring my own thoughts on these topics, and sometimes it takes me a few tries to really understand why I react to things the way I do.

My Warhammer Future

So I sprang for a 60-day timecard for Warhammer Online via that Black Friday deal. I’m not exactly sure when I’ll use it though; pretty sure it won’t be until after the 1st of the year at the earliest.

I’ve been reading the blogs of some of the folks who are still playing and still enjoying the game, and the more I read, the more I understand that they are looking for something very different from what I’m looking for in a “full time” MMO. And while I’m glad they’re finding what they’re looking for, I don’t think my MMO needs and desires are likely to change enough to make Warhammer my next home, unless Warhammer changes.

I do enjoy RvR, but not as a ‘staple’. It’s something to do now and then for a change of pace. What I really enjoy is playing co-op against PvE with a few folks I get along well with (I also enjoy small-scale raiding, but again, not as a staple..I’ve never tried any large raiding but am pretty confident I’d dislike it a lot). It’s a laid back social event, filled with gaps in the action to laugh and joke around during, without the irritation of Ventrilo, which I hate. I love my text; yeah, I’m a dinosaur.

To go into more general terms, most of the time I play MMOs to relax and escape the mundane dreariness of real life. I play MMOs for the same reason a lot of people read fiction. I tend to do PvE while semi-overlevel because I don’t really need more frustration in my life than I already get outside of games. I also like “immersion” in my games. I like crafting, and social clothing, and goofy pets that are just there for fun, and housing, and hanging around in an Inn listening to people come and go and chat. Warhammer is very focused on the gameplay experience, which makes it unique and (in my opinion) very valuable. Just maybe not right for me.

It would’ve been perfect for me if EA had offered a Lifetime Membership to Warhammer. I would’ve snapped that up and would’ve enjoyed it on an occasional basis for a long time to come. But they didn’t and that means $15/month for a game I’ll probably want to play once a week or so. I can route that $15 to other games instead; games I’ll play 3-4 times a week.

I wonder if Mythic/EA will change focus of Warhammer at all, and bring in more PvE content? Despite what others remember, I recall Dark Age of Camelot having a very rich PvE component, and that’s where I spent a lot of my time, only heading into RvR every so often, usually on weekends. I can’t think of a primarily PvP MMO that has done well. EVE is the closest, and it has a huge economic component to it, from what I remember. There’s a lot more to do than just do PvP in it. Yes, the blogosphere is full of very active and chatty people that love PvP, but again and again we see that the general populace isn’t as interested on a long term basis. The constant consolidation of Warhammer servers seems to indicate that the players who want full-on RvR as a main leveling system aren’t as plentiful as us primarily-PvEers.

So I’m going try Warhammer again come January, and I’ll try to keep my mind open and try to level up a single character to Tier 4. People constantly tell me there’s “enough” PvE content in the game, but leaving Warhammer and going into LOTRO or EQ2 or WOW, it becomes really evident how huge the gap is in the PvE between Warhammer and these other games. What I never did is jump Pairings when doing PvE and I’ll have to start doing that to get more quests.

The pity of it all is that I’ve fallen in love with the Warhammer world and lore. Some of this is from Warhammer Online but a lot of it is from reading the Gotrek & Felix novels, and now I’d *love* to play a rich-PvE MMO based in the world.

Melee DPS in War: Huh! What are they good for?

Absolutely nothin!

OK, that’s not literally true but I needed to say it to invoke the classic song. You young’uns will just have to trust me.

Anyway I spent the weekend alt-hopping, and I’m growing increasingly disillusioned with melee DPS classes in Warhammer Online for doing RvR (they do great at PvE). I’m writing this post so people can tell me how stupid I am and convince me that melee DPS is deadly when handled right.

Over the past couple of days I’ve played a healer, tank and melee DPS on both sides of the fight. Healers are hard to kill and, well, heal. Tanks are hard to kill and do plenty of damage. Melee DPS drop if you look at them wrong and do plenty of damage, assuming no one looks at them wrong. (None of this includes Range DPS…I haven’t been playing them.)

The problem boils down to survivability. Melee DPS armor isn’t anthing to crow about, so you really need external help to stay alive. Healers tend not to heal DPS classes for a couple of valid reasons: 1) Healers are busy keeping themselves and the Tanks alive & 2) Melee DPS takes damage so damned quickly that it’s almost impossible to keep them up unless the healer is laser-focused on 1 particular melee DPS. Plus some healers seem to have an inherent disdain for melee dps since all they do is “smash buttons to do damage”.

