Season of the Witch(ing Night)

WAR’s Witching Night event comes in two basic parts, PvP and PvE. Just to switch things around a bit, the PvP side is a Public Quest: tromp around a somewhat ill-defined bit of a nominated RvR zone in each tier, and kill 100 of Them before They kill 100 of You. The basic problem with this, as those with a keen grasp of maths may notice, is you can’t let Them kill You as much as You kill Them, and that leads to everyone being a bit cagey. It’s an excellent demonstration of why death penalties aren’t an unqualified good idea, the lack of them can make PvP meaningless, but the presence of them can make PvP utterly tedious. The side that’s outnumbered hang around at their warcamp, with siege weapons and heroes to back them up. The side that’s outnumbering them hang around just outside of siege weapon range exploring the communication possibilities of emotes, presumably hoping the other side really hate mimes:
Zoso walks against the wind
Zoso is trapped inside an invisible box

Then you wait and see who gets bored first.

Three times I’ve headed into the RvR/PQ zones. Once was great. The keep and battlefield objectives started out in Destruction hands, when I arrived Destruction players were outnumbered and sticking around their warcamp. A couple of Order warbands eschewed the hanging around and miming option and instead headed off for an objective and the keep. Destruction came out to play, objectives were attacked, defended, captured and recaptured, though almost no kills in the process actually counted for the PQ as they weren’t in the arbitrary PQ area. The final phase only really kicked off when a Destruction force had re-taken the brewery and were pursuing the former defenders when a second Order warband turned up from taking the keep, completing a rather beautiful pincer movement in the PQ area, Order finally ending up with their 100 kills to about 90-odd for Destruction. The only downside was that I wasn’t keeping a close eye on the scores, so when the count ticked up to 100 and Phase II began I didn’t instantly turn and run towards the Witching Lord. I’m not sure what killed me, Destruction players, or the boots and hooves of what had been the Order front line as they trampled me in the process of legging it to the Lord, either way I’d just about respawned back at the camp and was about to mount up when “Rolling for PQ loot…” appeared. Guess the Witching Lord lasted about as long as me, needless to say I wasn’t close enough to get any kill credit.

That was the good. The bad was another time, when Destruction were outside the Order warcamp in force, and everyone had a much higher boredom threshold; in the course of an hour the kill counts had risen to about 10 apiece as both sides glowered at each other, edged forwards a couple of steps, edged back a couple of steps, and waited for the other lot to attack. If there was any way to dig trenches, we’d’ve been set for a re-enactment of Ypres. In real time. Over four years. I emoted sitting down playing a mournful harmonica for a while, wrote a bit of poetry, then gave up and joined scenario queues.

As for the ugly, that was the third time, when Order had the edge in numbers again and Destruction had fallen back to their camp. This time around a few Order players weren’t going to wait them out or head off to another objective and kept trying to attack on their own, falling to siege weapons/hero NPCs/the massed pipes, drums and spells of the Destruction forces. Players in zone/warband chat tried to suggest that everyone backed away from the warcamp, some people did, some didn’t, the kill count kept ticking up, people in zone chat got more annoyed and capitalised, insults started flying, and as exciting as it was to stick around to see how many variations of “NO U STFU” exist, I buggered off with Destruction about 70-50 up. That’s the problem with open RvR in a nutshell: when it’s good, it’s very very good, when it’s bad, it’s ZOMGZ WTF R U DOING??/?

So: one of the goals of the Witching Night event is to kill 10 Witching Lords, and I believe they only spawn as Phase II of the RvR PQ. Time spent in RvR PQ zones: about five hours. Number of Lords killed: zero. Now, according to my mental calculations, that would require me to spend… um, let’s see… carry the 4… precisely “divide by zero error” hours to get the ten needed for the quest. And I don’t know about you, but I haven’t really got divide by zero error spare hours. Still, not to worry, there’s always the influence rewards, right? Like other public quests, there’s an influence bar to fill, and rewards along the way. Killing other players during the PQ nets you influence; I’m not sure exactly how much, by the time you divide it between a warband or three, if you manage to be involved in 50-odd kills over many hours of tedious stand-offs, you’ve netted yourself a good few hundred influence points. Rewards here we come, woo! Oh, apart from the minor issue that a few hundred influence points is but a tiny fraction of the influence bar.

