Peace is not on the agenda

WAR fan base has erupted with predictions for the future development of the game, following the latest Producer’s Letter. Now naysayers and doomsayers  have been around for a long time in WAR. So by now, just about everyone has gotten used to their pessimistic predictions whenever any kind of change is announced. Or no changes are announced. Well, to think of it, these self-proclaimed prophets never really shut up or go away.

This time, the reason for WAR going under is because there is no new content in the form of expansions on the horizon. According to some, all Mythic are doing now is ironing out the bugs and fixing the little details before they stop patching completely and leave the game to die. They call this maintenance mode. Now, even if maintenance mode meant death for a MMO (which it certainly doesn’t, just look at some older MMOs), claiming that WAR is in one is pretty far-fetched. How is a completely overhauled endgame and a new experience of city sieging (and a good one I keep hearing) just ironing out the bugs. Sure, the game would probably have done a lot better if the end game was that good at launch. But it sure isn’t in maintenance mode. They are even planning an overhaul of the ORvR concept and considering reintroducing Fortresses. That’s not unique or necessarily new content, but it is a new experience and something we haven’t seen yet. As such, I am sure it takes quite some work to implement.

Oh and apparently another reason for WAR’s downfall is the announced change to faction lockout. You’ll be able to have both destro and order characters on the same server. Which is supposed to herald the few final server merges and then, sigh, maintenance mode… Not taking into account that all EU servers have a healthy population (it seems, KN and KA do), that one server isn’t nearly enough for all players and that a developer stated that they are not planning any server merges in the immediate future. So go figure.

Most people will agree that WAR could have done a lot better. That is not to say, that it still can’t. General player base keeps trying to find the faults and mistakes that were made in the development. Blogs are rich with suggestions on how to make the game better and attract more players. I figured I’d do something different.

Instead, I’ll look at the bright side (uncharacteristic for me some would say). I will look at the changes that have been done to ORvR and try to determine how they have affected it. I’ve been around for most of them and seen/experienced their effects first hand. Also, you can find a complete list of patch notes, which I’ve also used to refresh my memory, here.

– The effects of Crowd Control abilities and their immunity timers have been problematic at launch. Mythic kept looking into them and tuning them. They changed morale abilities from not ignoring immunities to ignoring them and back. All morales now abide by immunity timers. Roots have had a chance to break on any damage added. Rifting has been toned down and changed to grant knock back immunity. Finally, root and knock back immunities have been merged  into one immunity timer, the unstoppable immunity timer has had its duration increased to ten times the duration of the CC and a CC immunity ability has been added. Stagger has also replaced knockdowns and stuns as a more strategic form of CC.

I believe that Crowd Control is now at a stage when it is no longer a means to take a player out of the game and prevent any action. but rather a strategic tool to control the flow of the battle and get an edge over the opponent. There should now be some balancing done in order to ensure that damage careers do not monopolise that aspect of the game (glass cannons should have the least, otherwise they stop being that) and that most of the CC is centered around defensive tanks.

– An ORvR influence system has been added. This was done to provide further incentive to populate the ORvR lakes and center the PvP around ORvR. This wasn’t a successful change and a band-aid at best. Thankfully other measures have been taken to ensure that change does happen. These days influence in ORvR lakes provides an additional means for gearing up new players and serves as an additional “carrot”.

– Zone capturing mechanics have been revised, as they had major flaws at launch. The best defense was to not defend at all, since attackers had no means to lock the zones if there was no one to fight. This was first tackled with introducing Victory Points for queueing in scenarios that weren’t activating and later with the more successful Domination system. Victory Points contributions have been constantly modified so in the current version most of VPs come from skirmish, objective control and the pooled scenario points.

At the moment Zone locking seems to be somewhat balanced and not as trivial as it was in the early versions. Capturing zones is hard and defending them is easier. This calls for a more strategic approach, attacking several zones at the same time seems to be the best strategy. Locking empty zones is still a concern since it provides too much of a reward for a small amount of effort (it’s boring as hell too). Hopefully this will be looked at in the future.

