mmo-a-week: week 6: allods

This post was only partially completed, as my coauthor bailed on me. Two years later, I’ve decided to just post it in all of its incomplete glory. I haven’t finished my normal editorial process or anything else that normally buffers my opinions. But I’m actively annoyed by the whole domain name theft thing right now and am just putting content up now because CONTENT.

Ammon – 2012-07-30

Methinks the break has been sufficiently long. I apologize for the extended hiatus – I had only planned to take one or two months off… The final 6 months could have been 24 more games examined, but the pressures of work and then the pressures of no work have conspired to prevent me from resuming the project. Either way, things are quiet/stable enough at present that I am going to give things another go.

One game that I had always wanted to give a look was Allods. It is out of Europe, which is a refreshing change for starts. There was a lot of love on the net during betas, but life conspired against me. I had signed up for CB last year but never received an invite. Open beta happened in February, in the middle of crazy work crunchings, so I didn’t get a chance to play then either. I figure this is a good place to start – and I’ve got four more games marked on my calendar, so let’s hope that life cooperates πŸ˜‰

Registration and Download

In a slight break from tradition, I am actually starting on Tues, May 25th, so this game will actually have 8-9 days to impress me in stead of the usual 6-7. Either way, this post is happening on Wed, June 2nd whether it’s ready or not πŸ˜‰

Allods is published by GPotato (Gala-Net) in the US, so I already have an account with them. Upon pointing my browser at http://allods.gpotato.com/, I see a very obvious download url. They provide the standard f2p mmo download options. I am going to give the main download link a whirl this time… and it is a 1.6mb patch client.

Firing that up gives me a teeny tiny clickthrough eula screen telling me that the downloader will use torrent style acquisition of the client. I’m fine with that. Accepted.

Where do I want to save? Well, probably not to the desktop… let’s try one of my hard drives that actually has some available space πŸ™‚ And started.

The whole mess is 2580mb, but I’m getting decent transfer rates – despite the sub-par wifi setup I’m connected to. ETA is 90 minutes and falling rapidly. This pleases me tremendously. It means that their torrent is well seeded or at least well-trafficked by other players. Whee! Progress bar update!

Hrm. At 40% downloaded, my local wifi died. Going to kick a router… and it recovered once net came back… and is quickly back up to speed no less. Nice.

Research and Waiting

With an hour left in the download, I’ve got a bit of time to burn actually researching this game I’ve now committed myself to. Since I’m already on the main site, I’ll poke around here some.

Hrm. History page is TLDR with some pretty concept art.

Factions/Races page shows 6 races, 3 vs 3. We have the “League” which is composed of humans, elves, and fuzzy people and the “Empire” which is composed of humans, corpses, and orcs. The human races are Kanian for League and Xadaganian for Empire. Yeesh. Corpses are Arisen and obligatory fuzzy cuteness are Gibberlings. The art makes them look like little fox people with beards and a penchant for piratical dress.

Archetypes/Classes shows 8 archetypes, each with one or two different “classes” per faction. Ie, each race calls their version of an archetype something different. There are four kinds of warrior because four of the six races can roll warriors. Let’s see if the classes are actually very different… and it looks like they’re at least somewhat different. Every version of a class seems to have the same armour restrictions but different special abilities (what I assume is a cooldown to be burnt). The official site doesn’t give much by way of hard details on the individual classes, so I’ll have to look elsewhere.

The full list of archetypes is interesting, however. They cover the full gamut of classes that I could hope for: warrior, paladin, scout, healer, warden, mage, summoner, psionicist. Psions are always interesting. I’ll have to consider them for later.

The Professions page shows 4 crafting and 3 gathering professions. It is interesting that there appears to be no sort of enhancement/enchanting sort of profession and none of the crafting professions mention the ability to make weapons. Three of the four are armourcrafting. There is no skinning profession, so it looks like leather might just be a normal mob drop – unless the way one expects to get leather is by salvaging junk armour drops which might be kind of neat.

There also appears to be a restriction of only one profession at a time initially, but it appears to be possible to eventually earn access to a second one. This is kind of neat. It’s not an onerous restriction and it helps focus the little nooblets until they’re ready to progress. Methinks taking a gathering profession early on and hoarding everything until you can select the the crafting profession that it feeds makes a lot of sense.