Off to the PvE areas then. As well as the Witching Lords, there are a couple of other scary mob types, Crones and Spirits, sprinkled around PvE zones. Crones stand around a cauldron; after killing the Crones, interacting with the cauldron spawns a bunch of Spirits, then the whole lot respawns after a while. Spirits also turn up by themselves in a couple of other areas, and both Crones and Spirits are worth 100 influence points each. They’re also not very challenging, at least the ones I bumped into; I could slap a basic Bright Wizard DoT on to them then stand and auto attack, they’d die in a few seconds having barely scratched me. Trouble with this part of the event is that there really aren’t very many cauldrons around, every time I found one there were other people there. If they were Order, I’d try and group up; if they were Destruction, it was a race to tag mobs as they spawned. Either way, not great influence rewards, and lots of standing around waiting for cauldrons to respawned, so after racking up the requisite 25 Crones, I moved on to Plan C. A helpful forum post pointed out a bit of Talabecland where Spirits spawn, I wandered over and started mowing through them. These Spirits spawn in a haze of purple tendrils, and only hang around for a few seconds before vanishing again, so, as they can’t really hurt you, the only challenge is in spotting them, hurtling towards them (ideally avoiding non-Spirit mobs) frantically mashing an instant cast spell until they’re in range, then spinning around and looking for another one; if you can tag them with damage, they stick around until dead. I think three spawn at once, at least that’s as many as I ever managed to simultaneously tag, sometimes they’re conveniently close to each other, sometimes they’re spread too far apart to get more than one. It’s mildly entertaining for a while, and as nobody else was in the area doing the same thing the influence bar filled up at a fair old rate, I got enough for the first reward and headed back to Altdorf to cash in.

I thought that would be it for Witching Night, but then the event was extended, so the next day I popped back to the RvR zone, resulting in the standing around bore-fest detailed previously; then I thought “hmm, those cloak rewards look pretty nifty, I could always grind some more Spirits to fill the second part of the influence bar and get one”. I’ve got a bit of a problem, see, show me a progress bar with a reward, even a fairly inconsequential reward, I have a compulsion to make it go up, push that lever, get the food pellet… If something’s only available for a limited time, the compulsion is correspondingly greater, I’ve spent hours in City of Heroes grinding Christmas presents and Halloween costumes just for badges that have no effect on anything. So I stuck a podcast on, went back to Talabecland, spent another 45-odd minutes grinding out the Spirits while listening to the ever-splendid Mark Kermode, got enough influence for the cloak, and headed back to Altdorf again.

Yesterday… well. The final influence reward is just a mask. Purely cosmetic. It would look silly on a Bright Wizard, and replaces headgear that actually has useful stats so you wouldn’t want to wear it in combat anyway. But… there’s a bar to fill… it’s only available today… I couldn’t help it, back to Talabecland, killing spirits while half-watching television. About halfway through the final bar I was pretty fed up, but by that point as well as the usual “must get reward” compulsion, there’s an additional “if you give up now, you just wasted all that effort”, so I kept on going.

Now I’m in no position to have a go at Mythic for putting in a lengthy, entirely optional, influence grind, having stood around killing hundreds of Spirits for hours on end. It’d be like criticising an electric fence manufacturer after grabbing the wire and going “OW THAT HURTS!” Then grabbing it again. And again. And then getting a free toaster after grabbing it a couple of hundred times, when I didn’t even need a toaster (unless my existing toaster had been taken by an otter to an ice cream factory, which is hardly likely). The mere fact that I (and presumably others) did it vindicates their implementation in some ways. A few tweaks could’ve improved things, though; spawning an awful lot more Spirits and Crones around the place, for example, so you could butcher a load during normal PvE questing rather than having to hunt them down in a few small areas. Making them a bit tougher, or having Champion versions with increased influence rewards, could go some way to alleviate the fact that, being trivial encounters, I could burn through Spirits as fast as they turned up, and any sort of teaming up could serve only to reduce influence gain over time (course it’d have to be a fine balance, or I’d be complaining bitterly about the difficulty of taking them down…) On the RvR side, plenty of other people have made suggestions for tweaking the Public Quest goals, mostly involving bringing objectives or keeps into play to avoid everyone hanging around their warcamp (though you have the problem of needing some way of giving an outnumbered side a chance at winning the public quest, or they’re just not going to bother trying). Definitely room for improvement, hopefully the new scenario for the forthcoming Heavy Metal event will be fun and perhaps liven up the influence grind a bit for that.