August 7, 2009

Taking a looong break from WAR, Creating new Blog

I wrote a few weeks ago that i switched my subscription method to manually and would check every month if I still had fun. My subscription runs out in a few days and i decided not to renew my subscription for WAR. During the last break i took from WAR my subscription had still been active and i was paying, but i feel it's time to vote with my money now and tell I'm not satisfied, I'm bored of WAR. I'm not the guy that plays a gazillion alts, i want to play my main char. Recently when i logged in there was very little to do. More often then i had fun i was simply bored because there is not much you can do during idle hours or when everyone else is busy. I know I'm not alone, since when i posted my leaving there had been a few other guild members who won't renew either.

The current "endgame" in WAR, once you reached a certain threshold, just holds not enough fun for me currently. I don't want to make this a huge wall of text, but to give you a few quick bullet points:
# No solo content for high levels, nothing to work on during idle hours, crafting system is too simple, only few mats you need to work on your crafting and basicly everyone can craft anything anyway.
# The whole RvR campaign does not make me feel part of a WAR between factions that much. The system is too constructed to immerse me. For all the numbers you need to watch its too simple on the other hand.
# Small scale PvP is what i want most, not the zerg. Due to the guild keeps not really offering anything for the guild to hang around those and the overall RvR lake zone design, very seldom will you have cool small scale fights, or you have to search for a long time.
# The RR system overall just feels like a massive grind to me, only to be able to wear eg. Warlord gear. The renown trainer features only add minor incentive.
# City sieges as "end game" for RvR are a joke. It's boring as hell, still buggy and just not polished enough. Takes place every now and then but ppl just got bored to have to put such a massive effort in something thats so unrewarding.
# No real incentive for high ranking guilds to take part in the world struggle or to really take and defend a keep. The possible upgrades need to make that keep the headquarter for that guild, easy access, etc. After guild rank 37 with the upgraded mounts, nothing else exciting to gain.
# PvE endgame is borked as well. All of us are totally bored from Lost Vale since only few really need the gear from there. The change to the ward/sigil system was good, but there is just too few things left in that dungeon to make you want to go there. Should really have added some crafting components or something. Besides LV there is only LotD content. Problem with this is, you can't really schedule for it as you dont know if you have access. So basicly to run TotVL you have to keep in mind you might need to do RvR before you can do PvE. The LotD lairs are fun, but the glyph requirement is just a giant timesink and doing the same boring PQs over and over again just because one group member is lacking this or that glyph.
# The itemization department still has major annoyances to iron out. The high-end sets and their stats don't feel right (at least for BO) in comparison. Many talismans from LotD still not working, overall timers broken.
# Black Orcs: I love the BO, its fun to play. Tho i don't feel like the defensive tank spec is rewarding enough for PvP. I don't want to respecc every time depending if i go PvE or PvP. I already use a silence, slow down, increase building times build with fitting gear (remove morale, lower resist, etc.) for RvR but still i think the overall design lacks. Mythic really should re-work the CC and give eg. defensive tanks some of it. I was very disappointed when Mythic gave a ton of cool armor models to the Choppa and my BO stuff still looks like shit. Seriously, there are only very few cool looking items for the Black Orc i feel. Due to the simple color scheme Orcs use, you can't really work around it with dyes either.

I don't agree with those that say WAR is doomed to fail. They failed in creating a game that will run with major subscriber number compared to other games (and could have reached much higher targets) and its always harder to win back a disappointed customer then keep a satisfied one. In the topic i name my absence from WAR a break, this is simply because i still think i might get back once things are to my liking. Since i don't think WAR is a bad game, but just the devs did not listen to the right crowd of voices and did not make tough enough decisions to "kill their darlings" when it comes to class balance and RvR. The upcoming months will show if Mythic will be able to make the though choices necessary or not. I had a lot of fun in WAR and don't regret the time i spend ingame. It was a good ride until i got bored.

I'm still a bit bitter about the difference between US and EU support. IMO GOA never managed to live up to their promises and Mythic & GOA together managed to leave a bad aftertaste since they really pissed off many EU customers that felt left out of the development process. GOA never really came around to create much content on their own, deliver similar marketing programs or to breath life into the EU forums. The EU veteran program is a good step in the right direction, but too late and too little to make me feel like getting the same level of support and care then the US customers do. I'd like to thank Nic & Magnus from the GOA Community Team tho, who were always forthcoming with information.

My gaming plan for the moment is to take a small break and start Aion in September with a bunch of guildies who also left WAR. During the upcoming weeks i won't be idle tho and slowly start to work on my new Aion blog, as i decided i don't want to stop blogging. ;) But since Stunty Stomper does not fit the context, i created a new blog from the scratch. It's still a work-in-progress but there will be content before launch already. My experiences from the last beta event will be posted in the new blog as well.

Update your bookmarks, subscribe the new RSS at
Impetusium - Thulf's Aion Blog

So thanks for the WAAAGH! and take care everyone.

August 5, 2009

European WAR Veteran Program

Recently, when Nic (GOA) came back from his holidays, i got some more informations about the EU veteran program for WAR, which is supposed to be the mirror version of the US WAR oracle program. The program is on an invite-only basis and is supposed to enhance the QA process to test new content/patches with players, also organizing eg. raids and other events on a closed test server if need be. From what they told me the EU program currently has 100 members, which are divided into smaller groups for the different languages. Nic told me the US devs were very pleased/interested in the detailed feedback they got from the EU testers and that the EU program is not something to just keep people "busy" but to do some serious testing, closely connected to the core tester program. Although GOA wants to increase the amount of feedback even further and are looking into recruiting more players into the program for the upcoming patches. I assume good feedback on the EU forum and via the PTS will get you on the watch list. There has been a "closed" test server group before, but due to NDA issues GOA canceled it back then and send us all an email telling us they'd contact us again if they can sort things out. Maybe they also draw from that list, dunno what kind of people were on it back then. There is a special NDA in place for the veteran testing when the server is up (its not always online afaik). Probably the same GOA posted for the last PTS patch version by accident (still no official word on that beta agreement). Since my follow-up questions have not been answered by GOA yet, i can't tell you if there is a special forum part for the veterans, but since its like that for the US version i just assume it will be similar. Nice to hear that GOA finally came around with the European WAR Veteran Program, although i wonder why there is no proper info given on it via eg. the EU forum. I figured some of you might be interested in the info on the program.

On a sidenote, i played Aion beta on the weekend again and will most likely post some more about it over the next days. Have to sort some stuff out first. Stay tuned.

July 31, 2009

StuntyStomper (Choppa) back in business

It's been quite a while since i played my Choppa. Initially i started him to try out the Choppa (yeah, i like Orcs in WAR) and to set him up as a proper AoE Butcher-Collector. During the last three days i played him again. The initial setup (hotbars etc.) was a pain and after weeks you feel quite "rusty", but its easy enough to get back into the proper fighting style again. I started him again after we realized we don't really have an active Butcher in the guild anymore. Less talking more chopping i fired up my Choppa and a guildmate dragged me through LotD where i quickly advanced from 160 to 200 butchering. Talking about butchering: Anyone got a good spot to butcher high-lvl hero/champ mobs for 200 armor ingredients? Poke me. ;) I leveled Stuntystomper up to r31 so far. Its fun for a while to be able to quest again and have something to do (not so much on my main since there is zero solo content for high-levels once you reached a certain threshold). Playing the Choppa is fun, but after some time it feels like a grind to go through the content again - which basicly is the same in every MMO. Of course you see a few new things every now and then or take a different approach.

