Monday, May 24, 2010

Warhammer Online: Rank and VILE!

Something that interests me in Warhammer Online is the multiple ways to level the character. You not only have a main "rank" (your level in most other MMO's), but you have the RR or Renown Rank, and Influence.
Influence is not too important to your character as it just tracks progress through the TIER system. In PvE, influence is gained by completing Chapters of stories in the Public Quest system. The RvR Influence is by completing Tiers in Open RvR (you gain no influence for Scenarios...or not enough to really care about).
You get some ok gear, but that is about all the Influence meter offers (that I know of...anyone want to enlighten me on this?)

So, my two focuses have been Renown and standard Rank.

Now, here is an example of how my character looks in the "rankings" system (on the Realm War system from Mythic, which allows you to track characters, not unlike the Armory for WoW).

Note my RANK and then you see RENOWN.

This post is all about that smaller number...the Renown. Renown basically tracks your "PvP" level. The higher it is, the more you have PvP'd (RvR) and of course, you have gear to show for those levels, as some of the best stuff is Renown gear.

This past weekend I racked up an amazing 18 hours of gameplay working on this Renown (if not all became a blur on my 7th siege of a keep). All of that gameplay consisted of one type of RvR; the Open RvR (ORvR).

Awesome you say?

Well, the fact that I was at the end of RENOWN 20 when I not so awesome. I basically gained a level and two 18 hours of play.

The true definition of grind...THAT is Vile.

ORvR consists of several measures to gain Renown points (RR). You take Battle Objectives (BO) and Keeps. The keeps can garner the most points, as not only will you take the keep, but will be in combat with a lot of the opposite faction. You can also defend keeps, but only gain major points in either style of gameplay by winning.
Order was definitely on the short end of the stick the whole weekend. Destruction could field two or even three Warbands of 24 players each...while Order had...One.

Now, mind you, this is Tier 3. This tier has been known to bring grown men to tears, and as such, most players head to the Land of the Dead (LoTD) (this all has been discussed in my previous post) to quick level to Tier 4, where balance is somewhat restored. But, during this time, you gain no Renown, as LoTD is PvE, which goes towards standard Rank.

Another way I could gain this RR faster is through Scenarios. But, thanks to the new patch this weekend, it seems Scenarios were NOT going off. I was able to compete in TWO Scenarios the whole weekend.

And do not start me on population issues.

But, back to the difference between the Renown Rank and the standard Rank.
How competitive can a player be if that Renown rank has not increased when they enter Tier 4? And why is it that the main style of play that is the most enjoyable is so unforgivable to the player who wishes to PvP.


To play what I want though, I must endure hours of long, hard work to stay competitive, and that may be an issue going forward.
I have mentioned many a time that I am strictly a "Casual" player. But, WAR seems to need more than I can offer it. 18 hours is just a little to much, no matter how much fun I had. Definitely adds up to cause home issues, that I do not need.
When I saw my Xfire times (a good reason to use Xfire, so I can babysit myself), and had played as many hours as I work a full time job, I was dumbstruck.

Warhammer is extremely fun, but is turning into a job more than an enjoyment...and that may have consequences down the road.

This week, I plan to pull back that focus on the RR, and instead play some PvE with my wife, and maybe some scenarios if we can get them. The wife had already seen the effects of ORvR, and lost taste for it pretty fast. She loves the PvP, but the "siege" style system of takeovers and major battles were not for her. I understand, as for her to even like PvP to begin with is major, as she truly hates it in other MMO's. The fact she is willing to do some Scenarios is great.

Time is ticking, and I am unsure if I can reach max level (let alone crank up that RR), so, I may have to go back to "enjoying" WAR and not working a second job for the Empire.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Warhammer Online: Wrong Server? I choose you...

I have been pretty quiet here as I have been playing like a loon in Warhammer Online. The game really has me captivated, and I enjoy the RvR. Being I am NOT a PvP'er, this has really become a major change of pace.

But, there comes a time in every game where you find out (especially being new to the game) that you made a bad decision.

That Decision? Choosing the wrong server.

Of course, at the time I started, the game was bustling. Numbers were up compared to previous months (even the last year). I had no issues getting into groups, and RvR was prevalent and meaningful.