Before you react too strongly to that last paragraph I say again, I’ve been playing a healer on and off the past few days, and I too didn’t heal the melee DPS after a few tries. It just wasn’t efficient to do so. By the time they draw the attention of the other side and start taking damage, they’re as good as dead. You can’t dump healing on them fast enough to keep them up unless you ignore everyone else.

Tanks seem to be plenty good at busting through enemy lines and laying the smack down on their healers & ranged DPS. A tank with a pack full of potions can stay up for a long time even without heals; have a healer drop a HoT on him now and then and it’ll take sustained attention from 3 or 4 enemies to bring him down. And his damage is good, too.

To test all this I’ve been playing Scenarios (which, btw, reaffirmed my dislike of them and the people that play them, each of whom is apparently the single person on their team who knows how2play!), so I have a “scorecard” to check. I’ve won some, lost some, playing as Order, playing as Destruction. My Tank consistently ranked near the top of the charts for my side in terms of Damage Done, and near the bottom in terms of deaths. My Melee DPS was the inverse, often topping the charts in number of deaths and being near the bottom in damage done. It’s hard to do damage when you spend most of the scenario face down in the mud.

All of this experimentation was done in Tier 1, so hopefully things change. The classes I played were a Rune Priest, Ironbreaker and Marauder (and I play a Witch Hunter as my ‘main’). It’s possible I picked the best tank and the worst melee dps, or something equally odd to skew my experience. In particular when playing Order I’ve had some bad Witch Elf experiences, and I think that has to do with their short-term stealth maybe?

I’d love to hear from other melee DPS players. Has it been rough for you, or do you do ok? There were literally times with that Marauder that I was killed before I even reached the back ranks of the baddies. They saw me incoming, I got a face full spells and was respawning before I knew what had hit me (literally). I played a high level Marauder in beta and I know they get that freaky tentacle that’ll yank an enemy TO you rather than you trying to charge through enemy lines, so maybe that’s the basic Marauder M.O.?

Keep Cap Exp, huzzah!

Today Mythic added some experience rewards for capturing a Keep, so the Casualties of War decided to go see what that was all about. We had Tier 3 and Tier 2 groups roving the RvR Lakes; I was with the T2 groups.

Great fun. For the record my Rank 15 Witch Hunter got 2300 exp for taking a keep (and 700 renown). My understanding is that at 15 he’s pretty much getting the max, and honestly given the organizational time, cost (for siege machines), and difficulty, it should be more, but this is a step in the right direction at least.

In all the excitement I only took a couple of screenshots, and none of them at the Keeps, but here is our merry band standing around “defending” a Battlefield Objective. (No Destruction types were silly enough to try to take it back.) We had 1 full warband of maybe 75% CoW members, and a second Warband that I’m thinking was about 2 groups. Keep battles were still a challenge since some of us were in Vent, some not, and there were 2 warbands so /shout was the best way to communicate (we probably should’ve created a channel…an idea that only just now occurred to me). Plus the design of the keeps can make it hard to bring all troops to bear at once…

Anyway, click for a much larger version:

Defending Altdorf

Tonight on Averheim, Destruction took another shot at Altdorf. In fact the battle rages as I type this (slain by the bedtime monster!).

I was determined to get involved, so off I went, a mighty rank 15 Witch Hunter ready to kick some Destruction ass!

OK not really. I knew I wouldn’t be any help but just wanted to see how things worked. The first challenge was getting to the battle. At first the fight was in Stonewatch, and I was still trying to figure out how to get there when Destruction moved on Reikland. I had come out the exit in the slums of Altdorf (the back exit, I believe) and crossed through the Heinrich Estate to the walls, except I was on the wrong side of it!

Luckily I found a Postern Gate and got in, then up on the walls. Destruction already had a ram on the main gate. I got close enough to pew pew with my pistol, but the best that did was earn me a scalding from some finger waggler. I had to run for my life and heal up.

I was looking at the map and talking to a guildie when the gate came down, and Destruction didn’t bother to stop to kill a level 15 on the walls. I closed the map and found myself alone on the walls. I manned an Organ Gun and for a while used it on incoming destruction reinforcements.

So the first thing I learned… if you have low level guildies who want to defend, let them take control of a siege weapon and they can make a meaningful contribution.

That said, a single siege weapon wasn’t killing anyone and we all know how fast one heals in WAR, so I judge my efforts there futile. I jumped down off the walls and ran up to the Destruction Horde pounding on the door of the keep. I shot one, and he turned and came after me. A level 40 marauder named Nobody. I fled of course, out through the gates, getting hung up for precious seconds on their abandoned battering ram. It was enough for Nobody to catch me and soon I was releasing back to a warcamp.

