So why do you still do it…? (Part 1)

*Opens the bible of MMOS.* Quote from the book of Jealousy and Anger, chapter 37, section 13:

“The keyboards of Jealousy and Anger’s followers were sent asunder as a divine hand came smashing down in anger. The hallowed and sacred word ‘Twink’ followed a string of holy expletives uttered in praise from the lips of their followers as their cult was smote by the unholy and pixilated avatar.”

One of the constant draws of AO is the system it uses. Unlike most traditional MMOs, AO uses a skill distribution based on numbers. This system is based of the use of IP (improvement points) of which you get a certain amount depending on your title level (TL) – which is dependant on your level range. As you go deeper and deeper into the title level during the early levels (1-175’ish), you need to find a way to budget your IP until you cap your skills for that TL. Early on, IP is very tight. Skills also have color designations which dictate how much IP is needed to raise a skill one point, as well as how high or low the skill will cap. Skill colors, as should be guessed, are based on class and breed. The system was designed so that every class could basically do whatever they wanted to. Want a Nano-technician (NT) with a 2-handed sword? Why not! The only catch is that it’ll be hard to get the item on – harder than, say, a class like Enforcer (Warrior/Generic tank) or Keeper (Paladin) who have a light blue/light green 2he (2-handed edge) skill and buffs to augment that. But, hey, you can put that 2-handed sword on that NT if you still want!

As your toon nears the end of a TL, the skills start to hit a level cap – you can’t raise them anymore. Dark blue colored attributes – the ones that are the hardest to raise and cap lower than light blue (easier to raise than dark blue) and light green colored skills (light green are the easiest to raise and highest caps) – usually hit breed caps around 150, from there full breed caps kick in by 175. At this same time, your main skills begin hitting caps so you suddenly have a stockpile of IP to waste that wasn’t there before. Items suddenly take huge leaps in the amount of skills that are required as people have access to higher level buffs, twinking items, and higher base skills. *Wheezes* Must… breathe… too much… rambling….

This is a basic description of how the system works. I’m missing out on things like perks and Alien perks which throw the whole game out of whack by poor balancing in a lot of instances.

However, this system is what I live for in AO. AO comes down to a game of numbers. If you want to get a weapon on, it’s not about the level you have, it’s about whether or not you have the needed skills raised – no arbitrarily assigned weapon skills and restrictions for classes in this game! As one could guess, a system that revolves around numbers like this is based around buffs. Here is where my enjoyment of this game really stems from:

Twinking.

Twinking in AO isn’t quite the same as it is in other games. Sure, it is the idea of getting better-than-average items and spells for that level/level range; but most other games do not take the work or effort that AO does. Getting the items and a base level range is just the beginning (base level range needed simply to ensure that one has high enough skill to think about twinking on bigger items.) So even before you have the item you’re looking to twink on, you have to do calculations and add up numbers from various places to ensure that you can get this item one; start with the base, unbuffed skill; add in nanos that buff the skills in question; then add in nanos that buff attributes in order to add trickle down to the skills in question; add in items that modify the skill (HUD items, weapons, armor, belts, NCU chips, implants/symbiants); add in perks as needed; and then figure out the proper dance needed to equip the item (don’t forget to have your semi-colons handy!) and then maybe… just maybe your item will go on.

Yes, I said maybe. I do twinking like this all the time. I don’t do PVP twinks, or lowbie item farming twinks, or twinks based around a certain level range for lower level dungeons. I twink the character I am leveling simply to say I was able to do this or that because I can. I have stopped leveling my main character for times in excess of one month simply because I was going to twink. And, yes, all I really had to do was get a couple days of leveling in and I would’ve been able to equip any item a lot easier. But that’s not nearly as fun. The point of twinking to me becomes the principle of the matter. Nothing gives me more satisfaction in AO than equipping something really early that takes a lot of work and time to accomplish. Most people ask me why the hell I bother. They inform me, a player of AO for going on three years in August, that all I had to do was level and it would’ve been so much easier! I just say “Because I can.”

Now I’m not going to say that I am the greatest person when it comes to twinking. All I do is simply something that is easily done if you put in the finances and time to get easy-to-obtain items (either financially or camping). I’m not doing this based around gear from the Pandemonium raid zone in the Shadowlands; I do not have access to Notum towers or tower contracts. All I have is money, lots of time, and little to no patience.

But let’s go back to maybe getting the item on. I am notorious for screwing up my twinking. My first guild leader, for instance, would get ready to give me every buff in the game when I started the twink. He knew I was going to forget something, be short in something; I might’ve miscalculated, so his alt army was always at the ready for me. But that is the way of AO. I would roll the twink dice and always get the “You’re an idiot, stupid!!” roll. And it’s not just me. In guild chat you’ll get people talking about twinking, starting it, and then some expletive is said as they are short by some points in the skills required, and this is completely regardless of whatever their calculations said at times….

Remember that month-long twink I talked about earlier? Well, yeah, I ended up being short in something – the brawl skill I think it was. I was not happy. However, I quickly looked back at what was needed and was able to switch implants around to get it. It was fantastic. And, I was shocked.

