Wednesday, March 04, 2009

How to Dominate a Zone in Warhammer Online

With the release of patch 1.2 yesterday came the new Zone Domination system for Tier 4 RvR areas. As a supplement to my previous post about How to Lock a Zone in Warhammer Online, I present my summary of how this new system works...

First off, I find Mythic's mention of 'points' in the domination system is kind of misleading. There really is no accumulation of domination points. You can't save points for later nor can you gain multiple points from one objective. It's more of a binary system. You either dominate a zone or you don't. To dominate a zone, you have to have full control of ALL objectives and keeps in that zone. To gain full control of a keep, it has to be under your realm's control, and claimed by a guild for two hours straight. To gain full control of an objective, it has to be controlled by your realm for 30 minutes straight.

In short, to lock a zone via domination, everything in the zone needs to be controlled by your realm, and all the timers displayed on the map need to finish counting down. If an objective is under your realm control and has no timer, then you don't need to worry about (aside from stopping your foes from taking it from you). If a keep is under your realm control and has no timer, first off, check to make sure that it is claimed by a guild. If it is, then everything is great. If it's not claimed, then you need to get a guild to claim it ASAP if you're trying to lock the zone via domination.

Allowing the other side to take an objective adds a minimum of 45 minutes before you can lock the zone via domination (15 minutes until you can retake the objective, and then you have to control it for another 30 after that). Allowing a keep to fall adds a 2-hour minimum wait (not including the time needed to retake the keep) before the zone can be dominated and locked.

So if you're going for a domination lock, acquiring, claiming and holding the keeps is of primary importance. Objectives are more fluid and you don't have to stress out too much if they get taken while the keep countdown is still going. But, once the lowest keep timer gets to under an hour, you will want to capture all the objectives and keep them out of the hands of the other realm. This usually equates to stationing a few people at each Objective to slow down attackers and to also send out a timely warning. You'll also need a decent sized group at a central location that can respond to these attacks in a swift and brutal manner.

On the other side of the coin, to stop a zone domination, all you really have to do is take a single objective every once in a while. The difficulty comes when the opposing realm has enough bodies to follow the tactics outlined in the previous paragraph. You either need a warband that has enough force to quickly overwhelm an Objective and then hold off attackers for the three minutes it takes to capture the flag, or you will need multiple coordinated strikes and feints so that your foes aren't able to respond quickly and effectively enough to interrupt the captures.

Also, one very important thing to remember is that Zone Domination is not the only way to lock a zone. The previous system is still in place (IE, accumulate ~97 victory points). Zone Domination is simply an alternate method of locking a zone, and you can work on both paths at the same time. Zone Domination will likely have a larger effect on servers with severe population imbalances and off-peak times on all servers.

Warhammer Online: Patch 1.2 First Impressions

Here are some random thoughts from my 4 hour play session, of which ~90% of that time was in the RvR areas.

Seems like load times for zoning have decreased. My lag was about the same as usual. I didn't have any of the crashes that a lot of players were complaining about last night.

The Twisting Tower scenario is interesting, though it does seem overly laggy. Also, I'm really tired of the whole pie-throwing gags, especially in scenarios. We don't need extra distractions in the middle of a pitched battle. Add in achievements for accomplishing the goals in the scenario rather than throwing pies! I also had WAR lock up on me in the middle on the new scenario as the eye 'cleansed the tower'.

Being able to see everyone in your warband on the mini-map and full-size map is pretty sweet. And the graphic dot used to denote the position of other players in your warband is very distinctive and readily stands out on the maps. I can finally tell where everyone is with a quick glance at the map! Certainly you can say that this is something that should have been in on release, but at least they've polished it up at the same time they fixed whatever issues were causing players to not show up.

Not much comment about crafting, as I don't really do any in WAR. I do have a low-level cultivator and was happy to see seeds available on the guild quartermaster. It was also exciting to occasionally get dye ingredients. I haven't read up on the details, but I thought I would be able to get seeds back when harvesting, which so far, hasn't happened. Perhaps my skill level is too low?

The new RvR domination system is interesting. It definitely spiced up the RvR last night. I think we've had a total of 5-6 zone flips since the patch (probably more by now). I haven't yet decided whether the constant zone flipping will be a good thing or a bad thing in the long run. Previously, I always felt a strong sense of accomplishment when we locked a zone. And I still felt that last night (especially after expending a lot of energy to defend numerous assaults on Objectives we had locked down), but I wonder how quickly that will pass.

Some RvR zones have now have a contested PQ. We completed it a couple of times in Black Crag as we passed, simply by killing the dwarf slayer guarding the flag. Not sure if something different happens when you keep your hero alive instead. It also wasn't clearly explained that you pick up your reward in a chest off to the side of the warcamp. If someone in our group hadn't known, we probably would have missed it entirely.

