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What Gaming Should Be

As an avid lifelong gamer, I try to describe what has worked well and poorly in games I've played, and in any given gaming scenario, to define how it could best be handled as a result.

Author: reillan

WoW and Rift - A Side-by-side comparison

Posted by reillan Tuesday February 22 2011 at 9:49PM
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Often I see people going ballistic when comparisons between Rift and WoW are drawn.  On one side, people proclaim that any such comparisons are obvious; on the other, people complain that Rift is only being compared to WoW because of WoW's popularity.  In this article, I would like to point out a few of the places where WoW and Rift do share similarities, by actually comparing screenshots of the two side-by-side.  This by no means ends the conversation, but can hopefully show those who believe there is no support for Rift being called WoW that yes, there are some significant reasons for saying that - reasons that have little to do with WoW's market position.  This is also not in any way a denegration of Rift - I love the game, and cannot say the same for WoW.  There are differences between the two.  This is only a comparison of their similarities.

Point 1: Skill ranks

In both WoW and Rift, there are ranks for skills that train in a similar manner.  Skill ranks are unlocked in both games at even levels (typically), and players must visit a dedicated skill trainer to improve them (and pay money to do so). 

Point 2: Crafting Skill ranks

Just as skill ranks increase every 2 levels, crafting skills increase typically every 10, and there are certain base values that must be unlocked to progress further (Apprentice level in WoW is similar to Novice level in Rift, for instance).

Point 3: Bank Vaults

Bank vaults have an uncanny resemblance.  Take a look at these screens side-by-side; the only difference between the two seems to be the extra column in Rift.  There's even a spot for bags to add more storage in each.

Point 4: Auction House

The only way in which the auction house seems different between WoW and Rift is that WoW has the functionality built-in to price items individually or by the stack and to sell all items in your inventory at once that way.  Rift currently lacks that ability.  But look at how the layout works otherwise - they even both list jewelry under armor (calling it Miscellaneous in WoW and Accessories in Rift).

Even more explanation about the Gloamwood Shield Wall

Posted by reillan Monday February 21 2011 at 6:18PM
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(This follows from the principles established in

So let's take an extreme example of the shield wall - a situation where we can't seem to wrap our brains around what to do next.  It might look like this:


We'll call columns A, B, and C (after many spreadsheet program designations) and rows 1, 2, and 3, starting from the top left corner in both lettering and numbering. 

In this example, we have a problem because the ram's head shields along the top row are all together, and two of these shields occupy rows or columns in-line with the larger shield (and we know that they won't when the puzzle is resolved).  So, how can we fix this?

First off, it's important not to panic or try to overthink the problem.  The first step is to break down this puzzle into a list of things we want to do.  Let's first resolve the immediate issue of getting some of the fundamental problems fixed:

  1. We want to get the shields in B1 and C1 into a column together.
  2. We want to get the main shield (in C2) out of the same column as the ram shield in C1.
  3. We want the ram shields in each corner.  This will result in them being in a row and column each with one other ram shield.
  4. We want the main shield out of columns and rows with the ram shields, on its own with just small shields around it.
Points 1 and 2 could be accomplished simultaneously if we could move C1 down to B2 or B3.
So to start, I'm going to wrap C1 up so that it is at C3.  The reason for doing this is that I want it to be on its own in a line with two small shields (think of the small shields as blanks).  Because I want to move it up once, I will press the buttons at the tops of columns A and B.  This will keep these columns isolated while moving column C down two spaces (or, in other words, up one):

Now that it's on a separate row, I can move it once to the left.  I will do this by hitting the buttons at the left ends of rows 1 and 2 once each:

I will now move column B down one space, putting my bottom shield up top, and my top shield in the middle (the tiny round shield will move down one space, if it's easier to see it that way for you).  I will do this by pressing the buttons at the bottoms of columns A and C.

Now, before I worry about getting the main shield out of the same row as the other shields, I'd much prefer to think about the remaining steps of solving - that is, to get the ram shields into the four corners. 

Here we'll split up into slow method and fast method.

Slow Method

To do this via the slow method, I can move column A up one space (by hitting the top of columns B and C):

Then move column B up one space (by hitting the top of columns A and C):

Then move row 1 once to the left (by hitting the button on the left of rows 2 and 3)

and move row 3 once to the left (by hitting the buttons on the left of rows 1 and 2).

Now to move the main shield down one spot, I just need to hit the buttons at the bottoms of columns A and C.  This will move that shield down while keeping the ram shields in place. 

Fast Method:

We started here:

We know that if we move column C down one space, we'll simultaneously move columns A and B up one space - so let's do that and save ourselves a lot of time:  Simply press the bottom of column C:

and to get the shields in the corners, I need to wrap rows 1 and 3 around to the left, so I need to move row two once to the right.  Hitting to the right of row 2:

Now I need to move the large shield exactly one space ot the right.  To do this, I hit the buttons on the right of both rows 1 and 3.
Hope that helps even more!

The Gloamwood Shield Wall Puzzle

Posted by reillan Monday February 21 2011 at 11:44AM
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(I have now added a more complex example here)

The Gloamwood puzzle - the wall upon which are hung 9 shields and your objective is to get them in to a particular order by clicking on buttons that move all the shields at once - seems ostensibly hard.  The problem is complicated by people posting things about it (such as referring to it as a one-sided Rubik's Cube) that makes it seem much more difficult than it is. 

I hope that I'll be able to simplify the game for you.

The game is arranged of 9 spaces, like so:

I have assigned letters to the buttons along the edges so that I can more easily explain what is going on here.

If I click on any button, the row or column of shields directly associated with that button moves one space toward the button clicked, while the other two rows or columns move in the opposite direction.  As a result, clicking on button J would cause the giant shield at the top left to move down one space (along with the other shields in that column), while the other two columns move up one space.  When a shield moves off the grid at any edge, it wraps back around to the other side, staying within the same column or row.

At first glance, it seems like solving this would be an impossibility, because everything moves when any button is pressed, and you can't hold 9 shields in place simultaneously.  This is true, but there is a trick that can make life much simpler.

First, I want you to look at this grid in terms of only the individual rows and columns that you need to move at the moment.  So, for instance, I need to make several movements from my most recent picture - I need to move the large shield on the left one space to the right.  I need to move the shields in the bottom row one space to the left (that would wrap them around), and I need to keep my top row in place. That means I need to make two moves (conceptually). 

