Dragons Must Die

Chartilifax is Dead

Chartilifax is Dead

I like to think I enjoy dungeons in MMOs when the group I’m in isn’t depending upon me for anything. All I have to do is some simple task, and then everyone else does all the hard work.

I LIKE to think that — but it isn’t true. I’m a team player. At work I’m a team player. I really do enjoy it when, as a team, we accomplish something of which I was a part. I wasn’t always that way — when I was young, I was always looking to stand out, to be better than anyone.

Maybe that’s just a maturity that arose as I aged. But I want to believe that it was because MMOs taught me the value of the team. And the extra value of being a key — but not the only — contributor in that team. Sounds very corporate, I admit. But then, I’m a corporate IT web developer. That job wouldn’t be as much fun if I had to go it alone.

As such, I’ve never been a big fan of soloing in MMOs. During last weekend’s double xp in Neverwinter, I wanted to get my remaining non-max level character, my cleric Dera, a few levels of her own. If not during a double xp weekend, then when, right?

The Death of Ethraniev Marroslake

The Death of Ethraniev Marroslake

When I played a cleric in beta, I thought they were unstoppable mega-gods — easy mode soloing, and still vital to a group. I leveled one up in the beginning content when the game went live, and since then, Dera largely sat in the Moonstone Mask floating bar, doing crafting and farming invocations for astral diamonds. When she started in on Leadership, her levels really began to climb, all without doing a single quest or killing a single monster.

I’d managed to level right through all the lower level content to Ebon Downs, a vast wasteland of powerful undead. That zone was hard enough when I did it with my rogue and my fighter; to an undergeared, underskilled cleric, it was a nightmare. I started crafting some better armor and weapons and doing skirmishes — quick group content — to get back in the swing of things.

After a half dozen of the Ebon Downs skirmishes, I’d figured out how to play the character again, gotten my power selection correct, and had leveled out of the Downs and into the much more fun version of Veliosk, a wilderness zone overrun with werewolves.

Since this was a double xp weekend, all the zones were busy, and I got a lot of small groups to help with quests and stuff. When one group started shouting for a healer to do the zone dungeon, Grey Wolf Den, I volunteered. We…

Hey, hmm, have the timing off. I’d previously healed that weekend for Lair of the Mad Dragon, the Helms Hold dungeon, and Throne of Idris, the Ebon Downs dungeon. Those were both successes, and I don’t think anyone was unhappy with my performance.

But Grey Wolf Den was different. I’d been soloing there with my Guardian Fighter, trying to get the achievement for finishing it on that character, but it was very slow. I got through the first boss fight without any issues, but the fight itself took more than twenty minutes, and it had taken longer than that to clear to that point. I really needed a group to do it.

So I was more than thrilled when a group needed a cleric. There was a level 60 rogue helping out a guildie, and he explained to me all the spells I needed to have ready. Turns out he also had a max level cleric. I was happy to see that I already have all the relevant skills ready. I’d read the forums. I knew the preferred cleric build.

Played through, and at the end he offered me a guild invite. See, while my rogue and fighter are in Combat Wombat, there’s never been anyone online to invite Dera into the guild. She’s been unguilded all along, and with Combat Wombat being a dead guild, there’s been no real pressure to get Kasul to do the inviting the one night we play.

Dera has been offered random guild invites from strangers, of course, every unguilded character gets those, I’ve declined them all. But to get one from someone with whom you’ve grouped, someone who actually came to a lowbie dungeon to help a guildie, well — I accepted.

And then when I finished the Veliosk quests and needed to run the dungeon again for completion, they came and helped get through it again. So that was a nice feeling. It’s really nice to be able to just talk to people when I’m online.

The Pirate King looks so lonely

The Pirate King looks so lonely

I moved on to Pirate’s Skyhold. Kasul and I leveled too fast to do that zone, but Dera ended at just the right level for it. The quests weren’t too hard until I got to Skull Fortress. I can’t even find the entrance to that place. Anyway, zone was yelling for a healer for the zone dungeon, Pirate King, so I volunteered.