For some reason this was a camp at the other end of the zone. Rather than run back I flew into Altdorf and came out the main entrance and ran towards the battle. I ran around a corner and right into a marauder who more or less 1 shotted me. As I looked up I saw that it was… Nobody!!
I had to laugh, I’d taken the big circular route around the battlefield and came back to run into the same darned guy.

Next trip, I ran the length of the zone, getting a look at the lay of the land. Took me quite a while…

Thing two I learned. Fly to Altdorf and run out, it’s much faster.

..and soon I was back at the Postern Gate and slinking through. I ran all the way back into Altdorf to catch my breath, then back into the fray, ducking between some High Elves in full armor (I should note that there were open Warbands but I didn’t want some healer wasting their healing juice trying to keep a level 15 alive, so I remained solo.).

Suddenly the elves reversed direction and about trampled me. I rolled out of the way, jumped to my feet and followed them to… a sewer opening? People were clustering around it, pushing to get through. I followed, elbowing a dwarf in the head in order to cut in front of him. Inside was a claustrophobic spiral staircase, up I went, and popped out to face grim Order faces looking at me. Before I could ask “S’up Doodes?” I started taking damage. As I ran I glanced behind me…there were like 10 Destruction troops standing there… sneaky Destruction types, they were clonking people on the head as they emerged from the stairwell.

It was getting late and I’d learned a couple of things so I called it a night.

I can’t wait to get a few more levels so I can get into these battles in a meaningful way. Right now, in spite of what anyone tells you, there’s darned little a Tier 2 player can do, short of manning a siege weapon (It occurs to me that this might not be as true with Healers). A good tight warband of Tier 2 players could in theory act as a harrying force, but they’d have to be players that didn’t mind getting killed over and over again, and have a couple of healers hidden somewhere just to do resurrections.

But practically speaking, it makes more sense to spend your time gaining levels vs throwing yourself at much players twice+ your level.

And here’s where my personal weirdness comes out. I had a BLAST going out to defend Altdorf!! Being in a group of 20-30 players all running out to fight the enemy was great fun in DAoC and its great fun here, too.
Pretty Flash
Yeah, Altdorf might fall tonight, who knows? I don’t honestly care that much. What I care about is that the battle was fun. If it was fun at level 15, I can’t imagine how great it’ll be at 30 or 40! And I also care that Order was reacting and organizing. There are players on the Order side who want to put up a good fight.

I’m excited about the future of WAR, and I’m glad to be on Averheim. It’s a great server to play Order on.

And on the off chance that Nobody reads this (as opposed to the usual nobody reading it) I have to ask, and be honest. You came after me cuz I was so damned flash, didn’t ya!?? πŸ™‚ I mean, what self-respecting Marauder could resist taking a shot at the Witch Hunter in the purple armor!!?

Update: Saylah hung around for the whole battle. Read her account here: Order on Averheim say, β€œNo, you can’t take it during prime time!”

The flip side: a night of “solo” War.

So last night, I was feeling pretty cranky and unsociable, but I still needed my daily War fix. I logged on for some solo fun. I was thinking “Log in, kill monsters, log off.”

Turns out it isn’t easy to solo in Warhammer.

And by that I don’t mean that going solo is hard or overly challenging. I mean that there are so many easy ways to group up with other players (implicitly or explicitly) that before you know it, you aren’t solo anymore. You have to kind of go out of your way to play by yourself in this game. (Just to be clear, this is a compliment.)

It started when I realized I still had a few quests left in contested (RvR) areas. I coulda shouted out to the CoWs for help but like I said, I was cranky and didn’t really feel much like talking. I figured I could chance it. After all, everyone is in Scenarios in Tier 1, right?

I’d just hit my first quest goal when I spotted a level 10 Marauder skulking about. Those guys are about as heretical as one can get, with their freaky arms and all. So I did what any good Witch Hunter would do. I shot first, planning to ask questions later. It was a good fight. Level 10 DPS vs Level 10 DPS. Sadly for him, he flinched first… his first reaction was to run, letting me get in a few shots before he decided to turn and fight. Pretty soon, one dead Marauder.

I figured he’d be back with friends. I figured right because before too long three Destros showed up. Three on one didn’t seem too favorable so I ran like a little girl. Popped my Flee, downed a potion and got away before the assorted DoTs and Snares could bring me down. I ran to the guards (I’m sure they had a few choice unmanly names for me at that point) and kept running, circling around to enter the RvR area from another venue.

