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, August 24, 2006

Skinny Chipping

These days, if you should visit me in the basement of my house in South Qeynos, you might be surprised to find me slaving away at my workbench, chipping raw gems into jewelry while wearing only the rags that I came to the Isle of Refuge with. Why I might do that is worth posting about, since its a bit counter-intuitive, to say the least.

Take a look at this screenshot first. It shows some buffs I can use to increase durability of an item during a crafting encounter. In particular, notice that the power cost for casting Rose Cut is 1067, and Radiant Cut costs 800 power. My current power max is 5336. This shot was taken with all my gear, jewelry, and buffs going to enhance my power.

Now, look at the next screenshot, which was taken after I took all my gear off, and cancelled all self buffs, except for my Breeze. The power cost of Rose Cut is now shown with 463 power cost, and Radiant Cut with 347. My total power is listed in the persona window as 2315. If you calculate the ratios, you will find that 1067/463 = 800/347 = 5336/2315 = 2.3

The conclusion is that power costs for the Rose Cut line (and also for the line of spells that increase progress at the cost of power) are a fixed percentage of your total power, NOT a fixed amount of power, as combat arts and spells are.

If you try to confirm this yourself, you must be aware that the examine windows don't necessarily update when you put on or take off gear. Best is to change your gear, wait a moment to see that everything has updated through the server, and then reexamine the relevant tradeskill arts. I've seen some oddness here, mostly because things are slow to get the message that your pow total has changed.

However, power regen buffs, such as from Breeze, cannabilizing, and drink give an absolute number of power gained each tick; the benefit from them does not decrease if my power maximum goes up or down. This is why I want to get better drink as I level up and my power maximum goes up.

Are you getting the picture yet? If I craft nekkid, my power regen becomes much more significant compared to my power costs and my maximum power. Probably for modesty's sake, I will get one of the decorative outfits available in town, or who knows, maybe two or three, and craft in them. But having no enhancements to my power is clearly advantageous for crafting.

These screenshots will allow me to discuss one other tradeskill nuance. I'm a durability crafter, not a speed crafter. I don't knock speed crafting, but I like to get pristine quality every time. I think this comes from making spells the old way, where pristine was desirable to get the higher quality spell, and it was necessary at each stage of ink making.

The method I finally developed that works well for me consists of using the art that increases durability at the cost of success chance (e.g. Locus of Spirit) as often as I can. If I need to counter with another skill, I will use the one that increases durability. And I will blend in the art that will increase durability at the cost of power, such as Rose Cut, when my power is at or near full. This gives me a reserve of power to counter a chain of events, or in case the durability drops below pristine.

But, I find that I prefer Convergence of Spirit to Locus of Spirit these days, in spite of it's being lower in level. Convergence of Spirit gives me +5 extra points to durability every cycle, while only costing me 2 percent of a failure. Well, a failure costs 50 points of durability (before the effect of any tradeskill), and a success costs 10 points of durability, a difference of 40. Two percent of 40 is .8 of a durability point. But I get 5 extra points of durability, so that's a net positive of 4.2 points of durability each time I use Convergence of Spirit instead of Locus of Spirit.

Not convinced yet? Using Convergence of Spirit by itself builds up my durability roughly twice as fast as Locus of Spirit. Each cycle that I get a success while using Locus of Spirit, I gain 5 points of durability. A success with Convergence of Spirit gains me 10 points of Durability. That's a big big difference. The difference in success chance is really pretty small, not nearly big enough to make me want to use Locus of Spirit.

I should add that at some point in the combine, I switch over to using progress buffs, just to speed things up. But only after I've built up a cushion of extra durability. And never until I've filled the first progress bar.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Jewel Dust Settles

We've had a while now to absorb the changes to tradeskilling, so I thought I'd make an assessment of how they've worked out.

Harvesting is easier, it is possible to find non-rare components of lower tiers on the broker for prices that are sometimes high, but not out of the question. To increase the availability of lower tier raw materials and rares, higher level characters were given an increased drop rate, and tools that make harvesting even faster. Coupled with faster movement rate, this gives them a huge advantage over lower level players harvesting in the same zone.

But this doesn't seem to matter all that much, since most of the lower zones I've visited appear to have lots of nodes laying around. I don't include Sinking Sands as a lower zone, since tier 6 has strong traffic still, and there is strong demand for goods made from the drops there.

Food nodes are the new fungus nodes. They drop no rares, so they are ignored by everyone but provisioners. This problem was solved in Desert of Flames and Kingdom of Sky by grouping nodes in specific areas: ore and stones in caves, roots and bushes by oases, and so on. In the lower tiers, one can come in and find them full of mostly bushes, since these are ignored by harvesters.

The non-rare crafted goods sell slowly, though they can be sold at a profit, at least for jewelers. Jewelry has been revamped to allow resistance specific gear, which can have its uses, though I think the trade is mostly for raids. Probably PVP servers would see more traffic here as well.

The base cost of rares is down some, though not a great deal. The real hit is to the margin of the tradeskiller. It appears that except in some very specific cases, it is difficult to get more than perhaps a 20 percent markup over component cost, whereas, 100 percent markups were common before. This is due almost entirely to competition, which is much greater. Profits can be made, though they depend more on volume, which in turn depends on a large amount of investment in inventory.

This is what I think the revamp was intended to do. The crafted gear in Kingdom of Sky was upgraded soon after that expansion came out, probably too much. The rare crafted armor was the best in the game, save for fabled raid drops. And there were only a few people willing to put in the time to skill up a crafter, since it was, well, highly repetetive, and a long slog.

This made crafters too powerful in the game's economy. There was little competition, and few alternatives. I think the plate tanks were in the worst position. They needed to have good gear to be invited to groups in the good zones where the really good gear dropped. And the armorers were the gatekeepers.

The tier 7 rare gear is good, but not so obviously better than anything else you can get. Also the tier 6 rare gear has been toned down, and there is now more competition, since folks seem more willing to make stuff, given that it takes only one combine, not 7. A seven-fold decrease in time spent is pretty significant.

Leveling does not to appear to be much slower than it used to be. Some believed that leveling would be slower, because one would do fewer combines to produce a final product to sell. There is a style of play under which this is true.

Imagine a merchant that has an inventory of products that she kept stocked in her store, and the only crafting that she does on any given day is to replace the ones that have sold. Assuming that things sell at about the same rate as before, then the experience gain will be somewhat less, since there will be no gain for all the subcombines. Mind you, some of those subcombines might well have been gray to you already, and they all gave very little experience. But not nothing.

On the other hand, if you do sessions where you just grind stuff, the leveling will probably be faster, since you will only be making final combines, which give better experience. It will take more cash though, and more raw materials.

SOE has made several attempts to get more high-level crafters, from geting rid of interdependence to faster leveling and bonus potions. This latest change is finally what's going to be successful. To be sure, many crafters are unhappy with it, which is understandable, since their economic position has been seriously diminished.

Is the current system more or less fun? It seems less interesting somehow, since it was kind of fun to make some components first, and then the final combine. Also, it was fun having the secondary skills and moving around to the different stations. But it got awfully repetetive, too. I can't say that I miss all those hours I spent making WORT at the Chemstry table.

In any case, I'm doing it a lot more these days. So maybe the fun is not so much in making the stuff as it is in being a merchant, shopping or harvesting for raws, and figuring out what to stock, how to price it, and so on. I find that stuff fun, too, and I'm spending more time doing that, and less time making WORT.