Motivating Exploration

As I said, I would like to open some discussion about things that might help improve aspects of the game that people seem to historically complain about. One of the issues I’ve heard is that although we have a ton of areas, exploring them feels unrewarding.

Not every area can be chock full of top end best in slot gear for all characters and alignments. Given the number of areas we have we’d have to have hundreds of wearlocs to accommodate this influx of fantastic l00tz. Additionally not everyone is motivated by l00tz!

I have been farming achievement points in Diablo 3. I try to accomplish them in the highest difficulty I can, even if sometimes it’s normal. I am not suggesting that the Realms has to become Diablo, but I think that when we see a system that keeps people motivated and encouraged that it’s worth asking “can we replicate it”?

I believe the answer is yes! Quests exist, tagging exists. Some facility has to be created to display achievements and the tagging might need to be extended in order for it all to work but I don’t think it’s impossible.

Additionally it would breathe life into old areas as immortals and players alike suggest achievements for areas. I would thoroughly enjoy finding achievements and trying to create new ones.

What would it look like? Well I think that all achievements should be visible with their requirements spelled out. We have enough unsolved puzzles without adding more. If you create achievements correctly it might even hint to players that some puzzles exist without telling them how to find that puzzle. Achievements should be soloable predominantly. We have enough mkill situations that require groups, or some group play might be needed indirectly but let’s encourage the single player experience again so people aren’t frustrated waiting for groups to form.

Some examples?

    Find all items in pre-auth.
    Read all the points in the Geography room.
    Obtain a pair of lizard gaitors before level 4.
    Visit the recruiting rooms of the Guilds of Nature, Origin and Spirit.

I would also love to see groupings so that you could create an achievement whose requisite is completing a number of other achievements. For example you could create the “Darkhaven Explorer” which requires you to finish a number of achievements related to Darkhaven like visiting the library, lounge, the old guild homes, find Sonoria, and so on.

People like Loril have spent TONS of time putting in game quests into the Realms, maybe a system like this is a little more directed and gives someone something to follow … especially early on. An achievement might be to find a tourist by level 5 but doesn’t have to tell you that the tourist has a quest available.

Thoughts anyone?

Symposium Suppose?

I was a member of the Symposium way back when under Edmond. I enjoyed being part of the process of coming up with ideas and seeing them evolve and go live in the game. Even though my name isn’t attached to the ideas that made it into the game, that’s okay with me because it took a team to shape them and finally someone else’s effort to code them.

When I returned to Realms one of the things I did was approach Romani to become an at-large member of The Symposium. The relationship has been a little rocky between myself and the other members of TS. I have strong opinions and I don’t always convey them well, indeed some weeks I’m just flat out bitchy. Nonetheless the council does get work done, ideas get passed up the ladder and some of them have already found their way into the game.

I have seen this council really work well and at present I don’t think that it does. The primary reason, in my opinion, is that there are too few of us. I think that when you have a very small group of people voicing their opinions there is a true risk of under representing the larger community.

To simply work to produce ideas for the sake of doing it is futile in my view. This is how I’ve felt about new class proposals. When I arrived in TS the Death Knight proposal had already been languishing on the board for at least 5 months. The original idea had been diluted and the people who were invested in the compromise version of the proposal had left. Those of us who were new or who remained could not change things that were already “decided” and yet the hard parts of building an slist and maintaining a theme laid ahead of us.

Yet more people left TS. I nearly left and I certainly became very frustrated and cynical about the ability of TS to actually produce changes in the game. Recently when discussions about how to fix Nephandi came up I reacted very negatively … perhaps even a bit childishly. I do regret that, it’s not my intention to alienate people who are trying to to find a way to make positive changes and I know that I do.

I’ll say that I was short tempered from lots going on in my personal life, mom’s been in and out of the hospital, sleep’s been in short supply with the little one being (normal kid) sick, money’s tight waiting for the first pay cheque from the new job … they are reasons but it’s no excuse. I still need to work on expressing respect for people around me.

All this said, I stand by my assertion that Nephandi might be broken beyond the hope of making them interesting to the general populace. I’ll go a little further here and say that I don’t believe new classes are going to spark sustained interest in the Realms of Despair by either long term players or by the new recruits. Barbarians are neat but I see few people main on them … can’t guild, can’t order, can’t use magic equipment … for that you get some really stunningly good offense. So people pull them out to beat things up and then put them away. Fathomers? Nephandi? Paladins? Augurers? I know some people choose these classes … I’m not saying they’re useless or something’s wrong with them. I’m saying that in general I see people play these classes as something they load up and use then put away.

