Gotrek & Felix: The Second Omnibus

I stayed up much too late last night finishing Gotrek & Felix: The Second Omnibus by William King.

Honestly, I don’t have a real lot to say about it. If you haven’t read any of the Gotrek & Felix books, then you should start with Omnibus 1 (or one of the stand alone volumes, but these Omnibus re-issues are a great value). If you have read that and enjoyed it, stop reading and go order Omnibus 2. King just gets better and better the further along he goes.

All three books in the collection (Beastslayer, Dragonslayer and Vampireslayer) are full novels (the early books were collections of short stories and novellas) each of which stands alone nicely but strung together they form a continuous narrative of the adventures of our two heroes, one-time poet and scholar Felix, and gruff, death-wish driven Slayer Gotrek. The cast of characters broadens quite a bit in these books though, making them feel like a richer experience. King even finds room for some romance-driven subplots, and even Gotrek starts to show some signs of humanity by the end (and is self-aware of this fact, grumbling about spending too much time around humans).

A broader cast of characters lets King dispose of a few here and there as well, which alleviates the one weakness of a series with character names in the titles. We pretty much know that neither Gotrek nor Felix is going to fall in battle, given that there are more books to read!

I have to admit I came in to these books with pretty low-expectations given that they are based on a game. And at first my expectations were met: fun stuff, but with not a lot of meat to them. But that feeling faded away back in the midst of Omnibus 1, and the three books in this volume are great fantasy that could stand up against any non-licensed sword & sorcery fantasy novels. It doesn’t matter if you know what Warhammer is; if you love a good fantasy adventure yarn, the Gotrek & Felix books are for you.

Poster Child

[EDIT: Reworked version of the post with -25% whinging on my part.]

In a recent post at /random, Rick used myself and Heartless as examples of people who don’t like Warhammer. (In the original version of this post, I accused him of using me as a Poster Child for the Don’t Like Warhammer campagin, which was a bit over the top on my part, but I just mention it since that’s where the title of this post comes from.)

I found that surprising and kind of upsetting, to be honest. I mean, its true that Warhammer wasn’t grabbing me as much as it was others. But my experience with Heartless is that he has fairly passionate objections to some of the things Mythic has done/is doing. Nothing personal against Heartless (in fact I admire that passion), but I don’t feel I’m in the same category.

I was so surprised that I went back and re-read a bunch of my Warhammer posts. The specific post that Rick linked to had me wondering why I love Fable 2 so much while others hated it, and talked a lot about the immersion I felt in LOTRO. The harshest thing I said about Warhammer in that post was that “I’ve gotten somewhat less enthusiastic about Warhammer.” That’s hardly ranting against the game.

I have posted some introspective rambling trying to understand why I wasn’t finding as much joy in Warhammer as others do, but this post wasn’t complaining about what’s bad in Warhammer. Here’s a quote from that post: “Warhammer is very focused on the gameplay experience, which makes it unique and (in my opinion) very valuable.” Haven’t you ever observed a bunch of people really loving something that you’re not seeing the appeal of, and wondered why you aren’t “getting it?”

To rewind the clock a bit, I let my Warhammer account lapse because I’d promised Angela that I’d play EQ2 with her when the TSO expansion came out. That really had nothing to do with Warhammer and everything to do with domestic bliss in the house. 🙂 And then CoW started playing WoW so I re-upped there to play with them since I missed the herd – this was an unexpected decision but time was of the essence if I wanted to keep any kind of parity with the rest of the guild. (Of course, the bear factored in, too.) Had I planned on having 2 paying subscriptions at once, I probably would’ve kept Warhammer and EQ2, but sometimes we wind up in places we never set out to be in.

There are certainly games I enjoy more than Warhammer Online, and I’m strapped enough right now that I can’t justify paying for a game I’m not playing (though that didn’t stop me from snapping up a Black Friday deal on a 60-day timecard for War). That just seems sensible to me; it isn’t my job to invest in the continued development of any game unless I’m either a) playing it or b) going to reap fiscal rewards from it.

I’ve been continually impressed with how quickly Mythic reacts to player feedback. Of course in order to do that, they need to HAVE player feedback to react to. So I’m not going to feel bad about my sharing things that bother me about the game, but if I’m giving the impression that I have a strong dislike for it, well, that isn’t so. I’m not playing Warhammer now because I have other things to play. If Warhammer were the only MMO on the market, I’d be all over it.

