PTS impressions

On Wednesday and Friday Mythic held two mass tests on the Warpstone PTS server to test the proposed ORvR changes. If you aren’t familiar with the new ruleset and mechanics you can hear about them in this video (second half). I was present at both and it’s about time I posted my impressions of the whole ordeal, so here they are.

The Tests

The first test was scheduled to be more appealing to the players playing on the NA servers as it began at 2 am for most Europeans. Nevertheless, I participated. The testing was not done in T4, but in the T3 Empire vs. Chaos pairing, presumably because the Skaven mechanic complicates testing and Mythic obviously doesn’t want to reveal the most anticipated addition just yet. So we were supplied with rank 30 template characters in full devastator (no talismans!) and scenario weapons, and away we went! Mythic also generously provided a ventrilo server for all of us to coordinate over (or banter, as the case might be).

For this first test I decided to play destruction for a change, which meant that I was failing as an AoE sorc. Destruction started strong with taking and holding Feiten’s Lock, Ogrund’s Tavern and Vernante’s Tower BOs. We rarely lost control of them and safely escorted most of the resource carriers, which meant that the Stoneclaw keep leveled up rather fast. If I remember correctly Stoneclaw leveled to rank 3 before Passwatch Castle dinged rank 1. Destruction figured out that if they can hold on to two key BOs they can pretty much control all the resources. By holding Ogrund’s Tavern they could camp all order resource carriers, since all of them went right past the BO on their way to the warcamp, in addition to not allowing any order to leave the warcamp. And by holding Vernante’s Tower they could contain order in the keep. Destruction resource carriers also have a very short distance to travel from those two BOs to the destruction warcamp, making it almost impossible to attack them, while the carriers from other two BOs can easily be ambushed.

At this point order pretty much gave up. Destruction soon got a ram and pummeled down both doors due to the lack of resistance. It was a swift, although bitter victory for destruction. Bitter because we really didn’t get to test the keep sieging aspect of the changes, since order didn’t do much to defend. Destruction just seemed to organise themselves better and with the lack of organisation and numbers, Order understandably didn’t feel like sticking around. Even if it was only a test, as Andy reminded us several times, the fact is that most people don’t appreciate getting their face pummeled in. Not even as a test.

The second, European friendly test was held on friday. For this one I decided to play as a WP on the order side. A few slight tweaks have been made to the ORvR ruleset, which I can’t say have had much of an impact on the gameplay. Although I admit that the whole experience was so different that I probably wouldn’t have noticed any changes anyway. This testing environment did feel more familiar, as it seemed almost like a Karak Norn get-together in T3. There were at least 3 experienced Karak Norn guilds running premades on both sides (Crimson, RG, VII, Orz, KF, Tainted), and I’ve only seen one guild premade from Karak Azgal (Inglorious Basterds).

Regardless, this time it felt much like being on the receiving end of the first test. Destruction organised themselves better, seemed to understand the mechanics and used them to their advantage. While order ran around like headless chicken. And while Mythic provided the ventrilo server, it seemed to be primarily used for banter rather than coordinating. No one seemed to know exactly what was going on, which shows the importance of familiarising yourself with the content you are testing beforehand, for the test to be successful (although the lack of the patch notes or instructions may be to blame here). Organised order guilds didn’t seem to coordinate either and mostly did what they do on live servers. Hole themselves up in a BO and farm as many destruction as possible. It took a really long time for them to realise the approach wasn’t going to work, as destruction just farmed our resource carriers. Most of other order either left or were soloing/getting bored in the keep by this point. And while destro originally outnumbered us by 1,5 to 1 the number grew to 2 to 1. This time though, Mythic realised that for the test to yield any kind of results the sides need to be balanced, and asked some destruction (Kill Frenzy guys I believe) to switch sides. I didn’t notice any shift in power though, as most of the destruction players weren’t familiar with playing order.

While all this was going on, Stoneclaw finally dinged rank 4, which meant that destruction could finally attack the keep. But by this point the test was creeping over the two-hour mark and it was 12 pm in Europe. The numbers seemed to have dwindled substantially on both sides. I retreated because of a headache and because I had to get up early. Before I went though, I saw Sacrx finally taking charge and leading order in an assault on the Stoneclaw keep and the weakened destro forces. But I’m afraid you’ll have to ask someone else on how it ended.

The Thoughts

I can do nothing but assume that Mythic didn’t get much valuable information on the basic concept of the changes. They got feedback on little details like NPC healers, siege weapons and warcamp teleporters, but I believe that they still don’t have any idea if these changes are going to work as intended. In my opinion this first batch of tests are intended to familiarise the playerbase with the new mechanic and to polish the otherwise rough experience. Which needs to be done before testing in T4 can begin. I’d call this first round preliminary tests, with more focused testing yet to come. Here are the reasons:

  • The testing was done in T3. Although the reasons for doing so are clear, it is foolish to expect testing in T3 could reflect testing in T4. The two environments aren’t similar enough.
  • We tested 1 pairing, which means 1 split zone. It may not be the most balanced zone of all and may not reflect other zones.
  • The population imbalance really screwed things up. On live servers there are factors that will encourage the player to fight even when outnumbered (most notably the Underdog system, which is not yet implemented), while these tests weren’t really taken seriously.
  • We were all playing templates, with the same gear and level. While this may hold true for most tests (in my opinion only allowing copies and no templates is the best course of action, if you want to test in an environment that reflects live servers), such a playerbase certainly doesn’t reflect the player composition on live servers and skews the results.

