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Waging WAR

Waging WAR: Finding the sandbox

Fantasy, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Waging WAR

In this installment of Waging WAR, Greg takes a look at Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning from a few different angles and goes in search of the proverbial "sandbox" in a game that contains neither sand nor boxes.

Somewhere along the line during my childhood, I developed a habit for playing games with nearly every game I've ever played. I can even remember a time in my early teens when I sat down with a few friends and collaborated on making our own version of battlechess. Pages of chicken-scratched rules and several dice results-tables later, and we were off and running for a solid week of the most entertaining chess matches I've ever played. Or there was that time with The Sims when I started creating experimental families and then leaving my computer on overnight and not interacting with them, just to see how successful they could be without my help. I could bore you for hours on end with examples of how I twisted the rules and made my own games from the games I've played.

I suppose I can blame my penchant for metagaming on my early introduction to pen-and-paper roleplaying (i.e., D&D 1st Ed., to be specific). All I had was a sheet of paper, a handful of dice, a description of the world around me, and my imagination. By its very nature, PnP gaming is sandbox gaming. The reason I'm bringing this up now is that, until WAR, I had pretty much been able to "find the sandbox" in any MMO I was able to get my hands on. Whether it was building hardcore Dungeons & Dragons Online characters, roleplaying in City of Heroes, or achievement-chasing in World of Warcraft, I've never really been troubled with finding something to do when the grind started to wear me down. But now, with WAR, I'm finding most of my old tricks for MMO metagaming just aren't working.

To read about what I've tried, and why it didn't work in WAR, follow along after the break.

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Waging WAR: RvR packs, the "wait and see" edition

Fantasy, Expansions, PvP, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Waging WAR

This week Waging WAR rides the double rainbow of gameplay customization via downloadable content and takes a cursory glance at the RvR packs being teased by the folks behind the development of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Let's follow along and see what Greg can unleash this time.

It is difficult to talk about the future of WAR right now. Not because it doesn't have a future, but because the availability of information regarding it is not exactly easy to find. Actually, information on the future of WAR is all but non-existent, surrounded by controversy on all sides, and steeped in rumor, speculation, assumption and misinformation. The best I can put together is that we, as players, can look forward to some sort of set of three different "RvR Packs" allowing us to "customize" our gameplay experience moving forward. The packs have been called "Power," "Progression," and "Personality." What exactly each contains is a mystery, although the few talking points I was able to find regarding these RvR packs are speculatively disappointing at best. Although Carrie, Andy, and anyone else involved with the Mythic development team have said time and time again that they are not discussing moving toward the free-to-play business model, what they're proposing with these customization packs looks suspiciously like the item shop established by Turbine, implemented in Dungeons & Dragons Online and soon in Lord of the Rings Online as well. V.I.P. membership, anyone?

Although concrete information is scarce and difficult to find, let's take a look at the most commonly referenced points of interest after the break.

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Waging WAR: A healer's survival guide

Fantasy, Classes, Game Mechanics, PvP, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Guides, Waging WAR

This week, Waging WAR steps back from all the news and hype of Gamescom and GamesDay and focuses in on the healing archetypes in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. As we all know by now, Greg plays a healer and he's put together a guide for those who kill by mending the wounds of those who kill by bludgeon or blade.

In my time in WAR I've learned a thing or two. No, I'm not writing about my extensive knowledge of how various terrains taste (the sand on the beaches of Nordenwatch and the cobbled brick streets of Praag have become favored delicacies). I'm writing about how to be an effective healer in WAR. While I am by no means invincible or infallible, I do consider myself a decent, relatively resilient and capable PvP tank (let's not kid ourselves here -- who needs plate when you can wear robes, right?). I have some advice to share with those who are interested in endgame PvP/RvR healing, or even those who are already there but seek to add an edge to their game.

To achieve enlightenment, click the Read More button.

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Waging WAR: Gamescom and Mythic's anti-hype

Fantasy, Expansions, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Waging WAR

In light of Gamescom coming next week (August 18th - 22nd), this week WagingWAR looks forward to what could be coming for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. But beware: Since Mythic has been so secretive about the future of WAR, we've been forced to compromise and offer mere conjecture. Unchained by reason or fact, we follow in the wake of that terrible beast known only as "Greg's Imagination."

