Chris Carter, Joss Whedon, Google, and NCsoft

[Warning: there are some TV Tropes links in here.]

I have confessed to contributing to self-fulfilling prophecies: if you do not commit to something/one because s/he/it may not be around for long, s/he/it probably will not be around for long. So how do you invest yourself in something when the producers have a left a wake of unfinished and canceled projects?

Continue reading Chris Carter, Joss Whedon, Google, and NCsoft

Dungeon Maintenance Fees

You can play Dungeon Runners for free, with no limit to time or levels. You can go sign up right now, play until the level cap, then start a new account and do it again.

Your $4.99 per month buys you the full features. You cannot equip the top three tiers of items unless you are a paying member, meaning you will have worse damage and defenses. Members can use the good potions that stack in inventory, meaning you get more pack space. Only members can use the bank to hold items. If there are queues, members go to the front of the line.

Is it worth it? There is no box to buy, so your cost really is just $5 for each month you play. If you played Diablo II for less than 6 months, you would have been better off with this. Also, you can play for a month, leave when you get bored, play another month after a few dungeons are added, and so on. It might take you years to get through six months, over which time there will be the equivalent of several free expansion packs.

It is a free download with unlimited trial, so give it a shot. Play through the newbie area until you get to Townston. If that was fun, play until level 10, to see if the gameplay is sphexish. If you are still having fun, throw them $5 and start using the good items. It was much better entertainment than I got from that matinee of Terminator 3.

: Zubon

A week in the dungeon: day 1 2 3 4 4.5 5 6 7

Sphex Mage

Log on mage, enter the dungeon for your level. Option 1: fight one group at a time by pulling with fire bolts, shooting down enemies as they come. Use AE as melees swarm. Clean up with more fire. Option 2: aggro multiple groups and get enemies to cluster. Use AE attacks while chugging potions as needed. Clean up with more fire. Option 2 works better with melee enemies, and it is more interesting as option 1 is mostly holding down the left mouse button.

Still, there is only so much fun you can get from this. It does not vary. The attacks are a few options with different colors for different types of damage. Fighting red rats at level 20 is much the same as fighting brown ones at level 2. Each dungeon does add new models, along with new versions of old enemies, but skeletons with plasma rifles fight just like rats with flamethrowers. The only changes of pace are enemies with annoying abilities (heals, stuns) and champions, who are the same enemies with more hit points. Increasing the numbers does not change the fundamental.

Four dungeons into it, the boss fights are nothing special. Sissirat is my favorite so far: the first boss and a huge fight with poison everywhere. Algor is just a melee bruiser. Vergrim was annoying and frustrating, constantly floating around while summoning exploding rats (that knock you down for three seconds. Each). Widow Maker is a big spider who summons little spiders, who also roots and debuffs.

I think I got all the gameplay in my (less than) one month of play. I may return at some point when I feel the urge to kill ten rats.

: Zubon

A week in the dungeon: day 1 2 3 4 4.5 5 6 7

Who Plays Dungeon Runners?

Not a lot of people. I would be surprised to hear that the game had 1000 logged on at once, including free accounts. That is spread across four servers.

How is the community? What community? There are no guilds, nor is there a reason for them. The forums have about 25,000 registered users, 2500 threads, and 19,000 posts, with “Max users online was 145 @ 08/08/07 11:54 PM.”

There is no real reason to group. You cannot buff or heal, so the only benefits to being around other people are (1) sharing debuffs and (2) dropping things faster due to higher damage. Running solo, I have only had trouble once. I can herd groups of enemies on a mage. Some of the fights might be easier or more interesting in a group, but you can solo the end-dungeon bosses easily enough.

The world channel is better than a free game deserves. /ignore someone every few days and you will have removed pretty much all the problems. Maybe it is worse on the most populated server. The most annoying part is the continuous stream of new players who have not even read the quickstart guide, so they ask questions that are either meaningless or could easily be answered by talking to the NPCs with the big gold exclamation points over their heads. We all enter the world ignorant, pissy, and crying, but you don’t need to enter the internet that way.

