Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Watch the WAR podcasts!

Several of my readers gave me an advice I'd like to pass on to those who didn't read it in the comments section: Watch the Warhammer Online video podcasts! Especially number 3, 5, and 7, which explain a lot about the game. And I have to say, I like what I see, and I'm looking forward to trying it out.

On the other hand I'm not holding my breath. I don't trust the release date, which already slipped, so it could be another year before WAR comes out. And whatever nice features the game has, at its core WAR is a PvP game, and I don't believe in PvP. Watch the video podcast on battlefronts and tell me this isn't going to be annoying if for some reason twice as many people play dwarves than play greenskins. DAoC was a great PvP game, but it was never perfectly balanced; on most servers Midgard was the strongest realm and Hibernia the weakest (back in the days when I played it, of course that might have changed since). In WAR only the "scenarios", which resemble WoW battlegrounds are more or less balanced. In all other forms of PvP the superior numbers will most likely win. And I don't think EA mythic has any more clue what makes players choose one race over another. They have no way to make sure opposing factions are numerically balanced, and I don't think playing on the smaller side will be much fun in RvR.

I also don't believe that in any MMORPG classes can be perfectly balanced in both PvE and PvP. This is so because of the fundamental problem of mobs being artificially stupid. Group PvE is all about aggro control. But aggro control can't possibly work in PvP, because you can't force another player to attack a specific target instead of e.g. the healer he wants to kill. Also PvP inherently involves more movement than PvE, where mobs often just stand still until dead. This inherently changes the relative value of melee damage vs. ranged damage vs. AoE damage in PvP as compared to PvE. A tank, a healer, and a damage dealer might be balanced to be equally valuable in a PvE group, but they'll never be equally good in PvP. I think Warhammer Online's attempt to make a game with equal PvE and PvP parts is inherently flawed.
You're absolutely right on all fronts; especially on the early 2008 release date. We're talking about a game that hasn't even entered full beta yet, and 2007 is almost at the halfway mark.
I know nothing about the class balance of Warhammer online, but I'm going to hope that they balance PvP and then expand the PvE from that, rather then PvE first, then PvP(ahem, WoW).

Although AI is never going to smart as a real person, if the PvE game is made to be more then just "aggro control", I don't see why a game couldn't be balanced between both PvE and PvP. Lets give the tanks a taunt for PvE, but make it effective to some extent in PvP. For example in WoW if a rogue uses distract in PvE the mobs attention will be held in that direction for 10 seconds, but in PvP it will only make the player face that direction until they choose to move. Give a warrior a taunt that will force opposing players to target the warrior, at that point they can decide not to target the warrior, but if they were just about to land a spell or attack it would hit the warrior.
It's pretty hard to come to any conclusions about Warhammer Online right now since it wont be released until next year. I'm giving it a close watch though and I'm enjoying the podcasts and Barnett's interviews. Like everything, time will tell.

I hope it turns out. Warhammer deserves to be a great game.
The thing for me with WAR is that I actually am not at all interested in PVP (and done just some in WoW). I actually love the Warhammer lore, but it would need to be a pve heavy game to really be right for me. Given what I have seen it's just way too much about PvP to be right for me. But I do like some ideas they seem to put in like the quest design philosophy.
Crazyflanger: I've been following the game closely for over a year now and it was confirmed very early on that all skills will be useful in both PvE and PvP. For instance, taunting as you have mentioned, will debuff the target so that it only does a fraction of it's damage to everybody except the person that taunted them, so while it doesn't force the person to target them it encourages them to do so. Mythic want to remove any sort of crowd control that makes a person loose control of their character and forcing them to target something does that.

Abel: Funnily enough the Design Manager Paul Barnett doesn't like PvP in MMO's either, but it is like he says in that it just hasn't been done correctly yet. He has also said many times though that they will not be trying to cater to every single player, they would rather have a few awesome aspects than a lot of ok ones. There will be no healers sitting at the back throwing out heal after heal, they will be on the front lines duking it out with the big hitters, if you don't like this style of play then this will probably not be the game for you. I think it is definately worth giving it a shot though.
Lineage 2 has a pvp taunting ability that forces your target to them instead. It can be done in pve and pvp, it just is difficult to balance a game when the only classese that matter are DPS classes (common failure of MMO pvp).