With less than a week left until Gamescom, I find myself more and more excited by the potential of what Mythic could be set to reveal, regardless of the fact that it's given me nothing to chew on. I am hyped by the anti-hype. What follows is the result of that hype. There are no facts, rumours, hints, or tips to back up what amounts to totally unbarred speculation. I have organized the aftermath of my brainstorm in terms of what would excite me, from most to least, followed by why I believe these additions could make sense, and how they might be implemented. Keep in mind that some of what follows could simply be passed off as madness; it might be totally unfeasible, even by the most adept and well-financed of development teams. I'm fully aware of that. The point here was to just "let it go." And I did.

Crazy, or uncanny -- you decide. Follow along after the break.

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Waging WAR: A healer's advice for melee-DPS

PvP, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Hands-On, Humor, Waging WAR

Waging WAR starts the month of August with a look at archetypes in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning and the way they work together in RvR and scenarios. Although Greg's rules apply to pretty much any class-based, group-based, PvP-centric game, he prefers to think of them as particular to WAR, since there's a bunch of game-specific slang in there that he's too lazy to change.

Having a role to play is integral to the massively multiplayer online experience, but when the term "roleplay" comes up, it usually means something very specific and closely related to dramatic acting. Taken in a broader sense, it means that we choose our roles when we project the most imaginative aspect of our psychic selves and ask the question "who (or what) do I want to be?" Thus, our vicarious adventures begin. For the purposes of social gaming, it should come as no surprise that those classes usually fit another staple in the MMO universe -- the role trinity of tanker, healer, and damager. While the bond between the healer and tanker is obvious, the unspoken pact between healer and damager is just as sacred and yet all too easily forgotten. For those who were unaware such a promise existed, it goes something like, "I, the healer, promise to keep you alive so you can kill stuff in the face (better)." However, in many cases, the damaging character is delegated an expendable role, compared to the tank's priority or the healer's own survival. These are exceptions that the melee-damager is usually aware of and even comfortable with.

But today I'm not here to challenge those roles like I normally would when talking about damage-healer hybrids. As a specialized healer, I've defined a few, easy-to-remember rules that I believe every melee-damage player should follow in group situations (PUG or premade – there is little difference when it comes to these rules). Solo play is an entirely different realm and beyond the scope of this column; I want to focus on the special synergy between healer and melee-damager, and to dispense advice to those brave, wayward souls in their never-ending quest to face blades as they bring their own to bear.

I'll bestow these tidbits of wisdom after the break.

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Waging WAR: The taboo of cross-realming

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Waging WAR

What happens when you take Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (which offers arguably the best PvP in any MMO currently available) and mix it with controversy, corruption, and a heaping helping of taboo? Well, for one, you get this week's topic for Waging WAR: cross-realming. Today's issue takes a look at the what, why, and how of it all.

Recently, during a conversation with a guildmate, it was suggested that achieving renown rank 80 was a simple matter, requiring little time or effort. At the time, I was flabbergasted. There I sat, at RR74 (after having spent innumerable months getting there), listening to someone tell me that all my effort was somehow misplaced. It was no coincidence that we were also talking about what my guildmate referred to as "organized dueling." It is my unwavering belief that WAR is not balanced nor designed to be a system of careers and classes based on 1v1 (or similar) odds. Thus, dueling in WAR has always seemed to me to be an effort in futility, and every time the subject comes up in the realm's general chat, I've been outspoken against it. I believe the addition of a duel mechanism would be detrimental to the base concept of RvR, and would inevitably detract from the very essence of group-based, organized combat. Indeed, my vision of dueling in WAR would resemble some sort of fight-club held in one of the old, abandoned Fortresses far away from any keeps, warbands or sieges, as combatants from both realms enter a pit from which only one will emerge as the victor (the other emerging a few moments later, after shaking off the effects of resurrection sickness).