Things were going well until the end. We just couldn’t DPS him enough before his adds overwhelmed us. I’d bought 20 health potions at the beginning of the adventure and used them all. I had to run back to the start of the zone to buy more. In Neverwinter, clerics do the vast majority of the healing, but can’t do all of it, and usually everyone has to be at least partially responsible for keeping themselves alive. Stay out of the red, out of the fire, jump out of the fray to get healed, that sort of thing. Clerics themselves are no different. The group buffs I had to cast and the heals themselves caught me a lot of aggro from adds, and only potions allowed me to survive being the target of every archer that spawned.

Group didn’t have a guardian fighter, you see. Nina would have gathered those up. We tried different strats, but until one of the control wizards offered to come back as his max level great weapon fighter, we had gotten close but never gotten the kill. With the GWF, though, it was no trouble.

So, saw a lot of new dungeons, got a new guild, and a lot of new levels. It was a good weekend.

Bridgecrusher

Bridgecrusher is all out of chewing gum.

One of the things I most enjoyed while writing The Crypt of Befallen was the opportunity to make some old friends part of the story. In early EverQuest, your guild said a lot about you — every guild had its history of accomplishments, setbacks, alliances and enmities. When you joined, you were taking a stand, of sorts. If you joined a spam guild, nobody would want you in their group. If you were any GOOD, you’d be in a good guild. Every player knew most of the guilds on the server. If they were raiders, you generally knew where in the hierarchy they were, too.

My first guild was United Norrath Coalition, which was a merger of two smaller guilds — this happened before I joined. My final guild, Crimson Eternity, would likewise be a guild merger, and many of its members (including me) would have come from United Norrath Coalition. It was a family that I had for almost all my time in EverQuest.

I joined as a low level druid who had just earned her first teleport spells. UNC hadn’t yet become a raiding guild; they were just friends, many of whom knew each other out of guild. They were a guild of couples — Valksis and Anavrin, whom I later met in real life; Taluil and Iliana; Cilia and Jalanea. I came in with a bunch of new recruits — Noffin and Bridgecrusher and Lorika. As the UNC family grew, we would explore everywhere in the most unlikely of groups. As a wizard, a monk and a druid, we explored many of the dungeons of Kunark, when it came out. We spent days in the Tower of Frozen Shadow, mapping it out, and Bridgecrusher’s map of the fourth level was the definitive map of the area for years.

When I started working on Befallen, I knew I wanted them in there, though I don’t think I was a member yet of UNC when I did Befallen for real. And so, I have members of my old EQ guild camping the second shadowknight in the dungeon, teaching the player how to pull, and helping out in the exciting final fight in Lavastorm.

I know you’re supposed to do stuff based on Forgotten Realms, but I never played in Forgotten Realms, aside from computer games. I lived in Norrath. And it’s fun, for me, to see a world I once spent so much time in, come to life in a new way.

My next dungeon will be Najena, a dungeon I DID do with the UNC crew, and we will certainly meet them at some point. In a surprising way.

Meanwhile, I still need help getting The Crypt of Befallen out of review status. I need beta reviewers to play it, and review it.

I have two good reviews; I need three more to make it a real quest. If you CAN help out, please do. It’s: The Crypt of Befallen, NW-DKCFTXNUZ.

Thanks, really appreciate it :)

Categories: MMOs, Neverwinter | Comments Off

We Will Flounder in Foundries!

Kasul makes an astute observation

Kasul makes an astute observation

Another week, another quartet of questionable quests — one of which is mine! MINE! Bwahahahaha!

Feast of the Moon — NW-DCWHIKFXA by @XHRIT

But we start out this week with one of the new featured quests, Feast of the Moon. “You have been cordially invited to attend the annual Feast of the Moon celebration, by Lady Neverex of Neverwinter. Formal attire is requested.”

Formal attire was requested, but we just came in wearing our tired old armor. Didn’t even polish it. ‘Twas okay, they let us in, they even seemed to know us. We mingled with the guests a bit, did some dancing in the disco, chatted with Neverex herself, and then — and then the bad things started. We found ourselves in a deep cave system, overrun with kobolds. Kasul found a hilarious new way to die! Which is to go crazy backstabbing every monster, even the one I just shoved off a walkway into oblivion.

Oops.

Turns out that the worried partygoer we met was on to something — there was an evil plot afoot, and the only question I had was, why would you invite to your party the only people capable of stopping your evil plot?

Still, a well-constructed mission, had a story, the author can spell, which is unusual. This is the sort of mission you hope you’re getting when you sign up to play a Foundry.