If I try to click on Button C (the one on the bottom of the left-hand side), two of those moves are made for me - the large shield moves to the center, while the shields on the bottom row move one to the left.  Unfortunately, the top row also moves one to the right:

I can make, however, the top row scroll around using a little trick.  If I press Button B now, after I've pressed Button C, you'll notice that the top row continues to move, but the bottom two rows go back to their initial configuration:

So, by toggling between pressing Button C and Button B, I can make the top row slide - each press of a button slides the top row one to the right - but, and here's the biggest thing you can do for yourself conceptually to help make solving this puzzle easier - because I need to press both button B and C, I'll be moving the top row a total of two spaces to the right as I go through an entire cycle (one cycle being one press each of C and B), and a move of two spaces to the right is the same thing as a move of one space to the left.

Thus, the easiest way to solve this puzzle is to see it as a need to move individual rows or columns by one space at a time, and to move them one space at a time, you can alternate between clicks on the OTHER buttons on the same side of the puzzle.  So, if I want to move row A-G one space to the left, I click on both button B and button C, once each.  If I want to move row B-H one space to the right, I click on buttons G and I once each.  If I want to move column E-K one space up, I click on buttons D and F once each.

So, in my example, I need to get the large shield and the lower row back into the center, so I click on Button C again:

And now I need to make Row A-G move one space to the left, so I click on buttons B and C once each:


Hope that helps!

Tripping up Rift: Balance in a Multiclass Game

Posted by reillan Sunday February 13 2011 at 7:45PM
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Rift’s “Ascended System” for classes provides each class with a near-limitless number of combinations (There are 56 possible combinations of Souls within each class to form a Role, and each Role gets a certain number of points to spend within its three Souls in a manner similar to WoW’s ability trees).  This sounds, on paper, like a beautiful thing for those of us who want to customize our avatars to be unique, but it presents a bigger version of a challenge familiar to all MMOs: balance.
When gamers talk about class balance in MMOs, they normally mean that if two classes were to square off together in PvP combat, the determination of who wins should come down to who has more skill in reading the situation and using the right abilities at the right times; or, in terms of PvE class roles, each person within a party should feel like a necessary part of that party, able to perform a function throughout an instance and have that function be an integral part of the party’s success. 
This is a challenge for any MMO largely because every time the developers make changes to a class, the massive community of players will begin testing out those changes to find new and more powerful combinations – often using skills in ways the developers hadn’t been able to identify or prepare for.  In the early days of Age of Conan, for instance, there were many people complaining about the Bear Shaman class because it could not only do decent DPS while wearing decent armor, but it was also able to self-heal.   I’ll never forget being attacked by a level 56 Bear Shaman on my level 80 polearm-based Guardian and losing because the Bear Shaman seemed to have infinite self-healing that I simply couldn’t DPS through. 
Rift’s plan in some ways bypasses the balance issues and in other ways makes them worse, and we can already see evidence of it in beta testing.  I now have two characters of high-enough level to where I feel comfortable talking about them.  The first is a level 35 Paragon/Champion/Riftblade, a Warrior Soul Role that I designed as much as possible to be able to produce a lot of DPS, and functioning as DPS in a group I do fairly well.  My greatest problem – and I heard this echoed by other Warriors both across my server and outside of game – was that my armor seemed to do absolutely nothing.  When playing solo through content, I had to be careful to draw only one mob at a time.  If I drew two, I could handle them only so long as they were two levels above me or less.  After any such combat, I had to stop for a while to regenerate health using OOC health regen drinks.  If I drew 3 or more mobs, my only hope was to run away (and because of abilities most mobs have to slow a person running away, I would often not make it).  When in a group of people, I had to desperately hope that I didn’t draw aggro, because I could not handle it for long.  Fortunately, my DPS (even though my Souls were specifically designed for DPS) was not often enough to draw and hold aggro.  Unfortunately, there were many times where I was called upon to off-tank, and I simply didn’t have enough survivability to do so (such as in the last battle of Foul Cascade).
My second character is a level 21 Bard/Ranger/Riftstalker.  Because of a Bard trait that makes my main attack also do healing to every character in the party, and because Ranger and Riftstalker are fairly durable classes, I was effectively invincible.  When soloing through PvE content, my Ranger pet would tank mobs and I could keep the pet at full health with even 3 mobs attacking it.  I decided to take on a group instance at one point with two DPSers, a tank, and a healer.  I was able to put out so much healing in the group that the healer only occasionally had to toss a heal on the tank, and otherwise just stood around.  And, on a few rare occasions where the tank fell, I immediately had aggro on me and was able to hold it reasonably well (far better than my Warrior ever could).  Talking with others later, most people hadn’t seen the awesome power of the Bard, but many were saying how much the Ranger’s pet needed to be toned down, as it was simply too good.
Back on my Warrior, I decided to take a group of friends deep into Defiant territory (we were Guardians) chasing after some good loot we heard about.  We ran through the area first with our regular traiting, and I got one-shotted by guards at the entrance to the zone.  Realizing this wouldn’t work, I switched Roles (something that is, thankfully, easy to do in Rift) and became a Paladin/Reaver/Warlord.  In this setup, I had much more health and armor, and more traits to absorb or avoid damage.  As such, I was able to lead my friends successfully through the area and we obtained our much-sought-after loot. 
My first point about all of this is simple: in the current iteration of the game, DPS Warriors aren’t really that capable (though we can put out a decent amount of DPS, it’s still not as much as some other DPS classes, based on the aggro draw I saw), and even tanking Warriors only just barely do their jobs.  The main healing classes seem to be a little under-powered and slow to react (due, I suspect, in large part to the tanking Warrior’s inability to deal with incoming damage), while the Bard class, which is supposed to be there for support healing, seems to completely dominate.  These are all simply balance issues, ones which I have no doubt Rift will be tweaking over the next month. 
To complicate matters, though, we have the Ascended system.  One of the reasons I was able to do so well on my Bard was because of the classes I chose to go with it – Ranger and Riftstalker.  These classes provided me with additional tools to increase my health and damage resistance and also increase my DPS.  Most impressively, the Riftstalker increased the DPS of my main attack (the one that heals everyone for an equal amount of health as the damage it outputs), meaning that by incorporating that, I was able to not only do more DPS but also keep myself alive better.  This singular combination was far better than other combinations I tried.  If, however, any or all of these classes get tweaked so that their combination is less dominant, I can simply switch my Souls out with others I’ve acquired.  Thus, if any Rogue build is more powerful than my current one, I can simply swap over to it.  This is good, in a way, as no one ever has to feel like the game has gimped them; but it is also bad in a way, because of the expectations of other gamers.
In LotRO alone out of all the games I’ve played is there a concept that people can play what they want to play.  In most other games (and even in raiding groups in LotRO), people are expected to trait not based on how they want (ie, trying to build around a singular character concept), but rather based on the needs of the group.  If Warriors are only desired for their tanking abilities and not for their DPS, then people building DPS Warriors will be marginalized and kept out of most group content.  If Rogues are expected to all be healing Bards, then stealthy Assassins or ranged-DPS Marksmen won’t be useful. 
This is a bad thing from the standpoint that the entire system is based around being able to play a customized character.  If your customized character isn’t considered “valid” because it doesn’t take advantage of the flavor-of-the-week to dominate at some aspect of the game, then you won’t really get to play as a custom character.  People whose sole reason for playing is the customization will leave in droves.  This means that the Rift team will have a huge task on their hands, trying to predict what Soul combinations will be abused next and shoring up those holes before they can form.  If they can manage to do that, they will accomplish what dungeon masters in D&D have been trying to do for decades and failing miserably – successfully planning content that cannot be broken by the first stubborn and crafty player who encounters it.