There is no community, no reason to form one, and not much means to do so beyond a friends list. How do you get people to recruit their friends or find new ones with the incentive of “you can farm with me”? Oddly, there is a referral program, so you can send your friends a key for a free trial. Think about that one.

: Zubon

A week in the dungeon: day 1 2 3 4 4.5 5 6 7

Kill Ten Thousand Rats

The most common enemies throughout the low levels of Dungeon Runners are the whiskers, humanoid rats of many shapes and colors. There are rat men, rat blademasters, rats in clouds of poison, rats that spit poison, rats with flamethrowers, rat shamans, poisonous rat shamans, exploding rats, and a poisonous rat shaman boss who has a rat blademaster bodyguard and summons rats in clouds of poison. Your first dungeon boss is a rat, and you will be pursued through the next three dungeons by his vengeful family, friends, former roommates, masseuse, and DJ.

: Zubon

A week in the dungeon: day 1 2 3 4 4.5 5 6 7

Dungeon Humor

Dungeon Runners is funny. It does not take itself seriously. NPCs mock themselves, each other, and you. The newbie merchant is a great example of this: “All my stuff is crap!” You will meet Lothar of the Hill Mound People and some intentionally poor celebrity impersonators. Random item names follow Diablo II’s pattern, only you might have a Vacillating Cardboard Axe of the Penitent Koala. You can summon a giant BBQ turkey leg.

The dungeons are explicitly theme parks for violent tourists. You are a dungeon runner, not a hero. Quests include auditing monsters, the “Crazy Cat Lady” series, and collecting miniatures. You will fight for the five rings of Captain Planet Pollution. Conventions are used or skewered as is most amusing. The new dungeon will have goldfarmers as enemies to slay.

And, for the more juvenile, the AE poison skill is a fart joke. Its damage is based on intelligence, so the smartest mages in the world are the most likely to be… No, I cannot finish that sentence. I ignore that animation as I am fighting.

As some have noted, this hurts immersion. It does, however, make for a fun time.

: Zubon

A week in the dungeon: day 1 2 3 4 4.5 5 6 7

This Dungeon Has No Class

When you start, it looks like Dungeon Runners has classes. You start as a mage, ranger, or warrior. Townston has three trainers, one for each class. You quickly learn that anyone can learn any skill. Your starting class only determines which four skills you start with. The elemental resistance buffs are spread across the three classes, and one of the best mage AOE damage spells is a ranger skill.

Your limit is that you can have ten skills active at a time. Think Guild Wars, only you can change them mid-dungeon. You have one hotbar, with 1-8 plus two mouse keys. This includes your passive skills, which only work if you have them on the hotbar. Changing skills activates their cooldown timer, which is irrelevant for attacks but keeps you from having all the buffs active at once.

A respec is just a button that resets your stats (and costs you gold). Re-allocate your stats, change your skill bar, and put on some new equipment. Congratulations, you are a ranger today.

: Zubon

A week in the dungeon: day 1 2 3 4 4.5 5 6 7

A Quick Run Through Dungeon Runners

Dungeon Runners is Diablo II with humor instead of horror. How would you react if Blizzard announced ongoing support for Diablo II, with an update every month or two and a $5 monthly cost?

Dungeon Runners is better than Diablo II. It is colorful and tongue-in-cheek, family-friendly without being Disney. The graphics are large and rendered MMO-style, rather than Diablo’s perma-zoomed-out view. You pick up a variety of WoW-style quests that lead you through a variety of dungeons. The game is classless, so you can learn all the skills from all the trainers. It has much better connectivity than BattleNet. You can play for free with no box cost.

Dungeon Runners is the same as Diablo II. You click on monsters to swing or shoot. The same models keep returning with different colors. Sometimes they will be bosses with glowing auras. The inventory screen even looks the same.

Dungeon Runners is worse than Diablo II. It costs $5/month to use the bank and the best items. The range of abilities is small, with nothing like the necromancer, assassin, or druid. There will not be PvP until the next patch. You can have only one character per account until the next patch (and three thereafter). It has no slotted items or Horadric Cube function.

That is the quick version. I will have more comments over the coming week. I have already sent them $4.99.

: Zubon

A week in the dungeon: day 1 2 3 4 4.5 5 6 7