Goodbye, WAR
Posted by Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 December 2013, 12:49 pm
It feels fitting to do one last post on WAAAGH! today, many years after my last.  Today, the servers shut down, and this interesting, flawed, and frantic title closes. I don’t regret following, playing, or writing about Warhammer Online one bit.  It helped get me into blogging and connected me with many great friends.  It […]

Shh… my wife’s asleep!
Posted by Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 November 2008, 10:37 pm
So I guess it’s okay to log onto the internet during vacation, y’know, just this once.  See what e-mail I’ve gotten (I need to enlarge my spleen why?).  Check up on the news (I think there was a presidential election or something, either Pinky or the Brain won).  Google Reader?  Hmm… 675 new posts… /glance at [...]

Return to the Promised Land
Posted by Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 26 November 2008, 8:03 pm
Because a lot of fret and worry has been spilled over the number of WAR players who (supposedly) returned to WoW for the expansion pack — including, it seems, the formerly WAR-only Casualties of WAR guild/blogger social network — I’ve tried to stay aware of what’s been going on over there in Blizzardtown. As [...]

GameSpy Continues The Love
Posted by Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 29 November 2008, 4:18 pm
(I’m sure it’s not because this feature was sponsored by Warhammer Online or anything… right!) I just thought this was a cool excerpt from GameSpy’s Holiday Buyer’s Guide: Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning World of Warcraft finally has some decent competition. We here at GameSpy have steadily played quite a bit of WoW since it came out in [...]

Oh My RvR!
Posted by Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 November 2008, 10:05 am
I know I’m pretty late to the party with the Open RvR announcements that Mark made last week — blame a great week away from it all in the sunny lands of Washington D.C. (lookit me, I’m palling around with Lincoln!) — but I’m back, and it’s time to tackle the leftovers of this news [...]

Poll: Merge or Remain?
Posted by Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 November 2008, 11:22 am

The Headbanger
Posted by Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 1 December 2008, 8:32 am
GUILDIE: I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a title for finishing Heavy Metal. ME: Like “The Headbanger”! Considering that I’ve been Away From Keyboard for a full seven days, it was a bit eye-raising to have wrapped up Heavy Metal in an hour or so of gameplay before it ends this week. Eye-raising, but [...]

ChaosCast and You
Posted by Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 1 December 2008, 11:28 am
I’ve heard a few comments, here and there, floating along on the breeze like a guilty conscience, about the status of the next ChaosCast episode.  Short answer is: it’s coming.  Probably.  Maybe. It’s not the easiest thing to get three guys in different time zones and countries together for a two-hour recording session, but it is [...]

Patch 1.06 Pwns You
Posted by Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 1 December 2008, 7:50 pm
Heads up: Patch 1.06 is heading to live servers tomorrow (Tuesday).  I’ll sort through the extensive notes later, but for now, head over to the Herald to read part 1 and part 2 of this pretty hefty patch!

Random Picture Tuesday!
Posted by Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 December 2008, 7:41 am
I decided to clean out my screenshots folder this morning, and pass along the savings to you! Yay!  I earned a bright, shiny new trophy!  Whee… what?  Oh, I guess I have to give it to the enemy then. Syp vs. Pig — the eternal MMO struggle continues.  In memory of Book of Grudges!  (Seriously, guys, come [...]

The Mod Squad
Posted by Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 December 2008, 3:30 pm
I’ve been holding off on experimenting with mods in WAR for a few reasons: one, I consider it part of my duty to cover this game as it is in its purest, Mythic-delivered form; two, I’m lazy; and three, I wanted to wait until after a major patch, let things settle a bit (and mods [...]

Interview: Josh Drescher & The Half-Blood Patch
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 March 2009, 10:03 am
When he's not dressing in spandex and saving civilization with his awesome superpower of meticulous note-taking, Josh Drescher is pestered by the likes of me for a few spare moments of his time, and perhaps a hankey that has touched his furrowed brow. What? Too creepy? In any case, he was kind enough to answer ten questions for me before notifying my next of kin.

WAAAGH!: Bitter Rivals is based around, well, one of the most notorious rivalries in Warhammer -- Dwarfs vs. Greenskins. How is this echoed in the Mythic offices -- are there any hardcore rivalries you can share?

JOSH: Barnett’s been Choppa-mad for a long time, but I’d say the Slayers are the clear favorite for most of us. Paul and Hickman’s long-standing rivalry is probably the most visible. Jeff (who’s long stood up in favor of Order) is clearly enjoying being the front-man for the Slayers in the office at the moment. He keeps demanding Mohawks from people.

WAAAGH!: Patch 1.2 quickly became famous for its novel-length patch notes. What's the thinking behind saving up so many changes and additions for one mega-patch versus, say, bi-weekly patches? Is it just for something substantial to wave a PR stick at?

JOSH: There isn’t a real philosophy behind it – it’s just a matter of the team having a ton of stuff that needed time to work through, polish and test. We’ll definitely do smaller patches in the future, as well as patches that rival this one in terms of note-length and features. It’s never a good idea to commit to delivering patches at a set interval, because that forces you to rush important things, which can be worse than not patching at all. It’s better to have it done right than done fast.

WAAAGH!: We know that the combat and careers team has been doing a lot of investigation into career balancing, asking the players for feedback, etc. A lot of people have been asking: why were certain careers first up for major tweakage in this patch versus others? What gave these careers priority?

JOSH: There is Method to the Madness, I assure you. Generally speaking, we address issues we uncover first, then we look to the community for feedback and additional concerns. The Combat and Careers team collects potential issues from the fans, then runs tests and tracks metrics to see if the concerns are valid or not. If they’re valid, they go straight into the “must fix” column and are addressed ASAP. Now, some issues take longer than others to track down and prove and, once proven, some take longer than others to fix. The order in which things get patched isn’t necessarily indicative of the order in which we started working on them. Confusing, I know, but such is life.

WAAAGH!: As a follow-up to that, does it ever strike you as insane to try to balance a whopping 24 careers for a PvP title? Wouldn't it have been a lot easier with far fewer classes?