A Fully Armed and Operational MMO

Posted by reillan Sunday February 13 2011 at 7:24PM
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I wrote the following after Beta 5.  It still holds true:

This week’s 5th beta test for Rift has shown that the game is ready, at least in its early-game content, for its March 1st release.  Those anxiously awaiting it can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that nothing in the game is so horribly wrong that there’s any obvious functional reason why it should be delayed. 
Throughout my beta experience (and I was online almost every hour of this event), my server only crashed once: on Wednesday night at about midnight Eastern.  The server was absolutely packed at that time – mostly with people who had low-level characters thanks to only having started playing in the previous 24 hours – and an NPC invasion in the starting area was meeting with a larger force of players battling it back than I have witnessed during any other part of beta.  Only a handful of servers crashed at this time, and, to Trion’s credit, they came back up fast – it took so little time that the timestamp on my postings on Rift’s official forums, the first to say it was down, and then the next to say it was back up, held the exact same time.  Less than a minute of downtime for a server is an absolutely astonishing turn-around.
I did notice a few minor bugs during that time that should not greatly affect playability, including some minor pathing issues.  At one point, for instance, I soul-walked over to an area and the game was happy to let me do so – but when I came back to life, I was actually trapped behind some objects and couldn’t get out (jumping repeatedly against the objects led me to clip through them).  Once when fighting a minor boss, the boss spawned halfway inside a pillar and could see me to target me for his DPS abilities, but my own couldn’t hit him because he wasn’t in line-of-sight.  Moving around a corner made him follow me and resolved the problem.  Overall, however, pathing seemed to be working well and line-of-sight was never broken by unseen objects.  Even resource nodes – the bane of well-established games – were spawning in their proper places rather than floating in the air or being buried beneath rocks.
The 5th beta only allowed us to level to 30 (I made it to 28 between Tuesday night and Saturday noon), but in that range all the content seemed to be available.  I was able to level my crafting skills to the point where I was crafting equipment I couldn’t use yet (because of the cap), I was buying and selling merchandise at auction regularly, my bank vaults and bags had no glitches, I was able to buy a mount in Sanctum and ride just about everywhere, and at least to lvl 27 I was able to keep questing the entire way without having to resort to any other kind of grind. 
That said, around level 17 I began to run out of below-level quests (there are more than enough early on) and I couldn’t find higher-level ones.  This occurred, it seems, because of a problem with quest chains.  Not a bug, but rather an issue that the developers may not have considered.  To get a quest telling you where to go for your next quest hub, you often have to complete a lengthy chain of quests, some of them fairly difficult.  The result is that the entire path from 1 to 27 felt like a predetermined chain that could not be broken.  I finished off one quest hub to get the quest to go to the next hub, and repeated that process until I ran out of quests.  This was true of the Guardian side, at least – I did not play the Defiant side so that I would have something to do when the game comes out. 
There are also not enough solo quests to go from 1-30 questing on-level.  As I described, before level 17 or so, I had to do below-level quests just to unlock new ones, and at about level 21 I had to start questing above my level.  This latter part seems to be not an attempt to force players into group instances, but rather an attempt to force players to utilize some of the other questing options available to them.   While this may not bother some people, it causes me to have two significant concerns: firstly that I might not be able to solo the entire way to 50 (I’m one of those players who finds grouping to be a waste of time until 50, as instance rewards aren’t necessary except for other instances); secondly that I might not want to level any alts, as I’d be doing exactly the same quests in exactly the same order a second time through.  The lack of variety and unidirectionality of the quests prevent customization in a game that, I think, will become known exclusively for its level of customization.
While solo content, group instances, crafting, equipment, the auction house, and the talent system (with a notable exception) all look like they came straight out of WoW, Trion also took a few pages out of Warhammer’s playbook.  This was already evident to me the moment I walked into the starting area, as it looked so similar to WARs Chaos starting area (the quests felt alike, too), that I thought for a moment I was playing the wrong game, but it was especially noticeable within two systems: PvP instances called “warfronts” (similar to WAR’s “Scenarios”) and open-world group quests called “rifts” (similar to WAR’s “Public Quests”).  Warfronts felt entirely identical, including using the same types of objectives and a ranked favor/experience system based off of how well each person performs certain roles such as healing, DPS, and tanking.  Rifts are significantly different from their WAR counterparts, although they still use a similar system to the Public Quest system to divide out rewards, including barter tokens that are useable to barter with certain vendors for equipment that is better than most other items available in PvE.  Rifts are most noticeably different for the way in which they might sprout up as part of an invasion – during an invasion, dozens of players will need to work together to close rifts all across a zone and stop small groups of mobs from completing objectives; once players’ objectives are complete, a named boss will appear somewhere in the zone for players to hunt down and destroy, and it’s no easy fight.  Such zone-wide chaos can quickly lead to people grouping together who might otherwise have tried to stay solo, and seems like a great way to remind people about the “multiplayer” nature of MMOs.
The Ascended system is the only thing I saw in the game that I would consider truly unique, but this worked flawlessly as well.  The only “problem” I had with it was that I didn’t have enough research or experience with it early on to know what I was doing, but this problem was relatively minor and easily corrected.  I started as a Paragon and quickly picked up Riftblade and Beastmaster, slotting all 3 souls, and I leveled to about 23 with this setup.  But all the while, I felt like the latter two were not helping me in any significant way, and I worried I had made a mistake.  This mistake was easily correctable because I was able to pick up the Champion class as well, and by simply clicking on the icon for Beastmaster, I was able to change it.  I later picked up Paladin, Void Knight, and Reaver, and put these in an alternate soul configuration for tanking.  The attached screenshot shows my zeroed-out skill trees at level 28, with the button to switch to my Paladin-based tanking setup at the bottom.

All of these systems worked flawlessly during the beta.  Despite my concerns about its lack of content and similarity to previous games, the game is enormously fun (especially for the customization level of its classes and their ease of switching between wildly divergent roles), and this 5th beta event was sufficient evidence to convert this long-time LotRO player. 