WoW pvp gets criticized pretty harshly because classes do have very obvious and effective "defensive tactics" that make the fight last alot longer.... resulting in ppl complaining pvp is a "Grind". Aside from the fact that WoW pvp is way too gear/grind based, the balance in itself is welldone and changing for the better.

What people who do enjoy pvp mmo's really are looking for is a game with less restrictions and more open ended yet balanced pvp scenarios... which is one very difficult hurdle to overcome. Even analyzing chess the board game you can whine about how certain pieces are "more overpowered" but in the larger picture is one of the most balanced ever made (or consider checkers).
Don't forget that WAR will be doing something never done before - Full model collision detection, this will change the way stragy works, if a warior can't "taunt" you off of his ally caster, he might be able to knock in to you and make himself in to a physical wall.
Lots of games have done collision detection before, Lineage II and CoH/V spring to mind straight away.

Tobold have you ever checked out Paul Barnett's blogg?

Watch his "How to get into the industry" video's he has done for IGE if you get a spare 20 minutes, they are great.
Also I noticed you said "Warrior" will taunt :) That is what WoW has done to MMO's, forget everything they did.

I am not sure of all the classes but I do know that the high dps orc class has a taunt, not the tank. One of the other tank like abilities will apparently be the ability to simply pick up your opponenet and throw them away to get the enemy away from your squishies. Also knock back will be heavily featured.
On balances, Mark Jacobs had some interesting things to say about it -

I'm optimistic about WAR. My glass is half full! They have a lot of interesting ideas which I hope actually do make the game FUN (in capitals) with less tedium. And I hope I'm not just being taken in by their most excellent marketting ;)
"I also don't believe that in any MMORPG classes can be perfectly balanced in both PvE and PvP. This is so because of the fundamental problem of mobs being artificially stupid."

I think the problem needs fixing here, not at the pvp end of the spectrum :)
I think you're being overly pessimistic. They're experienced and look like they've put a lot of thought into it, so it's not ridiculous to hope that they might have learnt from the mistakes and failings in previous pvp game and they can do for PVP what WoW did for pve.

Also, Paul Barnett rocks.
The big problem with PvP is that no-one fears death. Until that becomes a factor in it, it will remain a pie throwing contest.

For a lot of PvPers, the tactic is simply charge forward, do as much damage to the enemy as you can before you fall over. Ress at the graveyard and start again.
they did one thing already right.

both sides have a human-race
both sides have an ugly-race
both sides have elves.
Eventually, they'll have to add npcs to the weaker side or simply put a cap on the number of players in a pvp area.

And do all sides have a shorty race?
A couple of comments:
- PvP is the focus of WHO but PvE will maintain an important role. It will be possible to play the game and never participate in PvP.

- There is a series of videos (5?) on YouTube that have Paul describing different aspects of the game. If you enjoy his presentation style and energy I HIGHLY suggest you check them out.

- Closed Beta is starting very soon. I'd guess they would have an open beta by years end with a release date late 1Q08. This is just my opinion and not based any official announcement so flame away.
One way to go a LONG way is to get rid of the holy trinity classes, and not make PVE encounters about threat but more about maneuvering and blocking and CCing. Then pve will correlate more closely to pvp.

At least until people whine about being CCd and it gets nerfed, then it will get nerfed in pve.. meh I guess you can't balance it :)
It's a pvp centric game, and that's perfectly fine. They should be more upfront about it, though.

