Yesterday, Mythic Entertainment launched their first Live Event for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. With Halloween only a day away, it seemed like a logical time to bring out an event for players to enjoy. Titled, “The Witching Night”, the event sees the addition of new monsters in the form of ghosts, witches and other holiday-themed goodness, but perhaps more importantly is the addition of special public quests crafted especially for the occasion.
The new PQs aren’t your standard three stage wonders, scattered across the realm. These PQs pit realm against realm and are located in four RvR lakes (one for each Tier) spread across the racial pairings. These new quests would seem to be serving a double purpose for Mythic. First, and probably most obviously, they provide players with something new and exciting to do within the Live Event.
The second purpose of the new PQs would seem to address an issue that many players have been bringing up since launch: empty RvR lakes. For whatever reason, RvR lakes simply haven’t taken off (at least from my experience in the first two tiers of play) the way that they were intended as a focal point for players. We could spend an entire article discussing the hows and whys of the problem, and so for now let us simply say that a problem existed. It is a problem that Mythic has addressed recently by increasing the amount of experience earned for kills within the zone, a move specifically designed to entice more people to participate in the game’s open RvR.
By placing these PQs inside of the RvR lakes, Mythic is able to encourage players to take another look at the areas, and at least draw them in for a short time. The hope, I believe, is that players will “come for the PQ, but stay for the slaughter”, meaning that while they may enter the zone looking to participate in the PQ, Mythic hopes that they will stick around after the PQ has ended and engage in standard RvR activities like Keep Sieges, Battlefield Objectives and general PvP mayhem.
In my opinion, using a holiday themed live event in this way is a positively brilliant move. Encouraging players to participate in an important aspect of the game by offering them bigger experience rewards is one thing, and is completely valid, but nothing quite compares to bringing them in with something new and exciting that actually works into the structure of the game.
Here’s the question: Will it work?
Yesterday, I logged in at various points in the day to see for myself. I should say here, before I go into my impressions of the event, that I am currently running three tier 2 characters, all on the Ulthuan server, so my opinions from this point forward are heavily based on the Troll Country PQ on that particular server.
Each time that I logged in to experience the Live Event PQs yesterday, I noticed not just a slight surge in the number of players in the zone, but a huge surge. Each time, I used the group finder to join a large warband and jumped into the fray. Win or lose, I found that once it was over, there was almost always at least a splinter of the large warband that wanted to go and take Battlefield Objectives or try to grab a Keep. This kept the action in between PQs (which was a longer period than your average PQ) hot and heavy as a move by either side toward any kind of objective resulted in the other side moving to stop them and some pretty intense RvR experiences following.
In the end, in terms of what I saw as far as the increased numbers in the RvR zones went, I would have the call the PQ part of the event a success. It met the first criteria: it entertained me, and it met the second criteria: it drew me in as a player who rarely finds reason to jump into the RvR lakes. That being said, I don’t know if we’re going to see any kind of lasting effect once the PQs are gone. I think that part of what keeps people out of the areas to begin with is the general empty feeling of them, the feeling that you could end up traversing a pretty hefty distance and find no reward, either in terms of entertainment or in terms of in-game reward. So long as the PQs are there, you can be reasonably assured that there will be enemies to fight and probably allies along the way. It gives you reason and drive to poke your head in and leave the scenarios behind for a little while.
My suggestion to the team at Mythic would be that if they saw the same kind of increase that I saw, they should institute a permanent or semi-permanent (maybe bi-weekly, or two or three nights a week) PQ in RvR lakes. I’m not saying that everyone would stick around once the novelty wore off, but at least there would be something to draw me in, and more importantly something that made me feel like other players would be drawn in without my having to pull teeth in the chat channel to try to get a group together for a BO or Keep Siege.
Now, lest everyone think that I felt that the event PQs were nothing but smiles and sunshine, I am going to spend a little bit of time talking about some of the issues that I experienced and some ways that they could be improved:
Unclear PQ boundaries: The Troll Crossing PQ suffered from one glaring weakness: It didn’t encompass the entire RvR lake. The Troll Crossing RvR lake is actually a part of a larger RvR lake encompassing two zones: Ostland and Troll Crossing. Unfortunately, the PQ extends only through a part of Troll Crossing. The result was that on one side of an invisible wall, the PQ was active. On the other side of the invisible wall, the PQ wasn’t active. This problem was compounded by the fact that Destruction’s primary spawn location was located in Ostland, just outside of the border of Troll Country. The result was that you had a line of Order players sitting on the border, while the Desto players would sit on their side until someone from Order got antsy and rushed, taking the combat outside of the PQ area, frustrating everyone in the process. It really did take a lot of the fun out of it.
My suggestion: Just extend the PQ (which was basically first side to kill 100 enemies wins) to the entire RvR lake. Problem solved and you’d probably find that there wasn’t quite so much of a zerg smashing zerg thing happening either.
Needed Communication Improvements: I don’t know how many times during my play sessions yesterday that I felt like the communication tools provided just weren’t enough to facilitate the kind of gameplay that was happening. There’s always confusion and no one wants to take their hands off of their attacks long enough to write one or two words, let alone suggest tactics.
My suggestion: In-game voice hosting could be a plus for this game. Vivox has recently reported that their service often gets 70%+ use in some of the games that have integrated their technology recently (EQII, SWG, EQ) so this seems like a possibility, at least for some. I think that the game could also benefit from some kind of shorthand command system; fall back, charge, left flank, right flank… that kind of thing. If you’ve played Battlefield 2142, you know what I’m talking about.
Scenario Issues: Earlier on in the day and into the evening, logging into a scenario or even moving from zone to zone was a complete nightmare, taking an intolerably long time. That being said, I think that they had the issue resolved by late last night as I had no problems after midnight Atlantic time.
My Suggestion: This kind of thing often happens with a patch. There’s an unexpected problem and it gets resolved. It looks like that was the case here.
In the end, I think that this has been a pretty successful event both in terms of player enjoyment and in terms of giving Mythic something to learn from. My guess is that the dev team behind this game will be spending a good deal of time analyzing the hits and misses of their first live event to a) make sure that they can improve upon them next time and b) see what they can take away from the event and somehow work into improving the game in general.