Friday, April 30, 2010

Oddities and KingsIsle's Surprise (Day 2 of Pet Test Realm)

Get ready for a barrage of interesting things I've noticed:

Check this out, pets have the ability to give more than one card, and in my Meowiarty's Krokotillian's case, a very useful one (not sure if this is the same for everyone; depends on the pedigree):

Notice the similarities?  Hint:  These pets were bought with Crowns...

It's somewhat of an Easter Egg by KingsIsle.  Here's what I found from Jacqueline from Wizard101Central: 

Now, time for me to share some more technical discoveries.  You may have noticed the slight nerfs on our pets, especially on the Level 48 ones which used to give us 5% Power Pips but have now been reduced to 4%.  Whether or not KingsIsle truly intends to do this to the Live Realm, I don't know, but I believe we are not at a total loss or disadvantage!  Wait, don't mob rush me just my Professor says, "Patience..."

This may not have been noticed yesterday due to some bug that was displaying the incorrect boost percentages, but that has been fixed in the recent patch.  Yesterday, my Ice Colossus had an innate +6% Ice Resistance.  I used all my Pet Mana on the dancing game to increase the only Stat it had not maxed out on: Agility.  Agility affects Accuracy, Resist, and Health boosts that pets give.  Look at what happened to his Ice Resist after training him:

How are you sure it's Agility training that affected Jack's resist, and not all that racing you did in the Derby? 

Here's the evidence:

Now for the result:

Let's sit back and think for a bit.  If we could raise 2% Ice Resist by training the Stats that affect Jack's Talent, how much could we raise the fella's resist below?

Going by the logic above, that means Cali (the 7-11 Guardian Dragon of the Heroes Set)  may have the potential of excelling above and beyond the original Gift Card Pet counterpart!!!

And he's got plenty of Agility and Strength (both affecting Resist) to go before he reaches Max.  I'll be training Cali to see what happens to all Talents and Derby skills when he increases in Rank.  If my theory is correct in that raising Rank means a universal increase in the Pet's current abilities, then we should be gaining 5% Power Pips back when our Level 48's hit Epic. However, I'm not making any promises here...

But, there is one thing that seems consistent:  The number of Talents a pet has is based on how many Ranks after Baby he/she is.  Cali is an Adult, which is two ranks after Baby, and he has two Talents.  Jack is an Ancient, and has three.  So, following that pattern, our pets should have four Talents when they hit Epic.

To conclude this post,  here is what happens when your pet is fed something they favor:
Originally, the snack was only supposed to give my Pet +1 to his Agility training, but because he "loved" it, it gave me an additional Stat boost (sadly it wasn't another Agility point, sigh...)

And Edward Icespear, I'm sorry for not remembering what he ate :(

Happy Hunting (for a mate)!

Opening Thoughts of 2010 Pets on Test Realm, Day 2

As I arise from my slumber, a choice came to mind:
What shall I do with this indeterminable time
Before this new Pet System goes to take place
And conquer the Live Realms, giving Wizard' a new face?

Shall I dive furthermore and figure out, or guess, the unknown?
Or shall I increase the number of pets on Live that I own,
Given the fact that access to these creatures
In mature form no longer will be a feature?

And hand-in-hand, the more I farm, the more I'll make;
Gold now feels so vulnerable with the amount it takes
To spawn a new being, a new family member;
Takes me back to when I first played in December.

Or will it be better to take note of Reagents,
To help train and feed the young to become Ancients?
Or become a fact'ry of some Treasure Cards
Such as Beguile, or Satyr, or even Steal Ward?

Oh, KingsIsle, what have you unleashed? pun intended...but we're dealing with a beast.
So many things to do, but these realms are one-way streets
Without a way to transfer accomplished Test feats.

So how exactly would time best be spent?
Oh dang, look at where all the time went!
Time to head off for work now, but I'll be back
With some oddities and other interesting facts

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Debriefing of 2010 Pets on Test Realm, Day 1

Alrighty, this will be a major change in my format and presentation of my blogs, but with so much to be explored, asked, and answered, I'll just create a quick and dirty post of my contribution of information for the Wizard101 Community.
Keep in mind though, that because these answers and "guides" are based on what's found in the Test Realm, do not expect them to stay true when the updates move to the Live realms.

 Here is a picture of my very first encounter with a KingsIsle Support staff member:  Ian Emerald.  We met through an interesting situation:  one evening, a random player ran up to Kevin Ironblood (my Death toon) and started begging, asking me to gift him/her a mount.  In addition to declining their request, I explained to them that "people aren't going to give out their hard earned money for free," and "begging is a VERY poor icebreaker."  (I wish I had been on Battleblood, my Thaumaturge, when I wrote that...)  Suddenly a whisper comes onto my screen from Ian, saying "NICE!!!!"  He then mentioned something about rewarding me Crowns, but I rolled my eyes and said something to the effect of "Thanks, but I doubt you'd do that..."  He had a Hero of Unicorn Way badge on, so it was very absurd....but after he said, "Done!" and I checked my Character Page, surely enough the balance was 300 Crowns higher.  A very welcoming and friendly guy, he was patient enough to spend some chat time with me as I asked him some questions about mechanics.