And I’m actually rather excited about the 1.1 patch. When that drops, I’m going to use that 60 day time card and rejoin the War.

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.

Warhammer CoWs moving house

Real quick because I’m running late for work.

Mythic is shoving folks off of the Averheim server, where CoW was located. The new server for Casualties of War is Badlands.

Important detail: Even if your account is inactive, you can transfer characters!

I transferred my brood this morning, so when I get back to War I’ll be able to rejoin the herd.

Account management page is here.

TGIF, WRUP, and other acronyms

So last night was all about the Thursday Night Football, thus no gaming was done. In fact overall damned little gaming got accomplished this week, much to my chagrin. XFire says I spend 2 hours playing Warhammer in the past 7 days, and that’s the game I spent the most time on, PC-wise (not that I always trust those numbers). I did play the Left 4 Dead demo on the 360 a couple of times, and spent quite a bit of time at Nile Online.

Yes, fascinating stuff. But what of the future? This is an odd week for me. I finished Fable 2 and didn’t/don’t want to wade into some lengthy single-player game because next week the LOTRO and EQ2 expansions hit, plus the “New XBox Experience” arrives (which, granted, will probably only be interesting for an evening). I could be playing Warhammer but fear getting sucked back into it, only to have my account turn off early next week.

So I feel like I’m in a quasi-holding pattern. I might stalk follow Ysharros into Wizardry 101 over the weekend, just because it sounds fun and easy. Quick to download, easy to learn… just some nice concentrated fun. Or at least that’s the vibe I’m getting.

Or I could fire up the EQ2 account and get re-acquainted, but I dunno… does it make sense to get re-acquainted only to install an expansion and have to relearn stuff? Might be just as easy to wait.

Curiously, I’ve paid very little attention to the big MMO expansions. I know WOW has Lich King and a Death Knight class and that’s about all I know. Moria has legendary weapons and 2 new classes, which I know very little about (but I’ll roll a Warden because I always roll any class called Ranger or Warden). The EQ2 expansion I know ZERO about, except that Angela is super-psyched for it. I guess it adds… new stuff. I don’t even remember the full name of it!! LOL.

This makes me an un-informed consumer but a happy gamer. I love discovering stuff on my own, and THEN researching it to learn the nuances. Werit wrote a post called Too Much Information that captures my feelings well enough that it seems pointless for me to repeat them here.

Apparently there’s a big free content update either going into Age of Conan, or already launched. Interesting. I’d like to jump back into AoC at some point. But then Ardwulf has me wanting to take another look at Vanguard, too. Plus Chronicles of Spellborn launches sometime soon, and I wanted to look at that as well. And I’m definitely not ‘done’ with Warhammer Online!

Is it any wonder that MMOs have churn problems these days? So many interesting choices and it’s hard to justify two concurrent subscriptions for most people. Add to that the lure of so many fantastic single-player games out now. It all just feels like too much. Are there enough gaming dollars to support all this content??

Anyway, let’s get to the WRUP part: What are YOU playing this weekend?

Warhammer in my world

I’m going to leave the taxonomy for now. I had a rough evening and morning (had my identity stolen and dealing with banks and such, but oops, banks are closed) so I’m going to be self-indulgent today.

My Warhammer account has a week left before I have to take a break. The downside to the break is, well, not playing. The upside is lots of shiny goodies when I return, I hope. So what are these goodies? I dunno, but I know what I *wish* they’d be. So here’s my list of desired Warhammer changes.

This is a list born of selfishness and I’m sure lots of people will take strong exception to it. I get that, and if I ruled the world, I still might not make these changes because I don’t want to break the game for others. I’ve also not let practicality get in the way of my dreams, as you’ll see.

1) More social mobs. I’m sick of (at low tiers at least) being able to pick off enemies one by one, while their friends stand there and watch them die. I want to (sometimes) face crowds of weaker enemies. Y’know what game does this really well? NCSoft’s freebie, Dungeon Runners. You’re always disappearing under a mass of enemies in that game, only to eventually emerge victorious. Instead of a single even level skeleton, send 6 or 7 of them a couple levels lower, and let me go crazy and send bodies flying in every which way. THAT feels powerful. Similarly, there are very few “skill pulls” in the solo PvE stuff. I’d like to have to rely on my smarts now and then when I need to attack baddies.