The Guilds page doesn’t say much out of the ordinary. 6 people required to found a guild (so party size is 6). Guilds have the standard organizational structure one would expect from a western mmo.

Ooh! Spelljammers! I mean Astral ships πŸ™‚ Whee! Looks like it takes a full crew of 6 to pilot one. There is ship-to-ship pvp. “Allods” are little floaty rocks in the Astral. Anyone can own a ship, but unlike Florensia, higher level is required to do so. Ships take a few days to build but players can apparently grind dailies and instances to speed the construction process πŸ˜› Ooh, there are astral demons as well as other ships to deal with in space, so that’s fun.

Goblinball. Organized gnome punting, but with an armoured goblin in stead. Cute.

And I don’t see anything else of interest on the official page. There’s the item shop which I could care less about atm… and community links to forums and wiki. Let us navigate over to the wiki and see if it is more informative. 660 pages is pretty good for an f2p mmo wiki.

However, the archetypes page is pretty useless. It links to a handful of guides posted on the forums, not any actual wikified content. Boo.

Oh, the wikia page looks much more like what I want. Similar page count with actual content perhaps? Actual pages on each archetype at least, so that’s worth looking at… yes, each subclass within an archetype is the same, just with the one racial special ability it seems.

Ok, so psions… are sturdier casters, they can eventually wear leather and appear to be a pretty standard controll class with some interesting mechanics borrowed from old school d&d psionics (have to batter down an enemy’s defenses and establish a link before you are truly able to mess with them).

It looks like most abilities are acquired from the talent “tree”, which is really just a place to click and spend points. There aren’t any pre-requisite choices to be made, only subsequent tiers that require x-many points total be spent – which is guaranteed since there’s only one tree. Subsequent ranks in a talent cost additional points. In addition to the “tree” there is also a “grid” system available starting at level 10 that looks like a lot like the FF12 advancement system. Points on the grid are purchased for increasing amounts of cash as well as being awarded from the odd quest. All told, there are 45 talent points available and 38 grid points available by the max level of 40. It looks like this allows for some immense customization options – possibly overwhelmingly so. I wonder if/how respecs work.

Summoners are necromancers. Blood magic, etc… Off-heals perhaps? Mages are standard fire/ice/lightning types it seems. Warriors look like they have a combo point mechanic. Paladins are the big tanking class. Healers can wear plate at level 30. Wardens get pets (but it doesn’t look like any shapeshifting mechanic). Scouts get stealth and traps and lots of ranged attacks.

Going back to the official wiki, the individual archetype pages are a bit better – or at least they are more consistent. It looks like every class can fill dps roles, and a grid of actual roles filled looks something like this:

Class DPS Tank Heal CC
Healer X X
Mage X X
Paladin X X
Psionicist X X
Scout X
Summoner X X
Warden X
Warrior X X

So two dedicated DPS classes, two tanks, two healers, and two CC plus anyone can spec for damage if desired.

Elves have wings? At least, the females do? Shrug.

Hmm, 77% downloaded, so I’ve got about another half hour to kill. Let’s wander around the forums a bit I guess.

Found a poll saying that 26% of responding players think Psi are the most overpowered class in the game. Second place is warriors at 20%, then mages at 12%. That’s a good sign and confirms my hope that psions won’t stink. I think I will roll one. That means my choices for race are Gibberling, Xadaganian, or Arisen.

It looks like psions have a saturation mechanic called “mental overload” that debuffs their intelligence and perception by 1.4% per stack. Arisen have an ability to help flush this debuff where the other two races have abilities that simply render them immune to physical damage for 10 seconds. I think I’m playing a corpse – ooh, they’re not just corpses, they’re robotic corpses πŸ˜‰ Yay!

Apparently one of the primary psi abilities is Mental Twin. This conjures a clone and renders you invisible to the target. I guess I’ll have to give it a try.

Mmm, they have a repel ability that apparently costs negative mana. Interesting. Laugh, and apparently they get a spider sense sort of ability too (increased dodge and detect nearby enemies) πŸ˜‰

Apparently a lot of abilities are still broken – this is not surprising, and thankfully most of the abilities in question seem to be at the higher end of the level spectrum, so I’m probably ok for now. I’ll just need to remember to search the forums for complaints before spending points I think.

