Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Tome of Knowledge

I must say I don't totally get the excitement surrounding the Tome of Knowledge feature in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Bundling all the bits of lore you picked up, all your achievements, and all your quests into one interface has at least as many disadvantages than advantages. And the thing is still missing the kind of personal history Everquest 2 was already offering 4 years ago, like telling you on which date you leveled up to what level, or made other big achievements and discoveries.

I'm all for achievement systems. If I kill 65,340,285 boars, like the South Park kids, it is nice to have that written down somewhere, and to be able to flaunt a "Boar Killer" title. Seeing the WoW version of the achievement system it also becomes immediately obvious why it is better to have such a system from the start, and not introduce it 4 years later. I'm annoyed about the fact that I won't have achievements like "killed Onyxia" or "killed Ragnaros", because WoW didn't register that at the time. I'm even more annoyed about the fact that some people who never made it to Onyxia and Ragnaros at level 60 will now kill them with a small level 80 group and get that achievement when it doesn't mean anything any more. The bestiary in the WAR Tome of Knowledge is much better, because it will count every single monster and enemy player you killed during your whole career. You'll even get xp, and not just titles as rewards for reaching certain numbers.

But while counting the achievements is good, the interface and particular implementation of the Tome of Knowledge isn't all that great. Your bestiary lists achievements on every monster's page beyond killing X of them, but doesn't tell you what you'd need to do to unlock that achievement. I'm sure that soon websites will pop up telling you all about "secret" tome unlocks. I'd rather get some hints in the game than a full walkthrough from a third party website. The achievement system of Lord of the Rings Online is easier to navigate and understand.

The quest log in the Tome is even worse, definitely sub-standard. There are color coded dots to tell you whether a quest has attributes like being a PvP quest, but there doesn't appear to be a color code or number telling you for what level a quest is. We're probably supposed to guess that from the column telling you what zone the quest is in. If you're the type that travels around a lot and not always fastidiously completes all the quests he has before leaving a zone, that can get messy fast. There doesn't even appear to be a shortcut key to open your quest log yet, you need to open the Tome and then flip from whatever page you were to the quest log page.

Now my apologies to the lore fans out there, all three of you, but the average MMORPG player clicks through any quest lore or other lore he finds as quickly as he can without reading it. Adding all that lore I've come across to the Tome of Knowledge doesn't do anything for me. I click on some rally master NPC to bind myself in the next village, and his whole bloody life story pops up in my Tome of Knowledge. But the life story of the only person the average MMORPG player is interested in, that is himself, isn't properly recorded. What is of more interest to you, the family story of NPC Seigmund Kraemer in Troll Country, or the day where you helped defending the keep in Troll Country and gained 2 renown ranks? So why is the Tome listing the former, and not the latter? Don't tell me that it is impossible, because the EQ2 Players website already does it for Everquest 2 for years, and even makes these achievements visible from outside the game.

So yes, kudos for the achievement system, but overall the WAR Tome of Knowledge left me unimpressed. I've seen each individual component done better in previous games, and the fact of bundling all these features into one big book only makes the user interface more clunky. This could have been done better.

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