JOSH: Easier, perhaps, but also less rewarding to the players. Variety has always been important to us – both because we want to give players lots of options AND because (as Warhammer fans) we wanted to cram as much of the IP into WAR as possible!

WAAAGH!: What is your personal favorite new feature in 1.2 and why?

JOSH: The easy answer would be the addition of Slayers, but if I can’t use that, I’d probably have to go with the Zone Control Domination system. I’m a BIG open RvR fan and so it’s been frustrating to not see that system working out to its full potential up to this point. As a result, I’ve been really looking forward to the improvements to that side of the game that came in 1.2.

WAAAGH!: Between launch and today, how far has Warhammer's performance and client stability come, according to what you guys can monitor?

JOSH: We’ve come a long way, but we’re still not satisfied. While we’ve made some serious progress, but we’re certainly not done addressing all of the very reasonable concerns that the players (and we) have about performance. That being said, no sane developer is EVER “done” working on performance improvements. We’ve tackled a LOT of serious issues and the game plays better today than it did at launch. This will continue to be a MAJOR focus for the team for the duration of the product’s lifespan.

WAAAGH!: A lot of people -- including myself -- sat up straight when we saw that non-combat pets were coming to WAR via the Recruit-a-Friend program. The big question is: is this just the beginning? Will these so-called "vanity pets" grow in number, assortment and ways to obtain them?

JOSH: That would be telling. *evil grin*

WAAAGH!: We got a lot of impressions reports from people who attended the NY Comic Con -- what were YOUR impressions following the event?

JOSH: Sadly, I wasn’t at NYCC this year. I was in Europe on an EA Producers Tour. I hear the Saturday night party was a lot of fun.

WAAAGH!: With the new official forums open for business, how are you guys going to keep this from degrading into a dank pit of trolling, sarcasm, and personal insults? What are your greatest aspirations for this feature?

JOSH: The answer is simple: We never, ever let Andy, James and Jess go home. Honestly, it’s a HUGE challenge, to be sure. Firm, but fair moderation is key. Because people can’t join the forums anonymously, we can avoid a great deal of the more egregious misbehavior that plagues other forums. Posters who break the rules will be dealt with sternly and there won’t be an easy way for them to return to the forums once that’s happened. That level of accountability tends to curtail a lot of the more serious “Internet Toughguy” nonsense that might otherwise pop up. As for our hopes for the forums, it’s pretty simple – we want a place where we can hear the players’ voices clearly and easily on important issues AND where players can go to hear what we’re saying, thinking and planning to do without needing to get “lucky” and find the right third party forum that we happen to post in. We absolutely do NOT intend to try and replace the excellent fan-run community sites out there. Those guys have wonderful, vibrant and energetic communities that will continue to see interaction from Devs and support from Mythic.

WAAAGH!: Total fluff question! What are you playing in WAR these days, and what have you witnessed that's surprised you from the players?

JOSH: I’m still playing my trusty Iron Breaker, but I have to be honest – his days as my main are numbered now that the Slayer is coming on line. As for surprises, that’s a tough one to answer. I’m usually more impressed than surprised by our fans, to be honest. For example, I’ve been really impressed by the dedication and commitment of our fans over the past few months. We know it’s tough out there at the moment for everyone, so it really means a lot every time a person decides to take their hard-earned money and spend it on WAR. We don’t take that vote of confidence lightly and it’s one of the reasons we decided to commit so heavily to large, free expansions to the game over the next few months. My hope is that things like 1.2 help to – in some small way – illustrate the fact that we are listening, we do appreciate every, single person who chooses to play WAR and that we’re working SUPER-hard to constantly build upon and improve the experience our players are enjoying.

WAAAGH!: Thanks for talking with us!

Da Bloody Twenty - March 12
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 March 2009, 9:00 am
On the week of WAAAGH!'s one year anniversary, what lies in store for our infamous top 20 countdown? Let us see:
  1. Welcome to the Community: Mommy Can I Play Warhammer?, Mmmmm Gud, Nazgum's Blog
  2. Podcast Roundup: Stonetroll Certified 21, GAFcast 15, WARP 26, WHA 6, CoTCast 23
  3. "Fight Club" @ Blame the Healer - I want you to gank me as hard as you can.
  4. "1.2 Patch Impressions" @ Confessions of a RvR Player - Acting! Now with voice!
  5. "WAR Zone Control and You" @ The Herald - Show us on the zone where he dominated you.
  6. "Kiss My Axe!" @ Portraits of WAR - Dwarf slayer... so dang CUTE!
  7. "Should There Be A Tier 5?" @ All Things Rob Wild - Simmer down, it's not what you think... and it might be a good idea.
  8. "Witch Hunter Feature" @ The Herald - The heretic must burn... with athlete's foot!
  9. "Starting Over... Again" @ Obsessive Focus - Wow, do I ever feel for these guildies. Good luck!
  10. "Bitter Rivals in the Rear View Mirror" @ Wizards & Wenches - When the lights go down, the RvR heats up
  11. "Depth in WAR" @ Mmmmm Gud - Diving into the kiddy pool of MMOs.
  12. "Definitive Guide To Armor Sets in WAR" @ Gaarawarr Gabs - Holy crud, this is the MOTHERLODE!
  13. "Dark Elf Quest Giver Flowchart" @ Wide Eyed Newb - Dark Elves. So selfless.
  14. "More Thoughts On Zone Domination In WAR" @ Hardcore Casual - What works, what doesn't, what I want for breakfast.
  15. "Seriously Bitter... Rivals?" @ Breakfast at War - Not everyone had such a good time with this patch/event...
  16. "State of the Game" @ The Herald - What lies in store for 1.3?
  17. "Rating the T4 RvR Lakes" @ Nazgum's Blog - How many kittens were killed in the making of this?
  18. "The State of the Latest 'State of the Game'" @ Dark Crag Dispatch - Break down!
  19. "The Darker Side of Zone Domination" @ Knights of the Feathered Hats - Force choke FTW!
  20. And just in case you missed them: WAAAGH!'s interview with Carrie Gouskos and Josh Drescher.