Pool of the Dead

Pool of the Dead

Pool of the Dead — NW-DLTS5X6TO by @ADruvez

Pool of the Dead is more typical of the kind of quest we find. We chose it because it was by a new Foundry author, hoping for some play-throughs in order to take the quest out of review and into the general population, in which it has succeeded.

The thin plot has you scouring a tomb for holy water and bleach, after which you scour the tomb with the holy water and bleach, cleaning up the place. Along the way you fight some easy encounters.

Unanswered: How holy water has survived in the tomb for all these years. I guess that’s why it took so long to find. I suggested to Kasul that we command all the undead to do the cleaning for us; he rightly pointed out that the undead would have a problem handling holy water.

I dunno. It’s been in this tomb so long. How holy can it be anymore?

This mission looks like it took fifteen minutes to build. Needs work — a lot more work.

Restless Nights

Restless Nights

Restless Nights — NW-DB05XVVKV by @BrokenReality

If you’re going to do a hack-and-slash, it pays to put a little time into it and make it fun, as well. In @BrokenReality’s Restless Nights, you enter a crypt in order to defeat the evil Baron who rules the place. Good pacing, several boss battles and quite a lot of actually funny dialog made this a very enjoyable romp.

Some of the floor decorations bugged both us and the encounters; one boss was floating up in the air because of the bugged carpet. I’m surprised that wasn’t caught by testing. It was the only real flaw in an otherwise fun mission.

This doesn't look like Befallen...

This doesn’t look like Befallen…

The Crypt of Befallen — NW-DKCFTXNUZ by @Tipa

My second Foundry! OMG! This one takes us back to EverQuest, to the dungeon that caused me more nightmares than — well, than any dungeon until the time I lost my corpse in Unrest. It’s also the dungeon where my real life daughter met her future real life husband. True story.

It’s a challenge to take a dungeon without any particular plot and shoe-horn one in; I built a new story around the Dagger of Marnek quest just to have some satisfying boss battles in there. And an excuse to have an epilogue in Lavastorm as a lead-in to my next dungeon, Najena’s Lair.

The locked doors are there. You will jump into the Well. You will pull for a group of adventurers. You will help a druid camp Gynok for the Paw of Opolla quest. You will find NPCs that you have no idea what they’re for. You will check Allakhazam to find out :)

Just like actual Befallen!

This Foundry is still in review as of this writing. It just needs a couple more plays to be released into the wild.

Hint, hint :)

No knowledge of EverQuest is required to play this Foundry, but if you HAVE been to the original, you should be able to find your way around pretty well.

Categories: MMOs, Neverwinter | 3 Comments

Teenage Mutant Ninja…. Chickens?

The Goblin Feast

The Goblin Feast

Last night’s Monday Night Foundries were a mixed bag of awful and awesome, but more than that, I think we finally distilled the essence of what makes a successful Foundry — and what makes a good one. These aren’t necessarily going to be found on the same Foundry.

I also gave Kasul a first peak at the Foundry mission I’m writing. It probably won’t be either good OR successful, but you need to learn to walk before you can learn to run … and you need to learn to crawl before you get to walking or running. I’m still at the “Legs? What are they good for?” stage. Trying to wring a story out of the Foundry tools gives me a better appreciation for those that manage anything at all. And for those that do it well…..

The Goblin Feast by @wisetale

“The Goblin Feast” is one of three Foundry missions the author finished at the end of August; this is the only one that was long enough to be eligible for the daily Foundry mission. That’s important — if your mission doesn’t take on the average fifteen minutes to play, it won’t be eligible for the daily Foundry mission and few people will play it.

Your mission, as a subcontractor to the Mercenaries Guild, is to rescue some missing children before they are eaten by goblins. The mission takes you through some truly lush and detailed settings as in the picture above, but the terrible, terrible writing and spelling takes away all the good feelings that the settings inspired. I gave it three stars — and it would have been two if not for the good level design.

The Silence of Haydenwick by @grimah

This was a featured mission given top billing by the Neverwinter staff. The author warns that this adventure is hard and full of combat, and that’s no exaggeration. It also has the sort of old-school RPG puzzle solving you don’t often see.

