I have said this once prior in this blog but my experiences this time around with the Realms of Despair is very much about the journey. I’m not sure I’m setting out to keep this in mind but it has been floating to the surface of my thoughts regularly of late.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading of reviews and other user sites about the Realms, trying to get a feel for what’s been going on over the last few years, to understand with more depth about where we are.
Some themes appear over and over and I’ve been trying to give them some thought. I don’t expect to wave a wand and fix anything but I’d like to be part of the solution, not the problem. Some of these beefs pre-date the Shattering and I’m certain there are no simple, satisfactory fixes that will respect the near 20 years of Realms history and open a new future.
I come from the world of BBSing, so my own migration from text based games to text based MUDs was seamless. I know that this is a hurdle for some, however. With that said, familiarity with technology, texting, Facebook, email, etc, has never been higher. I don’t think that the game necessarily needs to be graphical to succeed, but there certainly needs to be an improvement in what is available client wise.
Returning to Realms one of the biggest challenges, after using the Java client was just getting Zmud or Cmud to keep me online reliably. It turns out that this is mostly the fault of changes to Windows over the years but if this is the new reality then the client should just deal with this aggravation free… New users won’t have tolerance to this.
Especially when it turns out turning on the tick timer does the job of a keep alive just fine. This is a lot better than setting up an alarm to save every 60 seconds for the simple reason that it doesn’t force the server to save your character to the hard drive over and over… less wear and tear on server hardware = good since we don’t have to pay to replace it. It’s also less spammy than using look or glance or whatever.
I didn’t talk about MUSHclient or Gmud but I think I’ll talk about clients another time in more detail but I think this makes clear the case that there’s issues that can be addressed.
So even back in the day I was actively playing things like Heroes of Might and Magic, Diablo, Warcraft… I have always thought that Realms would be incredible graphically based. I think that there is tremendous potential for people to participate in using MSDP to improve the interface to the game even without eliminating the text based nature, without straining the server and without having to recruit a literal army of artists.
Baby steps! 🙂
Pre-Avatar Play (Levelling)
In every game I play levelling is a challenge. In the games where you need to have multiple characters the word tedious usually floats up eventually. If you don’t think so go check out the QQ on the Blizzard Diablo 3 forums where there are only 5 character classes. Levelling the character to max level (60) means running through the full game 3-4 times (by the end of Hell Act 3 you’re probably done, but you can’t hit anything big until you get at least that far in Inferno). I can do it in about 12-18 hours per character depending on the character class because I took on playing hardcore mode for fun (1 death, death is permanent) but there are wide zones of levels that are just boring grinding because there is no new content. This doesn’t include the 100 levels of post level 60 grinding (more later).
So what does this have to do with Realms? I remember my first time levelling, it was Tharius the half-elf ranger, sort of based on Tanis from the Dragonlance series. I did have a bit of an advantage, I could use my friend’s avatar ranger Daltorak to follow me around invis and cast cure on me. No levelling spell bots, no major cleric army but still it was ahead of the curve 🙂
I enjoyed the experience because everything was new and exciting. I learned how to use my character, how to fight, how to die, how to CR by myself and so much more.
I think I applied to the Newbie Council around level 15 and got pointed instead to the Guild of Rangers. Some of the items on my induction quest were above my level so I had to get to know other guild members to help keep them, another lesson quickly learned! There were lots of helpful people around, people like Lopuis, Apollonia, Linda and many others.
I let myself get caught up in the idea that there were “levelling areas” and that I should get to avatar as quickly as I can so I can go on the big runs.
This discouraged me from exploring and instead I really stuck to the list of areas that people told me were the best for experience, unless I needed to side track to get a new piece of equipment. Many of those areas are still used today … Shattered Refuge, Tull Manor, Treetops, Coral Depths, Ocean Keep, Spectrum … I would encourage new players not to buy into this idea of hitting avatar as quick as you can. Loosing experience and having to eat and drink are all regular bothers, but the odds are, once you hit avatar you won’t ever put the same level of interest into levelling another character again. So explore a little … there are many new areas that are tailored to lower level players, especially below level 20.
Levelling secondary characters (alts) is part of this game. I agree that you cannot defeat all the different mobs of the game with a single character. I have never seen Seth run with a group of rangers, for example, rangers just don’t dish out enough damage quickly enough. They make superb tanks on other runs however. Everyone is allowed to have many characters and to play with their advantages and disadvantages accordingly.
As a new player I’d say it’s nearly impossible to make a good choice about class and stats right out of the gate. Tharius’ base stats still plague me to this day 🙂 I think that the help that’s available is better than it was in the past, but I’m sure that people still roll mediocre bases. Here’s something I believe to be true: a mediocre base will not stop you from running anything and may even improve your ability as a player. There is no doubt I’d rather play a 18 str/18 dex/18 luck thief on most runs but there is no chance that I’m not going to use whatever thieves I have in my stables regardless of their base. I’ll make it work, even if it takes levelling spells or whatnot. Yes, 100 extra hit points on your base helps. 14 strength on a warrior class is sometimes tough to work with. Don’t let it stop you from doing anything you want to. Pre-shattering I had added 2 strength to a Dragonhide Breastplate just to get over the problem for once and all. There’s always solutions. Maybe that glory would have been better spent adding hit points for a character that didn’t have a stat problem, but in my view I was doing the best I can with my character and I wasn’t worrying about your character having more hit points than I do.
