I'd first heard about this game when Penny Arcade did their little thing about it a few weeks ago, but I'd forgotten about it since then. Then Tuesday during Raid, one of the guildies mentioned they'd been playing it and that it was pretty good. So I decided to try it out.

Pretty good is a complete insult to how good the game is. This may be one of the best games I've ever played. Then again, your mileage may vary. It's a Diablo style game, except it doesn't have any of those annoying and wide open field levels like that damned desert in Act 2. It's got a cartoony style, which is about as close to cel-shaded as you can get without actually being cel-shaded. It almost feels like what Diablo 1 should have been if computers at the time didn't suck completely.

They add a lot of features which make this game much.....easier? I think that's the word I'm looking for. Can't think of a better one anyways.

You get a pet. Either a cat or a dog, though which is cosmetic and makes no difference to what they can do. They accompany you down into the mines which go on forever (and have things in them down at the bottom which should not be at the bottom of mines like jungles). They fight in battle with you. They have their own inventory space and can equip trinkets. You also have the option to send your pet back to town and sell everything in their inventory for cash money.

The game also has several spots in the mines where you can fish. The fish you catch are either eaten by you or your pet. If the fish is one you can eat, then it gives you a buff like extra experience or extra magic damage. If it's one your pet can eat, it transforms them into something else for a limited time. Most of the time it turns them into various enemies such as elementals or goblins. Each of these forms has their own weaknesses, strengths, and spells which can completely change the outcome of a fight.

You have your standard ability trees, but you also have four slots in which you can equip spells that you find or buy as scrolls. These can be spells like fireballs, healing spells, silence, or even identify items. This allows you to give your character a greater amount of diversity than what the simple trees offer. Another thing is that your pet also has two spells slots, so they can cast fireballs and heal you too (but....don't give your pet the healing spell. They will spam it every 5 seconds and the heal sound will drive you insane).

I've been playing the game on normal difficulty with my Vanquisher and it feels like I'm playing on Very Easy difficulty. Seriously. I put my points into Ranged damage, Critical strikes, and Ricochet. All the rest of my points I'm putting in things like extra gold found and lower vendor prices (there really isn't much else to spend them on when your skillset is one spell).

I can run around basically one-shotting everything that isn't an elite boss monster (and I three shot those). My normal ranged attacks have a certain limit, but Ricochet has an unlimited range and is able to pierce all the way through the enemies' front, organs, breakfast, and out the back to others behind him. The shots bounce off walls and back two or three times before disappearing. Using one shot, you can clear out a group of enemies numbering 10 or so. I'm hoping things get a bit more challenging on harder difficulties. I'm planning to play an Alchemist when I start one of those games.

Regardless of the difficulty, the game takes me back to those Diablo years that were spent late at night, descending into catacombs to clear out demon infested halls and grabbing piles of loot. Good times. There is no multi-player, so you can't play with or against others. Which isn't so bad as it also means you can't have others help you cheat by trading you all the best items. Not that you'd need them.

I recommend anyone who loves dungeon crawls to give it a shot. It won't disappoint.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 11/27/2009 03:27:00 AM | 0 comments


My own world is called Ossiranth. However, as I look around the internet for a replacement for WoW (without much success, I might add), I may have stumbled on something.

I think there is some sort of cosmic law stating that the main world of any MMO must have a name ending in th. Those that don't end in ia.

Found one called Ganareth.

Ok, that's really all I got. After I started writing this, I actually went looking and that's about all I found.

So............move along now. Nothing to see here.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 11/25/2009 03:38:00 AM | 0 comments

Dragon Age

Seems like most bloggers have been playing and reviewing this game in the last week or so. I'd been looking for something new, so I picked it up and though I haven't completed the Joining yet, I do have a few thoughts I wanted to share:

A lot people have been complaining that there's no way to turn off the persistent gore. Those people are then swiftly corrected that it can be turned off. The persistent gore is something I love to death. It gives a sense of realism that other games have thus far lacked. What I don't love about it is that the persistency has no consistency. In the game, I just fought a ravenous pack of wolves. 8 or 9 of them. All 4 of us in the party are covered in blood splatters. When we encounter a cut scene, Jory and Alistair are bloodied up as they should be. However Daveth and myself are still clean as a whistle as if we'd just taken a shower (also, the Enchanter's Cowl I'm currently wearing doesn't show up in these scenes, but that has nothing to do with it). I'm not entirely sure if this was intentional or not, given that my robes are all sparkly and shiny. I'm sure they wanted that to show through to distinguish me from the rough and tumble crew I'm running around with.

