Saturday, February 25, 2012

[Guide] Yellow Lotus Pet

It smells stunningly because it stuns you...see what I did there? Cleverness! All jokes aside this pet is actually worth a last one. Compared to other pets this one doesn't really brings all that much to the table, but it has it's uses. This is a low priority pet meaning: got everything else you want? Good, get this one last pet to round up your arsenal of doom. Right off the bat it bears saying that this pet is no longer bugged which means it will apply "recently impared by stun" on players. Thinking about abusing it in pvp? Think again because it doesn't work no more. 

This pet does two things:
1. stuns up to two targets for 3 s
2. has delicious animation (boobies!)
Khitaian boobs! Yey!

The boobies part is self explanatory. The stun part can also be interesting for the following reasons:

1. It is a "free" CC, no shard cost,
2. It has no casting time, it is an instant CC,
3. It can be used while on mount, 
4. It can be used on some of the solo PVE Bosses.

I have been really enjoying this pet while on a mount. Ever got attacked while on your mount? Who hasn't *roll eyes*. With this pet you can instantly stun your attacker (without even targeting him!) and then run away/dismount safely. That alone is worth the investment. I have also enjoyed this pet while doing my "Isle of Iron Statues" solo runs. The last Ape Boss can be knocked back and stunned. I am using this kind of combo to beat this boss fast:

1. knock back from using the magical pad (part of boss encounter mechanic),
2. GC + SDS, using my SS
3. Soul Strike on boss, he gets stunned, explosion is applied,
4. Knock back from Snap Kick, Swift Strikes for DPS
5. SDS, Choking powder to interrupt one of his casts,
6. GC, Opportunistic Strike, Swift Strikes DPS,
7. Yellow Lotus Pet, SDS, Swift Strikes
8. Soul Strike for stun, Swift Strikes DPS
9. Knock back from using the magical pad

If I mess up one of the timings I will use the yellow lotus pet as a "get away" CC if the Boss has that nasty, unbreakable snare on me.

Over all it's a bit underpowered, but still fun to use pet. And boobies, c'mon! You won't regret getting this one.

edit: just a little update. Today I got jumped by a barb just after I have ported to Kara Korum from Refuge of Apostate. He was on my back, I got stagger debuff and almost instantly on 50% of my HP. Yellow Lotus gave me that sweet few seconds to turn around, use Avatar of Death and change the outcome in my favor. That alone made this purchace a good investment. Gray Lotus might have given me an awesome damage, but damage wasn't the name of the game in this scenario, surviving and regaining balace was. That Yellow Lotus has provided. I would have bought this over Golden Lotus any time now. Do get!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Player housing in Age of Conan - can it work?

 I remember that back in the day when AOC still had RP servers (where the hell are THOSE?) people were often suggesting housing to be implemented into the game. As far as I know FC was considering it as "cool to do someday". Is this a great feature? Can it work? To answer this question I must get my ass into time machine and travel back to about...2002 perhaps? Back then I was enjoying a very interesting mmo called Tibia. Now do not be fooled by the graphics: this game has timeless charm and it's gfx grows on you. In fact Tibia is celebrating its 15-th anniversary and still going strong. 
Back then I was playing the game with several friends. I was the only person with "PACC" (premium account) and thus only I could have bought a house. Here is the tricky part: houses are limited commodity in Tibia. There are several cities with houses that you can rent, but it's obvious that only a small portion of overall population will live in a house. You don't own a house, you rent it. In order to rent you have to bid on it on an auction (hosted on a site). So right off the bat: renting a house, as all things exclusive, was cool. Back to my story: I could have only afforded the most basic 1 room "apartment" in a basement. There were many of these rooms around mine, but mine was full of live. I have invited all my friend to go freely inside and out of my house and each have brough a chest to store his stuff. Back then Tibia gameplay was about preparing and hunting. Preparing ment creating magic items that were necessary for you to kill mobs successfully (HMM were magic missile runes, UH were healing runes etc.). Once you have enough of items prepared you could have go out and kill mobs for exp and items. So we were hanging outside of my house for hours chatting, creating runes and bulling lowbies that were passing through. We had two neighbors: one SWE guy (player from Sweden) and some other that was often joining our rune making sessions. I remember how we always hoped that SWE guy would have left his room unlocked. Even thou we couldn't have entered his home we still could throw garbage in and that we did. One time we have thrown so much that it took him over and hour to thow all that crap away. It was a running gag, so much so that I believe he was leaving his home unlocked on purpose so we could have a laugh later on when his home was trashed. I miss those days dearly. This atmosphere of menagerie, frolic and play made my time in Tibia he most fun I have had in any MMO. Of course I am no fool: we all were very young back then, still in school and without care in our heads, we could have played as long as we wanted. Obviously I cannot indulge in same behavior right now in my adulthood. Nor I want to. However there are some lessons to be learned from that experience. What made it work, apart from having friends to hang out with?
Housing in Tibia

