Saturday, October 30, 2010

First batch of 2.1

So the new 2.1 is on TL. It’s a small part of 2.1, but still it contains the most important stuff: new 12 vs 12 minigame.
There is a lot of stuff to talk about so let me break it down into manageable parts:

The looks

The map is supposed to be pictish wilderness. I didn’t really get that impression: its more of a Cimmeria if anything. Of course pictish wilderness covers a LARGE chunk of Hyboria so I guess the flora changes from place to place. It’s fine, but didn’t really bring me to my knees. For me the most polished minis are Blood Ravine and Lost Temple, but there is only so much you can do with trees and rocks.
Take a looksie at these screenshots by HitmannD since those are much better than mine.

The size

The map is large compared to Totem, but I have heard some voices calling for the map to be bigger. It’s fine for my taste, but faaaaaaaaaar from map that you would use mounts on. There is no reason to mount up – you can reach points reasonably fast. Besides the map has very narrow passes and bridges so it’s easy for your opponents to block you up. Perhaps overtime people will learn to take advantages of mounts in here, but as it is now they have no use.

Pets and Mounts

Yes you can use Khitai mounts and yes you can use your combat pets. While it might not be SUPER COOL to see people being followed by 10 kappas (its actually really a bad idea), but there are some khitai pets that I would like to see in minigames: Yun’s lotus pets, Brittle Blade’s sapling from the tree of death or even moon children. It’s a hard call: on one side it has potential of changing the game into Pokemon online (and those damn kappas are screwing the tab targeting), but on another there are some insta-pets that are more of a buff/debuff and those would give another layer of customization to your pvp character. I would lean towards keeping the pets and mounts: except for damn Kappas those are hard earned, legitimate buffs that everyone can get and keeping them for Khitai-PVE-only seems like a waste.

The mechanic

The point capping is very fast. I LIKE IT! I also don’t agree that there are too many capture points. The key to victory are small, tactical strikes as opposed to rolling over opponents with 12 man army. Grouping up or “Zerging” is not the way to go. This map rewards capturing and not defending. You can push with 12 people on one capture point which is held by 6, but before you know it other 6 opponents will cap like half of the map. I would keep it this way, because if there are only few points and the defence (or lets face it: camping) becomes valid the game will lose its pace and will favor heavily solder classes (which are ripping the shit out of rogues/clothes in larger scale battles) and rangers/spell weavers. For the first few minutes of my first game it was exactly like that: DTs and Conqs backed up by Rangers were doing “the blender” in the middle and other classes were popping into that fray for 4-5 seconds only to get spanked into oblivion. Then we started to avoid that “battle” and went for points which immediately broke up the big fight and people rushed in to re-capture. Point capturing often result in small scale 1v1 or 2v2 (since respawns are very close to points) which imo is more enjoyable than classic minigames were the key is to “move as one” and grind anyone that comes near that whirlwind. This mini also empowers the individual more: your actions have DIRECT impact on the outcome. In classic minis its mostly all about the flag carrier and other are usually preoccupied with fragging (myself being guilty as charged). Killing opponents is secondary to capturing the points. You will have more than enough opportunities to cross blades, but simply focusing on killing (which can be valid in capture the flag maps: butchering opponents leaves your carrier unmolested) won’t get your far.

The rewards

Take a look at screenshot. It’s very rewarding and it will greatly improve pvp progression. I thought that FC will include “Bori” token rewards too, so you can get best pvp set, by doing this mini, but CAN’T imagine that anyone real pvper would do Bori at all if he could get the tokens AND the really good pvp xp from Sag mini. With recent pvp set changes (more on that later) I think Sag will put a large dent in Bori’s participants because FC addressed three major problems with minis : horrible pvp xp, unattainable pvp set and premades. With that out of the way why would you hit rocks?

The teams

You can only see 1 group in your UI so I cannot tell how well the new system divides the classes, but I have seen both teams having pretty much the same amount of healers, tanks and DPSs.
The Sag seems like heaven for premade vs premade with vent, but minigame nightmare x 10 for PUG vs Premade. Really, I think it would have been HUGE waste if this map went live without breaking up the premades. I do hope that the option for premade vs premade will come at some point, but seeing the opportunity for abuse of this map and how it would ruin the fun for everyone I am glad that the new rules are in.

Room for improvement

As always there is room for improvement. It seems this map would benefit greatly from climbing points of various difficulties. Also I would make the water more deep so jumping from great height would not damage the player’s character and would be a valid tactic.

More on 2.1

The party on the roof continues

Seems like FC have read my report on “secret” content on TL and have seen me getting on top of the roof. They have put up a wall to prevent it. Guys, there are explorers out there that can get to the places you haven’t even designed yet ;p. By all means keep trying to seal that place up because this roof club is a pretty cool reward for winning the renown rankings and it would be bad if others could “crash” the party.

 Minigame pvp gear

The smartest move by FC since 2008. The new minigame gear is pvp lvl 4-7. On level 4 you can upgrade your horribly outdated blue items from lvl 1-3 and on lvl 7 you can be wearing full minigame gear. The weapons are reserved for lvl8 (also good). The Bori gear is 8-10lvl. Getting to lvl8 by only doing minigames is hard as nails now (I still need 25% to lvl8), but with new minigame map and minis getting more popular it will get a little easier. This change is great on many levels: it rewards the pvper more constantly (as opposed to half killing yourself over couple of months just to get a belt) and squashes the gear gap between regular pvpers and rock-crushers.
And before I finish this post:
Find the new icon for one of sins AA perks
New minigame window - still no sound but its coming
Rock on Funcom! (please do not mess this up).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

