Waging WAR: The new RvR... Are we there yet?

Greg Waller
G. Waller|10.09.10

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Waging WAR: The new RvR... Are we there yet?
This past week was an exciting week for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning as the new RvR systems were released for testing on the public test realm of Warpstone. Greg took part in both the Wednesday night and Friday afternoon sessions, and writes about his experiences and impressions in this week's Waging WAR.

When Mythic said that testing would begin in October, I don't think anyone expected to get his hands on the new changes to the RvR system so soon. Wednesday night was the first focused test, and I made it a point to take part. I also took part in the European-friendly session scheduled for Friday afternoon. Both events took place in the Tier 3 (Chaos vs. Empire) pairing across the zones of High Pass and Talabecland. There are certain issues that I feel are important enough to discuss regarding the way the new battlefield dynamics will bring about a golden age for melee careers, but this week, I want to focus on the RvR itself. Things have well and truly been shaken up, and this fresh experience is going to take some serious adjustment for veteran players as well as newcomers to the game.

Continue along after the break for more discussion on the topic.

A huge paradigm shift is going to be a prerequisite for everyone taking part going forward, or else the new RvR, with all of its potential, could fall flat on its face due to complaints from overly vocal players who refuse to open their minds to new tactics and playstyles. Although the new format insists that it will "disperse the zerg," the zerg will in fact live on for those who are too stubborn to accept change and in the hearts and minds of those who take the "dispersal" to be an absolute disbanding.

For the first group, faults with the new campaign style will be visualized and vocalized by those former leaders who have relied on reactive strategies for their successes in the past. Without bending to a new playstyle and reaching for a more proactive approach, these old-fashioned leaders will inevitably argue against the new system going forward and will be the most vocal regarding changes to a system that they perceive to be rife with bad design choices. They're likely to complain about inherent faults in the landscape itself, protesting that one side or another has geographic advantage. All the while, they'll refuse to actually analyze the battlefield objectively and look for new opportunities in a war that is far more dynamic than anything they've grown accustomed to. They'll be looking at the zone with the mindset of a leader who wants to use overwhelming numbers and turtle-strategies to win -- seeing objectives and resource carriers as singular foci, rather than a collection of separate and potentially devastating opportunities.

This is one of the first and most major problems that I noticed. I honestly don't think people were "getting it." During both sessions, the Mythic Ventrilo was used to call out blob rally points and movements. I don't think I ever once heard a warband leader attempt to split his group and multi-task. For almost the full three hours of the second session, I found myself not only the sole defender at one of the objectives, but also ridiculed in region chat for criticizing an entire warband for leaving an objective undefended. Surely they could have afforded a single party to stay behind and defend the Manor from being taken by the only attackers to ever attempt an assault -- a black orc and a choppa. Am I the only person out there who "gets it?" Perhaps I'm the only one out there who doesn't get it at all. Although I can't help but to recall the words "disperse the zerg" over and over in my head after having seen Carrie and Andy's podcast.

The second group -- made up of those who see the end of the mob-mentality to mean that their solo, superhero fantasies for world domination will finally be attainable, despite their ever-hated zerg nemesis -- will also find themselves utterly defeated by players who understand that although the new system intends to disperse blobs, it still focuses a large part of its design based on group cohesion, cooperation, and coordination. These unfortunate, would-be megalomaniacs will still find themselves constantly crushed underfoot by groups that, while being much smaller than a full warband, will still feel like a zerg, in terms of the overwhelming numbers that they face. As a result, these players are also likely to cry out against the new RvR. More than likely, they'll do one of three things: state firmly that nothing has changed at all and that superior numbers still reign supreme; find fault with the small size of the RvR lakes; or grumble about changes to the keeps, since that is where they'll spend most of their time after being respawned.

As a solo defender at the objectives -- and not by choice, mind you, as I would have been much happier to have been a part of a 6-man team -- I found myself fighting either an entire mob of players or a single attacker attempting to "ninja" an objective. The number of times I found myself facing small squads is countable on one hand. To me, the dynamics of inter-cooperation between smaller groups on a dynamic playfield have been completely missed so far by the guilds and players who participated. For them, the opportunities for new leadership styles are completely overlooked, and it is a crying shame.

For everyone else, there's mastercraft. The new system, in my humble opinion, is a mixture of genius and subtlety. In the real-estate business, there's a saying: "Location, location, location." And in this new RvR, business is booming for players willing to accept the new mechanics with open arms. With proactive leadership, groups will better understand how to take advantage of the Against All Odds mechanic introduced with patch 1.3.6. However, the onus will be on those groups that form with the intention of being cohesive squads. They'll focus on the same guerilla tactics and resource harassment techniques that were so successful during the first focused play-test (the Manor was flipped back and forth several times during the evening by a small strike team determined to harass Order resources). Those willing to take the new design seriously will also start to understand that being in a small, focused, organized group will trump the reactive mobs every time.

I believe this will be true for realms outnumbered 2:1 or even more. If Mythic is able to stay true to its vision of the new RvR, smaller-elite squads will stand to prevail over the sluggish, predictable zergs.

And this is what I struggled with the most. I think the entire community will have to adopt a stronger affection for the "buddy system" mentality that I believe will dominate in the playfields of the future. I found it very difficult to find my group during both sessions, as we (the "randoms") were left to our own devices outside of the larger, pre-organized warbands. It seemed as though the urgency of the battles that were taking place quite literally everywhere were still promoting a mindless mob mentality. Confusion and lack of direction were the predominant norm, and forces were scattered like balls on a pool table after a good break. Those players who are able to play well with smaller parties that stick together will find the new RvR to be an exhilarating experience. The rise of the elite roaming squads is upon us.

There is one more focused test scheduled for Tuesday, October 12th, at 8 p.m. EDT, and I encourage everyone who plays the game to come out and give the new RvR mechanic a whirl. I'm even going to go so far as to recommend to anyone even slightly interested to take advantage of the new Re-Enlisters campaign and get into the game, if only to get onto the Public Test Server next week without any obligation. Bring your 6-man elite parties and prove me wrong.

On one final note, I have to apologize for this week's screenshots. Normally I play with a much higher resolution, but in the scramble to switch sides halfway through the second event, I forgot to reset my screen settings -- since the configurator doesn't seem to want to remember them, and just uses the default desktop resolution instead.

Anyway, until next week, leave a comment and tell me how you really feel.
Every Saturday afternoon, Waging WAR hits the cover of Massively with the latest and greatest in all things Warhammer Online. From patch news to career reviews, Greg Waller writes about it all. Email comments and questions to greg@massively.com.
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