The Green-Thumb Slayer
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 March 2009, 12:52 pm
This morning was a really weird morning for me in WAR... I logged onto my Slayer just to get the rest of my mail out of the inbox and to maybe do one or two rounds of cultivating/apothecary, just to clear out my bags a bit.

The next thing I know, it's an hour and a half later, and I'm late for work. Ahh!

So apparently, I've found a little bit of crack in WAR in the form of crafting. 1.2 was pretty kind to cultivating and apothecary, and I found the whole thing to be quite intuitive. Without looking up any guides, I figured it all out within ten minutes and got a factory production line of seeds and potions and dyes going. The first nine minutes were confusing, as you have to figure out that to get higher seeds, you have to keep growing lower level ones until you get the "You have a special moment" proc -- a phrase that conjures in my mind a "very special episode of Blossom".

Once that started to click, I organized my seeds into tiers -- level 1 seeds, level 25, level 50, etc. -- and then alternated between growing them, using them in potions, and harvesting them to get more seeds. Since you get about 2 or more seeds per harvest, and typically 2 plants from a growth, this is pretty easy to keep up. Right now I'm concentrating on four types of seeds: the HoT seeds, the straight-up healing seeds, strength seeds and "has a chance to make your potion better seeds".

I've also ended up with about 24 yellow dyes, which I guess will have to be my new favorite color or something.

I guess I'm kind of addicted to this now, because I really want to get back home tonight and see how fast and high I can get my seeds, cultivating and apothecary. Death can wait for another day.

A Call For Subscriptions
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 March 2009, 4:31 pm
A clever and enticing e-mail has been unleashed on Warhammer relapsers -- AKA "unsubscribers" -- that my friend Stacey sent along to me.  It's an interesting read as a whole (I've only posted a small portion of it here), and proves that Mythic has some sort of marketing genius in their dungeon.  I guess it's just one of those things that's hard to put into words, but I like Mythic's attitude that shines through in all sorts of places, even in these shamelessly begging "please come back" e-mails.

A few things I noted from this letter:
  • They try hard to make it sound personal -- referencing not only your character's name, but names of either your guildies or friends.
  • They entice you with 10 free days of play, full rested XP since the last time you subscribed, and a special quest chain for returners (more on that later) with a unique reward at the end.
  • They also make the pitch that the game's severely improved in the past few months, something I'll attest to as well.  It's just far more of a fun game than it used to be, and better polished, and who can blame them for wanting to point out their accomplishments?
As for that "special quest chain", many players were noticing that we also could pick up the quest(s) in warcamps, but were having a hard time finishing them due to either an inactivated clickie, or because they're not toggled "on" yet.  This could be a bug that current players might exploit, so proceed at your own risk.

I don't blame anyone if there's nothing that could entice them back into WAR -- that this just wasn't the game for them.  And I don't think we can blame Mythic for trying either.  I've seen people surge away and toward the game in the past couple weeks, but I've remained pretty constant toward it -- it's a great way to pass a few hours of gaming, I love the changes they've made, and I can't wait to see what's next.  I hope more people will want to give this title a second (or third) chance to see that too.

WAAAGH!'s State of the State of the Game
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 March 2009, 8:50 am
Although it's probably old news by now, I decided to hold off for a day or so to properly digest Mark Jacobs' latest State of the Game article and bring you some insightful commentary and probably nonsensical babbling from the voices in my brain. THEY TELLS ME THINGS! You can read the whole thing here, so I'm just going to pick and choose a few quotes to comment on:

Not that I'm doing a lot of sieges these days, but this is a HUGE complaint by folks who do, and that's a good sign that they're listening.

Overall, if you take a healthy dose of skepticism to counter the spin and hype, there's still a lot of great things to look forward to -- if RvR is your main focus. It is a bit disappointing that we're still not hearing a lot, if any, noise about major PvE improvements to the game, which is still important to many folks.

Slayer, Comma, The
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 March 2009, 12:16 pm
Although roughly a half-billion people have given their impressions of the Slayer class by now, I have a gaggle of thoughts jumbling in my noggin, and instead of writing a coherent, progressive post full of paragraphs and proper punctuation, I thought I'd take the lazy man's way out and do a bulleted list. Lists! Stupendous!
  • By using Snorri's Spikes, the CE "keg beard", an eye patch and my Skaven cloak, Wotworks doesn't blend as much with others, a fact that can be both enjoyable and a bit embarrassing. Am I making too much a spectacle of this character, a "lookit all the shiny toys I got" thing? Perhaps. For a cherry on top I gave him "The Peculiar" title, which suits him to a tee.
  • By rank 10, Slayers aren't any more complicated to play than rank 1 -- it's a lot of button-mashing, usually between a very small set of skills. Looking ahead, I realize that most all of these skills are pure damage, so it's not like you're going to use them all in a fight or have to rearrange them for some special combo. You pick the type of damage you want to do according to your mastery path, you use the damage skills related to that, and you let most of the others fall by the wayside. It just doesn't make sense to use a lot of Trollslayer skills when you're Skavenslayer (my personal preference). Since I'm more used to playing complex characters -- hybrids, utility characters, etc. -- the single-minded focus of the Slayer goes against my playstyle. Yet it's still fun, in a simplistic way.
  • I've quickly developed a suicidal mindset with this class. It could be due in part to the Slayer lore, but there's really no option for this class to hang back and play it safe. You HAVE to run into combat, swinging away, and you WILL get killed. Repeatedly. Scores of times. That starts to make you even less afraid of death than before, so you don't mind leading the charge toward a host of enemy players around the flag. At least you can show them you aren't scared of their numbers.
  • I've gotten Wot's cultivating and apothecary up into the 120's, and have retired that for now, since the potions I'm making I won't be able to use for many levels. It's quite nice to have a selection of pots for battle, and I make liberal use of them. Healing pots in particular have saved my butt on more than one occasion.
  • T1 has been dominated by Slayer vs. Choppa action, to be sure, but there is a surprising chunk of folks who have used this opportunity of revitalized T1 action to roll up other careers.
  • Because most of the fights are Slayer vs. Choppa right now, there's going to be a lot of speculation concerning which class is better (at least at the early stages). From my experience, it's been more difficult for me to take down a Choppa than the other way around. I've heard complaints that Slayers are more overpowered and whatnot, and I'm not making a final judgment here, but... it just seems like the Choppa has a bit more survivability AND dps.
  • As for the RvR-Only Challenge, well, it is a challenge. I haven't hit the dreaded T2 yet, where people have told me it gets even worse, and I feel the drag of slow progression holding me back. When you're doing nothing but RvR, renown bars fill up waaaaay faster than XP bars, so I've seen a nearly full renown bar waiting on a 35% full XP bar to catch up more than once. I've developed a strategy for progression, which includes going between all three warcamps and getting every single RvR quest (and repeatable quest) I can get my hands on -- this is really cool when you're killing the enemy and your quest tracker is updating three or four quests simultaneously. My primary focus is on the RvR lakes for influence gear, and by rank 9 I had two lakes maxed out, with only Dwarflands to go. After that, it'll be non-top scenarios until T2 -- scenarios still giving far better XP than oRvR, and far more enjoyable to boot.

