Wheeeeeeeeee! – Warhammer takes us on a new trip down the RMT Slippery Slope

Take me on a trip, on your magic swirling ship, EA!

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning proudly introduces an all new service for our players; Account Entitlements! These services are available now for purchase from the EA store and include the following features offered at special introductory prices:

* Server Transfer – $19.99 USD, this will grant you a code that can be redeemed for one server transfer for a single character.
* Starter Mount Pack – $8.99 USD, all characters on an account will receive a deed to obtain a mount usable at level 2 giving players a 25% speed boost and have a 100% chance to dismount upon damage.
* Trusty Mount Pack – $9.99 USD, all characters on an account will receive a deed to obtain your choice of a new mount usable at level 20 giving players mounts of up to 60% speed boost and have a 55% chance to dismount upon damage
* Trinkets of the World Pack – $4.99 USD, all characters on an account will receive two tokens to spend at the new Trophy Vendor in the capital cities. Each token can be used to purchase one of 14 different trophies.
* Specialized Training Pack – $9.99 USD, all characters on an account will recieve one War Tract that will allow them to immediately advance one full level when used
* Herald Pet Pack – $9.99 USD, all characters on an account will be granted adoption papers to the Snotling Herald vanity pet. This pet will follow you around and give you a boost!

We have, sadly, mostly become desensitised to paying for mounts, and Warhammer Online’s $9.99 for your entire account is actually a bargain compared with other games. However, the ability to just flat-out buy levels is a new one to me in a big-brand subscription MMO.

It perhaps matters more in WAR, because it is a game centered around competition with other players. When you create a perception that people can buy their way to power, you reduce how much people care about the result, and so you end up reducing the hunger for victory that keeps people playing games such as this.

Implicit in the decision to offer levels for sale is an admission: that the journey to max level is an odious chore to be avoided, not something you might do simply because it is fun. If that’s true, I can think of another way to avoid the odious chore, and it is MUCH cheaper. More seriously, if the developers really feel that being able to skip levelling is something that players need to be able to enjoy the game, then it should not be something they have to pay extra for, and should be a system that people can access through normal gameplay, similar to how Age of Conan allows you to skip levels.

For it to be acceptable to sell someone a subscription to a game with large unenjoyable portions, and then sell the ability to skip those parts for additional money, is not a business model that would lead to better games. Instead it would encourage the deliberate insertion of tedium in order to then charge to remove it.

Join me next time, as we travel further down the RMT slippery slope! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Update:

Our next stop down the slippery slope has arrived sooner than I expected!

Update to the update. The seed of doubt as to exactly what the progression pack is has entered my mind, and I’m uncomfortable being too forceful when I don’t have all the facts, so I’ve taken the original update down. The progression pack may be some sort of mini-expansion, rather than an account entitlement. I’ll see if I can get a better idea of it’s exact nature. The description here certainly sounds like it boosts renown gain, and so far as I can tell from the patch notes, this is all the progression pack does.

RvR™ Packs
Timed to coincide with the release of 1.4.0 are two new booster packs that are available for digital download from the EA Store.
These packs are broken down into the Progression Pack and the Personality Pack.

The Progression Pack gives players an opportunity to advance through the Renown Ranks faster and advance their character up to Renown Rank 100! This includes access to all bonuses, items, and rewards that are gated by the expanded Renown Ranks.

The Personality Pack offers a variety of items to personalize a character. Included in this pack are several vanity pets (in a choice of 4 colors), new heavy mounts (in a choice of 3 colors), access to barber surgeon tokens to allow characters to change their look, and access to new and unique dyes on the dyemasters.

They certainly *sound* just like the other account entitlements. The cosmetic one doesn’t much bother me at this point down the slope, but the progression pack is messing with renown. The very substance which shows how much, and how well, you have fought for your Realm.

Update, 5th of November:

We now know, thanks to this release, that the progression pack is like the account entitlements. I had been unsure as to whether there was any content in it that might allow it to be considered an expansion, but it appears not, unless you count the equipment that the extra 20 renown ranks will allow you to access. It will cost $10, or $15 if bought with the “Personality Pack”.

Progression Pack

Characters with the progression pack will advance through the Renown Ranks at an accelerated rate, allowing them to get up to the new Renown Ranks quicker than ever! Note: This passive bonus applies to Renown Ranks 1-80.

Purchasing the RvR pack will allow all characters on your account to progress all the way to Renown Rank 100 and be able to enjoy all the rewards that come with those added levels.

Characters will have access to all new Renown gear and Item Sets as they progress through Renown Ranks 81-100. This includes two new Split sets of Armor with unique looks and bonuses available at Renown Rank 90 and 100.