MMO development by Funcom

Patch 2.1. Are you psyched up about it? I doubt it, but if you are please do yourself a favor and DON'T.
For a reason widely unknown Funcom is going back to their time proof strategy of "big patch & slow development for the win". Patch 2.1, which will include whole new engine, is shaping up to be another 1.5 in terms of development. Lets hop in a time machine and read up some bullshit on how fast this patch is going live:

Community Update - 10th September - Age of Conan Europe Forums
"herefore we expect Update 2.1 to be ready for the testservers around the end of September. We will of course keep you posted on the current status in the weeks to come."
Community Update – 17th September - Age of Conan Europe Forums
"on the plus side the internal testing for the integration parts of the 2.1 series is going very well, and the build is starting to look reasonably stable. We will make a decision on when we will push the series to the test servers at the end of the month"
Community Update - 8th October - Age of Conan Europe Forums

"We aim to deploy the first versions of Update 2.1 to the test servers in the next few weeks".
@Slith_hideout sooooooo.....2.1 early 2011? about 12 hours ago via Chromed Bird in reply to Silirrion
@Silirrion I really hope not...should be on test within the next few weeks, then depends on the testing about 11 hours ago via web in reply to Slith_hideout
 There ya have folks: its sooooooo coming in 2011. Now, what is the issue here? 
I cannot understand (perhaps thats because I am not an mmo developer) why we cannot have patches in small batches instead of this monster fix. I can imagine that because this patch includes whole new engine it will be buggy as hell which will only further delay whatever content we are waiting for. There are also so many small fixes that will come with the patch but would make people very happy right now: minigame pvp gear changes would be a prime example.
Furthermore one of the key issue is communication. Both community updates and monthly letters are of poor quality and those are getting both shorter and more rehashed. Do you guys think we cannot tell that you are serving us refried shit from a month ago?
There is so much Funcom could do to get people excited about their games, to make them crave the new content. Oh wait, they are excellent at this, but only before the game launches.
Why not feeding the playerbase with screenies of new maps, artworks, gameplay footage. Hell, even a developer talking about the mechanics recorded with cellphone's camera would been great. Instead we get weekly streams of "its comings" and monthly "we suck at coding with new tools, but we are getting better, like all the time".

I think you can do better than that.

EDIT: mixed up my tweet with GD's reply. Thanks for pointing that out in comments. Sorry for mistake. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Assassin's hideout podcast - ep.22

show notes:

- my progression through solo pve content in Khitai
- my factions of choice
- how I am getting MoAs

title of the post is a link to the podcast.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Assassin's hideout podcast - ep. 21

show notes:

- patch 2.1
- new minigames
- changes to premades sign ups
- bad sound quality

title of the post is a link to the podcast.

Link is fixed

Sunday, October 3, 2010

[Guide] Choking powder

The choking powder (powder for short) is a major perk available only to assassin class via AA tree.

The powder takes two slots on your alternative bar, consumes 2 shards upon use and has 2m cool down.

When applied it:

- stops any combo or spell in progress (animation/casting)

- prevents any spells from being cast for 3s (silence)

First I have to say I truly love this perk and IMHO it is the best stuff we can get from the assassin class AA tree. It greatly buffs up survivability (via preventing the combo/spell from pwning your ass) can act as anti cc (preventing cc from being applied to you) and as a form of cc (not being able to attack/cast is being cced in my book)


Powder requires both lighting fast reaction as well as good timing. Having powder bound under accessible key is vital! Make sure that you can use the powder via one of the keys that are close to the ones that you are using form movement. Please note that powder is heavy on shard consumption and that it will be hard to support this perk without going hybrid and having 2 means of instant shard regeneration.

Stopping combo/spell

First make sure that you have "timer bar" switched on via settings. This little bar will show you what your target is doing. When it comes to spells use powder at the very last second of casting so your opponent will waste time and stand still while taking the punishment. When it comes to combos its quite the opposite: use powder as soon as combo animation starts because you need to reduce the damage as much as possible.

Stopping the CCs

This is the main part of my love for the powder. What is the very first thing your opponent will try to do when he comes out of your cc like fear/stun? He will try to CC you back and there is not a thing you can do about it because he has 5s immunity to major cc (it prevents the dreaded CC-lock). Well the powder doesn't count as any type of cc so it is not affected by immunities . You can do 2 things as your opponent comes out of cc: 

If he is melee - wait for his CC animation to start. Great example are the barbarians who's animations are very easy to recognize.

If he is a caster/assassin - apply the powder at the last second of CC duration (observe his characters posture - when the CC is over he will stand straight for a second) so your opponent is affected by the 3s silence.

Couple of more examples:

Bear shamans - they just love to go out of CC and use their stun to aoe CC and heal them self up. Choking powder not only denies them the CC but also the much needed heal

Hox - the powder can stop hoxe's transformation which brings aoe stun.

Tos - the powder can stop the red shield from being applied to the caster

DT - the powder can stop the aoe sword stun (easily recognizable animation)

the list goes on

Powder as AOE

The powder has cone aoe effect so even without any timing it is a great thing to pop in front of fighting crowd (perfect for minigames) and you are bound to affect the outcome of the skirmish. Powder also can bring people out of stealth. Right now the most sure method of popping out of hide is death's whirlwind, but that very heavy on shards so the powder, while not as reliable, can yield same results with lower shard costs. Furthermore the powder can be a great "run away tool" - use it just before you are going to "leg it" to avoid the nasty "stagger" cc being applied because your back is turned.

Powder in solo PVE

When used against mobs it will stop them for 1 second which, when pounded on by several mobs, can be a life saver. Other than that the mobs do have their own casting/combos (specially tamarim's tigers mobs which have a combo called whirling blades) so the usage of powder is same as in pvp.