Monday 30 September 2013

So Much Loot, Not Enough Space

Part of the Tales of Skrmischa in Neverwinter Online!

It was very worthwhile guarding the Summer Festival grounds as now not only do I have a fancy new shield and clothes, but a pair of cute piggies to keep  me company, along with a few mercenaries who liked the way I do things. Once I returned to the city proper I decided to attempt the Orc Assault skirmish again, in regular mode this time. It was much the same as the Call to Arms event, but just less rewarding and we had a squad of guards assisting us. Still got a neat looking axe from it though!

Too bad it's not a foldable Gerber Kick Axe. That would rock.

My main problem now is what to do with all this loot that I don't want to sell. I think I'll have to break off from doing only Foundry Quests to run missions at the Blacklake District and Neverdeath Graveyard to get the extra bag rewards there. For such a common item they are insanely expensive at the city's auction house. It still didn't stop me from running a few Foundry tasks though:

Friendly Dragon Canyon @ lelua01 (NW-DPQZC8ARH)
This was a fun mission, having to help out a little dragonling with some pesky trolls. She even gave me a reward at the end!

Not so fun - in fact extremely repetitive, slaying the same four zombie hulks over and over underneath the city. To make things worse there was no reward chest at the end of it. Bleargh.

Sunday 29 September 2013

The Fifteen Minute Quest

Fifteen minutes is the optimal amount of time for an MMO quest or activity. This is one of the guidelines to Cryptic's Neverwinter Foundry, and while I initially scoffed at such a low number I am now seeing just how right they are especially when comparing it to other online games. Casual gamers play in small chunks of time, and in that chunk they have to be able to do something they feel is rewarding, or at least get one step closer to some goal.

The main problem stems from the fact that there is no individual "save" feature in MMOs, and really - I don't know how you'd implement one to begin with. A solo game you can usually start and stop at your leisure, just like table top games - and more importantly you can continue where you left off when you decide to resume (though that would be tricky with more complicated setups like Arkham Horror or a Warhammer 40k skirmish unless you left the table as is).

In comparison, it really "burns" when you undertake something that takes so long then come up empty: Failing at the last boss of a long dungeon run, or losing connection in GW2's SAB Tribulation mode, or being defeated by Tequatl (I imagine. Haven't bothered waiting to fight him). Each of those have to be restarted from scratch if you want to try again and for someone time poor, that would be extra annoying - especially if there were alternative shorter activities they could have done instead.

Quitting Time! Guess we'll just have to restart this from scratch tomorrow.

I imagine that's the main problem with my first "spacious" quest. It starts in a tavern, you can talk to everyone (though you don't have to), there's a little bit of puzzle solving and a fair bit of exploration before any combat even begins. People look at the average time of one hour and simply skip it for a faster run through something (or a few "somethings") else. Well, I've learned my lesson. My second foundry quest is coming together nicely and is going to be more "condensed" than I originally planned and hopefully will only run to the 15-20 minute mark. The story will still be there, but there'll be less fluff. Should be interesting to see how well it does in comparison.

If you play Neverwinter Online and want to try my first foundry quest (despite the length) it is:

One Step to Darkness [NW-DNJC9SK7A] 

You'll probably need to use the short-code (NW-DNJC9SK7A) without the brackets in a few of the tabs before you can find it. I always appreciate more play throughs and feedback!

Thursday 26 September 2013

Newbie Blogger Initiative

Decided to sign up for this Newbie Blogger Initiative that is starting up in October. I keep hearing good things about it from the dozens of other bloggers that support it so I'll see for myself (as a newbie!) what it's all about. Are you thinking of starting up a blog of your own? MMO based (to begin with anyway)? Then maybe you should have a look too. There are some useful articles up already on their site, and the thing hasn't even started yet. At the bare minimum it will lead a few more people to your page anyway so give it a look see! :P

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Dragon Hunter Rox

Part of my Explorer of Tyria journal - you can find the rest here!