(A post-beta note: Beta 6 was even more stable, and didn't crash once despite having more players on and a contest during that time to try to get as many as possible on at a single time)


Posted by reillan Thursday February 3 2011 at 4:10PM
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Bill Murphy recently discussed his thoughts on the end-game experience, and I do think he faithfully captures some of the ideas gamers have about it, but I'm writing this because I don't think it goes far enough in examining this critical gaming issue.  Murphy touched on some of the important issues - gear, that feeling of completion and yet the simultaneous feeling of having no pre-defined path (leaving Murphy asking "what do I do now?"); however, he skipped discussing raids in any shape or form, but I think these can be grouped in with the same content issues that Murphy was having problems with anyway.

In any MMO, there is a system of training that goes on that trains not the character but the player.  The game has several responsibilities to this training.  The first of these is to teach the player to be literate about the game world, meaning how to use skills, how to craft items, how to travel around, and so on.  Some of this literacy is more or less generic between MMOs (or between all PC-based video games in general) and thus is unneeded by long-time MMO players entering a game.  If you're a longtime gamer yourself, you may recognize things such as role names (tank, cc, healer, dps), keyboard shortcuts (WASD for character movement, I or B for inventory management, J or L for the quest log, numlock for autorun),  quest givers with icons above their heads to tell you they have quests for you, similar icons for quest turn-in, quest hubs, resource gathering, crafting trainers, class trainers, leveling, attribute points, and so on.  This literacy expresses itself  most obviously in games such as RIFT that seem to be trying hard to utilize the preexisting knowledge of the MMO community by making everything look and feel like other MMOs.  To this end, many games use some kind of hint boxes or explanatory quests at the beginning of the game to tell players exactly what they should be doing.

The second system to train players is based on Pavlovian theory, where a dog is given a treat every time a bell rings, so that eventually the dog associates the ringing of the bell with the food to the point that the food doesn't have to be present for the dog to start salivating.  Games begin rewarding players early on with levels that increase the player's strength in-game and enabling them to use more skills.  This goes back to the first point of training - skills are distributed to players slowly as they level partly as reward and partly as training to keep from overwhelming them with skills.  (This process was explained in detail by Dr. Brian Cowlishaw.)  The result is that we as players are taught that we are good little boys and girls when we do what the game wants us to do, which is to quest and kill monsters in the constant pursuit of XP.  It is not fair to say, however, that XP is the only reward.  While we level, we're also given quest rewards and random drops of equipment that is, fairly often, better than what we currently have.  This equipment continuously gets better and better and is helpfully color-coded to show us exactly how impressive it is.  This process further reinforces the Pavlovian response, but it serves a secondary purpose: to prepare us for end-game.

So once we reach end-game, the long and slow questing process that got us to our last level is finally yanked abruptly from us - we have no more level-up to encourage us to seek out the next quest, and we are left with the knowledge that we will receive no more such leveling reward for our work.  This is why games become a gear reward alone - the gear provided by end-game instances is the last method of providing reward (many games have now added titles and achievements to the mix, but that is merely another collectible thing, and thus functions in much the same manner as gear).  For many of us, that type of reward is not enough.  We were trained to appreciate the levelling reward, and the gear reward is not sufficient to keep our interests.

(A quick aside: this system of game-company-driven rewards obviously refers only to extrinsic motivation.  Intrinsic motivation - the kind each of us creates within ourselves based on our own desires and beliefs - is not a generated function of the game but is instead internally-created within each player and thus cannot be controlled by the game company.  It certainly provides motivation for a great many people.  There are intrinsic motivations of completionism, for instance, that will lead players to do quests far below their level, to accomplish every deed, every achievement, and every title, that will lead players to go through raids for the sheer potential of adding that one more notch to their belts.  There is also a significant intrinsic motivation toward making friends in-game and helping those friends with their own achievements.  More on that part later.  The point is that these motivations would exist with or without the game's presence, and regardless of what the game company does with the game.  Thus, it is only the extrinsically-motivated players that a game company can control and thus must be the target of the company's future investments.  These types of players are the fundamental reason why expansions allow for higher level caps - the possibility of bringing the players back and sending them through more questing & rewarding them with more levelling.)

There are additional problems with the gear rewards.  First, the only compulsion to achieve them is the ability to enter into a raid which itself can only provide the reward of more gear.  Thus, gear only leads to more gear, and it doesn't lead to any other greater sense of purpose or accomplishment (excepting the possibility of intrinsic motivation).  Second, the gear improvements tend to be tiny, as without end-game gear, players still need to be able to participate well enough to get through the quests that would lead them to such gear, but with the gear they cannot be so overpowered as to simply slide through all of that content.  Third, because the end-game must last until the next expansion can come out and increase the level cap, such gear must be hard to obtain.  As micro-expansions and updates occur and players get closer to the next expansion, that difficulty can be decreased significantly, but it must always return to extreme difficulty for the new gear coming with the new expansion.  This difficulty ensures that players who are motivated to complete the raids will be spending a great amount of time collecting gear to reach that point.

All of this, however, fails to consider one of the other major problems of end-game - grouping.  While some MMOs have developed great systems for organizing groups (WoW and DDO are two that spring to mind), most MMOs leave the grouping to the players to figure out on their own.  In a game that should be multiplayer by its definition, collections of players form that seem bent on preventing such grouping.  Guilds serve to prevent the grouping of players for quests by virtue of being exclusive.  Players learn to group with others in their guild, but also learn that grouping with those outside of the guild might prove dangerous (as it might be a collossal waste of time when the unknown "other" player can't make it through the boss fight at the end).  Thus, you form typically two types of players - one who only groups within his/her guild, and another who doesn't bother grouping at all.  For the former, there can be an extinsic social motivation to participate in raids and thus gather gear, but for the latter, the game is pretty much done. 

Part of the problem leading to this point for players is that guilds recruit throughout the leveling process and players are often worried about alienating their guilds by leaving them at higher level.  Part of the problem is also the necessity within these games of joining a guild to participate in so much of the game's content or more easily gather certain rare resources.  Another part is the feeling so many of us have that if a guild invites us, at least we haven't been picked last for the baseball team - we are wanted for some unknown quantity we bring to the table, and that makes us feel appreciated.

So far, I've listed a lot of issues leading to the negative things leading up to a bad end-game experience, but now I'd like to offer some suggestions based on these things that MMOs can do to overcome them and make for a longer-lasting and more enjoyable end-game experience.