I tried to quest/kill as high above my level as possible for the additional challenge. Depending on the mobs i can easily kill 2-3 that are 4-5 ranks above me. I'm surprised how much rested XP my Choppa got... seems to be a few levels worth all in all. Very nice, speeds up things a lot. If you are rank 30/31 here is a hint for you if you want to grind mobs for XP: Inside the Sacellum Arena are lots of 34-38 mobs with a very fast respawn timer. Many of them fight each other inside the arena. The XP given from them seems to be a bit shaky tho: If you kill mobs that are already damaged by another NPC - usually (not always dunno why) you get the full XP as if you'd have killed it all by yourself. Since the mobs roam around you have to be very careful and look behind you, but its a great place to grind a few levels. Also I'd like to mention the rank 31 weapons from LotD are uber for that level. Grabbing a few silver scarabs is very easy (you get bolstered in LotD to r36) and the weapons have high DPS plus talisman slots. Grab those, its cheap! Overall its been fun to deal with my Choppa again since it feels like you can develop your character and are eager for the next skill or the next gear upgrade you can use.

This weekend is another beta event for the Aion MMO. I'll try to play some more to get a better feeling for a few things and the game in general. If you're waiting for the beta to start, check this status page to see about servers. There is also a nice trailer for the new 1.5 content. In addition, should you have problems with the download speed for the latest patch, here you can find some mirrors to speed things up.

July 27, 2009

Ragbag with Amenemhetum`s Curse and LotD Talismans

Inside the Tomb of the Vulture Lord some rare new crafting ingredients drop for talisman makers and apothecaries. The two new talismans to craft are Odjira & Kamenra. For apothecaries there are two new potions as well. The Sacred White Lotus brews a Speed of the Blowing Sand potion and the Nehekharan Lion's Heart will create a potion called Amenemhetum`s Curse, which will summon a lioness that is supposed to fight for you. In fact, the summoned lion does NOTHING, just stands there for 60 seconds and then dies. With all the bugs for the talismans and crafting items from LotD, you wonder how all that stuff can have passed the QA department. Did anyone try those banners you have to pay a bunch of gold scarabs yet? Do those work at least or are they bugged as well?

Word of Warning for the LotD talismans (drops/vendor) they are STILL bugged: Their timer runs while you are online, you don't have to have the item equipped and in use. Very easy to destroy some good talismans this way. Wonder when Mythic will finally fix this stuff.

Oh, and btw... what's up with the website? Their upload of new items has been broken every now and then and currently still is. Seems the code monkey is busy with their new website? C'mon, can't be that hard to fix the stuff. Pretty please?

WHA posted a nice video from the Games Day Chicago with all Destruction Sovereign sets shown, some look awesome. Too bad it will be near impossible to get those with the way the campaign is going atm, not to speak of my own low renown rank which makes it impossible to even wear them without months of RR grind.

This evening around 20:00 CET there is a server wide protest happening on many EU and some US servers to make a stand against the current way Mythic/GOA are handling the development process. You can read further discussion and info here and here. IMO if you are not satisfied and you feel raising your voice (in a constructive manner) in the game forums has no effect, the only way to vote is with your wallet and the money you pay (or not) GOA/Mythic. But online protests have a long history and can add to the forum voice, so i don't blame people for trying to get more attention to their cause. G'luck guys, I'll try to check it out.

July 24, 2009

Stunty Stomper hits 200.000 visitors

Since my Stunty Stomper blog started in September 2008 i recently hit the 200.000 visitors mark. During those months there was quite some time invested in this blog and due to the maps and info provided there are new people finding it daily via search engines. It's quite fun to have someone send you a tell "Heh, i just found this awesome blog of yours and see you play on the same server!". Many readers followed me during this time and i had some great conversations with a bunch of you. Thanks for your interest guys. When i started the blog i had no idea it would turn out like it did. Thinking back, blog related, i think the three most memorable things for me were:

Paul Barnett proving him is him
I laughed hard when i saw the video clip from him, since i really thought it had been an imposter and made fun of the comments. This was by far the funniest moment.

When the WAR bloggers started to work together
At many of the WAR bloggers united, shared their thoughts and tips. When it really started to pick up with activity, this was a great feeling. Since many bloggers stopped playing WAR now, the activity is towards zero there and the WCPI initiative at WHA picked up where it dwindled.

Beyond the Kraken Sea towards the GM Castle
My April Fool's joke for you guys. I spend quite some time in game & photoshop to put it together the way it turned out. The joke did not start a stir like i thought it would, but then again after i got so many tells people spending hours in search of that book, i just had to call it out to be an April Fool's the day after. Tho even weeks after i still got tells or emails from people asking about the book. I hope all of you that searched for it at least got some kick out of it and saw a new area.

Despite what some people think, i never had much contact with the Mythic developers. Exchanged maybe two emails with Paul Barnett back then and thats about it. My contact with the US community team has been zero (tried once but never got any feedback) over this time. I had quite a good communication with the GOA community team (Magnus & Nic) tho there are many issues/questions they are not in the position to organize you more detailed infos/screenshots since GOA is not Mythic. Recently it seems i get the cold shoulder from GOA CMs, if that's due to holidays/sickness or some recent emails where i claim freedom of speech being an independent fanpage, who knows. I'm not really bothered with it since i don't write my blog to get Mythic/GOA approval. Of course it was disappointing to see the US team organized some guerilla marketing and the EU bloggers being left out (like it initially was) or to not get back any answers to your questions. But heh, not necessary to have any illusions about the importance. And no, i never tried to interview any of the devs or something.

My blog is one of the few large ones left and I'm happy there are still so many people reading it and even using the comments to discuss this or that. The next months will show if I'll stick with WAR, but I'll keep you guys posted about what's going on with me... as usual. ;)

To celebrate the 200.000 mark I'll host a small contest/raffle soonish after i had time to work out a few ideas i got for it. Flowers, pictures of your Orc daughters you'd like to see married and other signs of affection you can send by email (contact in the upper left of the header). Stay tuned, stay safe and have fun... Thanks for All the Fish!

July 23, 2009

Patch 1.3.0b

So today Patch 1.3.0b went online for the EU servers. I tried the patch on the PTS before - did not write about it due to GOA not answering/clarifying the Beta Testing Agreement we had to sign on login. With the overall nerf to AoE Black Orcs got hit as well. IMO Mythic will upgrade some abilities on classes like Magus, BO, etc. soonish, since some classes got hit harder (as they were weaker already) by the overall change. Since I'm too lazy to respecc all the time and i play the "annoying" role (silence, slow, etc.) in RvR with my heavy tank spec, for my playstyle the AoE damage nerf did not matter that much. I respecced after the patch since Big Swing is 30feet now and together with Big Brawlin' it finally seems to have a use for RvR and PvE. Mythic did give the LotD talismans new icons and fixed some, but i still have four (one of mythic quality) that still have no use. :S

MMO Voice Communication

Meanwhile no serious gaming approach takes place without some kind of voice communication. A good & quick group communication is key to flip the odds in your favour. Setting up ventrilo/teamspeak server has become very easy and maintaining a server is not that expensive. Can you remember the early days when not many had larger voice communication channels and we were eg. "learning" Molten Core in WoW with only using chat to coordinate all the people? Especially for the group/raid leaders it can be a pain to maintain a bunch of macros to explain encounters or to adjust the strategy pending on what is happening. Tho i still swear since (at least listen to) voice communication became nearly mandatory, sometimes it feels like some people shut off their brain and just wait for instructions. If you play with a good & smart group tho, using eg. ventrilo makes it a lot more fun, as you'll have time to clear an instance or coordinate RvR activity and have some fun chat even while doing the encounters. And some people are really slow typers, so a headset can help there as well.

Most of you will have realised that some time ago UGT servers became a sponsor for my blog. UGT does not make me rich, but they additionally provided me with a ventrilo server i can use at my will and always wanted to try out setting up my own. So far this was never necessary because all the guilds i was part of had a great voice communication setup. But i was curious about the possibilities and how tricky it would be to set up for "normal" computer users. During one of our Lost Vale runs i figured this was the right moment to try out my own vent server. I assume the location of the server does not matter as much anymore as it did some years ago, but still its a good idea to choose a centeralized location depending on where the most players are located, the one we used is located in Amsterdam.