Something else is that that first quest line of helping your friend made me feel a bit slimy. I was legitimately trying to help him, but the game kept pushing me into betraying him. I don't know if maybe there's some hidden option to circumvent what I'm sure is the planned way the story is supposed to play out, but I wish there were if only to see how that would affect things (especially given how they turned out).

The other thing is the complete lack of a jump button. I'm sure they did that to keep the game on rails so I don't go wandering off in the forest, but I'd have liked to try and jump off the edge of the cliffs in the Fade just once to see what would happen. I know I would die, but I'd like to see how it happens. Does my character make any funny "OH SHIT I'M FALLING DOWN THIS HOLE" looks? Because that would be awesome, especially given how detailed and customizable they made the faces (and how not customizable they made the rest of the character).

EDIT: Before I go to sleep for the night, I'd just like to add that the AI seems to be very dull witted.

I just watched as all three of my teammates stepped in GIANT BEAR TRAPS at the end of a bridge. They freed themselves, and we continued. When I turned around a few seconds later, they got caught in the VERY SAME TRAPS they had just freed themselves from.

If Sir Schmoopy was in my party, this would not be a problem.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 11/22/2009 01:51:00 AM | 0 comments

On professions and minigames

The more posts I make, the less sure I am that I haven't covered a topic.

Regardless, if this is a re-peat, I'll de-lete.

I was thinking that a good system for professions would be a minigames style system. Each profession would have its own minigame. Some would be puzzle based. Others would be action based. Maybe a few others could be strategy or text based.

The idea here is to add in a skill based component to the crafting systems. Instead of simply training a skill, collecting materials, and then pushing a button leading to PRESTO! new item, players have to have some sort of skill in their crafts in order to advance to a high enough level. The system would have to be designed such that, until mid level where at least several "useful to most people" items can be crafted, the skill curve is fairly easy and anyone who plays can conceivably reach that skill level. After this point, the minigames become a bit more complex and difficult, meaning only people who are actually good at it can craft better and more powerful items. The higher a skill level someone can gain, the better items they can craft.

This idea mostly came about because of WoW's profession system. Anyone, provided they have the materials (which are easy to obtain more or less), can reach top skill level. This tends to lower the bar as far as marketing goods goes. If everyone can become a Jewelcrafter, then cut gems cost much less than they would otherwise. This is somewhat balanced out by the fact that you can only have two professions at once, but again if someone had enough materials they could reach the cap almost immediately. I went and bought up materials needed, dropped Herbalism and was a 450 Engineer within an hour. Granted Engineering makes very little money, however this can be done with any profession. After MMO champion posted their Inscription guide, there were reports of glyph markets crashing on many servers because of the huge influx of people flocking to the market to get rich.

With a skill based system though, higher end goods are limited by the number of people who can feasibly produce them. There is little risk of markets crashing because of massive influxes of new crafters as happened with the glyph market because only a portion of those people will have the patience or skill to get to the higher end of the skill spectrum where the more powerful items are produced.

At the highest skill levels, players may even be able to craft epic items (and by epic, I don't mean WoW epic. I mean "Able to destroy a small city in a single blow" epic) which can't be found elsewhere.

Because of the system's disadvantages, the minigames must be well designed, tested, and implemented in order to work.

First off, each of them has to be fun in their own right. If they weren't, no one would want to play them, and everyone would complain that the profession system is horrible. Players have to want to play the game so that it doesn't feel like a chore to get to higher levels of useful skill levels.

Secondly, each minigame has to be designed so that most players can be fairly decent in at least one of them. This one presents a much greater challenge than the first as it requires extensive testing by all different kinds of people who could possibly want to play the game.

Third, the minigames have to make sense as far as the profession itself and the game world. Having a minigame where one plays a Tetrisesque game for the painting profession is confusing, dumb, and anyone who would implement this is a game should be fired from the industry forever. It could, however work for a Needleworking minigame in which players have to weave together cloth. This isn't really a challenge as much as it is a limitation on how to solve the second problem. Each game has to make sense and each game has to require a different mental or physical skill set.

