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Mardin

Nostalgia Train: Shadowbane

By | Nostalgia Train | One Comment

Shadowbane is a strangely beautiful game that is both a story of success and failure. This MMO had a cult following and was the first in the genre that was truly a sandbox. Part of this freedom was by design, but the vast majority was due to the fact that Wolfpack Studios lacked the resources to create the rigid systems of the content we associate with these games. Essentially, Shadowbane was an empty canvas that the designers framed with a story and mechanics. Then the players were injected and given very little direction and restriction.

The legacy of the game is something that few game designers have embraced: Truly dynamic content in MMOs is player-driven. EVE Online may be the only other MMO to know and embrace this.

What was great about Shadowbane?

  • Player conflict was the only content in the game. There were no dungeons or quests to fill your time, in Shadowbane everything was about PvP.
  • Characters were classed based but had specific skills that could be ignored or augmented depending on what you wanted the character to do. There was a tremendous amount of variation that could be achieved.
  • Disciplines were extra-class abilities that could be tacked onto characters. Allowing for further customization and specialization.
  • Items and gear were powerful but easy to produce and replace, so unlike most MMOs itemization wasn’t the central driving force for character progression.
  • Planting, building and destroying cities was fun and well designed. There was an art form to creating a fortress for your guild to live out of and protect.
  • Ease of leveling and a de-emphasis on complex or difficult mobs allowed players to “roll” new character very quickly. This created an ever-changing landscape of group builds that was about bringing the right mix of tools to counter what your opponent was doing.
  • The tracking system accessed by several classes and disciplines allowed players to both avoid and find fights out in the open world. Skilled groups rarely bumbled into one another.

What was terrible about Shadowbane?

  • Shadowbane was terribly developed, managed and published.
  • Shadowbane was coded in Java… poorly.
  • sb.exe client crash, it happened so often it was almost funny.
  • The basic movement was point and click, which was clumsy and the pathing was truly the worst out of any MMO. It was by far one of the most frustrating aspects of the game.
  • The Defense statistic was broken and overpowered. While min/maxing most stats had an easy to access counter, this stat could be pumped so high it could make a character invulnerable to all but a few builds.
  • Classes, disciplines, and runes were often gated by race. Leaving some combinations to rarely or never be played.
  • Since the life cycle of the game was dependant on the population. Instead of being a persistent world, Shadowbane servers would have to be reset to reinvigorate players with a fresh start.

What do you remember?

Shadowbane was never a commercial success. It was amazing that it was able to squeeze out several years of existence with a player base that was smaller than a single World of Warcraft server. All that being true, it is still one of my favorite games in the genre because of the bold ideas behind player-driven content and a creative system of character progression. MWH remembers this game fondly.

What do you remember from your time in Shadowbane? or Who?

Nostalgia Train: Dark Age of Camelot

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Dark Age of Camelot is a game about three realms created from a hodgepodge of myths taken from Celtic, British and Norse cultures. Each realm had four races, but the number of classes varied between them; Albion began with 12, Hibernia with 11 and Midgard had the least selection with 9. While most of these classes had obvious roots that reached to Dungeons and Dragons, there was a great deal of variety and flavor. This was especially true for Midgard where each class was a more primal version of what had been seen in other games.

The single greatest impact DAoC had on the genre was the idea of separating the player base into factions. Now almost every new MMO release follows a similar model, which has had both positive and negative results.

What was great about Dark Age of Camelot?

  • The world was challenging enough that soloing was a poor option when compared to grouping with others. Group play in both player versus environment and player versus player was a strong point in DAoC
  • The world was just big enough for the target population. Unlike Everquest, there was enough to do to support four thousand players per server on launch.
  • Open Dungeons. Like Everquest, dungeons were not instanced and you could have multiple groups competing or cooperating through the content. This reached its peak with Darkness Falls multi-realm dungeon that added competition over the dungeon and then limited PvP inside the dungeon.
  • Crafting created better weapons and armor than anything else you could attain in the game. This made the player economy strong and the playing field pretty even in the end game. (I believe this change in a later expansion that was not well received.)
  • The skill point system allowed for a good variety of choices within each class.
  • The pvp battles were on a much larger scale than had been previously seen in MMOs. Entire zones were designed to give players the sandbox to battle it out on an epic scale.
  • Siege equipment was available for both the defending and attacking players in siege combat. It added another element beyond the character abilities in pvp.