2) Shuffle the world!! Twenty-four zones sounds like plenty, right? But to me at least, it feels small, and I think it feels small because we have three nice neat corridors, with an entrance at one end of each zone and an exit at the other. Connections between tiers via teleport (essentially) makes it all seem very disconnected. Let’s change things up, make the world messier and more chaotic.

3) Eliminate scenarios. *ducks and runs away*

4) More “fluff”. Non-combat pets, housing, social gear (take the trophies and make them more obvious, maybe?). Just stuff to futz around with when you don’t feel like fighting but do feel like being in-game to hang out with your guild.

5) More PvE Quests. There’s enough now, but barely. Some Epic PvE quests would be fun…long term collection stuff, maybe. Put some of the objectives in the RvR Lakes, to get people out there now and then. Some “lever” quests (I just made up that term). What’s a lever quest? It’s a quest where one step “pulls a lever” to set something in motion that will impact other players. DAoC had some quests that caused mobs to attack a town. Everyone would have to stop their buying and selling and fight off the attack. WoW has stuff like Stitches. Actions that indirectly involve other players remind us all that we *aren’t* in a single player game. Beating back these attacks tend to bind players together. Common cause and all that.

6) More open RvR at all levels. Right now you can totally skip the RvR Lakes. My assumption is that the game is built that way so that PvE players can play and not engage in Open RvR. But really, as a PvE Only game Warhammer isn’t incredibly compelling. I do think that it needs better PvE for long-term success, but until then, RvR is the big hook that makes Warhammer stand out. So dammit, force people to cross those RvR Lakes now and then. Have the Lakes stretch clear across a zone, with a few chokepoints where players will naturally congregate. Put moving quest rewards out there (static rewards would get camped by the enemy, probably). Do something to get people (including me, frankly… I haven’t done any RvR since before Witching Night) out there.

7) More bag space, please. If we have to pay for it, that’s fine. But as someone who hates to leave corpses laying around causing lag (that’s old school, huh?) I get really sick and tired of spending as much time futzing with inventory as I do playing the game. If not more bag space, then fewer types of crafting resources.

8) Add a third realm. Hey, I don’t ask for much, do I? LOL

9) Give me a Lifetime Membership option

10) Reader’s choice!

Yeah, I’m not coming up with a #10, so I’ll leave it to others to add to the list. I told you it was selfish. I get 9 and you get 1.

Visiting Altdorf

I have to confess it’s been quite some time since I last visited Altdorf, but after Jobildo shared the location of my two favorite Warhammer characters, Gotrek & Felix, I knew I had to meet them before my time expired.

Turns out, Altdorf is a pretty happening place these days. But I get ahead of myself. I was far from a Flight Master when I made this decision, and rather than go backwards, I forged ahead into the next tier. Along the way I met this guy, Horst Ohersten, a Healer. I couldn’t help but chuckle. Would you trust this guy, with all those examples of his handiwork cooling in the snow?

Anyway the trip was scary and thrilling as there were plenty of beasties that could’ve had me for lunch, but I got to see another zone and I did eventually make it safely to the next warcamp and flight master. So off I went to Altdorf.

I found my way to Gotrek and Felix. Gotrek was as grouchy as I’d expect, but Felix had work for me in the Bright College. While inside, one of the wizards there asked me to run an errand. And outside I met a peasant with some crazy tale of man-sized rats…which turned out to be true! As I was prowling the streets looking for barrels doing a jig, I wandered past the Blow Hole and got involved in a PQ there. Won first place and got a nice cloak that won’t be wearable until 21. Something to look forward to when I get back.

I’m not sure if these quests scale or what, but all the mobs I had to fight were standard level 20 mobs: perfect sized for a level 17 Witch Hunter to brawl with. Decent kill experience, too. I made about half a level just pottering around in Altdorf, and there’s still more to do in there. This came at a perfect time as manageable solo empire quests were getting pretty thin back in Tier 2.

So don’t forget about Altdorf if you’re out there looking for PvE fun in Warhammer!

Cleaning up

Haven’t done a ton of gaming so far this weekend so haven’t had a lot to post about. I did fiddle around with Nile Online a lot yesterday, but that meant checking in on my city every couple of hours. I’m still enjoying that game quite a bit.