Firstly, we know that guilds not only cause problems but also solve them.  Thus, we still need some kind of guilding system that makes it easy to organize people and get them into instances.  This will improve the liklihood that players will experience extrinsic social motivation and also the chances of players enjoying the larger group content of "end-game."  But we need to undo the damages caused by current guilds based around the "clique" mentality.  I propose a social-networking style of system.  For such a system, I would suggest doing away with "guilds" as we know them now.  Instead, make the social interface of a game work more like a social networking site.  Give players the possibility of joining multiple guilds, each of which can be managed by one or more persons, and to each of which those players can chat in a chat room.  Make this interface both inside the game and outside the game so that players who are not in the game can still keep apprised of events in-game and even be invited to groups (keeping in mind that they will have to log in to the game to actually join, but if they're in chat for a guild and see that there's a group forming, they can say "I'll join for that" or whatever and then simply log in to the game).  Events can be organized among multiple groupings of people this way, and thus everyone can keep track of them easily in- or out-of-game.  In such a system, events could also be made public, so that if a person needs a quest done and none of the people in his or her guilds can do it, maybe other people can and maybe the friendship circles will grow as a result.

Secondly, we know that part of the problem of end-game is the sudden conversion people undertake going from a game that was entirely soloable up to this point and into a game that is completely unsoloable.  For this reason, I would consider a system that ramps up difficulty considerably and makes it so that at around the halfway mark, players absolutely have to be grouped with one other player to get through quests, and at about 3/4ths of the way up, they really need a full group for all questing.  Yes, there is a problem with this in that some people might get left behind through their inability to log in at a given time, but this is the reason for making quest events publicly available in the social networking platform of the game.  Finally, make it so that XP actually increases slightly with multiple people in the group, up to a certain point, so that people don't feel like they're losing out by asking one more person to join.

Finally - make all quests progress for all people within a certain radius of the event that causes them to progress, regardless of group affiliation.  The idea here is one to combat the "I gotta get this kill first so I get credit" mentality that comes from having too many PCs and not enough MOBs in a given area.  The worst in those cases is quest bosses who are killed by solo players and then everyone else has to wait for a respawn.  Instead, make it so that everyone who is standing around nearby and who is waiting to kill that same mob gets credit for that mob if they're on that quest.  Similarly, make resource nodes individual - the node is always present, but you as a player can only use it every so often (it vanishes from your tracker when you use it until it repopulates for you).  This way, another person could come and mine the same node and you're not having to fight for it.

This would be a new kind of training - a training away from the "me first" mentality and away from the solo-questing-not-really-an-MMO mentality and construct a group-based mentality that sees progress of the group as progress for the individual. 

Crafting in Dungeons and Dragons - new idea

Posted by reillan Saturday October 3 2009 at 8:43AM
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I think I finally cracked it: either that, or I just finally cracked.  

One of the classic problems with D&D in terms of crafting was that it is a skill points-based game where as long as you simply invest the points, you can use the skill.  So, if you have the points to invest, you could, say, invest 4 points in Auto Repair and be able to build (albeit crudely) a car out of spray cheese containers.  But for a MMO, you want people to have to spend time with crafting, as it allows them to have something to spend their time on (which means: a reason to keep paying the MMO company) and it helps to make the generally powerful items available from crafting seem somehow reasonable.  

So, with D&D, you end up with a conundrum: do you preserve the sanctity of the points system (as in DDO) by creating a system of crafting that has nothing/little to do with D&D's skill points, do you throw out the points system in favor of a time-based system (A lot of NWN player-run worlds did this), or do you simply grin and bear it, ignoring the fallout of using just skill points (as in NWN2)?  What I came up with this morning in my insomniomatic dreaming was a combination of skills and time, one that I've never seen anywhere before (this question hadn't really bothered me before about 3 minutes before I sat down to write this blog entry) but that I think could be epically good.  

So, here's the idea:

1. Skillpoints are an after-the-fact purchase.  Like with other games, you could have a skills trainer who is separate from the level-up mechanism.  You go to this skills trainer when you're ready to purchase a new skill.

2. Raising a skill still requires skill points, and you receive them just like you always would in D&D.  You just can't spend them yet (see #3).

3. Skills themselves have training requirements necessary for purchase.  So, let's take the example of our Auto Repair skill: you start off untrained and unable to use the skill.  You find the trainer for Auto Repair, spend a skill point, and she unlocks the ability for you to learn Auto Repair.  Now you have 1 skill point, but right there with the trainer you can practice a few small things, using your skill on the target components or vehicle a few times (leveling anything from 1 to 2 is always the easiest, after all), and that will build up an experience meter for the skill itself.  Once it reaches the XP needed for level 2 in that skill, you return to the trainer, spend 1 skill point, and voila! you are now level 2 in that skill. 

4. If you don't have the skill point to spend, the skill simply remains capped until you do. 

5. If your skill is already max for your level, additional uses of the skill do not build the skill up further.  So, just throwing out some crazy numbers, let's say you're level 99 and the max skill value for level 99 is 370.  You can't build past 370 to have it ready to spend a skill point on 371 when you hit 100 (of course, chances are you haven't managed to build the skill that far yet - it'll probably take a bit of grinding to build the skill once you hit 100, that's just the nature of MMOs).

This kind of returns to the roots of D&D, as the intention for skills was always that you should have to spend time with them in the game to actually get them.  It was up to the Dungeon Master to make sure that you did only purchase things that reflected the skills you used in the game, thus training only what you've experienced.  Additionally, it could be used for other things as well, skills that don't have a crafting component, for instance, to help make sure that people don't simply grab them up willy-nilly and become awesome without putting in the legwork.

disclaimer: This is my own creation without conscious influence from outside sources.  I have posted it here with the intent that it now becomes property of the world at large - I want no part of it.  It is much more important to me to see my vision implemented in an MMO than to ever consider requesting payment for said vision.  So, if you're a developer and want to use this idea - please do!  I'd also love it if you dropped me a line on to tell me that you liked it.

MMORPGs we desperately need, and how I dream of implementing them

Posted by reillan Tuesday June 9 2009 at 1:11PM
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Often, we see postings regarding MMOs we'd love to see established.  I think these lists often give added weight to franchises merely because they could be easily implemented as MMOs.  But there are a lot of popular titles that could be turned into very interesting and unique MMOs if a design studio were to take the time to do them.  So, to try to spur discourse that could ultimately lead to such MMOs being made, I am here to offer my own MMO requests, with a bit of insight on what we would need in such a game to make it cool.


#5 - Dungeons and Dragons, Faerun

Yes, I know there is a DDO already out, but there is also a fundamental problem with it - it is set in the world of Eberron, a world created only recently as part of a contest that Wizards had.  It's at least an interesting world, fundamentally different in several ways from their main lines, but it is not the world that is the fan favorite among all the planes.