"But Greg," you ask, "doesn't that sound more like cross-realming to you?" Indeed it does. Let's talk more after the break.

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Waging WAR: And a pinch of warpstone, yes yes...

Fantasy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Hands-On, Waging WAR

After being slightly disappointed by the lack of response to last week's challenge, Greg was worried that he wouldn't have a topic for Waging WAR this week, and suffered a short-term bout of writer's block. But Serendipity and Providence once again shook hands, and two new announcements were made on the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning developer forums on Thursday and Friday earlier this week that would supply him with plenty of fodder for discussion in this week's column. Now, armed with the facts and a tall glass of creative juice, we can set things up properly, in all their italic glory.

The upcoming patch (1.3.6) for Warhammer Online promises a hefty amount of content, balancing, and changes. Highlights include the new armor vanity slots, the sovereign set revamps, the addition of the Against All Odds mechanic, and several class changes that have been needed for some time. In fact, it seems this latest career balancing pass has affected nearly every career available, and full mastery point refunds have been handed out to a whopping eight careers. The list doesn't stop there. Players will enjoy a new sticky targeting system, auction house interface, and loads of other new features including another batch of new art for the scenario weapons, and a revamp to the victory point system in the RvR campaign. There's even more still. You can read the full patch notes for patch 1.3.6, test the patch yourself (it went live on the PTS yesterday), or even take part in the developer lead focus tests on July 30th at 4 p.m. EDT and August 6th at 8 p.m. EDT.

But, of all the changes promised in the patch notes, one specific set of related changes has sparked my imagination for the future of WAR more than the rest. Find out what I'm talking about after the break.

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Waging WAR: The Nagaryth Chronicles, supplemental

Fantasy, Classes, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Hands-On, Waging WAR

During the last three weeks, Waging WAR took a look at the shadow warrior career in Warhammer Online, in an attempt to gain personal experience and insight into the complaints that most players have with the class. Due to popular demand, this week we return (albeit briefly) to the shadow warrior class to touch up a few frayed ends. We also set our sights forward and look ahead to future issues of Waging WAR.

I felt that my review of the career was based on solid ground, given the scope, and taking the setting and focus into consideration, and considering the fact that I had to grind the levels relatively quickly in order to stay on-time and deliver the column promptly. Despite my original intention to simply gain personal insight and experience with the class in an effort to have greater understanding of its hot-button issues, many of the Waging WAR readers who left comments were disappointed with my experiment, as I didn't have time or space to have a serious look at the skirmish and assault trees. So, throughout the last week, I felt obliged to play my shadow warrior, focusing all of my mastery points in either skirmish or assault (starting at rank 30, there are more than enough points available to explore an entire tree, and even a few inter-tree synergies).

Follow along after the break to find out how things went for me.

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Waging WAR: The Nagaryth Chronicles, part three

Fantasy, Classes, Game Mechanics, PvP, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Hands-On, Waging WAR

This week bears with it the final installment to Waging WAR's Nagaryth Chronicles, which took a long-term, in-depth look at the Path of the Scout mastery tree available to Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning's shadow warrior. Admittedly, Greg didn't have time to take his character all the way through to rank 40/40, but this past July 4th weekend's double XP and renown bonuses allowed him to level through Tier 3 relatively quickly. He's also promised us that he'll continue to play her casually as a break from his Archmage main, from time to time.

Again, I would like to take a moment to respond to some feedback left as reader comments to last week's column:

@Taawa -- According to my experience, festerbombs are absolutely deadly (think: "BOOM Headshot!"), possibly even moreso than any sort of infiltration attack by stealth-class melee-damage-per-second (MDPS) careers. If you're the type who enjoys sneaking around terrain and quietly selecting a target while taking time to prepare a guaranteed kill, you'll enjoy this build. I'll explain more after the break.
@Kyelthis -- Again with excellent feedback: the Steady Aim (SA) - Replenishing Strikes (RS) - Rapid Fire (RF) combination (a combination that had never occured to me until you pointed it out) is almost always as effective as Lileath's Forgiveness (LF). However, I feel that my use of SA is slightly more productive. I'll explain why after the break.
@Hal900x -- I'm pretty sure you're mistaking Unshakeable Focus with SA. Also, Shadow Sting (SS) is extremely short-range (45'). My ideal build (complete by rank 35) was focusing on extremely long-range, high-burst, sniping -- which is why I opted for Fell the Weak (FTW, 100') instead, since it has the same effect except instead of requiring an ailment, the "mortal strike" component requires Vengeance of Nagarythe (VoN, and is one second longer in duration to boot!). Finally, SA applies a 50% increased critical chance to damaging attacks, not to the overall critical chance of the character; thus, any attack during those six seconds has its critical chance treated like a coin flip: heads for a critical, tails for a normal hit.

So, why do I think that shadow warriors are fine and don't need the attention that everyone seems to claim they need? I'll discuss my side of the issue after the break.

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Waging WAR: The Nagaryth Chronicles, part two

Fantasy, Classes, Game Mechanics, PvP, Reviews, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Hands-On, Waging WAR

Waging WAR continues this week with the second installment of the Nagaryth Chronicles -- an in-depth look at the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning's shadow warrior. We'll talk about how the career performs through tier two, identify key abilities, and open the floor to discussion about how we might begin to remedy some of the most basic issues with the career. So nock another arrow and let's get started.

First things first. I want to quickly respond to a few of the reader comments left on last week's column.

@MiloMenderBender: After you pointed out my target selection could be wrong, I started paying attention to my damage vs. the varying enemy careers. Your suggestion to pay closer attention to damage-per-kill rather than overall made perfect sense, and I'm now making more careful and efficient targeting decisions -- with satisfying results.
@Kyelthis: Your keybinding suggestions were excellent and definitely worth trying out.
@ShadowWAR: After reading your comment, it took only a moment to pay closer attention and confirm that the stances are not on the global cooldown (GCD) and skirmish stance does indeed return 1:1 ballistics to strength from items only.
@ the rest: Thank you for your contributions, and, although I'm hesitant to have this series turn into a conversation about mirrors, issues with the game in general or concerns with other careers, I want you to know that I read all of your comments and appreciate your feedback.

Moving on, let's continue with my impressions and issues with the shadow warrior through tier two after the break.

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Waging WAR: The Nagaryth Chronicles, part one

Screenshots, Classes, Game Mechanics, PvP, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Hands-On, Waging WAR

This week, Waging WAR starts the first in-depth career review with a three to four column exposè on Warhammer Online's shadow warrior. We'll take a look at the career as it progresses through each of the tiers, as well as consider key tactics, abilities and masteries that are learned along the way. As we go, we'll try to understand and break down what makes the shadow warrior tick, why so many players claim the career is broken, and whether or not Waging WAR agrees. So, let's get our tabi boots on, pull our face masks up, and get started.

For a long time now, I've stood on the sidelines and listened to horror stories regarding the shadow warrior. It has been clear that many players are (or have been) dissatisfied with the career, but I've never fully understood why. It isn't so difficult for me to peruse the SW forums or read one of the many blogs out there that explain things quite clearly, and understand the theory of it, but as far as first-hand experience goes, I've been lacking a direct understanding of the career and how it works. With that in mind, I've decided to educate myself; over the next few weeks, I'll be leveling a shadow warrior so I can analyze the career from the inside.

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Waging WAR: Patch 1.3.6 and the proverbial DPS-Healer

Fantasy, Classes, Game Mechanics, Patches, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Waging WAR

There aren't very many companies that open up planned patch changes to their players and fans for discussion; however, Mythic is one that does. This week, Waging WAR focuses on the suggested career balance changes for the Zealot and Runepriest coming in patch 1.3.6 for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. We'll cover the issue as well as the proposed solution for these careers. We'll also discuss the impact that these changes might have on the affected careers and on the community in general. There's also a part where Greg throws some drama at the fan and rants about "DPS-Healers."