Things are a bit different in PvP now. I'm still working on figuring out how I want to setup my tactics since a lot of abilities have changed. And I'll need to respec my mastery points sometime soon, as one of the mastery tactics I had previously purchased is now a 2-hander buff (I use a one-hander and shield). I ran the Da Biggest shout pretty much all night. Not sure if anyone in my group noticed the additional buffs they were getting. And despite knowing beforehand that melee DPS would be able to enter the postern doors of enemy keeps, it completely slipped my mind in the heat of battle and I was very surprised to have several White Lions charging up the ramparts! I look forward to seeing how this plays out in the future. It did seem overly easy for them to simply run through the patrolling guards and get to a spot that was safe from the NPCs. I think there should be several guards stationed inside of every postern so that they have to fight to get inside rather than simply Flee their way in.

Crowd control is still out of hand. I spend over half of any large-scale fight either disabled, knocked down, disarmed or rooted. It's especially bad for melee as roots effectively bring your contribution to the battle to 0. Burst damage also seems to be pretty crazy at the moment. I started thinking about equipping the wounds and/or toughness tactic for most of my tactic sets. I'm also hoping that will start seeing some small class tweak patches over the next few weeks.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Small and Independent Gaming Links - Part III

Time for another installment of links and minor commentary on a variety of small and independent games.

First off, we'll start with a couple of purchasable games. Both of the following games have downloadable demos available.

Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble - This is an odd sort of game. Kind of an unholy union of Clue and the Choose Your Own Adventure books. You control a gang of girls in a 1920s high school who set out to solve mysteries at their school and around town. You move to various locations, choose which girl from your gang will interact with the other characters, and through a series of lies, taunts, exposing of secrets and other such pettiness (all resolved through a series of mini-games) you'll discover the sordid side of this small town. It costs $20 for the full version, but you can download a demo that will let you play for about a half hour or so and give you a good overview of what the game will be like. It has a very interesting aesthetic look and feel to it, and I found the demo engaging.

Venture Arctic - I think the best way to describe this game would be as an environmental Populous. You play god over a small section of arctic wilderness, encouraging the creatures to breed and eat via altering their area through placement of food, encouraging births, warming and cooling the ground, and sometimes even direct intervention. The big issue is balance. Even though some animals are predators and some are simply grazing herd animals, there needs to be food for everyone, and not an overabundance of any one type. I found that the micro-management required was a bit much for me, but then again, maybe if I was a proper force of nature, that wouldn't have been the case. I also disliked the direct intervention part of the game. You can make specific, individual creatures pregnant or sick, and you can also place new creatures directly. I think this genre would be better served by instead giving you more generic tools to encourage growth or migrations. But aside from that quibble, all in all, I found this is an interesting game. It's cartoony aspect would probably also make it fun for kids. The demo lets you play for 30 minutes. The full game costs $20.

Now onto the free games! These are all flash-based and can be played in any modern browser.

Grow - Interesting little animated, puzzle game. You select from a series of pieces that fire off a particular animation. But, what happens with each piece depends on what pieces have gone before and which ones get placed after it. Sometimes they will interact with other pieces in new and interesting ways. You have to figure out what the right order is to place them in, basing your guesses on the animation results. That's about the best I can describe it. Anyway, it's free, and there are actually a number of different variations to play. Definitely worth checking out, though if you're having trouble with a certain puzzle, it can get annoying to have to sit through the same animations over and over.

Mastermind - Become an Evil Genius and take over the world! Send your minions out to rob, steal and kidnap while building up your base, researching superpowers and managing a coffee shop as a front! I find the interface a little awkward and cramped, but for a free browser-based game, its a fun little distraction. And who doesn't love being evil every once in a while!?

Majesty of Colors - Odd little mood-evoking game that puts you in control of a colossal, underwater, Lovecraftian creature and gives you choices of how you want to interact with various humans and other things that come into your domain. The game doesn't last very long, but it does have multiple endings to explore based on how you choose to respond. It's all drive by the mouse. No keyboard interaction. Worth taking a few minutes to look at.

The Space Game - This is a tower defense type game set in space. You start off with a single station and need to assign miners to gather minerals from nearby asteroids, set up turrets to take care of incoming pirates and upgrade your base and other components to be stronger and more efficient. Fun little game. It's flash-based, free and has a number of levels specifically designed for people to try and get high scores on.

Sagrario's Room Escape - This game is in the traditional, click-on-the-picture format. You're tasked with figuring out how to escape a room with seemingly no exits. You have to look at and interact with the few items that are in the room to solve the puzzle. The interface takes a little getting used to, and sometimes the clue is simply clicking on the appropriate two pixel square on the screen, which can be annoying sometimes (for example, opening the briefcase on the first room). Another important bit which I probably wouldn't have figured out without reading some hints, is that you can sometimes view items in your inventory, then use other items from your inventory on them. That wasn't really an intuitive interface interaction for me. I also had a lot of trouble figuring out how to correctly spin the dial on the safe. This is an interesting puzzle game with potential, but the interface flaws really kill it for me. Might be more fun for someone who is more in sync with the author's thought patterns than I am.

And I'll close this post off with two links are good spots to go look for other Indie games that might interest you.

Indie Games Blog - This is a very active blog (at least one post a day), giving short reviews and links to a wide variety of small, indie games.

2009 IGF Finalists - These guys always have some interesting games to bring to the public eye. This link goes to the page listing their finalists for their 2009 awards.

And there you have it. Several distractions to keep you from doing any real work!