One Year of WAAAGH!
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 March 2009, 9:42 am
A year ago I had a crazy idea of starting up some blog to cover a game that hadn't even come out yet -- Warhammer Online.  To this day, I'm not exactly sure what possessed me -- maybe I was envious of the fun that World of Warcraft bloggers got to have, maybe I wanted to get in on the ground floor, maybe I have a worm in my brain that made me do irresponsible things.  I think above anything else, I just love to write, and to cover what I'm passionate about.  Gaming is one of my favorite hobbies, and it's just a relaxing, enjoyable way to relish that.

One year!  I can't believe it.  And what a year it's been... sort of a dual rollercoaster, with one track being the ups and downs of Mythic and Warhammer, and the other track being the ups and downs of blogging.

When I first started writing WAAAGH!, I honestly believed that the game was going to launch soon -- as in, two-months soon.  Very quickly we hit the good news of the Collector's Edition and the bad news of another delay.  Oh, the pathos!  Suddenly, a blog started in March had to face the very real possibility that it'd have to go through the entire summer and beyond without an actual playable game.  Fortunately, Mythic geared up the info/hype machine over the summer, and we got news on the White Lion (ooh, everyone said), interviews galore, and the infamous day that spawned a thousand blog posts -- the day when the four capital cities and four classes were announced to be cut from release.

From then on, the ride kept going faster -- the NDA drop, open beta, the GOA fiasco, head start, launch, mailbox woes, gold spammers, frequent patches, oRvR influence rewards, live events, population imbalance, too few servers, too many servers, yearly awards, WAR vs. WoW, patch 1.1, patch 1.2, Mythic loses employees, bloody Valentine cards to bloggers, new classes... and whatever else might happen tomorrow.  What's one of the greatest boons of blogging about WAR is that there's nearly always something to talk about, and I credit Mythic's hard and frequent work and communication as part of that.

As for the second rollercoaster, blogging, it didn't exactly go as planned.  WAAAGH! was going to be only a twice-a-week thing, at least until launch, and you see how that fared.  Once I got going, I just couldn't shut up.  I've been mocked, perhaps appropriately, for my multiple-posts-a-day (sometimes reaching 5 or 6 when I've had my coffee).  But it was a slow start at the beginning.  In spring 2008, the WAR community wasn't nearly as strong or as communicative as it is today, although it definitely was present.  Heck, Snafzg waited a full month to see if I was going to drop out of blogging before he'd give me a mention

One of my not-so-subtle tricks to get plugged into the WAR community was my efforts to interview every WAR blogger, forum administrator and site owner out there.  It helped with traffic, to be sure, but it had the greater effect of making friends and acquaintances with several of the nicest folks I've known in gaming.  I'm somewhat picky and and an introvert when it comes to friendships, but it felt like I got invited to a party online that not only made me feel completely comfortable, but hasn't quite ended yet.  WAR has one of the absolute best gaming communities I've ever seen, and I am incredibly proud of the level of mutual support and encouragement that I see between the sites and blogs.  The Age of Blogging initiative was a small seed of an idea to get more bloggers onto the scene, and everyone took it and ran with it far beyond my wildest expectations.  Now, we have the WCPI, and tremendous writers who frequently make me envious with their skill, dedication or devotion to number-crunching.

I've been proud of doing this blog and seeing ways that it's grown -- not proud as in a boastful way, but just proud as in satisfied with the results of hard work.  I won't lie and say it's not cool to be recognized by others online or in game, or to get a nod by Mythic from time to time.  But I'm happier to be able to help others start their blogs and give them the initial boost that others gave me.  It's great to be part of a group of writers who equally inspire and challenge each other to write.  Some day, I'll retire WAAAGH!, and when that day comes, I won't have regretted the time I spent writing here.  I'm glad to provide you with something to read every day, even though I'm sure my insights are no more keen than your own -- it's just fun to gab about a mutual passion.

Thanks for reading, everybody!

You can read WAAAGH!'s very first post here.

Rating Exclusive In-Game Items
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 March 2009, 9:05 am
Fun question: How come when MMORPG interviews a dev, it gets mentioned on WAR's home page, but when I interview two devs, nada?  Carrie and Josh might be conspiring against me.  Must remember to check up on that later.

Anywoodiddle, since I'm such a sucker for those semi-meaningless in-game exclusive items that you get one way or another, I thought I'd do a quick rundown of all the ones I have unlocked for my account so far along with my ratings for them.  Starting a new character in Warhammer means that I have to endure a five-minute stopover at the mailbox to retrieve item after item, which is kind of like Christmas for a rank 1.