The Forgotten Realms setting is where the stories of Elminster and Drizzt take place.  These two heroes are the most popular in all of Dungeons & Dragons literature, and the world has spawned dozens of well-selling books (The current best selling fiction book of the D&D universe, according to is "The Sword Never Sleeps, a book by Ed Greenwood, author of the Elminster stories, that is set in Forgotten Realms).  The world of the Forgotten Realms is called Toril, but more well-known is the name of the continent on which the vast majority of the adventures take place - Faerun.

Faerun's geography has been very firmly established, with large, highly-detailed maps available, and many cities (especially the more popular ones) intricately laid out.  Some of these cities, especially Silverymoon and Waterdeep, are described as beautiful cities with artwork regularly created depicting them.  Faerun is also where the epic video games Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate, and Icewind Dale were set.  These are some of the most beloved and popular fantasy video games of all time.

So it seems rather odd that Wizards chose Eberron for DDO.  Perhaps this had to do with licensing (perhaps Obsidian/Atari own exclusive rights to work in the world). 

Now, I personally think that the current iteration of DDO is not implemented to my standards.  I dislike the slow leveling system it uses.  Some people would say that it is the only way to do D&D and keep it true to the series, but I think that any time you implement a game into a MMO environment, you immediately lose the ability to keep it "true" and can thus do a few things to it that others might not appreciate.  For instance, you could remodel the current 20-level system into a 60-level system, with smaller relative XP rewards and slower loot drops.  # of attacks could be turned into an issue of weapon speed, with each level giving a progressively larger boost to weapon speed (A weapon with a speed of "10" could have its speed reduced by 80% by level 60, or effectively a 1.33% reduction in speed per level, for a fighter, paladin, etc.  That would give it its full "5 attacks per round" it currently enjoys).  Abilities, Armour, and so on could all be expanded in the same ways, so that level 1 and level 60 have obvious mathematical connections to regular PnP D&D, but levels along the way may not be so obvious.

One of the key things about D&D is the ability to dual class, and I don't think that should be any different in a Faerun-based online game.  Prestige classes could be implemented, which would require you to find a trainer somewhere in the world, have rep with a faction, etc.  Some classes could be left out at launch so that they could be implemented later, as well (especially faerun-specific classes). 

Another big thing is loot, which I haven't directly addressed except to say it should be slower.  That's not the whole puzzle, however.  Loot should have the same relative chance in an online game of being really, really cool that it has in PnP D&D.  Perhaps you just killed a dragon and you're looting his treasure chest; you would have a very tiny possibility of looting an artifact more powerful than the normal line of weapons, but even some random weapon drops would be amazing.  You could, perhaps, discover a +5 Vorpal sword (or as I would prefer it, a +4 Vorpal Keen sword).  Each bonus on the sword would be part of a random table, and you'd be far more likely to loot a plain +3 sword than a +5 sword with bonuses - but the possibility would exist nonetheless.  And, certain creatures (especially big mobs like a dragon) could have a higher chance of rolling better on loot.

Finally, crafting would need to be capable of making all non-artifact items, including the +4 Vorpal Keen sword.  This is D&D, after all.  Finding the materials to make them may be time consuming, but you could do it.   In this way, crafting would not be a waste of time as it is in most games.

If I designed the game, characters would probably start out in a sparsely-populated area of Faerun, possibly some place with high populations of all the standard races (my vote is for the Dalelands, but not many dwarves and gnomes there).  Expansions could take characters further and further away - into Icewind Dale, down to Chult, east into Thay, and so on.  Over an extreme amount of time, they could even head into Shar and other continents.

Wake me when I can raid a Zhent stronghold.


#4 - Magic, the Gathering

I've been playing with this idea for a while, and its implementation would be much harder than the standard fair of games.  Some of you may argue that there's already a Magic MMO - well, there is one where you can play the card game online, and I play it as well, but I'm wanting something more in-depth than the card game.

In Magic, the Gathering, the players themselves are part of the game and are called Planeswalkers.  These are able to summon monsters, collect artifacts, and cast powerful sorcery.  Planeswalkers are ever locked in mortal combat with each other, highlander-style.  However, Planeswalkers can also team up to take others down (such as when more than 2 people play the game). 

This means that there is already a mechanic in place for Planeswalkers to work together, and therefore we can exploit that.  It we say that Planeswalkers must occasionally work together to take down other Planeswalkers, then we can set up a game that has NPC Planeswalkers and PvP for Planeswalker battles.

Each Planeswalker would have a mana pool that is comprised of mana from the region he's currently in.  He could collect artifacts along his travels that provide him with additional mana resources, and these would increase his starting pool.  Mana would regenerate very, very slowly.  Each person would have a display of mana colors currently available, from all 6 colors (counting colorless as a color).  When casting a spell, he would need to have that amount of mana available to begin with.  Spells (creatures, sorcery, interrupts, etc) would need an amount of many available first, and, except for interrupts, would take a certain amount of time to pull off.  Additionally, each person would have only a maximum number of spells they can slot.  These spells are available at any time (taking away the randomness of the card game, to an extent). 

Many of the basic spells people would get as they level - a level one character may start off with the ability to cast fireballs and summon wolves.  This may be the only spell in his library, too.  But as he levels, he gains new abilities (a few more than his library can currently hold, at any given level, making him choose).

Characters would start in one of the 5-colored regions, and have mana available to them mostly of that region's color.  As they progress further, they start blending further as well.  Ultimately, if a person played long enough, he could gain every spell in the game regardless of its color.  However, he would not be able to put all of these into his library - so just like in the card game, he would have to pick and choose what spells he wants available to him.

Interrupts, regular spells, and cards in the current game that "return to hand" would be handled as a mechanic of casting time and skill cooldowns.  Interrupts would have no casting time - you click it, it happens.  Regular spells would have a casting time (these could vary).  Most spells have a very long cooldown, preventing their overuse, but cards in the current game that return to hand could have a cooldown that is reset when the spell is broken or the creature it modifies is defeated, or the cooldown could simply be short to reflect that it can be used again and again.  Monsters with summoning sickness could be paused for a short while when summoned, whereas others could attack immediately.  Channeled skills could have default actions that you can set (ie, set it to default to 3 damage) or could be selected to entirely drain your mana pool (so that you can use up all the mana tryng to heal yourself or injure your opponent, if necessary.


#3 - Transformers

This is just a cool idea, and potentially very lucrative from the standpoint of product placement.  Imagine a system that allows you to choose a base vehicle type (car, truck, fighter jet, helicopter, etc) and you get a default transformer who always transformes into a robot and back into the vehicle based on a set model - however, there would be extents to which you could modify the model, such as adding paint, stretching a fender to be a foot longer (give a car "tailfins"), elongating the nose of the car, and so on.  It still transforms in the same way, but it looks different.

