I started to write a little rant about mages blabbering formulae all over town and weakening the spell economy yesterday, then I thought, "nah it can’t be that bad. People need to learn somewhere, and it’s only a beta anyway."

Then I came home and found Force Bolt IV did an average of 25 damage.

I was stunned. Checked the spell listing… nope, that’s less than the minimum listed. Maybe the charge is low? Nope, 100%. I kept bolting. Resisted. Resisted. 28. Resisted. 26. Resisted. 33… ahh a critical! Something is screwy. Then I noticed what I was reading when I was casting… "The magic flows through you." Not, "The magic blazes within you!" or even, "The magic rushes powerfully through you!" Ah I see… the magic economy is punishing me for the actions of a few ASSHOLES who shout out their formulae and taper research in the middle of town and on websites where people who want to "win the game" without "playing the game" go. My deepest thanks go out to some losers who, by giving away the ability to cast higher level spells to everyone, have also made those very spells UTTERLY USELESS.

The idea of a global mana pool was nice for a while, as a sort of incentive to get people to keep their spell research to themselves, to make mages the studious types they should be, rather than some guy who had a tailor make 300,000 gp for him so he could stand around in his house fireballing himself. It was a nice idea. However, when you design something for a game, especially one where every player’s actions has some effect on every other player, you should assume right away that the dickhead portion of your customer base is going to find a way to fuck things up for everyone else. House looting. Monster training. Multi-last target. Zone camping. It never ends.

Remember beta 1 when everyone and his grandmother had a Sword of Lost Light? In game, I found a few clues about the quest on pieces of tattered parchemnt lying around banderling camps, which I pretty much kept to myself, depending on how nice a person was when asking for information. Now, even after it was made so that the SoLL cannot be given away to another player, everyone who really wants one has one, and it’s used as a common base of comparison for which to judge other weapons. Gee what a great quest… a terrific idea, implemented well, but… you guessed it, some dork or another started cataloging the steps to take to get the SoLL, and now the only issue with getting it is whether or not you can survive the trip to the final location and can you make enough newbies on your account to fulfill the low level parts of the quest. All quests are eventually doomed like this if they are static. In a single player RPG it’s not a big deal, as people can always not go to cheat sites (who the fuck wants to cheat in a single player game anyway?). In a multi, it’s a curse, since now not only do you have to do the SoLL quest/get GM magery and resist/whatever just to keep up with the Joneses, but if you don’t, the Joneses will kill you.

Magery is a quest too, in AC… well at least it was for a while. The whole process of begging and bargaining secretly for formulae, the hours spent charting the effects and language of magic, the great feeling when you test a combination and see that spell window pop up confirming your discovery… ahh, magic. However, it’s a quest which is even more fucked now than the SoLL quest, because of morons. I swear, I think I asked ONE person for ONE spell formula ONCE in beta 1, and paid her 2000p for a first level spell I couldn’t even use yet. Everything else was researched or pulled off scrolls I found in mage shops, or researched off the cuff or following some hints of magic principles from Sunam al-Qaraf. Now every time I get into a town, all I hear is, "ne1 tell me soem spells?", "whuts teh taper 4 acid streem 2?", "blah blah blah the formula for ******* is ****, ****, ****, ****, ****", "i dont have ne money can some1 tell me all teh creature magic?" (this I heard yesterday, from a level 2 character), "oh yay i found that frost 2 tapir, it’s *****", "shut up sashi i want spells!!11" Makes me hurl. I’m glad I don’t hang out in town anymore. I was getting hoarse from yelling at all the idiots.

What do people who give out these formulae have to say about themselves? When I berate them in-game, they don’t say much of anything. (Here, pal, I’ll show you even more spells if you come to this cool altar I know…") On spoiler websites though, where people somehow feel very important by letting everyone know how to take all the fun out of a game, they have plenty to say… "It’s just a beta! We want everyone to have fun, so here’s how to figure out every spell in the goddamned game. We are the champions of the common player, who is too lazy to do any work on his own!" I used to laugh at these sites, especially because their information was incorrect and incomplete most of the time. I’m not laughing after seeing high level war magic turned into a wiffle bat by magic dilution though.

The spell economy does not work. Jackoffs everywhere are demolishing the efforts of people who want to discover the spells on their own, blowing literally hundreds of thousands of pyreals in little shops, only to find that their research was for nothing (as if mages didn’t have a hard enough time as it is). I used to see a middling to high level mage and think, there’s someone who really paid their dues. Now I see one and think, there’s yet another asshole who read a website and is fucking up my own ability to survive. (This theory is later confirmed when the 11th level mage asks me to give him circle III magic for free.) Magery is dead. A simple switching of the tapers to a semi-random system is really not sufficient, as the first asshole who figures out the quickest way to get around it will be posting the information, which has already happened.

