Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
 
The Tome of Knowledge

I must say I don't totally get the excitement surrounding the Tome of Knowledge feature in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Bundling all the bits of lore you picked up, all your achievements, and all your quests into one interface has at least as many disadvantages than advantages. And the thing is still missing the kind of personal history Everquest 2 was already offering 4 years ago, like telling you on which date you leveled up to what level, or made other big achievements and discoveries.

I'm all for achievement systems. If I kill 65,340,285 boars, like the South Park kids, it is nice to have that written down somewhere, and to be able to flaunt a "Boar Killer" title. Seeing the WoW version of the achievement system it also becomes immediately obvious why it is better to have such a system from the start, and not introduce it 4 years later. I'm annoyed about the fact that I won't have achievements like "killed Onyxia" or "killed Ragnaros", because WoW didn't register that at the time. I'm even more annoyed about the fact that some people who never made it to Onyxia and Ragnaros at level 60 will now kill them with a small level 80 group and get that achievement when it doesn't mean anything any more. The bestiary in the WAR Tome of Knowledge is much better, because it will count every single monster and enemy player you killed during your whole career. You'll even get xp, and not just titles as rewards for reaching certain numbers.

But while counting the achievements is good, the interface and particular implementation of the Tome of Knowledge isn't all that great. Your bestiary lists achievements on every monster's page beyond killing X of them, but doesn't tell you what you'd need to do to unlock that achievement. I'm sure that soon websites will pop up telling you all about "secret" tome unlocks. I'd rather get some hints in the game than a full walkthrough from a third party website. The achievement system of Lord of the Rings Online is easier to navigate and understand.

The quest log in the Tome is even worse, definitely sub-standard. There are color coded dots to tell you whether a quest has attributes like being a PvP quest, but there doesn't appear to be a color code or number telling you for what level a quest is. We're probably supposed to guess that from the column telling you what zone the quest is in. If you're the type that travels around a lot and not always fastidiously completes all the quests he has before leaving a zone, that can get messy fast. There doesn't even appear to be a shortcut key to open your quest log yet, you need to open the Tome and then flip from whatever page you were to the quest log page.

Now my apologies to the lore fans out there, all three of you, but the average MMORPG player clicks through any quest lore or other lore he finds as quickly as he can without reading it. Adding all that lore I've come across to the Tome of Knowledge doesn't do anything for me. I click on some rally master NPC to bind myself in the next village, and his whole bloody life story pops up in my Tome of Knowledge. But the life story of the only person the average MMORPG player is interested in, that is himself, isn't properly recorded. What is of more interest to you, the family story of NPC Seigmund Kraemer in Troll Country, or the day where you helped defending the keep in Troll Country and gained 2 renown ranks? So why is the Tome listing the former, and not the latter? Don't tell me that it is impossible, because the EQ2 Players website already does it for Everquest 2 for years, and even makes these achievements visible from outside the game.

So yes, kudos for the achievement system, but overall the WAR Tome of Knowledge left me unimpressed. I've seen each individual component done better in previous games, and the fact of bundling all these features into one big book only makes the user interface more clunky. This could have been done better.
Comments:
Tobold, I love reading your site and have for a long time but I honestly feel after reading your opinions on WAR I had to make some comments. This is another post I really disagree with you sure the Tome isn't the be all and end all but it has some damn funny txt and for me it is interesting and fun unlocking things and I am continuously amazed at what can be unlocked. I love that fact the more you die by one class you unlock more and more amusing titles and awards from being killed by them. I also wanted to mention from your other posts this game is about RvR honestly it has been mentioned on other sites but PvE is something you do while you wait for RvR to happen which isn't very long. This weekend I leveled 3 classes to level 10 via RvR only. And honestly it was the best fun I have had in an MMO for a long time this isn't WoW, RvR combat takes longer which makes it so so so much better and interesting.

I love seeing groups figure out strategies and then implement them, terrain, distance as well as collision detection can all be used to massive advantage, damn we hid in a ditch and jumped a bunch of order players it was a great thing to see.

Sure the game has bugs but doesn't anyone out there remember November 23rd 2004? WoW was launched and I remember all the bugs the constant server disconnects and other dramas like roll back, pathing issues etc. It seems we have all forgotten WoW had problems at launch but it sorted them out in time.

WAR for me is a much much better game for casual players who are over raiding and the constant LFG of WoW, open groups are the best idea ever, PQ's just work and are raids without the drama and RvR is just plain massively fun and the back bone of this game it is very accessable.

I know this is your opinion and it's all good but WAR and WoW play so differently from each other that once you get your head into that and play WAR how it is meant to be played it becomes in my opinion the 1st 2nd generation MMORPG.
 