Any Warhammer Online player that attempts to only do pve is setting them self up for disappoint. Let's be clear on that point. There will be no bread baking in Warhammer Online.
One Anon poster here said the problem with PvP is no one fears death. I think a harsh death penalty would make the game a lot more exciting. I think WoW didn't want to make PvP too much of a grind so thats why PvP deaths don't even damage your armor. Waiting 30 seconds to rez and rebuff is stupid. It's almost benificial to just die at some point, like when you are in combat and can't eat or drink, if you die you come back with full health/mana. Although with harse death penalties you can't have someone like me running around every 3 minutes and nuking someone before they can even see it coming. Bigger health bars in comparison to damage done would be needed.
From the Podcast I watched, you can PvE-only all the way up to Rank 4...but then it's Game Over unless you want to participate in PvP. And let's face it, WOAR is based on a tabletop game that revolved around PvP. The original D&D was PvE(DM) but almost all of GW's tabletop games have been all about the PvP.
I don't really understand creating artificial limits in the game for PvE, PvP.

Let's take 3 examples:

You cannot polymorph a druid in a beast form. This rule carries out in either area, PvP or PvE. Why?

Undead player characters cannot be shackled, but are not immune to fear, as the PvE mobs are. Why?

Player characters cannot be taunted, but can be distracted, feign death-ed, polymorphed, seduced, hamstrung, frozen, cycloned, rooted, and stunned. Where is the sense in that?

Of course these various crowd control abilities would have to be shortened or weakened to work in PvP, but I think Blizzard needs to take steps towards a "fair" PvP. Imagine the strategy possibilites with un-fearable Undead characters, but they are shackleable. Imagine the strategy possibilities of a PvE main tank with his taunts and stuns. Sounds fun to me!
Guild wars does a very good job of balancing the needs of pvp and pve combat. PVP Is first rate but small scale pve battles are also extremely good due to the use of collision detection and fairly decent mob ai (mobs go for healers for example). I don't know if that model with no aggro management skills could be scaled up to raid scale encounters however.
@capn: there is a pen&paper rpg Warhammer too, so it really doesn't have to be pvp. In fact I never played any tabletop GW games and know all the warhammer lore from the RPG. The RPG is most definitely PvE.

@james: afaik, undead players were originally considered undead for game mechanics purposes, but it was deemed problematic re paladins. With their undead peak damage and control ability they'd just demolish undeads of any class and it was too hard to balance that.
@abel: there is a ton of different warhammer games but WAR isn't aimed at any of them. In fact it isn't even aimed at the regular warhammer game it is intended to be it's own version of the warhammer world.
Abel, I don't want to sound rude or antagonistic about the pally/undead issue, but:


That's one of the drawbacks of picking an Undead character. Benefits are, you're immune to all types of fear (and poisons, etc? I forget).
I think Blizz had good reason not to do it and I just mentioned the tip of the iceberg. It's not just undead vs pala we are talking here. It's undead vs all other class abilities as well. Sheep and sap would be rendered ineffective for example and priests would gain shackle as an extra working ability in PVP situations etc. I.e. it impacts 1-1 combat of some classes vs undeads of any class in a way that's more significant than any other racial.

But don't take this up with me. Go to the Blizzard boards... I didn't make the decision and am actuallly quite agnostic what the right one would have been not having been there when it all was discussed.

All I'm saying that there are reasons why one might want to do what blizz did.
No no, I'm not angry at you at all, not even angry at Blizzard lol. I only have two Undead characters, neither of which are my main.

It just seems that the game could use less "that's the way it is" reasons, and more common sense. Perhaps actually make the racials more important. Make Orcs completely immune to Stun. Make Tauren have 2k-3k more health. Make Gnomes far more agile than they are currently. Have the Blood Elves be far superior in magic, the Night Elves far superior in druidism.

Making the character choice something that matters, instead of a "meh" decision.
I think the answer to this is basically balancing. I agree that the distribution of stuff in WoW is fairly flat, but I also think it's likely the reason why Blizz manages to have classes fairly balanced (modulo personal taste).

If racials were large definers of difference, then you'd have yet another dimension along which to balance things off and yes there has been discussions if the tauren or orc racial isn't in fact already imbalanced compared to human and night elf racials.

But from an RPG point of view I agree with you. And a pure PVE game might have an easier time to allow difference.
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