Setting up the server is really easy to do, you just log into the control panel and with a few clicks the Server Wizard will guide you through the process and you're ready to go. The config interface is plain and simple, but well organized and you'll find everything you need to get going quick. After the initial setup, which took me only a few minutes, you can already use the server and are online. If you want to access advanced functions or set up different channels/users later on its no problem to do so either. But i really liked the fast initial quick wizard setup, which enabled us to get going into Lost Vale on the ventrilo server without much waiting time. During the whole run the sound quality (GSM 6.10 codec) was crystal clear for all of us and my ping stayed around 140 all the time, with no packet loss i can remember, a very enjoyable experience. The wizard and the four page quick reference was enough to answer all questions and set up the server to my liking. The only thing not very intuitive is their FAQ, since you have to click to expand the questions, but the mouse pointer does not give you any indicator you can. No big deal for me, but some might be irritated. Interesting payment option is a paypal link your guild mates can use to help paying for the upkeep.

If your guild does not use voice communication yet, you should really try it.

Tip of the Day: For ventrilo, if someone is very low/high on volume on vent, right-click the user and choose Miscellaneous -> Special Effects. Now choose Volume -> Add. There you can adjust the volume of that specific user towards your liking. Helps a lot to maintain a pleasant overall volume level for yourself.

Do you think you could play MMOs without voice communication anymore?

Hmmm.. i still have this idea in my head about an orchestrated instance run, where you play music on vent fitting the encounter or instance part. Came up with the idea during those long MC crawls back then, but never came around to organize it. ;)

July 22, 2009

Utilizing the Community

Over at Syp's Bio Break blog i read Josh Drescher send out mails to a few people the devs deem to be opinion leaders, asking for feedback on WAR. Nice to hear the devs try to take the pulse, but do they have time enough to work out a few of the major things befor more people jump ship? From what i read/hear many players, that are bored in WAR, will jump to eg. Aion IF until September nothing happens that will convince them to stay. Many of those don't have the illusion Aion is THE new MMO, but just want to have stuff to do and everything new is interesting at first.

IMO to get some more time Mythic could do the following things to keep people busy for some time:
# release a permanent new scenario with fun (crazy stuff) mechanics and the possibility to use some engines/gadgets to release some NPCs, break through a wall, tear down a building, whatever gets people to laugh on vent.
# Add some fluff items as carrots for players to obtain. This is really easy done. Make them low drop rate and different areas for different things. Example: NPCs & players in captitol raids can drop armor items (just social clothing) with models from the opposing faction. If its headpieces, they dont even have to have the right size just fit properly. Always wanted my Orc to have a tiny Knight of the Blazing Sun helmet on my head. Just something that creates a smile on the players face from time to time while doing the daily grind. Mythic could also finally start to implement purposes for all those unique grey items, that do nothing despite what is hinted.
# Add a new dungeon with a short lockout timer - maybe two hours. It does not have to be huge, but improve the NPC AI in it! Warhammer NPCs lack brain in general. Create some scripted AI events on the mobs that are unpredictable - a trap that spawns 20 Nurglings that start to rape only healers. Some huge guy that will knockback tanks quite a distance and start banging on DPS, whatever. There are still many cool NPC models not used very often, use them. With the ward changes new items don't have to be a set, as long as the itemization with stats is properly done. It is ok to change loot tables later on, as long as there IS useful stuff to grab from the start. Give us some more models from NPC armor, good looking stuff. Saw the Orc shoulders with the dead boar? Thats stuff i want to see instead of Darkpromise looking like rank 5 armor.
# Give me something to do/farm solo while waiting for people or if the friends are busy. Maybe some new ingredients for the crafting skills. If nothing new properly adjusted is in the pipeline, make it fluff! Alchemy potions that can turn you into a Yeti, talismans that will make your armor radiate, whatever. Can you remember how we put work into obtaining the Ogre suit in WoW? Took quite some time and effort, but it was FUN. Add a few loooong, but good, quest chains for r40 characters they can work on.

I know what you say: This takes away from the working power to *really* fix the game? It doesn't have to bring everything to a deadlock. We all know Mythic has different teams working on different things. And all the above, I'm sure they can salvage some ideas, mechanics and models they already have. So the workload could be reasonable, but would give players some stuff to explore and have FUN with while they work on the more important things. But once players have something to do, please fix the game mechanics and the RvR campaign instead of releasing areas like LotD.

And finally give us some more details about how you intend to fix keep/fortress raids and the campaign. Let us be part of the process, post pictures... not just "we're working on it". No one cares if you throw some ideas out of the window again, if you tell us why.

There is also a fine line you have to walk to motivate community members enough to give you constructive and intelligent feedback on your product. Despite that the GOA Community Managers say its different, i know for a fact that many EU players feel alienated from the WAR development process. I know a bunch of players that test all changes on the PTS intensively and i can talk for a long time with them about game mechanics & changes. But when you get towards the topic of giving feedback, many gave up since they feel its a waste of time as the Mythic developers show no appearance at the EU forums at all. GOA tried to counter this some by handing out mounts to players providing feedback. Nontheless when i logged into the EU PTS, only *very few* players were online at all. Of course GOA tells us they collect & compress the feedback and the EU community is heard by the US developers. But with mediocre reputation GOA still obtains within the EU WAR community, some are not sure it really works like this since there is still no proof. The EU forums are pretty dead and more or less a support forum. Have you ever seen a Mythic developer post in the EU forum since it launched? Maybe discuss some changes on the PTS boards? No? Me neither. I know, I know.. we are being heard and the devs are listening. But tbh, EU players still feel like 2nd rate customers and its not only GOA's fault, but also Mythic's.

Of course proper information management is hard, given the high tide of feedback and posts on a MMO forum. Many posts are just a large "noise" of whining players that have basicly no idea about the game mechanism, but just lost to a certain class, whatever. It's important to filter the feedback properly. Some may remember what happened in AoC when the devs just listened to the crowd that shouted the loudest and went through some pretty harsh nerfs/buffs that were changed later on. Its easier to point with a finger on the developers than being part of the team yourself and have to deal with certain limitations. One more thing we should not forget is, that you can't always rely on what the customer wants when you work on an innovative product. Often the majority of the playerbase only sees their current needs/problems and can't grasp the bigger picture. In this case a developer has to take the hard road and make changes against the community will so it will help the game in the long run. The more important to communicate this properly. Beside the genric blahblah producer letters I'd like Mythic to adress some issues directly with better information and tell us their thoughts for the roadmap. Many of us claim the 30secs immunity change will not rescue the current CC problem and Mythic should take away a bunch of CC skills and redistribute CC for RvR purpose. I'd like to know more in detail what will happen and what the big picture for certain issues for Mythic is.

/wall of text crits you for 10k

July 21, 2009

Keep Maintenance Chat Spam Message

Is there any way to turn off the chat message that spams you every few minutes after you upgraded a claimed keep with eg. Deadbolt? It's really annoying... CSR just gives a generic answer about where to find chat filters - tho i did not see any to turn off those messages. thanks.

July 20, 2009

I did switch... WAR subscription to manual renewal. So from now on every month I'll think about it properly if WAR is still fun. BTW, the fact you have to do several clicks more in your profile to disable the automatic renewal feels a tad like GOA takes secret hints from Fileplanet to trick people into monthly subscriptions. How hard is it to have a checkbox (already checked with "yes") on the same page where you can untick if you dont want it automatic? The reasons for my change are plenty.

