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Showing posts from June, 2012

Spicing up short news

Guild Wars 2 will be released on August 28th.

Actually that is all there is to say about that, but for most bloggers that half a line appears to be too short. Thus I found various interesting additions to the news:

MMO Melting Pot: "Servers actually playable and loggable into: Sept 7th"

Killed in a Smiling Accident: "we now know for certain that September 28th is the date when huge sections of the MMO community will be whining that they’re bored and are desperate to know the release dates for Firefall and Wildstar!"

Various: "Now might be a good time to go pre-order the title."

I would like to publicly lodge an objection against the latter. As I mentioned in my hype-cycle post, game companies have become better at exploiting the hype cycle for financial gain. Which means that if you pre-order Guild Wars 2 now, you pay up to 50% more than if you go to a shop on release day and buy it there. I would advise anybody to take a good hard look at the pre-order advant…

The action economy of D&D Next

Another post in the D&D Next developer's blog is about the action economy, that is the rules that govern how much stuff you can do in a turn. In 4th edition you can do one standard action, one movement action, and one minor action during your turn, as well as an unlimited number of immediate interrupts and immediate reactions. In D&D Next you can do one action and one movement during your turn, and one reaction between turns. I really like the latter part; I might use it as a house rule for my 4E campaign to keep combat flowing smoothly.

While you might think the rules for actions are clear in 4E and leave little room for interpretation, you would be wrong there. That's why I love watching YouTube live sessions of D&D, because seeing how other DMs handle situations can be very interesting. For example the 4E rules state that taking a healing potion is a minor action. So in my campaign I let players quaff a potion as a minor action, in a turn where they already did a…

D&D Next modularity

In yesterday's post Anjin put a link to the latest D&D Next developer's blog entry in the comments. It talks about modularity and combat subsystems. The goal appears to be to provide options for different playstyles. Specifically mentioned are "narrative combat", with guidelines of what bonuses and penalties to apply to dice rolls when a player wants to roleplay stunt moves in combat, and rules for tactical miniature combat. So what can we learn from this post?

I think the essential part of the combat modules is that they try to be balanced compared to vanilla combat. This is not 4th edition, where using a power would always be better than using a basic attack. Instead you get options like "Increased Damage: Take a -2 penalty to attack, deal +4 more damage". If yot do the math, you will realize that such an option can either end up being positive or negative. If you have a low average damage and high attack bonus, the Increased Damage option makes your a…

A somewhat different marketing strategy

Any big public playtest is not only done for the developers to get feedback, but also serves a marketing purpose. Marketing is done to sell your products, and boy, did that D&D Next playtest work on me: I'm buying 4th edition D&D books as if there were no tomorrow. Because it is likely that for 4th edition there actually *is* no tomorrow. The 4E books will go out of print, and the 4E support on the D&D Insider website is uncertain.

Thus I'm buying all the rulebooks I originally didn't think I needed for my current campaign, like the various "powers" books with optional powers for all classes. And I just ordered all the 4th edition adventures I didn't have yet from Amazon (some of them already marked "Only 2 left in stock--order soon!"). Basically I'm preparing for an imminent future in which there aren't any D&D products that interest me to buy, by buying everything I might need in the future to keep playing 4th edition when W…

The Hype Cycle

It is in the nature of any form of journalism that it focuses on the new. Thus if your source of information is MMORPG blogs, you could be forgiven of thinking that the genre is dominated by the new entrants: Star Wars - The Old Republic, The Secret World, and soon Guild Wars 2. The Nosy Gamer is more interested in seeing what people actually play than what they talk about, and so he compiled a list of the 12 most played MMORPGs last Sunday, based on XFire statistics. World of Warcraft can quote Mark Twain and say: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated"; in fact WoW was played for more hours that Sunday than the other 11 entrants together. The open beta of The Secret World, in spite of being both new and for free, was played 20 times less.

Fox News trademarked the slogan that their reporting was "fair & balanced". Not many people believe that. Blogs aren't even trying to be anything but biased opinions. That isn't as easy as it appears: Gamers…

A glimpse at a different way to play

For me personally, sitting around a table with friends, soda, and junk food is an essential part of the pen & paper roleplaying experience. Rolling dice is fun! And if it wasn't supposed to be played with pen & paper, then why would it be called pen & paper roleplaying? But of course the main obstacle to playing a game like Dungeons & Dragons is getting a number of players together regularly. And thus there are various systems around with which you can play games like Dungeons & Dragons online, on a "virtual table", with virtual dice, virtual pens, and virtual paper. I just never did it, because fortunately I have a real life group. Nevertheless it is interesting to see how online playing works.