Several things happened. Billing errors, down times and other concerns like websites being sued, etc. all bringing down populations.

Then I also hit Tier 3.

I am currently on the Iron Rock server. To get an idea of population there, head to Warhammer Census. Though not a perfect tool, it DOES show an alarming difference between Iron Rock and the other servers that are active. To be precise, the most active is Badlands. In the tier I am in, there is almost double the number of players on Badlands than on Iron Rock.
The Tier 3 Scenario's (SC) and Open RvR (ORvR) have been slim pickings for me. I can never get an SC to pop when I play in T3 (but, this is of course me not playing in Prime Time either). If I can play evenings, I join Warbands. But, they are never quite full. When that happens, Destruction comes through and steam rolls those teams when Order attempts to take over a keep.

This had been noted by many players of the game about the Tier 2 and 3 doldrums, but I did not think it would hit such a wall. They lured me in with the super fun PvP, and then finally took it away from me at that next to final tier. When I am playing, if I do not mix up PvE with RvR, then WAR becomes a major drag.  All PvE = snooze fest.

Now, it has been told to me through the forums that I should move on, grind PvE and get out of T3 as fast as possible through the last content update WAR had, Land of the Dead (LoTD). But, as I said, PvE could get boring. LoTD luckily is more fun than standard PvE due to so many areas to fight in, dangerous mobs to contend with and a neat looking zone to boot. But, this also leads to a gear discrepancy when I do hit T4. But, I can hide in RvR lakes, and hope I can muster some Renown levels to get my RvR score up and get the gear.

I am at a crossroads. I do not have much longer before I take a break from WAR and head to Age of Conan. Mythic offers no character transfers for new I sit stuck on Iron Rock. I could start anew on Badlands...but that then puts me back to square one again.

Do I take it on the chin and just muddle through until time is up, or do I have another avenue I do not see here?


Friday, May 14, 2010

Things the NPD MMO poll wanted to tell us..but we're afraid to ask.

Big ole title, for some big ole fun.

Recently released, Massively has the info on a poll by the NPD group. Basically the poll is a piece of a larger puzzle of MMO players and their likes (or dislikes). You can check the info here [SOURCE].

The poll is very specific and toward a certain group of players. As noted, the poll is called "What former World of Warcraft Players are Currently Playing". The sample size is rated at 19,000 players. This makes me wonder just how many were polled that were FORMER players (is that 1%, 10%, of actual size of former, etc.), and many other numbers come to mind. We at least know 68% were Male and the age group.

But, there is a lot that is not noted in the article, and I wish to help YOU, my informed readers know what the poll is REALLY telling us (than just what this select group is playing NOW).
  • A Large group were once Final Fantasy XI players (thus the reasoning for the title being so high on the list, as most will go back to what they are familiar with)
  • The noted need for something else to be either CHEAP or FREE (Runescape, Guild Wars, DDO, Toontown)
  • A large number of boys like their Super Heroes (Both Champions Online and City of Heroes/Villains make showings on that list)
  • EvE ranks lower on this list, and helps with the debate I constantly have that Sci-Fi just does not rank highly for MMO players, and Fantasy is king (SWG is at the bottom there...but that is more likely a case of a bad game)
  • Why is Everquest 2 not on there at all? (either it is usually these players skew older (search Google for "average age of everquest 2 player" get 31+), or no one really likes the game like some want to believe)
  • Maybe PvP does NOT sit well with MMO players, like many wish to believe? (Aion, WAR, EVE and DAoC ranking so low)
  • Dangit people...upgrade your COMPUTERS already... Calculators and Toasters do not good PC's make (Runescape, GW, Second Life, Treasure Hunt, Toontown and more)
  • These players are easily entertained with Cartoony Games (playing WoW, Disney Toontown, Champions, Pirates of the Caribbean, Treasure Hunt)
  • A dedicated group of players want some naughtiness to their game (Second Life and AoC having high showings)
I may have missed some, but these are the main points I pulled from this report. Do you have any specific data YOU can pull from this report? Let me know.