Met up with the charr ranger Rox at Sparkfly Fen recently. She was hunting the reincarnation of the local dragon "Tea Kettle" in the swamps to impress Tribune Brimstone. Stupid cats. Anyway I helped her out, finding numerous tracks of the beast as well as leftovers from the Shatterer and Jormag's little friend. Ironically during all of this I only encountered the last one up at Frostgorge Sound and helped the local army defeat him. Nothing really heroic about it when you have half a legion behind you combined with heavy firepower provided by the nearby stationary guns. The dragons in this land are stupid, they always seem to attack in the firing lanes of the cannons that await them. Not sure what else there was to do since none of the other beasts dared show their face while I was active (the cowards) so I moved on to other things.

I think Rox spotted a dragon.

I've since heard tell of the local militia swarming to Rox's aid, often spending many hours just waiting in anticipation for the arrival of their foe in the sticky, smelly swamp. I guess they find the waiting fun, or are they just waiting to have fun? Reports say the dragon has grown in strength - more often defeating or escaping from the angry mob than not. Commanders have taken it upon themselves to meld the troops into a well fused, fighting machine - posting tactics and requirements on the local forums. I had one look at this and rolled my eyes. I was never really one for filling a "role" like an automaton. I suppose they are keeping the ... swamp... safe? Hmm. It's not like Tea Kettle has made any move to push further North, or has ever attacked Fort Trinity to the South. Whatever - it is there. That's all that Rox needs to know. I think it will be hard for her to prove herself with an army behind her though, especially one she doesn't lead.

Maybe she'll have better luck assisting Caithe with the Scarlet(?) distubance being investigated at Twilight Arbor. Sent her a letter via carrier pigeon wishing her the best of luck while I headed back to the deep woods of Sharandar (in Neverwinter Online) to continue the campaign against Malabog's forces. I still wonder how those fomors got there. Possibly a rift between the shadow realm and the feydark? Maybe I'll yet find out.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Going once, going twice... go to Hell!

I know I'm a bit late to jump on this bandwagon but an illness managed to stay my hand from posting... till now!

Finally, one of the stupidest design decisions EVER is going to be undone - Diablo 3's auction house is to be removed next year, coinciding with the release of new expansion to the game. Whoever thought it was an inspired idea at the time must have been inspired by the lord of hell himself because that was one game breaking mechanic, especially in a game where half the point is to grind for gear. It certainly lowers the shelf life when you can just buy said gear at will if you had the gold to do so,  a method which I certainly used to trivialize the whole game pretty much. Pay to win, right there. Don't even get me started on locked difficulty modes, for me that's the next thing that should be changed.

Away with thee, spawn of Satan!

With that auction house being sent back to the flaming abyss that spawned it I can only hope similar ventures in other games follow suit. Looking at you specifically, Black Lion Trading Company of Guildwars 2. You and your false manipulated market. Player manipulated? That's to be expected, but you take a step further with GM manipulation. Oh... there's a surplus of item so and so huh? Time to change the loot tables! Sad part is, I'm not even kidding about that.

Anywho, I'll leave you all with an unrelated, warming tale of a griefer being beaten at his own game.  A story that should bring a grin to many - especially those who played table top Warhammer 40k. This is rules lawyering to the max!

Sunday 15 September 2013

Warframe - Ninjas in Space!

For awhile now I've been seeing some of my steam buddies play this "Warframe" game. It never really was on my radar until my brother specifically said "get it", and damn it is awesome! Basically it is a 4 person co-op action/shooter where everyone is a space ninja pirate, and you must complete varying missions to keep the solar system safe, starting from Mercury and pushing outwards into the darkness. As you gain affinity (proficiency) in your gear it levels up, allowing you to slot more collectable card upgrade modifications that enhance your abilities. For example a rifle might get a card that give it a faster rate of fire. Said card can also be upgraded to make it more potent, but by ranking it up it will eat up more enhancement points making you want to rank up your rifle more.

Give me my affinity, alien scum!

Item wise the game is very grindy unless you like spending money in the cash shop for platinum, however that isn't really a problem since the game play is super fun. You can play it like Metal Gear, with patience and silent killing all the way, or just go loud and slay everything - be it methodical and purposeful or a fast paced maddening sprint. The maps are sprawlingly huge, but fortunately as your characters can move pretty fast. Random elements also keep you on your toes, like a rescue mission suddenly evolving into a data collection task - or having an evil warframe appear out of nowhere and begin hunting you down. As to be expected the enemy fodder is limitless much like the zombie horde in Left 4 Dead, with baddies literally coming out of every orifice of the map at some parts.