First one is i start to get slowly bored again. If you just log into the game with your high-end char and you only want to play for eg. 30min to one hour there is not much you can do. If you're lucky there is a spot in a scenario group or a tomb group going, but thats about it. Crafting is too easy and you can't really improve it much, nor make any decent money (not that its needed anyway) with it as everyone can craft themselves everything anyway. The well praised "experimenting feature" for WAR never made it into the crafting system. There is nothing i can do solo anymore to improve my character. Joining scenarios solo as a defensive tank is dreadful and usually you give up pretty quick. If you have more time on your hands you go to instances like Lost Vale, which is very tiresome going there a gazillion times, wait for a slot in a scenario group or go to the LotD. The main thing here being the Tomb of the Vulture Lord - due to the DPS race design of many encounters most groups only take on tank tho. Since i really dislike the zerg-style large scale RvR its hard to find good RvR outside of the scenarios. Invading instances in LotD has been fun, but it occurs to seldom. Don't get me wrong, if you have enough people online to play in a decent group (which i prefer anyway) you can still have a lot of fun, but even then your possibilities are very limited.

The recent changes to classes/careers don't look to me like Mythic will jump over their own shadow and redesign the CC system, only work on the symptoms and not the root cause. On top of this i have the feeling again that GOA does not do a good job for the same amount of money we pay. Their website is still in a similar desolate state then it has been since launch, the EU forums are in a mediocre state, my last email with questions has been unanswered (not even "we have to get back to you") since ten days and so far no one could provide any intel that the communication between EU playerbase and US developers has improved significantly since the official forum launch. Apparently the EU veteran program is running and closely tied into the US Core Tester program, but no proper info on this subject. BTW, the banner "contact our customer support" on the EU website only works if you're logged into the website, else it does nothing - just in case you wondered. Oh yes, and let us not forget that the EU still, after months, does not have access to similar promotion programs than the US offers.

The final thing is that IMO the overall campaign with the capturing of the enemy king is too complicated to execute and takes way too long. Once you are inside the enemy capitol its very tedious and boring, not polished enough. I don't know about you, but i lost interest after I've been there a few times.

I'll still write my blog about what's going on ingame and what i do. I'll still write about the fun times i have in WAR - yes, i still have them - but I'll make a note about the times i get bored and should those come to often, I'll rethink my time in WAR.

PS: For those that asked... No, i won't write about the CB4 Aion weekend, since i had no valid beta key and did not play. But today i decided to organize me one and test some more, so you can expect more info on this front as well.

July 19, 2009

Rigor Mortis reached Guild Rank 37

Yesterday our guild, Rigor Mortis, finally reached guild rank 37. Which means we can buy the improved hunting mounts from the guild vendor. They cost 150g and give you 60% speed and a lower dismount chance. They are only slightly faster then the normal mounts, but all have some kind of armored look to them. I posted all the pictures from the Black Orc GR 37 mounts back when we tried them on the PTS. I still think tho that the guild rank mounts should have a slightly different model as well, like i suggested here and here. After our friends from Enklava, Rigor Mortis is the 2nd Destruction guild to reach rank 37 on Karak-Azgal afaik.

Fluff Item idea of the Day: A different model for the basic throwing attacks, same damage, same everything just a different model. Would look cool if your Orc could throw a large axe or a bottle, wouldn't it? ;)

July 17, 2009

The first rule of the PTS is, you do not talk about the PTS.

So the Public Test Server (PTS) went live with 1.3.0b... I'd like to talk about the changes, but when you want to enter the PTS, you need to sign a Beta Testing Agreement, which basicly says you are not allowed to talk about the PTS nor post screenshots or similar. Seems a bit odd to me since its a public test server and any player can access it anyway. Looks to me its an agreement that has just been copied/pasted from restricted testing. But until the EU CMs don't enlighten us about the agreement, nothing to talk about. d'oh!

July 16, 2009

Crafting Addons and Thulf's Grab Bag Questions

Crafting in WAR is a tad cumbersome if you want to produce some serious amounts. Luckily we can use some nifty addons, like Crafting Info Tooltip or Miracle Grow Remix (Cultivating). I just recently stumbled over the Motion crafting addon. This one is great for Apothecaries or Talisman makers! The addon lets you specify (and save) recipes and you can enter the amount of items to craft - without having to press the repeat button over and over again. Awesome! If you try it out, make sure you check the fast creation in the setting. This will speed up the process quite much as the ingredient check will be minimal, but as long as you know what you're doing that should be no problem. I also cleaned up my addon list a bit and deleted/entered pending on what i use atm.

The WAR Grab Bags are sometimes nice with good information, but usually about 85% is just boring Q&A you can answer yourself once you read the question. What about the really interesting stuff to look behind the scenes? I tried to incquire some info from the GOA community representatives recently, but either they left the office for some summer holidays or are too busy with other things to answer my questions - did not hear back from GOA since a week, despite usually the Community Managers are rather forthcoming with informations. Here are my questions the next EU Grab Bag should answer:

1. How does the EU WAR veteran program work in detail? How does this give the EU better direct access to the WAR devs?
It's supposed to be linked closely to the US Core Tester program and apparently GOA chose a bunch of people to participate in the EU program, but i could not find any specific info about it. I know the US oracle program got a special forum and most are core testers, where they sometimes discuss with the devs directly about certain issues.

2. What is the state of Warhammer and the Nagle Algorithm?
Since disabling the Nagle Algorithm globally on your computer can have some side-effects on your browsing/file transfers WoW changed the client to disable it just for the program itself. It would improve latency, but of course the server infrastructure would need to be able to handle this for greater effect. Since there is no latency meter in WAR, its hard for players to test it. No info has been given by Mythic/GOA on this subject yet.

3. When will the Realm War Database be properly updated?
When i access my RW profile, there are seven items not properly in the database, some still lack certain effects and the total stat count is way off.

On a sidenote, looks like patch 1.3.0b will be up on PTS this week. I'm doubtful if the 30 seconds immunity timers will fix the CC problems properly and have to share Anglakhel's view that we need less overall CC and a redistribution focused on certain Archetypes (eg. give defensive tanks CC to make them useful).

July 15, 2009

Lost Vale v1.3

Just came back from a weekend trip, but before i went we were heading into Lost Vale last week. Since patch 1.3 i have not been in there, so i was interested to see what changed. First thing i noticed: You can ride your mounts inside the instance now - finally! What did we mutter about the long runs when we started the instance way back... of course it would have been nice to be able to use the spirits to teleport through the instance, but i guess 50% less walking is better then nothing. Since its an outdoor instance it feels ok to ride around on your mount. It felt to me the Butcher fight was adjusted some, so its not as wonky with the small Gobbo then it has been before. The Blood of the Vale questline is bugged now tho. First i heard you can repeat the questline a few times now, to get the talisman reward more then once. So i went to retake the questline. The quest bugged for me when i did not take the vial from the Everqueen directly after the fight, but instead ported back to IC to give a guild mate some stuff from the vault. When i went back to grab it about 45min later i could not interact with the Everqueen. Hum.. i know it worked before to go back and interact with her. Broken now. I wrote an appeal about it and some time later a friendly CSR contacted me. He really put some effort in helping me out (teleporting me around and trying to fix it), but failed to finally fix it since he could not create the vial in my inventory and despite he said he flagged the quest as complete, i could not hand it in. Why can't he create a quest item in my inv when he confirmed the N'Kari kill and saw i can't interact with her? In addition he told me, that the repeatable LV quest is a bug players have that finished it before it was patched. So apparently no repeatable to grab a timed talisman - would at least add some more incentive to LV. In the end i had to abandon the quest and will see next time if i can continue it and retake it. Always nice to see one thing fixed and another thing broken. Starting to get tired of some minor bugs that take forever to get fixed.

On a sidenote i was very lucky with Darkpromise that run. I've run LV for a looong time and was always really unlucky with DP (which i only need for the wards anyway as most of it is crap for tanking). During our run i was able to pick up the Darkpromise Eadplate and the Darkpromise Bodyplate. nice!

BTW, when will the bunch of broken talismans from LotD be fixed? I fail to understand why i still have several in my bank you can't see the proc (one is even mythic quality) and after the ones i had equipped in my hammer vanished (since apparently the timer for those also ticks when you don't have them equipped), I'm also not very keen on trying any of them out. How long can it take to fix them?

