[GW2] Crafting Tools

To harvest crafting materials, Guild Wars 2 uses a system functionally identical to LotRO, but it feels different. In both cases, you need to have a crafting item equipped to harvest, say a mining pick. In both cases, there are three; in GW2, you can wield all 3 at once to start, while you must manually switch in LotRO until you can build a multi-tool later in the game (advantage GW2 for less switching between tools). In both cases, they have different tiers of tools for the different tiers of crafting, although in LotRO the tiers matter for crafting rather than harvesting (advantage LotRO for less switching between tools).

The difference is that you buy explicit charges in GW2, while you have an item that needs repair in LotRO. Both are goldsinks, and in both cases you need to spend X gold every Y harvests to maintain your tools. GW2 gets the advantage for making it explicit how many charges you have left, rather than wondering how many more swings 4 durability will get you in LotRO. Maybe this just comes from having played LotRO for years, but it feels wrong to have “charges of pickaxe” rather than owning a pickaxe. From GW1, I accept that salvaging kits wear out, but it feels wrong when my sickle disappears. I will probably get used to it.

I have yet to run the numbers on whether you lose something in selling partially used pickaxes. In LotRO, you would naturally repair your crafting tools while in town, but you cannot just throw in another 200 charges of pickaxe in GW2.

Request to developers: can we have a visible indicator that a trade tool is low and/or out? Maybe it exists but is too subtle for me to notice. It stinks to move between nodes and discover that your sickle silently shattered on that last carrot.

: Zubon

[GW2] Reigning Expectations

Do not seek perfection in a changing world.” –Buddha

Guild Wars 2 is coming. I think it will be a great game. I also know that it is not just a game; it is a service. Like a good MMO service the actual game part will be a living, growing document. Events found unworkable or unfun might get cut or replaced. Mechanics might get tweaked or wholly reworked. Zones might get added or changed. The only sure thing is impermanence.

Hunter’s Insight already wrote about the so-called imperfections found in Guild Wars 2. A big one is the lack of free guesting between worlds. It will come “in time”, but it is a disappointment that the uninhibited feeling found in the original Guild Wars will be tampered a bit by servers. He also mentions mini-games and a bit more, and I want to add a “spectator mode” to the list. Again, it’s hard to regress. Continue reading [GW2] Reigning Expectations

MMO Baby Fat

Keen has a post up asking whether Guild Wars 2 will surpass his “3-month” rule-of-thumb. He uses it as a metric for MMO success. How much of the launch population stays around after three months? If “most” have left, then Keen chalks it up to a bad-egg MMO. Rift, Warhammer Online, and the like seem to fall under his rule. The problem with his rule is whether it is even a valid measurement. Has any recent MMO passed 3 months under Keen’s rule-of-thumb?

The rule appears based on the mass egress of players at around 90 days. The first month, like a good drug, is free for subscription-based games. The second month begins the actual monthly tithe, which is darn near automatic in the minds of many players. It’s the moment where I would guess players on the fence decide to throw just a little more money at it since it’s just a fraction of the money already spent. It’s at the third month that I think issues, boredom, or grass-is-greener syndromes overcome the value of continuing to play. Players are implicitly asked the question of whether it is worth staying. Continue reading MMO Baby Fat

[LotRO] Poor Party

LotRO has launched the Farmers Faire (guide, better than the wiki as I type this). The previous new event was the Treasure Hunt, so I am led to believe that the developers who brought you gems like the Haunted Burrow have moved on to other projects. Farmers Faire and the Treasure Hunt just aren’t very good. Granted, much of the festival content is a weak form of “click on this once a day,” but there have always been interesting things like dance lessons, emote-based trickery, shrew-stomping, and beer runs. The main new thing the two latest events bring is a chance to sell game tickets in the cash shop.

There are two things worth recommending in the Farmers Faire. Until a walkthrough is posted, “Fat Mayor” will be an amusing little puzzle quest. The major of Bywater is trying all the Faire foods, and he is slightly dissatisfied with everything, so you need to bring him an item in response to his complaint. Some of the prompts are clearer than others. “Manning the Market” is the other good quest. It is an umbrella quest with a half-dozen customers wanting things. They give you shopping lists that are intentionally written so as to throw you off unless you read the whole thing. The quests require reading comprehension, the ability to look around you, and a couple of guesses your first time through. There are two new mini-games, if you like scrambling to click on ground-spawns. Another one has text demonstrating why you might hate hobbits, which is genuinely amusing in text as well as genuinely irritating in-game.