1/ Limited commodity - if player housing is to be succesful it has to be something exclusive. Sure, make plenty rooms available in some rat infested basement, but just a few mansions.

2/ Reason to be in/around your house - Tibia was providing a reasons for us to be there. We were creating runes. Sure, RPers will always hang out there to...RP, but what about the rest of population? Player cities are still ghost towns, only filled with NPC. Still there is no reason whatsoever for anyone to BE in guild city. Perhaps new crafting system will address that.

3/ Part of the city - the housing system cannot be some kind of separate instance where only you can see it. You want to know what it is like? Go clear a mansion instance in Tarantia Commons and hang out there. You got fireplace and several rooms, pretty nice, eh? Yeah, I don't think so. I strongly believe that your house should be a part of the living, breathing city like Tarantia or Khemi where you could look out your balcony and see players passing through. 

Housing without proper implementation is a pure boredom

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lore Whore: assassins, thieves and lotus

Ever since I have started playing Age of Conan I have been looking for any mention of assassins per se in REH's Conan stories. First of all: this class is not lifted from the book. In reality assassin class was glued together from two other failed classes: the lotusist and the corruptor. This is why assassin class have lotus tree and the bullshit shard system. If Funcom wanted to do this right(TM) the proper name for this class should have been "Thief".Plenty of thievery was going on in Hyboria. Hell, ever heard of Shadizar, city of thieves? Nevertheless the thieves described in REH books are quick to draw blood and their equipment would have suit assassin's well.
"Straining his eyes in the gloom, he saw a hint of motion through the
shrubs near the wall. Thither he glided, gripping his sword. He made
no more noise than a panther stealing through the night, yet the man
he was stalking heard. The Cimmerian had a dim glimpse of a huge bulk
close to the wall felt relief that it was at least human; then the
fellow wheeled quickly with a gasp that sounded like panic, made the
first motion of a forward plunge, hands clutching, then recoiled as
the Cimmerian's blade caught the starlight. For a tense instant
neither spoke, standing ready for anything.
'You are no soldier,' hissed the stranger at last. 'You are a thief
like myself.'
'And who are you?' asked the Cimmerian in a suspicious whisper.
'Taurus of Nemedia.' The Cimmerian lowered his sword. 'I've heard of
you. Men call you a prince of thieves.' A low laugh answered him".
- REH, The Tower of the Elephant
Tauru's appearance might now have implied prowess at anything else than dining, but his methods were as close to the assassination as one can get:
 "He knew that this man must be the guard he had heard pass his hiding-place by the
wall. Only a short time had passed, yet in that interval nameless
hands had reached out of the dark and choked out the soldier's life".
- REH, The Tower of the Elephant

When it comes to the equipment Taurus was also, as AOC's assassins do, relaying on usage of lotus:
"Then Taurus brought the
mouth of the tube to his lips and blew powerfully. A long jet of
yellowish powder shot from the other end of the tube and billowed out
instantly in a thick green-yellow cloud that settled over the
shrubbery, blotting out the glaring eyes.
Taurus ran back hastily to the wall. Conan glared without
understanding. The thick cloud hid the shrubbery, and from it no sound
'What is that mist?' the Cimmerian asked uneasily.
'Death!' hissed the Nemedian. 'If a wind springs up and blows it back
upon us, we must flee over the wall. But no, the wind is still, and
now it is dissipating. Wait until it vanishes entirely. To breathe it
is death.'(...)
'They died without a sound!' muttered the Cimmerian. 'Taurus, what was
that powder?'
'It was made from the black lotus, whose blossoms wave in the lost
jungles of Khitai, where only the yellow-skulled priests of Yun dwell.
Those blossoms strike dead any who smell of them.'
- REH, The Tower of the Elephant

