A shortcut to more platinum

This post is about something that’s an unavoidable evil for most Dalayans: Money.

It’s especially tough for halflings, because what little money they make, they invest in pork ribs and chocolate cake, and they invest those in their tummies. It’s a delicious business, but the returns aren’t so great.

That’s why Ayba and I were intrigued by a certain class of (usually long-legged) merchants of some sort. They’re standing around in many towns, especially those posh ones that have magic guilds. They call themselves unbinders and they might be our ticket to a rich life full of apple pie and lamb cutlets.

Some of the loot we pick off our enemies’ mutilated body parts includes stuff we’re clueless and confused about. Either we can’t use it in the first place (A halfling in a robe! Scandalous) or we need to replace it with something else at some point down the road, but it seems to have grafted to our skin and we can’t let go.

For these situations, unbinders are perfect. Even if they’re not trustworthy on account of they’re ridiculous long legs, they offer two services:

Unbinding removes the No Drop flag from any item and replaces it with a bind to soul type of thing. That way, you can sell stuff you’ve outgrown to other people, and then they will be stuck with the silly no drop flag.

Unchanting strips most magic from an item (including No Drop), making it useless but still pretty. Merchants like pretty things, so they buy this stuff at decent prices. At any rate, beats making absolutely nothing off of it. Unchanting doesn’t even cost anything! A perfect win-lose situation!

Both of these services are incredibly useful if you want to raise your cash level a bit. And with all the food, food-related and food-enhancing products halflings like to buy, every piece of platinum counts. So as soon as we manage to get something that’s hard to sell to players and useless to us, we’ll see you at the unbinder.

Oric is happy about (new) weapons

You know halflings: peace-loving, tree-hugging individuals with manly fur on their feet and a tendency for overeating.

Not so Oric; he’s happy, nay, elated when he gets to chop up animals and decapitate people. So far he’s been using two Mastercrafted Broad Swords for that, which he’d bought from one of those long women dressed in a daytime carpenter/nighttime pole dancer costume. The blades were alright, but nothing fancy.

So I decided to spend the commute home on the train yesterday looking for affordable gear on Shards of Dalaya’s web-based item listing system. You see, SoD offers a system usually referred to as “listsold”, where you can dump a bunch of bags at your banker, mark the items as for sale, set a price and just wait for the money to roll in. The trick here is that there is no globally searchable system for the items on offer. There are just pages and pages of listings, both web-based and in-game. It’s like a classified ads system: To find the good stuff, you have to read through a lot of people’s ads and  have a bit of luck. No fancy-shmancy fulltext search and result filtering system for you.

While a bit archaic, the system works quite well. At first I had spotted two Mithril Long Swords: 13 damage! Reasonable delay! Droolworthy! But as often in the life of a halfling, boundless enthusiasm is followed by the stomach-punch of depression: The listsold system was bugged, it didn’t let me buy those swords and kept claiming that the player named Soyer isn’t really selling item #41, all the while taunting me with the beautiful listing of “#41 Mithril Long Sword”. Even repeated listings showed the item, but purchase requests didn’t go through. I don’t know what was wrong, perhaps the listings only get synced once in a while and someone else hat bought those swords from under my nose.

Oh well. Oric bought two Mithril Short Swords instead (10/24 and very light), then downed three Valiums and followed them with gin tonic, which lead to this facial expression:

happy_mithril_short_sword

Once the stuff wore off, he assured me that he had felt happy at that point in time. He also couldn’t remember how he got from the bank to the gates of Newport, although he swears rat people were involved.

Anyhow, I’m very happy as well! These are the best weapons I’ve ever had, and even though I had to spend half of our savings on them (don’t tell Ayba), I think it’ll be worth it because it makes us die less and kill more. That’s Oric’s favored combination.

It’s interesting: I’ve tried some other MMOs and while it’s very easy to achieve something in them (great armor, high levels), it never feels like an accomplishment. Saving every little bit of copper since level 20, not getting any real upgrade loot off of anything and then stumbling upon a good weapon by accident, this really feels like an achievement.