Starting from session 6 of the second series of Dungeons & Drogans, the group switched to a live stream with a video image of their Maptools online virtual table. Previously the "videos" in fact had only sound over a static picture. While the live…

Riddles and Puzzles

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What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees,
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows?

This is one of the riddles Gollum asks of Bilbo in The Hobbit. So Bilbo whips out his trusty iPhone, and googles the answer: "mountain". Or he asks the answer in General chat. The Secret World, which has quests with riddles even helpfully provides in in-game browser which opens automatically with Google. Found the hints "music of the seasons", "favorite composer", and "1723", but can't think of the answer to Dr. Bannerman's computer password? Just google it! In any case, it isn't something you could just figure out, unless you already know something about composers of classical music. And once you know the answer, the riddle is trivial for your next character doing the same quest.


Now this is the carpentry puzzle in the MMORPG Puzzle Pirates. The pieces you get are random, so you can't google the answer to this. And you do not need any prior know…

What is D&D about?

There is a rather interesting forum thread on the Dungeons & Dragons Next forums, discussing what D&D is about.
Quote: Mike Mearls: "I agree that 4e had very clear goals, and that was a strength if those goals matched what you wanted. What we've learned is that people play D&D for a staggering variety of reasons."

For me, 4e's very clear goal was to make a game about fantasy combat. Mearls seems to have recognised that thousands of people play D&D for a staggering variety of reasons beyond 'fantasy combat'.

What is D&D about, for you?This describes very well why I like 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. It has clear goals, which were about making great tactical fantasy combat, it succeeded very well with these goals, and they were exactly what I wanted. Having said that, of course Dungeons & Dragons is not only about tactical combat for me. There is roleplaying, story-telling, problem-solving, and just hanging out with friends and havin…

The Secret World - Beta Impressions

Pro:
Fresh settingNew character progression system: Level up your weapon instead of your characterCon:
Kill 6 zombies! Gather 3 first aid packs! Basic quest-based gameplay identical to just about every other MMORPGHotkey-based combat system identical to just about every other MMORPGShoddy production values: Crashes, bugs, "scheduled maintenance" of 4 hours in the middle of a beta weekendAverage graphics, not prettyCombat with guns feels unrealistic: Shooting an assault rifle at extremely close distance and not even doing much damageSummary:

The first two Con points kill it for me. I will not be buying The Secret World. I'm not saying this is a bad game, but I'm sick and tired of games with the same old combat mechanics, running around for the same old quests to kill monsters here and click on hotspots there.

The Secret World - Not Responding

If on starting The Secret World you only get a black screen and a "not responding" error in the Task Manager, go to the Secret World folder on your hard drive and delete the "Default" folder there. That fixed it for me.

Redecorating D&D adventures

As I said yesterday, the rules system is not necessarily the part of a pen & paper roleplaying game that has the biggest impact on the game experience. With a given rules system and a given group of players, the Dungeon Master has two major levers with which he can play to make a great game: The way he runs the game, and the adventures he chooses, writes himself, or modifies. Today I'd like to talk about modification of existing adventures. How can you redecorate an adventure to make the game better?

The first rule in redecorating adventures is that there is no general rule. Basically every Dungeons & Dragons group is different, and wants different things from the game. If you already know what your group wants, make sure that your adventures are strong in that area. If you don't know or are playing with people for the first time, offer them a bit of everything and see where they bite. If your players are looking for a simple dungeon crawl and you are giving them a comp…

Rules and adventures

A session of any pen & paper roleplaying game is mostly influenced by the players and the Dungeon Master. But as these aren't supplied by the company that made the pen & paper roleplaying game, this part can't be subject to reviews. What the game company provides is the rules, and in many cases also the adventure module that is being played. Online Dungeon Master has a post on D&D Next playtesting. It is balanced, and interesting in its own right. But the part I want to talk about is the map of the Caves of Chaos he also provides, because it tells us so much about the official adventure modules of D&D.