July 10, 2009

Design Flaws at the Expedition Camps in LotD? Tomb of the Vulture Lord cleared

Yesterday we were preparing for tombs inside the Land of the Dead when Order flipped the zone. Being good citizens we went to the Destruction Expedition Camp to defend against Order. While we were outnumbered, due to the gate we could hold the attackers back for some time. They would have gotten in anyway at some point due to their stronger force, but the problem arised before: Apparently there is a flaw in the terrain design at the warcamps and you can use your mount to climb the mountain and jump in. I did not try this at the Order camp yet, but at least its possible at the Destro one. Since its not that easy to just ride in this looks to me like a design flaw with the terrain near the camps. What is your experience with this?

The guild Coven (Dark Crag server) cleared the Tomb of the Vulture Lord (1,2). Like suspected before, after you kill the 8th boss inside TotVL you'll spawn a large statue worldboss outside in the courtyard. I actually saw the statue when i explored below the pyramid, it was far below the courtyard rocking slightly back and forth. Those that are far into the TotVL claim that a bunch of boss fights are still very buggy and you need some luck to beat them if they bug out. I've not been far enough in yet, but as soon as i do I'll report about it more.

July 7, 2009

Aion review - Blood for Blood!

You wonder why no WAR updates over the weekend? Well, during the closed Beta Weekend 3 i was able to check out the upcoming Aion MMO some. Since i know a bunch of people are interested in it i took the time to give you a rundown from my perspective. I leveled an Asmodian Templar (Tank) up to level 18 during that weekend. So all my findings will be based on what i saw during that time. Also important to note: Apparently NCsoft will release Aion with version 1.5, so there are several patches missing (translations: 1.1 / 1.2 / 1.5) on the EU/US servers at the moment. Some things might get fixed with those, where i know it will its mentioned in my article.

Before we start to talk about the game, let me say a few words about the GameGuard software, a hacking prevention software that Aion uses, which sucks a lot. I know many players had trouble with it, me as well. I had to deinstall (not simpy disable) my NetLimiter (firewall & bandwidth shaper) as else i would get some error window that only told me some korean gibberish with no hint towards the problem. Users of 64bit windows had major trouble as well, those had to exchange some files taken from another game to fix their problem. I fail to understand how a company can use such a crappy software that does not even yield a proper error message in the first place. Lets hope they improve it, but from what i hear people are not happy with GameGuard, tho its unlikely to change.

Who will have fun in Aion? Well, if you dislike grinding at all - Aion is not the game for you. Period. If you need the game to take you by the hand for everything or want a rich storyline with a lot of lore - Aion is probably not the right game for you. Can casual gamers have fun in Aion? Yes, they can but the most fun you'll have while playing with a good guild (called Legion in Aion). Due to the way things work a good guild will speed up your progress a lot. The game itself immediately reminded me of some of those typical asian free-to-play grind MMOs (like 2Moons and such), but its a notch better done. A lot of features are not really explained inside the ingame manual and you have to figure them out yourself. I'd suggest that this gets fixed before release, else the whining will be huge since people have no idea how to use certain things.

The game looks very good. Character customization at character creation (and also later on) is huge, a lot of stuff to play with. Despite the lower polygon count used for models in Aion, they made good use of some high-quality textures on the monsters and the surroundings. Like so many other games they have a bunch of places with blurry/bad textures as well, but the overall feeling when you run around is great. In general the maps are nicely done, tho often a tad colorful for my taste... guess thats the asian influence. Several monsters or plants/trees have a cool and unique look to them tho, you don't think i saw this similar model a hundred times already. Some races are the "cute kind", like large squirrels or pandas - but heh, who does not like to slaughter cute Mumu herb gatheres while they do nothing wrong but work?

There is a lot of good and catching music in Aion. Sometimes it feels a bit out of place when the different themes switch, but overall there is a larger amount of good music then in many other games.

UI in general
The Aion UI is nothing special or really new. It looks clean and has enough features to work with tho. Often i wish it had more options to turn off some confirmation windows or other parts to save a few clicks, but its ok to use. You can't freely place or resize the UI, its rather limited in ways to modify. Annoying: It seems at many places the UI is missing tooltips to explain what certain settings or attributes do. The UI luckily has a moderate color/feel to it so not to distract you from the gameplay. Everything you look for in a MMO UI is basicly there, can't remember important parts missing. Annoying is that you can't switch the camera view to look freely around while running into a direction, maybe its because coordination in flight later on, not sure. You can use the middle mouse button to switch the camera 180 degree and eg. look behind you while running forward, but thats about it... else you'll always run where you look. Note: Someone mentioned patch 1.5 has enabled left mouse button to rotate camera and also invert mouse. The UI has many auto move/pathing features that will make your toon run by its own. Parts of it can be disbled (stick to target) but some others can't. This can be tricky if your toon starts running off and aggros close by mobs because by accident you clicked a gather note.

Instanced gameplay

The game world is instanced. While one instance (called channel) can hold a lot of people (no idea how many) it seems at any point there are 10 channels from any given area. Not so sure about the main capitol, can't remember if that was instanced as well. You see a lot more players running around then eg. i saw in AoC instances tho. The game engine supports a large amount of players and runs very smooth and stable. While playing i seldom had lag and even with 50+ players on your screen inside the main city the performance is very good, no heavy drop in FPS for me. You can change channels by choice any time you wish. If you're in a group you can choose to teleport into the group leader's instance from the group menu. If certain quest points are camped you can always try to switch the channel to avoid the crowd. Sometimes this helps, sometimes not. I also hear that only the first few areas in the game have channels, later on and in the Abyss there is only one - anyone knows this exactly?
Note: I heard tho, come launch the channel change will have a 10-15min delay. So no avoiding crowd or farming named mobs with channel change.

During the beta weekend there were a few points when you ran low/out of quests and needed to grind a little bit to get to the next level. From what i read one of the patches added a bunch of more quests to help with that. When it comes to leveling you can do both questing or grinding. It will depend on what you do which is more effective. If you get a small group of people and grind those elite mob areas, this can yield very good XP. I was going solo at some point and killed mobs 3-4 levels above me and that yielded very good XP as well. It will depend on your level, your gear and if you're solo or in a group, but so far it looks like you don't have to quest. Tho usually the quests will lead you through the areas and some follow-up quests will give you item rewards. Every so often a quest will give you a short intro with a cutscenes (using the game engine), which can really add to some stories, but often felt a bit out of place. I'd rather have a sequence explaining me what happened then show me some abandoned hut in the middle of the forrest i never saw before. There is a quest helper system in place and when a quest text mentiones a certain NPC, mob race or place you can "locate" them and if possible get a mark on your map where to go to, sometimes things are at hidden/hard to reach places and it does not work.

During leveling i had two aspects that annoyed me big time:
1. Loot rights are given to the person/group that did the highest damage to a mob it seems. This results in high damage classes to "steal" the mob you have been fighting already. There are a few quests on a timer, you already fight a mob down to 70% HP to get a quest drop and some sorc jump in, kills the mob with a tad higher damage then you, grabs the stuff and runs off. I met a bunch of players that did this by intend. Supernice.
2. Sometimes there is a very long respawn timer on quest objectives (you scouted the area already three times only to realize the object spawns on a table you ran past several times) or quest mobs. I did a few quests where only special mobs would drop the needed items and in the whole frickin' village spawned 3-4 of those for like 15-20 players running around there. Add point 1 to that and go figure the annoyance.

There will be griefing and spawn camping in Aion on a larger scale then in some other MMOs.