Perhaps the instant gratification some other games offer is what makes me get bored with them so quickly. SoD doesn’t sugar-coat anything. Yes, it’s hard to make your first platinum. Yes, you’re fighting monsters in armor you’ve outleveled three weeks ago. But life’s tough, it’s every halfling for himself, so if a set of mithril swords takes two months of saving, you’re going to have to save for two months to get it. I’m not masochistic, but I think it’s all the more exciting once you do.

The curse and blessing of group-heavy game design

I think that most of you expect to read proper diary entries here, about the fun places to go and fun things to do in Shards of Dalaya, but please forgive me if I feel the urge to post a blurb about (MMO) game design from time to time.

Recently, we toured Kaladim, King’s Pass and Warpstone Caverns. We found groups in those places, some smaller, some more complete, but always groups. If you’ve ever played EQ, you know how important a group is. In EQ live, you wouldn’t even be safe in your own home zone if you walked around alone, and many newbies were so scared they wouldn’t even leave town after a few unhappy incidents of “rat gnawed my head off” or “fell into five hundred meter deep hole next to newbie gear vendor”.

That’s clearly not a great experience for a new player, but it also establishes a fact: It’s a dangerous world out there. Don’t go alone.

Modern MMORPGs don’t really believe in this anymore. You can cheerfully solo all the way to max level by just grinding and doing repetitive quests, all on your own. There isn’t really any sense of danger as long as you don’t venture too far from the path the series of quest hubs has prepared for you. Even if there is a bit of a dangerous situation here and there, usually nothing you couldn’t survive on your own. This turns many MMORPGs into n levels of single player boredom followed by some potentially exciting raids. With your guild and/or friends, of course, not with strangers you’ve met while your character grew up. Who’d be sick enough to group with out-of-guild people?

I miss this aspect of danger in modern games, yet it means that Shards of Dalaya faces the reverse problem; you can’t do anything on your own, but the world feels dangerous and exciting. The advantage over old EQ is of course that SoD players are usually much more experienced or better players than random strangers you used to meet in EQ, so some of the risk of trying to find a group is removed. You won’t die because your groupmates don’t know their game. Everyone I’ve met so far knows the game much better than I do. Any time spent in a group is very well invested.

It’s all a bit sad. There’s this dangerous and exciting world out there, with hand-crafted dungeons and juicy loot, but you won’t be able to see it on your own, because seeing it on your own would make it less dangerous and unexciting.

Tougher single-player gameplay without actually forcing the grouping element of the game could be an answer, but I think that can’t be accomplished within the game mechanics of an MMORPG, where numbers count more than any single player’s reflexes. That leaves me with nothing to add to the discussion, despite venting my disappointment 😦

Place of the hover-dwarves

Since a long time Oric wanted to pay a visit to a place he remembered from a life before. For that reason every now and then he asked me, when we would finally travel to mighty Kaladim. Those of you who don’t have a halfling husband telling you the story will find only little information on the wiki (http://wiki.shardsofdalaya.com/index.php/Kaladim ).

But briefly said Kaladim used to be ‘the main city of the dwarven race’ a long time ago, as it says there. As far as I have been told the evil Kaezul invaded it with iksars and killed all citizen living in there back then. Since those days Kaladim is haunted by the dead souls of those victims and being heavily defended by them against any one entering.

As you all know Oric by now, this seems to be the perfect playground for a suicidal halfling and his pulled-along wife.

Here are some touristic impressions as proof that we’ve been there (and survived):

At the entrance (I think that’s the size they would have liked to be):

Entrancestatue

And that’s their actual size – finally someone our height, even though they try to cheat by hovering around. Sillies.

Hehe, cheating doesn't help
Hehe, cheating doesn't help

A nice (extremely high level) person we met. He gave us the tip of going to Lare of the Paw to have fun and level up a bit. (Hope Dagmar and Angior are still waiting for us in the 65ies.) And: he gave me a Silver Cepter as a gift, thank you again 🙂  It’s fun hitting things over the head with it.