Skaven Skin Cloak - My friend Risca gathered up about six or seven codes for these while shopping on the EA store prior to launch, and handed them out like candy.  By far, it's my favorite rank one item -- an awesome-looking cloak (that includes a big horned Skaven skull) with a special function.  Click on it, and once an hour it turns you into a Skaven, who is shown carrying your weapons and even has some emotes (like /cheer) that are functional.  Emotes and movement aside, the second you hit any skill key or go into combat, you drop the disguise and have to wait an hour.  That kind of stinks, but I understand why.  'Twould be a little overpowered when it comes to RvR. 

Adventurer's Handbook/Libram of Insight - One of these I got through the CE, and the other through the poorly-thought-out purchase of the Warhammer Guide/Atlas.  Both, however, do approximately the same thing -- they give you an XP boost for a set amount of time, that you can use three times apiece.  It's nice for that "over the hump" push when you need it, which is why I save mine until the late 20's or late 30's.

Kossar's Helm - AKA "The Bear Hat".  Obtainable by buying Red Alert 3 (or pre-ordering it or something), my friends Stacy and Mike gave me their code when they got RA3.  Like the Skaven Cloak, it can be worn for decoration -- although its Russian appearance is completely out of place in WAR, so I usually choose not to -- and can be clicked on to transform you into a giant polar bear.  Although big bear is cool, the animations associated with it are stiff as a board, and the fact that it wears off when you click on anything or go into combat means that you can't experience the joy of bear calvary.  Nobody messes with bear, is all I'm saying.

Rivenstaff's Deck of Eight - This came from PC Gamer's Ultimate Warhammer Guide, which about peed itself by pronouncing "EXCLUSIVE IN GAME ITEM!"  Perhaps it could've saved its urine if it realized that this item was a complete piece of crap.  It's simply a once-an-hour clickable that gives you a simultaneous buff and debuff, boosting one of your stats at the expense of another for five minutes.  Oh, and it does this randomly.   How this might be remotely useful, I have no idea.  I don't like the idea of playing roulette with my stats, and yet the buff/debuff is so minor as to make it not worth doing at all.

Sentinel Amber's Band
- Another Collector's Edition item, this is a nice rank one purple ring that boosts stats by +2, and gives you three charges that throw up a pain shield, hurting people who attack you.  It's nice to have a ring right off the bat, but by the time you're rank 7 or 8,  you'll have upgraded all four of your jewelry spots, meaning that this goes by the wayside.

Exclusive Titles - Being a beta tester gave me "The World Shaper", doing the e-mail verification gave me "The Validated", and one of the two CE quest items eventually grants me a title based on the race of the character I'm playing (I think the Dwarf one is "Brewmaster").  Titles, always welcome, even if they aren't super spiffy.

Quest Reward Item - The CE includes a quest for each character that eventually nets them an item -- again, different according to race.  My dwarf got this absolutely hideous ring thing that clipped through everything, my goblin got a dwarf head to lug around (neat!), and my humie netted a damage shield that could be used on a timer.  I'd be interested in finding out what the other races get.

Rittenbach's Portable Camp - This came from the CE pre-order, and man did I have visions of tents, bonfires and suckling pigs a-roasting before I saw what it does: plop down a tiny fire that pulses "heal rays" (as fires are wont to do) to you and your party.  I don't use this a lot, but it has saved my bacon a few times, and is especially welcome to groups defending an objective.

Custom Character Heads - Also from the CE, and my approval of them dips and rises depending on the race.  Long story short, Dwarfs, Orcs and Goblins got the good ones, and everyone else's needs to be trashed ASAP.

Big Apple and Slayer/Choppa heads - I know this is a sore point with some of our European friends, so I won't rub anything in anyone's face by saying I GOT THE APPLE AND SPIKES AND YOU CAN'T NANANA because that would just be rude.  Y'know what I'm saying here?  Anyway, it's great to have a trophy right off the bat, and since this comes from the era of Mythic's new philosophy on trophies (Let's Make Them Visible era), I don't have a problem hanging this on my belt.  As for the spikes and chompin' teef... yeah, they're pretty sweet.  I cannot lie.

Making Up The Lore
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 March 2009, 10:42 am
A while back on WAAAGH!, I talked about quest text and how it's trivially easy to skip over it.  I mean, we all have great intentions of reading it, right?  And then what happens?  You start to realize that it's one of about eight template quests that's just getting a new literary paintjob -- yet another reason to go kill ten foozles or collect five whatsits or escort Suicidal D. Lemming from point A to B.  We become conditioned to skipping right over that lightly-colored "flavor" quest to the rewards, click accept, and look for the red splotchies.  Congrats!  Now we're more efficient with our time, and it only cost us the soul of the game!

As I argued before, I don't think the blame should be put on the shoulders of the players for this, the loss of the game's story and lore.  People have good intentions, but we're given no great reason to read the quest story because (a) it usually contains no instructions how to complete the quest that the objectives and red splotchy info doesn't show, (b) we're always accepting multiple quests and usually have a hard time keeping track of what we're doing and why, and (c) MMOs everywhere have fallen into a fallacy that by providing a chunk of exposition up front, an odd job in the middle, and a rushed conclusion at the end qualifies as a "story".  In my opinion, the story should be what's happening as you're doing the quest, something that unfolds as your actions push it forward.  Once in a while we bump into quests like this, multi-stage things (and some PQs) that have scripted events (visual or verbal) that keep the story fresh.  And those are the ones that tend to pull us into the lore of the game.

I've always felt bad talking about this, because I know there are quest writers out there who work incredibly hard in not only coming up with the 1,000,000th reason why you should go out and commit limited genocide against Beastmen, but also have to pour through loads of source lore books to keep the story in line with the Warhammer world.  It's as if someone spent painstaking hours drawing and painting a sheet of paper to wrap a gift, only to see you tear through it without a pause for artistic consideration.