What was terrible about Dark Age of Camelot?

  • Faction/Realm Imbalance. Midgard had was more population on almost every server after launch. This became worse as Midgard began to win and the losers jumped ship.
  • Class imbalance is almost a meme in Mark Jacobs designed games. There is almost always one class that is far and away more powerful than everything else in the field.
  • Lack of content over the life of the game. Dark Age relied way to heavily on the player base to provide variation of play to the game. Content updates were far and few between.
  • Pathing. Something that plagued many early MMOs, pathing was so hilariously bad for both mobs and player pets.
  • The user interface was counterintuitive and clumsy. It never really improved as the game was updated.
  • Much like EQ the experience grind in DAoC was pretty bad. There were a few levels that were difficult to get passed because of a lack of appropriate level mobs.
  • Quests were pretty bland, mostly kill and fetch quests with no real meat to them.

What do you remember?

DAoC was a strange game for me, it is the only major release that my guild did not enter into. I still have fond memories of running with a couple of friends and being able to pull off pretty epic victories against a larger number of players on more than one occasion. We did go Midgard of course! Dwarves Rule!

What do you remember from your time in DAoc? or Who?

Nostalgia Train: Everquest

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Everquest marked the beginning of the popularity of the genre. It by no means was the first MMO, but it was the first of these games to have a true three-dimensional environment. This innovation helped EQ outpace other MMOs in population to the point that many people are unaware that Meridian 59, The Realm, and Ultima Online came well before it. The virtual world of Norrath was no flash in the pan either. The game lasting over twenty years and the death of Sony Online Entertainment to maintain a very consistent player base.

What was great about EQ?

  • The world was brutal and challenging. Mobs were tough, even those of the same level and that difficulty became more steep as you progressed. Surviving combat meant you need other players, so grouping came naturally.
  • You could get absolutely lost. With no world map to hold your hand, some zones could be terrifying to traverse. This caused you to have to learn the different zones by heart, which was immersive. I remember large landmarks in other MMOs, but nothing in comparison to the detail that I retain about Everquest zones.
  • The “Ding” sound when you leveled was epic. Levels were difficult enough to achieve that it deserved the loud triumphant blast of noise. Players who never played EQ sometimes still say ding when they level.
  • Open Dungeons. Having to interact with other players while you crawled through a dungeon added a new layer of play that I took for granted until it was taken away by instancing. Being trained, competing for mobs and sometimes having to deal with openly hostile people could definitely been seen as negative, but it brought life to the game.
  • Itemization was simple. Items certainly made a difference, especially for warriors, but having a full set of gear did not make your character overtly powerful. This would be changed as the game evolved, but the simplicity was definitely one of the pluses for classic Everquest.
  • Quests were not click and go. Many quests required you reading everything an NPC said after a “Hail.” Often the bit of text to get the next step for a quest was hidden in something they said or gleaned from another NPC. It made you stop and focus on what you were doing and really become familiar with some of the story.
  • East Commons Tunnel. If you wanted a certain item in the game and you could never get it to drop, you could buy it. There was no auction house however, only other players. The tunnel between east commons and the nothern desert of ro was a nexus of foot traffic and it quickly became the recognized place to sell trinkets to other players.

What was terrible about EQ?

  • The game was unfinished. Many of the zones lacked a good range of mobs and camps to sustain leveling for players. Some dungeons were populated, but lacked itemization to attract players to them. Most problematic of all was the severe lack of mobs between levels 42 and 50 to level on, this created a bottle neck for players to cap out.
  • Balance. There were classes and races that were far more powerful than the others. It caused many players to abandoned their class and start over or to choose a race more suited to their play style rather than what they wanted to play.
  • Race/Class experience penalties. Some class or racial choices took as much as 40% more experience to level. This penalty would also factor in to group experience, so getting groups as a paladin, bard, ranger or shadow knight could sometimes be tricky.
  • Terrible Pathing. Some Mobs behaved strangely when running away or trying to pursue players. This often led to death when a mob suddenly fell through a floor or clipped through a wall bringing back all his friends from the depths of the dungeon when it returned.
  • NPCs healing through walls. Just like players NPCs could heal, unlike players they did not need to see their target to heal them. Fights that should have been simple turned into slogs or death when an unwanted do-gooder mobs bent the rules to win.
  • Friendly NPCs were sometimes the most dangerous. Have your attack or spell bound to a key? Accidentally press that key while turning in a quest or banking and you could be dead almost instantly. Some bankers could quad for 120s and the banks were littered with hapless victims.
  • The grind was painful. Leveling in EQ could sometimes be more work than your job. Especially in the hell levels. Levels 30, 35, 40, and 45 took three times the amount of experience to progress than the level before them. Most players would not be able to cap their characters for several months.