A nice feature during fights inside NPC villages and such: Many NPCs alert each other when attacked or start to run away and alert others when low on health. You'll really have to watch were you are going and which mobs to pull later on if you're leveling in areas where the mobs are challenging to you. In addition ranged NPCs are hard to move, looks like they use their ranged "attack skill" also when close to you. So no step-by-stepp pulling them back. To a certain degree you can work around it with corner pulls and such. Training NPCs into other players is rather easy as well and i can imagine this leads to griefing as well. When you run away too far from a mob it will reset and leash back, BUT can aggro players on the way sometimes. While you kill mobs somewhere one idiot running away with a large groups of mobs on his tail is often enough to get you killed, so watch whats happening around you. Overall fighting mobs is more challenging then in many other MMOs, which is refreshing. I also hear rumours about a hate list system used beside the normal aggro system. Mobs can have certain "rules" why to hate certain players more then others.

Killings monsters feels like its taking longer and more effort then in WAR, WoW or AoC. Depending on the level difference against a mob you will use several different skills before the mob drops dead. When fighting equal level monsters you use a few skills to kill it, but i had to use at least one rotation from all available skills at the early levels to kill it. Level difference has a major effect on the power the mob has and the time it takes to kill it. If you fight a mob three levels higher then you, its already dangerous if you get adds at the wrong point and you'll have to use several skill rotations to kill it. Combat overall feels good tho, the animations are very fluid and if i use a shield bash my toon will really take his shield and smash it into the foe. Combat skills are used similar to Black Orcs in WAR. While you have "single hit skills" as well, the best skills are part of a chain which opens up after you used the starter skill. Depending on your level you get more skills to use as 2nd or 3rd. The chains are easy enough to identify/use since there is a good display for them and when they become available they'll start to glow. Then you got a few seconds to press the corresponding key. There is no skill "queue", so if you press the needed key to early it won't fire. Should you use a different skill while moving down a chain, the chain will be lost since you need to wait for the starter skill to come off cooldown again. The different chains for my templar had 1-3 branches they could lead to. Many skills are in reaction to eg. block, parry, etc. ergo only open up if the condition is met. Playing my templar from the skill system itself really felt like being on my Black Orc, i can live with that. The fights sometimes feel a tad long, if you bang with two people on some elite mob it can take forever to get it down. On the other side you have the feeling something is happening, the good animations underline that feeling. The fight animations and sounds are a bit too much mortal combat IMO, but i read somewhere one of the patches gives you an option to disable at least most of the "mortal combat ninja cries" your toon does while fighting.

The skills use MP (Mana Points) and Divine Points (DP), some are free without any costs. DP are collected through fighting players & NPCs, through dealing/taking damage. You can't store DP and should you die or log off, that bar goes to zero. DP skills are really powerful from what i saw. It takes quite a while until you filled your DP bar enough to use a skill.

If you die you'll get a short debuff (1min) reducing movement speed, lose a small percentage of XP and resurrect at your last binding location. You can pay a Soul Healer to get the XP back, does not matter if you do it while you still have the debuff or not. If you adventure into dangerous areas its adviced you spend a few coin to bind before you go so you don't respawn too far away. It's annoying to have to wait for people to travel back across the continent. If you die there is a 30min timer another player can resurrect you. You can buy resurrection stones rather cheap from general goods vendors - good investment to be able to rez your cleric if things go wrong.

Come in different quality: grey (trash), white, green, blue and orange. During to the beta weekend i sometimes found green items (a few levels better then white) and one blue chest piece from a named mob. There is a neat item comparision system in place and if you compare two items red/green indicator will tell you which stats are worse/better on the different items. Item tooltips are a bit unclear tho, could use some work. I found it very annoying tho, that many items have the same name, but very different stats on them. You really need to look at them in detail. Very few items in the game seem to be bind on pickup, from what i hear only the boss loot from the high-end dungeons will be BoP. The vendors have a button to sell all misc (grey) items. All UI parts that deal with items work more like an online shop, you can choose the stuff you want to buy and then have to press the final button to check out and confirm the transaction.

# strg+left-click on an item will open up a preview dressing window.
# strg+right-click will link an item into chat.

Auction House & Private Stores
There are brokers in major cities. The AH interface is a bit cumbersome and lacks more filters (stuff like enter item level filter was improved in 1.1 apparently). The amount of items you can list at the AH is limited (dunno exactly how many). If you buy stuff from the AH it goes directly into your inventory. If you sell stuff at the AH, you need to "settle your account" at the trader to obtain the money. There is a private store system in Aion. At any place you can start your own private shop and sell stuff from your inventory. Many players use it while being afk. Some major areas in the capitol city are *full* of private shops, you can spend a lot of time to run from player to player and see what they offer. When you open the shop you can put one line of text in, which will be displayed over your head - also often used for guild recruiting messages etc.

Tip: Double left-click on a player-store to automaticly run to that player and open the shop interface. Since players move right into the player with the shop sometimes it can be hard to target them.

Mailbox system works like in every other MMO. Its a bit confusing tho as you have "normal" delivery (which is instant into the other mailbox already) and "express" - unfortunately i did not test this, but i read this results in a Shugo (small squirrel/hamster NPC) messenger coming to the recipient and delivering the letter.

Group/Party System
There is no real LFG system, which makes the task of finding a party for certain elite quests a bit harder. One reason I'd only play Aion with other people i know. A party can have up to six people, a raid up to 24 players. There is no need/greed loot roll system, only roll dice or abandon roll. This should be improved IMO. In the group distribution you have some nice additional features. You can distribute money to group members, can choose to auto distribute misc items, there is a master looter and some strange bidding system wherer you loot for coin you bid (and coin is distributed between party members).

NPCs have some sort of point indicator next to their name when targeted, this shows you how strong the mob is. While i can easily kill a mob with 1-2 points on my own, those with 4 points could be very tough cookies, sometimes impossible for me to kill solo, depending on the mob. Some quests don't indicate that they are group/elite mission and you'll need to group up. So you'll need to watch out if you run into some elite area.

From what i hear there will be several high-level dungeons available a release, some instanced some with PvP in them. Tho i doubt you should expect very complicated scripted encounters from what the game felt to me. I'm sure the bosses will have some tricks up the sleeve, but thats about it.

With level 10 you'll finish a quest chain and "earn your wings". Despite what many people think you CAN NOT FLY EVERYWHERE in Aion. At least in the first areas there are only few places you can fly freely. Depending on the wings you have and gear stats, etc. you'll have a certain amount of flight time (rather limited). Once the timer runs out you'll get a nasty (fun!) warning *meeep meeeep* and start to fall. Yes, you can die if you fall deep enough. ouch.
What you can do everywhere is glide. You do this by jumping down a slope, just jumping from any higher place and use space again to spread your wings. Many players fail to grasp the concept of gliding, so here is how to: As long as you glide downhill and don't get stuck uphill or at an obstacle you can glide until your timer uns out. Gliding over water is good as well. Don't push your forward movement button while gliding, only adjust your direction by going left and right - this way you can glide a very long time if the area supports it and you use the environment smart. While gliding you will aggro mobs and they can hurt you, so be aware of that. Utilizing gliding properly will speed your movement up a lot.

Other forms of transportation include a flight master system between major hubs inside the same area and teleports between the different regions. So far there are no plans for mounts from what i hear. You can upgrade your wings later on tho. You also have a personal teleport skill (20min cooldown) you can bind at various obelisks, this does cost a small fee.

You can't swim in Aion. Should you enter water deep enough, you'll simply walk on the ground under water. *lol* There is a system that will damage you when you enter "deep water".

Title System
By means of questing (and maybe other things) you'll obtain titles. The thing in Aion is that titles have a small stat boost attached to them. So if you wear a title (and only then) you'll get that stat boost. The title system is not very intuitive and i disabled title display on PCs rather quick as it looks annoying because the title is displayed together with the player name. I never saw a message that i acquired a new title either, so check the title list from time to time.

There are many ways to enhance your gear/weapons: manastones (gems you socket into gear), enchantment stones (obtained by "disenchanting" gear with vendor bought tools), power shards (drop from mobs can be bough at vendor) that enhance your weapon damage for one hit. The different ways to enhance your gear are not very intuitive at first, check here for more info.