16 minute eta. Hmm, what else to look at. Oh! The game has native jpg screenshot support, that’ll be handy, and hiding UI is an option, which is also nice.

Interesting. They have a “wound complexity” mechanic where further healing becomes more and more reduced as a fight drags on. The healer’s Faith stat allows them to ignore wound complexity.

They also have a sort of inverse-rest system called “fatigue”. The more exp you earn, the more fatigue you accumulate (up to a daily cap). Fatigue may then be cashed in at an innkeeper (ie, by paying to rest) and turns into exp. Neat.

There appears to be strong WoW influence, but nothing offensive so far. They use the standard WoW colours for item rarity and seem to borrow a lot from WoW’s default UI layout.

The death penalty is interesting. They send you to an underworld plane to hang out until your respawn cooldown expires. The time stuck waiting increases with level. The ferryman analogue can be bribed to speed up this process.

PvP is primarily opt-in via a flagging mechanism. They encourage running around flagged by giving bonus exp (both for kills and for quest turnin) while flagged, and unflagging takes 5 minutes to effect. There are also consumable drops that allow you to forcibly flag someone and earn extra glory for the kill.

There also appear to be patron deities that you can follow – but you can’t choose your god, which is kind of funny.

And download completed.

Installation and Startup

It launched the installer automatically. Since I have a specific hard drive in mind for my desired destination, I will be choosing the custom install. Click through the eula… choose a destination folder, and wait for it to decompress everything. It’s actually going fairly quickly.

Installation was quick, but now I get to patch, of course. This one is 461mb, but it is going rapidly. I’m betting another 10 minutes before it’s patched up.

Poking around the patch client, it looks pretty useful. They have dedicated buttons for news, patch notes, basic graphics settings, and a server status display. However, when I go to the server status screen, it doesn’t show anything… here’s to hoping that I didn’t just choose to start another game in the middle of their weekly extended maintenance window πŸ˜› Actually, news page confirms it – weekly maint window starts almost exactly 24 hours from right now, so I should be golden.

20% patched. I’m going to go eat something while I wait πŸ˜‰

Ooh, can get download torrent status… and I think the page is a bit mistranslated from its native European ;P I am ‘load’ing at a rate of 620kbps and ‘download’ing at a rate of 37kbps πŸ˜› I’m about 50% patched and have served up a whopping 8.4mb of data. At this rate, my final share ratio is only going to be 5%, but if that’s ok with them, I’m not going to stick around seeding πŸ˜›

80% done. I’m going to set graphics to full 1080p and see how it performs.

Ok, once patch downloaded, I was presented with a dialog asking if I actually wanted to install it. To be fair, it looks like there was a 10 second timer after which it would have installed automatically. I don’t have that kind of patience. Click!

Another 10s wait after patching or… Click!

And game is ready, again, we Click!

First Session

Well, other than typoing my password the first time, things launched and let me in quickly. Server list shows two running servers atm.

New character creation was kind of surprising – without any instruction, I had to click my class on what had previously been the background art. However, once I clicked next, it brought me into a more typical creation interface… and did it well. The art and performance so far are very good.

Aww, I’m dressed like a little robot zombie cabin boy πŸ˜›

Ok, newbie tutorial was awesome. Airship battle, running around repelling invaders, shaky-cam when the ship gets hit by enemy fire, teleport to other ship to take down captain while he’s distracted by a big fat Astral demon. Good stuff. It played smooth and was intuitive. Psion mechanics were interesting.

Once I leave the solo instanced tutorial, I wind up in a small area with other players and performance dropped dramatically. I suspect this is in part due to my bad wifi setup on this end of the house.

Exactly one NPC in the zone gave me a quest… and after that, I was left without any indication of what to do or where to go. I wandered a bit and killed a handful of vermin along my way. Eventually, I found stairs leading up, and following them arrived in my faction’s capital city. And, more importantly, I see quest givers πŸ˜‰

… and gold seller spam. Yeehaw.

