Farewell Arete

Oh hello there, I didn’t see you come in.  Won’t you make yourself comfortable?

There’s been a lot on the go since I last wrote and I thought it was well past time to got down a few lines.

Some of you will recall that when I returned to the Realms of Despair that I joined the Order of Arete.  The order was formed primarily by a group of players who were unhappy with the way Dragonslayer was being run at the time.  The details depend on who you ask so I won’t put myself in the middle of it, I wasn’t here at the time.  It seems that in the next little while the order will be shut down.  This is a pretty rare thing in the Realms, the only other order to be decommissioned was Maidenstone.  I’ve written before about the drama that led to my decision to leave Arete and that a number of players came with me back to Dragonslayer which was under new management.  The whole thing was triggered by Raveyn and Jaxxon disappearing, effectively vacating the Leader and First positions and it seems that exodus is part of the death knell we hear tolling today.  I applaud Alex and the others who have been involved with trying to keep the order alive and for what appears to be a substantial effort to close the order in a very fair manner.

Some of you noticed I’ve also left Dragonslayer.  Less drama around this decision but I would say that the new areas being introduced and no one around to explore with was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I see they’ve been recruiting members of GoO again and running S/O and I wish them well.  I’ve seen this exact pattern before and the people recruited ended up going inactive after getting discouraged by maybe this time it’ll be different.

I’ve come to the point of my game playing now where I’m interested in having fun.  If I can’t figure out how to have fun I may as well quit and go do something else with my time.  I have been playing a great deal on my own and I’ve been having fun with adventuring but ultimately I returned to the Realms to have a bit of a social aspect to my game.  My Diablo clan had reduced itself to a few guys who only wanted to run top tier stuff and wouldn’t help anyone who was beneath that play level.  Similarly I see a lot of people on Realms with the attitude “it’s not worth the effort to run it, just buy it off auction and gold when you’re bored”.  If this is how you play can I suggest that there are other games where you leave your browser window open and the gold total ticks up and every so often you have new events available you can watch… and if the gold ticks up too slow you can go all hax0rz on the Javascript and just put whatever total you want in.

As an applicant to Ascendere I’ve encountered a group of players that go and kill things and gear their characters themselves.  They adventure and learn and poke into corners of the Realms  just for fun.  I’ve been to a great number of mobs lately that “aren’t worth the effort, just buy it off auction and gold to get more gear”.  I’ve had a lot of fun actually knocking these things down and seeing how they’ve been written.  There are some less fun aspects to some of these fights but they’re unique challenges.

There is a lot of effort going into recruiting new players.  Last time almost none of them stuck around.  Attitudes are contagious, yours might kill.  If you have a bad attitude consider that just because you’ve been there and done that doesn’t mean others have.  Maybe if you’ve been there and done that to death it’s time to just retire and stop pretending that you play… or maybe you can find a way to put that vast experience to work in a positive way.  Build something, write a quest … try something you haven’t done before, you might find a new measure of reward.

The Busy Idler

So it’s been a while since I’ve been out and mkilling or adventuring much at all, yet it’s been a busy couple of weeks on the Realms of Despair. All of us are probably aware that there have been a couple of houses sold, a couple of apartments are up for sale. We’ve seen some code fixes come in to address some bugs that have been causing crashes and also to add at least one new skill for the followers of Tempus. There’s been some new eqsets added and a new area has found its way into the game. I have had absolutely nothing to do with any of these projects, yet I’m delighted to see these outwards signs of activity in our game.

What have I been up to? To my great delight I have completed my role in the creation of the Guild of Origin item quest. I undertook this project after the guilds were ported and decided to make it fairly elaborate on the programming side. The quest plays out reasonably from the user side, the extra programming was put in place to give the thing a little bit of replay value and so that each of the different classes in the guild will experience it slightly differently. With some luck we’ll see that come in before the end of the year, assuming that my code is actually reasonably correct (if it’s not, {RusselPetersVoice} somebody’s gonna get hurt real bad {/RusselPetersVoice}).

My RL has been fairly busy so I’ve shied away from adventuring too terribly much, I haven’t spent a lot of time chasing down clues to the new eqsets, from the response on avatar it seems that many people have been frustrated in their attempts. One clue we saw was that the pieces may not be fixed to specific mobs in the same way that previous sets have been. We will have to see how it plays out, I don’t think I have a Drow character, so there’s a bit of investment required to get into this.

Some people have gotten through The Wilds rather efficiently and I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the gear coming out of the area, I must say it seems like the items are quite worth the adventure. I have deliberately avoided the area because there’s too many people flooding it right now, but as it cools down a bit I look forward to checking it all out (I have also been attempting to avoid discussions about any puzzles … I’m not just sitting back to have the puzzles handed to me).

I have been doing some leveling, it’s nice to be able to pick it up and put it down. For those of you who have been involved with Syldir’s Rolling Project (what I call “Stoli Rollers”) it has provided me with a plethora of level 2’s to go work on. I have spent some time during this leveling to “smell the roses” by experiencing a surprisingly growing list of pre-avatar quests. If you haven’t gone looking for them I encourage you to try.