Twinking like that is just a blast. It’s not just about getting a level. Its buffs, knowing the system and game. It is a display of knowledge and information. I love it. As long as there is the challenge to twink, no matter how much I do it, I will have some attachment to this game. It’s not as simple as most games, you need to think and be creative.

After writing this lengthy post, something comes to mind: Twinking is generally a community effort. Mention that you are going to twink something, make a twink, whatever, and you’ll have people rattling off items to help, offering buffs, and other forms of assistance. It’s great to see people coming together to help one another even in the mundane aspects of this game. The previous sentence, I might add, not so subtly leads me into my next post that I’ll have ready in a few days – maybe after I get back from my week-long trip coming up on Sunday.

(Oh! And I want to know what draws you to your game. In the end, that was kind of the long-winded, deeply buried point of this post. =P)

-Fat

12 thoughts on “So why do you still do it…? (Part 1)”

  1. Somehow I enjoyed my short few months in AO. Learning curve was steep and resulted in rerolls. Been thinking about the free sub thing just to drop in from time to time. Sadly I just don’t have the time :P

  2. I have a Fixer in AO called Ethic, naturally. He might have been the lowest level player to fly a Yalm. I went nuts on the points to be able to fly and I found one with a silly low requirement one day. Changed the game for me. I actually had a lot of fun in AO, just got tired of all the travelling for missions after a while and then all my friends moved on to other things. Playing on test burned me out some too I guess. I have a free account, but never log in. I should, but I know I gave away all my stuff and money to other Fixers before I left.

    I really did not get into twinking too much, the implant game got old after a while. Mostly I just played with what I found. I did like their system though.

  3. When I rejoined for the freebie time, I was really impressed with how much more mature AO had become, if that’s the right word. It’s a much better game than it was at release – we all agree it was horrible then, yes? I rolled probably 6 different characters to play on the newbie isle, just because I enjoyed it so much. Of course, by the sixth one, I knew every quest inside and out, where all 10 named spawned, more or less their spawn times, and would always leave the island with a few of the items you could sell for tons of money on the mainland (glasses and some kit I forget the name of) since I’d nail the named for quick cash and good items.

    The actual game itself was different as well, and I had a good time and good luck in that temple you visit early on. After that, I ran into what you mention about twinking and lost a lot of interest. In order to really “enjoy” the game, it seemed you had to do that buff/implant/nano dance to get decent stuff on, and I tired of it. I still play my Adventurer from time to time just as a diversion, but not seriously. I do agree that it was perhaps the most flexible in design. At release, it was also the most easy to screw up, since you couldn’t reset points back then. I got lucky and actually looted one of the fabled IP rings so wasn’t as bad off as others.

  4. “After that, I ran into what you mention about twinking and lost a lot of interest. In order to really “enjoy” the game, it seemed you had to do that buff/implant/nano dance to get decent stuff on,”

    Trying to twink some of the equipment on without the availability of some of the expansion buffs or perks is just murder.

    At the lower levels you can generally get by without doing massive twinking but once you get up to the higher levels in AO twinking becomes a neccesity if you want to put an item on (there’s even some items which are patently impossible to get on certain characters no matter how much you twink). It becomes frustrating to say the least. To compund the problem once you twink say a chest piece on…well later on if you want to twink something else on…you have lost the chest area as a place to put a buffing piece of armor. At that point you are doing perk resets, making implants, begging for buffs, and in the case of a small guild with low level towers/city, leaving your guild long enough to join a large guild to leech their bonuses from towers/city.

    All that said as you mentioned it is a great feeling to get on some really nice item, the first thing in WoW to come close to the feeling I got when i could finally equip my Superior Perrennium Blaster on my soldier in AO, was downing Ragnaros for the first time.

    I laugh when I hear people talk about “twinking” in WoW. They have NO idea what it means. There’s no real “work” involved in it, you just take your main and farm items or you have guildies walk you through a zone.

  5. Bah hit submit before I meant to.

    What draws me to WoW is probably because it is about as different from AO as possible though. While I do miss the extreme flexibility of the IP system (too bad the weapons available paint you in one path…but thats a post for a different subject), it is nice to be able to go ok I want to wear that now and not having to worry about finding 3,000 buffs and items to do so. It also helps that “camping” is not anywhere near as prevalent as it is in AO. Now AO was one of first MMO’s to have insances (their missions) the loot that tends to drop in missions is laughable, and the XP was subpar as compared to doing outdoor mobs in the Shadowlands (the XP bit is semi fixed..loot in missions still sucks though). Whereas in WoW If I go in to an instance odds are good that I am going to get something atleast decent out of it, AND get good XP.

    Of course I think both games have busted end games(and on top of the busted end game AO throws a huge grind in there after level 200 ).

    Whatever idiot thought making almost every end game dungeon available require you to have a bunch of other people to do them should be shot. Can they be fun..yes, but they should not be the focus of your entire gaming existence once you max out.

  6. Mostly what keeps me coming back is a lack of other good options and the memory of what was. I think WOW has one of the best level 1 to 30 character advancements systems. Unfortunately, it degrades rapidly right on up until level 60. As Rand said, please lets kill the designers who thought 40-man dungeons was all people wanted to be able to do at 60. Sure they threw in a couple of 20-mans, but the loot is laughable and can be discounted if you can do 40-mans for loot.