Ok, switched to windowed mode at a lower resolution and performance is back to how it was solo at max res. Oh well, I guess I can deal with this.

Lack of a proper mini-map is a bit disturbing. They give me a compass and a pretty detailed big map… but I’m not really used to finding my bearings around a place like this without a minimap. Oh well.

After a handful of quests to run around town killing crows and bandits, I dinged 5 and unlocked a handful more quests. So far, it feels like a very standard western mmo. But the game clearly has a writing budget and is polished to a degree I can’t say I recall seeing in other f2p mmorpg’s.

Ok, got Mental Twin. Let’s go give this bad boy a whirl. Well, as soon as I vendor all of this junk.

And I like it. I like it a lot. It requires me to link a mob, but that’s not hard. Then it requires me to click on the ground where I want to conjure the illusion. That’s a bit more annoying, but I can live with it. Once the twin is active, my opponent completely ignores me and wails on the dummy in stead. The really nice thing about this isn’t just that I’m taking less damage, it’s that I’m not getting interrupted or (presumably later on) status effected. Is much happiness.

And I like that although it takes more setup than a typical pet class’s tank… this guy’s tanking is perfect. I am simply completely ignored by the mob in question while the effect is active. Of course, it becomes trickier if multiple mobs are involved, but that’s what other forms of crowd control are for, ne?

I also found the psion trainer and while unable to purchase ‘rubies’ (skill grid points) until level 10, he did sell me a set of level 5 psion equipment, which had the interesting effect of increasing my glass cannon factor by about 30%. My hp plummeted and my max mana increased by about twice the amount of hp lost – and my damage output stats appear to have increased meaningfully as well. I also look like a sort of demented ghostbuster now, which is a nice touch.

It really feels like a dps/cc character now, and it’s a good feeling.

And I think that’s a good place to stop my first session. I think I just spent over 90 minutes playing? Wow it’s getting late.

Second Session

Well, let’s see here. I am level 5.4 and my “special” class ability is supposed to be unlocked at 7. It is supposed to help flush mental overload, which is a debuff procced by most of my abilities. However, I’ve not really noticed any meaningful effect from the debuff so far – percentage-based modifiers to damage rarely have a very meaningful effect at low levels. I mean, if I normally hit for 9 damage, what good is a +5% damage modifier? (Hint, 9 x 1.05 doesn’t round up to 10). Likewise, a 1.4% penalty to a value around 30 doesn’t mean very much to me when I could’t tell you the difference between 25 and 30 in the first place.

Numberchasing cynicism aside, I think this is my next goal – to get the spell and see if it was worth the trouble. As far as the other racial ability I could have chosen goes (10s immunity to physical damage), well, Mental Twin is so effective that I can’t see that it would be terribly useful in PvE (and in PvP enough people are likely shooting you with magic that it would be a wasted cooldown there). The -only- use I can see is as a way to survive long enough to establish a stubborn link and summon your twin, but the class appears to be awash in other CC/defensive abilities that address this concern. I also don’t see any other ways to flush overload apart from a Trance spell that forums say is on its way out – so the Arisen racial is the clear choice, I think.


Actually, I have just had an apostrophe. My younger brother, Dallin, is in town and he is sufficiently geeky to be interested in this project. I am going to rope him into assisting – this lets us try out some grouping mechanics as well as see how another class looks. I’m also going to make him take screenshots of the newbie tutorial where I forgot to in all of the excitement πŸ˜‰

We registered Dallin for a GPotato account and copied the client over to his laptop. 7 minutes later, he is now laughing at the facial options for orcs in character creation. I think we’ll let (force) him write an addendum post to this one after all is said and done.

He rolled an orc warder – and has a pet GOBLIN. How awesome is that? πŸ™‚ It looks like warders have a pet energy bar where psions have their mental link indicator. Otherwise, the UI is largely similar. Looks like he starts with only melee options – but apparently his caster stats improve his melee abilities?

Ding 2 and he can now zot things… and lightning seems to be much more effective than hitting things with a stick (which I always consider a good sign). Ding 3 and he can actually tell his goblin to attack (as opposed to waing for the AI to do it for him).