So when we talk about buffing up one or another, I don’t know if it’s going to do much to help attract and retain players. Right now I’m sort of putting things through that filter, big time. I think there have been great changes … mage paths stand out to me as one of the most interesting things to happen … for the most part they’re useful and interesting. Nonetheless though lots of mages are played as load ’em ups they hold a classic audience who play them as mains. Yet despite this, people aren’t playing or not playing because of what a mage looks like on Realms. The cleric paths may be the most thorough and technically substantially changes to classes ever done on Realms, yet they’re largely ignored. People don’t visit and don’t stay or leave because what deity a cleric follows affects their spells, even though it’s cool as hell.

I also feel that new areas aren’t the answer, though they’re always welcome. We have a plethora of areas to explore. People don’t visit most of them. New areas get farmed for the best piece for a while, the high end stuff often gets bought by people who do “the same old thing” to get gold. Cellador, if you read this, sorry … but your bragging about having 60b to buy whatever you want just from levelling characters defeats the point of adventure to me. I’m impressed that you have gotten levelling down to a fine art and agree that not everyone wants to level, so the service is one that’s desired but yeesh.

Anyone who wants to discuss problems that cause people to leave the game, I am all ears. When I heard that guilds were being merged because 3 strong guilds were better than 11 idle ones I dove into the project with all my enthusiasm and passion for improving things. I put a lot of time into GoS even though I didn’t like the design and had almost no intention of spending much time in the guild.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking with people who HAVE left the game. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people who are new to the game and are THINKING of giving up. I myself have quit and returned. I liked the double experience weekend, it worked, to a degree. I read Vilexur’s blog that talked about MUDs still being relevant, they sure are, I can easily interest people in them but I don’t really promote much anymore because I hate seeing people start and quit.

I intend to discuss some of these things that I think need work in upcoming posts. I have no interest in griping and beefing without some ideas forward, things that we can realistically work on together as a community. If you quit, drop me a line and tell me what bored you, what drove you away, why you stopped playing. These things always help. Sometimes the reason is just “my interests changed and I didn’t have as much time for the game anymore”. I think that’s a normal and healthy reason. I just haven’t heard it much lately.

Happy Birthday Guilds!

This is the testament of Lareawan Dawnbreaker who was witness to the events of the great Dragon Raid of New Darkhaven and the destruction of the guilds. Much of what follows was greatly aided by the records of Zistrosk, his assistance is always appreciated.

Some will mark the time as 1 year ago yesterday but those inside the Realms know the time moves very differently, indeed over 4,000 years have passed in the Realms of Despair since these events.

Let us journey back to that fateful night.

Duke Luther shouts ‘Guards! Guards! There are dragons on the battlements! Everyone marshal together to defend New Darkhaven!’

Dragonslayer was still a ghost of its former self, Arete was in the Mountain of Lost Souls, and I can’t comment for the other Orders but it fell to the Guilds to defend themselves.

As adventurers fought against white dragons in the streets the first guild fell.

Several dragons breathe fire into the home of the Vampire guild, leaving it in ruins.

Duke Luther shouts ‘The Guild of Vampires has fallen… Quickly, rally around and help defend the Guild of Nephandi!’

As the adventurers ran here and there killing white dragons and typing help map to find out where some of the guilds they had not paid any attention to were, the Nephandi guild fell.

The dragons lay waste to the home of the Nephandi, leaving rubble everywhere.

By this time many adventurers had killed at least one dragon and realized that how many they killed might matter later on as they noticed this kill blow message: You take out a quill and mark one kill on your arm. Fight as they might, the impassioned Duke Luther continued to shout for assistance.

Duke Luther shouts ‘Both the Guild of Vampires and Nephandi are destroyed. Quickly, lend aid to the Guild of Augurers, they appear to be massing there!’

Even as the assault on the Augurer guild continued, more dire sights were seen over the walls of the city.

The dragons begin to invade en masse, building up their power for further assault.

Duke Luther shouts ‘Guards! On the horizon is a large dragon… coming our way. Man the battlements, bar the entry ways. It must not make it through!’

