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BioWare Mythic
MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 09/18/08)  | Pub:Electronic Arts
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WAR: Early Impressions of 1.2 - Map, Groups and Rally Calls

MMORPG.com Managing Editor Jon Wood reports on three of the most visible features of yesterday's Update 1.2 for Mythic's Warhammer Online, the new map features, the grouping tool and the rally call system.

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Last night, I gathered a number of my friends and logged into Warhammer Online not only to check out the new Live Event, but also to see the practical application of those pages and pages of patch notes that bombarded us when we first heard about patch 1.2. In this article, I wanted to share some of my early experiences with the new event, and of course, the new patch.

As it turns out, a great big pile of patch notes would seem to directly relate to the length of time that it takes to download a patch. Yeah, I know, that falls into the “wow, this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about” category of stupid and obvious things to say. I only note this because up until now, I can’t remember ever really waiting any length of time for a patch to apply with this game. This time, I spent 20-30 minutes waiting to be able to play. Not to worry though, that wasn’t even enough time to go through the condensed patch notes on the game’s launcher. That being said though, a half an hour isn’t really that long relative to most MMOs, I just thought that it was something worth noting.

Once I was finished patching and logged into the game, there were a couple of changes that struck me almost instantly and prompted me to write this report for you all today.

The Map

I’ve always thought that the map was one of the aspects of WAR that needed a good overhaul. As it was, it felt like a very static thing that more or less just sat there. It always seemed to provide just enough information (beyond the obvious location of things) to make you want more.

Before update 1.2, the map showed location, who owned what capturable points on the map, and the locations of important points that you had already discovered. Occasionally it would tell you where PvP battles were being held and where attacks were taking place, though many felt this system to be somewhat inaccurate as one would often arrive at a battle site to find it abandoned and empty. Also, in order to see what was going on in a neighbouring zone, you had to travel there manually to look at the map.

Let’s start with the capturable points. To keep it simple, we’ll concentrate for now on battlefield objectives. I was pleased logging in last night to find that the battlefield objectives on your map now come equipped with timers that let you know how long it will be before a given objective becomes attackable. This little feature has a couple of practical benefits. First, the obvious: you now know when an objective is attackable. Second, this can lead to more fights over objectives. If both sides know when any given point is attackable, there is more likely to be a skirmish at that time in that area. It’s just another one of those little touches that Mythic has put in to try to make RvR a little bit more interesting, accessible and fast-paced.

Moving on, I can not say enough good things about the ability to see maps other than the one that you’re currently standing in. How often have I been in, for example, Tier Two empire / chaos lands, running around in Ostland and wanting to know what battles or objectives were open in Troll Country. Previously, I had to run to the edge of the zone and pull up my map to get the information. It was annoying and unnecessarily time consuming. Now, I know whether or not to waste my time running all the way over there.

The battle markers seemed to me to be just a little bit more accurate last night as well, though I honestly can’t confirm that. I will say this though… I didn’t run toward any battle markers last night and find them empty.

Now, to address the issue of public quests being marked on the map before they’re discovered. This is either one of those features you’re going to love because it’s convenient, or hate because it flies in the face of traditional exploration… no more, no less.

The last thing that I wanted to say about the maps is that they have changed the group member indicator from a grey block to a nice looking green orb. It doesn’t have any direct game influence, but aesthetically, it is a huge improvement.

My overall assessment: Good work Mythic. This was something that desperately needed an overhaul and I’m glad to see that it got one.

The Group Tool

When WAR launched, it did so with a pretty nifty feature: the open group finder. You see, one of the more charming elements of Warhammer Online, at least for me, has been how easy it is to group up with other people. I’m not one for chatting in an MMO, and I’ve never liked aimlessly yelling out in general chat that I’m LFG. It’s just not my style. WAR allowed me to roam into an area, click on a little icon below my character’s portrait and see a list of nearby groups that were marked as open.

After 1.2, the system remains, but it’s been given a bit of an overhaul. Visually, it now has the look of a much more serious system. Instead of being placed below the portrait (why on earth it was there in the first place, I’ll never know), it now appears on the menu bar. That’s not all though, they’ve also added some new functionality to it that lets you search worldwide for groups doing specific things. If you’re looking for an RvR group, for instance, you can find those. A new Manage button allows you easy access to party options and the spiffy new visual design presents the whole thing as a much more serious feature.

Now, the number one thing that makes me happy about the new and improved group tool is the simple fact that it can now be accessed when you’re already in a group or warband. Previously, if you wanted to, for example, find out if there was a warband trawling around in the RvR lakes, you would have to leave your group to access the feature. It was a hassle and frustrated me to no end. I couldn’t be happier at the change.

Overall assessment: It’s an improvement. That being said, I am still a little bit unclear about how the “world” tab actually functions. It’s a bit confusing and might keep some players from using it. Overall though, it’s a good change.

Rally Call

When you first log in, you’re bound to notice a new button lining your mini-map. It looks a lot like the orange button you would use to sign up for a scenario, but it’s blue and labelled as the Rally Call button.

Here’s what the patch notes had to say about the new system:

We are introducing the new Rally Call system. At various intervals, players will be called to join the battle in the Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 RvR lakes. A button will appear near the mini-map, enabling willing participants to jump right into the action.

Basically, when a Rally Call is issued, you get an on-screen notification and the blue button lights up. Push the button and you’re automatically teleported to the appropriate warcamp. The idea is that this should provide easier access to RvR for those who want it.

I do, unfortunately, have a bit of a problem with this particular feature and it’s the fact that it just isn’t well explained. Logging in and finding the button, I immediately moused over it and was told that: “When a Rally Call is issued, click here to be sent to the battle.” While that gave me an idea of what to do, it left me with more questions. Specifically, how does a Rally Call get issued, why does it happen? Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an answer to that question in-game and even going to the patch notes, as you can see above, didn’t give me an answer beyond “at various intervals”.

This is a complaint that I find comes up fairly often when I’m playing Warhammer. For all of its user-friendliness, and otherwise well implemented features (the Rally Call, when I answered one, was great and resulted in some pretty hefty battles. Exactly what it was intended for), Warhammer often leaves me (and I assume others) scratching my head about how exactly something works. I have a similar complaint about the new scenario that has been added for this live event, but that’s a story for another time.

Overall assessment: A fun feature that could use just a touch more explanation.

Final Thoughts

I realize that this isn’t a complete overview of the changes brought about in the 1.2 update, but for the couple of hours that I spent in-game last night, they were the most noticeable changes. As I continue to experience the content, I hope to be able to comment on balance changes, career changes, the Zone Control system and more.

Still though, if my first experience with WAR 1.2 is any indication, Mythic has put some real noticeable time and effort into correcting some of the issues in the game and making it an overall better experience for the players. If you haven’t already, I’d suggest you log in and check it out.

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