KoL Blogging

[Kingdom of Loathing] Don’t you hate it when you write something and it goes nowhere? My intro to this post became rambling contemplation on the various kinds of blogs, but I decided that it wasn’t all that good, so we’ll skip the foreplay and get to the topic of the post. (Would the world be a better place if, every time someone wrote something sub-par, he hit “delete” instead of “publish”? You could real all the best blogs in an hour or two.)

Shadow’s Light is a player of Kingdom of Loathing, and he was one of the testers for the endgame. Since then, he has been doing Hardcore speed runs, and he is a far better player than I am. He has been blogging since the end of his first run, tracking his daily KoL-ing. It is kind of like Hogit’s Story, in that we are following one specific person through a fictional world.

I have been reading his blog’s history, which provides great insight into what I could be doing better. KoL has rather little in-game to support community, except a clan system that does not seem to do a lot, especially for a Hardcore player. The community exists out-of-game, through forums, a radio show, and some web sites. (Oh, there is chat, but I have always avoided chat rooms so I cannot comment on it.) It is surprisingly robust for a little browser-based game in which the non-solo options involve trading buffs and items. In a world of forced grouping, you face the Kingdom of Loathing alone.

Now to be somewhat less specific to Shadow’s Light, I have realized how some others are getting through Kingdom of Loathing runs so quickly: they have spent a lot of money on the game. Well, not a lot compared to what most of us spend on MMOs, but they have donated $70+ to a nominally free game, in order to get donation rewards. I do not know how many people regularly donate or shop at the Mr. Store, but it is a nice little system that provides incentives to donate. I suppose that some of them did not donate money; they just exploited dupe bugs long long ago and have been trading stacks of in-game cash for others’ donation rewards. Donating $10 every month or two to support a game you enjoy is not a bad thing, and maybe I should have sent more donations (I did so once before I knew there were rewards, once after). It is just surprising to see tips that recommend using, say, 3 Mr. Accessories ($10 each), a Coffee Pixie and/or Cheshire Bat ($20 each), Wax Lips for that pet ($10), maybe a Pygmy Bugbear Shaman ($10) or an Inflatable Dodecapede ($10? $20?). That is a lot to spend on a free game.

: Zubon


[Kingdom of Loathing] I completed my first hardcore oxygenarian Ascension today. If that means nothing to you, then you have never played this silly little browser-based game. I went with hardcore oxy as my first ascension since I thought I would not want to spend much time with KoL; I would be bound to having as few turns as possible, and since my randomly selected sign affected gains from food, that slowed things further. As it turns out, I have really been enjoying KoL lately, so I am looking forward to a run as a hardcore teetotaler Sauceror.

Oh, and hello to any Ascendance fellows who may have wandered over here. While I miss y’all, I just lack the urge to log into CoH lately. Ascension is like Ascendance, only different.

: Zubon

What I Learned in Luigi’s Mansion

I have not been much of a console gamer in the past ten years, or perhaps at all. For a long time, my newest console was the Super Nintendo, which still has wonderful games. I consumed Luigi’s Mansion in two fairly long sittings, so let us see what lessons it holds for our normal topic of MMOs, as well as life in general.

The enemy will always give us the tools we need to defeat him. If you need to melt something, there will be a fire source nearby, probably in the room. If you have no tools with which to defeat the enemy, expect him to throw your tools at you. Luigi’s Mansion does not do the annoying thing of having one room that requires the fire from room 1, the water from room 35, and the ice from sub-basement 4, with only one moment where the item you need is down the hallway instead of in the room. Simplistic, but it eliminates some useless running.

I recently moved into a house designed by video game makers rather than architects. There are rooms on the first floor that can only be accessed by a route through the third floor. I can get to one of the stairwells only by going out back, through the courtyard. There are three elevators in the house, each of which goes between only two floors. Those who have played City of Heroes are very familiar with buildings that have ten sets of elevators, because having one set to cover multiple floors would be very inefficient.