Anyway, pushing past all this, the next stage of this line of thought is -- if we're not getting the lore of the game through the quest text, for the most part, where does it come from?  We have this huge blank gap between our characters and the world in terms of where they fit in -- what's the motivation behind their questing, why should they be killing everything in sight, what's the meaning behind this faction, etc.?  For some folks, they just don't care about this; they kill because it's a game, and they don't need a motivation to go beat something up.  They just do.  But I operate under the theory that there's a third subset of players, ones that don't immerse themselves in the proper lore as given to us through the Tome and quest text, and not ones that ignore it completely to view this as another beat-em-up brawl with no greater meaning.

I think the third subset, of which I belong, are folks who make up the lore as they go along.  We used to be very good at that as children, if you can cast your mind back to those halcyon days of apple juice and nap time.  Kids' imaginations may not be the deepest in the world, but they are the least inhibited -- and kids love to engage the world around them by making up stories.  Just watch a child at play with toys, like cars or dolls or action figures.  Their fun comes more from the imaginary situations that they create using those toys than what the toys can physically do.  They're presented with objects and a large gap of lore, and they just shrug and dive right in, filling in the blank space with their own tale.

Do we do this?  I know I do.  I am by far not the leading expert on Warhammer lore, and while I might be able to hold my own by now in very limited trivia contests, most of the time I wander around just filling in the world with my own story.  When Order takes the dwarf cannon BO in T1, I stand up there and repeatedly click on the cannons to get them to fire, imagining that I'm scaring off a horde that might otherwise sweep up over this place.  When I dive into a crypt, I'm sure it has some significant Warhammer lore attached to it, but I am ignorant, so I let my mind fill in the blanks and transform the place into my own personal haunted house.  I think of Nurglings as Gremlins (never feed them after midnight) and unicorns as the most hated species in the land, and if Professor Green Circle wants me to go kill a bunch of guys, I just assume it's because he heard I was a one-man killing machine and it was either going to be them or him that I wiped from this planet.

Of course, maybe I'm just me and this is a sign of onsetting insanity.

Potatoes and Anti-Potatoes
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 March 2009, 11:57 am
I've got to say, I really paused before writing this post.  You know that phrase your mom always said, that if you're not going to say something nice, don't say anything at all?  When it comes to the WAR community (and larger MMO community), I try to stick to that as much as possible.  And the WAR community's certainly made it easy -- we're not all the same, and there's a wild variety of bloggers and forum owners and site runners with vastly different opinions and tones, but I've experienced a huge sense of mutual support and respect within this circle.  It's a great thing.

So great, in fact, that in over a year of blogging at WAAAGH!, I can count on two fingers the number of times that I've taken a link off my blogroll due to reasons other than a blog/site going dead or changing the topic to discuss another game entirely.  And one of those fingers had to do with a site that wanted absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the WAR community.  That's their choice, of course, but when they told another WAR news site/forum that they should just pack up and shut down their site because they weren't advertising properly and would never "make it", that's when I withdrew any support from my end. 

Thus, I kind of found it amusing that wrote a fairly petulant post today about how they were being ignored and how the official forums had devastated their own, to the point where they were going to shut down their own forums.  (Check out the little snarky "watching random blogs that have popped up overnight" mention too.)  It amused me because (a) other WAR forum sites, such as Warhammer Conflict, VN Boards, Warhammer Alliance and more are doing just fine post-official forums, and (b) how can they complain they didn't get any attention when they made zero effort to give attention to others?

The idea behind Age of Blogging, WCPI and individual efforts to cross-link and -promote is that the larger WAR community shouldn't exist of exclusive cliques that are suspicious and territorial around others.  What makes us a strong community is that we can take the focus off ourselves from time to time to uplift others and praise their efforts.  Yeah, we love it when you read our blogs, write on our forums or visit our sites, but we know that the greater good (that oh-so-ominous phrase) is served when we happily introduce you around and let you get to know the whole crew.  I know that if you're only reading WAAAGH!, you are missing out, my friend, on some incredibly talented, funny and smart folks that have a lot more to say about this game than anything you might find here -- and you should check them out too.

I don't mean to attack Only-WAR, but just to use their post and history as an example of what not to do when you want to belong to a gaming community and not to ostracize or limit your own potential growth.  Even though we might play on opposite sides in game, out of game we're all on the same team, and it's great to act that way.

Quest Better(tm)
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 March 2009, 6:08 pm
As a follow-up to my earlier post on quests and lore, both Blame the Healer and Wizards & Wenches have scintillating additions to the discussion. Check 'em out!

Interview: Mark Davis & The Prisoner of Live Events
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 March 2009, 9:58 am
(My goal is to get one Mythic interview for every Harry Potter book, just because.)

Recently, Mythic's Mark Davis returned from an overseas trip (was he hoarding treasure in the Bahamas? Rescuing a double-agent from certain doom in North Korea? Now that would be telling.), and groggily agreed to submit to a pleasant chat about Live Events -- the team he manages in WAR. Live Events has been a source of intense interest for me ever since they started, and I was dying to get a few dire questions off my chest.

WAAAGH!: We're sitting here in a shadowy bunker with Mark Davis, who's been leading the Live Events team. You might recall Mark from his stint on America's Most Wanted (mistaken identity, alas) and also his Dev Blog from last fall. Let's start with the foundations -- when were you brought on board as the Live Events lead, and when did Mythic decide that they were going to do Live Events in the game? What was the thinking behind it all? Madness? Sparta?

MARK DAVIS: This is… MYTHIC!! I love that movie. Up until just after launch, we didn’t really have a concept of Live Events. We’d talked about them prior to launch, sure, but really.. where does a Christmas holiday fit into the Warhammer world? We’re much too busy burning things to the ground to worry about something silly like hanging up decorations and dancing! Pfft. After launch, we had time to take a quick breath and realized that live events DO have a place in Warhammer. Live events would be like anything else we’ve done – just add WAR! We knew we had some new classes we wanted to add post launch, and what better way to get people excited about it then a live event that allowed players to unlock them early, to actively take part in the process. Badass said we, and so we set about it. That was the starting point and everything has grown from there.