Characters will have access to three new sets of Scenario Weapons as they progress through Renown Ranks 81-100. These weapons are available at Renown Ranks 81, 90, and 100.

Personality Pack

Want to change up your look? The new Barber Surgeon in game requires tokens that are available to owners of the Personality pack only. You will get four tokens to completely change your facial customization options.

With the purchase of the personality pack, all characters on the account will receive four new vanity pets in their choice of four different colors. Order characters on the account will receive the Two-Headed Hound, the Drake, the Ugly Hound, and the Hawk. Destruction characters on the account will receive the Two-Headed Hound, the Drake, the Iron Hawk, and the Jester.

With the purchase of the personality pack, all characters on the account will receive a high end heavy mount in their choice of three colors. These mounts are useable at Renown Rank 60 and provide a 70% speed bonus with a 45% chance of dismount.

Want to dye your armor to be different? The personality pack also provides all characters on the account access to use new dyes on the dye-masters that are new and unique. Stand out from the crowd!

Someone who wants to be competitive in RvR is pretty much going to need to buy the Progression pack, or see his friends and foes outpace him.

Warhammer Online: GOA’s European servers to be transferred to Mythic

From today’s European Warhammer Herald:

Today we announce that GOA will cease publishing, operating and subscription services for Warhammer® Online: Age of Reckoning® (WAR) in Europe and transition the operation of the game to Mythic Entertainment.

We have enjoyed a lot of great times with you. Over the past couple of years we have fostered a fantastically vibrant and active community; we saw the world’s first Tchar’Zanek and Karl Franz kills pre 1.3.5 and hosted undeniably some of the most professional guilds to ever play WAR.

Over the next few weeks we will be working very closely with the Mythic Team to ensure you all get settled as smoothly as possible. We wish to assure you that all characters, guilds and account information will be migrated to Mythic servers and will be available to present and past players.

We will share more information on next steps, together with a FAQ, in the coming days.

Few who played on the European servers for Warhammer or Dark Age of Camelot will miss GOA terribly much, although we did get to miss the multiple billing debacle that plagued Mythic customers a few months back.

If the GOA servers are moved to sit alongside the current Mythic ones, that does present additional future opportunities for server mergers, when necessary. That may be the driving force behind this move, though relations between Mythic and GOA have reportedly been strained for a while, with DaoC already having been repatriated to Mythic earlier this year.

I’m somewhat concerned as to what this might mean for the localised servers, as I think GOA was responsible for the translated builds. It is important that US MMO companies make sure that European players do not feel they are treated worse than US players, but with the modern internet it’s not really all that necessary to have the servers physically located in Europe. It was good of Mythic to at least try to give us equal service, by employing GOA, even if it did not always work out quite as well as hoped. Hopefully that positive attitude will continue as our servers and accounts are relocated.

Games Workshop moves to shut down Warhammer Alliance

Warhammer Alliance has been serving the needs of the Warhammer Online community pretty much since the game was announced. In an astounding move today, Games Workshop has filed a lawsuit against Warhammer Alliance demanding it hand the site over to GW, and pay damages. Curiously they’re also insisting on a trial by jury, in the US state of Maryland, which is likely to be inconvenient for the defendants, and makes the whole business much more expensive.

There are some obvious flaws in the lawsuit. It claims that the domain was registered in 2009 with the intent of cybersquatting, but a whois check clearly shows that the domain was registered in 2004. Not to mention that I know the site is older than 2009 because I’ve been posting there a hell of a lot longer than that. It is a provably false claim.

In this post Mark Jacobs, producer of Warhammer Online, laid out why there would be no official forums. Oh, and he posted it ON WARHAMMER ALLIANCE. IN 2008.:

That’s why I don’t want to have official forums. Whether it was SOE, Blizzard or us, official or semi-official forums are exactly like I described above for every successful MMORPG that I have played or watched from afar (and that is *most* of them). The unsuccessful ones were even worse. The problem is that most people who read the boards are looking for information and a reasonable number of people want to cause trouble, “grief” the forums or simply get their jollies by saying and doing things that they wouldn’t do in real life. As usual, a small percentage of people make life more difficult for everyone else. Back when games had hundreds of people playing, well, no big deal. We ban those guys and life returns to normal. With millions of subs for WoW and hopefully lots and lots for WAR, well, it becomes much more complicated, difficult and soul-sucking for the devs and the community people. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what Sanya and I had to go through (and she had it worse since she is a woman and that brought out the worst in some people) in the early days of DAoC. How she and other community managers put up with the kind of name calling, insults, vulgarity, profanity without losing their minds is amazing.