I have some regular commenters here which wax lyrically about how great previous editions of Dungeons & Dragons were with respect to roleplaying (/wave CF). I believe them. But I don't believe they played primarily these official adventure modules of which the Cave of Chaos map is such a prime example. And I don't believe their experience was in any wa…

Sexism as a marketing plot

Rohan from Blessing of Kings has an interesting theory on the use of sexism as a marketing plot. No, not "sex sells". But he suggests that "A signal that the company is slightly female-unfriendly is also a signal that the game will emphasize difficulty and more hardcore elements like PvP.". While I had to chuckle about the implicit insult that all hardcore players are chauvinist pigs, I do think Rohan is onto something here: If a company was making a game that was "female-friendly", it would probably be less hardcore and less PvP-centric. I am pretty certain that World of Warcraft has a higher percentage of female players than Darkfall has.

I do reject the simplistic notion that a game would have to be easy and have pet-collecting to appeal to women. I do however think that women are better at judging games as an artistic whole entity, and would in most cases prefer a broader game (a "world" MMORPG) to a game where the goal is to do just one thin…

A second opinion

The Psychology of Video Games blog has a post on Diablo III and dopamine which says very much the same about random loot causing more happiness than a steady stream of gold to buy loot with in the AH as I said a week ago.

Interesting solution proposed by the author: Bind on Pickup loot.

A minor comment about SWTOR math

There has been a discussion whether SWTOR has shrunk by 90%, based on the number of servers designated as source for free server transfers. I believe that number is misleading. The number of servers you need depends on the maximum number of concurrent users, which is *not* the same as the number of subscribers. Even if no subscriber left the game, the number of concurrent users would drop a few weeks after release.

[EDIT: P.S. Of course that 90% shrinkage in subscription could still happen now that they announced that the game will eventually become Free2Play. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!]

The Favorites of Selune campaign - Level 2 - Session 4

In the previous session we saw our heroes get further involved in the rebellion to free the Barony of Harkenwold from the evil mercenaries of the Iron Circle. Having successfully ambushed a supply wagon in that session, this session began with them bringing the wagon to Albridge, the center of the rebellion. Although the rebel leader Dar Gremath had said that his plan was to provoke the Iron Circle into an open attack on Albridge, the group had doubts about the soundness of that plan. While the population of Albridge, already preparing for war and grateful for the supplies, hailed the party as heroes and threw them a banquet, several of the group members were more interested to discuss defense plans. Thus at the banquet where a bard was singing the praise of the "Favorites of Selune", they pushed Dar Gremath into discussing the next step of the plan.

Dar Gremath still insisted on an open battle being much better than trying to storm the Iron Circle's keep in Harken. But h…

Warlock - Master of the Arcane

Once upon a time, when PC games still came on 3.5" floppy disks, Microprose released a 4X game called Master of Magic. It had a gameplay somewhat resembling Civilization, but instead of technology you researched spells, and your units where fantasy creatures. While Microprose's other 4X games like Civilization or Master of Orion had many sequels and remakes, fans have been waiting for a remake of Master of Magic for nearly two decades. This year Paradox Interactive released Warlock - Master of the Arcane, which I had on pre-order since I heard that it was a remake of Master of Magic.

Now remakes are always tricky, and there was a definitive risk that Paradox would take MoM and turn it into an overly complex mess. But at €19.99 full price on Steam (and subsequent promotions selling the game at €9.99) that risk was well worth taking. I paid full price, but got the DLCs as pre-order bonus, so I wasn't totally miffed at there being a half-price offer so soon.

Last weekend I fin…

Tactical vs. Roleplaying

This weekend I watched several videos on YouTube about Tactical vs. Roleplaying, a subject apparently currently being a hot topic in the D&D YouTube community. First of all I have to say that I found the format cumbersome. Video clearly is not my medium. I much prefer the written word and comments as form of discussion than everybody putting his opinion video on YouTube, leaving the watcher to figure out the order in which the discussion took place.