So, today was my lucky day....Pet Test Realm comes out...New Arena pets are available, I was overjoyed.  As I entered the Test Realm's Pet Hatchery for the second time, I noticed the familiar toon that entered the door at the same time as me...and a brush of the words "Ian" and "Emerald."  Upon entering, I had to shout out his name, and there was our second meeting!  (you can watch this on the post below, with the Livestream video).

Ian was generous enough to spend about 40-45 minutes answering my questions here and there, and now I present to you with what I have learned:

  • Pets are meant to act randomly in battle.  
    • When I asked him why this wouldn't be considered a negative trait to have, especially for PVP (in which many players, including me, emphasize the importance of skill over luck), and if this randomness was more of a burden than a gift (a pet popping your Feint or class-biased Trap), his (brilliant) answer was this:  "It's similar to real life, where pets can be a hassle, like dogs barking at anyone, etc.  But we still take care of them."
      • Thus, our game and playstyles in Wizard101 will not only change, but will move into a different dimension.

  • You may be happy or unhappy with the changes going on, but it has all been considered as an issue of balance.
    • Keep in mind, we haven't seen everything just yet.  There is Celestia to be released; imagine the frustration or joy we'll feel from might offset, increase, or decrease our satisfaction towards these updates.  Also, it's only been one day of the Test Realm...there's that awesome Bug Report function at the top right of the screen, where we can submit our feedback through:
    • We know KingsIsle is a great listener as a Company...heck, believe it or not, Ian had to AFK a few times to get some of my questions answered from other developers!
    • If there are changes needed to be made based on a universal agreement between players, KI will get to it...but remember to keep in mind about my blog "KingsIsle's Smart Move."  There will be very rational reasons to why the Company will or will not follow our wishes.  We don't know everything they're doing, but we'll find out eventually, as always.

  • UPDATED (4/30/10)
    The longer you have had your pet in your possession, whether it's on a main, an alternate, or in the (Shared) Bank,
    the stronger potential it will have, when updates arrive to the Live Realm.
    • I checked into my two Pixie pets from Smogger, and sure enough, the one I received first has an additional innate ability (can cast a Life damage spell).  Both were actively equipped on two of my alternates.
    •  The Blue Cyclops we receive from Penny, for me and David Titanrider, were still Babies.  I speculate that if we raised them to Adult, then compared them to an Adult Blue Cyclops that was obtained tomorrow, David's and mine will outdo the new one (going back to the difference between Pixies above)
Unfortunately, priorities on both our ends cut us off from there....there was a titanic amount of inquiries I had shooting off in my mind.  Inevitably, I'll be sure to investigate more with his help another time!  Thanks Ian Emerald!

Now, here's a simple visual guide I created...I don't know about anyone else, but I was extremely distracted by the debut of this Test Realm so I never really got to absorbing the textual information provided by the numerous new icons about Pet Stats and how they affect our wizards and the Derby.  Hopefully this will ease the overwhelming overload of words:

I didn't include "Power" because the description was very vague... "Some statistics"   But it increases your Morale's limit!

Happy Hunting (for a mate...)!

Livestream of Initial Step into Pet Test Realm

Streamed my adventures live for this morning...I reconnected with a KingsIsle Support staff member I met awhile ago through a funny incident, and was able to have him answer a couple of Pet mechanics questions!

Our meeting is in the Pet Hatchery, towards the end of the stream.  When I get back tonight, I'll try to extract the questions from the video into text form here so time isn't wasted on aiming for the right section.  Until then, enjoy, and Happy Mating!

Update: Click here to get a bigger view

kevinbattleblood on 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Magic of Wizard101 / Pet System Analysis

It started as a single drop.  Then a small trickle.  Suddenly, the side of Hoover Dam blasted forward, raining rubble and hundreds of gallons of water.  Those caught in the blast could only stare at the massive rush of debris and foam as they are carried away.

That is just a brief description of the players' responses to Wizard101's news update today.  Zeus bless Wednesday, April 28th, 2010.

Twitter, Blogger, Wizard101Central, and surely Facebook (I haven't checked myself, but it follows that pattern) exploded with posts in relation to the released pictures and information regarding the first of this year's greatest changes to the game.  Everyone was mutually excited, and even as I write this, I am discussing with a few friends about the possibilities that will soon open up.

While sitting at work, my phone begins rumbling endlessly as Twitter and blog feeds poured in.  I pick it up and learn I've received, 4....wait, 7 new messages.  The first message, a Tweet from Heather Emeraldflame.  Something about a pet ad.  Then another from Amber Rosepetal.  I go to check my Blogger Dashboard to find out if there is any lengthier written description on this spurt of news.  Four blogs, one each from Heather, Amber, and Cassandra mentioned earlier, and one from AutumnalDusk.  My heart jumps, and I'm clicking away to read more.

I honestly have never been so excited about a game update before, even when there were constant changes to a game I used to play in league gaming.  This is the first game where I've witnessed first-hand such a magnitude of a reaction from a community as soon as something hits the public...everyone is sharing information faster and broader than Wikipedia could ever cover efficiently.  Even though I was surrounded by gray, fabric walls in my cubicle, I could imagine the hundreds...maybe thousands...of players who were experiencing joy at the same time.  I felt like everyone was standing up at some point, and we were all shouting or pumping our fists to the roof in our minds.  What an influence, KingsIsle...well done!

