Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Enchanter Experience

There are some pretty significant changes coming in Live Update 24 for illusionists, coercers, and control spells across the board. Before previewing them, I thought I'd write a post about what the game experience is like for me and illusionists in general.

I'll break the game down into four distinct categories of play: solo, small groups, full groups, and raids.

Illusionists and coercers are definitely not an underpowered class. With mezzes, stifles, stuns and root, we can reduce the amount of incoming damage hugely. Solo, and in small groups, this is very valuable. In a full group and raid, it is useless.

Solo play is very good. You have a variety of tools to use, from the personae duplicate to root and mez. I've managed to survive some amazing scrapes. I can manage to kill just about any single mob that I can reliably land a spell on, if I'm very careful, and willing to take a VERY long time. But usually, I stick to solo mobs, because it's much faster loot and experience. I think that's a good way to handle things, design wise.

Small groups are also very fun. My most amazing accomplishments have been in small groups, usually duos, sometimes triples. Each different partner requires a different strategy. Tanks need a lot of mitigation with stuns, mez, etc. Healers need more DPS, because they have none. Other mages just need me to control the encounter for a little bit while they kill it. Very fun stuff, and I feel pretty effective, although it can be tough to find the right place to do this kind of thing. Then there's full groups.

I've been in several good pickup groups over the past months. The experience is nearly identical whether we were in Clefts of Rujark, Ancient's Table, killing giants in PoF, or in Sanctum of Scaleborn or elsewhere in Tenebrous killing lizards. The illusionist is very welcome in the group because of the pow regen skills we have. It allows the group to kill nonstop, without pausing to regain power. This playstyle is intense and exhilarating, and can produce some very nice experience.

The pow regen spells aren't just a "cast and forget" Breeze. They must be timed with the rhythm of combat for maximum benefit, and they can't be always up. Frankly, the non-breeze pow regen spells are what they tried to do with Breeze in the beginning but failed. If you don't remember, Breeze used to be an individual buff with a 3 minute duration. Not a permanent group buff. Since it was possible to keep it up on everyone, you were expected to do so.

Savante, for example, reduces the pow cost of every spell cast by your group by about 40 percent. It can be going about 30 seconds of every 3.5 minutes. So timing it for maximum utility is interesting.

Likewise, Devitalizing Stare, and its upgrade, Devitalizing Gazes drain power from the mob, and give it to members of the group. When the target dies, the spell provides no more benefit. It can be active for maybe 20 seconds out of each minute.

The root AA skill for enchanters, Mana Flow, costs 10 percent of my power and health to cast on a group member. After 20 seconds, I regain my 10 percent power, and my target gets a pow boost too. I'm not sure whether he gets the same amount of pow as me, or 10 percent of his power back. But it still takes anticipation, timing and awareness. Casting these spells, working them into my dots and debuffs and so on is fun. It isn't just mindlessly blasting away. That's the sort of thing we enchanters like.

However, my control spells, the hallmark of illusionists, are never needed. What, never? Well, hardly ever. Individual heroic encounters do not require mez to be defeated, that's the intent of the game design, since a group should not need an enchanter to be successful. I can live with that. But it turns out that mez isn't needed even when there are adds.

I've watched groups deal with two heroic adds while fighting and not need mez. This is because the groups had so much DPS that the mobs died too fast to be too great of a threat. Usually, the tank would be able to taunt the adds to get control of the fight, and occasionally, someone else would get some aggro in these situations. At which point stun was called for, but illusionists certainly aren't the only one with a stun or a way to control aggro.

So, I keep my mouth shut about them breaking mez, since they don't need it. Tanks will regularly switch targets to taunt and smack the adds a few times, thus breaking mez when I bother to cast it. Because that's what they've learned to do, and it works.

Raids are similar to full groups. We have an important role in pow management in such raids, and our contribution to DPS doesn't always show up under our names in the log parsers, either. Haste and Dynamism will make someone else do more damage, and power management will often contribute to the DPS of the entire group. So I don't think that we are useless on raids, not at all. But we don't get to use our control spells at all. Not because they would be useless, as with a full group, but because the game doesn't permit it.

Things are this way because otherwise the epic encounters would be much easier with an enchanter/coercer along. So they would become necessary, which would be a bad thing for the game. But it's frustrating to have your signature spell lines not work on raid mobs because "the game designers said so". There's no internal logic to it, just an arbitrary cutoff.

I keep 30 hotkeys onscreen during a fight (I have other banks for buffing). Of these, I count seven of them that I can't use on Epic mobs. And these are some of my more heavily used spells, too.

Most of us play illusionists because of our ability to turn a bad situation into a good one. Nothing is more satisfying than making all the mobs look at the pretty lights when your group thought they were gonna wipe. It doesn't have to happen a lot, that would probably be a bad thing. What if they gave us a rescue mez, that could only be used once every 15 minutes, but got EVERYTHING? Would that break stuff?

This is being addressed in the next LU. More on that in a later post.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Net Neutrality

I very rarely blog on politics, since they seem unrelated to Everquest 2, or even online gaming as a whole.

However, I urge you to sign the petition for net neutrality. Or, if you are uncomfortable with, simply call your Congressperson or Senator, or drop them an email.

Why do I think that net neutrality is important? Well, the large telecom companies want to create tiered Quality of Service, to enable better video streaming and so on. But this would also give them the ability to give priority to internet messages (called packets) based on the orignator of the packet.

When a company such as SOE puts up game servers, they go to an ISP and buy bandwidth from that ISP. And, of course, you pay your ISP for your connection, as well. But when the packets go from your computer to them and back, they travel along the most convenient route through the internet, which can often take them across some part of a third-parties backbone.

These third parties get paid already. But it's mostly barter. "I'll carry your packets if you carry mine." Well, they look at, say, Google traffic and want to charge Google a premium. Would they want to charge SOE a premium too? Probably. But that would raise our monthly rate.

And consider the startup MMORPG. They are poor and maverick, and decide not to pay. What happens to their traffic. Well it doesn't "get priority". By the proposed law, they can't simply drop it on the floor. But suppose that they do, because they have their own MMORPG company sweetheart deal and want to restrict competition. The startup would have to sue the company, and such a lawsuit might take years to resolve, at which point the game would long since be dead, since the players would be experiencing constant linkdeath, have no fun, and go play a different game.

I really don't see why we should be giving telco's more gifts. Common carriers are a longstanding tradition in this country. That's how our phones work, for one thing. And trains and trucking companies. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.