WAAAGH!: The first event, Witching Night, was a pretty ambitious event so soon after launch. What were your goals going into it, and what did you take away from it?

Ambitious? Hell yeah. It was also Awesome! Halloween happens to be my favorite holiday, but the trick is how to do it in the Warhammer IP. The Witching Night was the perfect choice since it already exists in the Warhammer IP and meshed nicely with the spooky sort of feeling we were going for. We knew that we wanted to craft an experience that everyone could do, regardless of level, provide something for everyone to do no matter what type of gaming experience they enjoyed, and we wanted to offer fun, cool rewards. After the event we realized that RvR Public Quests were made of gold and we should continue to plan more of those. We also learned that players love bragging rights. So rare drop items like the Monster Masks are for the win! Did you get a gaping skull mask? I did. It’s awesome.

WAAAGH!: Which Live Event has fostered the most positive feedback from your perspective? Which has been the most problematic?

MARK DAVIS: The most positive was hands down the Night of Murder. What’s not to love? We had assassin quests to kill marked enemy targets, we had Witchelves and Witch Hunter NPC’s lurking in the shadowy corners of the cities, and you could even mail your enemies head back to them for a special title.

The most problematic would probably have to be Keg’s End. This event was particularly hard to develop since we knew it was going to have to be a very long duration in order to accommodate everyone’s holiday schedule. The event ran for almost 3 weeks. We learned a lot about pacing and cadence for how an event should run, how difficult tasks should be, and how much time players expect to put into an event. It was a lot of fun, though. Seeing the Dwarf fireworks fire off over a recently captured keep, toasting and boasting in scenarios was hilarious, and of course the hunt for the elusive Battlebrew backpack was epic.

WAAAGH!: A common observation concerning the Live Events has been their pendulum swing between Too Easy and Too Grindy, often going from one extreme to the other between successive events. Why do you think this is so, and how has your team been working on finding that sweet spot -- the balance that might make everyone happiest with the work-to-reward ratio?

MARK DAVIS: I think this observation stems largely from the experience of Keg End. It was completely different from the past two events, the most obvious difference was that there was much more emphasis on killing monsters rather than killing players. Because of this, players felt there was too much grinding. And you know what? They were spot on! Since then, we’ve ran two more events starting with The Night of Murder and Bitter Rivals where we’ve seen those complaints vanish. We’ve learned lots of lessons and have incorporated those into our events. Planning the cadence of the event comes down to careful planning, detailed testing, and a bit of tea leaf reading to accurately predict how players will react to the event in a real world environment.

WAAAGH!: How very much do you hate me and everything I stand for to make me grind for DAYS to get that Battlebrew Backpack? I was *this* close to going insane...

MARK DAVIS: I should put you in touch with a support group chaired by our QA lead for Warhammer. It took him a staggering 1300 kills to get his, it took Live Producer Destin Bales around 700, I came in at an easy 257 kills, and our Associate Producer Howard Marans grabbed his after 4 kills. Sorry Syp! We want to add really awesome items to the game with decent stats, and we want folks to brag about their gear. It’s gotta be tough to get if we want to achieve all that. =) But hey, you got your backpack! Look how cool you are!

WAAAGH!: Rewards are a big part of Live Events, both the influence and drops. Do you guys get to dream up all of the unique rewards on your own, or are you given a list of parameters? How do you balance between pure fluff rewards (titles, masks) and highly functional rewards (stat-laden cloaks and trinkets)?

MARK DAVIS: We do a lot of dreaming around here. We come up with ideas, work them over with the Items guys, and finish with a compromise that hopefully leaves everyone only slightly angry. Generally speaking, we’ve been trending toward more fluffy, fun items and less stat driven items. We anticipate everyone being able to complete an event if they give it half a try, so that doesn’t jive with handing out rewards that compete with some of the more difficult to acquire gear in the game. That just wouldn’t be fair! This is by far the hardest part of the job, really.

WAAAGH!: Bitter Rivals and Heavy Metal are probably one-shot events (or are they?), but many folks are wondering if we're going to see these same events return next year (Witching Night, Keg End, Night of Murder, etc.). Are these being set up for an annual rotation?

MARK DAVIS: Yep – Bitter Rivals and Heavy Metal were one time affairs. Certainly, some aspects of those events may make a comeback tour, however. We do plan on having reoccurring holiday events, but that’s only if something else doesn’t take its place. For example in a totally hypothetical situation, if we were to introduce a awesome, totally badass RvR dungeon based on.. oh let’s say the Tomb Kings, we might have not one but TWO live events to introduce it. Where there may have been a scheduled seasonal, reoccurring holiday, there will now be a Tomb Kings live event. So yes, we would like to see the Night of Murder and Keg End return but cooler, better, and more awesome then last time. Time will tell if this is true, so stay tuned for details.

WAAAGH!: Live Events and the Tome go hand-in-hand -- how has the Tome enhanced the events, and what do you plan to do with it in the future?

MARK DAVIS: The Tome is an amazing core element of Warhammer and it was the perfect home for the Live Events. We’ve got some tricks up our sleeves for the coming months including evolving events that unfold through the course of the event, Order vs. Destruction races, and plenty more stuff that would get me fired if I mentioned any of them!

WAAAGH!: Another question that seems to pop up is why we've yet to see Live Events that alter the look of the world, namely in the capital cities (a la holidays in other MMOs)?

MARK DAVIS: We’ve been working hard to make our Live Events stay true to the Warhammer IP. Can you image a holiday where the good folks of Destruction would decorate the Inevitable City? I mean, really? The Order city of Altdorf isn’t much nicer. Sure, they might put up some wards against evil, maybe a pig’s head on a stick, but they’re not really the sort to do all of the decorations you’ve seen in those other MMO’s. That being said, we do have some world changing events planned in the next few months where players will see something built and then remain in the world after the event is over. Wish I could tell ya more about that.. but you know.. keeping my job and all that.