Now, onto some serious business!  What we see and what we may expect to come:

The video that was released along with the news confirms that the pets in-game will look like creatures we've seen before, but much smaller.  For example, there is Crusher from Marleybone, that is shown being controlled, and the Skeletal Warrior (time to free Friendly!) in the picture describing that pets can be "unleashed in your Castles and Homes."  I've included a transcript of the mini-movie below:

"Adventure awaits you in the Pet Park.  Challenge your pets against others in the new Racing Game!  Train and care for your pets.  Power them up, and they will power you up!  Combine pets, to mix and match powers...the possibilities are endless!  Grow your pet to the ultimate Wizard101 power!..."
--KingsIsle Entertainment, Inc.

Here's a transcript from a commercial on YouTube that Cassandra Griffindreamer was so kind to share with me:

"Now in Wizard101 you can collect and display hundreds of pets, call them to you, or send them away...even have a dance pet party....your Castle has never been so alive.

Power up your pets in mini-games.  See them grow from Egg to powerful, ancient pets.  As your pets become more powerful, you become more powerful.  Use pets as allies in magical duels.  Their powers become your powers.

Grow your pet skills in the new race course.  Race your pets against other wizards' pets.  Watch their derby skills grow as you train them.

Now you can combine two pets to hatch MILLIONS of possibilities.  Each pet has the potential for thousands of skills that manifest as they grow.  Collect all your pets now, so you can hatch all new pets."
  1. Set your pets free to roam your Castles & Lands.
  2. Get your pets some exercise in the Derby.
  3. Buy or craft them treats to make them happy.
  4. Let them have some fun in the Mini-Games.
  5. Create new pets with the magic of Hatching.
  6. Watch as your pets cast their own spells in battle.

--KingsIsle Entertainment, Inc.
 "Pet Park."  So there's a large hangout place for all our little companions to strut around in (and for us to follow their lead).  The idea of an "adventure" in there though...figurative speech, or are there puzzles or quests to solve?

"Racing Game."  " skills in the race course."     Well, kind of what I hoped not to expect...Runes of Magic already has their own derby, and there were some issues with different lag and delay affecting the true results displayed on each player's screen.  For example, someone seeing that they passed the finish line first yet ended up ranked as 2nd or 3rd is bound to quit playing after a few instances, especially if the prize for winning is decent enough to aim for.  And apparently they will become more talented the more they race or train in minigames?  So instead of PVP, people will now pour all their time into racing...

"Power them up, and they will power you up."  "Power up your pets in minigames."  "Watch as your pets cast their own spells in battle."  "...potential for thousands of skills that manifest as they grow."  Wait, hold on, what?  "THOUSANDS of skills?"  There's not even that many spells in Wizard101 combined, even including Natural Attacks like some minions and monsters have!  But, what could that mean?  Will we actually get to see a Lava Kraken attacking our enemy instead, without a Beguile?  Does it mean our existing spells will be fabricated into other classes, such as a Bone Wyvern, or a Storm Colossus?  And, will be able to control our pets?  I'm somewhat disappointed that the clips they use during the announcement for this feature was a Pixie healing a wizard.  Also, a tad worried about the Pet system...would they be implemented into PVP, and if so, how much skill will actually be involved if we cannot control our Pets?  And if we can control them, does that mean a greater disadvantage for the person going second (two spells in the same turn, without a minion)?  And these skills...will our pets add to what they know, like wizards, or will spells be replaced?  What happens to pets that were bought with Gift Cards that give spells?  Will they be lost in the mating process?

These are just a "few" of the mechanical questions in regards to what makes the game really enjoyable.  KingsIsle has done a great job thus far (as I've mentioned many times), but with so many new features at the same time, I fear that somewhere in all of this, a shark has been jumped.  I do not doubt they will once again surprise all of us in terms of how well they control a new system or expansion, but the tinkering and clanking behind the scenes seems complex.  After the Wing Mount bug, which was a serious deal for those who were guilty or "innocent" that used it, I can't imagine how many holes we'll find with this flood of functions, and the steps needed to cover every single area from Pets in battle, Pets in race, and Pets at home. 

However, I do see an update that I'm positive about, that they didn't mention directly in their ads:  different appearances of pets.  In the commercial on the official Wizard101 site, it seems like all the pets were just clones of our spells or monsters.  But, take a look at this snapshot from the YouTube video:

In the red circles, notice the three different Ninja Pigs, differently colored.  Then look at the yellow circle, where that Cyclops (with yellow skin and a beard and hair!!!).  So here's a new question:  are the Pigs different models, or are they the same and just differently colored?  But at least this screen answers the "MILLIONS" of combinations part...I mean, facial hair for a Cyclops!!  Who would have thought??

Thanks for your time!