So there were no official forums. Instead, fan-based ones were intended to fill the gap, and this was encouraged by Mythic, who got all the benefits of a forum without having to pay to host or staff it. Warhammer Alliance ended up being the main one of these, being used by the developers to interact with players. Games Workshop is SHOCKED that a forum for Warhammer Online might mention Warhammer in its name. If mentioning the name of the game that you are about is indictable, then just about every game-specific website is in a whole lot of trouble. Will they go after Warhammer Vault, or Warhammer Stratics? The Warhammer Online wikia? They all carry at least as many adverts as Warhammer Alliance.

Last year, in an about turn, Mythic decided it wanted to have official forums after all, but that clearly does not suddenly cause existing forums to retroactively become inappropriate.

It has been a couple of decades since I stopped liking Games Workshop terribly much. They used to be a nice little independent gaming company here in the UK that railed against the unfair practises of the big guys, such as TSR (remember them?). It didn’t take too much success before they became “the man”, and realised how high they could push their prices (I used to pay 50 pence for 3 lead miniatures), but this lawsuit is outrageous, even for them.

It is unclear at this time as to whether Warhammer Alliance will dispute the claim. Given the potentially crippling costs of defending this suit, I would not blame them for just backing down, even though it would be another victory for bullying corporations. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t be certain of the lawsuit’s legal merits, but it is certainly a disastrous bit of public relations.

The full text of the lawsuit is after the jump. The legalese will make your head spin, or at any rate it set mine into a whirl, but it is worth a read.:

Continue reading Games Workshop moves to shut down Warhammer Alliance

Mythic announces compensation packages.

A couple of weeks ago, many players of Mythic’s games found themselves billed multiple times, in some cases racking up hundreds of dollars worth of payments. Needless to say, they were not best pleased.

Today the Executive Producer of DAOC and WAR released letters of apology, and detailed the compensation that players will receive.

The DAOC letter.

The WAR letter.

The letters are the same until you get to the bottom, and the game specific compensation. The shared portion of the letters is as follows:

Hello everyone,

Two weeks ago, a serious event occurred which resulted in the unintended billing of some of our customers. For this and any difficulties the event caused, we are truly sorry and today we wish to explain what happened, and to make a renewed commitment to your trust and security. We have taken this very seriously. In our 15 year history, trust has been the foundation of our relationship with the gaming community and we intend to rebuild that trust.

Between March 18 and April 7, our payment gateway, experienced a processing flaw that was beyond the scope of our control. Instead of being submitted for processing once, some transactions were submitted multiple times, resulting in some people being charged multiple times. On April 8, we determined what had happened and acted with urgency to arrange for bulk reversal of all erroneous charges. The majority of players saw the refund within 2-3 business days. Some banks did not post refunds until a few days later, a delay that was contingent on the banking institution. We worked quickly to inform affected players of the situation and understand the frustration this waiting period may have caused.

As a result of this event, we significantly increased customer service staffing who have been working with all impacted subscribers to waive any overdraft fees. The majority of the banks have waived these fees as they recognize the unusual nature of this event. In the rare cases that the banks have not reversed the charges, EA is covering the fee.

Once the corrective action was completed, we turned our attention to analyzing the problem in more detail. We determined the root cause, developed a definitive fix and implemented monitoring precautions that will allow us to prevent similar situations from reoccurring. These steps have been in place since April 13 with no further issues.

To be clear, at no point during this event was there a security breach or was subscriber account information compromised.

For both games players will receive double xp, renown, realm points, or bounty points (as appropriate for each game) for the next 2 weeks. Each character you have will receive two tokens that they will be able to redeem for in game items. This will apply to all players, not just the ones affected by the billing issue.

For Warhammer Online the choices will be:

* Bottomless Chaos Black Dye
* Bottomless Skull White Dye
* Imperial Griffon Mount (Order)
* Enslaved Manticore Mount (Destruction)
* WAR Tract – earn a free level
* Choose from any of these pets – Order: Imperial Hunting Hound or Dwarf Keg Handler; Destruction: Warlord’s Fell Hound or the Goblin Bar-Back.
* Change your appearance with any of these illusion items: Skaven Skin Cloak (skaven), Kossar’s Helm (bear), or the Signet of the Cursed Company (skeleton)

For Dark Age of Camelot they’re:

* Bottomless Black Dye
* Bottomless Crimson Dye (Albion), Hunter Green Dye (Hibernia), and Royal Blue Dye (Midgard)
* A selection of rare mounts: The Fire Steed, Clockwork Steed, and Storm Steed
* Choose from any of these pets – Clockwork Cat, a Mini-Dragon, and a pet of your realm.
* Vegas Round Table Trophy
* The Old Dragon Head Trophies of Smoldering Golestandt (Albion), Frozen Gjalpinulva (Midgard), and Glimmering Culldurach (Hibernia)

Some pretty awesome sounding goodies there. For folks who weren’t affected by the issue, it’ll be like Christmas day. I wonder though if those who were affected may have preferred some real world compensation for something that caused them very real world problems, or at least some game time. In-game rewards are only really much use to you if you didn’t stop playing as a result of having your bank account plundered. In the case of those who had more than $500 taken out of their account I’d suggest never billing them again, by giving them a lifetime subscription.

