I’ve always loved my Saturday Screenshot feature, and I’m bringing it back with a favourite screenshot from my recent gaming.
This is a screenshot from Mount & Blade: Napoleonic Wars. One of the most popular servers these days is the role-play server – which has a very strict set of rules. You have one life per round, and two armies of real players fight each other to the death. You have to follow your officer (unless they get killed, as they often do!) and you can’t kill surrenderers.
Needless to say, the role-play server requires a heck of a lot of admins to keep 200 unruly players in check. When it works, it can work wonderfully. Other times, I just skip on by and head to my absolute favourite server – the bot server, where you hold out against bot hordes with other players.
Anyway; this screenshot is from one of the best battles I’ve been part of on the role-play server. I played as standard French line infantry and followed my officer (like the well behaved player I am!) and he led us across a bridge over a river dividing the battlefield in half. Immediately over the bridge was the wooden hut you can see on the left of the screenshot.
There were roughly 20-30 of us hunkered down in there. However, the entire bulk of our Austrian opponents had spotted us and were coming right at us. Majorly out numbered and well within range of their artillery, it looked futile.
Needless to say, we managed to hold out bravely despite the odds – and this screenshot is just as we’ve emerged from our hut having broken their attack. Just a handful of Austrians remain to chase down. Definitely one of my best gaming moments!
Two of my favourite online multiplayer games share one thing in common – the idea of guilds of players as the core of the experience. Those two games are Mount & Blade: Warband – Napoleonic Wars DLC and Guild Wars 2.
I’ve not spoken about Mount & Blade much so far on this blog, but I do hope to soon. The quick preview is that its a game where, originally, you play in a sandbox fantasy medieval style world. The second installment of the game, Mount & Blade: Warband, brought in multiplayer, which was an immediate hit with its devoted fan base.
The fan base particularly enjoyed the Mount & Blade series for its ease to mod, and mods galore are available online from a Star Wars overlay to the campaign to the incredibly popular Mount & Musket Napoleonic style mod which later was taken over by the developers, improved, and released as a multiplayer DLC.
That’s the quick guide to the Mount & Blade series’s history – as a side note Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is currently in production and looks set to be an epic game. I’ll write about the details of that when we get more released!
So, the online multiplayer experience of Mount & Blade: Napoleonic Wars is pretty sandbox as far as multiplayer modes go. You have a map, either a castle or a battlefield, and you fight it out in a variety of modes.
Siege events are the most popular, where a team with limited lives try to hold a fort from a team with unlimited lives for 20 minutes – you get some nail biting finishes with that mode! Another mode is Battle, where you have one life for each round, the last team standing wins – simple but fantastic fun when you know you just have the one life. Commander battle is a favourite too, where you command a section of AI troops against enemy commanders.
Interestingly, almost every player has organised themselves into regiments in Mount & Blade: Napoleonic Wars. They don’t do this through the game at all, and the only way of representing your regiment in game is by the little picture that appears above your character – which regiments will synchronise together – as well as your username. So limited ways of representing it, and a game that doesn’t promote it in any sense. So why have Mount & Blade: Napoleonic Wars regiments formed?
There’s 3 main reasons.
The first is lore. A game based in the Napoleonic era, despite its multiplayer focus meaning that it has no story per-say, has a certain lore attached to it. The Napoleonic Wars were wars of highly organised a disciplined lines of soldiers lining up and rotating their musket fire at one another until one was either dead or fled. This kind of warfare doesn’t materialise by itself in a multiplayer game which is so sandbox, so unstructured and open. That’s the magic of Mount & Blade, but it means that the war that players seek has to be planned and organised; ideally by regimental groups of players.
Another reason is coordination. Much similar to the arguments for Guild Wars 2 players to use Teamspeak in World Versus World, in Mount & Blade: Napoleonic Wars regiments have organised because coordinated players usually beat the uncoordinated.
I’ve made friends with some fellow players on Mount & Blade: Napoleonic Wars and when we are the same team we coordinate through the pretty primitive chat interface, but even with that basic bonus we will usually win against those that doesn’t coordinate. Regiments take it even further with teamspeak to make coordination even easier, and with Mount & Blade: Napoleonic Wars, because the in game communication system is so basic, it does make a world of difference. Regiment members fight far better together than others on the whole.
The final reason is servers. The multiplayer game is based on over 600 servers worldwide, most of which have no players at all. Only a handful of these are servers owned by the developers, as a very small indie outfit they can’t afford the kind of mega-server capacity that Guild Wars 2 makes use of. The majority of the other servers are owned by regiments, some of which they keep password protected for regiment only events, but the most popular servers are the ones owned by regiments which open them up to the public to play with their members at any time.
The 33rd Regiment in particular own a server which they leave open to the public for siege events, and is the only Mount & Blade: Napoleonic Wars server to have over 100/200 players at any time of the day. If you want guaranteed access to the best servers you have to go regimental.
So that’s the lowdown on Mount & Blade: Napoleonic Wars regiments, why they exist and how they operate. How does that compare to GW2 guilds?
Guild Wars 2 guilds are central to the game and you very rarely see a player not in one. Mega-guilds exist as well as small family style guilds, much like the range in sizes of Mount & Blade: Napoleonic Wars regiments. These two different forms of groups of players share several similarities, but why do players join guilds in GW2?
Well, lore is on the side again. The game is called Guild Wars after all! If you bought Guild Wars 2 not expecting to be in a guild of some sort then you really didn’t know what you were buying. The Guild as a group of players has been an integral part of Arena Net’s style of MMO forever.
Aside from lore though GW2 guilds don’t offer all that much in comparison to M&B:NW regiments. You get some small bonuses if you have enough influence to own them and can take part in small missions and puzzles as a guild, again, so long as you have enough influence. Trouble is, none of these perks are particularly game altering. There is no inherent disadvantage to not being in a Guild in GW2, and that’s an ever so slightly crazy situation for a game with it in the name.
Yet everyone is in a Guild in GW2. I think perhaps GW2 needs to improve guilds, give them a bit more love – they feel too much like a neglected side line at the moment. Maybe they should take a leaf out of M&B:NW’s book too, and listen to the clamour on the game forum’s Guild sub-forum, which all point to adding in more Guild only content. Put in more guild missions, and make them accessible to even the smallest of guilds. Most of all though, like many on the forums have begged for since launch, put in a serious Guild vs Guild arena. The Obsidian Sanctum guild arena is a start in the right direction, but make it so that only guild members can go in and random players that wander down can only watch – simple stuff really and stuff that would make a great deal of improvements to Guild Wars’s guild system.
Mount & Blade: Napoleonic Wars has really opened my eyes to what a good player group can do and be like. The recruitment isn’t too over the top and they’re generally accepting of all players; and most importantly are always open to fun fights with enemy regiments or even uncoordinated groups of randomers. I salute you M&B:NW community!