Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Improving RvR in Warhammer Online

Mark Jacobs made a big announcement yesterday about Mythic's plans to focus on changing and fixing the RvR portion of Warhammer Online. It sounds like their brains are moving in the right direction, but I think there needs to be some significant changes to RvR in WAR aside from simply adding in an influence system.

Below are some various thoughts and ideas I've had about Open RvR and Keep Sieges in particular. And no, this article doesn't discuss the maligned contribution system and the gold bag rewards. I really don't care so much about the items. Having fun is my focus when I play. This post will also not touch on any issues regarding scenarios.

Note: My babbling below comes from playing up to level 31 on an active server, participating in a handful of Tier 4 battles and sieges as well as too numerous to count fights in Tiers 1-3.

Second Note: Most of this was written long before the announcement from Mythic linked above. But this information did prompt me to finish up this post.


Lets start this off with some talk about Open RvR. Open RvR is combat in the RvR areas, usually centered around Battlefield Objectives or pushing the opposing side back into their warcamp.

One of the big issues with Open RvR is simply the large, empty spaces. Coupled with scattered objectives, awkward terrain (such as thousand foot high cliffs), and lack of anything else to do, makes it very easy to march in, capture the area and then march back out without ever seeing an enemy player.

Another issue is the lack of purpose regarding Battlefield Objectives. Aside from the experience and renown gain when capturing them, these spots really serve no strategic or tactical use. Give each side a reason for controlling these spots.

BOs should provide some advantage to RvR in the local area. The buffs from the guard captains at BOs can be nice (aside from the fact that the easiest BOs to get to always seem to have the merchant buff!), but give us something interesting and useful. Maybe a long-range siege battery that if controlled by your side, can be commanded to drop AoE catapult-type attacks on either the keep or the besieging force.

Or how about Bugman's Brewery in Blakfire Pass or the Tavern in Tabelecland? If Order controls this spot, then the NPCs in the BOs and keep in this zone have plenty of beer to drink and thus are emboldened to fight harder. Something small, but meaningful like making them do more damage. BOs could provide also provide a discount to owning a nearby keep. For each BO owned by your side near the keep, upkeep costs for claiming that keep are reduced by 5%.

Here are some other thoughts and ideas about Open RvR in general.

  • Markers on the world map are not up to date. There have been a number of times where I've traveled to a land where I saw the enemy held a keep, only to find when I arrived that the keep had already been taken by my side.

  • Keeps under attack should have better grading of how much of an attack is occuring. One player wandering by and getting one hit in on a guard is treated the same way as an assault by four warbands with siege equipment as far as the indicators are concerned.

  • On a related note, the cryers in warcamps should speak up whenever ANY keep is under attack. Along with slightly varying messages, such as "The outer door has been breached by our foes at Gnol Baraz!"

  • Battlefield objectives should have a little marker on the zone map indicating whether or not they are available to be captured. It sucks to spend time running to an objective only to find that you can't even try to capture it yet.

  • There needs to be more points of interest in the RvR areas. Something else to fight over besides the one to four focus points that are currently there. (Just one example.)

  • Ability to bind in a Warcamp. Making it difficult to get to the RvR areas was not a good decision. Why do I have to bind in a PvE area? (note: This was just added recently but since it was already in my list of things to improve, I figured I would leave it in for future reference)
  • More Contested PQs. There seem to be only a handful of these, and they are awkwardly placed so that one side has a clear advantage to accessing them. Contested PQs should be everywhere. Give us a reason to engage in PvP outside of the RvR zones

  • Add in more NPC patrols to the RvR area when one side controls all the objectives. And not just around the fort, but between the BOs as well.

  • NPC 'scouts' that shout out warnings about enemy warbands. If they see more than XX number of enemy players, they make a zone-wide shout announcing their presence and where the enemies are located. So, in order to move through the area without drawing attention, you would want small, scout-killing parties out in front of your main force that can dispatch the scouts without causing them to raise a zone-wide alarm.


There are numerous problems and bugs related to keep sieges. The biggest defensive issue is getting to the keep before its taken. A full, prepared warband can tear down the outer doors in the time it takes me to recall to the nearest warcamp and run to the fort. The problem for attackers is the lack of options and strategy. Basically, there is only one. Bash down the doors, charge up the one ramp and kill the lord. There really is no strategy involved. And if there are player defenders, the ONLY way to succeed is to have them heavily outnumbered.

Step 1: The Initial Siege

First off, someone really needs to very carefully go through every single siege pad in and around every single keep and check their LOS, as well as actual visibility (ie what the player can see). Their are numerous places where siege engines have no LOS to other siege engines, or, they are out of range. A catapult placed on a siege pad should never be useless. I should be able to see and target all the enemy siege pads.

