Coming back to AC after vacation was a mildly interesting experience. Somehow having not played for a week gave me a fresh perspective on the effects of the AC team’s balance process, which seems to be (1) identify a balance problem, (2) over-correct it to the point of absurdity, and (3) slowly bring it back. This isn’t a bad plan, and unlike UO fixes, the recent changes to the game do not come with free bizarre bugs that seem somehow unrelated to the problem being addressed. That must be the effect of having a team that actually knows what’s in the code.

The overbalancing certainly leads to a lot of whining on the part of testers who are operating under the delusion that they are paying customers. Here are some of the interesting things going on at the moment…

Loot scarcity. Critters have less and less on them, to the point that I find myself collecting every goddamned hunk of cheese and component I can’t personally use, because I just can’t make any damn money. I started a new character to see how it affects lower levels, and discovered that mages and archers have a big problem, as they are constantly forking out cash they just don’t have. Also in trouble are the high level types, who depend on the constant purchase of mana charges to fuel their magic items, often to the tune of about 50k per day. The real problem for these people is that you are just as likely, it seems, to find a loaf of bread on a high level enemy as you are to find one on a drudge skulker. It’s kinda sad to see all my friends mothball their amazing god armor in exchange for those boring looking but economical mattekar coats.

Archery nerfing. Even myself and my rabid anti-archer cohorts are a little disturbed at the fact that while before now, archery became less useful at about level 30 or so, it is now a serious problem for them. I see little tweaks back to a balanced situation, so I’m not too worried about that.

Magic tweaking. Is it normal for an acid stream V to do around 100 points of damage? Maybe critical hits are in for mages, or maybe it’s the effect of the mana pool actually seeing how many people are using circle V (very few). Another possibility is that the entire mana economy has been boosted to compensate for the zillions of new mages who are jumping in armed with their cheesy website spell libraries. In any case, the amazing damage boosts seem to be more than compensated for by the fact that it takes forever and a day to cast any spell higher than I, during which time the mage is being shredded by anything in reach. Seems fine, considering the next change…

Running slowed down. Who would have thought that people could run too fast for the servers to catch up with? PvP-wise, this is a big advantage for archers and mages, who now have more time before the enemy closes to fire away, which might help compensate for their own new problems. Lowering movement rates all around, and compressing the range of run speeds, has led to another interesting phenomenon… my newbie mage with a run of 30 can get away from banderlings. We may see a resurgence of slowass website-educated mages once the game goes public.

If you think about it, you can understand why the team would want to slow down the rate of income… game longevity. Make gear harder to acquire, and people will extend their normal subscription time just so they can try to get rich. To some degree, this is correct, but think about Everquest, the game where you play for months on end in order to be able to buy a pair of shoes. Scarce loot and few ways of getting it lead to a couple of phenomena, namely (1) powergaming by necessity, so that you can constantly be earning more money to fund your ammo/research/mana charge habit, foregoing casual “fun” play in order to keep up with everyone, (2) camping of items, which is really all there is to do in EQ, since that might be the only way to get them, and (3) a lack of fun.

Also, a lack of good monster loot and the ability to keep them powered with charges only accentuates another ongoing problem with the game: static items. Static items are things like the Sword of Lost Light, the Wand of Black Fire, Green Mire Curiass, etc., which are overpowered items which spawn regularly and which there is a static method to acquire. There is no reason not to get these. When you see a level 5 running around with a SoLL (a fairly common occurrence recently), there may be a problem. I have to side with the eternally complaining yet quixotically convincing Zashi Watta in his belief that such items should be removed, and require people to find good gear through hunting.

On another note, I had a good time playing on Beta Green. In one day, I got an 8th level mage, became a rank 3 allegiance monarch, turned PK at an absurdly low level, and managed to escape from a 4 on 1 attack by some people in Baishi who were acting on the whiny suggestion of one Desp, an annoying PK who first threatened me and my allegiance, then got killed by Jin Lee after he attacked her over her suggestion that he not loot our kills, then lied about the incident to others in the face of witnesses, then failed to train a Banderling Captain on me and two of my friends in the ultimately cheesy method of the “blue EQ PK”. The fight happened when I was running back to town, overloaded and low on stamina, and lasted about 5 minutes, involving a few potions, a bunch of drains and bolts from me (and a lot of heal selfs), and eventually logging out while singing “la la la”.

Should this have happened? (Not the 4 on 1, or even their failure to kill me while outnumbering, but the logout.) The fact that you can instantly log out of a potentialy bad situation as a red is interesting, and some might justify it by balancing it with the fact that you can easily die from lag or disconnection, which happened to me twice that day (to monsters, not to PK’s). I’ve also been on the other side of that, chasing a hated red down with others to see him jump through a portal and then log out with low health on the other side. I don’t really care personally about “getting a kill” or anything, but like jogging (the common practice of high run PK’s to run all across the goddamn island to avoid an attacker) it tends to be a little unrealistic in the face of what going red implies in AC, leaving the protection of Asheron and becoming vulnerable to attack from others. (See Kynn’s site for his rant about PvP joggers.) I was certainly happy for the ability to get out of a dumb situation where I was able to frustrate and escape from 4 attackers at once, but realistically I should have been killed. My porky overloaded ass was not about to get away on foot, and even with bad tactics, 4 people should be able to beat down one weak target. I imagine this might become a bigger problem when someone who can’t run away from a fair 1 on 1 might feel the need to instalog when it looks like things aren’t going his way. However, given the fact that a delayed character timeout (like in UO) would be a serious problem in a game where there are NO safe areas to do so, would be a large problem. (Picture someone having to log out on the outskirts of town while someone notices, who then brings in a bunch of monsters to kill the hapless player, let alone a PK situation.)

