Daily Archives: November 29, 2006

RvR in Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

Slashdot just had a Q&A with the developers of Warhammer: Age of Reckoning. One thing that comes through very strongly is that the game will focus on “Realm vs Realm”, grand scale PvP.

Now, I like PvP. Or at least, I like good PvP. That’s a bit like saying “I like food. At least, I like nice food”, but still. When I say “good” PvP, I suppose what I really mean is balanced. The worst possible experience is getting beaten again, and again, and again, and not being able to do a damn thing about it. For some people winning is everything (or as the quote goes, “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing”), but winning with no challenge gets boring pretty quick too. Also, my ideal PvP really needs some reason or structure. A straight-up deathmatch can be fun, but I much prefer something with objectives like Onslaught mode in Unreal Tournament 2004 (as did the majority of the player base, if the number of servers per game type was anything to go by). With objectives other than just “KILL!”, there’s space for players to be good at different aspects of the competition.

So if I purport to like PvP, why wouldn’t I touch a WoW PvP server with a barge pole? Because… it’s not PvP, really. I mean the “general” PvP, the fact that you can attack anyone while out and about (as battlegrounds and the like are common to all server types). It’s playing a PvE game, only with extra being-killed now and again while trying to do your quests. Balance is non-existent; you’re running around as a level 50, see a level 60, chances are you’re dead. Vice versa, sure you can kill him, but what do you get? The laughably mis-named “honor” system attempted to give an incentive to “fair” fights, but I won’t go into the train-wreck of 14-hour-a-day honor farming which the new patch is hopefully fixing.

Obviously a whole lot of people like the PvP servers, fair enough. In discussions about it, the most common reason I’ve seen is the extra sense of excitement, danger, that you constantly have to be on your guard. But the frisson of being randomly killed is about as appealing to me as the frisson of playing on a dodgy internet connection. After all, in both cases, without warning, at any moment… boom! Something happens which takes a few minutes to recover from (reconnect to the ‘net and log back in to the server, or run back to your corpse). Yeah, it’s a pretty facile analogy, but still.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how Warhammer does it. If they can really get meaningful large scale PvP working, I’ll be impressed. If it’s random ganking with occasional massed lag-inducing zerg rushes… meh.

History of a time to come

I like to think I can see different sides of an debate, though I’m sure I’m as guilty as anyone of assuming that my experiences/opinions are universal (and as such TEH DEVS SHOULD DO EXACTLY WHAT I SAY OR EVERY PLAYER WILL QUIT). So, as a bit of a background to frame my posts, I’ve been playing PC games since about 1989, starting with an 8086 with 512k of RAM, mono CGA graphics (4 shades of gray) and games like Zork, Elite, Rogue and The Ancient Art of War on 5.25″ disks. No hard drive; Curse of the Azure Bonds was about four disks, and as I remember you had to swap disks around pretty much every time you got into combat.

About the earliest multi-player gaming I can think of (aside from clustering around a single keyboard trying to play some beat ’em up, which never really worked so well) was carting a PC round to a friend’s house, connecting it to another PC with a null modem cable, and shooting each other down in Falcon (yes, Falcon before it had numbers on the end…) This LAN party-without-a-LAN wasn’t a frequent event, though, as lugging PCs around was a bit of a pain, and trying to get them to talk to each other via the null modem cable was an exercise in frustration involving a couple of hours of changing random options, maybe five minutes of playing, then losing the connection. (So, good training for a life of computers). Skipping over ten years or so, there were odd bits of multiplayer fun, like getting an actual LAN going for Doom and Descent and playing XPilot on the university Sun stations instead of working, but generally games were still single player, offline experiences. I was vaguely aware EverQuest and Counterstrike existed, but was playing Baldur’s Gate and Half-Life. Not much choice, really, with a dial-up internet connection (not if you wanted to stay sane, at any rate.)

I only got broadband a few years ago (thanks to the fantastic telecoms infrastructure and absurd prices for even 512k connections until recently), and dabbled in a few online games; a bit of Neverwinter Nights, some Unreal Tournament 2004. With a broadband connection I looked more seriously at MMOGs, but was put off by the monthly fee and the prospect of being months or even years behind players in established games. I almost got Star Wars Galaxies when it launched… lucky escape there, I guess! I’m not entirely certain quite why I went for City of Heroes a year later. A few slashdot comments, some buzz from a friend-of-a-friend, the client was available as a download and I wasn’t doing anything else that evening… but that was it, and I’ve been MMOGing since.