Y’know what’s creepy & fun? Running into a town square and finding a bunch of bodies that haven’t decayed yet, and wondering which side won. I was whipping my camera back and forth scanning for action and finally spotted movement. Friendlies! A rag-tag bunch of order came running back from the direction of the Destro guards. We took back a control point and hung around for the 3 minutes it takes to solidify the capture. I wasn’t in a Group but I was in a group, if you follow me. We took another control point and hunkered down to finish the cap. Destro kept fainting at us from different vectors, but we held strong. When the timer went off and we got the bonus renown, everyone cheered. By then I’d finished my quests so I headed out of the RvR area.

It was time to leave for Norsca, as I’d finished all the quests in Nordland. In Norsca, I noted one more RvR quest that I’d lost track of. I had to scout a control point in a cave on an island. This is the one thing I really did Solo all night. I ran out there, not a soul in site. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for attacks to start. I hoped to trigger the quest from outside the cave, but nope. I crept inside. Empty. No guards, no players. The control point was Lost, which meant it had changed hands fairly recently (too bad, I was hoping for a solo cap!). I crept back out. Stealthed away, then ran like heck. Success. Sounds boring now, but doing it wasn’t at all.

It was getting late, but I figured I’d start grinding out some Influence in the Chapt 4 PQs. I wasn’t looking to get involved with anything, but when a group invite popped up from a Bright Wizard, it felt rude to ignore it. After all, this WAS a PQ I was doing. We chatted a bit while we ground out the first stage of the PQ. Then another player joined us. And last, a level 23 White Lion. Suddenly we could take the PQ seriously.

We beat it, and of course all got loot bags with such a small group. After a quick discussion we ran off to another PQ, adding a couple more group members but dropping one. The next PQ was completed in fairly short order. The White Lion had a Standard and it gave a +20% Morale Buff and a +3% Exp Buff. My Morale gauge was filling up faster than I could use the skill! With that PQ done, we headed off to yet another. By now the group was in the swing of things, chatting, joking, killing, helping each other out. People were rolling Need on things they could use, and Greed on things they couldn’t. Everything was fun and easy-going. No stress.

The next PQ had a surprise inside. And I’m not going to spoil it, but OUCH! During this one there were a few dwarves running about; they never joined us but definitely were integral to our ultimate success. Nice guys, too. We had a nice chat after the battle.

Finally I *had* to go to bed. Lady Luck was with me; I’d rolled for first place once, and second place twice in our PQ lotteries. I’m not sure what happens with a high level character in these things; I ranked first in contribution on one of them. A level 10 ranking 1st when there’s a 23 in the group? I’m guessing he gets penalized for being so high level, or just doesn’t get in on the meters at all? Anyway, 3 loot bags came with 3 equipment upgrades: tunic, boots and a new rapier. Woot!

So during my whole “solo” night I really did one thing alone. And I’ve specifically mentioned the chat that was happening in /group and in /say because I keep reading articles about how quiet Warhammer is. I don’t find it quiet, really. I’ll grant you that region-wide chat channels are quiet. But face to face conversation seems fine to me. I really don’t miss anonymous-ish chat channels with their petty flame wars and Chuck Norris jokes. When you’re standing right there in front of a person, or are grouped with them, chances are you’re going to treat them more like you would in ‘real life’ and not just randomly attack. And that’s been my experience so far.

All in all, another night of great fun and adventure in Warhammer Online. I began the night at level 9 and finished about half-way through level 11, without touching a scenario. (I keep hearing that doing scenarios are the fastest way to level, but 2 dings on a weeknight seems pretty good to me.) What’ll be next!!?

RvR: Open World vs Scenarios

So last night I got together with some guildies to do Tier 1 Open World RvR in Warhammer Online. This was the first time I’ve done ‘organized’ Open World RvR since launch, and the first time I’ve done it with a character I’d ‘grown’ naturally. (We did a lot of RvR in beta testing, but it was always with an insta-leveled character that I never had a good feel for.)

Short version of the story: It was a blast!

Long version: There was a bit of give and take early on, as some folks really wanted to do scenarios even though the ‘scheduled event’ was open world RvR. Nice thing about War is that this wasn’t a deal breaker. Some of us went one way and others went another. We swept through all three pairings taking objectives. Sadly only Nordland/Norsca was heavily contested and thus that pairing was the most fun. But it was the first outting for several of us and getting out there to get a feel for the lay of the land of each zone was entertaining and helpful. We left our Warband open and some random folks joined in the fun. At least one of them asked if the guild was accepting new members (they asked me via private tell) and I had to let them down gently. For now our recruitment is closed.