Happy hunting!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Released "Mistblood": Page 8

Just in case you're not following my comic blog, I'm happy to announce that Page 8 is now released!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Double-Edged Sword (Re: Heather Emeraldflame, Part 1)

Thank you, Heather Emeraldflame, for your insightful response to a previous blog post: KingsIsle's Smart Move.  Before anyone else moves on, please check it out here, so you can be on the same page when reading this; a lot of counter-examples may have already been covered there and not considered here.  Then, check out Heather's response.

I, too, wonder why there is a No Trade restriction on low level items such as Nightshade's Choker (gives 2 Weakness cards, -30% damage from target) and Troll Ear Pendant (gives 2 Guiding Light cards, +40% to next heal spell).  I may need some more time to think on it, but for now, my guess is that it prevents newbie players with newly created characters from advancing too easily without the help of someone who has access to Marleybone.  Anyone have any other explanations?

When it comes to the question of sharing items between family accounts, however, we must consider the pros and cons; that is, KingsIsle's pros and cons, as it is the Company that is the host, while we are the (paying, yes, I know, I know) guests.  But, for the sake of all wizards and witches across the Spiral, we'll begin with the benefits and (if any) the downsides for us, the Customers, of being able to send that beautifully designed Smogger or Krokotopian robe to our alternate accounts.

As Heather explained, with a trading function for those under Master Accounts, family players would be able to help one another out when someone has an item another needs.  Conclusively, fewer people are left in the dust to worry about having the best armor of their level tier by the time they reach 20, 25, 30,...etc.  Then less time is needed to shop or farm for gold, and the questing can continue for everyone, virtually seamlessly.  Everyone is happy, the balloons still have helium in them, and Ditto Wizard gets free rent for the month.

The disadvantage for Customers, when trading equipment to other accounts...well, if someone knows any reasons other than "they won't truly know the hardships of the economy as a low level player," please do share.

Now, time to venture forth into KingsIsle's perspective.  Well, on the bright side, I can safely say that if the Company were to implement a Trade feature for family accounts, then the game's Customer Support team, Professor Greyrose (along with any other admin actively staying in touch with the community), and fan sites could be alleviated from the constant barrage of emails and posts ranting and requesting for Wizard101 to take on a type of barter system.  Also, a large core of the customer base will be jumping for joy; a great response for any business.  But, to quote a recent message that Stephen Spiritcaller from Ravenwood Radio posted on Twitter, "all it takes is one case" before the developers regret jumping on the MMO economic bandwagon. 

As with the chat filters, our innovative and sneaky (we'd have to admit it, no matter if we're proud or ashamed of this) community members will eventually find a trick around the Family Account Trading function, and take advantage of it; in other words, someone is bound to abuse the feature.

Let's say one morning, Player A wakes up to find an update made by KingsIsle.  The game news reads, "We have now given our players access to trade among family members who are under the same Master Account!  Now you can send your hand-me-downs to a cousin, or pass along the Ascendant Staff to your grandma's new character!"

Absolutely wonderful, Player A thinks.  He logs onto a forum fan site, sends a private message out to a very trusted friend he met in-game, Player B, exclaiming his excitement for change, and asks her enthusiastically if she still has the Yeva Spiderkeeper helm for his school.  Player B acknowledges that the equipment is still in her Bank, but wonders aloud how they would be able to make an exchange.  Player A sits for a bit, and replies: "I will make a fake Master Account, and I will give you the password for it so you can add your account to it!"

He rushes off to the Wizard101 site, creates a new account, and selects the "Family Plan," and sets the new account as a Master.  He adds his existing account.  Then he sends the Master password off to his friend.  She adds her account. They do not save credit card information, so both players are still independent of each other.  In-game, Player A puts an item Player B asks for in the "Family Bank", and she puts Yeva Spiderkeeper's item in exchange.

How the system would work is of two possible ways:   

There is some live display feed for both players, similar to what one sees when trading Treasure Cards, that requires both accounts to be online at the same time so that there is a real-time mutual agreement when they accept the trade simultaneously.

Or, for families with only one computer to share between all players in the household, the "Family Bank" would be accessible by only one player at a time per Master Account.  That way, while Mommy and Daddy are sleeping in on Saturday, Little Johnny can scout out the "Family Bank" to see if his parents found anything he needed for his main or his five alternates.

For the sake of the Company's convenience, (and keep in mind, it is KingsIsle's intention for only families to use this feature), we will assume that Family Trading is based on the latter, where one person at a time will have access to the Bank, but at least Little Johnny could leave something (which his parents found) he didn't need for his older sister Melissa who is currently in her morning Chemistry 101 class hundreds of miles away.  Then when he goes off to school, and she returns to her dorm at noon, she can move that item to her inventory.

Because Player A and Player B are close friends in-game, they have a successful and righteous transaction.  Okay, but how does this hurt KingsIsle?  Well, while it doesn't violate the Terms of Use Agreement, it does change the overall difficulty, which then strays away from the experience KingsIsle intended for their Customers to have.  If the Company has to balance the game out while accommodating our needs for an item exchange feature between family members, it could possibly lead to a reduction to the probabilities for drop rates.  The easier it becomes for a player to obtain an item that was supposed to be hard to find, the higher its rarity will be in a future update.  Or, it could lead to buffer enemies, which then extend the length of farm runs.