What do you remember?

Everquest was not my first MMO, but it was the game that sealed my love for the genre. It is a game that I revisit from time to time on progression servers or at Project 99 and unlike other old games, I always relive a bit of that first experience. Sure the graphics don’t really stand the test of time, and the game itself is clumsy compared to its descendants, but it has a substance that I cannot explain.

What do you remember from your time in EQ? or Who? When did you start playing and how old were you?

Team Anvil Update

By | DnD Campaign | No Comments

Hail, here is the second installment of our session updates for the Tuesday group. Again, I am slowly releasing these as we get our different groups in synchronization in the timeline. This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to hurtle over when running multiple groups under the same story arch.

Click on the image below for the PDF!

Team Anvil update

By | DnD Campaign | No Comments

Hail and well met!

Chris, who plays Zardjo in the session I run on Tuesday nights, has volunteered to be our note-taker. The purpose of the notes are threefold. First, it always helps when one of the players keeps good notes in any campaign. Second, since we are running a campaign with multiple sessions, is it important for the other DMs and players to know what happens in your home session.  Finally, it allows us to create content on our website to make regular updates for those who are not playing with us.

Here is the report from our first session! Click on the image below.

MWH: DnD Campaign

By | DnD Campaign | One Comment

In the long drought of playable MMOs, MWH has turned towards pen and paper for a solution. As a guild we are running a “West Marches Style” DnD 5E campaign with multiple DMs and game sessions.  The goal is to create and play through a dwarven-centric story.  After two months we have successfully launched three stable game nights with the possibility of adding more in the future.

We do not have any plans to stream the sessions yet. However, we are hoping to update the website with player journals to help include the members that cannot currently play.  Roll20 has been a surprisingly easy tool to use to organize and build our world. There are still issues with synchronizing timelines and story continuity between nights, but we continue to refine on what has been a very successful experiment.

The first thing we wanted to share on the website is a player handout created by one of our DMs, Chris Holbert. Click on the image below to view or download the PDF.

Albion Online

By | Uncategorized | One Comment

alb_logo

Albion plays much like the original titles that launched many of us into the world of MMOs, it is nostalgia-land.

Deep crafting system, check. Simple and enjoyable combat, check. Challenging pve that punches you in the face for mistakes, check. OG-MMO grind (not as bad as korea-ville), check. Land ownership, check.  Full loot pvp, hell to the yes!

A few of us are already dabbling. Would love to see the rest of you jerkfaces. We are late to get on the wagon for this one, but the way the economy plays and the need for compartmentalization in both crafting and combat… the game plays to our strengths.

Relight the Great Forges! A New Website

By | Guild Maintenance | No Comments

MWH_WEB_HammerAnvilFor a very long time MWH has used much older software for our forums and website. With it, we have been through forum-implosions, hackers, drama, and the occasional member database wipe… *cough*… and now that era is over. This is our new vessel on the seas of the inter-webs with all the shiny goodness. The forums will still be there but they’re very trimmed down. Discord has replaced them as our primary form of communication.

One of the goals of the new site is to make our activities more visible. In the past the guild has operated behind closed doors. The appearance of stagnancy has hurt our recruitment effort and we seek to change that. The addition of a blog and event calendar will go a long way towards showing our dedication and camaraderie.

Another goal is to accommodate changes in the focus of our gaming community. The guild was created in and for MMOs. When someone stops playing a game like Shadowbane, Warhammer Online, or WoW they tend to disappear.  Sometimes members would trickle back for the next game, but for the most part we lost contact with them. We are hoping that scheduled sessions of Sins of a Solar Empire, Dungeons and Dragons, and other games that have a small time footprint will help create an environment that is inclusive. Enjoy the new site!  Hammers High!