The dragons soar high above, then dive bomb the hall of the Augurers guild, leaving nothing but destruction.

In the midst of it all, Duke Luther abandoned his post. Some claim his guards forced him out of his throne room but I brand him a coward and a traitor to the guilds since no guard would forget to protect the Duke’s family!

Duke Luther’s personal guards force him from his throne room, to a safe location as the dragon attack increases.

Gilaeformo quests ‘they left your wife in the castle dude… :P’

With his wife still in the castle, Luther’s failure became complete.

Lightning cuts across the sky as Kilgharrah dives down and begins to attack Castle Darkhawk.

Kilgharrah, the ferocious dragon of Arthurian legend is here to make you pay.
Kilgharrah is shrouded in flowing shadow and light.
Kilgharrah is surrounded by a mix of ice-shards and sparking flames.
A younger looking white dragon is angered by the destruction of his kind.
A small white dragon is shrouded in flowing shadow and light.

Many brave adventurer went to face the great leader of the dragons, Kilgharrah, but no matter the power directed that way our greatest heroes could not defeat this power. In the midst of the distraction, the Cleric guild met its most dire hour.

Kilgharrah dispatches yet another fleet of dragons, this time heading straight for the sanctuary of the Clerics.

The swarm of white dragons race through the Clerics guild with alarming speed, destroying almost everything.

As adventurers grew frustrated by the Duke’s absence and the mysterious absence of the dragon ore weapons forged to combat just such an assault some rebelled. Hurley quests 'Maybe we should kill the little guys and just say screw the Duke.' Bratac quests 'he did pick this fight' Despite the slaughter of many white dragons, Kilgharrah maintained his strength.

Kilgharrah dispatches a new group of dragons which head straight for the ancient forest of the Druids.

After a long fight, one in which Zistrosk fought valiantly as leading as only a true Guildmaster can, the Druid guild fell.

Heaving fire from above, the dragons lay waste to the forest in which guilded Druids make their home.

Kilgharrah sat in Darkhaven Square, defeating all who opposed him. Clearly the dragon was in his glory!

Kilgharrah eyes the surrounding town, a destructive gleam in his eye…

Kilgarrah roars in satisfaction as it eats another Darkhaven guard.

Dark blue lights cascade across the nights sky as Kilgharrah launches another assault!

This assault was relentless and it ended with Jensen fighting barbarians such as Arastos who were killing dragons … in such times is not the enemy of my enemy my friend? It’s no wonder that the Fathomer guild fell in such a disorganized defense.

Captain Kidd rattles his sabre at the fleet of dragons in a final valiant stand… but the ship of the Fathomers is reduced to ruins quickly.

After destroying the Fathomers, Kilgharrah continued his rampage with the Paladins. Many stood and fought with great valor but it was all in vain.

Despite the heroic efforts of the Paladins, the guild is laid to waste like the others. Though their defense will be remembered for all time.

As the raid continued many guards panicked. Some even locked the adventurers INSIDE Darkhaven, somehow still concerned with a rumoured Balrog uprising to the south. Many felt the pinch of being unable to restock from donation rooms yet the brave shopkeepers of Market Street kept their doors open, charging full price … profits on their minds instead of gratefully supplying adventurers in their time of need. Another injustice, albeit a minor one. With the injustice of the destruction of the Guild of Rangers who noticed the small ones? With nary a whimper the first home of Tharius and so many others disappeared from the Realms of Despair

The Rangers guild is now no more, as the dragons’ fierce assault makes quick work of it.

The raid reached a frenzied peak with the oldest guilds in Darkhaven falling almost together. Mages, warriors and thieves fell in quick succession … who knows but perhaps this is why they found kinship in the Guild of Origin. Kilgharrah trapped the thieves within their guild, but many used their secret exit to escape outside the walls and rally in the defense of Darkhaven.

The dragons head toward the guild of Mages…

Kilgharrah directs the dragons to the guild of Warriors…

The hallways of the guild of Mages burn to the ground as Kilgharrath’s dragons do his bidding.

Sonoria quests ‘Aid the sick, aid the wounded… The Guild of Thieves needs our help as the last remaining guild!’

The castle of the Warriors now lies demolished.

Though it withstood a long assault, with all 3 of its leaders present in the fight, at long last the venerable Guild of Thieves fell, though it took Kilgharrah and not his minions to accomplish the task.