One final thought… when the servers went down yesterday, I stopped into the gromnie breath chat room to see what was going on. Here are some interesting snippets (yes, they have been edited down so this page isn’t 50k)…

JJayse> anyone knows website with Creat ench formulas ?
Fervour> Get your own spells,ya bum
airety> PLEASE GIVE ME SPELL SPIRIT OF THE WOLF K THNXS :) (Note: Hahahahaha)
JJayse> Like Str and so on.. I’m interested in the SELF ones ;))
bradish420> what is best way to power level?
SilverML> haha sow
LoneLy_WarLorD> SOW is a peice of shit thing from a peice of shit game
DaemonFlayer> Well, I think I will try a mage.
JJayse> http://(lame cheat site)
JJayse> read that URL i just threw !
skycruizer> QUESTION: Is it true they have randomized spell formulas for each player, for spells above Level 2?!?!?!
e_GoD3> How do i learn spells?????????
e_GoD3> How do i learn spells?????????
divachick> skycruizer: they did that at the beginning of beta 2
myrddin_web_de> It is not all randaom – can be calculated
e_GoD3> How do i learn spells?????????
JJayse> E GOD go to the url !!!!
learninguitar> go to http://(another lameass site) for a list of ALL spells of ALL lvls
skycruizer> DivaChick: Damn that sucks. Is there a trick for it?
JJayse> SCROLL up :)))
bradish420> e_god, experiment
learninguitar> oops wrong url
divachick> skycruizer: yes. it isn’t as hard as it seems :)
JJayse> thanx.. hit hit there :)
bradish420> e_god, start by trying different potions
learninguitar> its http://(corrected lameass site) for all the spells
e_GoD3> How do i learn spells?????????
e_GoD3> How do i learn spells?????????
e_GoD3> How do i learn spells?????????
JJayse> DUHHHHHH click on the URL E not GOD
DeLT> Notice how everyone lept at the chance to find out the spells..
myrddin_web_de> they have some wrong tapers, though
Tumbler233> divachick …. now mages should be intelligent enuff to figure that out. ; )
JJayse> YEah
JJayse> The url I threw works !
Wat4> Are’nt you GOD?…you should know better )….Surf the net
learninguitar> so does the one I just threw
Mike2b2> i heard mages are weak
learninguitar> yours only has lvl 1, which take 10 seconds to figure out
JJayse> Great it’s takin hits real fast I guesssss :)
learninguitar> yeah right, mages suck, i just started a lvl 1 mage and i’m killing reedsharks and banderlings
myrddin_web_de> (lame site #2) has some false tapers
divachick> yes, that site is pretty bad
learninguitar> (lame site #2) is poorly designed, (lame site #1) is better designed, but doesn’t have as many things…
SilverML> they all suck
SilverML> or not
DeLT> myrddin, who cares; I can go through the tapers myself..
SilverML> i dont think so
DeLT> It was everything else I needed..
e_GoD3> \How do i learn spells?????????
e_GoD3> How do i learn spells?????????
Reasis> Anybody know any websites for good info on spells?
JJayse> Yawn
divachick> i go to all of those sites, just to look (i have 1300+ spells, i don’t need their info). i have yet to find a good one
AraaaY> http://wheres-a-good-mage-website-???
Reasis> Anybody know any websites for good info on spells?
Frezmorti> there are none
skycruizer> http://(subsection of lameass site #2) <— this spell sheet SUCKS. who ever made this needs a lesson in better understanding the way the human mind works. This is the hardest thing to understand.
DeLT> cruizer, it’sn not that hard to understand..
skycruizer> Explain it to me DeLT…
learninguitar> i know it sucks, but it’s the only one i’ve found on the net…
DaemonFlayer> All the spells in the world…Except if the world had them all, there would be no power left in magic to do more than spark a torch.
e_GoD3> dumbass
DeLT> It’s not hard to go through and test tapers yourself..
JJayse> http://(yet another site for dumbfucks) also quite nice ! no connection on indiane yet :(
Behemoth4> Nice to see the maturity level is at an all time high..scholl just get out?
dubarry> Hey – to find tapers goto http://(subsection of lameass site #1 which is good for people who can’t count on their fingers for calculation) … its cool
Reasis> I’m sure some jackass had made up a website giving away tons of spell formulas??? I’m in a jam right now and I need one………
Lbain> my down has a printout of all the spells
learninguitar> reasis, there’s been like ten site posted here already….
JJayse> indiana doesn’t work with me yet but (lameass site #3) is neat as is (lameass site #1)
Lbain> my dad has prinout of all spells.. I can email them if you give me your email
learninguitar> your dad has one???
E_100_Omega> FULL?!
Valcar1234> LBain
JJayse> fulll !
Valcar1234> Send me a copy

Such a good idea, the magic system. I feel honored to have been in beta I, when it was still interesting to research, and feel sorry for those who will only get in during the final or now, when magic will be about as boring as it was in UO (minus the macroing). Kudos to the chat room gang for contributing to the downfall of the most interesting part of AC!

Oh and to the person (Spell Slut/Kronos) who decided it would be smart to post a lot of formulas on my forum and then asked me to thank him… thank you for the opportunity to see what happens when I delete the root post of the top thread in SitePowerUp, and to extend my IP ban list past Bones I-IX.

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