Anonimous

Here that Silver Cepter in use. Those sentries are strong, myohmy… But not strong enough against double halfling power:

geronimooo

Little detail: If you ever have to fight one of those, next to hitting them pay attention to their great hitting style. Their head doesn’t move, just tries to scare you with a grumpy stare, whilst the rest of their body swooshes around and makes pirouettes underneath.

Oric has made some artsy fartsy pictures of our travel but hasn’t had time yet to post them.

We are sorry anyway that postings are rare at the moment, it’s that we’re extremely busy and have a hard time even finding some time for travelling and adventures.

The day we win the lottery we’ll play forever, promised. Until then:  please don’t leave us 😉

Be safe.

Saving spell sets – saving time later on

Oric told me in the beginning already but I only start to appreciate this feature now, because we are getting further around into all kinds of situations and places.

So I’m slowly starting to create my own booklet of spell sets, which means memorising a useful combination of spells for different situations and storing them in your pocket. It is quite a useful thing to do because it saves you a lot of time to adapt to new areas and situations. You just empty your spell bar, select the spell set you like and you will be automatically seated and can watch the spells jump over from the book into the spell bar all on their own and faster than by hand.

So far I got three sets (not that many, I know) for the main things we’re doing. For long distance traveling I saved a “Traveling Set” with all kinds of useful spells like Spirit of Wolf , Superior Camouflage, See Invisible, some protection like Shield of Thistles or Skin of Steel and Healing. Should never run around without protection and healing stuff. First aid box.

Second set I have is a “Fight and Protect” set for when Oric and I are alone  on the road and hunting stuff once in a while – or get attacked. It contains of a fine mix of healing, protection and attack spells. Need those, so I can poke enemies as well a bit.

And last I got a “Healing” set, for when we are in a bigger group and I can concentrate on healing and protecting the others.

For emergencies I also have Lesser Succor at hand, just in case (evacuates everyone in your group to the next safer spot if neccessary).

The picture is for all of you who don’t have a halfling friend that tells you about this feature. It’s a bit hidden, with the picture you might at least find it.

For creating a new set kick out and take in the spells you like to have, right click the spellbook icon in the spellbar and click “save spell set”. Then give it a nice name and – voilà. Finished.

Spell setsac

You can also overwrite old spell sets by saving a new one under an already existing name.

SoD Innovation No. 3: Adepts

Adepts are special. Very special. They are mobs that massively undercon and that have abilities you only know from old-world dragons in EverQuest. They can summon, they can AoE, they might be immune (or nearly) to certain types of damage. But the other special feature is that they’re available all throughout the level range!

So an entire raid of 12 level 1 noobs could gather in front of Newport to kill Rabb the Rat. Trying to kill him alone is certain death. Killing him is certain fortune and fame, because these things drop phat lewts. It’s quite a popular sport, apparently, with some people having made Adept Hunting their hobby.

I love this SoD innovation because it allows you to train really tough group mechanics very early on. You can basically practice on a miniature dragon, and you get this practice every few levels if you go adept hunting, so by the time you’re all big and grown up, you don’t have to learn boss mob encounters from the start anymore. Very nice!

Of course posting about adepts now has another reason as well, but more about that later 🙂

Still alive, but groupless

We’re still alive, but in the last 15 – 20 days or so we never managed to find a group again. Adelah once grouped with somebody, but only for twenty minutes.

I’m finding it hard to reserve the 1 – 2 hours of time it takes in one stretch to accomplish something. I can see now how people might want to solo for half an hour when no groups are around. I remember the EverQuest times, when not finding a group in the first few minutes after logon meant the evening was ruined. I used to spend my hours LFG and reading a book next to it — I read each and every one of Terry Pratchett’s novels solely while LFG as a mage in pre-Velious EQ, where mages weren’t very well-liked.

Now those memories are coming back, the bits that made EQ (and now SoD) an unhappy place. Where grouping and running a dungeon together is great, looking for groups and staring at a zone entrance is not.

I don’t want to dual box just to remedy this, because that would mean that I spend more time with my other machine than with Ayba or with the other players. Oric doesn’t have nearly enough cash to take up a tradeskill, so that route to exp and fame is blocked as well. We’ll see where this goes.