Secondly, move the guards back from the doors. Having them run in and out constantly getting in single hits is extremely annoying and just plain dumb. Or better yet, keep them from runing through the doors altogether. And on a similar note, increase the leash range for the guards and patrols. Too often I see them rubberband back and forth because they decide to attack a healer who is out of their leash range.

Next up, you need to stop the ability for defending players to run inside through a gauntlet of foes. If a player is in combat, they shouldn't be able to go in through the doors at all. This will give the attacking players incentive to defend the postern doors, and it will also provide incentive for those inside to make a sally outside in order to secure that door for their reinforcements. Getting in and out of the keep should be about control, not about who has the most lag-free connection.

Add in some interesting siege options such as the Orcapult (Greenskin special catapult that Black Orcs can use to try and launch themselves onto the walls. Sometimes they miss with disastrous results.) Allow the option to seize the gatehouse from the inside and open the gates (put a lever in the gatehouse with a long interaction time that can be used to open the gates).

Along with these changes to give more options to the attackers, you need to help out the defenders as well. The main issue I've found when defending keeps is simply that by the time I recalled to a warcamp and ran out to the keep that was under attack, the outer doors would already be down. So give the gates some more health and make it more resistant to spells and bleeds (in fact, I think that doors should be immune to all sorts of things, but that's another issue).

Also, put some NPC archers up on the walls! What kind of shoddy keep defense has noone on the walls!?

Step 2: Inside the Outer Walls

For Tier three keeps and up, we really need to some more points of interest inside the first keep walls. You have all of this area inside the walls that is virtually useless and generally ignored. The only points of interest are the gates, the walls and the postern doors. Much too narrowly focused.

Having such a single, narrow focal point throughout the entire keep assault really makes things boring. Here are a few random ideas that popped in my head.

1) A Barracks with a hero-level guard captain. If the attacking players don't go and kill this captain, he periodically spawns a full group of guards that head for the front door. Not enough to seriously hamper a sizable warband, but enough to be annoying and provide another point of conflict in the fight for the inner keep. Attackers have a reason to kill him, while defenders have a reason to defend him.

2) Magical teleporter - This provides another way for defending players to get inside aside from the postern door and also a way for the defenders to sally from an unexpected spot. Attackers will obviously want to destroy this.

3) Add-in the ability to break down a postern door. These are doors after all. However, they are generally small and placed in awkward attack locations so that a ram cant be used. However, if the attacking players want to try and beat it down with their swords, that should be an option. Inside the postern door should be a narrow, easily defended hallway. Not the best solution for storming a keep, but something to add another layer of potential strategy and tactics.

Step 3: The Final Assault

Once inside the keep, things really get ugly when you have defenders (and are simply boring when you don't). Trying to crowd up a single-narrow staircase that opens directly onto a tiny room with more narrow stairs up to the third floor is just annoying. In particular, a heavy mass of players combined with the decreased room for camera angles makes this fight not much fun. Make the room bigger and make the Lord and his guards move faster if you're worried about players kiting them.

Make the inside of the keeps interesting. Currently they are extremely plain.

Turrets and whatever else attacking through walls, floors an ceilings is a pretty awful bug. This really needs to be fixed ASAP. These bugs seem to result in lots of extra lag as well.

One of the worst things about the Lord room is the fact that the Lord and his bodyguards reset when they reach the top of the stairs. And where is the first place they make a beeline for when they get low on health? That's right, the top of the stairs. The easy (and sensible) solution is to just make it so that they don't try to run at all. They should stay and fight to the death once engaged.

The inside of keeps definitely need some love. Multiple stairs, larger interiors, hallways and passages to fight over. One room down, one room up is so boring and uninteresting. The rooms themselves should be larger to start with. Give us some room to maneuver and engage our foes rather than having everyone pile up into one big mass.

Step 4: The Aftermath

Killing a Keep Lord is a bit of a letdown after the crazy combat of an all-out assault. Insta-spawn guards and keep lords are boring. Have the new troops spawn slightly outside the keep and march inside, taking their assigned spots.

I understand that supposedly, keeps NPCs do upgrade after a while when a guild claims a keep and holds onto it for extended periods. However, I have never seen evidence of this in-game, nor have I seen any official info about this feature from Mythic. It sounds good in practice, but given the fact that a keep can go from completely safe to dead Keep Lord in 20 minutes, makes it pretty much impossible to ever maintain a claimed keep on servers with active, balanced populations (and even on those servers a late hours raid could easily make short work of any NPC defense).

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