– Fortresses have been a major feature and a major problem both at the same time for quite some time when WAR was initially released. They were poorly thought out and several warbands of players clashing in one most of the time resulted in a server crash. The server code wasn’t optimised, the servers themselves weren’t strong enough to handle the stress and the game code wasn’t designed to handle so many players in one zone. Which is weird since the game was advertised as an Open RvR game. I guess everything has its limits. Mythic fixed the crashing by introducing a population limit for the fortresses and performance changes.This was a band-aid fix so they ended up removing the fortresses altogether. Which is a shame because some of the fondest memories players have is of the heroic pushes and fort defenses that took place during that time. Good fortress fights were quite popular despite the performance hitches and an odd crash or two.

In my opinion most of the “realm pride” stemmed from such events and removing the fortresses has only hurt the already lacking feelings of community, player commitment and immersion. There is talk of them possibly making a comeback. I hope Mythic can pull it off and make them work. Also server and client performance has been greatly improved and although the server performance could be a bit better (here in EU at least), it’s much more playable than few months after launch.

– Keeps in ORvR lakes have been the core of the zone locking mechanic from the launch. They weren’t always fun to defend or take though. They have seen a lot of changes. Mythic’s first move was to make it possible for guilds to claim them and upgrade them. This gave them a more strategic meaning. They then removed bottlenecks and added an additional keep ramp and platform to make it harder to defend them. This change mostly meant that keeps were changing hands more frequently and it really took some effort to keep them from falling into enemy hands. A keep ranking system was added to discourage players from taking empty keeps by rewarding less loot and renown the less action keep saw.

These changes mean that today keeps can’t be taken randomly and by brute force, but it involves more planning and strategic gameplay. There is room for improvement, but the basic concept has probably evolved as much as it can. That is not to say that ORvR itself is a good concept. I will touch on this later.

– Scenarios have almost played a larger role in WAR’s gameplay than ORvR. The game started out with a large number of them, not all of them really playable. Mythic has been continuously trying to improve them by adding better rewards, adding a system to prevent AFKing and balancing the frequency of different ones being played. Ultimately, they re-evaluated all of them and removed the less played ones and only kept the favourite scenarios in the game. All of them were made available at all times and the way they contributed VPs was changed to encourage players to play them all. The most recent, and probably the biggest change, is the addition of the scenario weapons that can be earned simply by playing a lot of scenarios. This contributed to a shift of player focus and they were a bit overplayed, while the ORvR suffered. Things seem to slowly be returning back to normal and the coming changes should reinvigorate ORvR.

Scenarios are now only a part of the game and a neat feature, rather than just a means to do something when there is no ORvR. The new weapon system also gives players a means of acquiring good weapons purely by PvPing. The only feature that players seem to be craving now is either a better matchup algorithm that will pit premade groups against other premade groups, and not the opposite (which happens a lot these days), or separate scenario brackets for premade and random groups. Farming and being farmed isn’t fun for anyone. hopefully that will finally dawn on Mythic and they will introduce those in the future.

City Sieges are supposed to be WARs endgame. If that is so, then up until now they’ve been fairly uninteresting and bland, to say the least. They consisted of mostly PvE encounters and PQ grinding. This was absolutely not what players wanted to see as endgame in an RvR game. Things are changing though, the next patch is promising a complete redesign of them. The testers responses seem fantastic so far. It seems Mythic has finally shifted the focus from RvE to an RvR endgame. There are some kinks that need to be worked out, mainly the question what happens with players that drop out in the middle and why is Mythic punishing people for not joining premades again. It’s clear that once you are in an instance and against a team that has a vast advantage over you, you have no other option but to stay and get farmed. hopefully these changes can enervate the endgame and attract more players.

Many changes. Most of them were positive and changed the game for the better. Player concerns are that it took much too long to implement them. Even if they messed up the core ideas in the design, that should have been corrected sooner. The game has been on the market for almost two years now and if you look at the patch notes it’s clear that one year would have been enough to implement them. Things are looking better though.  It has been announced that after 1.3.5 they will be looking at improving zone locking and ORvR in general. If they can do something about the class and realm balance it will be a good start. It seems WAR is heading into the right direction now.  Let us hope that it is not too late.

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