    I cant find anything to give me that same sense of excitement and adventure as my first toon did to 35 or so. But I keep coming back in the hopes that something will kick in eventually.

  7. Twinking in AO…..Right now I should level up my chosen pants, but then I would have to do some twinking to get the back on. Twinking is definitely not my stronghold in the game….I want to be the best I can be, but I would rather level and get where I need to be rather than the headache of trying to be much better than I should be at a lower level. My joy of the game, for 3 years now, has been community. Since I play with Fat in AO, I know how he is about twinking….and I wish he would just do it and bring his adventurer back to life for more adventures with Phoebis.

  8. You’re right, Rand. AO does lock you into a system since they keep on breaking the game’s mechanics across the board. And you’re also right about the 40+ man raids that every game has. AO’s end game may as well be non-existent, which is why I’m loathe to ever really see it. In any MMO I’ve ever played, I’ve only come close to the level cap, but never met it. In WoW I had a 47 Warlock, in EQ2 I have a 53 SK, AO I have a 211 Adv, 193 Enf. Sure, the Adv and Enf are “end game” toons in the sense of levels, but I don’t consider them end game because I’m not camping raid zones like the Alien Playfield (which I loathe.. more on that another time) and Pandemonium in the Shadowlands.

    I’ll never see those areas, even though all I have to do is join a bot. It’s not fun to do. Getting an obscene number of DKP in order to get an item is just senseless. I play these games for my friends and being able to explore the game. Twinking is another way of exploring the game without the need to level up my toons or grind that much more.

    And you’re right, too, Rand; the post-200 game in AO is nothing but a huge grind. AO has gone the way of EQ: Add in more and more content which can only be accessed by some sort of grind. Alien Invasion introduced Alien Levels which give players the ability to get some more perks… you just have to kill green-skinned mobs instead of grey rocks like you did in SL. And with the newest expansion pack coming up, Lost Eden, AO is introducing even more perks to grind! Yes, that’s right folks! You know those grey rocks and transparent, or black/brown mobs you grew to loathe so much on your slow treadmill to 220? Now you can kill those same mobs again in order to get global research for your faction! Yes, that’s right! Kill more of the same mobs.

    AO is borked to hell. I gave up on ever even thinking I could or would see the end of this game – because it doesn’t end. If I want Alien Level 30, I need to kill roughly 54,000 mobs. And no, that is not an exaggeration, 54,000 mobs if you want Alien Level 30. What does that get you? A few perks that may or may not be worth your wasted time.

    Grind, grind, grind. It’s not the way any game should be based around, but it is. So it’s up to the player to find different things to do when that grind gets to be too much. And that’s when I say hello to twinking.

  9. “And you’re right, too, Rand; the post-200 game in AO is nothing but a huge grind. AO has gone the way of EQ:”

    If only it were the older games that were stuck in the grind mentality.

    But look at WoW one of the games that was lauded for it’s easing of the grind (you might still be grinding but it’s fun). Yet they have forgotten that for the end game. look at the latest instance they are wanting to put in the game. If you don’t grind AD rep you have to pay a rather large amount of g PLUS crystals. Now for the hardcore player that probably doesn’t sound like alot. For everyone else you are either going to have to grind the gold or you will have to grind the faction. Neither of which is remotely fun.

    I fail to grasp why ever single MMO which implements reputation of any sort immediately turn it in to a grind. You should gain more than suffecitent rep with the various people just by doing their questlines. yet inevitabely you have to either:

    A) Kill the same types of mobs over and over and over or

    B) Have to do a turn in over and over and over.

  10. Grinding hecklers day in and day out, or doing missions in Shadowlands can get mundane to say the least at times. However, this is where I go back to the concept of community in the game. Just being with game friends while grinding, or breaking it up for community raids, is what keeps me coming back for more. I am usually in a 6 man team with at least 4 people I would consider friends. When I am sick of teaming for xp/sk, I will find out who needs what, and take a raidforce into a dungeon, or do something special like “Spawning Mercs” which require a large amount of team work, and provide some of the best loot in game. It’s not all about the mundane grinding….it’s about community coming together for accomplishment either in the leveling of characters, or large tasks. To me, this is fun. I can easily balance between the two, and it has kept me coming back for 3 years. I would understand the angst of anyone that has not found this type of community within Anarchy.

  11. I really enjoyed the communtiy of AO. I was part of a corp there that I had fun with and that I consider friends. However we were a small group and unable to get to alot of the endgame portion of AO due to that. What finally killed AO for me was just the sheer amount of time that would be involved from 205-220. I am much closer to a casual player than I ever will be to a hardcore player. I have my bursts of extreme play but more often it’s along the lines of casual.

    I would really love to see a sequel made to AO with all the lessons learned since it’s release. Sadly I don’t think that will ever happen.

  12. Funny… but I dont recall any 40 man raids in UO. Matter of fact, I dont recall any at all. I seem to remember being able to solo every bit of the content, once I was of sufficient skill/equipment.

    Hmmm

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