Something else I feel the system must do is to eliminate grinding. In other games, you have the mats, you can queue up 100 shirts, press the button, and poof. 100 shirts and a lot of skill points (probably not quite 100 though). Get the mats for the next items, queue them up and poof. 100 pairs of pants and more skill points. Now we have 100 shirts and 100 pairs of pants which have been created, but likely have absolutely no use in the game. What a waste of materials! A friend of mine tried Aion, and their crafting system seemed to be like this. Because each craft has a chance to produce a higher quality item, people would queue up hundreds of the same items, craft, and then try to sell it all. They would end up with maybe three or four of the high quality items, and tons of useless crap that was selling at the auction house for below vendor prices (or so I am told).

The minigame system would have a score to it. The higher your score, the more skill points you get (up to a certain maximum). In order to gain more points, you would have to beat a certain score, which would be your old score, minus some points because of the increased difficulty. If there were a chance to create higher quality items, it would only be possible once you gone far beyond the skill necessary to craft that item thus eliminating the practical use for crafting tons of the same item.

Something else is that, since there aren't a limit to how many profession skills a player can take, every player can take the salvaging profession which takes apart old items for a return in materials, meaning that if they craft useless stuff, they can take it apart to make other things. Because of my plans for merchants, they could even buy other people's useless crap on the cheap to disassemble, though none of this paragraph really has to do with the design of the minigame concept itself. I'll talk more about this later in my ideas for sustaining economic systems.

(I'm kind of getting lost in what I was talking about, so I'm going to sum it all up.)

Minigame professions:
Skill in professions tied to minigame skill.
Because not everyone can be good at everything, this allows the market to specialize.
Skill points earned are tied to score in the minigame, meaning grinding becomes less prevalent.
The Minigames provide atmosphere for the game world.
The Minigames are fun in and of themselves.

To close up, I feel I should add something about the skill points. With the exception of some of the highest level items, skill points don't actually limit what your character can or can't create. Players can attempt to make any item they want (so long as they are not the aforementioned exceptions) if they have the materials, and success of the item crafting depends on the score of the minigame. The skill points are there for the purpose of crafting the highest level items (you must prove that you have the skill necessary, as many of those high level items require very rare ingredients which are not easily replaced) and also for auto crafting.

Of course, you can still queue up items to be crafted while you are AFK as you can in other games. Sometimes, you just don't feel like bullshitting around with Tetris and want to make some plate armor to sell on the market. Your success in crafting these depends on your skill points. There are two things to this however: One is that if you have a skill of 400, there is a certain range (I'm thinking 10% or so?) which the game will randomly add or subtract from your skill points for each crafting. Your skill is 400, but for each item you craft it could change randomly to between 360 and 440.

Players cannot gain skill points from auto-crafting. Each time you use the auto-crafting function, there is a chance that you will lose skill points (the first two or three are exempt however). This chance increases each time you do it, and the amount of skill loss increases each time it happens. Playing the minigames will reverse the counter for the auto-craft though.

These penalties would be there to prevent players from posing significant threat to those who sell their goods by playing the minigame, and prevents players from using it too much should they decide to.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 11/20/2009 01:35:00 AM | 0 comments

On Delicious Drama

I'll be making another post on my thoughts on something else before too long, but at the moment I wanted to post about how delicious I've been find the drama unfolding over with Gevlon, Markco, and Tobold.

It is to my funny bone as chocolate coated awesome-sauce would be to my tongue if that was a real thing that you could eat.

I've always found gold making guides to be completely useless as any of the information contained in them could be found for free elsewhere on the internet. But my feelings about the gold-making guide business have nothing to do with this. Markco handled the fiasco that arose very poorly.

What I found funny about it is all of the people who posted in the comments about how "Putting up ads would've been the most Goblin thing to do in the situation! You make lots of money, which is what goblins do! By not doing this because it would decrease his readership, he has shown that he cares about what people think of him and is as social as those he claims to hate!"

It seems that, from what I understand at least, the posters do not understand Gevlon just as much as Markco didn't. I can't claim to be Gevlon, understand the guy, or hell even to have had any contact with him. From what I've read in his blog though, my understanding of his way of thinking is this:

Goblin philosophy in actuality has nothing to do with money. Goblin philosophy has to do with achieving your goals through learning, analyzing and navigating the landscape you must travel in the smartest and most efficient way possible. Money often takes a very central role in the Goblin world because it is a nearly universal facilitator to achieving one's goals (as Gevlon did by buying his way into hard mode raid content).

