Ah, the Realms has looked festive with avatars of all sorts prancing about in Dirndl and Lederhosen, looking all over to get their hands on some hot, steamy sausage.
In case you missed it, the two are linked…. (case … linked … waka waka!) If you gather your sausages in your Oktoberquest themed Dragonhide Breastplate or Godskull Shinguards you only have to gather 6, which qualifies you for the secret bonus. The super secret that Zist cooked up after people complained about HAVING to wear the quest themed gear … well, now you don’t HAVE to … but there’s 5 points a day if you do. Incentivize the behaviour you want to see.
About a week into this quest we had a blow up, Zist and I. I’m sharing this because in the aftermath, I realized that once again Zist has poured a ton of time into creating this quest and continued working on it when it was live so that it would be a fun experience and the reward for his hard work is a lot of complaints and gripes. I think there’s something to be learned on both sides but I’m going to start the conversation on his side.
He told me he started working on the quest in late July. In order to pull it off there are several thousands of lines of programs written in the SMAUG language. Having worked in it a bit, I can tell you, the word fussy doesn’t start to do it justice. Now … that’s normal programs, but things like trying to make a wall clock 10 second delay, as opposed to just saying “meh, 3 ticks whatever that works out to, about 9 seconds” to make Marius very predictable on timeouts … I’m not even sure where you start on that.
I’m looking at this year’s design and I see that Zist took the feedback from last year’s quest quite seriously. Last year’s quest was insanely time consuming both for Zist and for questers. The goal of making it very accessible to people in different time zones led to people trying to be available at EVERY point opportunity. Simply saying you could only try 2 a day or something like that might have worked, but again, gripes if you do. Lots of people scripted the entire thing. Triggers were written to allow people to run their characters like bots. Before the big reveal that the mobs could be shared with more than 5 people and that you could farm off everyone and share with everyone, the quest was getting quite nasty as different groups tried to maximize their team’s earnings – paying people gold to share was frowned on but at least you could see the logic in it, after all, you could always offer more … but some of the comments directed at people actually caused some people to just log off and not come back.
To avoid that there’s a fixed rotation of things to go do, once you’ve accomplished your bit for the day, you’re done. There’s still things to figure out, but it’s very much an individual effort with some communication. Big problem that Zist faces is … how to spread the points out in a way that people can “win” and yet have it so that people can potentially catch up/swap positions/have some “action”. Well really, it comes down to the Keg
smashing tapping that is pretty much RNG … getting 4 reliably is fairly doable, getting 6 is riskier, and Bill. F@$%ing Bill. Now I’ve been a fan of solo mob kills … Brutus, Jimmy Da Fence, the Falcon … I enjoy those challenges, but Bill is certainly not killable by all classes despite assertions to the contrary. My shieldbash would need a large jump up (yes, a paladin this quest, as I continue the hunt for prestige) before the 20 or 25 point Bill would be doable. Like others I have lost lots of points trying to kill the stronger Bills wondering if typing “kill bill” was the insane healing trigger, or if using quaff heal instead of q heal, or if it was the potion chest or or orrororororoorororor…. before learning that to weaken him depended on how many miniquests you’ve done that day, and then again trying to move up 1 level from 10 point Bill to 15. 1 attempt per day for a major chunk of the points has not left much room for error … and my error was choosing Paladin. The winner of this round is apparently Infernalist in the great crap shoot. Yes, there’s a guy on top of the points scale that might disagree, but I don’t think Incendi has to be involved with Operation Move-The-Potion-Store-To-Bill’s-Room every day. Disappointing because lots of effort going in, and doing a lot of the right things and knee capped by the class choice.
Yet in the hopes that Zist will do tiers of prizes, as the 25th anniversary quest was done, just keep plugging away, do your best, and hope he calibrated his score system so that it doesn’t expect you to do damn-near-heal-to-full-every-round Bill.
So the blow up… Marius got new dance moves part way though a day. Zist’s side: hey man it’s getting late, I held off and I’m tired. My side: yeah but lots of people have already got points today on easy Marius and I get effed up because of this change. Already falling behind because of Bill, eff this! There was lots more to it like an arms race on how many triggers I could write and how annoying he could make the programs. For the record, no one wins in an arms race. Did I write one trigger for each social? Nope. I wrote 3 triggers to get my character to do every social, another to detect the output message and a third trigger to write the triggers for me. I can see this as frustrating for Zist, he works on this stuff and we just script it because we view it as annoying, an obstacle to the points and prizes. Guess what, that’s how we view levelling, golding, farming apples, brewing potions, buying and selling gear, fighting Seth … and we respond with scripts and it works because the scripting languages are more expressive than the mud’s language and our computer only has to deal with 1 person … where the mud has to be responsive to everyone online.
I asked then if Joe had already locked in his win… here 2 days from the end I see it’s not far from being a true prediction. Good for Joe, no sour grapes, no gripes, but there was never a hope of “competing”. Which takes me back to FOMO. WHY does this stuff get under my skin? I know I’m not alone but I’ll just talk from my own experience. Well that fear of missing out. In a lot of contexts around Realms FOMO is just part of it. You’re not part of the right group to get into the right runs, so go gold and when someone feels the time is right to auction gear, you can get upgrades. You know you’re missing out. Oktoberquest, and other long quests, have presented an opportunity for people to complete the Guardian set, arguably better than the drow set or the glory for a month long quest. I don’t even think about the aff flying ankles and stuff like that, I’ve been near the top but I know my life is too busy to pour the time into really mastering a quest to get there. So those opportunities are things to look forward to. When they feel like they’re disappearing it’s a kick in the ass where you hoped to improve your character. Yet it really doesn’t matter. It’s text on a screen that one day won’t matter at all. Well … it’s nice to compete and to be thought of as being competitive. To be held in esteem by your peers for playing well. It might be virtual reputations but within the community that helps open some of those doors the year round.
For Zist, I’m sorry that I, and others, give you so much grief and not enough appreciation for the hard work you do designing and administering the quests. We look forward to them and they do stimulate activity in our shared fantasy escape. Thank you for taking the feedback into account, not just of this one ranger’s gripes, but of the entire community. If we didn’t care we’d just log out and pull the plug and never look back – in some strange way our complaints show you we care, not just about the one line of text loot at the end of it but also for how we get there.