But this is exactly why I don't write one big review, but lots of smaller posts on various aspects of WAR. I'm not talking about bugs in this post. I'm not talking about the fun you can have in RvR. I'm not talking about public quests and open groups. I'm only talking about the Tome of Knowledge. Which, compared to WoW pre-WotLK is great, because WoW up to now has no achievement system whatsoever. But compared to the achievement systems of other games, like LotRO or EQ2 the WAR achievement system isn't the best I've seen yet.

Or as I said in a recent post, I don't subscribe to the theory that you have to be either for or against WAR. I can very well love the good parts of WAR and hate the bad parts. Just like I love the good parts of WoW and hate the bad parts there too. I love the strategic, slower RvR combat of WAR, but that doesn't make the Tome of Knowledge any better.
 
As much as I hate to admit it, he's right about EQ2 traciking more memorably character moments.

But I do think he's wrong that only 3 people would be interested in the lore of WAR. Why, there are at least that many in my guild alone. :)

Seriously it does need improvement in usability, I won't disagree, but it's far better than what you get for most any other game on the market. That can't be denied.
 
Though I can agree with some points on where it can be improved .. I still think it’s a great addition to the MMO game. It be great is you can add an area where you could add notes and a character bio. I found myself just sitting and reading the lore parts, notable people I meet. Very cool and it has lot s of potential in the future.
 
If you are tracking a quest you can click on the quest title on your screen and it will jump to that quest page in the tome. But yes, there's no way to know what level it is, which got me into trouble once or twice. I ended up using the map to try to figure out the levels, looking at the highlighted portion gave me an estimate.

But I agree to a certain extent. When I first saw it I was like "uh,, ok" this is just like LOTRO or CoX, but with a few more things written down. But it is nice to have all the lore, though I admit I read none of it! :) However once I started reading some Warcraft books I found I really enjoyed the game more, and felt more immersed. I understood the references and what was going on. So I bet if I actually stopped and read some warhammer it might have the same effect.

Unfortunately the only Warhammer books that interest me are McNeill's 40k books, which won't help :)
 
I too found the quest interface a bit clunky to navigate in. The quests should at the very least be grouped up by chapters and made a bit easier to sort and drop them.

I am sure that it will be modified as the game goes on.
 
Dont' say crap. Nobody will get the "Onyxia killer" title for killing her at lvl 80. Feats of Strength will not be awarded after Wotlk is released.
 
I enjoyed the tome for the most part. However I did not like when something would pop up saying I had unlocked information which then required me to either A) not read it yet because I was in the middle of a fight or a quest, or B) stop read it for 3-5 minutes, then try to remember what the heck I was doing or where I was headed.

Another thing I enjoyed at first was titles. However they started coming so quick that they became useless. what good is a title if you get a new one ever 10 minutes? Seriously, there will be 10-20 cool ones people see and then beg for info on how to get them, but the other 900 or so are just lame that pop up and you will never want to bother with wearing.

overall though I enjoyed the tome, never played EQ2 or LoRO cept in beta so I didn't see their achievements and have anything better to compare it too.
 
Is there a good place that gives a relatively detailed basic explanation (I know, kind of an oxymoron) if how the tome of knowledge works? (I'm kind of piecing it together from various descriptions of the features, but it would help quite a lot in understanding in general what people are talking about when they describe certain parts of it.)
 
The ToK was meh. I was also suprised at how lackluster it seemed. The popups telling you about achievements and providing XP are cool, but the actaul ToK interface was--well, something I kept intending to look at but never held my interest. It struck me as a feature that web surfers (rather than gamers) would enjoy.

but doesn't tell you what you'd need to do to unlock that achievement.

Oh god, I hope they don't tell you what achievements you are missing. The obsessive behavior of MMO players will compell us to grind them out.
 
I kept reading how the Tome was awesome, yet, I felt EQ2 had the same feature in its achievements system.
I understood this, as well as the PQ's and the Open Group dynamic were some really great features.
For now, all I have seen is the Open Group and RvR as being the best bits of WAR.
The rest has been done before in some way shape or form.
 
Tobold, are you going to be playing on EU or US servers?
 
I agree that the ToK needs to track more personal information on your character. The guild interface actually tracks all of your guild member's level and renown rank ups, what time it happened, date, etc. Hopefully that transitions over to the ToK.

I think the biggest possible boon for the ToK is out of game accessibility. There is too much currently to take in within the game while playing. Take that outside the game and it is absolutely a golden feature.

Another minor issue is the fact that when you die in a scenario and have to wait 30 seconds to res, the perfect amount of time to surf the ToK, you can't click on any interface items!
 
I have to disagree with you on this one Tobold. Would I rather read a story about an NPC or a story about myself? I'd rather read the story about the NPC. I already KNOW everything about myself, I don't need some log telling me I leveled up on such-and-such a date. I already know I leveled up, where's the value in knowing what day it was as well? Who cares?