I tried crafting a tiny bit. Crafting overall does take a long time and some major coin. You'll have to to go into the main city for crafting stations. No crafting anywhere else. There are normal crafted items and you can crit on a craft, resulting in a better item. There is some wierd upgrading system, where you basicly take an already crafted item, add some more materials and refinement stones and then create a better version. Since crafting can fail (no idea about the mechanism) i can imagine it will take a lot of time and materials to craft the best gear. Apparently you can train all crafting trades up to 399 skill, but only master one to 450 skill.
Gathering materials is done in two ways: You gather stuff like ore, food, plants, etc. from the floor and you have to gather aether that is floating around in the air in flying enabled zones.

Armor dyeing (so far i only saw vendor bought dyes) did look like crap ony my plate armor due to the armor reflections not working together well with the new colors.

Legions (Guilds) System

There is a guild system implemented and you eg. get a guild vault with a guild plus some other organization tools. A lvl 1 guild (register) cost 135.000 Qina (coins in Aion) and can have max. 30 members. You'll get a random crest assigned for the guild cloaks (also displays on player tooltip). Lvl 2 guild can be obtained while having at least 10 members and paying 845.000 Qina. You get to choose a crest from a certain pool and your guild can have max. 60 members. A guild rank 3 can upload their own crest (if you can really upload and not just create one, thats cool) and have unlimited members, but you need to pay 3.151.000 Qina and obtain 10.000 Legion points (from PvP and maybe fighting the 3rd faction inside the Abyss). Note: Above figures to buy higher legion rank seems to be outdated, but you get the picture.

The fluff stuff
Aion has a lot of fluff stuff, like googles, funny hats, festival dresses, etc. Very early on you get cool disguises via quests as well. Lets not even start to talk about remodel shops that will let you switch even the 3D model your gear displays, if you got enough coin. There is a lot of stuff to spend gold on: resurrection stones, teleport scrolls, custom 2h binding stone scrolls, etc. Overall there are many money sinks already in the game. Some of the stuff you buy from the vendors is really useful.

One thing that jumped my eye while reading over the user agreement, they mention NCcoin as some kind of currency to pay for ingame items with real money. I'm not sure if this will really make it into the game, but i know many hope it does not. Also paying a monthly fee (no one knows yet how much for EU/US) as for other MMOs would not be welcome if they make money on the side with this.

Due to the nature of the game you'll be able to spend hours by trying to improve crafting, gathering materials, etc. The later game levels are supposed to be a bit of grind, but then again even WAR or WoW felt like that in the end, tho i assume the feeling might be more present in Aion. Will Aion be a game i could have fun with? Only in a good guild. Should a large part of my guild mates move over to Aion, probably so would i. It's no game i would start without being part of a Legion tho. You hit the wall playing solo rather quick and the lacking LFG system does not help that much. Aion overall was better then i thought it would be, but my expectations were not that high and i doubt it will be THE upcoming MMO people waited for. I think it can be fun for a while tho. Some things are new and refreshing to look at or use. The higher challenge rating while fighting "normal" NPCs was very welcome. They had more AI to them then in the other MMOs i played recently. Most likely i forget a bunch of stuff in this review, should you have any questions or want to share your own thoughts, feel free to use the comments.

EDIT: I created a new Aion Blog, check it out here -> IMPETUSIUM

July 3, 2009

Meti Ka, Soother of Souls

Finally i got my hands on one of the epic 1H weapons, Meti Ka, Soother of Souls (no link, warDB has some issues atm), that can drop in the tombs. The hammer looks a bit tiny on my Black Orc, but heh... grave robbers can't be choosers. At least it gives me a viable option to equip some of those epic LotD talismans. A few of the really good talismans (cost 250 gold scarabs at the vendor i think) are very powerful. I'm not sure if the trash mobs in LotD can drop the best (BoP) talismans as well, but the tomb bosses and i think also other players can. Now i only need a shield to go with that, so far i bought the blue one from the vendor but due to the bugs (see below) i did not use that yet. Maybe the weapons from TotVL have more unique models.

Word of Warning: I read at the US forum there are some bugs involving the LotD talismans and those can go *puff*.

July 2, 2009

Tomb of the Vulture Lord

Beside plundering tombs and exploring LotD more of course i wanted to have a look at THE new LotD instance, the Tomb of the Vulture Lord. To enter it, you have to finish the PQ at the Temple of Ualatp and after the PQ is done, the door to the instance will be open. The amount of time to enter is maybe a tad short, could use another minute IMO. Unfortunately so far i was not able to join a group going into the TotVL, but some guild mates went there a few days ago (lockout timer on the instance is 3 days) and with the mechanism to bring new group members into a dungeon, a friend was able to let me tag along. BTW, if you enter an already used instance without a lockout, you won't get "tagged" until you kill a boss in there it seems - we killed a few trash mobs and i still did not have a lockout. Compared to some other MMOs where you get the same instance ID the second you enter.

As far as i've heard so far there are eight bosses inside that instance. Each boss fight works as a PQ. After you kill the Vulture Lord himself hes supposed to wake up some large statue you have to fight as well. The whole tomb is full of traps. I only could check out the first two, but the mechanism works like this for them: Three people have to bypass the trap and on the other side all three have to pull a lever at the same time to disable the trap. The others can follow safely then. Should the instance get invaded, you can turn the traps back on to hinder progress of the invaders. There are also doors you can open/close behind you. Sounds like fun. At the start of the instance you'll find a healer and should you die inside, you'll respawn at the start and not the expedition camp. Thank god! Once you progress further into the instance, there is also a ghost called Adom Fusa'ni who will teleport you stage wise deeper into the tomb once you killed bosses in there. Nice to speed up progress. Can we please now get something like this for Lost Vale?

The traps are cool - you feel like Indiana Jones working your way through the traps. I like what i saw so far and am eager to go back and work properly on the Tomb of the Vulture Lord. I was able to bypass the first (Pendulums of Death) and second (Darts of Pain) trap without dying at all. You just have to watch it for a few seconds and be on your toes, those were not that hard tbh. But i know that many players died several times trying to get through... Hehe... oh the fun on vent you miss. ;) Since i didn't get a chance to fight any bosses in there yet, not much i can say about them. But judging from the feel of the place and the other lair/tomb fights I'm sure it will be fun. I'll try to report more from the place once i could go in deeper.

July 1, 2009

Black Orc Tyrant Armor Set from Land of the Dead

With the Land of the Dead came some new gear and also a new armor set: Tyrant's War Boyz' Kit. Two of the set items you can buy at the vendor inside your Expedition Camp with some kind of mask currency (from the tomb of the vulture lord i guess). The rest of the set seem to drop from the bosses inside the Tomb of the Vulture Lord and have a 50% chance to drop from the bosses there. Seems the drop itself is a repairable item more then one class can use. If this works correctly it means less sharded loot and more item joy for the party members. Good stuff! The Tyrant set does not award any wards btw. Judging from a bunch of Tyrant armor screenshots at Gaarawarr Gabs, the Orc questgiver inside the Expedition Camp wears the full Black Orc Tyrant set, which you can see on the screenshot. I wonder if we'll ever see the kind of cool cloak he wears - with some kind of standard on his back. Should be cool tbh. There is another set called The Warmonger of Sakhmet, consisting of four jewelry items and The Squigplate of Sakhmet (maybe THE cloak)?

The set bonus from the Tyrant gear is as follows:

I wonder why a PvE obtained set has a parry bonus on it tbh. IMO sets obtained by RvR should be geared towards PvP and sets obtained in PvE dungeons should have bonuses on them towards PvE. Check out the full Tyrant set stats posted by Lokax. Tbh the distribution of attributes and special bonuses does not really get me excited for the single pieces. I can't see myself wearing the full set for tanking purposes, which is a bummer as it looks rather nice. I fail to understand the logic behind the itemization of this new PvE set. I know some people say: "Heh, its a nice addition to Warlord gear" - but tbh not all of us can wear the high RR gear. Which leaves a mix between Darkpromise/Tyrant/Sentinel plus a few epic pieces like Insurrectionist Feetsplate, Time-lost Bodyplate to set up the best combination of tanking gear. I hope the items/set will be adjusted again. I've no idea how good they are for other classes What do you think about the new Tyrant set?