One of my PS3 hard drives was getting pretty full so I spent some time cleaning that up. I watched episodes three through six of Qore, the online magazine on the Playstation Network. It’s an entertaining product, but I’m still unconvinced its worth the price, *unless* you’re all about getting into betas. If it gets you into one beta you’re really jazzed about, then the ~$25/year is probably worth it. (My math there is that the product itself is probably worth $15/year and getting into a beta you really really want to get into is probably worth $10 to you.)

In Warhammer, I put all my characters except my Witch Hunter to bed, mentally. I cleaned out their mailboxes, organized their inventory. In the case of my Shadow Warrior I pushed him to the next Rank so he could wear a cloak I’d sent him from another character. That way he’ll look a bit snazzier when I come back to him in a month or two. Everyone is in a camp now, drinking ale and waiting for my return. Everyone, that is, except my CoW character, who I’ll continue to play right up to the cut-off day, though honestly knowing the account is going to expire soon makes that feel a little sad. At the same time I’m already a little excited about the improvements that will be in the game when I come back to it.

Probably next weekend I’ll fire up the EQ2 account so I can get re-familiarized with things before the expansion lands on the doorstep. Hmm, actually that doesn’t bode well for playing Warhammer next weekend, so maybe this will be the last week for my Witch Hunter.

I played some of The Witcher last night. I bought this game a year or so ago and it wasn’t too good, but they released an “Enhanced Edition” a couple months back and offered a free “upgrade” mega-patch to all registered users of the game. I started a fresh game just before the Fall tsunami of new game releases hit. I’m not very far into it but my conscience has been nagging at me not to lose track of it. I started playing it once on release, then restarted for this enhanced version. I know myself enough to realize that if I totally lose touch with the game and have to restart a third time, I never will.

And it seems like a pretty good game now. It feels a little like a cross between Fable 2 and an MMO, actually. It has a skill-based progression (though with ‘generic’ experience so you don’t sculpt your character via actions like you do in Fable 2), action-ish combat (left click to melee, right click to fire a spell, melee chains via timed button presses) like Fable 2, an alchemy crafting system similar to what you’d find in an MMO (with you getting components from foes you slay), NPCs offering side quests and an apparently huge, MMO-sized world. Anyway, we’ll see. I need to get back to Fable 2 today!

So what’s everyone else been up to this weekend?

New Headgear

So I think I’ve found the secret to Warhammer. Log in with absolutely no expectations.

Last night I had an hour or so before bed so I logged in just to bash about a bit, knock off some solo PvE quests or whatever. And I did that, then headed to Bohsenfels to turn in my assorted heads, books, reports and bobs… that’s when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something unusual.

There’s a little bit of farmland north-east of town, and spectral figures were floating around in it, I thought. But I looked again and they were gone. I decided to investigate and a moment later they were back. Sure enough, I’d stumbled on one part of the Witching Hour event.

After reading Ysharros’ post about the event, I’d pretty much written it off as being an event only for hardcore players that put 40+ hours/week into the game. And to complete the whole thing, it might be. But 15-20 minutes of beating down restless spirits (they’re all of level 2!) is enough to complete the first phase, so now I too have a mask! Important Note: The mask was found on the corpse of the 50th restless spirit I killed. I’m just assuming that wasn’t coincidence and that it was Mythic’s way of delivering the quest goodies for that phase of the live event. All the other spirits I killed had like 3 brass coins and nothing else; I’m glad I’m anal enough that I was still checking them when I hit #50!

I was encouraged by the amount of chat going on in /region, and that a lot of it had to do with RvR, and not just the Witching Hour quests. Keeps were being attacked and defended and the realm was coming together to fight the good fight. I looked at the clock and muttered a curse at myself for waiting until so late to log in (damn you, LittleBigPlanet!!!). But hopefully this level of involvement will continue throughout the event and beyond.

Since I still didn’t have one of those jaunty Witch Hunter hats, I figured I’d just run around with a Goblin Mask on until I found one. I’m all about style! But I realized I still hadn’t turned in the quests I’d finished. And what do you think one of my rewards was? Uh-huh, that’s right: jaunty hat FTW. I just need to get to a vendor who can dye items now. The quests were also enough to push me into Rank 17…one more rank and I can tag along with CoWs in Tier 3!

Tonight will be devoted to the 8 hour Ghost Hunters Live Event on Sci-Fi, but I’m looking forward to jumping back into Warhammer tomorrow. Maybe I can find one of these cauldrons and get part 2 of the event done as well.

Happy Samhain to all my readers! Don’t like the ghoulies get you when you’re out enjoying the holiday!