Let's start by clarifying the main issue and the proposed change. Currently, the other healing careers (Archmage, Shaman, Warrior Priest and Disciple of Khaine) have their mastery paths organized by the role which they might play (i.e. damage focus, healing focus, etc.); whereas, the Zealot and Runepriest don't. Their mastery paths are organized by the delivery method of their healing (i.e. over time, direct, or area). The problem is, after deciding whether to specialize offensively or defensively and gearing to that role (a freedom of choice that they should be given), the Zealot and Runepriest are left with only one-half of an effective skill-set -- the other half of their skills being rendered ineffective by role choice and gear itemization. To bring these careers in line with their archetypical cousins, a new mechanism is proposed which gives Zealots and Runepriests a chance to retain some effectiveness in skills that are outside their chosen role.

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Waging WAR: Revisiting the new player experience

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Reviews, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Promotions, Waging WAR

Waging WAR moves a step backward this week to take a fresh look at the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning new player experience. Greg gives us his take on what he thinks we can expect from the Endless Trial or a Re-enlistment subscription with a new character. He takes us through his experience over a few casual days of play and tells us about the leveling process, scenarios, RvR, twinking and more.

Lately, I have spent quite a bit of my time on my rank 40/70 Archmage, focusing on emblem collection and participating in the newly formatted Tier 4 city sieges. Earlier this week, as I considered topics for this weekend's column, I realized that it had been a while since I had experienced the low-level content. Conveniently enough, I was just starting to suffer a bit from healer's burn-out (thanklessly healing day after day can wear a person down), and decided I would take a break and tool around on a lowbie for some fresh kicks and giggles.

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Waging WAR: An in-depth look at the Producer's Letter

Events (Real-World), Patches, Previews, Warhammer Online, News Items, Opinion, Rumors, Waging WAR

This week, Waging WAR is going to take a deeper look at the Producer's Letter for this month of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. There are lots of new promises coming down the pipeline, and plenty of speculation to follow. Let's sift through some of the hubbub and get into the nitty-gritty of it all.

First of all, there's a serious cliffhanger in the notes suggesting that we'll be given a reason to wear all the sovereign gear that's being won in the new city sieges. Currently, there is good reason to wear (or at least acquire) warlord gear if for nothing other than the wards they provide -- and thus the significant advantage they give in the new city sieges. However, there is nothing in the game that requires the wards that the sovereign gear provides. If we insert tab-A into slot-B, the only real conclusion we can come to, speculatively, is that a new expansion is just beyond the horizon, and close to being revealed. Such an expansion could very well add a new tier (and new wards and warded content), in addition to buckets of other new content, such as a new pairing (as has been speculated many times in the past -- Skaven vs. Lizardmen, anyone?) On this point, I suppose we'll have to apply the "wait-and-see" motif, and just wait and see. Also, E3 is also coming up very soon (June 14-17). Could the EA/Mythic booth have some big news secretly tucked up their collective sleeves? As a disclaimer, this is only wild speculation by this particular columnist and nothing above should be taken as official suggestion of anything mentioned at all. But we can hope, can't we?

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Waging WAR: Elitist alliances and RvR

Fantasy, Events (In-Game), Guilds, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Humor, Waging WAR

No matter where you go in the MMO-verse, rivalries are bound to happen, and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is no different. In most cases, these rifts are the exception and not the norm; whether they manifest as a heated argument in scenarios, or a realm-wide feud between established guilds or alliances, there's always going to be some sort of drama. This week, Waging WAR takes a look at how the exception to the rule can affect the game as a whole.

A few days ago I was playing on one of my Tier 2 alts running around with an open warband in the Shadowlands. We were taking some keeps and battlefield objectives for renown and influence, since the Tier 2 High Elf elite influence item is well worth the effort. As it turns out, a few of my guildmates were also leveling in the same warband. We ran into a keep defense at Spite's Reach that we weren't really prepared for, but we managed to muster a decent siege in short order. The hot oil started pouring and some area-of-effect magic started to blanket the warband on the ground as we pounded on the door. One of the players in my guild, a dedicated veteran (though not an officer), refused to heal someone else in the warband. I asked him why and he told me that it was because the person was in another specific guild, with no real reason beyond that simple fact.

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