He has stated his goal for writing the blog is to educate people on how to make gold in WoW reliably, because he wanted a market to arise in which it would be a challenge for him to make money in. He cares very much about how many readers he has. This is not because of social reasons though, as he couldn't care less if everyone who read his blog hated him. He cares because if he loses credibility to his audience, then they will disregard his advice on WoW economics, and then he will not get his blissfully challenging market to try and dominate.

That's just my take on the subject and I may have it completely and entirely wrong.

I don't think he was wrong to try and appeal to Gevlon's social side. He just completely missed the mark on where that social side is and what its goals are.

He completely mishandled the fallout though, and instead of just backing off and cutting his losses, he continued to comment and post, mocking those involved for not participating. The most delicious part is when he decided he would threaten a lawsuit (I assume because of the Dox Dropping going on), having everyone correct him that Gevlon is not a US citizen, and then attempting to DELETE FUCKING EVERYTHING (which doesn't work on the internets, of course). Way to go, bro. A real internet champion.

Oh internet. You give me such entertainment sometimes.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 11/18/2009 02:17:00 AM | 0 comments

On Roleplay and its Incorporation

Last night I was in a raid, and over in one of the RP channels I frequent, they were having a discussion on RP and it's current state in WoW.

Let me clarify my position on RP. I like to RP, however I don't really like to RP because of the game mechanics. It seems people are always trying to type out walls of text and it seems like instead of trying to play a role, they seem to be writing a damned novel. I can't count the number of times someone has said a two or three word sentence, which was a part of a paragraph long emote describing how they said it, what they were doing while they said it, and how fast they were batting their eyelashes or whatever. It's a massive pain in the ass to read, and it shouldn't be necessary for me to have to imagine all of this stuff going on when we're playing a game with graphical representations of everything. It should all be right there on the screen where I can see it.

This also leads to the other mechanical problem I have in that the game itself is structured that you can't really roleplay reliably while fighting a giant monster. The characters just swing their weapons at the enemies over and over again, and if you want the combat to be interesting you have to describe the action yourself. That means having to take your attention away from pressing the right buttons so you can type. Which means you will probably get roflstomped.

A few weeks (or maybe two months or so) ago, I went with one of the RP groups I'm in to an RP run of Naxx. We started out with the RP. Everyone gathering in the spot, introductions for those who were unknown to the group (I could only take my rogue, who was unknown to the group), and then once were made the first pull, it was just a standard raid. RP was incredibly rare.

I think that there should be tools which are suited to roleplay. When I was playing MxO, you had the ability to set your character's mood. This would flavor your character's stance, as well as their emotes and combat stance to look different. Of course, there would need to be a large number of emotes which characters could perform. They would also need to be assignable to hot keys just like abilities.

More importantly though is that there needs to be ways to keep non-roleplay completely separate from roleplay. Of course, this would only apply on servers designated specifically for it, but any General chat channels, tells or whispers and such would be in a separate window, with a screen name, and completely ignorable.

Roleplaying has to be the central concept to a game which features it. Otherwise, the people who do not want to take part in it will (either unintentionally or 100% on purpose) destroy the immersive environment. They will run around spamming spells in the middle of town, yell obscenities and ANAL [Hemorrhage], or break the fourth wall talking about aggro management or the episode of Pimp My Ride they saw on TV last night. Of course, some of that can be dealt with through in game methods, such as having city guards who enforce Noise ordinances or simply ask someone to move along when certain behaviors trigger it (Yelling Obscenities would trigger a nearby guard to come over and begin conversation about how there are children in the area or something of the sort).

I would really like to see a multiplayer game that has the same Roleplaying potential that D&D does. Regardless of my many ideas on how to go about the subject, I often wonder if the only way to do this is by having RP servers be strictly invite only though. And I would surely rather not have to deal with something like that. The angry outpouring from players about a server where "regular" people can't go just makes me want to hide in a deep and dark cave.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 11/12/2009 04:05:00 PM | 0 comments

Frame of Mind

As I talked about in my last post, characters can learn any ability they want, provided they can find the NPC that teaches it (or learn it on their own). I don't want it to feel like characters are on the rails with class paths like in a lot of other games, but I also want it to feel like when you are playing as a Sage, it feels like playing a Sage and not a Warlock or Druid or Berserker just with a different name.