Important to note: you are just slightly less fragile than them, which makes dying a real concern because if your allies can't get you up before you bleed out, you are out of the game unless you wish to self-revive (which you can only do four times a day). Good thing finding online assistance is really easy, even if you have no friends on (or just have no friends). Anywho, if you enjoy co-op shooters you should probably give Warframe a look. It's not that big a download and more importantly, it's free! :)

Wednesday 11 September 2013

MMOs: The Craftiest Ideals

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

 J3w3l at Healing the Masses recently posted her views (with a Firefall focus)  about the generally underuse of crafting in modern MMO's and I whole heartedly agree. If properly implemented, crafting can become a good tool to increase player interaction in game. These days though it has been made a bit too optional, with equivalent level/quality items coming from loot drops and in conjunction with either a regular/high level chance to get an item and/or permanent gear it really makes crafters and crafting in general a truly non-essential part in game. As she said "this usually leads to item tiers and gear treadmills". It shouldn't be this way, and I did post my ideal crafting setup somewhere on Keen and Graev's blog awhile back but was unable to find it so I thought I'd just recreate it here.

Firstly in conjunction with my previous post, crafting should have its own skill score per craft. If I am good at making swords I shouldn't automatically be a master fisherman, grand mage, or champion sword fighter. That's just common sense. Not so in GW2 where you literally CAN be a master swordsman by baking cakes. On top of that, I think Ultima Online had it right by putting a skill cap per character - something that should seriously be reintroduced. There were no "classes" per say. You could be anything you wanted, but you couldn't be the master of everything at once. If you could then that aspect of interaction with others to supplement you in areas you are lacking is lost and negates to the player community the game should be trying to encourage.

Secondly ALL items (especially consumables) should have expiration. "Don't I mean durability?" you ask. Yes and no. In most games durability goes down when you use an item. Keep that shiny sword in your bank or at home and it can last forever / a long time. Expiration is a timer. The quality of your gear should be going down -always-, even if you are just standing still, and in some cases even if you are logged off. Health potions? Food with buffs? They should expire. Consuming expired goods should poison / kill you. Simple. As for your sword if it is a regular item then maybe it won't decay while you are logged out. However the more you use it the faster the expiration timer goes down. Also, an important note: the player should NEVER be able to see the exact time of expiration. They should just be able to tell if it's "good", "average", or "bad" in a general sense (maybe background color, if they pass a skill check) with no specifics. A magic sword however? Yes. That should decay even if you are not online... because... magic! :P

Actually the main reason for the decaying magic sword would be for uniqueness. As an example lets say there's an item called the "sword of fighting". Once it is found then it or the mob/chest it drops from will not respawn until it decays. If there is only ever one sword of fighting in the world at a time, then you can expect it to have some pretty sweet stats. This will really encourage you to make the most of it before it vanishes. Sure you can try "repair" it, but that should only add a % of time back instead of resetting the entire expiration. "But No MMO would use the expiration thing!" you exclaim. See Mabinogi. It's still called durability there but for me the decay is -still- too slow.

Thirdly, availability - or lack of. Notice how I went right past quality? Sure, it's nice if a dagger made by a master crafter is slightly better than the same dagger made by a one day old character, but availability is where the action really happens. In GW2 there is a bucket load of vendors with the lowest tier gear. I'm surprised they get ANY business at all because by level 5 (which takes all of 10 minutes to get to) you'll be getting drops of the next tier items. Now if those items didn't drop, or dropped at a much reduced rate coupled with the expiration timer above they'd be getting a lot more trade, which is slightly better but those are still NPCs. A better option is to ditch them entirely for player run shops or have them only sell the stuff they purchased from players. Game designers concerned at the possible data ramifications of a gazillion things held by a single vendor should remember that said items expire and should no longer be sold (delete them) once the timer runs out.

