Daily Blogroll 5/13: Truth in Advertising Edition

Dragon Age Legends

One thing you gotta say about Dragon Age Legends: like the single player games upon which its based, in Dragon Age Legends you Get. To. Kill. DRAGONS. (Warning: link goes to Facebook). Unlike, say, Dungeons and Dragons Online, where I have yet to kill a dragon. The one you see in the tutorial is little more than a tease. It’s fighting a mind flayer, though, and we HAVE started killing those in our static group, but the name of the game isn’t Mazes and Mind Flayers Online now, is it?

Mazes, though — we’ve had more than our share of those.

Facebook RPGs like DAL (“The first real game on Facebook“) and Treasure Abyss (“Hey, we were here ages before those guys!”) have kept me sane when I haven’t been able to play any deeper games.

More game stuff after the break.
Continue reading Daily Blogroll 5/13: Truth in Advertising Edition

Entitlement in Dragon Age Legends (and WoW)

Even Dragon Age Legends needs more tanks

I was amused to load up Dragon Age Legends last night and find a message urging me to recruit friends to the game and to urge them to play a tank. Given Blizzard’s new Call to Arms program, which rewards needed archetypes that queue for random dungeons with potions, loot and cosmetic items like mounts and pets, I was a little surprised to see this bleed into the world of social gaming.

Just to be clear, I enjoy playing with warrior friends on DAL, but mostly I need AE DPS and mana drainers — mages. My melee speced rogue can tank and assassinate, and I have a whole castle full of workers churning out potions to help.

Anyway. People who play high level tanks and healers are a purer form of humanity, free of the taint and blemish that marks those of us who tend to play DPS classes. We’d treasure our tanks back in EverQuest, carefully gear and equip them and wish them well when they left for better guilds.

I’m not denying tanks and to some extend, healers, have a position of responsibility in a group. But that’s only because game designers designed the classes to some have greater responsibility than the others. It’s not hard to think of group design based on preventing action taken by monsters — mezzing, permastunning, knockbacks and such. Or one based on crafting illusions to confuse and bedazzle critters. Or one that would turn the environment against the monsters.

There’s other choices. Blizzard dug its own hole, and bribing certain players to help make random dungeon groups form faster is just a bandaid on a cast covering a design that was broken to begin with.

Daily heroics in WoW are just queue + 30 minutes in the dungeon = the loot I want. You don’t grind dailies because you yearn for adventure. If Blizzard really wanted to streamline things, they could just pop five players into a room and after half an hour, a chest with loot would appear. There you go, problem solved to everyone’s satisfaction and nobody is waiting for a tank to queue.

EQ2 Fortune League: #WINNER

Oh, wicked, bad, naughty Zoot! She has been setting alight our beacon, which, I just remembered, is grail-shaped. It’s not the first time we’ve had this problem.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Is Fortune League a social game? The “fantasy raid party” game is on Facebook, after all, but just putting a game on Facebook doesn’t make it social — not by itself. It seems to me that social games require other people to play. When this came up on Twitter a few days back, I thought that the whole reason why they were called social is that, by definition, they couldn’t be played alone.

By that definition, Fortune League is not a social game, but it is social in an entirely larger way. The value of each hero in your six member party changes both on how well their race/class combination does in the actual game, and on the demand (or lack of demand) for that race/class combo within Fortune League itself, which varies with the needs of the particular adventure and the daily opportunities.

It’s also social in the way almost any Facebook game is, in that you get talking to the other players. I’m in the Antonia Bayle Champions league, a “guild” for those of us who play on the Antonia Bayle server. Through that I’ve met Zack, who is stationed in Afghanistan for another month and plays Fortune League because he cannot play EQ2 where he is. He is one of the top ranked players globally. And then there’s a bunch of us lesser lights who struggle through.

Small Wings of the League

Inspired by Stargrace’s victory in the first adventure, I was spurred on to see if I could figure out how to play the game and to win at it. Four(!) spreadsheets, two Python scripts and three weeks later, I’d made it not only into the top 20% (to earn the wings), but the top 40 players for the adventure to win the Fortune League cup, the glowy trophy in the first picture.

You can spend money in the game, but money won’t move you in the ranks. All money buys you is the ability to trade out characters more often than free players. I did buy a couple of trades to catch up — while I was learning the game, I made some disastrous missteps. Once I’d sunk money into the game, though, I was determined not to leave without getting the cup.

Sure, it’s just going to sit in Scatter’s room in Kelethin, but there’s that thrill of progression, you know? I started out really sucking at the game, through my own study I managed to find a winning strategy, and I bet real money that it would be good enough to win the one lasting reward from the game.

Stats of the Wings of the League

The wings themselves aren’t too bad. They are a fabled back item with passive featherfall, and a clicky “sky glide” which, I think, gives you the gliding powers of a Fae for 30 seconds. Perfect thing to keep in your appearance slot to easily swap into your main back slot when you need a glide more than you need stats.

We’re into the third adventure now; I don’t plan to spend any money this time around, and I’m not doing as well. I wouldn’t play it at all anymore, except I like chatting with the other AB players and congratulating each other on good moves, or sympathizing with runs of bad luck.

So, maybe Fortune League is a social game after all.

EQ2: How to win at Fortune League

Party Lineup Screen (click to enlarge)

A couple of weeks ago, I started playing Fortune League on Facebook with absolutely no idea what I was doing. Or rather, with all the wrong ideas. Fortune League is based off of EverQuest II, and success in the Facebook game brings rewards to the live game. You get AA experience and enhanced XP potions just for participating. If you do well, you can get some cosmetic items — currently some tattered wings and, for the best of the best, a gold trophy for your home.