PS: This is still part of the fun of analytics, and as such, this is truly in jest...but, you gotta admit, there is a lot there that makes sense. So...enjoy and comment away.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gaming the Xfire - Latest Update

Wow. What a weekend. Major disturbances in the force of the charts really made me feel that we needed a post to discuss the latest movers and shakers on the Xfire charts.

I will be referencing an article I did at the end of March, thanks to a press release from Cryptic and their newest MMO, Star Trek Online - STO (SOURCE). The data was sound, and we had something to base some numbers off of. The Xfire charts hit a home run, and calculated almost precisely the number of subs STO had, compared to the statement by Cryptic.
As I make notes and do the calcs, just refer to the previous article if you have any questions in how it relates.

The reason I wanted to do the new numbers is that starting this week is, of course, the Age of Conan expansion launch; Rise of the Godslayer. I think this will have a major impact on a lot of MMO's. And as you will see, it really made some adjustments. This will also allow us to see how people are feeling about the new expansion, and how subs "could" be affected.
As well, several other news tidbits made some changes to sub counts. For example, STO had a free return for old subs and introduced a new free trial.
Warhammer Online had another blow struck against it as well, thanks to a set of court papers being filed by Games Workshop against the fan site Warhammer Alliance.GW really has nothing to do with Mythic and WAR, but it is the same IP. The issue is that so many think it DOES relate to WAR and EA/Mythic...and thus, we see what the outcome is of this latest wound. Watch them bleed...

Lets start with some OTHER surprises first.

Lord of the Rings Online
This was really interesting. Especially seeing that Codemasters was offering a "Free Return Weekend". But, it looks like other games are in the spotlight and took the stage away from this critical darling and fan favorite.

Calcs show that subs dropped a bit.  1518 x 120.05 = 182,235 subs. Previously LOTRO had 213,689. This is a considerable drop. I will keep track of this, and see if it is ongoing or just a fluke. For now, looks like age is catching up to LOTRO.

Another interesting change here. Now, mind you, Aion is STILL a top 10 game, so it does not affect it too much. But, it is also a bit of a drop.

If we do the Calcs, we get - 3662 x 120.05 = 439,623 subs. Last check we had 463,873.
Again, a sizable change. But, I also know that some numbers will be down. Why? HELLO, summer on the way, warm weather. We are bound to see these types of lower numbers. But, it is still interesting.

Age of Conan
Not so surprising. But, I am assured that Funcom has to be one happy camper right now. The numbers continue to rise. Lets take a look.

Very nice. 994 x120.05 = 119, 329 subs. This not only is above the previous articles numbers (81,274), but as well, I did a post discussing the rise May 3rd, and they had roughly 110k players (War of the Failures).
If Funcom can launch Rise of the Godslayer tomorrow, and not have any MAJOR concerns, they could be the comeback kid of 2010.

Warhammer Online
While Funcom may be the "Comeback Kid", WAR and Mythic are the kid being bullied on every corner. Talk about several weeks of pain for these guys. And this past week culminating in another hit with the Games Workshop court order against WHA (Warhammer Alliance), it looks like things are growing worse. Talk about being put on "life support".

These are actually some of the worse numbers for WAR since I started watching Xfire several years ago with Age of Conan's launch. 535 x 120.05 = 64,226. That is a drop from the previous article (74,551) and as well from last weeks post (War of the Failures, calc'd at 70k).
All I can say is if the new patch does not hit by at least next week, servers will be critically empty. Since I am still playing, I saw a weekend of a low number of scenario's being done and as well, we started some alts in the Elf region, and was able to flip the whole zone in Tier 1 to Order with just the 3 of us. Yes, 3 people took a whole zone....
Here is a prayer for ya WAR...I hardly knew ye'

Dungeons & Dragons Online
Well, this could only last so long. We see a minor drop in numbers here.

The calcs say 766 x 120.05 = 91,958. Not too bad. But, last post had DDO at 111,647. So it looks like interest is waning a bit. But, there is no doubt that Turbine still has to be enjoying some great cash flow off this title. Those kinda stats are not anything to laugh about. And having two games doing decent numbers probably doesn't hurt either.

Star Trek Online
Give something away and they will come. Free time for old subs, new free trial...all adding up to a small rise in numbers.