Anyway, all of this led me to the question of Scenarios vs Open World.

I seem to be in a minority in preferring Open World RvR. In fact, some people think Tier 1 RvR is broken. and maybe it is, but I haven’t noticed. I personally find Scenarios to feel awfully “flat” and while they’re a nice change of pace, I think I’ve already had my fill of the T1 Warhammer Scenarios. This is definitely a personal preference and plenty of people are still *loving* the scenarios.

Y’see, I’m a role-player at heart, even if I’m not on an RP server. By this I don’t mean I have some elaborate backstory for my character. But I mean when I’m playing, I AM my character. Maybe I should say I’m a VR junkie rather than a role-player. Immersion is important to me, which is why stupid names and Chuck Norris jokes bug the hell out of me: they strongly remind me that I’m playing a game.

And Scenarios do that too. Every one starts the same and ends with a big fat score-card in front of my face. Scenarios are a sport, and I’m not much of a sports guy. They feel like a video game and I don’t want a video game: I want a virtual world to lose myself in.

Open World RvR is random. You head out and you don’t know if you’re going to encounter an overwhelmingly powerful force….or no one. I LOVE that. That’s like a big old Christmas present under the tree for me. Surprise!

The downside is, well, I’m an aberration. The vast majority of people seem to prefer Scenarios, and I can even understand that: they’re quick to get into (on our server at least…a five minute wait is a long wait on Averheim/Order) and you *know* there’s going to be competition. And they give lots of experience, and mostly people are eager to gain new levels. Scenarios are a very “theme park” feature, and as we’ve seen, Theme Park MMOs are very popular.

Hopefully this mindset will change in higher tiers. I’ve done only one Tier 2 scenario: Phoenix Gate. PH is a “Capture the Flag” scenario and to me… well, cleaning the toilet starts to sound like fun when compared to Capture the Flag in any and every computer game I’ve ever played. I just despise CtF as a theme. Again, totally a personal preference. Probably has a lot to do with sucking at gym class when I was a kid. Chasing a flag carrier and not being fast enough to catch up brings back a lot of bad memories. πŸ™‚

But the point I’m trying to make is, I sure hope either other scenarios are more interesting in T2 and beyond, or there’s more Open World RvR up there.

And I’d love to see Mythic add more incentive to OW RvR. Maybe if instead of just telling us how much personal Renown we’ve gained for taking a control point (lots, btw, I gained 5 renown levels in a few hours) we also got a more concrete indication of how much we’ve moved the “Realm Control” needle when we capture a zone? I mean, everyone loves the ‘kapow!’ of our side capturing a tier, right? Not to mention that nice Victory Call buff?

Anyway, another wall of text. I’m going to make an effort to try to organize more Open World RvR in our guild, and I’m going to try to find some good Destruction Guilds on Averheim and call them out when I do so. Let’s do what we can to make that “War is Everywhere!” battle call to be true!

A taste of RvR

Tonight I got my first real taste of “open world RvR” in Warhammer Online.

I mean, I did plenty of it in beta testing, but when you get handed a level 30 or 40 character and go bash other people who are all level 30 or 40, it just isn’t the same as going out there with the character that you grew from level 1, and who is going to be encountering opponents both higher and lower than he is.

It really brought back memories of pre-Battlegrounds WoW PvP, and I mean that as a compliment. I wasn’t even grouped, just moving *with* a group, and trying to do some quests while dodging baddies, or ambushing them, depending on circumstances. This was in Tier 1, mind you. It was so great to see stuff happening in T1 RvR! Early on I did a bunch of quests in the High Elf T1 RvR areas, and never even saw another player.

I was also playing as a Witch Hunter, a class that has always called to me and that I have, for mostly silly reasons, resisted until now. I’ve actually rolled a WH on not one but two different RP servers, because I really wanted to “RP” a Witch Hunter. But I keep playing on Averheim, so I was ‘saving’ the Witch Hunter until such time as I moved to an RP server. But CoW is turning out to be such a good guild that I’ve abandoned all other servers..well anyway, no matter.

Point I’m trying to get at is that the Witch Hunter is incredibly fun. His basic pistol shot has a snare effect when it hits someone in the back, and he can shoot while running, so he’s pretty useful in RvR even when outmatched, since he can snare fleeing bad guys. (My Shadow Warrior has a snare shot as well, but he has to stand still to fire it off.)

And when it comes in to close up fighting, the WH has a nice variety of melee and close range pistol shots. Just great fun all around.

My only fear now is the scenarios are going to feel dull after tonight!