With a massive fireball, Kilgharrah succeeds in bringing the warehouse of the Thieves down to rubble.

Having accomplished his revenge, Kilgharrah left Darkhaven to pick up the pieces.

The mighty dragon Kilgharrah glows in victory, eyeing Darkhaven one last time as he prepares to depart…

Many more felt great anger towards the Duke, perhaps these wounds will never heal.

Gilaeformo quests ‘why destroy the guilds and leave darkhaven? the duke is the one really to blame…’

In all the time since many have rallied and build and bonded. The Guilds of Nature, Origin and Spirit have grown into reliable organizations. Many of the Orders who failed to come to the aid of the Guilds have been aided by the guilds as their recruits gained power and experience within the Realms. Many of the guilds now accept players barely out of the Halls of Knowledge and continue to serve as the first organization many new players experience.

If you have time, please consider spending some time in a guild. Lead a run. Host a quest. When the Guilds of Darkhaven flourish, we all benefit.

Holey moley and how to make Nephandi more enjoyable.

Every Sunday night at 7 p.m. The Symposium meets to discuss ideas to help improve the Realms of Despair. At least in theory. Attendance is usually so abysmal that anyone who’s willing to talk about anything can usually keep the floor while the others glaze over.

This has been the sad state of affairs for at least the last year, yet despite these meetings ideas still get processed and submitted up the tree with a few even making their way into the game. At some level the process works.

Part of the problem is that most of the people who volunteered to participate don’t. Another part is that there is 20 years of history of ideas that have been submitted, voted down by one level or another and that resurface and get resubmitted from time to time. The submitter feels like they’re being slighted when they’re told that the idea has been shot down lots of times before. I suppose if we understood why it was shot down then it would be a lesson to help grow our understanding but usually it’s a big ol’ raspberry.

So last night’s meeting started out with the usual suspects … 2 mortal members, 1 mortal head and the immortal head, hardly a quorum even in the current membership roll. The meeting started out with an assertion that Paladins are over powered (OP). I disagree with this statement – shieldbash may be overpowered but it’s only useful in a restricted group of scenarios. My opinion of Paladins is that they’re a specialty warrior class and that they’ve always attracted people who wanted a cleric that could hit. In other words, largely ignored by the masses. Shieldbash made it so that people wanted one in their army – along with 8 barbs and 8 thieves and so forth. So the new skill increased their use – as an alt in the bottom of the tool box.

So the question I put forth was, “So what?”. If they were OP then everyone would be spam using them everywhere, it hasn’t happened so I don’t think I’m out of line disagreeing with the sentiment. My follow up is essentially “What do you want to do about it? Do you want to down Paladins or up everything else?” I’d like you to understand how little investment I had to the conversation at this point: I don’t agree with the premise and don’t think meaningful changes to under used classes is going to do anything to help Realms retain players anyway.

I ticked off, tongue in cheek, that clerics and mages have already had some attention, the original suggester mentioned that vampires are already OP, I said Bladesingers and Barbarians are too new to be on the upgrade pile already so hey, there’s 5 of 13 classes down.

So … it was asked how can we fix Nephandi? The two mortal members agreed that they could care less if the class was deleted. I’ve always felt that they’re some weird evil mage thing that doesn’t seem internally consistent to their own premise. The idea was suggested that qlippothic shift (qlip) should have it’s own damage type and saves and so on. Ok, great. On the face of it I have no problem with that but I circle back to “so what?” Let’s say that qlip becomes the next big attack. I think the players would only take it and use it to spam particular mobs EXACTLY how shieldbash or choke or rend are used now. Then the prize mobs of that pack will get a resistance or immunity to the nephandi damage types and they’ll go back in the tool box.