Mind you, this is NOT a rise from my last post, but a rise from what happened after the first 30 days. STO had fallen to close to 200 to 300 players and was in the low #100's and had even fallen at one point into the low #200's on the charts.
Todays calcs put them at 527 x 120.05 = 63,266. And as we can even see on the charting, it was at #92 previously, but shot up to #88. I expect this to rise a little bit more. But, overall, STO did not do well, and that is too bad. It looks gorgeous thanks to screenshots from @Longasc (on Twitter), but must be missing some appeal to a majority of MMO players.

Like I said, this was quite a bit of a change for a lot of titles. Not sure what is up yet, and as the summer progresses, I expect more drops. But, some titles I think are hurting (WAR, STO), but we may see a return on Age of Conan. I wish them luck tomorrow.

Ok, thats it for this week. Watch my Twitter account if you want more info.


Monday, May 3, 2010

War of the Failures

Lately I have come to the realization that two of the biggest failures of 2008 are now two of my all time favorite games.

Age of Conan and Warhammer Online.

But, a battle royale is coming next week between these two newer generation MMO's. Age of Conan will be releasing their new expansion, Rise of the Godslayer. May 11th to be precise. Why does this create a field of war, when these two games are not so much like each other?

Originally both games were heavily PvP oriented. But, Warhammer took a different approach by making it all about the large open Realm vs Realm combat. Age of Conan went for a guild based "siege" mechanic (I do not want to argue semantics here either. We all know WAR has sieging, but AoC definitely does not have factional PvP...yet.) and one on one dueling. WAR had scenarios and AoC had CTF style arena based 6vs6 style combat.

Age of Conan took a different direction eventually in late 2009, focusing more on a gear grind based PvE system, but still having PvP. Just, it seems to me that PvP really has no "purpose" when you kill for the sake of killing. WAR though has always focused on a "sides" based system. When a particular "faction" has won the day, rewards for all in that "faction" or realm was included. Age of Conan is the every man for himself or his guild fight. WAR is for Order or Destruction being in control.

Differences abound, but the similarities of these two games could not be more adequate.

These games were truly failures of their time.

Both games were hyped beyond compare from their respective game directors, and were not quite up to what was stated about them. Both games opened to acclaim by many and sold as man copies as to try and compete with that powerhouse known as WoW. Both though slowly degraded and were denigrated for many broken systems they had in place.

Eventually the mighty two toppled to where today they each struggle to keep themselves alive.

But, a sea change is on the horizon for one game. Age of Conan  has started to gain a larger following. Reviewers of games and many a blog have touted the games turn around. Sales of the expansion have been brisk. And as noted on Xfire, growth is hitting the game before the expansion launch.
Recent numbers show Age of Conan at roughly about 908 players on Xfire. In a previous post from last month, ( The Xfire Game ), AoC was at 677 players. This is important, as using the calc system I discuss in that post, Age of Conan is hitting around 110k players / subs per month. (As I must always note, these estimates are part of a game, using the Xfire tracking system, and are not 100% accurate, but do give a good glimpse of popularity).

WAR had made progress as well with the game, but continues to live with setbacks. Servers were closed overseas. A Large billing fiasco made Mythic the brunt of bad news. And finally a most recent newsletter makes mention of a mechanic that has not existed in the game since launch, having Order and Destruction characters on the same server...which has led to speculation of more server merges.
Using the same Xfire gaming system for sub counts, we also see what effect this news is having on Warhammer Online. The previous count (from March 29th) had WAR at roughly 621 players. This converts to about 75k subs. The game is now hitting 590 Xfire players, or around 70k subs. (Note, this number is interesting, as many a quote has suggested that roughly this many were affected by the billing fiasco...but, that is speculation. I may discuss that more on Twitter later).
Seeing I am playing WAR, I can also feel the difference from when I launched to now. Less Scenarios opening up, less full ORvR groups...basically a feeling of more emptiness.

My thoughts are that when Rise of the Godlsayer launches, that even though WAR and AoC have been neck and neck on will start a larger tumble for WAR. The number of players will fall, and unless something drastic happens soon, WAR could see an end to it's glorious rebound.

What are your thoughts? Leave me a comment. I will be opening wide the comment floodgates today as well, so feel free to "express yourself".