It's obvious to see where malicious abuse could come into play:  Player C and Player D are also great friends like A and B, but Player D is actually a two-faced individual.  After many, many months of friendship, how could Player C say no to taking advantage of Family Trade?  The deal goes down, Player C ships his item into "Family Bank," and--based on the second method of trading mentioned above--waits for Player D.

Player D now has some extremely nasty paths to take:  he could go to the website, change the Master password, and forever trap Player C's account under the fake Master.  In addition, Player D could change the Parental Controls on his victim, preventing C's attempt to remove the account, use open chat, or access other subscriber features.  Or, Player D mercifully would avoid adding insult to injury by following conventional scamming methods of taking the item and disappearing, and leaving Player C's account alone.  Either way, Player C loses, and decides to complain to KingsIsle despite the fact that he tried to abuse the system.  Then the Company would have to waste Customer Support time to investigate and ban both Player C and D's accounts, and risk losing at least one branch of revenue.  

Sure, it may not be much money that they're losing from just two former players, but multiply that case by a hundred.  That's at least $2,000 ($10 subscription fee x at least 2 abusive players x 100) in sales.   While it may be a great business approach for KI to cut more away from the producer-consumer barrier AND satisfy us by tending to our wishes, Heather (and other readers), the realistic results would only cut the Company back.

Let's drag ourselves out of thinking mode, shall we?  One point has been made, but the main response has yet to be completed (hence this being just Part 1).  There is another subject that was brought to our community's recent attention, and it is a topic we must explore in depth before I can come to a solid conclusion and provide insight.  It involves a type of internal control with customers that KingsIsle is now enforcing with action, and is something I have personal experience with.  However, let us save it for another day; anyone who has reached this far deserves a large smack on the back (oops, too hard?) and the knowledge that I wholeheartedly appreciate your time.

Happy hunting! 

P.S.  In response to a few requests, I have now opened access for anyone, with or without a Google account, to post their comments here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Connecting AutumnalDusk with Celestia (?)

Updated April 21, 2010 @ 12:08 PM:

I woke up to a barrage of confusion, mystery, and wonder today, mainly due to my "late" arrival to Wizard101 about four-and-a-half months ago.  A player/blogger named AutumnalDusk (AD) has made a surprise return, and with that came the excitement from other bloggers who knew and knew of her.  From what I was able to find out in about an hour of research (yes, I'm writing this before I head off to work...I apologize for the haste, but the earlier I get this out, the more I may find when I return), she is a detailed writer and gamer analyst, with length of posts similar to what few bloggers of the Spiral have (hint hint).  I know I'm looking forward to reading more of her work in the following days; she also explores beyond the game...heck, it looks like she explores beyond the activity of gaming as well!

The feeling of ambiguity started when I laid my eyes on the picture included in her post: the same Celestia desktop image that was released this month, but now with a new figure added.  Has no one else looked at the background image until AD posted, or does she have anything to do with the picture, whether it means picture editing or official business with KingsIsle?  The Friendly Necromancer did mention that her absence until now lasted around eight months.  Again, being relatively new in the community and lacking the necessary time to search, I'm ignorant to what led to her temporary separation from the game.  But the photo does make me wonder:  is this AD's unique and interesting way of telling the community that along with Celestia's opening, she would be in full production again?  Is that her character's silhouette, donning a supposedly new pair of wings she recently purchased?  Or is that KingsIsle's official image with an addition?

Secondly, almost on a different branch, but related to the slightly ominous presence of the new silhouette:  With the assumption that the picture on AD's blog is an official KingsIsle release, has anyone suggested--especially with idea that there are possible Marleybonians in the picture--that there could be some genetic splicing involved in the new world?  With the Pet Hatchery coming, and KingsIsle's announcement that we'll be able to customize our pets extensively ("millions" of combinations), doesn't that sound like chromosomal modification?  Disregarding the art of magic, what if our Wing Mounts were actually materialized through the art of science?  Perhaps some twisted scientist had the audacity to go underground and combine the DNA strands of existing creatures such as the Seraph and the Bloodbat to human wizards.  Heck, I think it's very probable, considering that we'll soon have the ability to combine two creatures of different species with one another through unnatural(?) breeding techniques.

Now, let's explore these two questions when they're blended together:  What if the post AwesomeDiviners (AweDiv) made today turned out to be true?  This idea will consider AD is related to KingsIsle in some way, especially given that her blog is dubbed "Homework in a Graveyard."  Has AD been resurrected and featured in the image?  But, it could be that I'm overanalyzing...perhaps AweDiv just wanted to make an announcement through some symbolism in regards that AD is of the Death class, and that her return is based on the coming of the Seventh World.

This is all my random speculating and contemplating rambled into one giant mess, but it makes some sense...right?  Time to speed to accounting "internship"!  BAH!

Happy hunting!

P.S.  When I return, I will be correcting this blog to include necessary links for referencing

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another Project Complete: (Video) Two Man Coven Run (Storm + Ice)

Takes two to tango the Taloned Team!

Say that 10x fast!