As one would expect this would lead to a surplus of stuff in friendlier places and a shortage in harder to reach unfriendly lands. Keeping in mind that your stuff WILL break that should either mean being batman level prepared before you start or expecting to pay more to buy less in the further reaches of the map. In the same vein, traders that sell their goods in those far places (or anywhere there is a "shortage" really) should get additional benefits (most likely gold). You can still use auction houses and cash shop methods with this, as long as the acquisition of said goods is restricted to set locations. Friendly cities for example. If I'm wading through the labyrinth of undead zombie spiders I shouldn't be able to get a pizza delivered to me by NPCs... much less a brand new weapon or full set of gear. Interestingly this would open the door for a "player courier" system, would be cool if a player DID have to deliver said pizza to me. Must give that more thought as there is too much room for griefing. :P

What do you think?

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Blogspot Header Issues

For some reason it seems blogger / BlogSpot has been screwing around with people's headers lately (mine included). If yours decided to do some funky things like, vanish, display vertically, or have a really slim width causing words to wrap then this fix (found on the help forums) will probably sort you out:

1 - Go to "Template Designer"
2 - Click 'Advanced'
3 - Scroll down to 'Add CSS' then in the box put the code below and hit return:

#header-inner {
    width: 1000px !important;

4- Save Changes (if it doesn't let you, add a space or press enter somewhere for the save button to activate).

Your header should then be back to normal, or at least closer to normal than it was previously! :)

Monday 9 September 2013

Festival Freelancing

Part of the Tales of Skrmischa in Neverwinter Online!

Signed up for guard duty for the Summer Festival and my first challenge was a non-combat obstacle course test which I found really cool.

Having passed the test it was on to the grind, which basically entails fighting off hungry trolls and annoying kobolds in addition to harvesting crops, flowers and herding escaped farm animals back to their pens. It's a pretty good change of pace and a very nice locale to boot. I overheard one of the women say that it was better than the Cragsteep Crypts which I had a chuckle about. The competitive spirit is getting the better of some participants though, especially in the Blooming Boughs where many go to harvest fireblossom flowers. Reports of thievery come in daily but there's little we can do about it as the festival rules clearly state only combating trolls and kobolds.

Also the other night I found someone who seemed... unresponsive... harvesting flowers in one spot repeatedly. As I was heading back to ask what can be done about it a familiar figure came charging towards that man with kobolds in tow. My ex-boss! I readied my weapons to assist but he spotted me and signalled to hold back, evading the kobolds attacks which sliced up the unmoving man to pieces. Only after the stranger was dropped did Mister Skyrim eliminate the his pursuers. I asked him what the heck was going on and he pointed out that the "person" was actually a mind frayed minion, hoarding petals for the dark Fey in Sharandar for their twisted magicks.

Those minions look so life like!

After giving me some reward bags that he didn't need, he left with instructions to seek out and inform him of any more of these brain dead minions on the grounds so that he could deal with them, since the proper authorities wouldn't. It's strange but I'm glad to be working for someone that gets things done again, even if it is just on the side.

Sunday 8 September 2013

Box 2: A Less Super Adventure

Part of my Explorer of Tyria journal - you can find the rest here!

The first time the Super Adventure Box came out I had a total blast doing it. Now that it has returned with World 2, I'm finding it less fun than before - probably for the same reasons echoing throughout the forum. It's good to see that the creator fixed up some places that were causing major headaches after a few days though, and the infinity continue coin is a good gold sink which I happily sunk gems into. Definitely "pay to win" or at least, "pay to win faster" (which I think embodies regular "pay to win" anyway).

After the somewhat irritating level of the Frog King's swamp, players venture forth into the way more irritating rapids (knockback land - toned down), pain cliffs (insta dart death land) and storm top mountains (annoying ice slidey grind land). I went through on infantile mode first with the happy clouds to observe what horrors awaited me, followed my normal mode which was only slightly more troublesome but WAY too long in some bits that seemed designed purely to irritate the player, like having a mini-boss atop a slidey ice hill.  You have to run up and evade his boulders and then whack him. Getting hit knocks you back down the long slope. On paper that's fine. But said mini-boss has so much HP that you'll probably do just that, over and over for 10 minutes. Difficult? No. Annoying? Yes. Fun? What do you think?

At least one of the long maps has a shortcut somewhere, but the irony is you have to clear half that level first to get an item before you can use said shortcut. If you think that's bad, there's a part where you need to purchase an item with 400 baubles to proceed through the level. There's no warning before reaching it, and I didn't find 400 baubles in the zone prior to reaching that point so you'd have to either be lucky or informed before attempting it, otherwise you'll hit a brick wall (frozen, actually) that will curb your fun level like an anvil dropped into the sea.