Now imagine that you sell the rights to Ford, Honda, or some other automaker to use their current lines of cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, and so on as several "default" models.  So, a player could start with a car and make it look however he wants if he wants to take the time stretching various components; however, if he wants to, he can also simply click through pre-defined vehicles, and take a Honda Civic as the model for his transforming car.  All players would be given the power of flight while in bot-form, so travel times shouldn't be a terribly big issue that causes everyone to roll a jet.

The game could be set up as either PvP (allowing players to play Decepticons), or PvE.  

The only other thought I had regarding the design of this game would be that certain vehicles (especially common ones like cars) would draw significantly less aggro, owing to the fact that they fit into the environment better.  People would be a bit surprised if they saw a tank rolling down main street.


#2 - Firefly

One company already owns the rights to do a Firefly MMO, but I'm not convinced that it's one we'll ever actually see, at least without some help.  Even if we did see it, it might be horrible.

The thing that made the Firefly story great was not its technology or its character classes, but rather its moral ambiguity and the ability of bad-guy characters to still seem good, often by their juxtaposition against even worse bad guys (read Richard Slotkin's "Gunfighter Nation" for more info). 

Arguably, every character in an MMO is evil.  My Champion in Lord of the Rings Online has not gotten heroic by helping little old ladies across the street (certainly, there was a fair bit of that, more often in Lothlorien), but rather by causing the Brandywine River to flow red with the blood of bandits, Dourhand Dwarves, and Dunedain.  The senseless slaughter of sentient creatures is not virtuous, but we're rarely ever given the ability to try to reason with a people (except by first beating them in combat and killing off their entire army singlehandedly - that happens quite often).  Yet my Champion is "one of the good guys," befriended by Glorfindel, Gandalf, Elrond, and all the other heroes of legend. 

So how, then, can a game appreciably make characters more evil, while still allowing them to be on the side of good, and furthermore offer the players the freedom that being a smuggling ship outside the law provides?  I'm not entirely sure it can.  Certainly, every quest chain would need to be incredibly well-thought-out, and offer a lot more variations for XP than merely "go here, kill this, bring it back to me" quests. 


#1 - Shadowrun

If Firefly was set on Earth rather than in deep space, you'd have something akin to Shadowrun.  For those of you uninitiated, Shadowrun is another PnP RPG, and its premise is that magic has come back into the world, creating Elves, Orks, Trolls, and so on as part of the racial mix.  This is supposed to happen around 2012, to coincide with the Mayan calendar that everyone in real-time Earth is currently panicking about.  Fast-forward 50 years to the present-day of the Shadowrun RPG, and many people have slipped off the radar - they've either been born without SSNs (now called SINs, so these are the SINless.  clever, no?) or had them deleted from government systems.  And of course, since these people officially don't exist, they often end up doing odd jobs for people who need jobs done that are, shall we say, not official either.

So these SINless often become Shadowrunners.  They take on contracts from shady contacts (who often go by the name "Johnson") to do all the typical things MMOs ask us to do - kill someone, steal something and bring it back, and so on.  However, in the Shadowrun universe, if you can get by without killing someone, you're doing much better.  Of course, it's always better to carry off a mission without drawing any attention.  However, only an idiot goes into a secure building without at least some form of protection (often in the form of a 12-foot-tall Troll wielding a No-dachi as a 1-handed weapon).

As a result, Shadowrun is the *perfect* property to be turned into an MMO.  The "Johnson" questing system is exactly what we use in every other MMO currently out, even though we don't call it that. 

The biggest problem with Shadowrun is that it doesn't fall neatly into class and leveling systems.  A magic user has the potential to be, over the course of an absolute ton of playing that we expect MMOs to produce, the most powerful person ever, with no possibility of anyone of a different "class," especially without magic, to be able to catch up. 

So I do think we would need some classes, at least to prevent potential balance issues.  Spellcasters (perhaps broken down by spellcasting tradition), Adepts (with at least Physical Adepts as their own class, and possibly other adepts as well), and non-magical people (who could be broken down into Rigger, Street Samurai, and a few other classes).  The game would preferrably be played without levels, but if we had to use them, they would be mostly an artificial construct to determine when build points (the points you assign to your skills and attributes) would be provided.  Perhaps, if we limit people in points by limiting them in level, we wouldn't need classes (a spellcaster would max out when he runs out of points), so that would be even better.

The game would initially start in Seattle, with certain nearby areas possible for travel, and adding on expansions of other regions over time.  Many of the places could be more or less "instanced," as we don't necessarily need to see the hundreds of miles of land between Seattle and Denver if we're flying between the two, although there should probably be an extent to which the land surrounding a city is available for exploration and questing as well, especially for those magic users whose traditions require being outside of a city.

A Perfect PvP MMO

Posted by reillan Wednesday April 22 2009 at 11:43AM
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I hate all current PvP games.  So, here's some ideas I had for a great one:

#1: Full loot ... ish

You have the ability to loot your opponent, but this only takes unbound items from them. 


#2: Item binding.

Bound items are merely items that cannot be taken during combat.  These are the items you're wearing and any crafting items you're carrying.  If you equip a new item, the old one becomes unbound, and thus lootable and tradable.


#3: Additional loot and XP from PvP

Enemies count as PvE mobs for loot tables - meaning, you can not only loot your opponent regularly, but you get additional items for that looting.  Perhaps this could be done in a bound form for certain things (ie, take the scalps of your defeated enemies, turn them in for a quest), or an unbound form for item drops.


#4: Combat is wide-open

Whoever deals the final point of damage to something gets the XP (for their entire group) for that kill.  Items are dropped on the ground and you simply have to run over them to pick them all up (this means someone else could grab them, and you'll just have to kill him).


#5: You can accidentally kill people in your own group

And your group loses XP if you do so.


#6: Respawn points are laid out frequently

So you can get right back into the action.


#7: No death penalty

So you can get right back into the action.


#8: Fast transport around the world

Because it sucks having to waste time walking 40 miles just to talk to someone and then walk back.


#9: When you're talking to an NPC, or fighting a named boss for a quest, you cannot be hurt by outside forces.

Because these are important activities that take time, time that might be inhibited by the respawn rate of PCs.


#10: No instancing

Because it sucks, and because people camp the exits, and this sucks, too.


#11: At least one grenade-launcher-style weapon

To take care of the people who will eventually camp anyway.

LotRO Champion Damage, Part 3

Posted by reillan Thursday April 9 2009 at 3:22PM
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(This is the third part of a series on Champion Damage.  Please see Part 1 and Part 2)


Part 3: Managing Champion Power for maximum damage-over-time.