On the subject itself, I'm clearly on the side favoring tactical combat over a "fast" style of combat which plays "in the theater of the mind". The reason for that is very simple: Tactical combat rules avoid conflict between players and Dungeon Master. Roleplaying, as done by little children naturally, often involves sequences of "Bang, bang, you're dead!" - "No, I'm not!". Having only simple combat rules provides you for rules to determine whether you are dead, but still leaves a lot …

Not like a MMORPG at all

As I said before, 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons was a huge change for the game. And as it always happens with huge changes, you get people who like the change, and others who don't. And to an extent which I don't remember happening when 2nd or 3rd edition was released, the release of 4th edition caused something generally known as the "edition wars". People claimed their favorite edition of D&D to be the "true Dungeons & Dragons", and better than whatever edition others preferred. And one of the arguments / insults used in this edition wars was that fans of earlier editions dismissed 4th edition as being "like a MMORPG". That is a remark which always puzzled me, because looking at it from the other side my main problem with MMORPGs is that they aren't more like 4th edition.

The major difference between 4th edition and other editions of Dungeons & Dragons is that 4E is a tactical miniature wargame to the core. Spells and powers …

So how is SWTOR doing?

When EA Bioware last announced subscription numbers for Star Wars: The Old Republic, there was some suspicion that those numbers were artificially inflated by them just having given out free months to every player having reached legacy level 6. Now they are offering "free server transfers" with a system that reminds many people of a server merge. Of course "free server transfers" sounds a lot better, because "server merge" has come to be considered indicative of a game in trouble.

Green Armadillo writes: "The thing that has surprised me is how aggressive Bioware-Mythic is being. By my count of US servers as of this evening, there are 10 servers that Bioware intends to save (destinations), 23 servers with unknown fates (neither origin nor destination as of yet), and a whopping 90 servers that Bioware appdars to be writing off (origins)."

While all this sounds a bit fishy, it is very hard to get an accurate picture of the health of SWTOR. The blogo…

Identity crisis

A reader provided me with a link to Wizard of the Coast talking about the optional rule models of D&D Next in brief. Basically the message is that they got the feedback from the D&D Next playtest that the fighters without powers were too boring, and the combat without flanking and opportunity attacks not tactical enough; and they say: "Don't worry, all of that will be in optional rules modules". Now on the one side I think this is good news. I'd much prefer a game in which all character classes have lots of options in combat without having to ask the DM for permission for every move; and I much prefer tactical combat over a combat style in which positioning doesn't matter. But I more and more wonder how different a game can be on two tables and still be called the same game.

I am not at all interested in the rather unpractical question of what version of the game is the "true" Dungeons & Dragons. I very much recognize that 4th edition changed…

Why different audiences see the Diablo 3 AH in a different light

Different people want different things from their games. For online roleplaying games there have been quite a lot of attempts to classify the different groups, from Bartle's Players who suit MUDs to the endless "hardcore vs. casual" discussions on blogs. The overall effect is that the same feature which might appear great to one group of players can appear very bad to another group. And the Diablo 3 auction house certainly is such a feature.

I think it is undisputed that your character will be stronger with the use of the auction house than without it. The dispute is more whether that is a good or a bad thing, and how "necessary" the AH boost is. One problem, as so often, is that your performance in any online roleplaying game depends on both your gear and your skill. Thus one player who is better at playing Diablo 3 will feel that the boost given by the auction house is not really necessary, or only a lot later in the game, while another player who is less skil…

Workification

There has been some interesting discussion between a blogger and Blizzard on the effect of the auction house on Diablo 3. The blogger's point of view was that Diablo 3 is less addictive than Diablo 2 because instead of having positive reward spikes from finding a drop, you have negative spikes of "oh, my gear is getting weak, better head to the AH now". Blizzard on the other hand speaks about how the better your gear is, the longer it takes for you to find an interesting drop:
"So then let’s say you visit the Auction House and get infusion of power that hurls you forward on that power curve. So whereas at one point your gear may be at a point that you are statistically speaking probably going to get an upgrade every 2 hours. After visiting the Auction House you hurl yourself forward on the power curve so far that now you are statistically going to get a drop every 8 hours."What I find pretty remarkable is how much these two opinions agree with each other. Even …

A washing machine convention

There has been an unusually high amount of negative feedback in the aftermath of this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). The general commentary was something along the lines of few surprises, plenty of snubs for gamers, and that was just the Washington Post. People expected great things, and were disappointed. Me, I just wondered whether that isn't the sort of normalcy the business is heading to. Would journalists complain about too many similar products and lack of innovation when writing about a washing machine convention? Or would they realize that there wasn't much chance of anything revolutionary to start with, and that the new model with the improved child-lock and 10% lower energy consumption is nice enough?

