Test Realm April 2011: Burger King Amulets
Having asked Ethic if I could establish a bi-weekly column, I wasn’t expecting to post again so soon after bashing bubbly on the hull of my Spiral Situation. Then what to my wondering eyes should appear but those magical words: Test Realm Status: ONLINE!
KingsIsle reports that the Test Realm will be open for a few days to “test some new amulets”. Many other features have been coaxed out of hiding by players diving into the Test Realm, but I’ll wait to blog about those until they go live. If you’re simply breathless with urgency to read about those, I recommend visiting The Chillanthropologist (scroll down below the information on Mount-a-palooza) for other features of notes and musings on same.
Back to the Burger King Amulets. This is not the name KingsIsle has bestowed upon them. Yes, I made that name up. Yes, I’m so old that I was around for the introduction of the “Have It Your Way” back in the Seventies. And the amulets currently being tested let players have it their way, for better or for worse. I’ll start out by explaining what the amulets do, then I’ll explain what that means.
What they do: The new amulets let the player use Power Pips for a school outside of the main school of focus.
What that means (you might want to grab a beverage and a comfy seat): When a player rolls a toon in Wizard101, they must choose one of seven schools for enrollment in Ravenwood. By choosing a school, the PC gets a professor who grants spells simply for leveling or completing components of the main storyline, and other spells after completing specialized boss fights in solo play. As a PC levels, it is granted training points. This is the Wizard101 iteration of WoW’s talent tree. However, unlike WoW and many other MMOs, training points cannot be used to enhance primary spells until the player reaches level 50 (about ⅚ of the way through current game content). Until then, training points can only be used to train spells OUTSIDE the primary school, and even then a majority of spells from other schools remain off-limits.
KingsIsle refers to the use of training points as establishing a secondary and then tertiary school. But within a year of Wizard101 going live, most players rejected the idea training all possible spells in a secondary school. That’s because using spells outside the primary school essentially render power pips useless.
What’s a power pip (remember, I recommended a comfy chair)? A power pip, when randomly awarded by the Fickle Fates of The Spiral, empowers a player to cast a spell from their primary school with roughly twice as much damage. Let me clarify: if a PC has two regular pips, a two-pip spell from the primary school can be cast. If a PC has two power pips, a four-pip spell from the primary school can be cast, or a two pip spell from their secondary school. Power pips mean a PC can do more damage in fewer rounds (remember, Wizard101 is a turn-based card game). However, power pips only “count” for the primary school of the PC. If you use a spell from a secondary school, you’re giving up the opportunity to do twice as much damage as you could be doing with your primary school.
Everybody with me? If not, ponder your rouge’s combo points. Or your hunter’s focus. Or your runekeeper’s attunements. Would you like to use them to do double your normal damage with your next move, or your regular amount of damage? If that seems like a silly question, then you’re with me.
Hence the shedding of secondary schools among many players. The typical approach is to use training points for Death Schools spells up to Feint and then Ice School spells up to Tower Shield. And then to pack only Feints (one pip to increase the damage inflicted by the next attack by 70%? Yes please!) and Tower Shields (zero pips) in your deck alongside your primary school spells and your school-wide healing spells. The other spells look tasty (except for the Barfing Blood Bat and the Hurling Humongofrog, both of the Myth School), but there’s little point in having them in your arsenal if you’re not going to use them.
So at first blush, it seems that the Burger King Amulets are a lovely means of making the game more enjoyable and multi-faceted by making the use of secondary school spells more strategic (i.e., less stupid).
In the Test Realm, the Burger King Amulets are only available through the Crowns (a.k.a. cash) Shop, but that’s no indication that this will be the only way to obtain one when the equipment goes live. They could be crowns-only, crowns or gold (as some mounts and houses are), or dropped by bosses. The one thing that is certain is that many players will want to reset their training points once the amulets go live.
And therein lies the rub: the only way to reset training points is with crowns. Cash on the barrel-head. In WoW you can reset your talent tree for in-game currency; in LotRO you can re-slot your traits for in-game coin as well. This seems to be standard in MMOs. Wizard101 might not be the only game that charges cash for this service, but they are the only one I’ve encountered so far. It’s hard to generalize the cost, but of course the more training points you’ve used the higher the cost is. This means that my top-level Ice wizard, who has only two training points to her name, will require more crowns to reset those points than my high-level Life wizard, who has five. A fair guess is that the minimum is ten dollars. KingsIsle has reduced the cost of resetting training points in the Test Realm, but there is no indication that will be carried over when the amulets go live. It’s important to note that KingsIsle grants free crowns in the Test Realm for the express purpose of accessing features that need to be tested, and that those crowns and/or the items obtained with them do not carry over onto the live servers.
So, in an ideal world, the Burger King Amulets would be available for as drops and/or via in-game currency (gold). In a cynical world, they will be available only in the crowns shop. In a semi-snarky world, they will be available via the crowns shop AND for gold AND as drops (although farming to get the correct school could drive one to the brink of insanity). In the real world, for an amulet to be useful, players must crack open their Piggle banks.
In general, I have little patience for complaints about cash shops. Game companies are not charitable ventures. If they want to boost revenue, it’s a perfectly legitimate way of doing so. However, the idea of requiring cash to reset training points has smelled like day-old zombie to me ever since I realized it wasn’t the norm. Now, with the introduction of equipment that makes it even more tasty to reset and could cause a huge power imbalance among PvP players, the stink has become a stench.
Spiral Situation is usually a bi-weekly blog. Perideaux has multiple high-level characters in Wizard101. She’s not the President of the KingsIsle fan club, but she promises to be fair and acknowledge when KingsIsle does something right. Now she’s off to count her crowns and see if she has enough to reset her primary toon’s training points for the eighth time in two years.