Accentuating this architecture, the key to the room next door can safely be assumed to be in the room furthest away. If we do not add unnecessary running through the items for each room/puzzle, you can always do so with absurd keys. The early levels do an effective bait-and-switch on this: the first few times, the key is within a few rooms, and there is even a note about the room whose key is squirreled away somewhere else. Then you start finding basement keys on the third floor, and the room down there opens the next room on the third floor. Yes, I know, you have done this before and I am whining; we are commiserating together. This is where we express empathy and wonder if excessive running through dead space is good game design.

Ghosts who walk through walls still feel the need to carry or guard keys. This is similar to how rats sometimes carry leather armor and slugs drop copper pieces.

Bugs make it even into console games. Collision detection is apparently very hard. Also, at one point, you need to go find the key to a room that has been unlocked for most of the game. You were wondering why there is one room in which you cannot do anything, including throwing the obvious switch? There is a trigger later in the game that reminds the door that it was supposed to be locked all this time, and once you unlock it, you can use the switch.

When in doubt, try doing everything you can to everything in the room you can access. In this game’s case, vacuum, shake, or burn everything around you until something happens. You know the drill, since most of you have played adventure games.

Cute is good. Cartoony graphics are very effective, especially when many attempts at photo-realism just look creepy. If someone looks about right on a still shot but is 5% off when moving or talking, you really notice that 5%. Mostly you notice that something is wrong with this person’s face… Good call for World of Warcraft.

Camera movement is hard. I recall many points in City of Heroes where the camera will go into odd zooms and leaps around walls and corners, and occasionally you are completely unable to see what you are fighting unless you swing the camera around while fighting with the other hand. You should hear my wife growl at Super Mario Sunshine when the camera is being uncooperative. One of the nice things about Eve Online is that the camera is extremely flexible. You can move the camera all around you, zoom in or out, and then change the direction of the camera: if you really want to, go orbit something while sending the camera in revolutions around you and spin it.

In Luigi’s Mansion, the camera does not move much. A few rooms have 3D interaction, but mostly you run on a flat floor, and the camera moves like a side-scroller. Except when you get to boss fights. Boss fights happen in a 3D arena, even when the fight is pretty much in 2D. The camera tries to move around helpfully to keep you and the enemy in sight. In theory. In practice, you might be anywhere on the screen, some hostiles will be in sight, and your ultimate target may be hanging just off camera. The final fight is absolutely the worst example of camera movement I have ever seen in any game. Visually, the fight is stunning, and it must have worked nicely in screen shots or demo videos. The background is great, and the boss is huge and impressive: most of the time, he takes up about a quarter of the screen. Frequently, he takes up two thirds of the screen, as the camera swings around so that the enemy is between you and the camera. I hope you memorized where the explosives behind him were. Also, in the attempt to keep you both visible, the camera will swing around while you are moving, so that you must turn continuously to run in a straight line. A game that sacrifices quality of play in favor of impressive visuals? I can hear your shock from here.

And with those assorted comments, we return you to your daily reading. If you have a GameCube, it could be worth a rental, probably not a purchase. It has Luigi in the title, which is like Mario, so my wife will play it.

: Zubon

No Sign of the Janitor

[EVE Online] Zubon’s subscription to EVE Online goes on hiatus, due to the lack of a continuing janitor storyline. Actually, I found a lack of interest in entering 0.0 space, running missions, trade runs, or mining; in unflattering terms, gank or be ganked, running the same set of missions over and over again in hopes of an occasional different story not involving janitor transportation, AFK auto-drive for hours, or staring at rocks. Despite that characterization of the gameplay, I still expect to return to the EVE universe at some point. Rather entertaining at points, and an interesting concept for a skill system.

While the rest of KTR continues with the new shiny, I have hopes for that City of Heroes spark to strike again, Kingdom of Loathing has Ascension, and I have been rolling a lot of katamari. Also, conference next week for work, and being out-of-town tends to keep me out-of-game.

: Zubon

CoH Issue 5 on Test

[City of Heroes] If ringthree gets to do it, I get to. :p Rather than posting everything, you can go check it out here. CoH has the nice aspect of including a comment on why things are getting love or nerfs.