As somebody who has been around since the first Pong console, it appears to me that there are more games around than ever. Hundreds of games are released every year, and that is just from the big names studios on the big platforms, there are thousands mor…

Handling character death in D&D

Character death is a tricky issue in any roleplaying game: On the one side players can feel an immense sense of loss if they really lose a character they got attached to; on the other side having death become too trivial leads to all danger being perceived as trivial as well. In a pen & paper roleplaying game the likelihood of a player death will vary a lot between different groups. It is up to the Dungeon Master of a D&D game to get the balance right. How do you make death significant, without it becoming frustrating?

In my campaign the first thing I'm trying is to avoid "random death". I handed out an improved toughness feat to my players as reward of their level 0 adventure, increasing their health by 6 points. While that is only a little more than the standard feat of 5 points of extra health anybody playing a level 1 D&D 4E character can take, it nevertheless led to everybody having this extra health, and there being less of a chance in general of somebod…

You're not alone, Stubborn!

Stubborn wrote a very good post on regressing in his preference for complicated games. As he sounded somewhat worried about it, I would like to use the opportunity to shout out to him: Stubborn, you are not alone! I've been spending more time this year with iPhone games and Facebook games than with complicated MMORPGs. The most complex game I'm currently still playing regularly is World of Tanks. And I have a library full of complex games both in unopened boxes and in uninstalled Steam games I look at from time to time and more often than not decide not to bother installing one and learning yet another complex game.

I don't think that age is the only factor here. I also have a rather busy and currently stressful professional life, plus I started a "new" old hobby of running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign which is eating up a lot of my time. Thus when I come home in the evening, driving a few tanks around a battlefield or tending my kingdom in Castleville are al…

Who will buy D&D Next?

In 2000 Wizards of the Coast made an extremely daring move by publishing 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons under an Open Game License, allowing other companies to produce rules and other materials compatible with 3rd edition. As WotC themselves later released version 3.5, and other companies made compatible game systems like Pathfinder, 3rd edition could be said to be the edition that has the most compatible material available. 4th edition wasn't compatible with 3rd edition, and used a more restrictive license. I haven't played Pathfinder yet, but I hear that it is very successful. As it was released around the same time as 4th edition, and is an improved version of 3.5 instead of being a very different game, like 4E is, a lot of people who didn't like 4E switched to Pathfinder instead. Wizards of the Coast had inadvertedly helped creating their competitor.

The core rules of D&D Next, in the unfinished version we have available for playtesting, apparently are very s…

Difference in Treasure Creatures

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Difference in Diablo 3 Treasure Creatures submitted by Faithful.

Hello out there fellow gamers.

Recently I have been putting alot of time into farming the treasure monsters in act II inferno in hope of finding something to sell on the auction house. In this process it came to my interest that the four different kind of "treasure goblins" - so to speak - seem to have slightly differentiated loot tables. I therefore decided to note the loot that I found from farming in hope of finding some expectactions of "what to most likely get" when you kill this li'l son of a **** with a bag of gold!

I have searched a little around here and there for some elaborate research into this and generally could not find something definitive, so I decided to post my results here. IF there should be some people who have the actual loot distribution tables or have performed far more research than I have collected in the following thread, please bring this to my knowledge.

Anyway, now that …

Blizzard on Invulnerable Minions, Commodity AH, and More

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Blizzard Blue Tracker: 

Invulnerable Minions

Speaking in general about monster affixes: 

The intention is for there to be differences in the difficulties of the monster packs. Some are hard, some are easy -- and some may seem impossible. When you are first beginning Inferno, you can pick off the easy ones without much challenge, but you may have to skip some of the harder ones. 


That's okay. As you become more powerful, you can survive better, deal more damage, and take on some of the affix packs you previously chose to avoid. And after gearing up even further, eventually you can take them all on. It won't be a cakewalk, but you won't run in abject terror the next time you see that Invulnerable Minions combo pack sauntering your way (okay...you might run a little). Certain monster affixes will also punish certain skill builds more than others, as many of our affixes do. 

We've been watching feedback closely about all the affix types and we've seen a lot of responses to …