The village of Haydenwick has gone silent; well, silent except for the calling out for brains and such, as the town’s drunks, gluttons and blacksmiths have gone and gotten themselves turned into infected drunks, gluttons and blacksmiths. After figuring out how to barricade the town against further attack from the outside, it’s into the town hall where the last of the survivors held out until they were betrayed from the inside. The story is told through journals and diaries scattered around. There’s a lot of running back and forth as you collect the bits of the mystery. Once solved, it’s back out into the town to escape the plague.

This was definitely a challenge at times for the two of us. I felt there was a little more combat than the story really needed, making this a fairly long adventure. @grimah has written a simplified version of the adventure, Haydenwick — Horde Mode, which is just the fighting and can be done in about fifteen minutes.

@Grimah’s previous outing was a generic kill-easy-mobs-for-event-drops Foundry called Charm Grind V.3 that appears to have used the same setting. Definitely an author to look out for.

Crazed Mutant Death Chickens by @Thunderspank

There’s something about chickens that, in Neverwinter, have been raised to almost mythic standards. I’m not sure why. Look for chicken-themed Foundry missions, though, and you won’t be able to ever come to the end of them. And with a name like Crazed Mutant Death Chickens, this quest seemed a good place to start.

Magical chicken feed has turned regular chickens into … mutant death chickens … and they are slaughtering the town. Seeing a couple of naked dancing girls — who are being terrorized by chickens — upon zoning in kind of set the stage for the whole adventure. After clearing the town, you’re sent into a tavern to clear that out as well, then back into the town for some more chicken killing.

A couple of the chickens were more feisty than others, but we were really expecting the fights to lead up to some sort of confrontation with a super mega-chicken or something, which never happened. Also, how was this not called Teenage Mutant Ninja Chickens? We felt an opportunity was lost there.

The author has previously written a four-part Foundry campaign that I have not played.

How is that not Poseidon?

How is that not Poseidon?

Party in the Arena of Poseidon by @XNURIAX

When the Foundry mission event comes up, it’s pretty easy to get a group grinding arena missions. These are exactly what they say on the tin; missions meant for a group that just toss increasingly difficult enemies and crowds more of them until the fifteen minutes is up, then they finish and you queue up for it again.

We thought it would be fun to try out an arena mission for ourselves to cap off the night.

In this one, Poseidon has called upon the greatest warriors of the land to meet the gods of old. We soon progressed from easy minions to the god of war, Ares. After that, the arena left the Greek myths behind and had us fighting enemies named after Biblical people and places. And then it got weirder.

The fights themselves were VERY challenging, clearly meant for a controller-heavy group. We, being neither of us controllers, had no luck. Each of us had five deaths before we were done, and had gone through a few dozen potions.

Neither of us felt like we had a good time — there are no real rewards from a Foundry mission aside from trash drops. If there WERE, nobody would do anything else, after all. We’d probably have liked it better if we’d been in a full group. Still, it’s an arena, we weren’t expecting a deep story or anything except continuous fighting for fifteen minutes, and that’s exactly what we got.

That’ll do, Pig.

Soooooo-EEEEEE

Soooooo-EEEEEE

I figure if I have a pig NEXT to me, I can always pretend people are insulting the pig and not me. But why would they insult the pig? She’s so CUUUUTE!

In preparation for next week’s expansion launch, and especially the new browser game Sword Coast Adventures, Kasul bought a new companion, a pig from the Midsummer event, to level up. You need four companions to fully play the game, though you can buy temporary ones within the game itself. We don’t know what characteristics the companions will need for the game, but I’m guessing with four companions and four roles (defender, striker, leader and controller), then having one of each type in companion form can’t hurt.

Kasul’s pig made it to level 12 through the evening, and his was so cute I had to buy one for myself, even though I already had a controller in the person of the cleric disciple whom I used as my healer until I did the Incredible Zen to Diamond Maneuver that bought me my current healer cheap.

Hambone and Friends

Hambone and Friends

If I’d been blogging when I did that, you’d have found out how I got a lockbox companion — which people spend upwards of $100 or more on keys to get — for much, much, MUCH cheaper by playing games with the Zen/Astral Diamond exchange. But, you’ll never know now. Except that it had something to do with the Zen/Diamond exchange. And in fact that’s all there was to it. The market was swinging wildly because of a special event for just that weekend, and it was the perfect time for some arbitrage.