My first group was a balanced party that would do well in an EQ2 dungeon — tank, healer, buffs and DPS. I made them all halflings, just for fun. And then… well, and then nothing. I had no idea what happened next. Nonetheless, for doing nothing, at the end of the week I got a scroll good for some AA xp. I went into game with my troubadour, redeemed it, and dinged an AA point. So my mental model of the game was something like:

  1. Do nothing
  2. ???
  3. Profit!

Finding the whole thing rather pointless, I set it aside for a couple of weeks. When I sat down to write about it, I realized that it wasn’t about making a balanced party and going on adventures at all — it was a fantasy adventure league (and in fact, the JavaScript code for Fortune League clearly shows its roots, as it calls the characters ‘athletes’). But basically, the real deal is: you buy characters according to your budget. They perform based characters of that race and class in the game — if there’s a hundred iksar defilers pumping out the heals one day and the froglok furies are slacking off, people with iksar defilers in their parties will be getting more points than the ones with furies — IF the particular adventure is assigning points for healing.

That’s the next piece to the puzzle. Each week is a new adventure, which scores your characters in a new way. For instance, this week is a Befallen adventure. Your party receives points for Heals, Buffs and Hate, and loses points for Deaths. Last week, it was about AOE and Pet Damage.

And the last piece of the puzzle are Events. Each day, the events screen tells about any additional advantages or disadvantages applied to your characters. For instance, today, mages are doing far less pet damage due to the fallout from the end of the previous adventure. However, pet damage is not given points this week, so it doesn’t matter.

Lets run down the screen shot from top to bottom.

Party display

Across the top is my party. Portrait, class and archetype. You can only have max three characters of the same archetype (cleric, fighter, scout or mage) in your party. Since this adventure highly favors clerics and mages, I have no scouts (who have no abilities that earn points) or fighters (whose deaths tend to wipe out the gains from their hate generation).

You do NOT need to worry about how balanced your party is. ALL that matters is the points they earn.

In the lower right corner of each portrait is the number of points they have earned today. Points are assigned only at the lockout time, each midnight, Pacific time. You cannot make any trades during lockout. While it is locked out, though, you can see the points your party has earned that day, and check out other people’s parties for ideas.

Moving down, we see Befallen Uprising, the name of this week’s adventure. You can scroll back and forward to see previous adventures.

The Daily Navigator lets you turn back time and see how your party has done in the past — this will fill in the points in the portrait bar for that day.

Adventure Display

Below is the description of the adventure. Some lore about the particular situation, and below that, the algorithm for assigning points. This is key to winning at Fortune League. You go to the broker and choose characters that maximize this score, add them to your party, and win. (Or at least do well).

To the right of that is your purchased trades window. In between adventures, the score conditions are going to change, and your uber party may suddenly be pretty weak. You may find you want to trade out some low performers for better performers. You get a number of free trades during the week — three each Wednesday, and I believe players who have linked their EQ2 account to the game get a couple more. If you want to do further trades, you have to pay or use the “offer wall” to earn more.

Below that is a display that gives reasons why you might want to make an unexpected trade. The opportunity display tells which classes and races are receiving bonuses or penalties due to events in the adventure. You can find clues to future events that might get you ahead of the curve so you can make a strategic trade.

Party Stats

Below this is the stats display. Zero points, as this is the start of the adventure, and nobody has earned any points for it yet. But they will go here during the week. Party value, the sum of the buy price of all my adventurers, plus my cash on hand. Global rank is my standings with party value, and not standings in the adventure — THAT figure is next to my picture along with my party name and my league. (Being in a league does not affect your game in any way; it’s just a collection of other players with whom you can compete and chat). I’m in the Antonia Bayle Champions league, and I was third in that league after the last adventure.

Below, not shown, are the broker stats for the party — how much they are worth, how their value is trending, high and low price figures and so on. While you win the game by maximizing your hero points — score, you need a good party value in order to make trades.

The Spreadsheet (click to enlarge)

What makes a good party? Maximizing the return on the investment. You can have a real winner of a character who generates three times as many points as any other character, but if it costs ten times as much, is it a good deal?

The spreadsheet can answer these questions. If you really want to do well in Fortune League, you’re going to have to do some analysis. I made a spreadsheet in Google Docs with the top ten or so class/race combos based on the sorts of things needed in the adventure, based on values from the broker. I entered them all by hand — no screen scrapers! — then started adding formulas. “Bang for the Buck” to give me clues to whether or not a character was worth the price. A simple sum to make sure that trades I considered would fit in my budget and so on.

If this is all you do — you will do well in Fortune League and win your wings. To win the cup, you’ll either need to do day trading (buying and selling characters on an ongoing basis during the day to catch rising stars) or start doing some combinatorial analysis.

I did well last week, but I want to do better. So I wrote a program to take all the stuff I entered in the spreadsheet and try a million different class combinations that fit my criteria as to number of trades left and budget. It turned out that I was pretty close with just the spreadsheet, but it suggested some tweaks.

Even that won’t necessarily push someone to the top 40 slot (probably won’t do it for me), since the actual points are based on semi-random factors, like performance of that class in the live game. There’s an element of luck involved. If you make good investments, you’ll have more money with which to buy better characters, and so on.

Follow this guide and you should do fairly well, though.

If you’re just starting out, here is what my program calculates for the best 30,000 gold (your starting stake) party:

  • Halfef Defiler
  • Erudite Warlock
  • Barbarian Defiler
  • Erudite Illusionist
  • Highelf Templar
  • Gnome Conjurer

That gives an expected score of 30,228. Actual performance depends on in-game events and the daily numbers are usually proportionate but way lower. This is actually a higher value party (you’ll notice from my spreadsheet) than my party, since I wasn’t starting from scratch — I have some legacy characters due to the number of trades I had available.