Here’s my suggestion. Ditch the global mana pool and make magery EVEN HARDER to research. Screw with the formulas to such a degree that even if some loser figured out the best way to research the spells, it would take about 4 pages to explain it to anyone. Hopefully those little pricks who have visions of the shake and bake UO E-bolt master will get discouraged and go pick up a bow so they can be the most powerful character type in the game from day one. (I’m seriously considering mothballing Sashi and making a level 12 archer so I can go to the direlands so I can try to explore some interesting ares and not get killed because magic doesn’t work. I just have to figure out how to spend all those 50 starting skill points I wasted on magic.)

Mu’s Ridiculous Magic System That Will Be Too Hard to Implement

Each account has a key code which randomizes the herbs, powders, potions, and talismans, to the point where there are 16 X 123 = 27648 possible combinations for each first circle spell, depending on who you are, and given the number of components currently available in starting town mage shops. The patterns which are in place now remain, but for each person, the components behave differently, so if one life mage discovers that he uses powdered moonstone as the common reagent for a class of protective spells, for someone else it might be powdered carnelian. The components remain consistent from spell to spell as well, and between levels. Scarabs work like they do now (it would be dumb to change this), and the words of power for mages are the same… 2 war mages force bolting might still be saying "Zojak Quazael", even though their formulae are totally alien to each other.

The point is that a mage who wants to get a spell has to (a) research the living hell out of it, (b) find a scroll, or (c) understand the language and patterns of magic well enough to be able to narrow down his searches, after the initial scrambling. Someone would no longer be able to just blurt out a list of components and give someone a spell. It also means that mages who are lazy and/or clueless will stop pestering everyone for "new spells", and that compiled lists on the web would be useless. The only thing that mage patrons (and websites, for that matter) would be able to do is to actually teach the methods of research, meaning the mage still has to do the legwork.

The advantages of this system, from the game’s standpoint, are: you don’t have a magic economy which punishes the hapless mage even further because of people’s actions out of game (i.e. on the web) and which isn’t subject to bugs in the future; fewer mages, which reflects the "typical" fantasy-world adventurer-profession distribution (if that’s what you want). Disadvantages from the game/dev team perspective are: time to code the change in and debug it; dealing with customers who feel that it might be too difficult to be a mage.

The advantages from the mage’s perspective are: no spell economy to make high level magic useless; the end of people bugging you in mage shops for "new spells"; changing magical discourse away from mere formula recitation towards the abstract and numerical concepts of the AC magic system. Disadvantages are: less mages means less mage vassals (although I don’t have any anyway, go figure); an inability to share spell formulae and trade information, beyond the conceptual.

This last problem can be overcome by allowing mages to scribe scrolls, which should be a lengthy, painful, and overly expensive procedure (mostly the time factor is important, since money is fairly easy to come by at higher levels) to prevent the "SCROLLS 4 SALE!!11" phenomenon, or Britain Bank syndrome. It should be a pain to do to the point that it would require mages to look for very rare ingredients (requiring alchemy perhaps?), fail a lot, and spend so much money that scrolls would not be profitable to sell, and would only be done for vassals or friends who for some reason just can’t get it. The scrolls made in this manner would work as monster scrolls would… they would impart the knowledge of the spell to the reader and poof. Hopefully the skill and arcane requirements for reading such a scroll would exceed the actualy levels needed to research it successfully. (Note: to prevent the mass creation of scrolls for use as cheesy mage training or death item-o-rama, the cost of creating a scroll should probably be somewhere in the vicinity of 5 times the base appraisal value of the scroll, including failure costs, for a decent scribe.)

(Here Mu deletes a long discourse on the taper system in case anyone might be trolling for clues about research. Bleah!

So why all this work? Why not just remove the spell economy? Because then research is STILL a joke, and without consequences the world will be full of fool mages who got their training off of a web page somewhere, and the aspect of magery… the rarity… that I like is gone. Call me selfish… I’d like to think that I didn’t waste hours and tens of thousands of pyreals in a grungy shop to learn how to be a mage, when I could just wait for http://www.gamesecrets.net/asheron/magic.htm to do the work for me.

Oh, on a side note, when the servers died early this morning, some idiot was in channel saying "LIFE DRAIN DAMAEG IS 2 POWEFRUL!" This is the same person who ten lines later replied to someone saying "THERES NOTHING WRONG WIHT ARCHERY!" To this person and all other I would say, when a life drain from a 24th level mage does 71 points of damage like my 4th level archer test character with a good bow and frog crotch arrows does, then maybe you have a point. Until then, fuck off. It’s one of the only weapons we have left.

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