Considering that, it’s very hard to imagine how these changes will look like in T4. I’ll reserve my final judgement on this, at least until I can participate in a T4 test. But here are some of my impressions:

If you thought the current zone locking system is zone layout dependant, then wait until you see the new one. With carriers needing to make their way from the BO to your warcamp to deliver resource it’s extremely easy to abuse chokes in some zones. In High Pass/Talabecland destruction found a great way to abuse this by camping Ogrund’s Tavern.

If you were like me, and imagined fighting in Chaos Wastes (which is a very balanced zone) when you heard of the new ORvR changes, then you’ll be shocked if you try imagining the new system in Dragonwake, Caledor, Kadrin Valley or Black Crag. Those zones have narrow passages and are full of choke points. The concern here is that Mythic won’t be breaking up the zerg, they will actually be empowering it. Once people figure out which BO they need to camp in order to be able to camp the carriers at the same time, locking zones will become trivial and a matter of waiting it out again. Basically, it seems like nothing will change. You will have the zerg camping a suitable choke and moving to protect/assault carriers, with smaller teams guarding BOs.

Hopefully I’m wrong, but until we can test the new system in the mentioned zones, we won’t know for sure.

One aspect that hasn’t really been tested are the keep sieges themselves. Once both doors are down (which doesn’t seem to be that much harder than currently), you need to interact with the flag for 30 seconds to capture the keep. If the doors are down, defenders no longer respawn inside the keep. But I’m not sure if this means that the hero mobs at the top of the keep disappear. If they don’t, it will be extremely easy to camp at the top, making it impossible for the attackers to clear the keep and successfully capture it. I’m also not sure if defenders get to respawn inside the keep if the inner doors are repaired. This phase clearly needs more testing.

These changes also seem to promote soloing in keep defences/attacks. Siege weapons are extremely powerful now (more on that below) and flying bombers allow melee to infiltrate the keeps and gank people. Soloing works well in both cases. Anti-ganking and operating siege in a keep attack works just as well. Of course, an organised team using siege weapons and assisting will be more powerful than a single person doing it, as will commando teams dropping into the keeps compared to a lone WE/WH. But the solo aspect will be much more viable now.

Some features/facts you may not be aware of:

  • Single target siege engines deal massive damage. If you allow the crosshairs to zoom in completely, the hit will automatically be a critical. In T3 I was able to kill a rank 30 devastator geared template caster with 2 crits and a lesser hit. As it only takes for about 3 sec for the siege engine to zoom in, healers need to really be on the ball if they want to save anyone. 2 people assisting on targets can pretty much instagib a clothie.
  • AoE siege engines currently deal friendly fire. I don’t know if this is intended or a bug. You do need to be careful, as using them can hurt your team more than help them.
  • All siege engines have a ton of hp. The T3 versions had at least 500k health, which is monstrous. You won’t be solo killing these.
  • Siege buffs/debuffs are quite useful now. 10% increased damage or reduced reload times and 10% reduced damage or reload times make quite a difference. I do think the booby trap one needs to be upgraded to take away 50% of the siege engines hp, or something along those lines.
  • Siege weapons deal massive damage to other siege weapons. For example, it took 5 people to destroy the siege engine that was at 10% about half a minute, while I managed to kill a cannon that wasn’t being repaired in about 6 hits with another cannon (it was dealing 90-100k damage per hit).
  • While the bombs from the flying bombers sound nice, they aren’t really that good unless you are targeting afk or ignorant people. It’s a GTAoE DoT that doesn’t deal overwhelming damage (iirc it was about 150 per second in T3). Might be useful for harrasing large groups of people but won’t turn the tide of any fights. It also doesn’t deal any bonus damage to siege engines.
  • All siege engines can be deployed anywhere in the ORvR lake. This makes them extremely powerful and bringing along a few siege engines can turn the tide of any battle. Setting them in front of a BO about to be attacked or behind a BO about to be defended really pays dividends.
  • Parachuting from the flying bomber does what it says on the tin. You can actually parachute on to any surface, which will probably result in a lot of terrain exploiting. On top of that, you can take that exploiting to a whole new level by setting a siege engine on top of a roof or something similar.
  • Shooting down the bombers is quite trivial. With proper aiming it only takes 3 shots for the Manticore/Gryphon to die, and once it does the player on it plummets to the ground, usually resulting in a death from fall damage (you don’t get any renown for causing the death tho).
  • There are no healer NPCs in the keeps. There were, but Mythic removed them. I don’t know the reasoning behind this, but one of the explanations might be that they don’t want the defenders to have too much of an advantage.
  • In the last test an NPC teleporter has been added to the keeps, offering a one way teleport to the warcamp.
  • Resource carriers are susceptible to CC and will get slowed when snared. Damage will knock them off their mounts (I believe they cannot re-mount after that).
  • When a resource carrier drops the resources they can be picked up by a player. Once picked up they’ll be counted to that realms resource pool, be it allied or enemy, depending on who picked it up. But only a part of the resource will be added to prevent abuse. I heard the number 150 out of 500, which means a third, but I could be wrong.
  • The farther the resource carrier needs to travel the more resource he’s carrying. The example given was that a resource carrier from Feiten’s Lock carried more resources than the one from Ogrund’s Tavern.
  • The underdog system will be tied in at some point, resulting in the overpopulated realm gathering fewer resources than normal if they have negative underdog points, and vice versa.

That’s all for now and I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed because I haven’t done a really in-depth analysis or prediction on how this new system will work in T4. I’m simply not bold enough to go and do that based on inaccurate and skewed testing. It seems too much like making things up than real theorycrafting. But I’ll be sure to participate in any of the future tests (I’ll try to be there on Tuesday) and give my feedback when I feel it is valid.

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