I have also been doing a fair bit of building when I’m around and I have been really pleased by the help and support of the immortal community, especially Gonnil who has endured my questions with great patience. Gonnil is visible most of the day, which opens him up to spam from all sectors, yet he is really quite good about replying if he’s not busy. Thank you Gonnil.

So that’s a bit of the news at this hour… I’m sure some of you noticed I brushed up realmsofdespair.info recently, I will continue to work on that as time permits. Certainly I need to get my item database reworked (it is very technically correct but also exceptionally slow and unnecessarily rigid) so that we can all start to use the “Mr. Dressup” code I’ve enjoyed in my local application. If any of you are experienced at database design I’d love to bend your ear a bit and come up with a reasonably efficient way to solve this problem.


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.

The pros and cons of CON

Last week we saw a new effect come into play with CON now directly aiding in damage mitigation and surprisingly CON past your class maximum would still apply to this effect.

My initial, reserved reaction was that I didn’t know if I liked the idea of using stats beyond the class limits.  This feeling was precipitated by the satisfaction I get from building a character and hitting the maximums in a particular build.  Knowing that you can add beyond the limits means that there’s always some bonus that I’m neglecting to achieve.  For me, and to others like me with a tip of the hat to Fight Club … this is like a cut on the roof of your mouth that would go away if you’d only stop tonguing it, but you can’t.  Stat effects past the boundaries are the Marla Singer of video games.

Ok so that’s out of my system.  That’s the initial reaction: knee-jerk and unqualified.

Of course the only way to qualify an opinion is to go out there and get beat up in some consistent manner and see how much of a reduction there is.  Or wait for Gagnon of Dragonslayer to do some initial testing .. you know, one way or the other 🙂  I’ll note that the only qualified opinion I can give is about opdamage, though I rather suspect mpdamage or rpdamage would be identical.  It’s difficult to quantify in a combat situation because of the number of variables not only from round to round but also from repop to repop (ever had a higher level repop of Danbala?).

I was pleased to find that the effect appears to have a fairly low floor where the player won’t feel more damage.  I didn’t observe any increase in damage on my characters, but I didn’t put a great effort into seeing how low I could drive my con, though I may.  It’s taken me a little while, but I am getting my head around the idea that penalties don’t have to be directly applied to players … as in the lack of con causing more damage than normal, that the lack of a benefit can be a penalty in and of itself.

On the upper end it appears that hitting class limits gives you a decent little reduction to your damage taken, certainly enough to consider adding CON where possible but not so much that I’d give up a radical amount of hit points to accommodate it.  Gagnon managed to push a build to 47 con, which I applaud heartily but did so to the exclusion of every other stat.  The character saw a continuous reduction in damage taken, though we did observe that beyond the class limits the effect does slow down, but by 47 con it was quite a nice reduction.  Too bad you’d be a one-hit-wonder for anything better than a Darkhaven guard, but hey, you’d get your reduction!  *grin*

So where does this fall into the worth the effort/not worth the effort spectrum?  I think that it’s fairly clear that this should fall into the category of an optimization.  New players don’t need to stress out about this, just take con into account when you’re making a new character.  Ultimately I don’t think this mitigation is going to cause you to survive a fight that you otherwise couldn’t.  You may survive a few close calls because of it but in the final analysis if you couldn’t quaff your way out of trouble before, you’re still in trouble.  Where this does have a nice shine to it is that it may save you some equipment damage and gold in heals, which if you’re an active player is probably not insignificant.  If you are on a tanking character where hit points, AC and damage evasion are far more important than DR, then trading DR for CON probably makes sense.  Is it worth glorying extra CON on?  That’s up to you.  1 con will cost you the same as 7.5 hp … The numbers depend on where in the spectrum you are but I don’t think you’re going to save 7.5 hp per round unless there’s more than 1k of damage coming through sanc and protect per round.  Straight mitigation doesn’t make the case here.  On a long term basis there is an argument that more CON = less heals but that doesn’t translate directly into a gold/glory cost analysis since the days to glory trading came to an end.  Were glory trading legal, you could probably save gold if you were an active enough runner by buying CON.

It remains to be seen if this will translate into lower equipment damage.  This is the one spot where this could be a shining star.  If tanks can stay in a fight longer because the damage is lessened and their equipment isn’t being so heavily hit then I would say every tank should load up all the free CON they can grab.  Simultaneously it will reduce repair costs giving a second direct economic benefit to the player who doesn’t want to spend their time golding for repair bills.

All in all I think this is a good change.  What changed my mind about pushing past the class limits was my experience building my character in Diablo 3.  I can take things as far as I want to, starting thinking in terms of “effective health” instead of raw hit points.  It goes against the grain of the Realms of Despair, but I think it’s worthwhile.  I can see not eliminating the stat caps on characters because it would require a total review of everything that is dependent on those limits, but selectively breaking the cap seems a great compromise.  As with saving throws the numbers are not directly read off the score screen (I won’t see myself with 27 con by typing score) so some element of mystery remains, even if many database programs (my own included) will count the actual totals.