If you've been keeping up with my series so far, you know that Dual Wielding and using Slow-MH, Fast OH is far superior in short-term combat to any other weapon set up.  But does that damage last for extremely lengthy combat, such as against a high-morale mob?  In this entry, I will examine just that issue.

What I find in this article: If your combat lasts over 1.5 minutes, go with a 2H weapon.  Good use of skills is still key, however, and Hedge is surprisingly one of the best of these.


Power over time

One of the great things about being a Champion is our ability to regenerate Power during combat.  In our primary DPS stance, we get a roughly +1200 in-combat power regeneration (ICPR) rate (plus any items we choose to wear that further boost that).  We don't get a high Power pool to start, but because we regenerate so much, we may not need it.

+1200 ICPR roughly comes out to +20 power each and every second during the combat - that means that if we can burn under 20 Power Per Second (PPS) as we deal DPS, we can maintain our power pool indefinitely, and other low PPS values can keep us in the blue for several minutes at a time.  If we can maintain ourselves below 20 PPS, we can even use our power to replenish the power pools of our party each time a mob drops.

As much as I've knocked around 2H weapons so far, they seem best suited for maintaining our power.  With all of the skills in the following chart, power used remains constant regardless of the speed of weapons we wield.  That means we can use our power more efficiently on skills with higher damage.

This chart assumes the same weapons from last time: a 2H Axe that has 3.1 speed, and a 1H Axe with 2.4 speed paired with a 1.7s dagger.

Power for damaging skills
  Power cost PPS w/ 2H Flurry PPS w/ DW Flurry
Rend 86 33.29 50.34
Wild Attack 63 24.39 36.88
Fighting Dirty 96 37.16 56.20
Blade Wall 94 36.39 55.02
Feral Strikes 115 44.52 67.32
Swift Strike 148 57.29 86.63
Brutal Strikes 120 46.45 70.24
Bracing Attack 179 69.29 104.78
Raging Blade 139 53.81 81.37
Hamstring 72 27.87 42.15
Ferocious Strikes 136 52.65 79.61
Horn of Gondor 65 25.16 38.05
Merciful Strike 63 24.39 36.88
Blade Storm 185 71.61 108.29
Relentless Strike 179 69.29 104.78
Clobber 72 27.87
Average 113.25 43.84 66.29


If we just look at these skills and how well we can hold up in a combat, the 2H weapon has a very clear advantage - much cheaper power consumption.  Just comparing averages, we subtract 20 from both averages to show the rate of return from ICPR, and we can see that we should burn 23.84 PPS while using a 2H weapon, 46.29 PPS while DW.  A champion with 2500 Power (and we don't usually bother to keep that much) could expect to last 54s without running out of power while Dual Wielding, but an amazing 105s with a 2H weapon!  In the 51s of time betwee, the DW person could regenerate enough power for another 22s-long burst, but that still means only 76s in combat, with 29s of downtime.

That's 38.16% more up-time when using a 2H weapon over DW.  

Now you may say, "but we'll use food to regenerate power" or "we'll pop second wind to regenerate power" - well yes, you could do that, depending on how fast you can kill stuff.  But while you're popping second wind, the 2H person is using Red Haze or possibly even Heroics.  And your Second Wind is reliant on you killing your target, but if you're in an extremely-long battle, that may be neither possible or desirable.  And what's more, the 2H person could be popping Second Wind, too, and just last through greatly-extended combat sessions that much longer.

But just out of curiousity - how much does food matter?  According to the lorebook ( I don't have the game sitting in front of me now), Superior Rack of Lamb with Mint Sauce provides +148 power every 30 seconds.  That means that a DW who uses it could get 3.2 more seconds out of it, then have to spend 2.8s downtime before the next blip hits.  When it does, he has another 4.4s of power he can burn through before he runs out again.

So yes, food does help.  Potions help.  But much more effective is using a 2H weapon.  Even at its worst, 38.16% up time is greater than 28.32% damage (the max damage differential of  DW/2H calculated in part 2) during combats lasting more than 1.5 minutes.


Effective power management

As you could possibly see from the charts, there are some skills that simply do not make sense in a long-combat setting.  This is especially true of Bracing Attack, Blade Storm, and Relentless Strikes, which are the 3 worst power-eating damage-dealers in our list.  Simply avoiding these skills during long combats will help a lot, but we can also maximize our returns by carefully selecting our skills ahead of time:

1: Pip Generation

Merciful Strikes wins my pick for the best power-management skill for two reasons: first, it's tied with Wild Attack for power consumption; second, because it deals more damage than Wild Attack.  All things considered, if you can pull off this skill, you should.  Yes, it's difficult to use, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to get into the habit of using it when it is available.

If you haven't learned by yet, Wild Attack should be your default PIP generator (excepting Merciful Strike, as described above). Avoid Swift Strike like the plague - if you absolutely need another PIP, and Merciful Strike isn't ready, consider Blade Wall instead.  It'll be more power consumption than your Wild Attack, but less than the other choices.  Of course, if you're already dropping AoEs like crazy, start with your Blade Wall for the additional damage it provides.

2: Skills You May Not Have Considered

Horn of Gondor, that AoE skill that you love because it stuns people but hate because of its long cooldown, is actually one of the best skills you have in terms of power consumption.  If AoE won't hurt you, be prodigious in its use - it turns the Champion into a master of Crowd Control, and good use of CC is what separates good Champs from just OK ones.

Hamstring and Clobber are good choices as well.  They take only one pip to fire, have very low power costs, and have desirable side effects.  Of course, if you've been charged with interrupting this particular mob, only use your Clobber when you're interrupting him.  These skills will not out-DPS your neighboring champ, so use them sparingly, but don't be afraid of them, either.

Rend is bloody brilliant - Armour debuff and bleed for everything nearby.  It doesn't have a high initial damage output, but if you can fire it off early and keep the bleed up, it'll drain everything for you.  And its power cost is still low.

3: The Ultimate Skill You've Never Met: My Case for HEDGE.

You read that right.  I said to use Hedge. Go ahead, get the laughter out of your system.

Hedge is an oft-mocked gem of power management.  This skill only costs 36 power to fire - that means that almost no matter what you're wielding, you actually generate more power than you use during the time it took to fire it!  And, because its damage is not dependent on having a weapon, it doesn't require any fervour, it provides a wound resistance bonus, and it deals a fair amount of damage (it's around the middle of the field for Champ damage), it can be fired at almost any time.

And when you're conserving power, I argue that it should be one of your main skills.


So don't burn that 1st age legendary with tier-6 Hedge cooldown quite so quickly.    You can do a fair amount of DPS with these low-power skills, and if you simply avoid Bracing Attack, Relentless Strike, and Blade Storm, you'll be able to last much, much longer.

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