WAAAGH!: So far, we've been seeing Live Events on a more-or-less monthly schedule. Is that the plan for this next year? How many Live Events do you guys have mapped out for the future? Any hints?

MARK DAVIS: We’ve got events planned out for the rest of the year. You can expect to see them every month or two. Possibly some that are shorter in duration and smaller in scope while others will challenge the best events we’ve done yet in terms of coolness. We’re committed to making Live Events in WAR rock!

WAAAGH!: We learn by doing -- if you could go back to mid-2008 and share a few important lessons learned to yourself and your team back then, what would they be?

MARK DAVIS: I could fill a whole article on the lessons we’ve learned. Some of the highlights include:
  • Players are generally looking for an event that can be completed in roughly 2-3 sessions of casual game play.
  • Players go mad over secret, easter egg rewards. Be them hidden titles or items, they’re awesome. We try to add these to every event now.
  • Players love when we craft events that compliment what they’re already doing. That means making events that target Open RvR, scenarios, Public Quests, and Tome unlocks.. oh and by extension.. killing enemy players!

WAAAGH!: Finally, it seems to me that you guys are using Live Events to test new systems and features out before incorporating them into the larger (permanent) game, like the icons over the heads for Night of Murder. Does this have any merit, or am I just crazy?

MARK DAVIS: The idea has merit, but probably not in the way you might think. It’s not like we sit down in a secret bunker meeting room and discuss ideas on how we might improve the game and then test bed them in an event. No, it’s more like we have ideas that didn’t make it into the game at launch (like Open RvR PQ’s) or are ideas for the future that involve complicated development hurdles before we can implement them and they make a small, targeted appearance into the game. But mostly it is just me and my team sitting in our secret bunker meeting rooms saying “… you know what would be cool…” and then making it happen.

WAAAGH!: We appreciate you chatting with us, Mark.

MARK DAVIS: Thanks for the opportunity to talk about my favorite thing in the game right now!

Da Bloody Twenty - March 19
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 March 2009, 7:51 am
Beware the ides of March... and the fury of a Dwarf mama who sees you blocking her beer. Here's this week's 20 most interesting, well-written or quirky articles about WAR... at least to me:
  1. Welcome to the Community: War Underground, Level 1 Human, Tank Wall, Sareini Does Gaming!, Karak-norn's Finest
  2. Podcast Roundup: WARP 27, Stonetroll Certified 22, NPNM 26
  3. "Jeff Hickman Interview" @ MMORPG - A candid, sometimes antagonistic interview... I liked it!
  4. "WARbander's Handbook v1.0" @ Level 1 Human - More info and guidance than you might ever need know about leading or being part of a warband.
  5. "Release The Hounds!" @ Tome of Knowledge - Aww, the poor squirrelies...
  6. "Revenge: Get It While It's Still Cold" @ Wizards & Wenches - C'mon, this is pretty darn funny stuff!
  7. "Introducing Character Profiles" @ The Herald - Now be yourself on the Realm War and official forums!
  8. "Tulane's State of the Game" @ Incoming Pull - A good breakdown of WAR's progress
  9. "Order Guide: Welcome Back Quests" @ Gaarawarr Guides - Is Kotter around?
  10. "Dude, Where's My Deity?" @ Echoes of Nonsense - Dude, look up!
  11. "The End of PvP" @ Reroller - I've long since stopped listening to Tobold, but feel free, man.
  12. "Black Orcs Shorter Than Choppas?" @ Mmmmm Gud - This is a TRAVESTY!
  13. "Chinese WAR is Doing Fine" @ Blame the Healer - Just in case you were worried.
  14. "State of the Zzz" @ Girl IRL - Nappy time!
  15. "Return of the WAR" @ Book of Grudges - Oh yeaaaah... this game is actually kinda good!
  16. "Hate of the Game's Address" @ WHA - A good idea, but it'll never happen.
  17. "Are You That Troublemaker?" @ Spinksville - How to make friends and influence people in your guild. Or not.
  18. "Call to Arms Interview" @ TTH - Jeff Hickman takes up the mohawk and talks about WAR's recent changes.
  19. "Too Much Of A Good Thing" @ The Homunculus - Stop giving us so many goodies, Mythic!
  20. "Zone Domination, Ostermark and Phoenix Throne" @ Nazgum's - If you like charts -- I mean, LIKE charts -- this might send you into a swoon.

A Song of Forums and Ice
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 March 2009, 5:39 pm
I know that the European forums (beta) are off to a rocky start, from what reports I've heard, but the NA forums have been around long enough for us to get a feel -- and I want to ask, what are your impressions?

I'm a little hesitant to leap into them with both feet. I'm not really a forum kind of guy (oddly enough, when you have a blog, anything you might want to say in a forum you can post there instead), and I'm a little weirded out by the setup of the Official Forums (OF). First of all, it does look slick, and the recent addition to using your main as a character profile is a great addition. But I'm still unsure of what's going on inside.

The first thing I look for -- and many others, I'd assume -- is a "general" discussion board, the catch-all chat board that the majority tends to read first and comment on the most. Yet, unless I'm missing something, there isn't one for the OF. I'm pretty sure this is deliberate, to get posters to focus on a particular topic (and thus, a subforum) instead of just mouthing off in a general area, expecting to be heard and responded to by every dev in the building. Instead, the busiest forum board is -- by far -- their Future Features Suggestion Box. Thousands upon thousands of comments, ideas and changes have been dumped into here, which goes to show that one of the biggest reasons people are using these forums right now are to gain a voice to Mythic and hopefully get more attention for their suggestion.

Some of the subforums can't be fully viewed from the front forum page, for some reason, and require an additional click to check out. I don't like that. There's also odd boards, like a "Crafting Tradeskills" under the Dungeons and Quests board, which is completely unnecessary considering there's a Crafting subforum of its own.  I also searched in vain for a dev post aggregator.

It's a bit restrictive on purpose, and I think it's going to go a long ways to keeping people on track and tactful in communicating.  And any forum that makes a point to have players post guides and tips is welcome in my book.  Whatcha think?

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