Anyway, Hambone joins my other companions — Binky the Wonder Corpse, Phred the Dawg, Zenda the Prisoner Of, the Un-Healer Malificent and Adam Flambert the Phoenix — in waiting for Sword Coast Adventures, which you’ll probably read about here at some point.

Happy adventuring!

Categories: MMOs, Neverwinter | Comments Off

Aaaaaughibbrgubugbugrguburgle!

My "Murloc Deck" about to go to work

My “Murloc Deck” about to go to work

Finally — FINALLY! — got into the Hearthstone beta last night. I’ve been looking forward to this game since… well, probably since I stopped playing Wizard101. Deck construction was always the part I liked best about that game. Always having that perfect card available. Welcoming additional players in my circle because the more enemies, the sweeter the victory.

That was all training day stuff compared to Hearthstone, though. Though not up to the complexity of severely tactical games such as Magic: the Gathering, there’s still quite a lot of depth. I’ll have to get my son’s take on it. He was big into CCGs back in the day, Yu-Gi-Oh mainly.

I thought I was the only one in my circles who hadn’t got into the beta, but apparently there are still one or two people who aren’t already playing it, so —

Your avatar on the game board is a Hero, one of Norrath’s notable nameds. I got started off as the mage Jaina Proudmoore, leader of the Kirin Tor and ruler of Dalaran. Heroes from the other normal WoW classes may be unlocked by defeating them in practice battles. I didn’t see newer classes such as Deathknight or Monk, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t show up soon. Both showed up in the tutorial, after all — the Deathknight in the person of Illidan himself.

Blame the terrible game designers!

Blame the terrible game designers!

Despite the warning, Illidan was a pushover…. IN THE TUTORIAL. The AI players have a bit more bite in the practice game. And when it’s time to meet other players…

Based on the Hero’s class, they have innate powers they may cast. Most of the time, though, they’ll be playing cards from their carefully constructed decks.

Each turn, you earn an additional spell gem, up to the maximum of ten. Every card has a cost to play, which takes a certain number of spell gems. At the start of a match, you’ll only be able to play weak cards, but by the fifth turn, both sides will be bringing considerable firepower onto the board.

Cards are divided between minions and actions. Most minions are general cards that may be played by anyone; the actions are generally associated with the hero you’re playing. Minions cannot attack on the turn they are played, unless they are one of the ones that can. Like M:tG and other CCGs, certain cards can change the rules. Once active, they can attack either enemy minions or the enemy hero (based, again, on which other cards are in play).

The game ends when either hero’s health falls to zero or below.

My mage/murloc deck — the one I made when I saw how many murloc minion cards I’d earned — is designed to bring a large number of low level cards out near the start of the game to bring the enemy hero’s health low as soon as possible, while using mage abilities (sheep, freeze, frost nova and the like) to keep their minions out of the fight. This breaks down if the fight lasts too long, or the enemy hero can heal, but — it’s just my first day. I’ll shake the bugs out.

Winning matches wins you additional cards, experience for your hero (who gain more cards as they level to the maximum of ten), and quest completion which gets you even MORE cards. And then there are the achievements. If you’re lucky, you’ll earn some of the rarer cards which are key to winning matches against other players.

When the cash shop opens, you’ll be able to buy more packs, each with the chance of a rare that you need. You’ll be able to trade and sell these cards as well. Neither the cash shop nor the auction house were enabled last night.

More on Hearthstone as I get more experience with it. Players have said that Hearthstone has gotten them playing World of Warcraft again, but I remember too well what playing WoW is like. Completing quests solo in empty zones, and dungeon finder groups where nobody talks except to tell you how you screwed up.

Hearthstone and the League-of-Legends-ish Heroes of the Storm are the vanguard of Blizzard’s new F2P gaming strategy. With the era of monolithic games like its own World of Warcraft ending, keeping people in the setting they’ve spent a decade building is the best way to take their considerable intellectual property into today’s emphasis on casual gaming.

Bringing the Blizzard reputation to bear in existing genres, such as MOBAs and CCGs, is no more than they did when they rewrote the MMO rulebook with the original World of Warcraft, or redefined rogue-likes with the original Diablo. Blizz has the good will of tens of millions current and former WoW players as their ambassadors into these new games, and every indication is that they will conquer at least the online CCG world with Hearthstone.

Heroes of the Storm verses League of Legends, though? That’s another battle.

Categories: Hearthstone, Other Games | 2 Comments