Kevin Battleblood - Grandmaster Ice
Cheryl Fireblood - Grandmaster Storm

Saturday, April 17, 2010

KingsIsle's Smart Move

In-game and out-of-game, when we're focused on short-term satisfaction, we tend to overlook the beneficial results of  the restrictions that are placed on us.  When our parents chide us for wanting and "needing" the toy the kid next door has, step back and consider the act mother and/or father are/is doing, perhaps to purchase you that video game you've always-wanted-ever-since-two-weeks-ago around the holidays.  Although that may not necessarily be the true reason they refuse to quench your material-envy, it at least opens a window in that direction; you can always play the "remember when I was good and listened to you when you didn't want to buy me anything?" card.  (cue Cassandra G's illustrated Bambi eyes)

Or, consider the rules in school or sometimes work that demand "NO FOOD OR DRINKS (OR GUM) IN THIS ROOM!"  While our initial impression may involve thinking about how uptight or strict the owners of the building are, remember to realize that because of that rule, we're not limited to sitting in the chairs that were left empty because someone happened to spill their Banana Berry Jamba Juice on the seat and--by some mysterious, silent agreement between everyone else--lack the necessary sanitation.

So, what has KingsIsle done for players that most of us fail to notice right away?  And why are we primarily against this "beneficial" action in the first place...there's got to be a catch, right?  Right.  Improved qualities of life involve that wonderful Death spell we all hope our Necromancer allies have in their decks: sacrifice.  In other words, to get something, you've got to give something, regardless of how much control we have over what's in the transaction in the case of Wizard101.  Let's look at the lack of a trade function for items between different accounts.

Consider what is distinctly missing from Wizard101 that is annoyingly present in a lot of other MMORPGs, in terms of the game economy.  Spam bots.  Buy/Trade/Sell spamming.  "Shopkeeper" mode (being AFK for hours upon hours, congesting up servers, with rip-off prices on display).  Farm bots.  Chaotic inflation of prices of items due to the spontaneous reaction of supply and demand in a virtual world.  Most of these, if not all, would be present in Wizard101 if given the chance, especially in our era of instant gratification.  A lot of people would not take the time to learn the game thoroughly via farming, but would rather purchase their Grand armor to create a false sense of accomplishment.  As a result, because these hasty players failed to give any decent farming time, they'll have to rely on a future purchase should they create an alternate that will also don Level 50 gear. 

Alright, but I've spent countless months, literally, trying to farm for this super special awesome fizzlestickin' item...and I still can't get it...can I justify for a merchant system now??  Keep in mind how drops work.  Everyone has the same chance at a specific loot, but that doesn't mean you will have the same outcome as others.  Every time loot is dropped, it is a completely separate event from the last and the next; not getting an item in Farm #1 is not going to increase or decrease your chances for getting that item in Farm #2.  That said, players will have different results than one another, and thus rarity of an item will vary from 1:1 odds to 1:1,000,000,000 in terms of perspective.  Here's the point:  with you in desperate demand for your item, anyone else who has it could fix the prices against your favor.  And exactly how much do you think that item should be worth?  Remember, because of different witnessed and experienced drop rates, you're going to find yourself in quite a lot of disputes over the item's value.

Speaking of fixed prices, imagine what would happen to KingsIsle's Crown prices.  If trading equipment was allowed, then the pool of fully geared Grandmasters would have little incentive to make purchases.  That then will lead to a revision of stats on Crown armor to the point of obvious imbalance, which would only lead to seemingly unfair spikes in Crown values.  Then we are facing a game that has unattractively become based on who can spend the most to obtain the best gear.  We can try to make the argument that the Company, as of today, is already a money monger, but if you step back a bit, you may see the bigger picture here:

Going back to what Wizard101 isn't riddled with, due to the lack of an exchange function, let us say that those game economy cliches do become a part of the game.  To keep the integrity and reputation as a family-friendly MMO, the Company would have more expenses to cover than necessary.  Wage expense, and hand-in-hand with that: tax expense, would increase as KingsIsle tries to survive as a business AND satisfy our endless demands, by placing some employees on a scam and spam watch.  Higher operating expenses (or the costs a business faces when carrying out their mission statement) would mean raised pricing models.  Instead of the standard $10/month base subscription fee, we could be facing an average extra $60 annually.

One of the reasons why I enjoy the game is because we don't have that unnecessary distraction of worrying about biting off on the wrong end of the stick in a transaction with another player.  Moreover, it's a nice feeling knowing that almost any, if not all, avatar running around in our game is actually played by a human, as opposed to some fancy macro program.  The begging and scamming is reduced to, interestingly enough, "Wings for Treasure Cards"; when I first played, it used to be "Mount for Treasure Cards."  Heck, just seeing the way other players behave when it comes to trading items that we can obtain for free, craft, and buy with Gold or Crowns, my wish for Wizard101 parallels that of Jester's from Wizard101Central:

... When items are trade able and have a real dollar value, scams are RAMPANT. Cheating, (like I did) becomes the norm. Over powered characters (like mine) dominate(d) the game. People are out for blood. Because items have such value and are trade able, people found ways to hack the items and trade those UBER hacked items for untold amounts of money. Some people made millions.

It was/is a hostile environment for kids.

Personally, I hope Wizard101 stays the innocent game it is now. Once items become trade able, the game loses it's innocence and becomes a hostile place. I *think* the developers know this, as they are no strangers to MMOs.