Lastly comes Tribulation Mode, which exists purely to create rage within the player. One wrong step and you die. Everything is out to kill you. The rocks, the flowers, the floor... everything. Fun in Tribulation Mode is finding the right path instead of grindy mechanics, and it's super cool. Despite my strange liking for this mode though, the very nature of latency is what is stopping me from enjoying it fully. I don't mind dying if I run into traps, but when I jump to the correct spots I expect to survive - and I do... 50% of the time. This is what annoys me most, and probably what will prevent me from completing tribulation. It sure would have stopped me from completing IWBTG. Here's an example of someone else experiencing this pain.

Story wise there's some evil, 4th wall breaking, AI in the box modelled after Moto (ala Tron, the new one) that wants to affect things on the outside. Not much more yet about this, but it's good that it is just more than a simple asuran VR game. My only issue with it is it could mean that the box is permanently destroyed after world 4 where as I'd rather that it became a permanent fixture in Rata Sum after world 4. *shrug* Would be a shame to throw out all this work right? Oh yeah, and Scarlet is still invading in the background randomly but she's mostly insignificant for this arc.

In SAB, you grant the genie's wishes!

My very last concern is in the future of SAB. Could worlds 3 and 4 begin to introduce forced group content, which in my opinion is the worst design in the universe (like the aetherblade dungeon)? And if so, can the infinity continue coin negate it? This is the creator's response to someone who was having problems attempting things solo:

"This is as designed. Dungeons are designed for up to 5 people. If you choose to solo a dungeon you should expect this sort of thing. At least that’s how I look at it. Maybe because SAB doesn’t look like a dungeon there are different expectations? We did clearly communicate when you enter a world that 5 are recommended."

GW2 Dungeons sure. Five player 8-bit games? Unlikely.

Thursday 5 September 2013

Roll of the Dice

Really been "off" lately by not being drawn into any of my usual games for prolonged periods of time. Maybe I'm just burned out, or it's the lack of Masterchef on TV, or simple procrastination (from games, what)? Whatever it is I'm going to try fight it using ... a six sided die.

Yerp! At least for the next week or so to see how well this system works. The idea is whatever I roll on the night is what I end up doing, but all results can get trumped by real life stuff or if my guildmates call for my aid somewhere, which rarely happens these days (they're pretty powerful too).

So, I'll see how I go with these:

1 - Guildwars 2
2 - Neverwinter Online
3 - Wizardry Online
4 - a Single Player Game of my choice
5 - Write guild related stories
6 - Anything else, NOT in the above!

Mabinogi isn't there on the list because it still doesn't want to update for me. I guess a total reinstall for it could happen on a roll of 6, so let's just see how this plays out...

Monday 2 September 2013

Vying for my Attention

Interesting matchup this week between two of my "active" MMOs with Neverwinter Online's Summer Festival versus the return of the Super Adventure Box in Guildwars 2. Both are temporary events which will be gone in a few weeks and both will require some doing before I am "finished" with them. Going purely by the rewards, NWO wins out. Sure, SAB may have cool new skins that I also want but NWO is offering a mount and a companion which in the grand scheme of things is a more worthwhile reward. It's always functionality over fashion for me. Also the Summer Festival tasks are pretty trivial but this makes them severely grindy, especially when it comes to pseudo pvp in the race to harvest flowers. The festival has attracted many trolls to it, and most of them are of the player variety.

Conversely SAB will probably be more fun (/frustrating) to play, but is less rewarding. I am especially looking forward to the "Tribulation Mode" which the designer already stated weeks in advance is for a small minority of players. Specifically those who liked IWBTG (which I won). Can't help but wonder what the current villain is going to be doing while all the heroes go and play a video game though?

A deceptively cute cover for a fiendishly tough game.

So what's a guy to do then? Play the field, obviously! Having an alternate to switch to after burning out in the other should work well in theory. I'll let you know how it goes in practice! Elsewhere, Disney has decided to close their kid MMO "Toontown". Nothing like a server wipe/shutdown experience for the youngins. They wished upon a star, but were a few millions years late. That star is dead. Just like their dreams.