 Another interesting fellow shows up in a less known story: Black Colossus.
"Shevatas was wiry and lithe, as became a master-thief of Zamora. His
small round head was shaven, his only garment a loincloth of scarlet
silk. Like all his race, he was very dark, his narrow vulturelike
face set off by his keen black eyes. His long, slender and tapering
fingers were quick and nervous as the wings of a moth. (...)
This was Shevatas, a thief among thieves, whose name was spoken with
awe in the dives of the Maul and the dim shadowy recesses beneath the
temples of Bel, and who lived in songs and myths for a thousand years".
- REH, Black Colossus.

Throughout the REH's Conan the author several times have mentioned that Zamorians
are THE THIEVES, so the fact that Taurus has made name for himself should be a feat
on it's own. Shevatas, although we know very little about him, also has proven to be a very capable fighter:
"Shevatas advanced warily on the balls of his feet, knees bent
slightly, ready to spring either way like a flash of light. And he
needed all his co-ordinate speed when the snake arched its neck and
struck, shooting out its full length like a stroke of lightning. For
all his quickness of nerve and eye, Shevatas had died then but for
chance. His well-laid plans of leaping aside and striking down on the
outstretched neck were put at naught by the blinding speed of the
reptile's attack. The thief had but time to extend the sword in front
of him, involuntarily closing his eyes and crying out. Then the sword
was wrenched from his hand and the corridor was filled with a horrible
thrashing and lashing.
Opening his eyes, amazed to find himself still alive, Shevatas saw the
monster heaving and twisting its slimy form in fantastic contortions,
the sword transfixing its giant jaws".
- REH, Black Colossus.

But when it comes to the real deal one story in particular is dedicated solely to the assassination: Rogues in the House. The assassin? Conan himself.
"Would you like to live?" asked Murilo. The barbarian grunted, new
interest glinting in his eyes.
"If I arrange for your escape, will you do a favor for me?" the
aristocrat asked.
The Cimmerian did not speak, but the intentness of his gaze answered
for him.
"I want you to kill a man for me." (...)
Murilo believed the Cimmerian would keep faith with him. Whether the
man would be able to carry out his purpose remained to be seen. Men
had attempted to assassinate the Red Priest before, and they had died
in hideous and nameless ways. But they had been products of the cities
of men, lacking the wolfish instincts of the barbarian".
- REH, Rogues in the House

As a bonus I want to point your attention to the stories that inspired Funcom's
writers to create some of the assassin's feats.

Curse of the lotus - back in patch 1.3 (so 2008) this feat was charming people in pvp
and made them attack each other.
"The fall of the panels released the clouds of doom," said the Red
Priest with a wild laugh. "The dust of the gray lotus, from the Swamps
of the Dead, beyond the land of Khitai."
In the middle of the ceiling hung a cluster of gold buds; these had
opened like the petals of a great carven rose, and from them billowed
a gray mist that swiftly filled the chamber. Instantly the scene
changed from one of hysteria to one of madness and horror. The trapped
men began to stagger; they ran in drunken circles. Froth dripped from
their lips, which twisted as in awful laughter. Raging, they fell upon
one another with daggers and teeth, slashing, tearing, slaying in a
holocaust of madness. Murilo turned sick as he watched and was glad
that he could not hear the screams and howls with which that doomed
chamber must be ringing. Like pictures thrown on a screen, it was
- REH, Rogues in the House

The golden lotus extract - back in pre patch 1.6 assassins had the golden lotus extract.
This feat was granting assassins an ability to heal themself. Right now you can buy golden lotus pet from Priests of Yun that does same stuff.