Regardless if KingsIsle did consider the consequences thoroughly of allowing players to trade equipment or if they simply just left the system alone out of a fluke, it's unavoidable to say that they've done a great job thus far.

Though, this topic is truly volatile, and I welcome any arguments that support the side of why trading should be incorporated into the game.   I admit it would be nice to have another source of income and save time on revisiting Briskbreeze for the rings, but I can't rid that cliche: be careful what you wish for.

Thanks again for your time!

Happy hunting~

Friday, April 16, 2010

Project Released!

The "titanic project" I mentioned in the "Power of the Community" post is finally published in the open, an extensive fan fiction comic called "Mistblood" by Yours Truly.  Check it out, and let me know here or there what you think!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Power of the Community

Last night, as I was sharing some background information with Allan Spiritrider, Cheryl Fire, and Ronan Dawn on a titanic project I'm about to produce, the Grand Life Sword dropped from Valeska Redwind!  Unfortunately, I was the only one to get it, and my excitement level was not as joyous as I had imagined, mainly because I was hoping for it to drop for either Allan (Grand Life wizard needs his sword to complete the set!) or Gabriel (who has played for about a year and still could not end the search for this legendary treasure).  Though, a "ding!" went off in my mind when I realized I have accomplished another post-Grand achievement:  Collect all Grand (100-damage) Swords.  w00t!  Thanks to the friends featured in the picture!

In the last post, I described the impact that one player can have on another's gaming experience and playing incentives.  Let's expand on that thought, and introduce to our slate the influence a group of people, and their expressions, can have for one player.  When said player discovers and witnesses the effort, time, and dedication that other players have put into online journals, artwork, music, guides, talk shows, and even hand-crafted action figures, their interest in the game grows.  As we read, share, test, and learn information about the game, provided to us by our peers, it adds density and volume to a virtual world.  Merle Ambrose is no longer just a seemingly wise and powerful adventure-director (apparently every time we complete a world main quest line, he is the go-to man for the next instructions), but he becomes an unsolved mystery as our imaginations and speculation take the wheel.  From an ordinary NPC who could care less if he accidentally calls you for no reason, he becomes a character to us that has the potential to alter the Spiral as we know it.  Below are some staple, iconic figures and sites that have directly or indirectly contributed to KingsIsle's ongoing success:
Wizard101Central is a fansite forum that closely resembles the activity level of a large plaza of vendors, customers, tourists, and entertainers, all in a town that never sleeps.  It seems that there is a new post every minute as someone confirms, disproves, announces, or ponders something.  But it's not just a place to write about whatever.  You can sense that there's about a double digit number of familial bonds between posters, admin, and newcomers.  There is even some sort of monetary system or virtual currency going on, but since I'm not a regular participant (I visit the site only to refer to ironhawk's guides), I'll stay away from explaining it.  Overall, it is an absolutely fantastic reference spot for Wizard101 players; without a webpage like this, three-quarters of us would have probably moved on to another game as soon as we complete every quest.

Who would have known that there was a gamer husband and father of three (just three kids, not three wives, just to be clear) who dedicates his time at least once every day to providing amusing, insightful, and informative entries in his blog?  He's even created his own card game with detailed rules and set of cards, very loosely based off Wizard101's gameplay.  Unless you're new to the game, I don't even have to tell you any of his aliases for you to (correctly) guess who I'm talking about.  With such a trusted individual, this data management specialist (I wonder if he also scored ISTJ in the Keirsey temperament test) and his blog help create an essence of solace away from viral rumors that could end up haunting us.  However, as a hidden bonus, he is more than just a blogger with good content: his personality and attitude are outstanding, which can partly explain for why his family shares in his hobbies and interests, and he in theirs.  Makes you think:  Wizard101 is great because it brings the family man out of people?  Yeah, right.  Another point for the Community!

Then there's the radio show I mentioned in the last post, Ravenwood Radio.  Hosted by Stephen Spiritcaller and Leesha Darkheart, the two DJs with solid gamer backgrounds add a new dimension for players who seek information on the game: audio commentary, guest speakers, and even some video as they host different live events and broadcast their end-boss or tower runs, and there are very few things that beat visuals in motion!  In conjunction with the show, there are segments from The Friendly Necromancer, The Helpful Mander, and Christina IceDreamer (also known as icywiz, who moderates the chatroom while a live show is in progress).  Newbies and experts of the game are sure to enjoy what all these people have brought to the show, and will most likely learn something too.  It even inspired a birth of a new show, Wandcast.  These radio shows indirectly express the passions of both ends of the prism in relation to the game; in other words, they show in a sense that the game is enjoyable enough to speak about it publicly on a designated night.  When these players could be farming for grand loot or accomplishing their next in-game goal, they instead set about an hour off to the side every other Wednesday to review and recall their experience in the Spiral.  With audio, you can hear (and not read, keep in mind) the emotions and their sincerity, and know if they truly enjoy or dislike the game.  Like Friendly, and unlike other community members of other games, these podcasters give no reason for anyone to be intimidated; they are welcoming, pleasant folks!