I already told you the new and exciting things earlier: new zone, new powers, new events, some retrofitting. Also some very nice quality of life improvements, such as making the Shadow Shard and Rikti Crash Site more viable. Blasters seem to have gotten most of the love, with a higher damage cap, more hit points, damage increases as they take damage, and another Ancillary Power Pool. Scrappers got more damage.

And of course…the nerfs. I mentioned last month that the Hami-O thing was not much of a nerf. This is a nerf. Defenses and AE damage have taken a hit across the board. Maybe the magnitude is small, I don’t know yet. In order to give Controllers a more balanced experience across levels, they gain some damage capacity, lose a large amount of AE control, and got a large pet nerf; Dark Miasma Defenders were caught in the wake of this, losing some control. AE attacks now hit a limited number of targets. There are two screens full of defensive powers taking a hit. I suppose they could have just said, “All except X,” but I’m not sure what is in X yet. I don’t see Eclipse on the list, or Fire Tankers. Some classes of enemies’ accuracy was also reduced, so that might offset it.

The funny thing is, I feel somewhat struck by the defense nerf even though I play mostly squishies. Very few of my characters would see any penalty from the round of nerfs, except for the squishiness of teammates. Except for playing a */Devices Blaster, most of the nerfs in the game have missed me. Maybe it is just that the list of defense nerfs is two pages long and includes some characters I was thinking of playing.

Fire Tankers’ defenses aren’t on the list. That’s kind of funny. Because, hey, there aren’t enough of them yet. I wonder if Burn is affected by the AE damage nerf.

More as the patch develops. Or, actually, probably not much, since I avoid exploding with every change. Tip to Cryptic: make the ‘love’ section of the patch look longer than the ‘nerf’ section. For example, don’t sum up a new zone and five new power pools in half a screen at the beginning, then go on to have a few screens worth of nerfs. List out those power pools, for example. On another note, front-loading all the nerfs then scaling them back and/or adding love over time helps calm complaints, but it does train players to complain about any change with the expectation that nerfs will be scaled back based on the volume of complaints.

: Zubon

Important Storyline

[EVE Online] Every 16 missions or so, a contact will call you for an Important Storyline mission. Yes, that is what they are called. Anyway, they give you a bit of story, sometimes have a chain of missions, and are a nice break from repetitive missions. Yesterday, three out of four missions were “stop the Serpentis pirates who are harassing people nearby.” When I logged on today, I was excited to see a message from my usual Storyline contact. Hurray! What excitement am I doing for the Gallente Navy? Last time, I had to face waves of Caldari attackers to stop a double agent.

Important Personnel Transportation
Mission briefing
I have something important for you this time. One of our chief janitors has just started his vacation, and requested that I find a suitable pilot to transport him to Grinacanne I – Federal Intelligence Office Assembly Plant, where he’ll be visiting his aunt for a couple weeks. Since you’re looking for work, I thought I’d offer you this job. What do you say?

This mission expires at 2005.07.21 00:22:47
This is an important mission, which will have significant impact on your faction standings.

Excuse me? You want me to use a warship as a personal transport vehicle for a janitor? And I need to put down a 50,000 credit deposit on him. You know, just in case I try to sell him a few stations over. Good janitors are hard to come by.

It really did affect my faction ratings, too, 10x as much as my previous mission. Which involved dealing with enemies of the Federation. I dropped in faction with other empires, who apparently are really bitter about this janitor’s getting to take a vacation. (Random reference: the gardener who Prine Xizor tries to hire away from the Emperor in Shadows of the Empire. Poor guy.) This must be some Very Important Janitor. Maybe he will be the next Amarr emperor. If he doesn’t show up in future missions, I am going to quit. :p

: Zubon

Potentially Excessive Use of /emote

[completely off-topic] A friend of mine is trying to take a British kinda-holiday national. That would be today, so-declared International Kissing Day. Those of you lacking appropriate partners can use in-game emotes, although check your game’s harassment policy first depending on your use.

We now return you to your scheduled blogging and gaming. Thank you.

: Zubon