"I could," he assured her, in evident enjoyment of her distress. He
drew a phial from among his robes. "This contains the juice of the
golden lotus. If your lover drank it, he would be sane again. Yes, I
will be merciful. You have both thwarted and flouted me, not once but
many times; he has constantly opposed my wishes. But I will be
merciful. Come and take the phial from my hand."
- REH, Shadows in Zamboula

So golden lotus heals insanity, but I also strongly believe that it was used in certain wine:

"They are a fast-fading
race, drowned in lotus dreams, stimulating their waking hours by means
of the golden wine which heals wounds, prolongs life, and invigorates
the most sated debauchee".
- REH, The Slithering Shadow

These people were already cultivating black lotus so it would have made sense for them
to also grow golden lotus. Since in "Shadows of Zamboula" golden lotus has been mentioned as a cure I think it is not far fetched to believe that "golden wine" was in fact "the golden lotus wine" .

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lore Whore: magical mounts

Many people love Hyborian world for it's low fantasy settings. Some think that allowing players to ride tiger or wolf is "tad too much". What is next? Warlock mount World of Warcrat style?

Such creature has no place in Hyboria!

 Oh rly? In this post I want to show you that REH had some wicked ideas and "flying mounts" might just not be as "out of context" in Age of Conan as one might think.

Magical Horses 

"But Conan saw, looking over their shoulders, and a queer chill sensation crawled along his spine.There was something vaguely unnatural about the apperance of black horses (...) Behind the rumbling chariot the dull roar of battle and pursuit faded in the distance (...) and the chariot moved into the vast blue shadows floating up out of the east. A babble of excited voices rose, drowned by the next instant by the whirling wheels of the chariot on the flags. Sparks flashed froom under the revolving rims as Xaltotun lashed his steeds through the arch. But Conan heard one of the guardsmen mutter: "From beyond the border to Belverus between sunset and dawn! And the horses scarcely sweating! By Mitra, they-," 
- REH, The Hour of The Dragon.  

First is the magic chariot of Xaltotun. It is not very clear wheather the chariot could indeed fly (I think it is implied), but nevertheless the horses could apparently travel amazing distance very fast.
Chariot could actualy be very interesting addition to Age of Conan. Minus the flying of couse.

Magical Camel

"On a black camel he came, riding like the wind, and an unholy fire played about him, the cloven tracks of the camel glowed in the darkness. When Natohk dismounted before Set's shrine by the oasis of Aphaka, the best swept into the night and vanished. And I have talked to the tribesmen who swore that it suddenly spread gigantic wings and rushed upwards into the clouds, leaving a trail of fire behind it".

- REH, Black Colossus

Glowing, flying, leaving a trail of fire? I don't think a mount can be more "pimp". Sure, this unholy camel is only described by tribesmen, but considering other feats of magic displayed by Natohk, sumoning glowing camels wasn't the peak of his mystical powers.

Magic Carpet

"just visible on the distant peak there hung a cloud of peculiar aspect. It was a frosty crimson in color, veined with sparkling gold. This cloud was in motion; it rotated, and as it whirled it contracted. It dwindled to a spinning taper that flashed in the sun. And suddenly it detached itself from the snow-tipped peak, floated out over the void like a gay-hued feather, and became invisible against the cerulean sky. "What could that have been?" asked the girl uneasily, as a shoulder of rock shut the distant mountain from view; the phenomenon had been disturbing, even in its beauty. "The hillmen call it Yimsha's Carpet, whatever that means," answered Conan. "I've seen five hundred of them running as if the devil were at their heels, to hide themselves in caves and crags, because they saw that crimson cloud float up from the peak".

- REH, People of the Black Circle
This is the flying carpet. No, really, Khemsa traveled this way and he wasn't even big shot in the Black Circle.Can you travel more in style than on a cloud of peculiar aspect? I doubt it.

Can you find similiar stuff in Age of Conan? Yes. If your guild reaches renown level 20 you will get a chance to get "Tarpani Stalion". In order to get this mount you have to do pretty nice chain of quests and in the end pay 200 hard ones (aka gold pices). The horse is in fact "undead" and the reasons for it's sorry state are explained in the quest chain. The mount looks dead, probably smells like death too, but that is IT when it comes to magical properties. That hardly measures up to the above mentioned mounts.

Edit: I have been reading Conan: The Songs of the Dead yesterday (digital, iphone version! Oh the times we live in..) spoted the flying camel mount. Enjoy!

Flying camel mount: made by fusing vulture with camel with a touch of unholy magic