All of these different community figures and entities have either done or sponsored or advertised a contest.  In games of accomplishment, individual achievement, and self-advancement, the free giveaways or merits for jobs well done do more than benefit just the winner:  they display generosity and the encouragement to continue playing, and thus, with seemingly equal opportunity for these prizes, common players can revert their newbie mistakes with in-game gold, or pursue the virtually impossible task of farming for a mount at low levels.  I have done a prize giveaway incorporated with trivia every night for a specific district in Guild Wars, and nothing feels greater than to know that a current deed will benefit someone else in the long run, and thus prolong their interest.

Keep in mind that it is a big part that the people around us, who are like you and me, are the reason we're still interested in this game.  We can try to disprove this by removing all friends from our lists and cutting off access from the sites listed above, and testing the gaming experience with no one but strangers.  Feel free to post any rebuttals, comments, support, codes for free crowns, etc.  All is welcome.  Thank you for your time.

Happy hunting!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Power of Friendship

Around last night, I sent out an email to the hosts of Ravenwood Radio, expressing praise for them and my perception about their influences as players and as drivers of the show.  While writing, part of my subconscious clicked off in my head, opening an unseen window that I failed to recognize in all of my years with online multiplayers.  The result was the following phrase that I shared with them:  "It has always been our peers, and not necessarily the creators [of the game], who keep us coming back for more..."

 This is all too familiar to me, especially with the temporary but arbitrary loss of an in-game friend.  By that, I mean there will be a time when Scarlet Deathblood (real first name: Missy) returns, but with her circumstances, there is no telling or reasonable estimate of when she'd be back.    But after I heard the very first and last voicemail from her ever since the beginning of February 2010, the mild euphoria and excitement I once had for Wizard101 seemed to dissipate for the following weeks.

I started playing back in early December 2009, so I admit I am moderately new; however, with a really great mentor (Ronan Dawn), I've been caught up on the history and mechanics of the game in the sense that I understand that KingsIsle has had some loss of a fan base due to infringement on their promise to keep Dragonblades for Beta testers, and that old, imbalanced Crown armor was available in the past.  Anyway, having played for two full months before Missy was dragged away, there was still a vast area of Wizard101 that I had yet to touch on.  I initially expected that with all the content that was unexplored, that I could carry on and venture normally.

I was more than wrong.  A few days after her forced disappearance, the daily tasks of checking for game updates, logging on, and even refilling potions began to feel like unnecessary chores.  I remember sitting still in my chair one night, not even touching the keyboard or mouse, looking at my poorly dressed Thaumaturge, and slowly surveyed his surroundings, wondering what I was still doing here.  I had lost a close companion and partner.  When someone farms with you without limit, hesitation, regret, or wavering patience for as long as you have faith in the next farm's results, they become like an extended sibling, if not best friend.  Even the updates that brought us the Wing Mounts and Crown Armor Sets could not shake as much enthusiasm as I would have liked back into me. 

So what kept me here?  I think we'll have to rephrase that question and replace "what" to "who".  And it wasn't just one person, but it was a number of significant people whom Scarlet and I knew mutually or that I knew exclusively.  Cheryl Fire, Ronan Dawn, Allan Spiritrider, Eric Frostwalker, Ronan Storyglade, Iridian Stormweaver, just to name the few and great.  Had I not had these great friends, it honestly wouldn't have mattered if Celestia was released as early as March.  When there is no one close to you to share the excitement you get when finding the loot you pursued endlessly, or wallow in necessary silence after a loss (like a global reset), these multiplayer games become just a visual embodiment of a rowdy chatroom, and not necessarily a "great game" anymore.  Don't get me wrong; KingsIsle's work is truly a masterpiece, but without people you can play with and trust and have fun with, you're better off with getting Fallout 3 and an Xbox for a one-time pay-to-play deal.

This thought will be expanded into a broader area in the next post:  "The Power of the Community."  So until then, share your thoughts, comments, experiences, and/or questions on the importance of in-game friendship to you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010



So, finally, after much debate with myself, I've finally established a Wizard101 blog.  What held me back at first was my lack of commitment to reserve some time for a public journal, especially when there are so many other projects, such as the KBB Experiments, producing music or another video, battling in the arena for a second Lava Colossus, or just simply helping out anyone who asks.  What finally made me give in was realizing the inevitable.  This blog can be for documentation, a memoir, a narrative with parallels, etc.  In short, another project that I may become lost in.

Since this is a debut, I might as well go into explaining the meaning behind the blog's name: "The Chillanthropologist."  It's basically a play on three different words that all signify what Kevin Battleblood stands for:  (1) He's an Ice wizard [Chill], (2) he likes to help, especially those close to him [Philanthropist], and (3) he likes to ask the "why" and "how" when it comes to wizards, and look for the answers [Anthropologist].  

I'm afraid this post will end prematurely...I see an Ice wizard, Level 49, Emily Moonstone, who is so close, yet so far, from leveling.  It would not do to leave a fellow classmate out in the cold (hah hah, pun intended -_- ), so I shall continue introductions another time.  Until then, enjoy my very first video; maybe you'll get to learn something new about your sacrifice minion spell and/or Absorb.

Happy Hunting!