Others are just crap. They have a few sentences of amusing text you can read out of game and no play value. One of the Market quests is effectively “click on this box repeatedly until you get ‘quest complete.'” One is “keep fishing until you get ‘quest complete.'” Two others are “keep fishing until you get ‘quest complete,'” but the quests are explicitly luck-based and you might fail them because you caught the wrong thing. One of the quests is unable to function with high populations, and the Faire areas will be heavily populated for a while; this quest gates another, which we know to exist only because a deed calls for completing it three times.

If you must have every deed, there are at least eight here, depending on how many tiers of “beat the mini-game X times” there are. There are also new cosmetic items.

: Zubon

Update: the wiki has a guide now. You can’t reasonably get drunk hobbits, but the drunk elves in Lothlorien work.

Missing Puzzle Piece

I increasingly find myself Googling the solutions to quests and puzzles on the assumption that they are broken. I sometimes find that I have been outwitted, but more often something is wrong with the game. That could be a technical error or a design flaw.

The Secret World has had some trouble with broken quests, and it is always upsetting to solve a puzzle and later find out the computer was not accepting the correct answer. You usually find that out after trying 20 “well maybe” guesses after the right one. I was just playing QUBE, which is enjoyable but has a couple of points requiring very precise jumps, which can be difficult when you apparently have no feet; you can look down and see yourself levitating somewhere off the platform you are standing on. Google, YouTube… okay, yep, I was doing exactly the right thing just 3 pixels off. Dodgy game physics are a related issue. Google, YouTube… okay, yep, just keep repeating that sequence of moves until the box slides instead of teleporting away.

On the design side, frequent readers know some of my pet peeves. The broken logic of adventure games is classic, as is that article, if you haven’t read it yet. Other games substitute “guess or brute force all options” for logic. Another old favorite is when you missed something because it was two pixels wide. Oh, I need a coin to proceed, and it was the slightly brown line in the sidewalk crack from seven screens ago? You know, I don’t feel bad for not taking the time to find that one. I’ve probably spent enough time trying to figure out what I was supposed to be finding.

I recall the early days of LotRO, which launched with many early quests involving things to click on the ground: a sack of bandit loot to reclaim, a mushroom to pick, a body to bury. With the newbie zones heavily populated, you could run to exactly the right spot and not find the quest objective because it was still respawning. Players cleared entire camps of dwarves without realizing that the clicky was by the first campfire, and how amazing that bodies could disappear and resurface! Modern tech has mostly solved this problem: the clicky disappears for you when you click it, but other players can also do so without rivalry.

: Zubon

Giant Lag Spikes on Your Shoulderpads

Diablo III is doing hardcore mode wrong. … Let me get the most glaringly obvious point out of the way. Diablo III requires an internet connection to play. This means lag. This means that you WILL die due to circumstances which are beyond your control. No internet connection is 100% reliable. Sometimes the Blizzard servers cock it up, and this will happen no matter what premium you pay for your connection. Therefore, as enticing it is to take a hardcore character seriously, the fact that you are at the mercy of the internet connection turns what should be a test of skill and caution into a veritable lottery. If your name gets pulled out of the hat you win a one way trip to permadeath.
The Mighty Viking Hamster

LotRO guides to the Undying title recommend against always running the easiest, safest content. If you have out-leveled the content, you are getting very little experience, while you are almost always safe enough on blue content. You are in a race with lag spikes and random perversity; given enough hours, your character will die due to no fault of your own, so if you want to achieve X before dying, you must reach it before “enough hours.”

: Zubon

Shopping By Customers

I recently read An Economist Gets Lunch by Tyler Cowen. Much of the book is advice on finding quality ethnic food (and barbecue) at reasonable prices, whether in the US or in their home countries. Don’t eat in the tourist district, do eat where there are several restaurants of the same type in the neighborhood (until I visited DC, it never occurred to me that you could have a half-dozen Ethiopian restaurants on one block). Being an economist, his insights focus on where the restaurants have the right incentives and efficiencies. A place with great atmosphere is selling that, rather than the food; the tourist district does not worry about repeat customers; American shipping systems are great but really fresh seafood and produce is only available close to the source.

Yes, this is one of those extended metaphor posts that takes an example from another setting and applies it to gaming.

The simplest guide is to look at the customers. If the restaurant has the right people eating there, the food is probably good. Who are the right people? The ones with interests aligned with yours. Continue reading Shopping By Customers