As far as the quest log thing goes, you just click on the quest in your tracker and it pops up the full quest log entry - what could be easier than that?

Finally, I've never had any issues with getting quests too high in level for me. Never. The quest progression in WoW is very well laid out and to get quests too high for you you'd have to skip whole areas in a tier. If you want to mess around and run into areas you're too low level for that's your problem, and not something the entire quest system should be designed around. Also, I'd say its generally pretty obvious if you're not in a level appropriate questing area. If all the mobs you pass are too high for you, the quests will be too. Simple.

The only thing I agree with you on is that the ToK isn't "all that". It's not the best thing since sliced bread. It is, however, a cool evolution of previous games' achievement, quest, and lore systems. If you think it's useless then I'm sorry, you're just not paying attention.
 
Constructive criticism is always good.

Personally, I'd like to see more personal information stored in the tome... dates of levels, names of players I've killed and died to, keeps I've helped take and defend... things along that line.

The interface IS a bit clunky. Especially the quest journal. Automatically sorting onto separate pages for each tier and category (RvR and PvP) would help weed out quests that can no longer be completed easily.

The flavor text is brilliant if you stop and read it, but give me an inch and I'll take a mile. Tell me the stories of the world around me and I'll want to be able to add my own story to it.
 
Oh, and for an intro to the game's backstory, you could do worse than to pick up the Gotrek and Felix novels.

They've just come out with 2 collected volumes of the first 6(?) books.
 
I really didn't like the ToK. You get achievements for everything you do in the game and that makes them less special. I loved the way that LOTRO did it's achievement system. Like everything in a new game, it'll need some tweeking.
 
Tobold, are you going to be playing on EU or US servers?

EU servers. It's just by being "press" that I got into the US beta as well. But for the release version I'll definitely play on EU servers, because the main fun is to play with other people, which is kind of difficult if they are sleeping.
 
Just from what i read about it, havent played the game yet: i like that the ToK isnt just a boring spreadsheet of collected data on your achievements but adds some lore & fluff too. Im in no way a big lore fanatic but I do sometimes like to read that stuff. Now if i want to it is there, which is a plus i guess.
 
Dont' say crap. Nobody will get the "Onyxia killer" title for killing her at lvl 80. Feats of Strength will not be awarded after Wotlk is released.

Keep your language polite!

The level 60 dungeon achievements are NOT part of the Feats of Strength in the current WotLK beta. They are normal achievements, and the only way to get them is to go with you're probably higher level character and kill Onyxia and Ragnaros etc. now.
 
Couple things...

"...but doesn't tell you what you'd need to do to unlock that achievement. ... The achievement system of Lord of the Rings Online is easier to navigate and understand."

Sorry to disagree, but you don't know what you're going to get deeds for in LOTRO until you start getting them. In other words, until you kill your first Bog Monster and get the "New Deed" pop-up, there's no way to know there's a Bog Monster Slater Deed. WAR & LOTRO are the same in this respect.

"Now my apologies to the lore fans out there, all three of you, but the average MMORPG player clicks through any quest lore or other lore he finds as quickly as he can without reading it."

This is sheer hubris on your part. "I feel this way so everyone does." Unless you have some data to back up the statement, I simply can't believe you, and I find it hard to believe that the developers of these games spend the resources to build lore into them for the sake of '3 players' and that they haven't done market research into what players want.

For my part, I see people standing in front of quest giving NPCs for a an awful long time to just be clicking through without reading.

That said, when you're in a group it is tempting to just click past so as not to hold people up, which is why the Tome is so nice. You 'capture' that content for reading later when you have some downtime.

WAR is the first MMO I've played where I don't have to have a magazine or a paperback next to the computer to keep me entertained while I'm waiting for a group to form or a friend to return from going AFK.
 
I think you covered all my issues with the TOK. I thought the idea was awesome till I saw it in action. Just seems to be too much too fast. I think its great to get achievements, but you get one ever second or two which is way too much. I think it would be better to get an update when you do something original or break a milestone so you would be more interested in looking at what you've done rather than just spend most of your time clicking the notification window off all the time.

If you win an oscar every time your in a film the shear act of winning one becomes irrelevant. With so much going on you don't have time to enjoy it. I played to level 10 and had 7 or 8 titles, which for a character that low was kind of nuts.
 
If you win an oscar every time your in a film the shear act of winning one becomes irrelevant. With so much going on you don't have time to enjoy it.

I disagree, Oakstout. I thought the ToK fell flat, but I liked the achievement popups part of it. I even liked the stupid title ones since that's something you can use later (more is better).

I would say that the ability to turn-off the achievement pop-ups (or some of them) would be welcome to some players. A player (like yourself) should be able to turn it off if they find it annoying.