Sit back and make the most of whatever you create. If you’re lucky enough to find advice before you get very far into the game or if you’re lucky enough to roll good bases right off the bat, fantastic. Reroll is there to be used. If not, accept it as a challenge and deal with it 🙂 If you only compete against yourself I believe you will be much happier in the long run on or off Realms. You can certainly look at your first character as a throw-away if you choose, a waste of time even if you really want to be callous about it … or you can acknowledge how much you learned in 50 levels and apply that to your future endeavors.
Post-Avatar Play (End Game)
So this is all pretty well advice I didn’t pay any attention to. It didn’t take long before I was trying to accumulate gold to buy big items I couldn’t run for. I’ll note that this is years before many of the helpful web sites were up to teach the soloable mobs, maps, directions and so on. Doing a run like Cern was an accomplishment, torques were not bad equipment. Working your way up to devout scales of the alpha and omega was an accomplishment (if you didn’t just outright buy them) … Buy them you say? Yes, because not only was levelling a “pain” but now there were runs that were “just a pain in the ass” … you know because you might have to do them a bunch of times to get the pop item…
For a new avatar the odds are this encounter is happening in a guild, which was my experience. Experienced players, why would you want to discourage anyone from running anything? Where does the next generation of good runners come from? This, if for no other reason, is why you should help out in a guild and lead runs to mobs instead of teaching how to use auction and traffic.
Yes of course, if you’re an active player after you’ve av’d the odds are pretty good you’ll have run many of the lower avatar mobs many times but … really? You can’t go whack Bahamut or Justice for a while?
I enjoyed running with the Guild of Rangers as a newbie and probably even moreso as an experienced player with the Guild of Druids.
New players … my advice is to enjoy the growth curve. As you get further into the game amount of effort required for each improvement certainly goes way up. Maybe too much … but it’s a very fine line balancing a game like this and I won’t disparage the efforts of those who have worked hard to tune the game. They’ve dealt with all the challenges that mortals have thrown at them for years and many of the changes are to respond to particular problems.
Eventually you get to a state where you really need to rely on others. When the game is active that’s not so bad but right now it takes careful planning to get groups together. Hopefully things rebound and it gets easier again. Right now there’s the challenge of getting groups together so the “big mobs” aren’t being run much, so people want to have the mobs downed so that they can run them again. Then they’ll get spammed and need to be upped again … instead let’s work on getting anyone who wants to run some better skills 🙂
So now what if you’re one of those experienced players? What is your end game? For most, it’s chatting and trying to hoard gold or glory or Seth sets or something. Here’s the devil … the end game is whatever goal you set for yourself. An open ended game like this always faces a problem with the top tier players, how do we fix it? It used to be that the top players moved from PVM to PVP … ie: pkill. With pkill at least you are always facing an evolving opponent, but it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea … which is why you set your own goals. For me, I like to go out and try to beat every area, create maps, stuff like that. Try your hand at building? It’s never been easier. Submit a quest? It’s up to you. I would LOVE to hear some opinions on more ongoing activities that could be added into RoD. I hear a lot of “quest for base increase” type ideas … but we sort of had this, it was stat-training, it went away for reasons that could probably use repeating. I hear about more levels … well that hasn’t worked so well in Diablo 3 (100 new levels) … it becomes a grind. I think there’s great potential using mptagging to create some longer term story lines and huge ongoing quests to help fill the game with more adventure but it shouldn’t feel mandatory yet it has to have a reward of some sort. I hope to have more opportunity to discuss this with people interested in making it happen.
First off let me say that I tend to ignore the economy as much as I possibly can. I do this by trying to run for things that I want. Yet, I acknowledge that this isn’t always going to work out. Gold is worthless. It’s been the chanted creed since before the Shattering, you can always farm more gold… always… Yes, you can accumulate a mountain of it but the best use of it is for buying flasks for brewing so you can go adventure. This comes back to the idea that buying your equipment instead of running for it removes hours of content from the game … Ok well, yes, the reality is that buy, sell and trade are perfectly legitimate ways of gaining equipment … but if it’s your primary mode, haven’t you missed something?
Ok well, rant mode off, this is something that could be improved nonetheless. Outlets need to exist for lower level players to make more incremental gains. I like the idea of craftable objects a lot. In Diablo 2 this was a major end game outlet for a lot of players. As a mid-level Hammerdin I was able to trade with elite players because perfect gems were a currency. I had to adventure to get them (as did they) and they needed lots to create new items for their various elite builds. I think this is something that can be brought into realms wholesale. Ravenhill proved it works with Seth sets, I think it can be done at differing levels to provide a lot of stimulus. Why run Bahamut once you’ve got a bunch of Justices? Break his equipment down at the blacksmith for components. Of course the rate of return shouldn’t be 1:1 or what’s the point …. again an idea that I’d love to help develop.
Well this has gone far longer than I intended to, I think there are a lot of ways to stimulate the the game without losing the challenge. Let’s work together! 🙂