So a new damage type to help 1 class that few people use. The discussion MONTHS ago about new damage types IN GENERAL went nowhere but …

You know, I’m not trying to be overly negative … I think I can come across that way because I’m frustrated and bored with small ideas when there are big things that need fixing that we don’t see movement on. To be fair there might be lots going on and as a mortal I just don’t see any of it – I always leave myself room to admit I’m wrong and have my head up my ass. I just don’t think a new class or a new area is going to do much to revive interest – players barely visit Winterlight or Florebit now despite interesting puzzles and great equipment. The sentiment was captured by Cellador on avspam – why bother, I’ll level characters for people and buy my eq. People have no idea how hard someone like Merkess had to work to get 5 people together to go to Seth – a team with experience who has never rotted a corpse can’t get mass to what is a premier mob. That’s the conversation we should be having. Attracting new players is great and I wholeheartedly think the game has tons to offer but as a Guildmaster I’ll tell you that they get annoyed and frustrated at problems that have existed for a long, long time that have never been addressed. In today’s gaming world they can be on a new game having fun in the time it takes to log into Facebook instead of being bored or frustrated with Realms. The challenges we’re facing require a hard look at the critiques people have been making for years … or at least an admission that what we’re doing now might not be working.

Long after the meeting I managed to come up with something to at least try and work down the road that was presented. I suggested they should have a skill that halves the duration of any magical spells (so your sanc is halved if you’re fighting a neph), halves the damage from magical sources and drains mana. The answer that came back was “yeah but most damage is from prog damage so it won’t fix that”. True. Most mobs don’t cast sanc or elemental shields either, they’re aff_by.

Never mind … you get it by now.

… and now for a word from your Supreme Entity!

Did you know that Thoric was not always alone at the top of the wizlist?

It’s true! A quick visit to the Darkhaven library reveals that some unoriginal dude named Thoricabc was also once atop the wizlist in mid-1995 OK! That’s cheating, but hey, it got you reading didn’t it?

There are only two names on that list who are still on the wizlist today: we find Thoric at the top and if we look waaaay down to Lesser Gods to see our elder Ancient, Blodkai. We do see a number of other names who have left their mark on the game; Dominus – former Assamite and author of Seth’s Fortress, pre-Shattering deities Circe, Grishnakh, Scryn, Cabal, Taboo, Witherin and Adonia, we see Gorog perhaps best remembered for his watchdog among newer players and coders like Haus who contributed so much so long ago. Then there’s Blackrose? That was a long time before Dragon’s Pass, what the heck?

Despite standing astride the wizlist Thoric is a really down to earth guy. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him several times over the years, mostly at reunions and I will say that I’ve always enjoyed speaking with him … well unless you want to talk code … then the “i++” or “++i” debate threatens to ruin all! (Ok ok! No more code, I promise!!) Thoric generously agreed to answer some questions about himself and the early days of the Realms of Despair, so without further ado, I present Thoric, in his own words.

Prior to founding the Realms of Despair, I had experience with BBSing from about 1985, and didn’t discover MUDs until 1991. I primarily played a MUD called Mozart. I started Realms as a pet project while working for ComputerLink Online as a door game for the BBS. Realms came first, later a version of the code was released as SMAUG. Part of the reason for the official code release was due to the code (and areas) being stolen. The name “Realms of Despair” actually originates from the “Forest of Despair”, from the “Salburg” area which I started working on while playing Mozart and was never completed until many years after RoD had been up. Although I don’t play as a mortal at all Salburg has a special place in my heart. I actually never spent time as a mortal on Realms. The aspects that appealed to me were all ones that I had added to the code. This was by part inspired by my desire to make the Merc code base a little more like SillyMUD. One misconception about the early days of Realms is that the mud was originally PKill only. Realms was never PK specific. Originally there were less rules, and later PK specific code was added.

I think that one of the greatest accomplishments that Realms achieved occurred when Realms was still young, back around 1997, the development and evolution of the code was very rapid and significant changes and rewrites would happen nearly overnight. I think it was somewhere around this point that the game really came alive and defined itself from others, laying the foundation the rich maturation that followed.

Back in 1999 we had the opportunity to take Realms in the direction of MMORPGs like WoW, but it felt too risky. I believe there was a huge missed opportunity there. If we could go back and have a “do over”, I think that would be it.

Other than its longevity, the aspect of the Realms of Despair that has surprised me the most is mostly how many people met in the game and got married in real life.

It’s tough to say what might be needed in order for the Realms to survive another 20 years I imagine it would need to evolve into something a little different than it is now, which is perhaps something that should have started long ago. I’m open to ideas regarding the nature of this evolution. I don’t know if fundamental changes would be required but without some changes things will be come stagnant and I don’t see them lasting [another] 20 years without some evolution. I’m sort of envisioning something with mobile support, but interested in what others are suggesting.