Now, what I thought was lackluster is when I clicked on the pop-up and a page that cluttered up my whole screen showed up with a bunch of information that I may one day (in the far future) look up. It's OK once you start browsing it, but also kinda pointless.
 
"This is sheer hubris on your part. "I feel this way so everyone does." Unless you have some data to back up the statement, I simply can't believe you..."

Tobold is 100% correct on this one. Of course he is using hyperbole to make his point; however, very few players care about lore. He's been playing MMOs for quite a while, as have I. I know personal anecdote/experience is not the most convincing evidence, but out of the probably 1000 people I have been guilded with over the years, maybe 4 or 5 actually followed the lore closely.

Tobold and I usually don't see eye to eye. But I have to go with him on this one. I don't hate WAR. I really wanted it to be an awesome DAOC-done-right.

On a separate tangent...

WAR's public quests are a really fun twist on the standard questing system. I'm not a PVE guy, but I actually found most of them fairly engaging. That said, public quests will cause WAR serious problems in days to come. Eventually the game will age, low level zones will thin out, and all these really cool, really important, public quests will be impossible to complete without the help of higher level players. Now that I think about it, I wonder if that also borks the reward system.

You thought general chat in WoW was bad with all the lvl 10s begging for VC/WC runs? Wait until the noobs feel like they need to complete all those low level things because their 'Knowledge Book' makes it look important.
 
This sounds quite similar to the badges, souvenirs and personal info views in City of Heroes/Villains, although only a few of the badges will give you rewards or xp in CoX.
And it sounds like to get your titles more often in Warhammer Online.
 
Count me as one of the three.

The lore stories are my favorite part of the tome. I loved reading that sort of thing in the old manuals for Warhammer, and I love reading it in this online game. I especially love that I can read it at my own pace and in my own time, rather than having to rush through it and miss some things because other people are tapping their feet and wanting to get on with things.
 
I'm unsure if many people have played the TCG Magic: the Gathering, but I would like to use it as a comparison.

I see Lore in MMOs as the Flavour Text and artwork in Magic.

Could anyone imagine Magic without Flavour Text/Artwork?

I think in the months to come people will think the same about the Tome of Knowledge. Without it the game would just not be the same!
 
Also, i'm number two of three!!
 
Lore is also one of my favorite things. Some of my funnest times in WoW have been completing great lore quest lines like the "Hero of the Maghar" line in Nagrand.

Interest in the Warcraft lore is the main thing that drew me to play WoW in the first place.
 
"Tobold is 100% correct on this one. Of course he is using hyperbole to make his point; however, very few players care about lore. He's been playing MMOs for quite a while, as have I. I know personal anecdote/experience is not the most convincing evidence, but out of the probably 1000 people I have been guilded with over the years, maybe 4 or 5 actually followed the lore closely."

Well, I'd wager I've been playing MMOs as long as you have and probably longer, but I don't see the duration of our gaming history as relevant to the topic at hand.

So if lore is as irrelevant as you and Tobold claim it is, why do developers pay for licenses for Warhammer or Lord of the Rings? Why do they hire writers to develop mythologies for original games? Why not just have floating icons that you click on that say "Kill ten level x enemy units" and be done with it?

I figure there's at least some kind of audience research done before these multi-million projects get underway, and the lore must be important to enough people to deem it worth investing in.

And although in the 1000 people you've guilded with only 4 or 5 were interested in the lore, there are more than that many in the comments to this post.

I'm not saying you're wrong. I'm challenging Tobold to back up his claims with some kind of data beyond 'because he says so.'

I don't have any direct data, either. I do have the indirect data that the developers of all these games invest substantial amounts of money in creating or implementing lore, so they're either incredibly stupid, or they DO have data to back up their decision to invest those resources.
 
Here is some data for you. (Or something like it lol) 8 of my friends are on WAR. 7 of them read the lore. I am not one of them. I tend to RvR and in between I'm chatting with my friends who are either reading something they just unlocked or are working on a unlocking something.

There are all kinds of players and they tend to gravitate toward each other. The one thing me and my friends have in Common is that we view MMO's as an over elaborate chat room. Sure we do the things the game provides us with but we generally go our own ways but spend a good 50% of out time chatting about stuff. We did the same thing in WoW but ran out of things to do.

WAR gives us new things to do. Every body has different motivations. WAR tries to cover those basses to keep the players interested. If they keep them interested they make more money. Because lets face it, the game was not made for us. It was made to interest us in hopes to generate money. Just like every other game that sells well does.

Personally I enjoy the game very much. I know there are people who don't think the game is all that great. I have friends who don't think it's all that great. I'm fine with that. I like the game so I don't let them sway me from what I believe. I look forward to what every one says because the sharing of information is what makes sites like this great. Just remember to not take things personally and that no one is trying to convert you.
 
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