June 30, 2009

Mirror, Mirror...

Still a lot of stuff to explore and try out in the desert. Overall i very much enjoy LotD so far. The main gripe right now is the not working guild/alliance chat, which is becoming very annoying. This is just a quick post, as a reminder for players that its faster to use the mirror of infinity to travel into the desert then to walk the path all the way through the mountains. When you die and want to regroup you head for the healer anyway in the warcamp. Right behind him (at least for destro, but I'm sure order has something similar) is the questgiver for the mirror transport. Use it! :)

June 29, 2009

How the ancient zandri pyramid architects botched (Exploration)

Since i like to know my surroundings properly, I went for a proper exploration tour into the Land of the Dead. Before i tell you how the ancient zandri architects messed up the large pyramid at the Temple of Ualatp, lets talk about the other things to find in LotD. There are four glyphs spread out over the zone that will yield an achievment tome unlock each. Tells you an interesting story how the scepter was broken in four pieces and of the casket of souls - don't want to spoil it for you. Should you have trouble finding them, the maps that were spread out over the fanpages for the last event have all marked one glyph on them (nice touch!). There are also a few hidden quests that yield a scarab and in addition some trash item with flavour text, not sure if you can do something with those or not.

In some remote locations there are also small camps with either bandits or skeleton workers that are usually commanded by one of the different disciples. I have no idea what these are for, maybe later during the key of zandri (?) questline you have to find them? Beside those disciples there is nothing really interesting to find in those camps, at least i could not see anything else to interact with.

One really weird thing i ran into the first day exploring the zone is a zombie named "Test". He runs around the whole zone, across the river and through mountains. Hes running quite fast as well. First time he crossed my field of vision i was like "WTF?!?" You can't target or interact with him tho. I wonder what kind of purpose this kind of test mob could have for zone development? Maybe hes running around everywhere randomly and tested for places you can get stuck in? Who knows... *shrugs*

The next weird thing i encountered are groups of spirits/ghosts walking the desert. You can encounter them "from" your own faction or the enemy one. Both groups will disappear once you get too close to them. What is the purpose of those illusions? I don't know, but when you get near the library in the southern part of LotD you can get a glimpse at a mysterious "Mirage Controller" on one of the column structures. It's hard to see or to spot and i could not find any way to get up there or to interact with it.

Now you finally wonder what proof i have the ancient zandri pyramid architects botched? Well, i found a way to bypass all those invisible walls (that really destroy the immersion btw, bad design IMO) you encounter in the zone. Usually there is the "teleport out security" in place, but it has holes and you can bypass it. You can access two areas (at least i found so far) called "zone 306" and "zone 304" this way. The areas are vast desert/mountain parts without anything interesting i could find. BUT, you can access the large pyramid at the Temple of Ualatp from the backside. I tried to climb the huge pyramid, but you can't. :( The thing you can see on the screenshot is, the pyramid got no wall on the back. Ergo there is no collision and you can pass through the inside of it.

The bad thing about this is, you'll end up *below* the floor next to the pyramid - where the architect/glyph PQ is. This could be exploited, since its an RvR zone, you can see everything that goes on above and there are parts you can get up to appear on the floor level again. I'm sure (did not try) you could also attack players there while being below the floor or surfacing at parts where the other players can't access you. This needs to be fixed by Mythic. Luckily it won't be many players that will find the way anway, but you never know. It's not possible to access rooms from there you can't access from the normal floor level. I did not jump of the edge of the world down there, no idea what will happen. Here are a few more pictures from below the pyramid. If you find anything else interesting while exploring, feel free to share with us in the comments. There is also a place up in the mountains where Dwarf miners do their business and you can trigger areas that will port you directly into the library of Zandri. Happy Hunting!

June 28, 2009

The dead walk the desert

So I'm back in the game. The first day, after being offline for several weeks, felt like being a Black Orc without arms or legs... if you know what i mean. I did set up my UI properly again for Thulf (did not have the heart to do it for my Choppa yet). Did i have fun? Yes, i did. But first things first... Since GOA merged a bunch of more servers towards Karak-Azgal, our server is more alive then ever. Tho many known faces/guilds are gone since people stopped playing. The game performance did not get better, stayed the same then before for me. Some transparent textures still have problems displaying properly and a few things like the obelisk at one PQ did lack textures at first. The screenshot feature for super screenshots is still broken, so i keep using FRAPS.

The Land of the Dead reminded me immediately of Stygia, which i liked in AoC - so its not a bad thing. Atmosphere is good in the new zone, a mix between Stygia and the Mummy movies if you ask me. Although there are a few places you run into invisible walls, which destroy the immersion of a vast desert. There are PQs all over the place. PQ rewards are bags with crafting materials, scarabs (new LotD token currency) and sometimes a r31 epic weapon. So for r40 players the PQs are just a giant timesink, since you have to do them to collect glyphs, which you need to enter the four Tombs (sun, stars, moon and sky). The scarabs you also collect via the PQs are ok to buy a lot of new stuff, but eg. the best talismans cost a shitload of scarabs and are on a short timer. I don't see anyone getting those. Most new talismans are special in a way that you need special weapons/shields from LotD to use them. The tomb bosses drop epic/mythic talismans as well... there are a bunch of new sexy procs/attributes for those (some are even permanent). A few talismans for weapons are bugged, you can't see what they do. The tomb bosses can drop new epic r40 weapons and some are badass. The tomb fights - i visited sun, stars and moon so far - are nicely done and fun. Mythic needs to fix the bugged/exploitable sun boss tho. All fights have a nice twist to them and are something quick to do, IF people have the glyphs already. Else you run around for a while and have to collect the missing glyphs for party members. I'm not so sure yet the glyph mechanism is a good timesink, can imagine it will become rather annoying once its less people doing the PQs (right now its fast to get them). The only glyph very annoying is Ricci's Raiders. Basicly its a caravan of bandits running around you have to find and from the looks of it they don't respawn immediately. Therefore many people lack the scorpion glyph. Some of the PQs are nicely scripted as well, not all tho. To enter the Tomb of the Vulture Lord you *have to* finish the Temple of Ualatp PQ and enter the door while the reset timer runs.

IMO it's too early to say how LotD impacts RvR on my server. So far there is always RvR going on, either inside LotD once access is being flipped or in the normal world to regain access to the zone. If too few players are fighting for zone control there might be a push towards a capitol. So far it looks ok to me and inside LotD its more small-scale RvR, which is great. I haven't been to the Vulture Lord tomb yet, but I'm not sure for how long Land of the Dead will entertain people. There are some nice new items, but Mythic also reused a bunch of crap items (like useless blue repairables) that didn't even get unique models to look cool. I fail to understand why they can't use some unique models at least so you can run around with some of the lower level items in the capitol or something, just for fun.

Overall there are still a bunch of bugs in LotD, some you wonder why they have not been fixed yet as they are major annoying... like guild/alliance chat is bugged in the LotD zone. You can only read it from people you're grouped with, no one else. It does work while you're inside a tomb tho. stupid.

A few more things i noticed:

- The dismount at the stairs at the Apex in IC is *finally* fixed.
- New & powerful pocket items with "use" (absorb damage, immune to crit hits for 10secs, etc.) from LotD. Good stuff, cooldown 1 hour.

- There is some kind of bug with the enhanced bags, sometimes half of them becomes unresponsive. You have to switch eg. between crafting/normal to get rid of the bug.
- They implemented the new whacky tradeskill titles, but those (like me) that "triggered" it before still have ??? and can't use the title.
- Friendlist is broken for me. Doesn't show if people are online or not.

This post has been long already, so I'll write about some LotD crafting stuff and tome unlocks next time.