The character's "Frame of Mind" (What I'm calling it at the moment) is the class that a character considers him or her self to be at any given moment. Players can change their character's Frame of Mind at any point they wish to any class they wish, regardless of whether they have any abilities which belong to that class. Each Frame of Mind gives bonuses and penalties to every ability. I'll give an example.

The Assassin class is a third tier class. It requires the character to take three separate classes (Rogue, Fighter, and Mystic). Each of these three separate classes have their own completely separate feels to them. The Mystic is the spiritual class which relies on training the mind and soul through meditation. They are able to perform psychic abilities. The Rogue however is entirely different, relying on thievery, stealth, and staying out of combat. The Fighter relies on various hand to hand techniques in battle.

The Assassin class is meant to be a silent and deadly killing machine. They have the spiritual focus and martial arts skills of the Martialist (The Fighter/Mystic second tier hybrid) and the deadly dagger talents and stealth of the Slayer (The Fighter/Rogue second tier hybrid). They do not have thievery skills on par with the Rogue or the magical and psychic abilities of the Mystic. This is the purpose of the Frame of Mind. It gives bonuses to the Martial Arts, Daggers, Focus, and Stealth skills of these previous classes while giving penalties to the constituent class abilities which are not meant to be a part of the class.

The player will be able to switch their Frame of Mind at any time, but the switching time is fairly long (30 seconds-1 minute) and interruptible by any attack or ability made against them. If they are interrupted while switching, then they revert to a default No Frame state where abilities have no bonuses or penalties.

At the moment, this seems like the best system I've been able to come up with to make a system where players are almost completely unhindered by class decisions while still retaining the feel of playing different classes. The best part about it is that it is expandable. Expansions to the game, whether through expansion packs or just content updates allow for new Frames of Mind and their associated bonuses to be added. Classes which already have specific class combinations can share those combinations with new Frames of Mind which give bonuses and penalties to different sets of abilities for an entirely new class feel.

Of course, until I am able to learn programming and actually build a workable and playable model, I won't know if this is all an actual good idea or just a complete load of shit.

I am also considering having the magnitude of the bonuses and penalties be dependent on how many levels the player has attained in each class, up to a certain point.

In case you were wondering, this is the total class flow I've come up with so far. There are still some more ideas I want to work into here, and a great deal more combinations, but at the moment each class has a pure tier 3 class path, three tier two class paths (except Communer and Mystic which have 4), and a hybrid tier 3 class path (except Rogue, which is only a supporting class path, and a tier three class which only requires two paths). I still have more ideas for additional paths, as well as tier 4 paths which require training in 4 basic classes and their combinations to reach.

Eventually, I hope to have the class paths lead to a godhood status (which would be on par with 4 or 5 times as hard to achieve as Jedi was in Star Wars Galaxies, before they told everyone how to do it). Not that very many, if any would ever reach it, it's just nice to know the option is there.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 11/02/2009 09:05:00 PM | 0 comments

Class Diversification

I've been working on this for a little bit, but it seems I've been having problems with class advancement. At the moment, I'm working with a model where players learn any abilities they want. They can undergo certain quests which test their skills with certain class abilities so they can advance their class levels. For example, if you pass the Mystic test, you become a level 2 Mystic.

After a certain number of tests have been taken, then things begin to branch out. If you have so many levels in a certain class, you can take a test to unlock the second tier of that class. The Mystic, which is the basic spiritual class, would unlock the Kinetic class and can then begin learning Kinetic abilities. If you have so many levels in a second class, Communer for example, you can take a different test to unlock the Shaman class and begin learning Shaman spells.

The problem I seem to be having is a balance on class diversity. Some classes have more combinations than others. The Squire class has 4 different combinations at the moment, while the Brute class only has two. It just seems like it wouldn't feel right if a player started heading down the path of the Brute and could only become a Barbarian or a Berserker through class combinations, while the Mystic can become a Shaman, Martialist, or a Sage. Certain classes only have limited options while other have many more.

It's not such a huge issue since players can go and learn other classes at any time they wish, but the Mystic could conceivably combine with almost any class while the Rogue couldn't. And don't get me started on third tier ideas. Just thinking about potential imbalance for that tier makes my face hurt.

Is it better to try and force combinations for the sake of balance, or would it be better to just forget about some combinations so that it feels like an even amount of choices?

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 11/01/2009 02:51:00 PM | 0 comments