Hrm… he just found (and is wrapping up) a quest that I failed to locate after arriving in town from the ship instance. I wonder if this chain will actually tell him to go upstairs like I eventually chose to do on my own. And sure enough, after killing all manner of vermin in the underground, he has missions instructing him to go topside and talk to governmental types – missions that I failed to get. He’s also almost level 5 already for his trouble πŸ˜› I wonder why I didn’t find the quest giver that continued this chain, it wasn’t for failure to look.

Ok, and we’re finally together – but it’s hard to keep track of him without a minimap. The tracking icons show a party member flag, but it’s hard to keep track of that sort of thing. This is the tracking interface I expect from a flight sim, not a 3rd person mmorpg.

It didn’t take long to get him caught up to me… and now we’re progressing together on quests. At level 5, he got a party-wide HoT that lasts for 5 minutes and doesn’t really cost much mana (but it doesn’t heal an enormous amount either). I don’t know who’ll ding 6 first – since he’s completed more quests than I πŸ˜‰

Town is big. Like stupid big. Like makes Windurst look tiny big.

We found a big underground sewer complex full of quests, and naturally I can’t do one of them because it has pre-reqs in that missable newbie chain. Boo. One quest was to hunt a giant crocodile, so naturally someone stole it from us in stead of sharing. I’m glad to see that some behaviors are universal.

– annoying drop quests versus tiny bag space
– ding 6 off of fatigue, took shield spell
– ~2 more hours total before stopped playing together – he had completely caught up with me
– exp rate feels slow, likely sped up by cash shop?

Gameplay

– feels like a western mmo, more wow than eq2 in that i have a ridiculously short list of abilities (very dull combat rotation so far)
– need slightly better human interaction options: better ignore, way to report gold sellers, easier way to invite party members

– cash shop is only accessible from in-game, i like being able to at least -browse- prices from web site

– NEED MINI MAP!
Massively interview on Jan 11th as the game neared the end of closed beta:

Reason one, once players become adjusted to a specific zone or territory, there’s little to no need for them to continue to monitor the mini-map. In fact, what ends up happening most of the time is that players will frequently press the “M” button to bring up the full map to figure out where they are. Astrum Nival has also added all the appropriate flags and markers in order to find trainers, quests, vendors, etc.

Reason two, mini-maps do not work well in multiple level dungeons and instances because a mini-map is flat. Mini-maps work well for a flat 2D space, but once you go up to the second or third level of a dungeon, managing a mini-map becomes a bit tricky.

Now the third and most interesting reason why Astrum Nival has decided to not go with a mini-map was more of a philosophical game decision. Once a mini-map is implemented, players tend to focus their eyes on a small portion of the screen, thus giving them little opportunity to experience and learn about the world as a whole. They end up becoming extremely reliant on a mini-map and lose an important opportunity to understand the direction of where things are.

With all that said, since a mini-map has been such a requested feature, Astrum Nival is brainstorming new features that players have requested but also make sense for the game. The idea of a map overlay is in consideration.

– timing on my psion core attack feels off – i keep channeling long after the attack is done shooting, for a random amount of time, this kills rotation flow (esp since rotation is mostly spamming the one attack for now) and feels like it reduces dps
– pushback is BRUTAL on long spells (no diminishing returns or eventual fizzle?)
– auto-attack isn’t? same massively interview says that it’s redundant beyond low levels, which almost makes sense

Art and Music

– art is lovely, character animations are good
– immersion is good
– the compass is a cool effect and it eventually grows on you and works, but it’s almost overkill, minimap plz?
– spell effects are a bit off (my main attack feels like there’s a glitch in its effect rendering, and since it is the spell i use 95% of the time and the animation plays 3 times per casting…)
– music is largely forgettable, it also doesn’t play 100% of the time so it’s almost jarring when it decides to kick in

Stability

– stuck in the floor once walking down stairs
– ex-party member keeps showing up on map
– evading mobs
– instant respawns that don’t drop anything
– targetting through doorways and up/down ramps

Final Grade

There is no final grade, however, my impression is overwhelmingly positive for an f2p mmo

Afterthoughts

No afterthoughts πŸ˜‰

What’s next?

No what’s next. However, I did investigate Eden Eternal a year later and wrote a slightly less complete review of it, which I may also enable after a quick editing pass.

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