Interesting to note is that the Warhammer compensation items are recycled from other rewards schemes, or elsewhere in the game.:

* The Kossar’s Helm was from a code that came with Red Alert III.
* The Skaven Skin Cloak was a reward for attending Games Day 2008.
* The Signet of the Cursed Company was given to the 200 most active participants in the Road to War viral advertising campaign.
* The Imperial Hunting Hound, Warlord’s Fell Hound, Imperial Griffon Mount, and Enslaved Manticore Mount are rewards from the Recruit a Friend program.
* Dwarf Keg Handler and Goblin Bar-Back were rare drops during the Keg End event.

The “Creepy Gnome” is unmasked!

This is an old post from a couple of years ago, but I thought it might provide some small entertainment to newer readers.




There have been a number of incidents recently, in Argentina, involving a being known as a “Duende”. This has been badly translated for English media as “The Creepy Gnome”. In a number of appearances, including two caught on film, he has created hysteria wherever he goes. While he has yet to cause any physical injury, merely the sight of him is enough to force the taking of a SAN check, and not everyone has rolled well, with several people being hospitalised from fright.

Here it is in full menacing action.

It should be clear to any player of Warhammer Online that this is not a gnome at all.

Firstly, those young people were filled with terror, and gnomes, whilst being completely awesome in every way, are not known for their causing of terror, and they like it that way.

Secondly, no real gnome would be seen in a hat like that. It’s not a stereotype they want to reinforce.

No, I’m afraid it was clearly a Night Goblin, as I shall demonstrate in this painstakingly crafted side by side comparison:

The Creepy Gnome Is A Warhammer Night Goblin

Those young people should consider themselves lucky it was an unarmed night goblin with the urge to dance that came upon them, and not a witch elf, or a chaos chosen. Nevertheless, even a single night goblin can be dangerous to the untrained, so they were wise to flee.

Beware! Beware the Creepy Goblin!!!!

Warhammer Online Test Patch 1.3.0b : Massive AOE changes.

Massive changes to how AOE is treated in Warhammer Online hit the test server today. Across the board it is being reduced in range and damage, with great consequence for many classes. As an Engineer, I’m a bit concerned, but on the other hand I’ll probably stay alive a fair bit better, so until I can see these changes in action, it’ll be hard to reach too many conclusions. I hope Napalm is hasn’t been made completely useless.

Also, really? Strafing run, and Bugman’s Best were overpowered?

It would seem, that for all classes, the single target spec just got a whole lot more attractive

Warhammer Online’s 1.3.0b test patch notes continue after the leap.

Continue reading Warhammer Online Test Patch 1.3.0b : Massive AOE changes.

Warhammer Online’s Welcome Back Quests

As I mentioned in the post declaring my glorious return to the Warhammer battlefield, players coming back under the returning players scheme have access to some extra quests.

So far as I can tell, on the Order side we have three such quests, and I assume Destruction has analogues.

Welcome Back: Secrets of Battle

This quest starts with Gunther Kaltermeier in the palace in Altdorf. He will send you to speak to an NPC is a warcamp specific to your level range. Osgard was sent to Praag, which unfortunately for him is currently contested. The NPC, in this case a Griffon Warscout will send you to scout out the four battle objectives in the RvR zone. He will also offer you the Welcome Back: On the Battlefield quest.

The reward is a choice of talismans, and the War Crystal trophy

Welcome Back: On the Battlefield

Granted by an generic NPC in the Empire Warcamp suitable for your level, this fellow has managed to lose his sister somewhere in the RvR zone, and needs you to go find her. Gah.

Upon finding here, and returning to the quest giver, your reward is a choice of talismans, and the War Medal trophy.

Welcome Back: Pacification

Duncaen Olwyn is standing near the Flight Master in Altdorf. He will send you to scout a Public Quest area, once again appropriate to your level. Osgard got sent to check out the Reik River Bandits. No fighting is needed, as you only need to visit the area to advance the quest.

Head back to Altdorf, and your reward is the choice of yet another talisman, and the War Mug trophy.

So, what do all these fancy trophies look like?

Osgard showing off his Welcome Back reward trophies in Altdorf, in Warhammer Online.

From the left, that’s the War Crystal, War Medal, and finally the War Mug. I like the mug, and think I’ll make it part of my usual costume.

The welcome back quests are a good idea. Each had some gentle reminders about how to play, and mentioned any changes that might have occurred in the game systems while we were away.