Couple of random thoughts to keep people off my back…

LATEST PATCH

I have to say that every patch Turbine comes out with usually impresses me a lot, at least until some really stupid idea comes to light a little bit later.  I knew I loved this patch when one of the new drudges cast Imperil V on me on the Obsidian Plains, and it became apparent that Umbris Shadows were healing themselves when they needed to.  Not only have the changes to monster AI made playing more enjoyable and challenging, they have had the ancillary benefit of depopulating the direlands quite nicely.  I was actually hoping they would be a little more intelligent, say Shadow Lieutenants casting Heal Other V on the Umbris when it’s wounded, Stam to Mana and lying down.  Maybe Tuskers learn to use healing kits.  Or a Drudge Ravener opening an escape portal for his tribe as soon as they see a bunch of guys in those ugly Olthoi helms and matty robes…  Ah, well, I can dream.

So far I like the quest bow, since the highest modifier I have yet seen on one has been 90%.  Please please say this is true.  A special quest item should be special, not godlike.  Shadow Armor is pretty good, but very heavy and can be outdone by random drop armor in some cases.  Hamud’s Katar is okay, its primary advantage being its no-drop status.  The hoary robe… well, that was overboard.  Wi was correct when he said, "Hey, here’s an idea… ket’s get some armor which covers almost the whole body, with great protection vs. all but one attack type, and 40 al!… Uh, wouldn’t mages cast 2 spells on it and become unstoppable tanks of fury and vengeance™?… Oh, uh, we’ll make is sorta heavy then, 1300 burden!… Sold!"  The whole hoary issue should be academic once the devs fix this layered banes thing, which is really out of hand… right?  Right?

And last, the thing I love most about the patch… NO MORE DORKS IN TRAINING DUNGEONS MACROING OFF PRACTICE DRUDGES TO LEVEL 30!  Thank you.

THE TWINKY TRAP

People love designing characters.  I am convinced that this compulsion is the only reason gamers thought Arena and Daggerfall were games at all.  Given the degree of freedom in any open-ended point-based system (Asheron’s Call, Daggerfall/Arena, GURPS), players will pore for hours over minute shifts in point allocations to try and get "the ultimate character".  After they think they have it, they play it for a while and might find that at higher levels, the character has some disadvantages or slow spots which get annoying.  This tends to turn the industrious numbercruncher’s thoughts towards rerolling their character with an eye towards his performance at the level where he first noted suckage with his first brilliant idea.  And this can lead to stupidity on previously unheard-of levels.

All characters which are reasonably designed (i.e. excluding 4 school mages with starting focus/will of 10/10 and thrown weapons specialist fletchers) can be fun to play and resonably effective, some more so than others depending on what the character’s targets are and his current level.  In beta, new testers were advised to play a template Blademaster or something similar as their first character to get a feel for the game, and this was good advice, as a properly designed melee character can level fairly easily for a long time (until about 20 or so) before encountering difficulty, giving the player a feel for the game.  Mages, back in the day when nobody knew anything about magic and spell formulae were not freely given away like condoms at an Act Up! rally, were a bigger pain and really didn’t get decent to play until about 20 or so.  Archery was wack back then and doesn’t figure into this equation, but now it falls somewhere in between the other two archetypes.  And at every level, players of all types of characters whined about something, that their "class" wasn’t powerful enough in relation to the others, etc. etc., when in reality they simply (a) lacked perspective past their tiny little ME ME ME world, and most likely (b) sucked with their control and judgment, leading them to countless needless deaths which served the higher purpose of making me laugh a lot.

Now redesign has gotten to an absurd point, the point where a character template is chosen which is not only horribly handicapped, but so gimped as to REQUIRE the services of an archmage of reasonably high level, whose only job is to twink the hapless would-be-fletching-mule to the point where the player thinks it will be viable as a solo character, which is usually also the point rhe player thinks he can do better and tries yet another retarded character design.  People are designing characters which are not only weaker at the beginning in exchange for some sort of long-term advantage, but are utterly unsurvivable until level 20 or thereabouts.

Here’s a favorite among the nouveau retarded:  Strength 10, Endurance 10, Coordination 100, Quickness 10, Focus 100, Self 100, assortment of skills apropos to a 3 school mage/archer.  These stats are most appropriate to a cook.  This character’s early career will consist of waiting around for some poor archmage to happen along who has nothing better to do with his time than devote cash and effort and personal risk to the goal of seeing the newbie get to a point where he might live for more than 5 minutes when faced with more than one drudge skulker, as well as carrying arrows around for him, since 10 strength is really inconvenient for doing this.  The real killer here is 10 quickness in combination with 10 endurance, taken by the player on the logic of (a) run goes up fast enough, which is sorta true, and (b) health/stamina goes up fast enough, which is also sorta true.  This means that at low level, the character will be one-hit by anything (especially since he’s too weak to wear any armor at all), and can’t get away from anything if he tried.

For the forseeable future, this character (assuming he manages to sucker someone into being a twinker) will run around in areas far too dangerous for even a well-designed character of his level, being buffed up to near-superhuman status by the mage, and wait for the mage to imperil enemies who then attack the mage, hopefully allowing the newbie to kill the monster before it looks at him wrong and he is instantly killed.  This, by the way, is also excellent training for being a prick vulture in later life.

Then, one day, probably not a moment too soon for the twinker mage, the character is sent out without his protector, like an adolescent ready to be sold into slavery.  This is when he discovers that (a) he has barely enough hit points to live long enough to recall without the benefit of the mage’s protection, (b) he is burdened constantly by the weight of all the components he needs to buff himself to survivability and his measly stockpile of arrows, despite his unbalancing and inordinate expenditure on strength, (c) he is dismayed at the slow rate of xp gain without the crutch of the twinker which he has come to rely on, keeping his feeble self alive like a pacemaker, and (d) his sucky control is still just as bad as it was before, maybe exacerbated by levels of firing arrows without a thought to maneuvering or tactics.  His only experience in control comes from his "bad character", retired long ago, and his "new kickass character" who has spent his entire career behind a wall of protections and banes.

Worse still from a pure design standpoint, the player must now unbalance his experience spending horribly, paying way way too much to raise those attributes he thought would be "just fine in the long run".  His relatively low health and run mandates that he has to do this by perching or wall licking, and so hours on hours of boring camping at a safe spot that 400 other people know about commence, and the idea of getting twinked "just a little further" probably comes up in conversation, no doubt to the extreme annoyance of his former friend, the mage.

Flavor of the month characters are very boring, annoying to other players, and are usually in line for nerfing down the road when it becomes apparent that all the powergamers are using tactic X to kill things no mortal man should be able to kill.  Design you character, play it by yourself for a while, then see if maybe a desired change in play style mandates a change in character.  Unless you are looking to solo PK, in which case just design a 4 school archmage with starting focus and self of 100/100 and prepare to hit the wand button a lot.

This is all sorta spoiling one of my "in the works until I get off my lazy ass and finish it" projects, a brief essay on character design and control.  Now I can delay it even longer.  :P

MY CONNECTION

I love DSL.  That is all.

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